Thursday, February 27, 2020

Week 7 Story: Beast Battling Brothers

13:00 on Monday, the 8th: A monstrous beast has been attacking Kishkindha. As both king and the city's greatest warrior, it is my duty to track down this fiend and put an end to its reign of terror in and around my city. My brother Sugriva will be hunting the beast with me. I have yet to hear of any two descriptions of the beast that match. Reports say the monster walks on two legs; others say it walks on four. It has been described in a number of different ways- scaly, furry, fiery, enormous, and even invisible. Despite these descriptions, I have little fear that beast will be too much to handle

09:00 on Tuesday, the 9th: Sugriva and I left Kishkindha this morning. Equipped with the finest weapons and a week's worth of provisions, I hope to find and slaughter this monster soon.

18:00 on Tuesday, the 9th: While we have not yet found the monster that has been terrorizing Kishkindha, we have followed its path of destruction through the forest. Trees have been completely ripped from the ground. Enormous scratch marks score the ground. Even a straight narrow creek I've seen numerous times before now bends as though it were injured by the beast! As the sun sets, I pray that monster does not devour Sugriva and myself in our sleep.

10:00 on Wednesday, the 10th: Sugriva and I have tracked the beast to a series of underground tunnels. Because my boon should afford me additional protection from the fiend, we have decided Sugriva will stand guard outside the tunnel while I venture inside. Thus, should I die during my feat of heroism, Sugriva may retrieve my body for a proper treatment before returning for reinforcements. I now plan to venture inside this musty tunnel in defense of my city.

This is the entrance of the tunnel Vali is venturing into

The evening of the 10th: Vali has not yet returned from the tunnels. He has been gone for some time. I have heard the roaring of the beast inside the tunnel. While I have not yet heard Vali's voice, I am beginning to worry.

Midnight of the 10th: With the moon high in the night sky, I can only see by the light of the moon. A sticky and warm fluid has begun to flow from the tunnel. I believe this fluid to be blood. I have no way of knowing whether this blood belongs to Vali or the beast, but I am beginning to worry my brother may not return. I did not know this network of tunnels was so vast.

Sunrise on the 11th: After a few short hours of sleep, I awoke to the rising sun. I can now confirm that blood has pooled at the entrance to the tunnels. I pray that my lapse in consciousness did not lead to my brother's death. I cannot imagine telling Tara, the woman I love, that her husband has died. Perhaps I could help her through her grief? Should Vali not return before noon, I will assume he has died.

Noon on the 11th: Without Vali in sight, I feel that I have no choice but to assume Vali has died. Surely battling the beast did not require more than a full day from the greatest warrior in the kingdom. If the beast could defeat Vali, I fear that no man will ever best the beast. Rather than waste hundreds if not thousands of good men, I realize that I have but one choice- I must leave my brother in the tunnels so I can trap the beast for good. I look at the blood in the tunnel's entrance. Surely, Vali has died.  Knowing the size and strength of the beast to be impressive, I grab an entire mountain from the neighboring region. I shove the mountain deep into the tunnel, ensuring nothing can ever escape. At that moment, I realize I must rule in my brother's stead because whether by the beast or my hand, Vali is now surely dead. It is certainly a good thing that Sugriva, King of Kishkindha, has a certain ring to it. It is a name I expect people to hear for years to come.


Author's Note: This story was inspired by my project and the story of Vali and Sugriva. From information I could find, the story goes that the two brothers were together hunting a great monster. Vali followed the monster into underground tunnels while Sugriva stood guard at the mouth of the tunnel. When blood came dripping out of the tunnel and Vali failed to answer Sugriva's calls, Sugriva blocked the mouth of the tunnel with a mountain, ensuring that nothing could escape the tunnels- including Vali. The blood was that of the monster Vali had killed. Sugriva had trapped his beloved brother and returned to Kishkindha to claim Vali's crown and wife.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Reading Notes: PDE Mahabharata Section D

"Ghaotkacha" by Donald A Mackenzie: Source

It is quite evident at this point in the story that the reason the births of the many sons of the Pandanvas and the Kauravas were all mentioned throughout the Mahabharata was so they could all be killed off during this great battle. This way, the extreme battle can impact the main characters of the Mahabharata without actually killing the very vital characters.

