We all know about Hidimbi and her son Ghatotkacha.
When it was time for the Pandavas to go back to their Kingdom, Hidimbi promised Bheema that their son would be at his service whenever he needed him.
Ghatothkach grew up to be a fine man with a kind heart and a huge strong body. He married Maurvi, a princess of the Yadava dynasty, and they had a son whom they called Barbarika.
Barbarika grew up to be a skilled Warrior. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and he had received and extraordinary gift from him- three infallible arrows that would stay with him for as long as he was alive.
But when his Guru learnt of the arrows, he was worried.
“It is highly unlikely that you can ever be defeated now so I ask which side of a war would you choose?”
‘I promise that I will take the side of the weaker opponent which most people would hesitate to do, he said without a moment’s hesitation.
The Guru blessed his disciple.
When the great war was announced, Hidimbi remembered her promise to Bheema and told Ghatothkach and Barbarika to participate in this war.
Taking the blessings of his parents and his grandparents Barbarika went to the camp of the Pandavas. Bheema and the others were excited to see him and welcomed him with open arms.
Surprisingly Krishna was a little detached and was not as thrilled as the others about Barbarika’s arrival.
Why do you want to join the Pandavas, asked Krishna one day.
“There are two reasons, first these are my people and my family and second Pandavas are the weaker of the two camps as they have only seven akshauhinis (battle formation) while the Kauravas have 11. I promised my teacher that I would always support the weaker opponent.”
After a few minutes, Krishna changed the subject and asked Barbarika about his special arrows.
” My arrows are no ordinary ones. The first one will mark my enemies and return to me. The second will kill those marked by the first arrow and then come back to me. The third one is just a spare.”
Krishna asked Barbarika another question, ” my dear child, how many days do you think it will take for this war to end?”
“Not more than 3 days”, Barbarika replied.
“You are possibly the greatest warrior today maybe even better than Bhishma himself. Do you see this tree?, said Krishna pointing to a tree nearby.
” now assume that each leaf is a soldier and pretend that they are your enemies, use your arrows and show me what you can do”, pointed Krishna.
Barbarika shut his eyes and took out his bow and the first arrow. Quickly Krishna hid a leaf under his foot.
Barbarika opened his eyes and shot the first arrow. The arrow begin touching all the leaves and marking them with a Red Dot. Once that was done Barbarika took out the second arrow and shot it. One by one, it begin destroying the leaves with the Red Dot. Finally, it pierced Krishna’s foot and blood started oozing out.
Barbarika was upset and he apologized I am very sorry.
It’s not your fault, said Krishna. ” I had placed a leaf below my foot in order to test your arrows.”
I am curious Barbarika you have joined the Pandavas now because they have a smaller Army. But once the Kauravas lose more people, they will become weak then whose side will you be on?, asked curious Krishna.
“Then I will have to switch sides and support the Kauravas, replied Barbarika.
” what will happen if I hide all the Pandavas,will your arrow still find them?
” yes, it will find them for sure.”
“So you will kill your grandfather and his family? “
Barbrika did not answer, he was speechless.
” Because of the foolish promise you made to your teacher you will oscillate between the two camps along with your powerful arrows. At the end, everyone will die and only you will remain. Barbarika, it is a good thing to make a promise but you cannot do it without thinking about long term consequences. Think about it- Bhishma’s vow of celibacy could very well be the root cause of this war. Your promise to your teacher brought you here but you might end up killing your own family.” remarked Krishna.
“I never thought of it that way but I cannot change anything now the promise has been made. Oh Krishna tell me what should I do now?, admitted Barbarika.
I can guide you and be your Guru but you have to give me Guru Dakshina, said Krishna
‘I am ready to give you my life dear Krishna tell me what do you want and I will give it to you’.
“I want your head”
Barbarika smiled gently, ” of course it is a great honour you accepting my Gurudakshina. But I have one last desire will you help me?”
I will ensure that it is done, said Krishna.
” I am a warrior, even if I cannot fight, I would at least like to see the war. “
” That will not be a problem Barbarika. Even though your head will be separated from your body, I can guarantee that you will be able to hear and see the war till the end. This is my promise to you”, said Krishna.
Just then, the Pandavas arrived at the spot. They could not hold back their tears. Barbarika was their grandson and they were proud of his courage and commitment.
The young Barbarika bowed to his grandfather’s and decapitated himself.
Following Krishna’s orders, Bheema placed Barbarika’s head on top of a hill, from where Barbarika could see everything that happened in the battlefield.
Soon after the war everybody from the Pandavas’ side gathered together and talk about how each one had contributed to the victory.
“None of us really knows who has contributed the most to the victory because we did not see the whole picture let’s ask Barbarika he is that only true witness, “said all Pandavas.
So they all went to meet Barbarika, who was still at the top of the hill.
In my opinion the war was won because of the Sudarshan Chakra. I saw the Chakra circle the person who was destined to die that particular day whether it was Bhishma , Karna or Dushasana. To me, Krishna is the only one responsible for the victory, commented Barbarika.
Krishna then joined Barbarika’s body to his head and he came back to life. However, Barbarika refused to go back home to his family.
“I have seen the worst of humanity and I am not interested in living the life you expect me to I don’t want or need any arrows or power. I want to spend the rest of my days as a Sage. You did the best for me Krishna.”
Krishna smiled. ” In the time ahead, people will remember you and the sacrifices you made. Your unconditional love for me will join my name to yours and you will forever be called by my name- shyam.”
Today, Barbarika is worshiped in the state of Rajasthan as Khatu Shyam.
PS: pls ignore typing or punctuation errors as i am drafting them on my mobile phone.