(Pandu the hero, (sort of))


A Translation by Larry Polansky




(Pandu the hero, (sort of))

A Translation by Larry Polansky

(for my nephews Michael and Benjamin Polansky)

A little background on The Mahabarata

The Mahabarata is the Indian story, which is a little like the Bible – really long with lots of characters, and great stories which makes very little sense when you really think about them. It takes up lots of books, is very old, and billions of people in the world know this story like we know the stories in the Bible – all over Asia (India, China, Indonesia, etc.). In fact, you could say that it's the most popular story in the world. Strangely enough, most people in the United States and Europe don't know anything about it!

The story of the MHBTA (I'm going to abbreviate it, my fingers will get tired typing that word over and over again) is more or less in three parts. The first part is the "birth of the Pandawas," the five brothers who are the stories' heros. But it really goes back to their great-great-great-grandfathers and even further back, and it takes a heck of a long time to get to the point where these five guys are actually born.

The Pandawas

The MHBTA stories usually start with a king named Santanu and his half-goddess half-mortal wife named Gangga (for whom the holy river Ganges is named). Don't worry that she's half-goddess half-woman, lots of the people in the MHBTA are like this, it's really no more interesting for these folks than being from New Jersey. The most notable thing about these two, besides them being the originators of the whole story, is that when Jody (my wife) and I lived in Indonesia, we had two goldfish named after them, who lived in our bathtub, but accidentally died when they chlorinated the city water supply and we didn't know it (we buried them in our front yard!). But back to the story...

Through an incredibly complicated history, which involves lots of contests for wives, eternal curses, ridiculous promises and oaths, and a heck of a lot of fighting and so on, the MHBTA winds its way to the final descendants of Santanu and Gangga, the main characters, five brothers called the Pandawa Bros. They're sort of like Jose, Felipe, and Matty Alou, who used to play for the San Francisco Giants, or the Alomars, or even the Neville Bros. They work together real well, and are very cool cats from the get-go.

The Pandawas live, or are trying to live, in the country of Hastinapura, but they have big problemas with their cousins, the Kurawas, who are really in charge of the place, and are basically as rotten as the Pandawas are cool. Even though they all seem to act more or less the same, everyone knows from the beginning that the P's are the good guys, and the K's the bad guys, don't ask me how! One of the big problems for our five main men is that there are 99 Kurawas and only 5 Pandawas. Also, since Pandu, the father of the Pandawas does something really stupid when he was young (he shoots a deer for fun that turns out to be a holy man who puts a curse on him that says he will die if he kisses his wife, which, even more stupidly, he does, and then does die, but that's another story), the father of the Pandawas, who is blind, named Dastarastra, is the real king of Hastinapura (there's a third brother, but forget about him, he's the son of a servant, see page 18 of the comic book, and doesn't ever amount to much, maybe he just becomes a hockey player or something...),

The Kurawas are the "true" kings of the country, and also, they have the aid of all the most powerful fighters since those guys, like Bhisma, and Drona (all the main warriors are guys for some reason, except for one, named Sri Kandi – this story is not too hip on having the women be an equal part of the action!) have to choose allegiance to their country, even over the P's, who they really like. However, everyone in the story (except the K's) seem to know how it will end, for some odd reason, which is that the Pandawas will whip everyone in the war and take over the place. Also, everyone, even most of the people who are fighting against them, also think of the Pandawas as the good guys, even though they do some pretty nasty things. More about this later...

Kurawas vs. Pandawas, Best of 7 series (Kurawas: Home court advantage)

So ... the second part of the MHBTA, after we take a few zillion pages to examine the complicated lives of their ancestors, are about the constant fights between the Kurawas and the Pandawas, sort of like the Montagues and the Capulets, the Jets and the Sharks, or the Yankees and the Red Sox. Most of this time, the Pandawas spend in exile, since the oldest of the Pandawas, who is their "king" (kind of, they all listen to whatever he says even though he is often kind of a jerk), named Yudistira loses the kingdom, and all his brothers and their wife (they have one wife in common, named Drupadi, and how this happens is an equally silly story but I won't go into it now...) in a dice game, in which he knows he's gonna lose, but since he's a knight, he can't refuse a challenge. Just the kind of guy you want responsible for the whole kingdom.

