Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Events in Hastinapura

Mahabharata


This episode is from [Maha:3.4-3.11].

Back in Hastinapura, though his sons had obtained sole possession of the Kingdom, Dhritharashtra was filled with worry. He knew he had behaved unfairly, but would not take any steps to right the wrongs, for his love for Duryodhana was the ruling principle of his life. The knowledge that he had betrayed the trust reposed in him by his brother Pandu, who had commended his sons to his care made him exceedingly sorrowful. He could not sleep, could not enjoy any of the royal pleasures that he usually delighted in.

Thinking that his half-brother Vidura might be able to settle his mind, he sent for him. When Vidura came, the King asked him, "Dear brother. Your knowledge of the subtle path of morality is as immense as that of Parashurama. I am unable to obtain peace of mind, for the sons of my dear brother or now exiled, having been forced into it by my sons. Also, the citizens of my kingdom are very much displeased by the turn of events, and there are signs of unrest all around. Tell me, how can I win the trust and affection of my subjects?"

Vidura replied, "O King, my advice has always been the same. You must treat your brother's sons in the same way as you would treat your own. The Kingdom was equally divided between them. However, your wicked sons have grabbed the share of the Pandavas, with the help of Shakuni's crooked dice-play. The subjects will not respect a king who displays his partiality so openly. The only way to set right the wrongs, and to win the trust of your kinsmen and citizens is to bring the Pandavas back from exile and restore their Kingdom to them. In addition, you must forbid the wicked Duryodhana from hatching any further plots to cheat your nephews. Dear brother, you have honored me by saying that my knowledge of morals is great; I know that all that is known to me, is also known to you. Your great partiality for your eldest son has clouded your judgment, and that is why you are unable to see the right course of action to follow. The advice I have given you will be beneficial to your sons as well. If nothing is done, there will be a great war when fourteen years have elapsed, and although the great Bhishma and Drona will seek to protect your sons, they will not be able to withstand the righteous wrath of Arjuna and Bheema. Unless you intervene, all your kinsmen shall perish fourteen years from now. Restore their kingdom to the Pandavas. Let Karna, Dushasana and Duryodhana beg their pardon in the open court. By these actions, you can stave off the destruction that overhangs our race."

Of course, this frank advice was unlikely to be acceptable to the King. He became very angry and said, "O Vidura, your words are beneficial only to the Pandavas. How can I snatch away the Kingdom that my son had won after so much effort? You claim to be impartial, but you are always engaged in doing good to the Pandavas, to the detriment of my sons. I will not listen to you anymore. You may stay in Hastinapura or you may go and join your beloved Pandavas in exile. I do not care one way or the other!"

With a heavy heart, Vidura left his brother without venturing any reply to the unmerited accusation of bias. Have ascertained from his spies that the Pandavas were residing in the forest of Kamyaka, he drove his chariot and reached there the next day. He saw that Yudhishtra was sitting under the shade of a tree, surrounded by his brothers, his wife and other followers.

When Bheema realized who was visiting them, he hailed Vidura in a bitter voice and said, "Dear uncle, is not Duryodhana content merely with exiling us? Have you come here bearing a new invitation for a game of dice from that little minded prince? There is nothing left for him to win from us except our weapons, is that what he seeks to accomplish?"

Yudhishtra silenced his brother with a look and went out to welcome Vidura. After the usual pleasantaries were exchanged, Vidura told them about how Dhritharashtra was angry with him for giving him unpalatable advice, and had effectively banished him from Hastinapura.

The Pandavas were concerned, but they were glad to have the company of Vidura and sought to cheer him up. He did require cheering up, for he was sincerely attached to his elder brother, and no serious quarrel had ever arisen between them before.

Around the same time, Dhritharashtra was repenting his hasty words that had wounded his half-brother. He too was very fond of his brother and had never been separated from him for too long. Besides, there was not a better counsellor to be found. It was a double blow losing him, for not only will the Kurus loose the best adviser they had, the Pandavas would gain from his counsels and experience too.

