Reading the Mahabharata by the Tungabhadra - Day 17¶
The empty temples scare me. They stand here, stripped of their purpose by the invaders from Golkonda, Bijapur and Delhi. The idols are destroyed, nothing remains except the stories. Some temples don’t even have the stories. Guides make stuff up, they tell unsuspecting travellers that there’s some story here. There is, but it isn’t the story the guides are feeding them.
Hampi enthralls me on a level that I couldn’t begin to understand as a child. I feel at peace, sitting under a tree, not realizing that a spider was climbing on my arm. My skin has turned coppery in colour, my aunts tell me that it’ll take months for this tan to go. I will take that as an indicator then. The colour of my skin should tell me if it has been too long since I’ve visited Hampi.
Loss. That’s the message Hampi gives us all. There is so much to lose, so much at risk.
Hidden in the waters of the lake Dvaipayana, Suyodhana had lost everything. He had nothing more to lose, besides his life. His brothers were all dead, so was his son. All eleven of the Kaurava akshouhinis were destroyed. So of course Suyodhana ran.
But when his teacher, Samkarshana Balarama appeared after his tirthayatra, Suyodhana had no choice but to fight one of the Kounteyas. Why, then, did he pick Bhimasena? He could have taken Krishna’s gamble and fought Dharmaraja, or Dhananjeya, or the twins. He stood to lose the most by fighting Bhimasena. Struck on the thigh, against the rules of combat, Duryodhana fell. Angered at the death of his father Drona, and at the deaths of all his peers, Ashwatthama embarks on deadly vengeance. He strikes dead all the soldiers on the Pandava side, leaving only seven alive.
Struck by the loss of his lineage, Dhritarashtra falls senseless and Gandhari curses the Yadava line.
Such is the message that the Mahabharata leaves us with.
Today I went to read the Mahabharata by the Tungabhadra and I did. I read out Gandhari’s lament for her sons and other mighty warriors in her family, and I stood under the shade of an abandoned temple, where the idol had been struck down by the hatred of man.