The Pandawas have to live in various places for a long time in exile, and slavery, etc., even though they're the greatest warriors and the smartest people and the holiest priests and such in the world. The second part of the MHBTA is about their adventures, and how the Kurawas are always trying to trick them or kill them but always failing. The P's have a rockin’ time, living in secrecy disguised as beggars, or climbing up mountains looking for enlightenment, or slugging it out with demons. Your usual stuff, like "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" or something... Since there are five of them, you'd think they go around hustling full court pickup games around the Hastinapura schoolyards, but this doesn't seem to happen for some reason.

As I said, Yudistira is the oldest, and they all do whatever he says, but the most famous are his two next younger brothers: Arjuna and Bima. Arjuna is handsome, and has lots of girlfriends, and is the greatest archer in the world. Also, he goes to heaven a lot where the gods give him magical weapons ... which is stupid, because they should give him things like knowledge and insight and stuff. Worse yet, Arjuna, even though he's supposed to be the good guy, and the hero, spends most of his time acting like Rambo and blowing up whole kingdoms with one arrow. Even so, everybody here in Java likes him a lot, and he's probably one of the most famous heros in the whole world, more popular than Superman, Rocky, and Mickey Mouse all combined. He's REAL polite, and speaks beautifully, and can sing and dance and make up poetry and all kinds of stuff like that, but watch out if he's mad, cause he has several different kinds of arrows which can blow up cities, etc.

Bima, the third brother, is big and strong and rough, whereas Arjuna is sort of cool and well-mannered. Even though he's a prince, he refuses to speak to anyone in anything but the slangiest of languages. Where Arjuna will say: "How art thou, o noble one," Bima will say: "What's happenin' man?". But Bima is so stong that he can lift elephants, and things like that. Kind of like the Incredible Hulk. He also eats a lot. He has a really long magical thumbnail, which he uses as a weapon against his enemies.

One of the most famous stories in the Javanese MHBTA is about Bima. It's called "Dewa Ruci." Dewa means god in Javanese, but there are a lot of them, not just one like in Christianity and Judaism. In this story, Bima decides he's of sick and tired of whacking people over the head with his mace, killing armies of elephants, lifting up mountains, and things like that. What he really wants is to know the truth about things, to understand the reasons for everything. He wants to learn. He's also not a very happy guy, and he thinks that if he only understood himself a little better, he'd be happier. So off he goes to find out the "answer" (even though he's not too sure of the "question").

Well, the first thing he does is fall into the ocean. You see Bima has a reputation of doing first and thinking later, which makes him have a lot of mishaps, even though he always comes out all right. Like this time, even though you think he's going to drown having fallen into the ocean with all his armor on, he doesn't. He lands in the underwater kingdom of some giant magical snakes, called the Naga, who save him, and give him magical powers. He also, strangely enough, marries the daughter of the king of the Naga (which means he marries a snake!). They help him out a lot, and then he goes off again, still underwater, but the Naga fixed it so he could live under water (in Minnesota it would be too cold down there!), to find enlightenment. It takes him a long time, but finally he meets this really TINY god called Dewa Ruci. It turns out that Dewa Ruci, who is REALLY smart and wise, sort of like Yoda in Star Wars, is just another Bima. That is, he and Bima are really the same person, just look different. Bima is huge and tough, Dewa Ruci is small and quiet, but every bit as strong as Bima cause he's so wise. Dewa Ruci enters Bima's ear, and for ever after lives inside of Bima, which makes Bima a much better person. Bima thinks: "Well, if I really wanted to get inside myself, now I've done it, since Dewa Ruci, who is me, is now in me!!!" This means that Bima found what he was looking for, and is a much nicer person after that. He's not nearly so quick to beat people up and destroy whole kingdoms and so on.

