Category Archives: Traditional Tales

Krishna Avatar Part 31

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

In Dwaraka’s palace, Arjuna contemplated the situation all night.  He realized he had to act immediately to stop the marriage of Duryodhana to Subhadra, the youngest sister of Krishna, born to Vasudeva and his wife Rohini.  As she was already promised to be married to Duryodhana, a promise made by Balarama, her other brother, there was no way for Arjuna to win her through the traditional way.  For him to marry Subhadra, the only other way would be to kidnap her by force. 

In this case, force would probably not be necessary since Subhadra was already in love with him.  She was not at all happy about her arranged marriage.  Maybe an elopement!  That’s it.  Arjuna realized that was the meaning of Krishna’s hint given the night before!  Now Arjuna need only to wait for an opportunity to carry out his plan.

Subhadra’s older brother Balarama gave her the duty to take care of the needs of their guest, Arjuna, who was thought to be a sage.  It was considered a great blessing for a young maiden to serve a sage, so that she would get the blessings of a good husband and many children.  Arjuna thoroughly enjoyed every visit of Subhadra, thanking God for this unexpected gift.  He fell in love with her even more so, seeing her every time she came to serve him.

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Not knowing the true identity of the sage, Subhadra was delighted in serving him and being there, readily available for all his needs.  After a few visits, she became a bit suspicious about his behavior.  She found his interactions with her to be far from a saintly manner.  When she watched him closely, she noticed his callused forefinger, common for an archer.  

With this young sage, both of his forefingers were callused, which was a sign of a great archer.  Not only was it a sign, it was a proof that the sage must be none other than Arjuna.  Arjuna was the only archer who could have this as he was famous for shooting equally well with his right and left hands.  When she asked, Arjuna didn’t have any choice other than to reveal his true identity to her.  Ever since this discovery, their courtship progressed smoothly.  As his stay continued, the rainy season started to end, meaning Subhadra’s wedding day was approaching.  Now was the time to act.

They both had Krishna as their biggest ally.  First and foremost, he gave Arjuna his chariot and advised Subhadra to drive the chariot away from Dwaraka towards Indraprastha.  This was a crucial piece of advice, to make it look like Subhadra kidnapped Arjuna, not the other way around.  

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The next morning, Arjuna borrowed Krishna’s chariot and waited near the temple where Subhadra had gone for a puja.  As she came out of the temple, Arjuna drove the chariot in front of her so that she could easily get in.  When the soldiers on duty saw this, they thought that Subhadra was being abducted by the sage.  

Arjuna caught Subhadra by the arm to seat her in the chariot, preparing for her to drive away.  At that moment, the soldiers started to attack Arjuna.  Remembering Krishna’s advice, Subhadra took the reins of the horses.  Arjuna immediately started to fire arrows at the soldiers, revealing his true identity.  The soldiers ran towards the palace to inform Balarama of the incident.  

Balarama got into a rage, uncommon for him.  He pledged to punish Arjuna for what he had done, especially by breaking the trust by faking to be a sage.  Balarama felt that the entire Yadava clan had been dishonored by this act of Arjuna.  Since Arjuna was Krishna’s bosom friend, Balarama suspected Krishna’s involvement as well.  He wanted to confront Krishna about the event and sent word for him to come.  

When Krishna arrived, Balarama shouted at him, asking why Krishna was silent about his dear friend insulting them and the Yadava clan by kidnapping their sister.  He said to Krishna, “It’s an unbearable disgrace upon us.  Especially after we treated Arjuna so well, offering him shelter.  I cannot wait to hear why you let this happen, and you not yet getting ready to chase him down to fight!”

Krishna smilingly said, “Didn’t I warn you dear brother, about letting strangers stay at our palace, especially with our young sister around.  You are the one refused to believe me, and now you are trying to blame the event on me.  I heard from the soldiers that it was our loving sister, Subhadra who was driving the chariot and not Arjuna.  Therefore, this is not a kidnapping.  It is an elopement initiated by our sister.”  Balarama was a bit annoyed by Krishna’s sarcasm.  

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Then Balarama looked at Krishna and asked why he hadn’t said anything about the true identity of the sage, as well as the love affair between them. Krishna smilingly said, “As you had already promised Subhadra to Duryodhana, I didn’t want you to get involved in any elopement.  In this way, you are clear of all blame and guilt.  Since you knew nothing about this elopement, Duryodhana cannot blame you for breaking your promise.”  Balarama had no choice but to accept the marriage of Subhadra with Arjuna.

The couple was invited back with great honor and the wedding was celebrated grandly in Dwaraka.  After some time passed, it became time for the newlyweds to return to Arjuna’s home, Indraprastha.  Subhadra was getting ready to leave with Arjuna, bringing her huge dowry of precious metals, horses and maidens.  

But there was a problem in taking Subhadra to Indraprastha.  When all five Pandavas married Draupadi, they gave her their word that they would never bring any of their other wives whom they marry in the future to the palace where Draupadi lived.  Therefore, while they were allowed to marry many women, according to the tradition of kshatriyas, but Draupadi would be the only wife whom they would have in Indraprastha.  Arjuna decided to take his chances by returning from his exile to Indraprastha along with his new wife Subhadra.

He was welcomed by Kunti and his brothers.  But Draupadi was missing.  When he inquired about her, the brothers revealed that she was in a rage and didn’t want to see anyone.  They added that she was heartbroken, as Arjuna was breaking the promise by bringing his new wife, Subhadra, to Indraprastha.  

Hearing this Subhadra decided to mend things.  To save her husband from this difficult situation, she decided to visit Draupadi’s chamber in the attire of a cowherd woman.  When Draupadi asked who she was, she said that she came to serve her as her maid.  She then fell at Draupadi’s feet.  Draupadi got suspicious and asked her to come out with the truth.  Then Subhadra revealed who she was and promised Draupadi that she would never want to replace her or take her place in Indraprastha.  Seeing such humility, Draupadi accepted Subhadra as her younger sister.  

After some time, Subhadra bore a son to Arjuna.  He was the great Abhimanyu, who later became equal to his father in virtue, valor, and proficiency in archery.  A true son of Arjuna, he became the favorite of all the Pandava brothers and of Krishna.

Now let’s look at the marriages of Krishna, which also happened in this same time period.  

Mitravinda was a cousin of Krishna as her mother Rajadevi was an aunt to Krishna.  The princes of Avanti, Vinda and Anuvinda were friends of Duryodhana.  The princes arranged a swayamvara for their sister, Mitravinda, but without her consent. Mitravinda begged Krishna to rescue her.  She was devoted to Krishna and longed to marry him.  Knowing her devotion, Krishna obliged to her request.  He once again fought with all the other kings while abducting her, then formally married her in Dwaraka.

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Satya was the daughter of the King of Kosala, Nagnajita, who was married to Vasudeva’s sister.  This king owned seven vicious bulls with sharp horns.  He declared that whomever was capable of subduing these seven bulls would  win his daughter’s hand in marriage.  Many kings from all parts of the world wanted to marry Satya, so they attempted to calm the bulls but failed miserably.  

When Krishna visited Ayodhya, the capital of Kosala, King Nagnajita greeted him with highest honor and gave him a grand welcome.  His daughter Satya, seeing Krishna in person, immediately fell in love with his divine form and wanted to marry him.  As Nagnajita had already announced the competition, he had to request that Krishna accept the challenge, in order to fulfill Satya’s wish.

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Krishna entered into the arena which the bulls had been let loose.  He then multiplied himself into seven forms and calmed the bulls instantaneously with great ease.  The king along with his daughter were delighted to see this.  The happy father bestowed his blessing on the bride and groom in a grand wedding.  Krishna then took Satya with him back to Dwaraka.

Krishna’s marriage to his cousin Bhadraa was the only marriage that took place without any unpleasant occurrences.  Bhadraa was the daughter of Shrutakirtii, another aunt of Krishna.  Bhadra’s brothers married their sister to Krishna in a splendid wedding.  

Krishna also married Lakshmanaa (or Lakshanaa), the daughter of King of Madra.  In her swayamvara, he won her in an archery challenge similar to the one Arjuna won to marry Draupadi.  Thus, Krishna married about eight women during the course of this time.  He lived happily in Dwaraka until he received multiple complaints about the mighty King Narakasura.

Krishna Avatar Part 30

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Arjuna continued on his long journey and reached Manipura.  He went to the court of Chitravahana, King of Manipura, and introduced himself.  The king was delighted to have mighty Arjuna in his court and gave him a warm welcome.  The king requested Arjuna to be his royal guest, so he was given accommodation in the royal palace.  

One day Arjuna got a glimpse of the king’s daughter, Chitrangada.  He was totally bewitched by her masculine beauty and wanted to marry her.  He went straight to the king and requested his permission to marry her.  As Chitravahana did not have any other heir, he had trained Chitrangada in warfare and ruling the kingdom.  The king agreed for his daughter to marry Arjuna under one condition.  

