The Legend of the Kapi Ketan
War was almost inevitable between the two warring factions - Pandavas and Kauravas. Lord Krishna, however, wanted to attempt peace between the families for the last time.
He attended the royal court of Hastinapur, the royal capital. He came as a messenger on the behalf of the Pandavas. He asked for the Kauravas to spare five villages to the Pandavas as a last resort to avoid the war. All the veterans- Bhishma, Drona, Shayla, Kripa were present at the court. But Krishna’s humble request fell upon deaf ears. Rolling his blood-red bulging eyes, the king roared, ‘I won't spare a pinch of soil to Pandavas, forget about five lands! War is the only result, no matter how hard you try to prevent this. Leave now.’
Grandfather Bhishma, Drona, Kripacharya, King Shayla were stunned at the arrogant and rude behaviour of Duryodhana! But Managovinda, as Duryodhana was known otherwise, was adamant in his decision. Despite a thousand requests and advice of his elders to accept the humble request, the brutish king remained unchanged. He yelled again, ‘O Duhshasana, my brother! Go- arrange our troops for battle.’ Pointing his finger to Krishna, he said, ‘You better ask your Pandavas to surrender or face the war, cowherd Yadav!’
Lord Shree Krishna took one last look at the raging king, smiled and left the royal court.
Before the commencement of the great war between Kauravas and Pandavas, both sides started building their alliances with other great knights. The great warriors around the country were cordially invited to choose their side. The haughty King Duryodhana had sent messages to the kings requesting them to join him.
Seeing the invincible strength of his cousins, Dharmaraj Yudhisthira graciously spoke to Lord Krishna, ‘O noble heart! I am not affluent of possessions, property, wisdom nor do I have any strength to fight against Kauravas. Where do I go to find someone who can counter Duryodhans forces gallantly? Please, guide me.’
Lord Krishna chuckled. He called Bhim and spoke softly, ‘O mighty-armed! You are invulnerable but yet it is better for us to invite the mightiest warrior this world has ever seen - Shree Hanuman- the greatest devotee of Lord Shree Ram. He lives in Makanda forest. You must go there and invite him to join our side of this great war.’
Bhim, carrying the message of Shree Krishna and Dharmaraj Yudhisthira, began his long journey. Askanda forest was nearly 79,200 miles away from Indraprastha where Pandavas were residing. The beautiful river Gandaki, which is now in modern day Nepal, was flowing near Askanda forest. Before Bhim reached him, Hanuman with his divine power realised the intention of Lord Krishna sending Bhim to him.
He had a soft spot for his younger brother- Bhim (Bhim too was a son of Vayudev, the god of Wind and Kunti) though he knew the pride of Bhim. Hanuman wished to redeem his pride. He was concerned about Bhim’s welfare that journey of such a long distance would make him weak at the time of war. So he came forward to mountain Ambaka. On the way to Askanda forest there was a cross road below the mountain Ambaka. Hanuman lied down there on the crossroad in disguise pretending as a very weak, lean and thin old monkey. The road was almost covered with his huge body and his long tail.
When Bhim reached at Ambaka he was surprised to see the old monkey lying down on the road. He said, ‘O monkey it's not fair to sleep on the road. You have slept in such a way neither I can jump over you nor I can cross over you. There is no more space I can cross through. I have come to invite the mightiest warrior Hanuman- as fair chances of war ahead between Kauravas and Pandavas. Please let me go to complete my mission. Shree Hanuman would be our captain in the war.’ Hanuman smiled hiding his face on other side said, ‘O dear! I am old and sick. I am too weak to lift my own body. Please jump over and go ahead.’
Bhim was annoyed with his foolish suggestion. He elicited the repercussions of such type of arrogant acts. He said, ‘If someone jumps over a person either elder or younger then he would never get salvation! His life span would be diminished. Knowing fully well about all these principles, how can I act like a fool?!’
Beholding his wisdom Hanuman was contented. He earnestly said, ‘Thanks for your wise thoughts! Then do me a favour. Please lift my tail and cross through the path?’
Diligently he convinced Bhim about his tiredness. Bhim agreed to his request, knowing that he could continue after flicking the tail off his path. His only aim was to reach at Hanuman. Walking towards the tail, Bhim first tried to lift his tail in his left hand. When he failed that attempt, he used both his hands. The tail wouldn't budge at all. He used up all his mighty strength, so much so that blood came out from his nose, and yet, the tail wouldn't move. Shocked beyond his wits, he thought, ‘It is absolutely strange that my power failed against a simple tail of a monkey! The hands that can lift the heaviest mace in the earth! The earth itself would be crushed with the force that I have applied to this monkey. There is barely anyone who can tolerate my fierce Brukodara force! He must be none other than Hanuman himself pretending as an old monkey!’
Looking at Bhim’s pitiful condition, Hanuman disclosed his own identity. After a while Hanuman asked him about his sudden visit to him. Bhim conveyed the message of Krishna. After listening to Bhim, Hanuman inquired his brother about the strength of Kaurava troops. Bhim explained him everything in detail.
‘Aha! Only this much?!’ Laughing aloud he said, ‘Why don't you ask me right now to smash the whole Kauravas troops with my tail and send them to hell!’ his voice was filled with full of sarcasm.
Bhim was not aware of the celestial prowess of Hanuman. He assumed him as an arrogant monkey but kept silence. Beholding his blank face, Hanuman softly told Bhim to take one thread from his langauty and install an idol of his image in Arjun’s chariot, the Nandighosh with that string. That would symbolise as ‘Kapi Ketan’ otherwise known as ‘Kapi Dhwaja’ and it would change its form time to time. No matter how powerful an enemy would be, no one could do any harm to the chariot or the ones protected in it. That would protect the whole Pandavas from any external force. Bhim was speechless for a moment, thinking about the ludicrous suggestion of Hanuman. He was annoyed with his arrogance. While keeping calm in front of him, in his mind Bhim criticised his stubborn advice. Hanuman , being a divine soul, could grasp his thoughts. He smiled and threw the string at Bhim. As the string fell upon Bhim, he lost his consciousness.
When Bhim came to his sense, Hanuman smiled at him said, ‘O Bhim! You disrespected my words. Think about it. A simple thread smashed your so called pride of valour! However, as I suggested, take the thread and give it to Lord Krishna. He is the one who knows its true value.’ Bhim was ashamed of his own thought. At last Bhim took the thread and went to Indraprastha.
When Bhim landed in Indraprastha, Krishna grasped his state of mind instantly . His frowned face unfurled his anger. Krishna softly asked what the reason was. Bhim exploded instantly, ‘The pride shown by that monkey, I would have crunched his head even if it would be God Indra or anybody!’
He pacified Bhim with his soft magical words. He retold his previous life story as Shree Ram and the divine power of Shree Hanuman and asked him to follow his instructions to the letter.
When the Kurukshetra war finally ended, Lord Krishna went to a lonely place with Arjun and asked him to step out of the chariot. As Arjun step out, Hanuman came out from the flag and bowed down to Krishna. Lord Krishna thanked him being with them till to end. That very moment the chariot caught the blazing fire turned into ashes. Arjun was amazed! When Arjun asked the reason, Krishna explained him that chariot would have burnt long before as the celestial weapons used by Drona and Karna at him in the battle. It was Hanuman who saved the chariot being burnt. However the celestial weapons couldn't be dishonoured. That's the reason it burnt into ashes after Arjun step out the chariot.
The legendary 'Kapi Dhwaja' ( Divine Armour) was one of the most important deciding factors in the victory of the Pandavas.