There are two other Pandawas, the two youngest, who are twins, named Nakula and Sadewa. Nakula is an expert on horses, I forget what Sadewa is an expert on. But neither of these guys does much important, though they're always around for all the fights and stuff.

Bima and Arjuna each have a lot of children. In fact, Arjuna is such a handsome guy that he has hundreds of wives (which was o.k back then...). Arjuna's most famous son is Abimanyu, who is of course a great warrior. He takes an oath that if he's ever mean to his wife he should be killed in battle. Well, you guessed it, he was, and then he is, in the great war which is the third part of the MHBTA.

Gatokaca is Bima's son, and he's actually the favorite character here in Java. There are LOTS of puppet shows with him as the main character. He's really strange, mainly cause he has wings and can fly. This makes him really useful for the five Pandawa brothers, who are always getting stuck on top of mountains and things like that and have to be rescued. It's really handy to have Gatutkaca around to fly in and help them out all the time. Unfortunately, he gets killed too, in the great war with the Kurawas, but it's against Karna, the greatest warrior of them all (who is actually, as you'll see in the comic book, his oldest uncle! but nobody knows this!) "The Death of Gatutkaca," which is the battle between him and Karna, takes 9 hours(!) to show here in the puppet show. It's one of the most favorite of all, and also one of the saddest, cause everybody here loves Gato so much, but they also really like Karna, cause even though he fights for the bad guys, he's really as noble and as good as any of the good guys. Later on, when I talk about the comic book, I'll tell you more about him.

The third part of the MHBTA is called the Bharatayuda, which means the "great war". This is where the Pandawa's (P's) and Kurawas (K's) go at it, and guess what, the P's win. Though it's not much fun, cause everyone gets killed except for the five P's and the father of the K's!! In this war the P's not only have to defeat their cousins the K's, but all of the advisors and warriors to the K's, who like Karna, have to fight for the K's cause they're officially part of Hastinapura, except that since they're all magical types, they all know that they're gonna get killed and that the P's are gonna win. This includes Karna, but it also includes Bhisma, the great teacher and advisor to all of them, who you'll meet in the comic book. The fact that there are 99 K's and only 5 P's doesn't make much difference as most of the important battles are 1 on 1. Arjuna eventually meets Karna, which is the last big battle!!!! But the Bharatayuda is probably the most FAMOUS story in the whole world, when you think of how many people live in China, India, Indonesia, and Asia. They all know it really well. The war itself is several thousand pages long, and is full of all kinds of great battles, tricks, interesting twists, and so on.

In fact, one of the interesting things about this part of the MHBTA is that Arjuna doesn't even want to get involved in it in the first place. Why should he go out and kill all his cousins, teachers, and friends? He'd much rather go home and watch the ballgame on t.v, paint pictures, play music, ice skate, and things like that. Before the battle starts, he tells this to his friend Kresna. Now Kresna is a BIG deal – he's the biggest god of them all, who created pretty much everything, but is living on earth also as a king and is the best friend of the P's. He's really powerful. He and Arjuna have a lot of fun together having giant battles with demons and gods and such, and they always win because of all the nifty weapons they've got. Anyway, Kresna, even though he's a god, in my opinion has some creepy opinions. Like for instance, he tells Arjuna here that they have to go out and fight and whup all their friends because of destiny. I think this is silly. Kresna also is a real crafty guy, and is always thinking up really dishonest tricks for the P's to play, which are really beneath their status as knights, but always help them beat their enemies.

Anyway, Arjuna and Kresna (in India he's called Krishna) have this big discussion before the battle, in which K. convinces A. that he should go out and just shoot everybody and not to worry about it too much. Seems ridiculous huh? Well it is. But K. and A., even though they like to kill people, speak really beautifully, and have great talks about philosophy, and all kinds of really deep topics. This conversation, which is about 50 pages (the whole MHBTA is thousands and thousands of pages) is so important that whole religions consider it to be like Jews and Christians think of the bible. It's called the Bhagavad Ghita...