Chitrangada, King Chitravahana & Arjuna
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As Chitrangada was his only child, thus the only one who could continue his dynasty, the king had decided to adopt her son and appoint him as the Crown Prince of Manipura.  This meant that a child, born to her, would be his successor, no one else.  Therefore, the condition was that Chitrangada’s son would remain in Manipura.  As Arjuna was so madly in love with her, he didn’t have a choice but to agree.  

The marriage took place in a grand scale and Arjuna stayed there for a few years.  In due course Chitrangada got pregnant and bore a son.  As was promised, Chitravahana adopted Arjuna’s son as his own.  It was time for Arjuna to move on with his journey.  Arjuna left his wife Chitrangada and his son, to stay in Manipura, as he continued his journey to the south.  

On the way to the south, he came across some sages.  Spending time with them he gained knowledge and wisdom.  He saw that the sages had problems getting water for their daily use.  When he asked about it, they revealed that there were five ponds nearby, but they were unable to get water from them, as each of the ponds was the home of a huge crocodile who ate anyone who came near the pond.  Hearing this Arjuna assured them that he would put an end to this terror.  

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Arjuna fearlessly got into one of the ponds.  The crocodile in that pond immediately came towards him to attack him.  Ullupi’s boon given to Arjuna, that he will remain unconquerable in water, came true.  Arjuna easily defeated the crocodile.  Catching it by its tail, he flung it out of the water and threw it to the ground, injuring it very badly.  As soon as the crocodile hit the ground it transformed into a heavenly damsel.  

The damsel paid her respect to Arjuna and said, “Oh Son of Pandu! All the crocodiles in these ponds are heavenly beings.  We have been cursed by a sage to remain in these waters as crocodiles for years now.  We have been waiting for a true warrior to liberate us from this curse.  As you liberated me, please do liberate the others as well.  Arjuna freed all of them from their curse.  The heavenly beauties thanked Arjuna and returned to heaven.  The sages were relieved of their problems and blessed Arjuna.  

Arjuna moved on with his journey.  As Arjuna’s years of pilgrimage were coming close to an end, he wished to end it in Dwaraka, where he could meet Krishna again.  The last time he saw and spent time with Krishna was when they took up their residence in Indraprastha.  

He remembered going out on a hunting trip with Krishna.  At the end of the day, they were tired and thirsty.  They went to the banks of Yamuna to quench their thirst and refresh themselves.  When they reached the riverbank, they were struck by the beauty of a damsel wandering along the banks.  When questioned by him, she revealed herself as Kalindi, the daughter of Sun God.  She had been living in a house beneath the river due to a vow she had taken to marry the incarnation of Vishnu.  She had been observing severe austerities until she met one.  

Krishna and Kalindi
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Arjuna with a smile told her the time has come to receive the fruits of her penance, for the one she was looking for is only a few yards away from her.  He pointed to Krishna and Kalindi prostrated at Krishna’s feet, pleading him to accept her as his consort.  Krishna, with delight, accepted her and all three of them returned to Indraprastha.  After getting blessings from Yudhishthira, Kalindi returned to Dwaraka with Krishna. Krishna married her there, with the support of all in Dwaraka.

Arjuna also was thinking about Krishna’s sister Subhadra.  Arjuna had met her on one of his trips to Dwaraka.  They had been attracted to each other.  No one knew about this other than Krishna.  Arjuna was looking forward to meeting Krishna and Subhadra.  With all that in his mind, Arjuna continued his journey towards Dwaraka.  

Subhadra was Krishna’s younger sister.  She had grown up to be a lovely young lady.  She was highly pampered by her two older brothers, Balarama and Krishna.  Her happiness was everything to them.  As the eldest brother, Balarama was anxious to get her married to a suitable groom.  Duryodhana had heard about her exceptional beauty and showed his interest to marry her.  Not knowing Subhadra’s desire to be with Arjuna, Balarama agreed to Duryodhana’s proposal of marriage.  He was quite pleased about this alliance, as he always had a soft corner towards Duryodhana; Duryodhana was Balarama’s favorite student.  Not to mention, he was thrilled about the alliance with the great family of the Kuru dynasty, too.  

Krishna was not at all happy about this news, but it was too late as Balarama had already given his word to Duryodhana.  Nonetheless, Krishna didn’t want his dear sister to suffer at the hands of the cruel-natured Kaurava Prince, Duryodhana.  So he had to come up with a strategy to save his sister from marrying this ill-natured man, and to marry the one whom she carried in her heart.  

Arjuna arrived at the gates of Dwaraka.  After travelling so long his clothes were soiled and crumbled, and he had grown a long beard.  He looked like a sage.  No one recognized him in Dwaraka, though he was well-known there.  Arjuna chuckled about people not recognizing him.  He found a tree, sat under it and closed his eyes.  People started coming towards him, as they mistook him for a real sage.  The crowd gathered around him and some started gossiping about the news of Subhadra’s wedding to Duryodhana.  

Arjuna, Krishna and Subhadra https://vedicfeed.com/love-story-of-arjuna-and-subhadra/

Arjuna was devasted to hear this news.  He didn’t know until that moment how much Subhadra meant for him.  He couldn’t afford to lose her.  He closed his eyes, deeply lost in his thoughts.  He wondered about Krishna’s involvement in this, as he knew that Krishna was aware of his attraction towards Subhadra and her’s towards him.  He decided to sit in stillness, meditating.  He expressed no desire for anything, including food.  People were quite convinced that he was a great sage.

The news about a sage visiting Dwaraka reached the ears of Balarama.  He immediately came to visit the sage, not knowing he was Arjuna.  He paid his respect to the sage but Arjuna was quite embarrassed about this, as he was very much younger than Balarama.  He tried to hide his face as he was nervous that Balarama would recognize him.  But, to his surprise, Balarama didn’t have a clue about the one who was hiding behind the clothes of a sage.  

Arjuna’s years of spending time with great beings during this time period really helped him to suit the act.  Balarama was pleased with meeting the sage.  He went back to get Krishna to come along with him.  When Krishna arrived, and recognized Arjuna, he gave a quizzical look.  Arjuna couldn’t take it and closed his eyes.  Balarama humbly invited the sage to stay at the palace, as the rainy season had started.  It is customary for sages to stay with householders during monsoon times.  Arjuna glanced at Krishna and agreed to the request, as he knew that Krishna recognized him.  

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Krishna showed dissatisfaction with his brother’s decision.  He muttered into Balarama’s ear, though in such a way Arjuna could hear.  He said, “Oh dear brother, beware of bringing strange young men into our residence, even if they are holy men.  Don’t forget that our beloved sister is a maiden waiting to be married.  The sage doesn’t look old enough to renounce the pleasures of life.  You better think twice before you bring him into our home.”  

Balarama looked at Krishna in such a way to tell him to mind his own business.  Balarama went on with his plan, inviting Arjuna the sage into their home.  They all went back to the palace.  Balarama made sure the Sage was comfortable in his room.  What Krishna had said to Balarama was playing in Arjuna’s mind over and over again.  He knew there was a hidden message for him in what Krishna said.  He kept thinking about it all night.

Krishna Avatar Part 29

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Only a few who lived in the Khandava forest escaped the fire.  Among them were the four Saranga birds. They lived with their mother bird, Jarita.  Her husband had left her for another female bird.  The male bird was a sage named Mandapala.  He had to come back from the heavens to fulfill the karma of having children in order to stay in the heavens.  He had to experience a married life and have offspring, therefore he had to be born again.  Eager to return to the heavens, he chose to be born as a Saranga bird so that he could have many children and complete his karma within a short time.  Once the eggs were laid by Jarita, even before his offspring were born, he left her for another female named Lapita.  

Jarita’s four nestlings
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When the fire began the four nestlings panicked at first.  The older nestling urged their mother to leave them so she could save herself from the fire and maybe have more children. The elder nestling said, “Mother, if you are killed, we will not have any children for our family.  Further we will not have anyone to look after us.  Do what is right to protect our race without being influenced by affection only to us, which would be the destruction for all of us.”  Jarita was taken by the wise advice from the older nestling.  Taking the advice, she decided to protect the nestlings in the best possible way she could.  She was putting them into the hollow of a tree so she could seal its mouth with mud before flying to safety.  But the nestlings refused. Unable to convince them, the mother flew away, leaving them in God’s hands. 

The nestlings prayed to Agni, the God of fire, not to harm them by singing his praise.  Agni was pleased with their prayers and kept them safe from his flames.  They survived the fire.  When Jarita returned to check on them, she was so pleased to see them alive and well.  In the meantime, Mandapala, the male bird who became worried about his offspring, wanted to return to see them.  This made Lapita, the bird he had left his family for, furious.  Ignoring her, Mandapala flew back to the forest and found his offspring unharmed and safe with their mother Jarita, thus realizing that he was not needed anymore. 

