“Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and innocent
…worships language and …
Pardons cowardice, conceit..”

Could the Chief Minister of Haryana have been thinking of Auden when he chose to
announce that the Millennial city of Gurgaon would be henceforth known as
Gurugram (the village of the Guru) after Guru Dronacharya, the legendary
teacher of archery in Mahabharata?

Vyasa a non-chitpawan brahmin created the epic Mahabharata for entertaining the then rulers and the public to play street dramas. Now it is being RSSised for greed of power.

It’s
possible, of course, but that isn’t very likely.

Inevitably, the renaming of Gurgaon, hub of fast food,
fast cars, instant millions and land deals, has set in motion a stream of facts about the history of Kurukshetra wars
and Guru Drona, who trained one of the greatest archers Arjuna and his Pandava
and Kaurava brothers. Although Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his
Bharatiya Janata Party are hailing this decision as a grand step to relink
Haryana in general and Gurgaon in particular with the legendary land of
Kurukshetra and the great Mahabharata war, something rankles in the mind about
both.

Kurukshetra,
the Yakshi Ulookal Mekhala tells pilgrims, is not a safe place to stay.
Everything that happens here in daylight, she says, is turned upon its head in
the dark of the night (divavrittamratrauvrittamatoanyatha). So leave as soon as
the day begins to wane (Aranyak Parv 120-10). In legend and lore, Kurukshetra
is the dreaded land of love, lust and revenge. The Arattkshetra here is said to
be shunned even by the gods and ancestors (devpitrivarjya).

As for
Guru Drona, his is a tale of a supremely gifted military strategist brought low
by a hot temper coupled with a vast ambition and a predilection for seeking revenge against all who spurned him. Truth being
the first casualty of war, his life and those of his opponents are full of
arrogance, deceit and semantic quibbling – all qualities that, within limits,
political parties and armies are ready and able to sustain. It is only when Ved
Vyas turns the story into an epic and pursuit of truth (and nothing but the
truth) becomes necessary, that you begin to see and mourn the loss of so much
goodness and talent.

Hard times

Dronacharya
was the son of the great and austere teacher Bhardwaj who, it is said, refused
to store more than what was necessary for the next three days for sustenance.
Ambitious sons of such fathers usually grow up with a grudge. Drona did too. At
his Guru’s ashram as a student, he befriended Drupad, the prince of the great
kingdom of Panchal. As a young lad, he and Drupad swore cupping Ganga water in
their palms that after they became men, they would continue to share everything
with each other. Time passed. Prince Drupad became King Drupad. His Brahmin
friend Drona, learned and talented, was forced by family tradition to remain
poor. But he by now had a family to support and a young son, who when he cried
for milk was given chalk dissolved in water by his mother Kripi.

So
Dronacharya went to meet Drupad and ask him for a job and a gift of a milch
cow. Drupad arrogantly had him pushed out, saying one should befriend people of
their own status. Stung by this, Dronacharya vowed to train students that would
capture and kill this arrogant Kshatriya . He undertook to train the princes of
the Puru dynasty (both the Kauravas and the five Pandava brothers) in the art
of warfare at the behest of their family mentor Bhishma. He had figured that
weapons like the pash and the ankush were obsolete. The bow and arrows were the
weapons for Gen Next. Soon his disciples were adept in warfare and military
strategy and Arjun, the Tendulkar of his team, grew into a brilliant archer.

Enter
the young tribal Bhil lad Eklavya. The Guru spotted a great rival to his
favourite prince Arjuna in this gifted boy, and turned down his request to be
accepted as a student on grounds of his caste (Nishada). Eklavya watched the
training sessions from the shrubs and practiced on his own. Soon he was shooting
arrows as well as the Pandavas. Once, when he shut up a barking dog who was
breaking his concentration by muzzling her mouth with arrows, he was caught
out. A petulant Arjuna complained to his Guru. Dronacharya, unable to and unwilling
to annoy his royal patrons, told the young Bhil that if he considered him,
Dronacharya, his Guru, he should offer up some Guru Dakshina – a tribute to his
teacher. The eager Eklavya politely agreed and was asked to slice off his
thumb. Even Vyas could not hold back his disapprobation for this mean act
calling it daruna or heart rending.

Seeking revenge

Drona
now laid a trap for Drupad when he had gone to a temple and left his weapons
outside the premises, as was mandatory. The princes overpowered the king
Drupad, broke his crown and presented him as a prisoner to their Guru who
smirked and had him set free. It was now the turn of a humiliated Drupad to vow
revenge. He performed a yagna and from the fire were born twins: Draupadi and
prince Drishtadyumna, who later killed Drona in battle while he led the armies
after Bhishma was brought down. Eaten up with anger against Draupadi’s father,
Guru Drona and his disciples broke the rules of warfare and together with
family stalwarts like Kripacharya, Duryodhana, Karna and others, killed Draupadi
and Arjuna’s teen age son Abhimanyu, after trapping him in the intricate
Chakravyuh formation.

By now, the
18-day war had reached a pitch where laws and morals and family
loyalties had
all become tangled in everyone’s head. As
the unstoppable Dronacharya killed one king after another in the Pandava
army, the
Pandava side started a whisper campaign saying Drona’s only son
Ashwatthama had
been killed. That great upholder of Dharma, Yudhishthir, confirmed the
lie to
his Guru, adding sotto voce, that it was an elephant with the same name,
not a
man (Nar ova kunjarova) . As the Guru lost heart and put down his bow,
he was
finished off by a shower of arrows. Dronacharya’s son Ashwatthama
completely lost it and used the ultimate weapon of destruction, killing
all
Draupadi’s sons and even a grandson nestling in her daughter-in-law’s
womb.

Go back,
Ulookal Mekhala had said to pilgrims, in this land, do not spend time.

So
the
rechristening of Guru Gram will bring back memories of ancient wars and
revenge-taking and shouting of Jai Jai, and senselessness of semantic
sabre-rattling.
Ah, the mysteries of history!