Tuesday, August 3, 2010

#38. The Mahabharat War Widows

The Mahabharat War Widows
The battle of Mahabharat lasted for 18 days. The Pandavas had seven akshauhini and the Kauravas 11 akshauhini army. An akshuhini is a chaturangini army consisiting of 21870 chariots, equal number of elephants, 65610 horse-mounted warriors, and 1,09,350 infantry (in the proportion of 1:1: 3:5). According to this, the Kaurvas had about 24 lakh and Pandavas about 15.31 lakh, totaling almost 40 lakh soldiers. I don’t believe that such large number gathered at ‘Dharmkshetre Kurukshetre’. My best guess is about 75 thousand and 50 thousand. It was 1500 B.C. and conceiving such large number of warriors in Aryavarta is an absurdity. The total population of Aryavarta at that time should not be more than 5-6 lakh.
2. The entire armies were annihilated. It is interesting to note that on the Pandava’s side, the survivors, apart from five Pandavas were Krishna, Satyaki and Yuyutsu, and on the Kaurva’s side Kripacharya, Kritavarma, and Ashwatthama. The total comes to 11!
3. The Yadava clan in Dwarka fought among themselves, and whole clan was wiped out (Remember the Nepalese royalty which was assassinated en bloc at one go by the heir apparent himself!). Krishna entrusted the ladies of Dwarka (including his own consorts) to Arjun to take them safely to Indraprastha. On the way the group was resting at a place. Some robbers came and tried to forcibly take away the womenfolk.. Arjun challenged them, and tried to string his bow Gandiva. He could not, he was too old weak to string his famous bow. And in front of Arjun’s eyes, the robbers took away almost half of the women accompanying him. The balance could anyhow reach Indraprastha. The point I am making is that a very large number of widows gathered at Indraprastha, and also at the various small principalities spread throughout Aryavarta. What happened to them? There is a brief mention in Mahabharat that after the battle was over, Yudhishthira ordered proper cremation of dead soldiers. One does not know what would have happened to a large number of those maimed, as it is mentioned that the total force on both the sides perished, which is very improbable. About widows, there is mention that Yudhishthira ordered that they should be looked after properly. What actually happened to them? Polygamy was prevalent, and many would have become wives to the already married. What about the older women. There must have been created a large force of ladies whose status was no better than that of slaves.
4. The other point that has bothered me is the logistics during the time of the battle. The armies came from different places, some near some far. I have tried to place the various principalities to their locations in Aryavarta. It is an approximate and imperfect exercise, and I am open to correction.
Gandhara: Afghanistan. Gandhari and his brother Shakuni came from here.
Madra, Kekay, Sindhu: Pakistan, mainly in the Indus valley.
Dwarka, Avanti, Saurashtra: Gujarat
Matsya: Rajasthan
Panchal: Bihar. Draupadi came from here. That is why she is known as Panchali.
Vatsa: Bundelkand in U.P.?
Chedi: Northern M.P.
Kashi: Eastern U.P.
Kosala: North-central U.P. (Faizabad )
Mall, Magadha: Bihar.
Anga: Bengal.
It must have taken them week to 10 days to reach Kurukshetra (in modern Haryana). Even after the armies reached the battleground, a few days were spent in arranging the armies (sort of dress rehearsal). So the provision had to be arranged for about a month. It is not out of place to mention here that one of the main reasons the Marathas lost the Third Battle of Panipat was that the Afghans blocked their supply lines, and they were forced to fight or face the rebellion among their own people.
5. Each army which reached Kurukshetra must have carried a lot of provision with them. I don’t know where did such large gathering of fighting forces got the firewood. And then there was forage for the horses of horsemen and chariots. Sadly the numbers in the armies depleted very quickly during the battle, and proportionately, the need for provision as well as firewood.

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