New city of Indraprastha
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The splendid new city of Indraprastha sprung up from the ashes, where once Khandavaprastha stood, by the grace of Krishna and the great work of the Divine architect Vishwakarma.  Along with Krishna, the Pandavas were delighted to see the city being built in such a short time.  Indraprastha was glittering with glamour.  Soon they performed the inauguration ceremony of the palace by doing the relevant rituals and pujas.  The five Pandavas began living in the magnificent palace.  It took them a while to get familiar with the work of the Deva architect Vishwakarma and the illusion artist, the Asuric architect Mayasura.  Just figuring out where the floors, walls, doors, windows and water ponds were was a lot to learn.  The palace was mind boggling.  The city of Indraprastha soon excelled the grandness of Hastinapura. 

Sage Narada visits the Pandavas
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The Pandavas ruled Indraprastha with their cousin Krishna as their advisor and guide.  One day Sage Narada came to visit the Pandavas.  He had come with a purpose, as always, this time to explain that they must not fight over Draupadi, with her being the common bride.  So he told them a story.  The story was about Sunda and Upasunda, the two powerful demons who loved each other dearly.  To get the boon of unconquerable power they went to the Vindhya mountain range to perform severe penance.  Delighted with their penance, Brahma appeared and asked what they wanted. The brothers knew what exactly they wanted.  They asked for strength, mastery over all weapons, ability to create illusions, take any form and, of course, immortality.  Brahma gave them everything except immortality.   And he told them to ask for something else instead of immortality.  They thought for a while and asked that they could be killed only by each other, as they were very sure of their friendship.  As requested, the boon was granted by Brahma.  

The undefeatable brothers not only defeated the mighty Devas, but also terrorized all three words.  The Devas devised a plan, sending a beautiful maiden Tilottama to disrupt the friendship.  She tempted the brothers and made them fall in love with her.  Sunda and Upasunda fought over her ferociously and killed each other.  After hearing the story from Sage Narada, the Pandavas decided that each one would spend a month with Draupadi while none of the other brothers would intrude during that time frame.  If any of them violated the arrangement that person would willingly go into exile for 12 years. 

One day a brahmin came weeping intensely to the palace. He complained that his cows had been stolen by thieves. He came seeking help from King Yudhishtra for the restoration of his cows. Arjuna consoled the brahmin, promising that his cows would soon be returned to him. Arjuna decided to take matters into his hands and to go after the thieves to help the brahmin. But he realized he had left his bow and arrows in Draupadi’s bed chamber. It was his older brother Yudhishthira’s turn to be with Draupadi. 

Arjuna now had to make a decision. He didn’t want the brahmin to curse his brother, the king, due to not getting help.  But on the other hand, he had to violate the arrangement with his brothers by going to Draupadi’s chamber when he is not supposed to go there.  Arjuna was caught in a dilemma. Finally, he chose to violate the agreement and prepared to be exiled in order to restore the brahmin’s cows. Arjuna chose to put his duty first, knowing that it would cost him banishment so he went into Draupadi’s chamber to get his bow and arrows. After restoring the brahmin’s cows, Arjuna went directly to his brother. After offering his respects, he conveyed his guilt of violating the arrangement and his plan to go into exile.  He humbly sought Yudhishthira’s permission to go into exile. 

Yudhishthira
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After listening to Arjuna, Yudhishthira said, “Dear brother, you have not committed any violation at all.  It would have been a violation only if you would have entered the palace for a personal reason. What you did was for a noble cause to perform a duty which was in fact mine. As you did this to protect your king and his subjects, I and my queen will not punish you.” But Arjuna has already made up his mind about exile. He reminded Yudhishthira that it was his teaching that one should not be dishonest at any circumstances.  So, he begged for his brother’s permission to atone his sins. Hearing this Yudhishthira didn’t have any other choice other than to allow Arjuna to go into exile.

A few admirers of Arjuna accompanied him to the forest. After journeying through dense forests and crossing several streams they finally arrived at the banks of the river Ganga. Arjuna spent most of his time during this exile in listening to religious discourses by sitting with scholarly brahmins and sages.  Living a peaceful life, he was becoming more and more virtuous.  All this made his face glow with the divine light.

One day a beautiful maiden, who happened to see him while performing a yaj~na, fell in love with him. His glowing face and muscular body made her madly in love with him so she made up her mind to marry him. This damsel is named Ulupi, the daughter of the Naga King Kauravya of the under waters of Ganga. The next day, when Arjuna went into the river for a ritual bath, the Naga princess Ulupi gripped him and pulled him into the river, taking him straight to her underwater kingdom, the abode of King Kauravya her father. Taken by her act Arjuna inquired about Ulupi. She revealed her lineage and admitted her love and desire to be his wife. 

Ulupi
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At first Arjuna declined her proposal, mentioning his celibacy on his pilgrimage. But he was convinced by Ulupi’s argument saying that his celibacy was limited only to Draupadi.  Arjuna accepted her proposal and agreed to marry her. A son named Iravan was born to them.  Arjuna then expressed his desire to go back to his companions.  Pleased by Arjuna, Ulupi granted him a boon that from that point forward all water creatures would obey and protect him.  He would remain unconquerable under water. 

Arjuna returned to the shore and told his companions all about Ulupi and the Naga Kingdom. The rest of the group then returned home, leaving Arjuna to continue his journey alone as he wished.

Krishna Avatar Part 28

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

The Pandavas, with their new bride Draupadi and their mother Kunti, entered the fully decorated royal kingdom of Hastinapura. Guru Drona, Kripacharya, Vikarna and other dignitaries came to receive them at the gate.  A very grand welcome was accorded to the Princes, their bride and Kunti by the citizens of Hastinapura.  Their joy over this event was boundless.  They were not only happy to see them alive but also delighted to see their new beautiful bride.  They always saw Yudhishthira as an image of their old king Pandu, who was famous for his bravery and justice. They had full faith in Yudhishthira and believed he was to rule the kingdom of Hastinapura, reviving it to its old glory. 

The Pandavas got blessings from their grandsire Bhishma, the Gurus and King Dhritarashtra.  Gandhari’s joy knew no bounds. She hugged Kunti with utter delight, but inside her heart was aching for what her son Duryodhana had done to them. 

Yudhishthira is crowned
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As promised, half of the kingdom was ready to be given to the Pandavas. First and foremost, the rituals to crown Yudhishthira as a King started.  Dhritarashtra crowned Yudhishthira in a grand ceremony and gave his blessings to rule half of the Kingdom of Hastinapura. 

He addressed Yudhishthira, “Dear son, your father and my beloved brother Pandu developed this kingdom and ruled it with honor.  He was popular, not only among the citizens of our kingdom, but also among the neighboring kingdoms.  I bless you to do the same.  My brother always followed my commands with utter respect.  I would like you to love me the way he loved and respected me.  You are very wise and tolerant. Unfortunately, my son’s heart is filled with pride and ego.  Pandu’s untimely death and my makeshift possession of the kingdom has incited Duryodhana to develop a longing to be the next ruler of Hastinapura. Due to this, I am dividing the kingdom into two, to prevent a war between the brothers, so that there will be peace among all of you. “I have chosen Khandavaprastha as the capital for your kingdom.  You can start ruling your half of the kingdom from Khandavaprastha. Our great ancestors Pururavasu, Nakusan and Yayati ruled the whole kingdom from that city. It is our oldest capital.  There is a lot be done there.  You may have to build it back from scratch. I give my best blessings for you to reconstruct and restore Khandavaprastha, to bring back its glory. I am sure that you will accept this arrangement in the interest of our Kuru dynasty.”  

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Dhritarashtra, by giving this sweet talk, gave Pandavas a barren land which had been unused for centuries. Most of its ruins were turned into a forest.  It was overrun by wild animals and demons. Hearing this, Yudhishthira’s brothers and all who were present were horrified.  But Yudhishthira, modest and accommodating as always, gave his acceptance to Dhritarashtra’s proposal.  The satisfaction he showed to all who were present at the royal court was well received.  Yudhishthira was praised by the elders for his compliant nature and generosity, and he was showered with blessings.

In due time they proceeded towards Khandavaprastha, followed by some of the loyal citizens of Hastinapura.  After taking Krishna’s advice, Yudhishthira got enough cattle, craftsmen and gold to establish a city. Krishna and Arjuna led the journey.  They started early in order to clear the forest.  When they arrived, they were met by the God of fire, Agni, who looked very ill.  He requested help from both of them, begging them to free him from his misery.