So that's pretty much an intro. to the MHBTA, so that you can understand a little bit about this comic book! Now where does this comic book fit in? Well, it's kind of the bridge between the first part (where the birth of the P's and K's get explained) and the second part (the adventures of the P's and K's). It's about the birth of the fathers of the two sets of cousins. Pandu, the father of the P's (actually, Pandawas means "sons of Pandu") and Dastarastra, the father of the K's, who is blind. You won't learn this from this comic book, but the stuff that happens later to these two is kind of interesting.

Pandu, as you'll see from the comic, has two wives, Kunti and Madrim. But as I mentioned, he does something really stupid when he's young – he goes hunting and shoots a deer that's really a holy man in the form of a deer. In fact, he shoots the deer while the deer and his wife-deer, who is really the wife of the holy man just hanging out as a lady deer, are kissing together in the woods. Bad idea. I say never shoot a deer, but especially not when they're doing something nice like that. Anyway, Pandu is a good shot, being a great warrior and all, and he kills the man and his wife (he doesn't really know who they are). While dying, the deer puts a curse on Pandu, saying that if he ever tries to have children, he'll die. Big problem for a guy who's supposed to be the king of Hastinapura, and also, if he wants to have little sons who can also be king. He doesn't quite know what to do about this, but he GIVES UP the kingship to his brother Dastarastra, while he goes out and lives in the woods like a hermit to try to get rid of the curse. He doesn't, but he thinks he does, and when he tries to have children with his wife he dies! Luckily, both Kunti and Madrim can call on the gods whenever they want to, so they both get pregnant with the help of the sun god and wind god and so on. That's how the Pandawa's actually come about.

That's also, by the way, the source of the whole problem about Hastinapura. You see, since the K's are the sons of Dastarastra, who is really the king now that Pandu is no longer around, they are the rightful heirs. So they get to be really mean to the P's, who because of this deer business, have to take a lot of bullying around, when really THEY should have been kings.


PANDU DEWANATA (Pandu the hero, kind of...)

page 1) The comic book opens with Abiyasa sitting in the woods meditating. He's worried. Who is he? Well, remember when I told you about Gangga and Santanu, the originators of the whole P. and K. business. It turns out that Santanu had a second wife, after Gangga went off to heaven, named Setyawati. You'll meet her in a few pages. When she was really young she had an odd but pretty serious problem. She had a terrible case of B.O.! No kidding. Nobody could figure out why. She was really beautiful, too. Finally, a holy man came along, named Palasara, and said he could help. He took her off to the woods for a few years, prayed a lot, and cured her. Also, he fell in love with her, even though he wasn't supposed to. He had a baby with her, but was so upset at himself for doing this that he took the baby off to the woods with him, leaving Setyawati, and made the boy, named Abiyasa, a holy man too! Setyawati later married Santanu, the great-great-etc of the P's and K's

page 2) Palasara, who is really dead but this doesn't matter much to guys as holy and magical as him, comes to visit his son Abiyasa (from now on, we'll call him Abi). "Abi", he says, "you've got to hop in your Chevy and drive over to Hastinapura. There's a big problem." "Can't do it" says Abi, "my job is to sit here in the middle of nowhere and do nothing, wearing this silly hat, like a holy man should." "Don't argue with your father, even if he is a ghost" says Palasara!

page 3) What's the problem in Hastinapura, you ask? Well, as you can see, somebody is dying and everyone's pretty upset about it. With good reason. I better back up and explain. Remember Setyawati? Well, it's her job to have children who will have children who will be kings and so on of Hastinapura. She had two after Abi dissapeared, Wicitrawira and Citragada (Wici and Citi from now on). Problem kids. Wici was kind of stupid, and Citi was really mean. So mean in fact that the gods came down and killed him just for the heck of it. No kids either. Now Wici is on his last legs (nobody knows why), and he's got no kids, even though he's married (more about their wives later!). What is Hastinapura to do? If Wici dies, who'll take over?