He called his trusted Charioteer Sanjaya and said, "O Sanjaya, look what has happened as a result of my caprice. I have insulted my brother, dearer to me than my own son! I very much fear that he might have put an end to his life, for he could not brook such words from me. If he still lives, go and entreat him to return to Hastinapura. Tell him that I am sorry, tell him that I am desolated without his company."

Accordingly, Sanjaya went forth and ascertained from the spies that Vidura was presently staying with the Pandavas. He immediately journeyed to the Kamyaka woods.

He came upon Vidura, who was seated under a Banyan tree and instructing the Pandavas in the art of statecraft. After duly saluting the minister and the exiled princes, he conveyed the King's message to him.

Vidura was touched. He was really very fond of his elder brother, and had rarely been parted from him. One look at his face, and Yudhishtra knew that he would rather be with his brother than the Pandavas. So, he was not surprised when Vidura turned to him and said, "O prince, you must know that my first duty is to my brother. Since he exiled me, I came here and took refuge with you. Indeed, now that the King wants me back, I believe that I should go."

Yudhishtra was sorry to lose his uncle, but he made no objection. In a very short time, Vidura took leave, driven to Hastinapura in Sanjaya's chariot.

When Duryodhana had first learned that Vidura had been sent away by his father, he had become exceedingly glad. It was no wonder then, that the tidings now brought to him by his servant were not welcome to him. He bade the servant to summon Shakuni, Karna and Dushasana.

Once his trusted friends were with him, the prince said, "Just when I thought that our way was clear, fate has played a cruel trick on me! I had been rejoicing that the King had gotten rid of Vidura, but he has changed his mind, and Vidura is back, once again free to poison the King's mind against us. We must do something, for this state of affairs is not be borne long! Indeed, I very much fear that he would persuade the King to restore the Pandavas' patrimony to them."

Shakuni said, "Fear not, O prince. Even if Vidura persuades the King, the Pandavas will not break their solemn oath. It is best to be cautious, but we need not take any overt action now."

Karna and Dushasana were also of Shakuni's opinion. However, Karna had something more on his mind. He said, "O Prince, this is the best chance to defeat the Pandavas for good. Let us sally forth with a large army and send them to the abode of Yama. Bereft of Kingdom, friendless and residing in the forest, we are not likely to have a better opportunity of getting rid of them!"

However, this plan was not put into action. For the wise sage Vyasa, knowing of this evil plot by means of his spiritual vision, appeared before the King. He said, "O King, you have done very ill to have allowed your sons to disinherit the sons of Pandu by means of the crooked game of dice. Your duty was clear, you should have heeded the words of wise Vidura and your uncle, the brave Bhishma. Even now it is not too late, prevent your sons from harming the Pandavas any further, and there is a good chance that all will end well."

Dhritharashtra replied, "Sire, what you say is just. I should treat both my sons and the sons of my brother as equal. However, my love for my son far surpasses my affection for everything else. I am unable to do that which will cause pain to Duryodhana."

The sage then narrated him the story of the divine cow Surabhi, and its dialogue with Indra. He said, "Just as that mother of cows had an affection for all her offspring, but more so for those that were downtrodden and afflicted, you should also do good unto your brother's sons, deprived of the Kingdom and subsisting on roots and fruits in the forest."

The King replied, "Sire, my son does not listen to my advice. Perhaps, he will be more willing to heed you. Advice him, instruct him, and maybe he shall change his mind."

The Rishi said, "I do not think that will serve any purpose. However, the sage Maitreya will be here soon, and he will certainly offer words of wisdom your son. If you desire the good of your race, you will be well advised to see to it that Duryodhana follows it."

With his warning, the divine sage vanished then and there.