"Death of Drona" by Sister Nivedita: Source

I found this story exceptionally entertaining- Drona's love for his son was what had kept him alive throughout the battle. Bhima killed an elephant with the same name as his son and claimed to have killed Drona's son. No one told Drona that Bhima had killed an elephant rather than his son. Distraught, he was unable to summon his celestial weapons to defend himself. Dhrishtadyumna killed Drona by chopping off his head.
This sort of ridiculous, but plausible story, makes me wonder if some sort of comparable situation could be used in one of my stories about Vali for my project.

"Arjuna and Karna" by Donald A Mackenzie: Source

Arjuna and Karna battle with their bows and arrows. Arjuna's string breaks. He yells that Karna needs to give him the chance to fix his bow string so they can fight with honor. Karna continues to shoot arrows at Arjuna. Krishna talks to Karna about how his recent actions have lacked any sort of honor, especially cornering and killing Arjuna's son. At the mention of his son's name, Arjuna shoots Karna's head with an arrow.

"The Pandavas and Bhishma" by John Mandeville Macfie: Source

After an eventful evening during which Ashwatthaman attacks the Pandava camp, the Pandavas visit the dying Bhishma. He gives advice on how to rule now that they control everything.
This feels like a redemption story to me, and I really like the Bhishma got that ending.

"The Forest and its Ghosts" by Donald A. Mackenzie: Source

Vyasa revives all of the warriors who died in battle, allowing them to have final words with their families. Vyasa allows widows to follow their husbands to the afterlife if they so choose. All of these warriors disappear as the sun rises.

This is what I imagine the returning warriors took a form comparable to this.

On top of this, we see the main characters sort of give up living to pass on to the afterlife. I thought this was unique to Rama and Sita, but I now feel that this death is possible for any main character of an Indian story.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Reading Notes: PDE Mahabharata Section C

"Arjuna and Indra" by Donald A. Mackenzie: Source

Indra, Varuna, Yama, and Kubera each give Arjuna celestial weapons. He then wages war on Indra's enemies, the daityas and the danavas. Indra rewards Arjuna with gold and a diadem.
This section could be useful if I want to write about celestial weapons in any story- this section goes into a fair amount of detail about these weapons.

"Bhima and Hanuman" by John Mandeville Macfie: Source

We see Hanuman! Bhima and Hanuman are apparently brothers, as both are sons of Vayu. This section comes across as though Hanuman is the vessel for an author who is trying to educate people on the rules of morality in Indian culture with minimal effort. Hanuman talks about morality after Bhima can't pick him up? Yep. And then they part ways. This section is so odd.

"Karna and Indra" by Sister Nivedita: Source

Karna is the man who was born with natural armor and earrings that make him invincible. Indra disguises himself as a brahmin to trick Karna. He asks for Karna's armor and earrings. Karna sees through Indra's disguise. He ultimately gives up his armor and earrings for any invincible dart that can be used once upon a single deadly foe. Importantly, Karna took a vow in the previous section to kill Arjuna. Coincidence? I think not.

"Bhima and Kichaka" by C.A. Kincaid: Source

Prince Kichaka, tries to rape Draupadi. Her five husbands cannot defend her because they're all disguised to serve out their last year of their exile. Draupadi, disgraced, tells Bhima of Prince Kickaka trying to rape her and then hitting her when she refused. Bhima tricks Prince Kichaka and ends up killing him because of his treatment of the disguised Draupadi.

