Mahabharata: The Killing of Keechaka

Source: Mahabharata Virata Parva, Keechaka Vadha Upa Parva: Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya

The Virata Parva is one of the most interesting sections of the Mahabharata. The exile period of the Pandavas reaches a climax here and lays the ground for the final war. It is in this Parva that the demon Keechaka is killed.

The circumstances under which Keechaka is killed makes for very interesting reading. Of course, this portion again has been distorted in popular literature. My humble attempt here at portraying the incident true to the moola and also the Tatparya Nirnaya of Srimadacharya.

After 10 months of the 1 year exile-in-disguise period had passed, Keechaka, the Senadhipati of the Virata Kingdom and defacto ruler, comes back to the capital. He would be away on a mission to conquer more kingdoms. Within a few days of his arrival, he notices the presence of Sairandhri – Draupadi in disguise. He is completely enchanted with her beauty and wants to obtain her at any cost. Note that Draupadi, by this time, is already over 60 years and mother of 5 children! Still, the fact that Keechaka falls for her is testimonial to her age defying beauty and grace.

Keechaka approaches his younger sister Sudheshna, the Queen, and seeks her help in obtaining Draupadi. Sudheshna advises him against it and informs him that Sairandhri is protected by her “Gandharva” husbands. Keechaka, intoxicated by lust, listens to nothing of her advise and demands that she send over Sairandhri to him. Sudheshna, without any alternative, thinks of a plan and calls Sairandhri. She asks him to go to Keechaka’s palace and fetch wine. Sairandhri refuses to do so and tells her that Keechaka has been eyeing her for a while now and therefore it is extremely inappropriate for her to visit his palace. Sairandhri also reminds Sudeshna that one of her conditions prior to joining work was that she wouldn’t ever fetch wine.

Sudheshna overrules Draupadi and orders her to go to Keechaka’s palace. Draupadi prays to Surya Deva who creates a Rakshasa and sends him behind Draupadi for her protection. Draupadi reaches the palace and Keechaka tries a great extent to convince her. Upon her refusal, he starts to misbehave with her. He tries to hold her forcibly but is pushed down by Draupadi and she runs towards the King’s palace.

King Virata at that time is playing a game of dice with Kanka, who is Yudhisthira in disguise. The entire assembly is also present. Bhimasena, in the guise of Ballava the cook, is also present in the hall. Draupadi pleads with the King to help her. Virata, utterly scared of Keechaka, asks her not to disturb their game and orders her to go away! Keechaka meanwhile tries to get his hand on her. Lord Mukhyaprana enters into the Rakshasa and gives a push to Keechaka. Keechaka has a bad fall but doesn’t learn any lessons.

Bhimasena gets completely infuriated with this. He starts eyeing at a huge tree just outside the assembly. Yudhisthira notices the anger in Bhimasena’s eyes and quickly realizes what his brother is thinking of. In order to avoid an open challenge in the palace, Yudhisthira speaks to his brother in code language. He tells Ballava that if he is looking for firewood, then he should go get them from the wild rather than break the nearby tree. Bhimasena understands this code and decides to finish Keechaka outside of the town.

Draupadi gets back to Sudheshna and cries a lot. In the middle of that night, she goes to the King’s kitchen. Bhimasena is lying down there when Draupadi approaches him. The two meet and Bhimasena is extremely annoyed to see the trouble Draupadi is going through. Draupadi tells him that anyone who is associated with Yudhisthira (Dharma) has to go through pain and trouble. Bhimasena promises to end her misery and asks her to go invite Keechaka to the dance hall just outside the city, at the middle of the night.

Draupadi approaches Keechaka and tells him to meet her the next night at the dance hall. Keechaka is too excited and eagerly gets ready. At the right time, Keechaka enters the dance hall. Bhimasena who is seated in the middle is approached by Keechaka who is suddenly greeted by the iron arms of Bhimasena. A duel ensues between the two and very soon, Keechaka is overpowered. The moola Mahabharata describes in great detail the gory way in which Keechaka meets his end. His arms and legs are crushed and inserted into his anus and his body is pulped into a ball.

Bhimasena returns to his kitchen. Draupadi then informs the attenders of Keechaka’s fate. Their wails are heard by Upa-keechakas, the brothers of Keechaka. These brothers are 105 in number. They see the terrible state of their leader and decide to avenge by burning alive Draupadi along with their brother’s body. Draupadi gives out a shout in code language calling for her Gandharva brothers. Bhimasena hears the shout and reaches the place in a flash, jumping over walls and trees.