The very next day, the sage Maitreya came to the court. He was welcomed with worship according to the due rites. After uttering a benediction on the house of the Kurus, the sage addressed Duryodhana thus: "O Prince, you are born in an proud dynasty. Of impeccable lineage, your might of arms is well known to the world. Why then have you stained your reputation by defeating your cousins in a cheating game of dice? Why did you offer an insult to Draupadi, who was worthy of great honour? Are you not aware of the celestial origins of the Pandavas? Know that not even the Devas, fighting with Indra as their commander, could hope to slay the sons of Pandu in battle. You take pride in the might of your arms, know that Bheema, the son of Vayu is your equal! Indeed, his strength is greater, as was proved when he recently slew the demon Kirmira, the sworn enemy of the immortals. Let there be peace between you and your cousins. Restore to them what was their own immediately!"

Duryodhana was in no mood to listen to such advice. He began to slap his thigh, and with eyes staring at the ceiling, scratched the earth with his toes. It was plain to all that he had not heard a word said by the sage.

The quick temper of the sage flared up. He cursed the prince, "Since you have slapped your thigh as a mark of disrespect, you shall die in battle, the very same thighs broken by a blow from Bheema. In the great war that shall occur not fourteen years from now, you and all your kinsmen shall perish!"

Aghast, Dhritharashtra tried to apologize for the conduct of his son, and attempted to pacify the Muni. The sage said, "O King, if your son follows my advice, and makes peace with his cousins, my curse will be rendered impotent. Otherwise, that which I have uttered now shall certainly come to pass."

With these words, the sage left Hastinapura, refusing the entreaties of Vidura to stay for a while longer. He would not even stay to narrate to the the King how Kirmira was slain by Bheema. He recommended the king to get the story from Vidura, who knew all the circumstances.

Upon being questioned, Vidura narrated the encounter between Bheema and the Rakshasa. He said, "I heard the details from Yudhishtra while staying with him in the Kamyaka forest. The sons of Pandu entered this forest at midnight, the time at which the powers of evil forces are at their peak. Suddenly, there appeared before them a fearsome form, a huge man-eating Rakshasa. The princes were unshaken, but Draupadi hid behind them in fright. Just then, their priest Dhaumya, recognizing the illusion behind this form, touched water and uttered incantations from the fourth Veda, calculated to bring about the destruction of this demon. The Mantras did not kill him, but they did destroy his illusion, and a much smaller demon appeared before them. He was terrible to behold nevertheless. Thereupon, Yudhishtra enquired of him about his name and lineage. The demon replied, 'I am Kirmira, the brother of the fearsome Bakasura. Who are you, that dare to enter my forest at an hour where my influence is the strongest?' Yudhishtra replied, 'I am the son of Pandu, called Yudhishtra. These are my brothers. We have been exiled, and have a mind to spend our days in this forest.'"

Vidura continued, "When Kirmira heard this, he said, 'The fates have been kind to me! I have been searching high and low for this Bheema, the slayer of my brother, in order that I may be revenged on him. By good luck, that wretch, the slayer of my brother is now before me. Now I shall slay him!'"

"Bheema did not wait for the demon to repeat his challenge. He uprooted a great tree and hurled it immediately at the Rakshasa. The demon however, withstood that blow and advanced towards the Pandava, desirous of slaying him." "The battle between these two warriors went on for a long time. They were quite evenly matched in strength. They uprooted the trees and struck at each other repeatedly. Indeed, that portion of the forest soon became bereft of trees. Finally, they abandoned an attempt to club each other to death, and closed together, each trying to catch the other in a wrestling grip. At last, the cannibal was seized in the mighty arms of Bheema, who after choking the demon, whirled him high above his head and dashed him to his death on the ground."

Vidura said, "O King, this is how the powerful Kirmira was slain in combat by Bheema, in obedience to the commands of his elder brother. While passing through that forest, I saw with my own eyes the gigantic body of that slain demon. I heard the details of the battle from the Pandavas and the Brahmanas who had been with them."

After hearing of Bheema's prowess, the King was plunged into sorrowful thought. Even the fearless Duryodhana began to worry, though just a little, for he was no coward, and had faith in his own strength.

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Last Modified At: Sun Apr 10 15:37:51 2005