"Krishna's Mission" by Donald A. Mackenzie: Source

The Pandavas have put together an army and begun to rebuild their army and power. They want peace with Duryodhana. Krishna is sent to directly ask for peace but the Kauravas had plans to kidnap/attack Krishna. Krishna shows his godly form, scaring everyone but Duryodhana. He returns to the Pandavas in peace.
This reminded me of Superman pulling off his shirt and revealing who he truly is, inspiring awe in others.

Krishna's reveal is like Superman's- they're both so powerful

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Week 6 Story: Microfiction

Dribble (50 words):

The scent of coffee and bacon woke me. Sun shone through the blinds onto my face. I stretched before going to the bathroom. The cry of the baby shattered the peace of the morning. That's when I remembered. I live alone. Whose baby was crying and who was cooking breakfast!?

Six Word Story (6 Words):

My rejection letter shattered my world.

Twitterature (140 characters):

I didn’t know how to study. Lectures didn’t help. I stopped attending class, read the textbook, taught myself, and everything became clear.

Author's Note:
I wrote three stories because I felt that the second and third required so little time to write that I could put forth additional effort. Yet, I needed to do a shorter assignment this week because I have a BIG test to study for.
My idea behind the first story was somewhat silly. I had a conversation about the movie "The Hangover" with a friend of mine this morning. The conversation was still on my mind, so that was my inspiration. Obviously, my story doesn't have all the same craziness.
My second story I wrote because the same friend showed me a tik-tok (ugh) of a girl who was recording while she got the email about her rejection from dental school, and you could see her face absolutely fall apart. She didn't say anything, but you could tell exactly how she felt by her expression. Given that she could convey that emotion without words, I thought I'd use as few words as possible to do the same thing.
The third story actually comes from my roommate. He actually gave a speech in one class about how he had stopped going to the lectures for another class because the professor was not good at lecturing. He learned everything he needed by simply reading the textbook. It worked. This was on my mind because I'm really considering doing the same for one of my classes this semester...
The exercise of conveying information in so few words was not easy. Each of the stories has the maximum number of words/characters it can have, and I still want to say more.

Reading Notes: PDE Mahabharata Section B

Bhima and Baka by C.A. Kincaid: Source

The Pandavas escaped the fiery trap that was meant to kill them. They managed to escape secretly- no one knows they are alive. Bhima must fight a rakshasa in the woods to keep his family safe. He does this by breaking the rakshasa's back over his knee. Bhima then kills the warlord Baka by the same process, freeing a local village from the tyrant.
Bhima's process of killing his enemies in this manner makes me think of the iconic battle between Batman and Bane, shown below. Even if it's silly, this was the first thing I thought of

This is exactly how I imagine Bhima defeats his enemies

Draupadi's Swayamwara by Donald A. Mackenzie: Source

Draupadi is this gorgeous woman who is destined to have five husbands and be a Pandava queen. In her previous life, she was never satisifed by her husband. She prayed to the gods who promised she would be a high-born woman who would have FIVE husbands. Arjuna shoots the fish target with his arrow to win Draupadi's hand in marriage. Vyasa reveals that the Pandavas are each incaranations of Indra, so there is no problem with five men marrying the same woman.
This whole setup is wild.

Arjuna and Subhadra by Donald A. Mackenzie: Source

Part of the arrangement for Draupadi's marriage to the five Pandava men was that while Draupati spent time with one brother that the other brothers would leave them be or face exile for twelve years. When a fearsome rakshasa attacks the city, Arjuna needs his weapon to fight. His weapon is in the same room as Draupati and one of his brothers. After fending of the rakshasa, Arjuna leaves the city in exile for breaking his oath. While he is away, he visits the city Prabhasa and his friend Krishna. He falls in love with Krishna's sister Subhadra. The expectation is that Subhadra will marry Duryodhana despite the swayamvara having not been held yet. To get around this, Arjuna simply kidnaps Subhadra. Knowing that no man would want Subhadra after she had spent time in the house of another man, they welcome Arjuna back to hold an official marriage. Staying in Prabhasa until the end of his exile, Arjuna finally returns home. Draupati welcomes Arjuna's new wife.
Draupati then has a son for each of her five husbands while Subhadra has a son with Arjuna.