Within a matter of minutes, the 105 brothers of Keechaka join him in his journey to the netherworld. The attenders then reach the King and inform him of the killing of the 106 keechakas at the hands of Sairandhri’s Gandharva husband. The terrified, at the same time extremely relieved, Virata orders for a common pyre to be prepared and for a quick cremation of all of them!

Thus, one of the evil demons of the Mahabharata age, Keechaka, was killed by Bhimasena further aiding the establishment of Dharma.

Note:

1) In the popular TV series Mahabharata, it is shown that Bhimasena dresses up like a lady and sits in the dance hall waiting for Keechaka. This is neither mentioned in MBH nor in the Tatparya Niranaya.

2) In the TV series, it is shown that Arjuna is a part of the plan to eliminate Keechaka. In fact, he is shown playing Mridangam during the Keechaka killing. This again is unfaithful to the original MBH and Tatparya Nirnaya. The MBH clearly records the conversation between Draupadi and Brihannala the day after Keechaka’s death. Arjuna asks her the reason for her joy and she literally snubs him and gives him an indirect answer.

Yaksha Prashna – X

Q: What does one gain by speaking agreeable words?
A: He who speaks agreeable words becomes agreeable to all
Q: What does one gain by always acting judiciously?
A: He who acts judiciously always gets whatever he seeks
Q: What does one gain by having many friends?
A: He who has many friends always lives happily
Q: What does one gain by sticking to Dharma?
A: He who sticks to Dharma obtains happiness in the next world
Q: Who is truly happy?
A: He who cooks in his own house, in the 5th or 6th part of the day, He who is not in debt, and who doesnt move away from home is truly happy
Q: What is the most wonderful thing you find on earth?
A: Day after day, countless beings go to the abode of Yama. Yet those who remain think of themselves as immortal. This is the most surprising thing on earth
Q: What is THE path?
A: That which the great and noble have tread is THE path
Q: What is THE news?
A: This ignorant world is the pan. Sun is the fire, day & night are the fuel. Months & seasons are the wooden ladle. Time is the cook. This is THE news
Q: Who truly is a man?
A: The report of one’s good deeds reaches heaven and spreads on earth. He whose word remains on earth is regarded truly as a man
Q: What man possesses every kind of wealth?
A: A person to whom the agreeable and disagreeable, happiness and woes, the past and the future, are all same, he alone possesses every kind of wealth

Yaksha Prashna – IX

Q: What is desire?
A: Desire is due to attachment to objects
Q: What is envy?
A: Envy is nothing but grief of heart
Q: What is known as pride?
A: Solid ignorance is pride
Q: What is hypocrisy?
A: Setting up a religious standard is hypocrisy
Q: What is to be understood by the grace of gods?
A: The fruits of charity is nothing but the grace of gods
Q: What is wickedness?
A: Speaking ill of others constitutes wickedness
Q: Dharma, Artha and Kama are opposite of each other. How then can they co-exist?
A: When a wife and Dharma agree with each other, all three may co-exist
Q: Who is he who has to be condemned to everlasting hell?
A: He who requests a Brahmana to come home and then sends him back empty handed saying he has nothing to give goes to everlasting hell. He who imputes falsehood to the Vedas, scriptures, Gods, Brahmanas and the Shraddha ceremony goes to everlasting hell. He who though has enough wealth doesn’t donate nor enjoys it himself saying he doesn’t have money goes to everlasting hell.
Q: By what birth, behavior, study or learning does a person become a Brahmana?
A: It is neither by birth nor by study nor by learning that a person becomes a Brahmana. It is by behavior alone. He who maintains an unimpaired conduct is a Brahmana. Be it a Guru or a Shishya, or anyone who studies the scriptures, if one is addicted to bad habits, he is to be considered as an illiterate. He who performs his prescribed duties is learned. If one’s conduct isn’t good, he is to be considered as an illiterate wretch even if he has studied the Vedas. He who performs the Agnihotra and has his senses under control is a true Brahmana.