page 4-5) No problem. Let's call Abiyasa. Now who are these folks on these pages. They're Bhisma, the first son of Santanu and Gangga, and Setyawadi, his step mother and second wife of Santanu. Why doesn't Bhisma have some kids and take over as king, since he's got the right parents and all? Also, he's the greatest warrior in the world, and a really nice guy to boot. His problem is that he's too nice a guy. He made a stupid promise a long time ago (called a "sumpah" which means "oath"). You see his dad, after Gangga left to go back to heaven, was pretty depressed. But then he met Setyawati and fell in love. But she wouldn't marry him, cause her sons wouldn't be king of Hastinapura, and their sons neither, cause Bhisma was older! So Bhisma, to make his father happy, promised Setyawati that he would never marry and have kids, so that her sons by Santanu would be king. Pretty complicated huh? Pretty stupid huh? But Bhisma, being a knight, has got to keep his oath. If he didn't, this story would be a LOT simpler. Bhisma and Setyawati get together to figure out what to do. Then they remember Abi., but they have no idea where he is (probably in California, surfing!).

page 6-7) Luckily, Abi., like a good holy man hero type, is on the case. He figures out a way to have kids to be kings while not giving up his holy man status too much (as a holy man, you can't fool around with girls, even if it's for the good of Hastinapura!). He dematerializes or something and appears in a puff of smoke in Hastinapura! What a surprise! "Hey Abi., how ya been all these years" they say. "Listen, we got a problem and you're just the guy to help out..." "I know" says Abi., which is no surprise cause guys like him even know the future!

page 8-9) Abi. tells Bhisma and Setyawati his plan. First, the big prob. is that even if they can dig up some kids from somewhere to be king, they'll be too young for a long time, and Hastinapura is a big place with a lot of wars and stuff and they REALLY need a king. No problem, we'll make Bhisma the king till the kids grow up. Bhisma is really good at this sort of thing. Second problem is that even though we've got Abi. now (a father) we kind of need a mother.

Well, now we have to introduce Ambika and Ambalika. Who are they? Good question. A long time ago, one big problem was that Wici. and Citi. were too dumb and too lousy as kingly types to go to a big contest (a "sayembara") and win a wife like kings are supposed to. So Bhisma went for them. He won, no problem (he's sort of like the Lakers at contests like this), and actually got three wives. Two of them, A. and A., got married to Wici. and Citi. but had no kids. So they're still around, just hanging out.

The third one is actually pretty interesting. She was already engaged in her home kingdom, but Bhisma won her anyway. He took her home, but she didn't want to be there, so he very nicely sent her back. But her boyfriend at home was angry at her for this for some reason (these guys act like jerks a lot!), and he sent her away. Now she had no place to go. She blamed Bhisma for all of this, even though it wasn't really his fault and he would never do anything to hurt anyone. Anyway, she just sort of wandered off, putting out a contract on Bhisma's head (dumb idea, NOBODY can beat Bhisma at anything), and got more and more frustrated. Finally, she made a deal with some god, and put a curse on Bhisma, and killed herself but caused herself to be reincarnated, which means to come back to life as something else (luckily, not a snail or something which is entirely possible), as a woman named Sri Kandi, who is REALLY famous and popular. Sri Kandi is a woman warrior, and it is destined that she will kill Bhisma eventually. She marries Arjuna (one of many), and does kill Bhisma many years later in the Bharatayuda, taking him by surprise.