Agni was suffering because of the consumption of too much ghee (clarified butter).  This was due to King Svetaki’s yaj~na, the sacrificial fire which he did nonstop for twelve years in order to please Lord Shiva, so that he could go to heaven.  While Svetaki succeeded in his sacrificial fire, Agni was left with all that ghee, which was making him very sick due to indigestion.  He was looking for something to burn, so to restore his strength. Thus he decided to burn the forest in Khandavaprastha.  But he had not been successful in doing it, so he sought help from Lord Brahma.  Lord Brahma advised Agni to get the help from Krishna and Arjuna who were on their way to the very same place. 

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The reason why Agni couldn’t burn the forest was that it was the home to a serpent king named Takshaka, who ruled the Nagas, the snakes.  Takshaka was very devoted to Indra, the King of the Devas, also being a very close friend of his.  Takshaka and his clan were well protected by the grace of Indra.  In addition, Takshaka was a good friend of the Asuric architect Mayasura.  With the help of Mayasura he made the forest into a magical one.  Every time Agni tried to consume the forest with his flames, Indra would bring a shower of rain and put it out.  

Hearing this Krishna and Arjuna decided to help Agni.  In the meantime, Yudhishthira, along with the other brothers and Draupadi, as well as all who accompanied them from Hastinapura, arrived at Khandavaprastha.  They realized that the forest was already taken by Takshaka and the Nagas.

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Takshaka was furious to see humans trying to occupy the only home he had ever known.  He started attacking the Pandavas and the people who followed them to Khandavaprastha.  Mayasura warned Takshaka not to fight the Pandavas, for he was aware of their bravery.  Despite the advice from his friend, Takshaka went all in for a mighty war with the Pandavas. The Nagas started poisoning everyone who they came across. 

Yudhishthira was very upset and tried to talk to Takshaka explaining that they are not there to chase them away, but they could live in harmony together in Khandavaprastha. His words failed to get through the deaf ears of Takshaka.  Arjuna decided to put an end to the quarrel and started attacking Takshaka. Wounded, Takshska went back to the thick magical forest and started praying to Indra, seeking help from him. 

To fulfill the promise that Krishna and himself made to Agni, Arjuna used his bow & arrow to invoke Agni so he could consume the magical forest of Takshaka.  In the fire, the wife of Takshaka burned to death.  Takshaka and his son Ashvasena escaped with some of their clan.  Indra, being the friend of Takshaka, got angry about the whole ordeal and came to fight Arjuna directly. 

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A fierce fight started between the two of them.  Indra, being the king of the Devas, used mighty weapons against Arjuna.  But Arjuna was actually Indra’s son, by the boon he had given to Kunti.  Not having any other choice, Arjuna was compelled to fight with the very person who brought him to life.  The other four Pandava brothers stood there a bit frightened about the fight and wondered about its outcome.  Krishna silently stood there, witnessing it all with a smile.

Arjuna was carefully choosing arrows which would defend him against Indra’s weapons.  That provoked Indra’s anger.  As a last resort, Indra used his ultimate weapon, Vajrayudha, the thunderbolt.  Seeing this, the Pandava brothers were frozen in place.  Draupadi was begging Indra to withdraw his Vajrayudha before it attacked Arjuna.  Arjuna respectfully answered with the best arrow from his quiver.  The Vajrayudha, with its thundering noise advanced towards Arjuna with immense speed.  While everyone watching this, trembling in fear, all of sudden the Vajrayudha was suspended in midair.  To everyone’s surprise, it was Krishna’s Sudarshana chakra that caused this suspension. Krishna called out to Indra to withdraw his weapon. Indra couldn’t refuse Krishna’s request and stopped the fight with Arjuna. 

Arjuna fell to his knees apologizing to Indra and asked for forgiveness for taking up arms against him, his own father.  Yudhishthira came forward and explained his plan to rule Khandavaprastha along with Nagas with peace, and that he doesn’t have any intention to chase them away.  Indra was very happy hearing this and blessed Arjuna and his brothers.  

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Indra asked Arjuna what he would want from Indra. Per Krishna’s advice Arjuna asked Indra to lend Vishwakarma, the divine architect, to build the kingdom and revive the city of Khandavaprastha.  Indra immediately called upon Vishwakarma, commanding him to build a beautiful city for the Pandavas.  The Pandavas thanked Indra wholeheartedly and promised him that they would name the new built capital city Indraprastha, in honor of Indra. 

Seeing all this, the Nagas slowly started to emerge from the forest and came towards Yudhishthira and the Pandavas. Yudhishthira welcomed them with an open heart.  The Nagas pulled back the poison they had rendered against the people.  Among the demons who came out of the forest was Mayasura.  Krishna was sure to kill him, therefore the asura sought protection from Arjuna. 

Agni was free to consume the forest without any disturbances. Once Agni’s fire ceased, Mayasura thanked Arjuna and agreed to prepare a beautiful assembly hall for the court of Yudhishthira in the new city.  He gave Bhima a very heavy mace.   To Arjuna he presented Devadatta, a conch whose sound would create terror in the hearts of warriors at any war.

Agni had finally gotten his strength back. He was so grateful and happy for Arjuna’s help that he rewarded Arjuna with a bow called Gandiva, along with an inexhaustible supply of arrows, due to the help of Varuna, the God of sea. Arjuna humbly accepted these gifts from Agni.  The city of Indraprastha sprung from the ashes. 

Krishna Avatar Part 27

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Preparations for the royal reception of the Pandavas and their mother Kunti started shaping up. Dhrishtadyumna by his side, Drupada led the preparations personally. The palace was decorated with flowers, garlands, colorful flags and beautiful ornaments hanging from the ceilings. There was so much excitement among all the citizens of Panchala. All the arrangements for the wedding rituals also started to materialize.

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The Pandavas and their mother Kunti were officially welcomed with the highest possible honors. Then the marriage of Draupadi with the five Pandava princes took place in a grand way.

The story spread like wildfire — a brahmin showing his valor in the swayamvara, besting all the kings and princes in the archery trial, and thereafter defeating everyone who attacked him. This brought the talk that Arjuna was alive to the gates of Hastinapura. Simultaneously, the news about the Pandavas’ marriage to Draupadi reached the ears of Vidura through his spies. Vidura had kept spies all through the kingdoms since the Pandavas had escaped the burning house of lac with his help. Vidura decided it was the time to reveal the news of the Pandava’s survival to his brother, King Dhritarashtra.

He went to see his brother Dhritarashtra to share this most wonderful news. He said “Oh king, my beloved brother! The future of our dynasty is secured and strengthened with the most promising bride. The daughter of the mighty King Drupada has become the daughter-in-law of us, the Kuru family. Such a blessing this is to the kingdom of Hastinapura.” With so much love for his eldest son in his heart, Dhritarashtra believed Vidura was talking about Duryodhana. He was so happy! He told Vidura that he hadn’t had any doubt that Duryodhana would win the contest for Draupadi’s hand. Vidura then explained the whole story.

“Our dearest Pandavas are alive along with their mother Kunti. It was actually a young brahmin who won the hand of Draupadi. None of the kings and princes who attended the swayamvara were able to pass the archery trial swayamvara. And that young brahmin who won Draupadi’s hand at the swayamvara in Panchal is none other than your nephew Arjuna. All five of them married her due to the boon from Lord Shiva that she was blessed with. They are all safe and cared for at the hands of Drupada.”

Hearing this Dhritarashtra was terribly disappointed. But he couldn’t show his disappointment to Vidura, so he put on a happy face. With fake delight he said, “This is the most wonderful news I have ever received. All this while, I was mourning the death of Kunti and the Pandavas, not knowing they escaped from the dreadful fire. My dear brother Pandu’s sons and wife survived the fire. Not only are they alive and well, but also they married into one of the mightiest kingdoms. My heart is filled with happiness, bouncing with joy.” His heart truly split into two as he was saying this. Yet, as much as he hated the news of the Pandavas survival, part of him was truly relived of the guilt of his son killing his own brother’s children and wife.

Vidura (left) with Dhritarashtra en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vidura

When this news reached Duryodhana’s ears, he was angry and distressed. He felt terribly humiliated. He couldn’t believe that the Pandavas had been hiding for a year after escaping the fire. And now they had strengthened their position and their claim to the Kuru kingdom by marrying into one of the strongest kingdoms, the Panchala kingdom. The Pandavas were stronger than ever before. This thought made his anger, jealousy and vengeance grow double over what it had been. He, along with his brother Dushasana, immediately went to visit their uncle Shakuni to seek advice. He exclaimed to Shakuni that even the Gods were on the Pandavas side. How they could escape the deadliest fire and then get alliances by becoming in-laws of valiant Dhrishtadyumna and fearless Shikhandi. They asked Shakuni, “What do we do now?” Shakuni was sure to devise a plan for another cunning way to get rid of the Pandavas.