Yaksha Prashna – VIII

Q: Which enemy is invincible?
A: Anger is the invincible enemy
Q: Which disease is incurable for man?
A: Covetousness is an incurable disease
Q: Who is an honest man?
A: He who desires the well being of all beings is an honest man
Q: Who is a dishonest man?
A: He who is merciless is a dishonest man
Q: What is true ignorance?
A: Not knowing one’s duties is true ignorance
Q: What is true pride?
A: Consciousness of one’s being is true pride
Q: What is meant by idleness?
A: Not discharging one’s duties is idleness
Q: What is grief?
A: Ignorance is true grief
Q: What have the Rishis called as steadfastness?
A: Staying in one’s own Dharma is true steadfastness
Q: What has been termed as courage?
A: Subjugation of one’s senses has been called true courage
Q: What has been called as true ablution?
A: Washing the mind clean of all impurities is a true bath
Q: What is true charity?
A: Protecting all beings is true charity
Q: Who should be regarded as learned?
A: He who knows his duties should be regarded as learned
Q: Who should be regarded as an atheist?
A: He who is ignorant is to be regarded as an atheist
Q: Who should be regarded as ignorant?
A: He who is an atheist is to be regarded as ignorant

Yaksha Prashna – VII

Q: What has been spoken of as water?
A: Space has been spoken of as water
Q: What has been spoken of as food?
A: The cow has been spoken of as (the way to) food
Q: What has been spoken of as poison?
A: A request (for favor) has been spoken of as poison
Q: What is considered as the time for a Shraddha?
A: A Brahmana (availability of one) is the time for a Shraddha
Q: What may be considered as a sign of asceticism?
A: Staying in one’s own Dharma is the sign of asceticism
Q: What is true restraint?
A: The restraint of the mind is the truest restraint
Q: What constitutes the highest form of forgiveness?
A: Enduring enmity constitutes the highest forgiveness
Q: What constitutes shame?
A: Withdrawing from all unworthy acts constitutes shame
Q: What is said to be true knowledge?
A: The knowledge of the divine is true knowledge
Q: What is said to be true tranquility?
A: The tranquility of the heart is the truest one
Q: What constitutes true mercy?
A: Wishing happiness to all constitutes true mercy
Q: What constitutes simplicity?
A: Equanimity of the heart is true simplicity

Yaksha Prashna – VI

Q: For what virtue must one donate to Brahmanas?
A: It is for religious virtue that one must donate to Brahmanas
Q: For what must one donate to mimes and dancers?
A: One must donate to mimes and dancers for fame
Q: For what must one donate to servants?
A: It is to sustain them that one must donate to servants
Q: For what must one donate to a King?
A: It is out of fear (protection from) that one must donate to Kings
Q: What envelops the entire Universe?
A: It is darkness that envelops the entire Universe
Q: What causes one NOT to discover the self?
A: It is Tamas that causes blindness to self-discovery
Q: What causes one to forsake friends?
A: It is avarice that causes one to forsake friends
Q: What prevents one from obtaining heaven?
A: It is attachment to the world that prevents one from obtaining heaven
Q: When can a man be considered dead?
A: A man can be considered due to poverty
Q: When can a kingdom be considered dead?
A: A kingdom without a King can be considered dead
Q: When can a Shraddha ceremony be considered dead?
A: A Shraddha performed with the aid of a Brahmana who has no learning may be considered as dead
Q: When can a sacrifice be considered dead?
A: A sacrifice in which there are no gifts (dana) to Brahmanas may be considered as dead
Q: What is considered as the way?
A: The noble are considered as the way (path to follow)

Yaksha Prashna – V

Q: What is the most praiseworthy thing in the world?
A: The most praiseworthy thing in the world is skill
Q: What is the most valuable thing in the world?
A: Knowledge is the most valuable thing in the world
Q: Amongst gains, what is the most precious?
A: Health is the most precious gain
Q: Amongst happiness, which is the best?
A: Contentment is the best amongst happiness
Q: What is the highest duty in this world?
A: Refrain from injury is the highest duty in the world
Q: Which duty always fetches results?
A: The rites prescribed in the three Vedas always fetches results
Q: What is it that, if restrained, never causes regret?
A: It is the mind which, if restrained, never causes regret
Q: Who are they with whom an alliance can never break?
A: An alliance with the noble (good) can never break
Q: What is it that, if renounced, makes one dear (to all)?
A: Pride, if renounced, makes one dear to all
Q: What is it that, if renounced, causes no regret?
A: Anger, if renounced, never causes regret
Q: What is it that, if renounced, makes one wealthy?
A: Desire, if renounced, makes one wealthy
Q: What is it that, if renounced, makes one happy?
A: Avarice, if renounced, makes one happy