But I'm getting off the topic. On page 9, Setyawati tells the ladies that they're gonna have a visitor that night in their bedroom, but they don't know it will be Abi. In other words, A. and A. are gonna be moms, but they don't quite know it yet.

page 10-12) One problem is that Abi. is kind of ugly (as you can see!). He doesn't want to upset these beautiful young girls, so he sneaks up on them. Ambika is a bit shocked, and makes a BIG mistake (as we'll see later). She CLOSES HER EYES to avoid him. He decides it would be better all around if he enters her dreams as a handsome prince, which he does, in a "taman bunga" (flower garden), and they have a GREAT time. Ambika doesn't even know who she's foolin' around with! Later, Ambika lies around in bed thinking about it, and is pretty happy

page 12-14) Next up to bat is Ambalika, same sort of thing (poor Abiyasa, the girls all hate him even though he's really the wisest guy of all and can fly and do magic and things). Ambalika's big mistake is to TURN HER HEAD from him. Same sort of thing though: handsome prince, flower garden, great time had by all! Boy, this Abi. is some clever guy! Ambalika and Ambika don't even know the prince's name! ("Dia tidak menyebutkan siapa namanya") or where he lives ("di mana tempat tinggalnya") they think it was all a dream ("mimpi"). Abi tells Setyawati that all went according to plan ("direncanakan") and returns home (that's him in the colors at the bottom).

page 15) But there are some slight difficulties. Because A. and A. turned their heads and closed their eyes, the babies are born blind ("tuna netra"), and with a head turned to the side. Can't have this for kings of Hastinapura! Setyawati calls Abi. back from the woods, and he explains why this happened. He says "It's really too bad" ("memang kasihan sekali")

page 16) Setyawati says "What's done is done". What can we do now? Also she asks Abi. why he's so sad. Well, he can see the future, and he has a vision of the two boys having a big fight! Lots of blood ("darah") in the future ("masa depan"). He's upset cause this family's gonna have LOTS of problems later on (he’s dreaming about the Bharatayuda, the big war between the K.’s and the P.’s, the two families he’s in the middle of begetting)..

page 17) Ok. Let's try again. Setyawati tells the girls to decide which one of them will have a third baby. They decide to pull a fast one, and have a servant girl wait in the bedroom.

page 18) Same deal, but this girl wants to RUN ("lari"). Also, Abi. is no fool, and sees that this is no princess, just a servant girl. He has a long talk with the big god ("Sang Hyang Jagad Bethara") and decides that what the heck, let's go through with it, since he's the main holy one involved in all of this, it doesn't make much difference who has the baby!

page 19) Well, she has a baby, but guess what, it has trouble walking! The blind baby is named Dastarastra, the baby with thetilted head named Pandu, and the lame baby is named Widura.

page 20-2) Now it's Bhisma's job to teach these kids to be kings. Pandu turns out to be the sports/warrior specialist, which seems logical since the other guys can't see and can't walk very well. but Abi. wants to help Dastarastra, since he's blind. so he calls him out to the woods, teaches him to meditate and so on, and gives him a special power, that later he can use to help him out of whatever difficulties he finds himself in! At the bottom of page 22, we get to see the kids as they turn out: Pandu the warrior, expert on weapons and fighting and stuff, and to become the king of Hastinapura, the Bharata lineage; Dastarastra, the quiet soul, able to be by himself and be happy and calm, but whose soul ("jiwa") is full and strong; Widura, the third brother, who is an expert at law, and knowledge, and will be a great adviser to all kings!

page 23-4) So they decide to make Pandu the next king, and of course make a big deal about it. But Bhisma says that he hopes Pandu will have some adventures and make up his mind about kingly things and stuff like that first. Big thing is also to find a queen, but Bhisma hears that there's a sayembara happening soon (kind of like "queen shopping centers") and that if Pandu is quick he can go over and get a nice queen there. But Setyawati says, well that's fine, but where IS Pandu, anyway? It's been days since we've seen him around. well, we'll find out, but first let's meet...