Later, along with Karna, they went to visit Dhritarashtra. They showed their dissatisfaction to their father for agreeing with Vidura to invite the Pandavas back into the kingdom. As Dhritarashtra was helpless, he asked Duryodhana to suggest the next steps. Duryodhana immediately started plotting. Some of his suggested plans were to divide Pandavas in some way by provoking Madri’s children, Nakula and Sahadeva, against the other three brothers, or bribing Drupada to go against the Pandavas. or by threatening them in some way that they would never return to Hastinapura. Karna laughed at Duryodhana and said that he was wasting his time with such useless ideas. He suggested that they go to war with them, saying that it was the only remedy.

Dhritarashtra didn’t like any of these ideas and decided to discuss the matter with Grandsire Bhishma and Guru Drona. Bhishma was in extreme delight about the news of the Pandavas being alive and that they were shortly returning to Hastinapura. Dhritarashtra asked Bhishma for his advice. After some discussions with Vidura, Bhishma said to make peace with the Pandavas by dividing the kingdom into half would be the right thing to do. He also said this is what the citizens of the Hastinapura desired. He added that people were already suspicious about the Kaurava’s involvement in the fire of the lac house. As an additional point, he mentioned that the kingdom was blaming Dhritarashtra, as the king of the nation, for not taking any action regarding the fire and not getting to the bottom of what happened. The only way to put all this behind would be to give half of the kingdom to Pandu’s children. Guru Drona completely agreed with Bhishma’s proposal.

Listening to this conversation, Karna was furious about dividing the kingdom. He loved Duryodhana so much that he didn’t want to see half of Duryodhana’s future going to the Pandavas. He addressed Dhritarashtra, saying that he was surprised that Guru Drona, who had gained everything by serving him, was advising him to give away half of the kingdom. He wanted Dhritarashtra not to merely listen, but to give some thought to what they suggested. Karna said they should go to war with the Pandavas. Guru Drona was offended by Karna’s remarks. He shouted at Karna. “You wicked fool! You are giving the king ill advice without any respect. If the king ignores our advice, for sure that would be the end of the Kauravas.”

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Puzzled by all this, Dhritarashtra turned to his chief minister, Vidura. Vidura said, “Grandsire Bhishma and Guru Drona has given you the best advice. Don’t ignore the advice from those wise ones. They always put the interest of the kingdom and its people first. Also, the Pandavas are your beloved brother’s children. Just like the Kauravas, they are your children too. Anyone giving advice against the Pandavas are the ones who will destroy our kula. Also, Drupada, with his children, along with Krishna and the Yadava clan are all standing with the Pandavas, strengthening them. So, there is no way to win against them in a war. Karna’s advice is worthless. It’s true that people are angry and upset about what happened to the Pandavas, and that they are blaming you and your children. Now that they are delighted to find out about the Pandavas being alive, this is the best opportunity to put the past behind you and move forward. They are anxiously waiting to see them. Listen to Grandsire, not to others who don’t have any experience in statesmanship.”

At the end, Dhritarashtra decided to divide the kingdom and to have peace with the Pandavas. He requested Vidura to visit the Panchala kingdom to invite Kunti and the Pandavas along with their new bride Draupadi. He planned to welcome them back with all due respect and honor. Vidura carried precious gems, fine jewelry and loads of grains as gifts with him to Panchala. Vidura was cordially welcomed by king Drupada. After paying his respects Vidura, conveyed the message from King Dhritarashtra, requesting Drupada to send the Pandavas and Draupadi, along with Kunti, to Hastinapura. Drupada was doubtful about Dhritarashtra’s motive as he never trusted him. But then he let the Pandavas decide what they wanted to do, saying “Whatever the Pandavas wish, will be my wish too.”

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Vidura then visited Kunti and paid his respects to her. Kunti, equally suspicious about Dhritarashtra, said to Vidura, “Son of Vichitravirya, you saved my children once before. They are your children too. They trust and believe in you. So, advise them as to what they should do.” Vidura said, “Kunti, your children always stand for the truth, therefore they will never be harmed by anyone. They will have their claim on the kingdom and Yudhishthira will be crowned as king. They will rule with greatness. So, come, let’s go back to our kingdom of Hastinapura where you belong.” By saying this he was able to convince Kunti. King Drupada with a heavy heart, gave his blessings to all of them and allowed them go back to their kingdom with Vidura, following royal tradition.

Krishna Avatar Part 26

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

In Panchala, Dhrishtadyumna requested the suitors come forward for the trials to begin.  Kings and princes came forward, eager to display their skills.  But they soon failed and sat with their heads hung low out of shame.  All eyes turned to Karna as he stood, preparing himself for the challenge.  But before he even picked up the bow, a few princes objected to his participation, as he was the son of a charioteer.  Hearing this, Draupadi herself refused to marry Karna, even if he were to be successful in performing the heroic act.

Karna was yet again insulted in public.  With a broken heart, filled with extreme hatred, he withdrew from the competition and walked out of the venue.  Even Duryodhana didn’t try stopping him.  After he left, many other kings and princes tried but they all miserably failed.

Drupada and his son Dhrishtadyumna were getting worried, seeing princes known for their skill at archery failing to fulfill the condition of the svayamvara, bridal contest.  The challenge now seemed almost impossible to be performed by anyone.  Drupada, whose dream was to get Arjuna married to his daughter, was already greatly disappointed, thinking that the Pandavas perished in the house fire in Varanavata.  At this point, it was haunting him more than ever.

At the same time, with no one able to win the challenge, the audience began to talk about Arjuna and his valor.  They were saying that, if only Arjuna was alive, he would have done it in no time.  Hearing this boosted Arjuna’s interest in participating in the challenge.  Meantime, Krishna alone recognized Arjuna.  By looking straight into his eyes all the way from the podium, Krishna gave him encouragement with a beautiful smile spreading across his face.  This made Arjuna make his move.  Arjuna slowly got up from his seat and advanced towards the podium.  The brahmins were in shock.  Some of them, agitated by his stepping forward, started shouting at him, saying he would bring disgrace to the brahmins by failing badly.  But some welcomed his courage and appreciated his boldness.  The elders prayed and blessed him to succeed.  Due to his disguise, no one recognized that he was really Arjuna, the prince.

In his disguise as a brahmin, Arjuna requested Dhrishtadyumna’s permission to participate in the contest.  After consulting with his father, Drupada, and with Krishna, Dhrishtadyumna agreed.  Arjuna first honored his guru within himself, bowed to everyone in the arena. 

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Then, giving due respect to the bow, in no time Arjuna picked it up and strung it.  To everyone’s astonishment, he shot the arrow, piercing the eye of the fish successfully.  The entire arena erupted with loud applause, especially from all the brahmins.  They were thrilled with what they witnessed.  They couldn’t believe their eyes.  Their happiness was boundless. 

Drupada, his son and daughter were pleased to see the brahmin’s success.  Not only were they pleased, they were also relieved that the contest ended with an outcome.  Only a few minutes earlier, they were worried that no one would pass the test that was set.  The defeated princes were not at all happy about the outcome.  They started complaining about giving permission to a brahmin to participate in a royal event. 

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Ignoring all the commotion among the kings and princes, Draupadi walked gracefully up to the brahmin and put the bridal garland around his neck. Her face bloomed like a lotus, meeting her future husband for the first time.  Immediately, Yudhishthira, Nakula and Sahadeva went to the potter’s house to inform Kunti of the events that had taken place.  Bhima decided to stay with Arjuna in case there was an attack from the unsuccessful suitors.

As expected, the happenings made some of the royal guests jealous and angry.  They felt they had been humiliated and insulted by King Drupada and his son, by their marrying princess Draupadi off to a mere brahmin.  They couldn’t tolerate the insult brought upon them, so they wanted to teach a lesson.  They picked up their weapons and were ready for a fight. 

Arjuna picked up his bow and arrows, ready to defend Draupadi and her family.  The brahmins also rose in support of Arjuna, thinking that they were supporting another brahmin.  Arjuna assured them that he could single-handedly manage the fight.  Many kings and princes fell under the rain of arrows flashing from Arjuna’s bow.  Some of them got so frightened that they ran away.  Duryodhana brought Karna back into the hall so he could participate in the fight.  Even though Karna was reluctant to fight a brahmin, Duryodhana instigated him to fight.  But Karna also couldn’t stand up to the fiery Arjuna.  He applauded the brahmin for his brilliant skill in archery. 

Soon enough, Bhima thought it was time for him to join his brother in the fight.  He went outside the hall and uprooted a huge tree.  Using it as his weapon, he attacked the enemies.  Krishna and Balarama tried their best to bring peace to the situation by calming the angry mob.  Arjuna, together with his brother Bhima, were able to defeat their opponents. 