The idea of multiple wives blows my mind. I imagine that the children of Draupati and the Pandavas will ultimately be important. It also seems that men are rewarded for questionable actions- this is the second instance in the Mahabharata of men widnapping women to make them their wives!

Gambling Match by Donald A. Mackenzie: Source

This story seems a little ridiculous to me. Yudhishthira and the Pandavas visit Duryodhana to gamble. Yudhishthira seems to understand that the game will be rigged, but he plays along anyways. He gambles away everything- his gold, jewels, elephants, and slaves. He lost his whole kingdom, himself, all of the Pandavas, and even Draupadi. Why did he not stop gambling!? We see that eventually Duryodhana mocks Draupadi. He tries to strip all of the clothing off of his new slave in public. He mocks the Pandavas who are all now his slaves. Draupadi goes to Dhritarashtra who knew nothing of Duryodhana's actions. He offers Draupadi whatever she wants- she asks for herself, the Pandavas, and Yudhishthira to be freed. That's where this week's reading ends...

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Reading Notes: PDE Mahabharata Section A

King Shantanu and Satyavati by Donald A. Mackenzie: Source

Satyavati is a girl born of Indra's sperm that was swallowed by a fish. When a fisherman caught the fish, he released the two children, the boy and the girl, living inside. The fisherman was able to keep the girl, Satyavati. She grows up giving people rides across the Ganges. She grows up a little before brahmin Parashara comes along. He is overwhelmed by her beauty and asks her to mother his child. In return, he will remove the fish smell from her, she will smell like perfume for the rest of her life, and he restores her virginity.
On a side note- I'm not entirely sure what that last part is supposed to mean. The idea of such a thing seems ridiculous in mind.

Bhishma at the Swayamvara by Sister Nivedita: Source

To this point in the story, Bhishma seems to be a decent person. He forfeited his claim to the throne so that his father could marry again! However, in this portion of the Mahabharata, Bhishma goes to kidnap the daughters- Amba, Ambika, and Ambalika- of the king of Benares. A contest is occurring to determine who is fit to marry these women. However, Bhishma steals the three daughters and fends off multiple armies with his archery skills! Eventually the king of Benares surrenders. Bhishma takes the daughters back to Hastinapura for his step-brother Vichitravirya, who is currently acting as the city's king.

Amba by Sister Nivedita: Source

Amba is the oldest of the princesses that Bhishma kidnapped. She had secretly sworn to marry the King of the Shalwas. She tells Bhishma about her previous arrangement. He sets her free to go marry the King of the Shalwas so that this younger step-brother does not have a marry a woman who will not love him. She goes to the King of the Shalwas, who Bhishma defeated in battle when he kidnapped Amba. He treats her terribly. Eventually, she leaves him to become exceptionally pious. As a result of her piety, Shiva offers Amba a boon. She wants Bhishma dead- she thinks he ruined her chance of a happy marriage when he disgraced the King of the Shalwas. Shiva promises that Amba will kill Bhishma. "How? She's only a woman!" Well... Shiva promises to reincarnate her as a man so that she can kill Bhishma in a future life.
Amba's response? She prepares and lights a funeral pyre and jumps on.

Duryodhana's Jealousy by C.A. Kincaid: Source

Pandu was named as king when he came of age. He two wives each had numerous sons- these two sets of sons came to be known as the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Duryodhana is effectively the head of the Kauravas. He goes to King Dhritarashtra and deceives him. He asks the king of send his queen and the Pandavas away to an entirely wooden palace he's had built. Everything in the palace is soaked in oil. This is Duryodhana's plan to get rid of the Pandavas, as they are better than the Kauravas in almost everything.