page 25-9) A giant snake or something like that in the swampiest of swamps. "Watch out" ("AWAS"). This snake is a tough cookie! But, off in the distance, stands a figure. However, this animal already spotted him as a candidate for dinner ("binatang ini telah melihat calon satapannya!!") But this is PANDU DEWANATA, the Wayne Gretzky of monster killers, and he's not scared of this snake. He let's loose some arrows ("anak panahnya"), and enters into a fight with the beast, trying to kill it. A big battle, in which Pandu jumps all around and shows what a weapons expert he is, but still is not making much progress with the snake, who wants to make a Big MacPandu out of our hero.

page 30-1) Pandu goes away from the monster, to the cliff, to try and think of a way to have success ("hasil") dispatching this slime-thing. He realizes one way to get this thing is to steal the life-giving jewel that it has on the end of it's tail ("why didn't he think of this before?"). Luckily, he has a special arrow for this... He sends this special arrow on its merry way, and like a boomerang, it snatches the jewel from the snake's tail and brings it back to him. the snake dies. Does any of this make any sense? No. but that's the way things happen in Hastinapura when you're a member of the Bharata clan!

page 32) Ok. so it wasn't a snake after all, but an equally ugly green demon. Big deal. Once he killed it, it returned to green demonness. It’s hard to see the advantage of being a slimy green toady looking thing rather than a big slimy red snake, but I suppose Pandu knows what's going on! Pandu says " OK. All done" time to bring this jewel back to where it belongs, which, as it turns out, is in the head of a statue in the house of some holy men. So it turns out that there was a reason after all that Pandu was messing around out there in the swamp, he was just doing a good deed! Like all good Bharata heros do!

page 33) Well, that's done with. mostly this little scene is in here just to show us how cool Pandu really is. Also, this will keep Bhisma happy, who was a bit worried before that Pandu didn't have much of a track record in the big leagues when it came to knightly deeds. But this will bring him out of Triple A ball and maybe soon he'll be pitching for the Twins! It has nothing to do with the story! Time to head back to Hastinapura. Pandu gets there and talks to Bhisma, who tells him how proud he is that Pandu whupped the snake. but now he better head off real fast to the kingdom of Mandura, so that he can win the princess Kuntiboja in the contest. "I'm ready and raring to go, Bhisma baby" says Pandu "We're number 1!" says Bhisma!

page 34) Pandu heads out, towards Mandura, where the big sayembara is about to happen. But before we get to that, it would be good to know a bit about this lady Kunti who all the fuss is about...

page 35) Turns out her name used to be Pritha, and she was adopted by King Kuntiboja, who only had one son, named Basudewa. When she was a teenager, hanging out in shopping malls, the king had a visitor, a holy man, named Durwasa. He hung out in Mandura for about a year, and Kunti was very happy to help him out (make him sandwhiches and things like that). While he was there. he sort of took a liking to her, and since he was another one of these holy guys, he also knew her destiny, which was to never be happy with a husband, have lots of sadness, etc. etc.. Kunti never told anyone about this, figuring it would freak people out. Durwasa, to help her, gave her a "mantra suci", which are some special words to say or sing, which she could use to call the gods whenever she wanted. Sort of the unlisted number for the gods! The idea here is that no matter what problems she has, she can always pick up the "mantra-phone" and say "Hey god, get on over here and let's dance"! This was a nice thing to give Kunti, who, as I mentioned before, is in for some difficulty in terms of Pandu when he offs those deer, so those gods will come in handy later on!

page 36) Ok .. but Durwasa was pretty clear about not using this mantra unless it was necessary. But does Kunti wait a bit? No. First chance she gets she gets on the horn and calls the sun god (Surya) of all people. Well... at least she has good taste. They fall in love, sort of, and guess what, she's pregnant! Big mess, of course, since she's not married to the sun-god or anything. Durwasa is pretty worried ("sangat prihatin") about this situation...

page 37) But things are just gonna keep getting stranger. Durwasa decides that this baby has got to be born from Kunti's ear! pretty wierd. And it's name will be Karna.

