Kul Guru Kripacharya
Kripacharya was Kul Guru of the Kuru dynasty. He was also known as Raj Guru (royal teacher) of Hastinapur. Kripacharya was considered as the foremost Rishi of Kaliyuga. Kripacharya is the most important and striking personality of Mahabharata. He was considered the fourth avatar of Brahma. Kripacharya was a descendant of sage Angiras. He taught warfare to both Pandavas and Kauravas.
Kripacharya was the grandson of Rishi Gautama. Rishi Gautama had a son called Saradvan who was born with bow and arrows. He became one of the most renowned archers in the world. Saradvan performed intense penance to become more powerful in archery. He was seeking blessings from Trimurtis. Indra, King of Devas, felt Saradvan as a threat to his throne. To disrupt penance of Saradvan, he sent celestial nymph (Apsara) Janapadi. Janapadi tried seducing and distracting the sage. For a while, he managed to resist temptation and control his desires, but Saradvan could not hold for long, ultimately, he was distracted by the sight of such a beautiful woman. As a result, a drop of his semen fell on a weed dividing it two parts. Saradvan who was upset about losing concentration in meditation left his hermitage into a deep forest. Twins (boy and girl) was born from the semen drop which fell on the ground.
Shanthanu the king of Hastinapur was travelling by, saw the children. Shanthanu was captivated by the beauty of these children who were lying on the ground in a forest. King took the children to his palace, nurtured them and named them Kripa for the male child and Kripi for the female child. Children started growing up in the palace. Meanwhile, Saradvan came to know about these children, he also knew that these children were his son and daughter. Saradvan came to the palace and explained everything to the king and wanted to take children along with him, to which the king agreed. Saradvan performed the various rituals which are conducted for the children of a Brahmin. He taught the children, archery, Vedas and Shastras. Under the guidance of Saradvan, Kripa became expert in warfares.
When Kripi attained marriageable age, she was married to Drona. Kripi became the wife of Dronacharya and mother of Ashwathama. Drona had many similarities like the twins. Dronacharya was also a teacher of the young princes in Hastinapur (Dronacharya was weapon master). Like Kripa and Kripi’s father, Drona’s father was also a sage and the mother was a celestial Apsara (nymph). Drona was also born outside the human body like Kripa and his sister Kripi. Dronacharya was considered as Maharathi (Maharathis — capable of fighting 12 Atirathi class warriors or 720,000 warriors).
Kripa was assigned to a task of teaching young princes about warfare. Since he became a teacher, he was known as Kripacharya. Kripacharya was commonly called as Kul Guru. Kripacharya became a chief priest at the court of Hastinapur. After the Mahabharata war, he was appointed as a teacher for Parikshit (son of Abhimanyu). Kripacharya was called Atirathis (Atirathis is a warrior who has mastered all forms of weapons used in warfare, and he who is capable of defeating 60000 warriors simultaneously).
Kripacharya fought in the Mahabharata war by Kauravas side, as he had to carry his duty and prove his gratitude to the Kauravs, as they gave him shelter and food in their palace. Kripacharya also knew that Kauravas were not righteous and hence he always favoured Yudhishthira. Before the war, when Yudhishthira asked his blessing he said he would pray for Yudhishthira’s victory every day. A warrior cannot fight in his full strength after praying for a win of his opponents every day. So, Kripacharya’s presence never posed a threat to Pandavas.
Duryodhana’s army was divided into eleven Akshauinis and Drona, Kripa, Karna, Shakuni, Shalya, Jayadratha, Bhalika, Kritavarma, Bheesma, Ashwatthama, Sudakshina in charge of each one. Hence, Kripacharya was one of the eleven commanders-in-chief of the Kaurava army. On the 6th day of Kurukshetra war, Bheema tormented Duryodhana with an incessant shower of arrows which lead Duryodhana wounded all over his body, Kripa invited Duryodhana to climb his chariot thus, saving him from Bheema. On the 13th day of Kurukshetra war, Dronacharya devised the Chakravyuha which Kripacharya was a part of and fought against Abhimanyu. During Chakravyuha, following Drona’s advice Karna shot Abhimanyu’s bow, Kritavarma killed Abhimanyu’s horses while Kripacharya shot dead, both his rear attendants and Abhimanyu stabbed to death by Dushasana’s son Durmasana. On the 15th day of the war, Kripi lost her husband (Drona was killed by Dhrishtadyumna) and Kripacharya lost his brother in law. On the 18th day of the war, Ashwatthama, along with Kripacharya, and Kritavarma gathered near dying Duryodhana and Ashwatthama promised Duryodhana that he will avenge against Bhima. When Ashwatthama attacked the Pandavas’ camp at night Kripacharya and Kritavarma stood as a guard outside, Ashwathamma went slaughtering remaining armies of Pandavas including Dhrishtadyumna (revenge for killing his father), Shikandi, Uttamaujas and five children of Draupadi.
When the Kurukshetra war ended Kripacharya was one among 13 survivors, five from Kauravas side and eight from Pandava side. Survivors from Kauravas side are Bhishma, Kripacharya, Ashwathamma, Kritavarma and Vrishaketu (the youngest son of Karna) and from Pandavas side 5 Pandavas (Yudishthir, Bhim, Arjun, Nakul and Sahadev) along with Lord Krishna, Yuyutsu (son of Dhritarashtra) and Satyaki.
Lord Krishna blessed Kripacharya with immortality. Kripacharya was one among seven Chiranjeevi (the “immortals” who are to remain alive throughout the Kali Yuga), along with his nephew Ashwathamma other five are Parashurama, Hanuman, Ashwathamma, Bali, Vyasa and Vibhishana. Kripacharya was always known for his impartiality, truth, righteousness, his warfare skills and a man with simplistic expectations in life. Even under stressful condition, Kripacharya never left his values, hence Krishna chooses Kripacharya against Dronacharya for immortality. In the 8th Manvantara, Kripacharya will become one among Satarishi along with Vyasa, Ashwathama, Parashurama, Rishyasringa, Diptimat and Galava.