The Mahabharata is structured very differently than the Ramayana. It focuses on MANY more characters. It is much harder to keep them all straight, as no single character is specifically followed throughout the story like Rama was.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Week 5 Story: Vali's Defeat at the Hands of Rama

     I awoke in the night to news that my brother was traveling towards Kishkindha. I knew exactly why he was returning. He wanted to claim my throne and wife. Sugriva, my younger brother, the man who had left me for dead and attempted to rule in my absence, wanted the same things he had wanted from me his whole life. As the eldest of the two of us, the throne of Kishkindha was rightfully mine. Tara too was rightfully mine. It was I who first laid eyes on her while I helped Indra churn the ocean long ago. A beautiful aspara, a water spirit, Tara had appeared among the sea foam and the waves. I knew we were destined to be together. I presume Sugriva also experienced the overwhelming flood of emotion I had felt when I first saw Tara. I could see that he wanted her for himself, despite her devotion to me. It was evident in every interaction between the two of them. I could do little to prevent Sugriva's advances, as violence was never an option. As my brother, I would never harm Sugriva. 
     That changed when he trapped me in a cavern with the largest and most fearsome rakshasa after Ravana himself. Sugriva had left me to die! He filled the cavern entrance with a mountain to trap me with that monster. It took me months to escape that prison. When I finally dug myself free, Sugriva sat upon my throne! He had claimed my Tara as his future wife. My rage controlled me that day. I challenged Sugriva to battle, crushing his weapon, his body, and his will. My weak younger brother never truly stood a chance. Upon reclaiming my throne, I exiled the traitor.
     Yet, here he comes yet again. His desire for Tara and my throne somehow managed to stay intact when I had broken everything else he possessed. I lay awake, Tara beside me, unable to return to sleep. It was not fear that kept me awake. It was the excitement- Sugriva's pitiful attempts to claim what was mine would soon come to an end.

Vali pierced by an arrow, bleeding.

     Lying in a pool of my own blood, I no longer possessed that same confidence I'd had the previous night. I should have known that Sugriva would only return with some sort of trick. We both knew that he could never best me in battle. He was conniving and cowardly enough to act on that knowledge. Not even my boon, my ability to steal strength from my opponents, could protect me from an opponent I did not know I was fighting.
     When Sugriva had met me at the gates of Kishkindha with his weapon in hand, I had hardly expected him to back towards the woods before taking off at a full sprint. My honor challenged, I had no choice but to chase the coward. Bit by bit I had gained ground on him. I lunged at Sugriva, knocking him to the ground. He leapt to his feet, spear in hand. One swing from my axe splintered his spear in half. I raised my axe to deliver Sugriva's final blow. He knocked my legs out from under me and kicked my axe away. Sugriva leapt on me in an attempt to overpower me. He stood no chance. I maneuvered myself free of his grasp and wrestled him to the ground. We writhed among the mud and leaves, struggling for dominance until I heard a brief whistling noise. I felt a sudden piercing pain in my chest. I released my grip on Sugriva and fell onto my back. This pain was like nothing I had felt before. Grasping for my chest, I saw an arrow had pierced through my body and was sticking through my breast. I could do nothing to prevent the stabbing pain or the flowing blood. 
     A muscular man radiating power and godliness entered my field of vision. He peered over me. With that short glimpse, I knew who had fired that arrow through my chest. Rama. Rama had shot me like a coward. Sugriva had deceived me like a coward. Yet, honor hardly mattered as Sugriva peered over me before everything faded to black. 

Author's Note:
This story is a first-person, and somewhat fabricated, account of the death of Vali. Rama shoots Vali with an arrow from behind as he battles Sugriva. Sugriva then leaves exile and becomes the king of Kishkindha! The story is based very much on the story of Vali's death from the Ramayana,

"Vali's Death" by Romesh Dutt- Online Source