Now this is REALLY important, cause if you remember, Kunti is also the mother of the Pandawas (actually only the first three). But that means that even though everyone thinks her first son with Pandu, named Yudistira, is the rightful king, he's not. Karna is! Karna knows this, but never tells anyone, even when he gets killed by Arjuna. Later, after the big battle, Kunti finally breaks down and tells everyone the truth, and the P's are mucho upset that they not only killed their brother and real king, but that the whole Bharatayuda didn't really need to happen. This would have been a lot easier if they had been nice to Karna when they first met him (at a contest between him and Arjuna, which Karna wins really, but since they all think he's just an orphan he doesn't get the girl, Arjuna does, since he's a prince. pretty bad luck for Karna, huh?), Kkarna wouldn't feel so ticked off at the whole Pandawa group, and wouldn't fight them. Big wars can be avoided if you're just nice to everybody, I say...

Anyway, Kunti sends Karna off in a little boat on the river, since keeping him might raise a few eyebrows around the kingdom. Just like Moses! Karna later gets adopted by some real nice folks, though poor, so he grows up as just an ordinary guy who also happens to be the real king of the world and the best fighter of all time!

page 38-9) Now let's get back to the contest. Basically, the idea is that you have to shoot this really fast bird ("burung"). They all try, but can't do it. "Seperti burung itu dapat membaca pikiran kita" ("it's like that danged bird can read our thoughts!!!").

page 40) But up steps Pandu to the plate, just waiting for that fast ball to bang into the left field bleachers! Pandu is not worried at all, he's a very BAD DUDE with a bow and arrow, and no bird (or snake, for that matter) can make a monkey out of him. He chooses a special arrow, focuses his inner attention, let's loose, and makes kentucky fried "burung" for everyone. Everyone's real pleased, as you can see at the bottom.

page 41) Pandu gets the girl, Kunti (not knowing about her ex-boyfriend, the sun-god, who is heavy competition if you ask me, even for Pandu!). But there's a slight problem (as usual), here comes somebody named Narasoma, who is a well-known great warrior. Unfortunately, he's late for the sayembara. Maybe his car had a flat. He's upset, saying that if he had a chance he would have won. Yeah, right. they tell him, sorry, Narasoma man, that one bird was all we had, and Pandu nailed him, you're out of luck. next time how 'bout showing up on time?

page 42-3) Pandu and Kunti get blessed by the king. narasoma takes off for who knows where. Pandu and Kunti head home for the hills of hastinapura to make little bharatas, but out in the woods, what a coincidence, they run into narasoma. "Sayembara itu belum selesai, Pandu" ("This contest's not over yet, Pandu" sort of like, "Hastinapura's not big enough for the both of us, cowboy"). Narasoma says "I mean to find out just what kind of a knight you are, Pandu..." Pandu, very politely, says, "don't mess with me Narasoma, or I'll go upside your head." But Narasoma is pretty bold, and insults Pandu and things like that. he challenges him to a fight for Kunti. But Pandu's already got Kunti, so he asks "what's in it for me you fathead?". Well, it turns out Narasoma has a sister, named Madrim, and he puts her up against Kunti. well ... now that's a different story for Pandu. These bharata guys love to win wives in sayembaras. Also, they always win....

page 44) Kunti watches the fight from out of the way. pretty scared. Also, you would think she would have some choice in the matter! First they start beating each other up with fists, and karate, and kung fu and stuff. Pandu is clearly better than Narasoma. Then Narasoma pulls out a sword, but so does Pandu. forget it Narasoma, that's what Bhisma's been teaching this kid all these years! Then an arrow. Give me a break! Pandu is THE BEST with a bow and arrow, you haven't got a prayer, Narasoma, better get job in a car wash or something, you're washed up as a knight.

page 45) But... it seems that our friend Narasoma's arrow is a magic one, and could mean big trouble for Pandu. Lucky for Pandu, he's also got a pretty good supply of magic arrows, which you can buy at any big store in Hastinapura, and he let's one fly! They meet in a big storm, and ......

Larry Polansky

for my nephews Michael and Benjamin Polansky

Solo, Central Java, Indonesia

March, 1989