After the fight was over, getting permission from Drupada, Krishna and Dhrishtadyumna, Arjuna took Draupadi with him to his mother, Kunti.  Draupadi’s brother Dhrishtadyumna followed them, secretly wanting to know more about the brahmin who was marrying his sister. 

Though Yudhishthira, Nakula and Sahadeva had left early to go to their mother, they we delayed by the crowd in the city.  By the time they reached the potter’s home, Bhima, Arjuna and Draupadi were arriving at the same time.  They found Kunti busy in her prayers.  One of the brothers shouted excitedly at Kunti, saying, “Look, mother!  See what Arjuna has brought home today!”  Kunti had her back towards them.  Without looking at them she said, “Whatever Arjuna brought, divide it equally among all the five of you as always.”  This was said without her knowing that Arjuna had won Draupadi’s hand in the swayamvara and brought her with him to the hut.  She only thought of the alms they brought every day. 

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The brothers were dumbstruck by their mother’s command.  Draupadi was jolted by this command and stood still, like a stone.  This silence made Kunti turn towards them.  She too was shocked, seeing the beautiful princess Draupadi standing at the entrance with Arjuna.  She felt embarrassed about what she had said.  She somehow put herself back together and said that she misunderstood, thinking that they were talking about the alms they brought in.

That was the one and only reason she said what she said.  However, her words are a command to her children.  Knowing this, she was regretting what she had said.  This command would make Draupadi to commit a social sin.  That made her even more worried.

They were all looking for a way out of this cursed situation but couldn’t find any good solution.  Talking among themselves, the brothers said that Arjuna should marry Draupadi, while the rest of them would go to the forest and renounce worldly life.  Arjuna was arguing against it, saying that Yudhishthira, as the eldest, should marry to Draupadi while the other four would go to the forest. The argument went on for a long time. Kunti was heartbroken that she had ruined her children’s lives.

Looking at the whole thing revealed in front of her, at last Draupadi realized it was a wish she had made in her past life that brought this upon her in this life.  She consoled Kunti and agreed to marry all five of them and to be their wife.  Her brother, Dhrishtadyumna, following them secretly, witnessed all this.  First and foremost, he was shocked to find out the brothers were none other than the Pandavas, and that the divine looking lady was Kunti herself.  At first he was extremely happy that his sister had found Arjuna as her husband.  But soon, when he heard the conversation about all of them sharing Draupadi as their wife, he was furious.

He rushed to the palace to disclose the pleasant news as well as the unpleasant twisted side of the reality.  Drupada couldn’t believe his ears.  He was so delighted to hear that his wish had come true, that Draupadi was won by the great archer, the royal prince of Hastinapura, Arjuna.  But then he too was shocked and repulsed by hearing about his daughter marrying all five brothers.  He was furious about the injustice brought upon his daughter by the Pandavas.  A ritual of one woman marrying five men, that was never heard of.  It was so against rightness.  Drupada was disgusted by this news.  All his happiness about Draupadi marrying Arjuna vanished. 

At this pivotal time, the sage Vyasa arrived at the palace.  Drupada asked Vyasa’s advice on this unthinkable crisis. 

Vyasa revealed the boon Draupadi received from Lord Shiva before she was brought to the earth.  Drupada was calmed down.  Then he ordered stately arrangements to be made for the royal reception of the Pandavas and their mother Kunti.

Krishna Avatar Part 25

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

As the death of the demon Bakasura spread like wildfire in Ekachakra and the surrounding areas, Kunti decided it was time for them to leave Ekachakra. The thought of moving to a new place occurred due to her concern that Duryodhana and the Kauravas might feel suspicious about Bakasura’s death. If the Pandavas were to continue to live unnoticed, it was necessary to move. So they decided to go towards the Kingdom of Panchala.

There was also another reason for Kunti to choose Panchala. She overheard the news of the svayamvara, a groom selection contest for Draupadi, the daughter of the Panchala King Drupada. Deep down she knew it was an event her sons wouldn’t want to miss. After parting from the brahmin family that they had been living with for so long, they left Ekachakra and headed towards the Kingdom of Panchala.

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By nightfall. they had reached the bank of the river Ganga. After the long journey, Arjuna was really thirsty and thus delighted to hear the flow of the river. As Arjuna was leading them through the darkness towards the river to quench his thirst, he suddenly saw a chariot advancing towards them.  The warrior in the chariot challenged them, saying not to go near the river.  He was the Angaraparana also known as Chitraratha, a chief of gandharvas, a heavenly being.  He had come with his wives to bathe in the river and he didn’t want the brahmin beggars to enter the water at the same time. 

Arjuna could not remain silent.  He challenged back saying, “The Ganga is the most sacred river.  She doesn’t belong to any one person.  Anyone should be able to come to Mother Ganga at any time.”  The gandharva chief was furious, for a mere human had insulted him in this way.  He thundered at Arjuna, “You perhaps don’t know who I am, or my valor and physical might.  The forest in the vicinity of this river belongs to me.  Not just humans, even Gods and other heavenly beings dare not set foot in my territory.  You better turn around with your clan and save your lives before getting crushed by me.” 

This was enough to fuel Arjuna’s anger.  He shouted back at him saying, “Is it worthy of a heavenly being to indulge in such false pride?  And without knowing someone’s might, isn’t it foolishness to start a fight? I’m sure you have never measured arms with a true warrior so far, otherwise your language would not have been so irresponsible.  You may have been successful frightening the weak, but now that you challenged me, I am all in to show you what I’ve got.”   

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Angaraparana drew out his sword and attacked Arjuna.  And in turn, Arjuna with the burning torch in hand attacked Angaraparana. The mighty Arjuna brushed his attack aside magnificently, using the burning torch he had in his hand.  He then chanted an incantation on the torch and aimed it at Angaraparana, using it as a weapon.  The torchlight set fire to Angaraparana’s chariot, burning it and forcing him to jump down from it.  While doing so he fell down and became senseless.  Arjuna jumped in at once and saved him from the fire, dragging him to Yudhishthira, the elder Pandava.   

The wives of Angaraparana rushed out of the river and ran to Yudhishthira, begging mercy for their husband.  They pleaded with Yudhishthira to spare his life.  Yudhishthira kindly said, “It is against our values to kill a person who has been already defeated and insulted in the very presence of his wives.  So, don’t worry, we will not harm him as he was punished already for his actions.” 

Angaraparana regained consciousness.  Seeing his wives standing before Yudhishthira begging to save his life, he felt highly ashamed.  Bowing his head down Angaraparana expressed his gratitude to the Pandavas.  He requested them to accept his humble gift in return for sparing his life.  He gifted them the knowledge of the art of creating illusions in war.  This science is called chakshushi.  This heavenly art named chakshushi enables one to see anything at any time at any place in the three worlds merely through the earthly eyes.  He also gifted a thousand swift horses of the gandharvas.  These horses can put on any desired color and can move with any speed desired by their master.  They will never grow old nor will their speed ever slow down.   

Yudhishthira gladly said that he will accept both gifts, but as a token of friendship, rather than a gift for sparing his life.  Yudhishthira also said that they would like Angaraparana to keep the horses with him until the Pandavas required them.  Thus, they became close friends from that time onwards.  After quenching their thirst, Yudhishthira along with his mother and brothers continued their journey towards the kingdom of Panchala. 

As the preparations for Draupadi’s svayamvara started, guests from nearby cities and kingdoms started to flock towards Panchala.  Pandavas joined in with some of the brahmins who were going.  After days of travel by foot, at last they arrived at the beautiful city.  The whole of Panchala was celebrating the svayamvara of their lovely princess Draupadi, the girl born from the sacred fire.   

Due to wanting revenge against Drona, Drupada, the King of Panchala, had performed Putrakameshti Yajna to produce a son to avenge him.  After admiring Arjuna’s might, Drupada also wanted a daughter who could marry Arjuna.  This would also give him an advantage to lessen enmity against Drona because of Arjuna being his favorite student.  Even if there was a war, Arjuna would be always on Drupada’s side, if Arjuna was married to Drona’s daughter.   

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At the successful completion of the Yajna, from the fire of the Yajna,  the twins Dhrishtadyumna and Draupadi emerged.  Dhrishtadyumna was glowing like a flame; his looks spoke of his valor, great warriorship and glory.  A divine voice spoke from the heavens, saying, “Here is the divine son who is born for you to avenge your insult done by Dronacharya.”  All those present at the Yajna were very pleased to hear the divine voice. 

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A beautiful dark-skinned maiden also emerged out of the sacred fire.  She had captivating looks and lovely long hair that gave out a sweet fragrance.  King Drupada was delighted to see his children who were born from the sacred fire.  He was so grateful to be gifted with two divine children, a son and a daughter.  The daughter whom he named Krishnaa, though later on she came to be popularly known as Draupadi.  She was also called Panchali, being the favorite princess of the kingdom Panchala.  It was her svayamvara drawing all the attention, including bringing the Pandavas there.   

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The Pandavas ended up staying in a potter’s home.  They carried on their disguise as brahmins as they went around the city admiring its grandeur.  They saw the special accommodations built for the kings, princes and guests coming from all corners of the world.  And they enjoyed all the shows and entertainment happening through the day and night.  But wherever they went, all they heard was people talking about the flaming beauty of their princess, her charm and divine qualities. 

Krishna arrived in Panchala, having accepted Drupada’s invitation for the svayamvara.  While home in Dwaraka, Krishna had already received Uddhava’s report on the situation with the Pandavas.  Knowing that they were alive and safe, he was the one who arranged the next steps to follow, even without the Pandavas knowing.  It was per Krishna’s request that Vyasa advised the Pandavas to go to Ekachakra and suggested they disguise themselves as brahmins.  In fact, the whole swayamvara was happening due to the advice Drupada had gotten from Krishna in his previous visit to Panchala.   

Krishna also suggested to arrange a challenging contest for the suitors, so the winner would have Draupadi’s hand in marriage.  The challenge arranged was very difficult to achieve.  A pole was erected in the court, over which a wooden fish was fixed on a revolving wheel.  A pan of water was kept at the bottom of the pole.  Anyone who could shoot an arrow through the eye of the revolving fish, by looking at the reflection in the water, would be garlanded by Draupadi. 

On the day of the svayamvara, the venue was filled with kings and princes.  The Pandavas took their seats among the brahmins.  The gathering consisted of princes from many kingdoms including the Kauravas, Karna, Shakuni, Drona’s son Ashwatthama, Shishupala, Jarasandha of Magadha and many others.  Krishna and Balarama were seated much closer to King Drupada.   

Dhrishtadyumna, the son of Drupada, opened the proceedings by escorting his sister to the court.  Draupadi gracefully walked with her brother into the venue.  She was tall and dark with gleaming eyes and long black locks.  She was truly dazzling in her finery, looking like a goddess.  At once, all eyes were turned to her.  The kings and the princes stared at her stunning beauty.  As soon as she entered the court she paid obeisance to the sages, her kula guru, her father, Krishna & Balarama and all the elders before taking her seat.

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Dhrishtadyumna, as the master of the ceremony, addressed the guests.  He announced the rules of the swayamvara, “Whosoever can bend the bow and pierce the eye of the fish hanging above, by looking at its image in the water, may marry my beloved sister, Draupadi.”  Then he requested the suitors to come forward to take part in the swayamvara.   

Krishna Avatar Part 24

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

The Pandavas with their mother Kunti continued their journey through the forest, facing many hardships along the way.  As they couldn’t find any safe and suitable place to stay, they wandered around.  One day they came across Sage Vyasa.  Even though they did not know who he was, yet the Pandava brothers paid their respects humbly.  The great sage blessed them all.  Staring at his face, Kunti recognized him.  She had seen him when he came to the Royal Palace in Hastinapura to escort Queen Satyavati with him to his ashram when she renounced the royal life.  Recognizing the sage as none other than Vyasa, Kunti burst into tears and narrated all that happened to them.

The sage counseled her to keep patient.  He gave her the teachings of the reality of life, advising them to follow the path of righteousness and be patient in adversity.  He promised that prosperity is bound to follow for those who walk on the path of righteousness. 

Sage Vyasa directed them towards a nearby town named Ekachakra.  Following the advice of Sage Vyasa Kunti and her sons went to Ekachakra and started living in disguise as bhramins in the house of a brahmin. 

They went begging for alms in the town by day, coming back at dusk with the alms.  Whatever they brought, they placed before their mother Kunti.  She divided all of it into two halves.  One half was given to Bhima alone while the other half was shared by her and his four brothers.  The major share was given to Bhima as his immense appetite had to be fulfilled at any cost.  Bhima was also called “Vrahothan” due to his huge appetite.  Vrahothan means a person with a wolf’s stomach.  A wolf’s stomach is small, making it hard for its appetite to be satisfied.  Bhima was the gift of Vayu Bhagavan, the God of wind, thus having his characteristics, fiercely forceful, strong and the biggest appetite ever.

Kunti would weep every day seeing the sad state of her sons.  The Royal Princes of Hastinapura were begging for food as mendicants.  But the Pandavas would console her by all means, telling jokes and acting silly to make their mother laugh.  Soon the Pandavas became popular among the people of the town because of their virtuous deeds. 

One day, as Kunti was ill, the four Pandavas went on their daily begging, leaving Bhima to take care of their mother.  While resting, all of a sudden Kunti heard a huge cry coming out of the brahmin’s house.  She immediately alerted Bhima and went to their home.  The whole family was in tears, sobbing while sitting in a very frightened state. 

The brahmin father was saying to his wife, “Oh, I was anticipating this day from the beginning and advising to leave this place.  But you did not heed my advice.  See, the imminent danger is knocking at our door right now.  You are a pious and a patient lady, following my dharmic path.  Like a mother you are nourishing and nurturing me.  The very gods have sent you as my friend, philosopher and guide.  How can I now desert you and go there?” 

He continued, “See our cute small son.  He has not yet grown; he is still a child.  How can I leave him?  This is our beloved daughter.  The gods have given her to me for me to perform Kanyaadaana (gift of a maiden in marriage).  I and my forefathers will attain divine abodes by virtue of the children born to her.  A few may say that the father loves his son more, and a few others say that he loves his daughter more.  I love both of them equally.  Now what can I do?  I can’t leave them,” the brahmin grieved.

The Brahmin’s wife said, “Oh, my lord!  Don’t lament over this issue.  Today I will go and sacrifice my life.  A wife is supposed to protect her husband.  That is dharma.  You married for progeny, and I got relieved from the debt by giving children to you.  The purpose of my life is fulfilled.  If you die and I outlive your death, I can’t bring up these two children on my own.  I can’t even protect this girl from the evil eyes of envious men.  Further, a lady without a husband would be akin to the fallen flesh ready to be picked up by all men around.  I can’t protect myself and lead on the dharmic path.  I will be despised and demeaned.” She continued, “Further, a woman is not to be killed as per dharma.  Thus the demon may leave me because I am a woman.  A man is certain to be killed but a woman has the chances of being relieved.  Hence, only I should go and do my duty as a wife.”

Hearing this from her mother, the brahmin’s daughter offered to sacrifice her life.  “Listen to me.  I am your daughter and one day you must let me go with whoever I marry.  I will save my parents by sacrificing my life and leave you now.  Oh father, for the sake of dharma, and for the sake of all of us let me die for a noble cause.” 

Then the small boy came up with a stick and childishly said that he would kill the demon with the stick, and that he would go to the demon the next day.  Everyone hugged him for his innocence.  Then the father said, “Death for all of us is the only alternative.”

At that point Kunti entered the house.  They all looked at Kunti as she asked them for the reason for their sorrowful state.  When they hesitated, Kunti insisted the brahmin to explain what is going on in the town that she is not aware of.  She said to consider she and her sons as family to the brahmins. 

Hearing this brahmin said, “A man-eating demon named Bakasura lives on a hill near this town.  To protect the town from the terrible demon and to live without fear in the town, the elders of the town have made a deal with him.  According to the deal, the town will send a human being along with a bullock cart full of food daily to satisfy the hunger of the demon.  For this to happen, every family has to send one of its members when their turn comes.  By doing this the town is protected from Bakasura’s raid.  As you can see, it’s my turn to arrange for the demon’s food tomorrow.  Each member of my family was insisting on going but finally we have decided that all of us should go, to be devoured by the demon.” 

Kunti was listening quietly.  Then she consoled them by saying one of her sons will go instead of them.  The brahmin family were delighted to hear the consoling words of Kunti.  The father thanked her for her kindness & compassion towards them.  Then he said, “The misfortune that we are going to face cannot be shared by anyone else, as every family in this town has to face this when it’s their turn.”  He continued and said that they are guests.  In order to save his family, he would not let guests sacrifice one of their family members.  The wife joined in with her husband on the matter. 

Kunti assured them that her son Bhima would be the best person to deal with the demon.  “He will not only save your family, but also all the other families in Ekachakra.”  She added that she and her sons are obliged to the brahmin family in many ways, and it’s their duty to be there for them.  Hearing of Bhima’s valor from Kunti, they decided to agree to her proposal. 

Kunti went straight to Bhima and told him about Bakasura.  She instructed him to put an end to the demon.  She emphasized that it’s their duty to stand by the brahmins in this time of adversity.  She was so grateful to the brahmin family who had embraced them when they walked into the town by giving them shelter.  Bhima was delighted to have this opportunity to fight for the brahmins and the town.  He bowed his head to his mother and asked for her blessings to kill the demon. 

When the other four brothers returned home Kunti narrated the incident to them as well.  Hearing this, Yudhishthira didn’t like the idea of Bhima putting himself into danger, knowing he was the one who can protect their family.  However, Yudhishthira also realized it is kshatriya dharma, the righteousness of a royal prince and warrior.  He blessed Bhima to go fight the demon. 

The next morning, Bhima set out towards the demon’s dwelling with a cart loaded with food.  Once he reached the destination, he unloosed the bullocks pulling the cart and started eating the food which was meant for the demon.  While eating all he had brought, he made loud noises to get the attention of the demon. 

When Bakasura heard a human voice, he came out of his dwelling and was shocked to see his victim eating his food and making loud noises.  Bakasura was an awfully ferocious demon with a wide mouth, big teeth and fiery eyes.  He was already hungry and waiting for his daily food and he was enraged at what he saw. 

Bakasura thundered, “You human!  How dare you touch my food and ignore me.  Are you wishing to die the worst cruel death in my hands?  I will happily grant you your wish!”  He advanced towards Bhima.  Bhima simply ignored him and went on eating.  The ferocious demon was unable to hold his anger and attacked Bhima. 

Bakasura was taken by Bhima’s might.  Without losing any time, Bhima sprang at his opponent in full force.  He lifted the demon up and hurled him violently to the ground.  The demon could not stand the attack and fell down on the ground with a heavy thud, dying on the spot.  Bhima put a cloth around the neck of the dead demon and dragged his body to the town.  Leaving it there to be viewed by the townspeople, he quietly went home. 

Soon the people of the town came to know of the fearful demon’s death and assembled to see his dead body lying at the outer gate of the town.  The news spread like wildfire in the entire neighboring area and people began to dance in joy, reveling in their newly found freedom. 

Everyone in the town was astonished by the mysterious death of the demon.  They tried to figure out who would have killed the demon and dragged his body to the town.  It remained a puzzle for them.  The brahmin family knew everything, yet they kept their mouth shut. 

Image #1 Vyasa https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Gqb0AQXE3pg/YEYp5S8AnHI/AAAAAAAAchY/Glga8WyRLJcrpslqz-MXWwfNrbk59e7kwCLcBGAsYHQ/s728/How%2BSage%2BVyasa%2BGot%2BThe%2BName%2BKrishna%2BDwaipayana%2BVyasa.jpg

Image #2 Bhima https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhima#/media/File:Vintage_Bhim_oleograph_litho_Ravi_Varma_Press_B.jpg

Image #3 Kunti and the Brahmin family https://www.boldsky.com/yoga-spirituality/anecdotes/2015/mahabharata-stories-why-did-bhima-fight-bakasura-066730.html?story=4

Image #4  Bhima eating Bakasura’s food https://www.templepurohit.com/bakasura-the-rakshas-of-ekachakranagara/ by Sumo (http://sumo.com/)

Image #5 Bhima & Bakasura https://moralstories.wordpress.com/2006/08/25/ekachakrapura-baka-vadha/

Krishna Avatar Part 23

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

The Pandavas along with their mother Kunti hiked across several hurdles, at last reaching the thick of the forest.  Kunti was feeling heavily tired so Bhima ended up carrying her on his shoulders along with the young Nakula and Sahadeva on his hips.  Holding Yudhishthira and Arjuna by his hands, Bhima cleared the way like an elephant and marched onward. 

https://www.vyasaonline.com/2017/01/15/the-burning-of-house-of-lac/mahabharata/

As Kunti couldn’t travel any further due to hunger and thirst, they decided to rest under a banyan tree that stood close by.  They sat together under the thick shade of the tree, exhausted after the long journey.  From stories they had heard, they knew they had entered the magical forest, Maya Vana.  Legend said that anyone who entered this forest never returned.

All of them laid down and fast fell asleep except for Bhima.  Bhima watched over them while they slept.  Aware that his brothers and mother were hungry and thirsty, he went in search of a waterfront.  After covering a short distance, he heard the twitter of birds.  Going that direction, he soon found himself at a waterfront.  Bhima quenched his thirst.  Then he made a big pitcher out of leaves, filled it with water and returned to the banyan tree where his family members were lost in deep sleep.  Bhima did not want to disturb them.  He stood aside keeping watch over them. 

This demonized magical forest where the Pandavas were sleeping was the hunting preserve of a fearful demon name Hidimba.  He lived there along with his sister Hidimbi and their clan of demons.  While roaming around, in search of a victim, Hidimba sensed the presence of human beings nearby.  He asked his sister to go find them and bring them to their settlement so he could kill them for dinner.

Following the human smell, Hidimbi reached the banyan tree and saw the sleeping Pandavas with Bhima on guard.  As soon as she saw handsome Bhima and his muscular body, she was attracted to him.  She immediately fell in love with him.  An ardent desire to be with Bhima overwhelmed her and she decided not to go back to her brother.  She thought the only way she could even have a chance to attract Bhima’s attention would be to transform herself into a human form.  She indeed transformed herself into a maiden of incomparable charm, and adorned her body with valuable jewelry.

http://ritsin.com/bhima-hidimba-mahabharata.html

Hidimbi walked up to Bhima gracefully.  Complimenting Bhima’s muscular body and handsome looks first, she asked who he was, and who were all those people sleeping at his watch.  She then confessed her desire, wanting to marry him and be his wife.  She warned him, “This forest is a hunting preserve of my brother Hidimba.  If he comes here, all of you will be his meal, as he is a cannibal.  It would be wise to wake all of them and leave this place right away.” 

With a smile, Bhima replied, “Don’t worry.  I shall deal with your brother if he happens to come here.  I am not willing to disturb the sleep of my brothers and my revered mother in fear of your brother.  We’ll just see how powerful he is.”

As Hidimbi was taking so long, Hidimba arrived right at that moment with his clan.  He saw that Hidimbi had transformed herself into a beautiful maiden to indulge in romantic conversation with Bhima.  Hidimba erupted with anger and thundered, “Hidimbi, you are a disgrace to our clan.  You bring shame to our entire race.  You have stooped so low as to enjoy being with a mere human being.  Can’t you find a demon to satisfy your lust?  I shall kill you right now, along with your human lover.”  

Saying this, Hidimba advanced.  Clenching his fists and grinding his teeth, he grabbed for his sister.  In rage, when he was about to lay hands on Hidimbi, Bhima intervened, holding him by the wrist.  Bhima shouted, “Oh, you can’t lay hands on a woman in my presence.  Come on, face me if you dare.  Don’t you know only cowards choose to attack women.  Get away from her or I shall knock you down so strongly that you may never rise again.”


https://glorioushinduism.com

Hidimba couldn’t bear such insulting words coming from a mere human.  He leapt at Bhima and gave a staggering blow on the back of his neck.  Bhima was not frightened at all.  A fearsome duel followed.  Seeing this, even the animals of the forest ran.  Hidimbi hid behind a rock nearby, unable to bear the fact that her brother and the one she had fallen in love with were fighting. 

The commotion caused Bhima’s mother Kunti and four brothers to wake.  Seeing Bhima challenged in a fight with a dreadful demon, his brothers rushed to help him.  To their surprise, he had already overcome the demon and raised him well above his head.  Bhima tossed him down to the ground violently.  Hidimba fell with a heavy thud and died.  The rest of them stood by silently, including Hidimbi in hiding.

Kunti, Yudhishthira and the brothers were delighted to see Hidimba was dead.  But Arjuna warned Bhima that they need to leave the place as the news about Hidimba’s death might reach the Kauravas and give them away.  The rest of them supported the suggestion so they decided to leave right away. 

They tried to move on quickly, but the custom of the demon clan was that whoever killed their leader became the new leader.  Therefore, the clan stopped them, wanting Bhima to become their leader.  They begged Bhima, worried that there will be internal problems with choosing any other of the clan as a leader.  Even after a lot of pleading by the clan, Bhima and his family didn’t accept their plea.  With a lot of regret, they started to move on, to get out of the Maya Vana.

They weren’t aware of Hidimbi following them at their heels.  After travelling quite a distance, Kunti turned around and saw this beautiful young lady following them.  She stopped immediately, asked Hidimbi who she was and why she was following them.  She demanded that Hidimbi say something about herself and her purpose in following them. 

First touching Kunti’s feet, Hidimbi stated, “I’m Hidimbi, the sister of Hidimba, the demon whom your valiant son has put to death.  I assisted my brother in all his endeavors, until I saw your son, with whom I have fallen in love.”  By saying this, Hidimbi disclosed everything, admitting that she was in love with Bhima and wanted to be his wife.  She was seeking the approval of Kunti to allow her carry out her desire.  Kunti explained that a marriage between a human and demon was never heard of and that her son must get back to his duties.

Hidimbi was relentless.  She wouldn’t accept Kunti’s answer.  Kunti said that the Pandavas living with the demons forever was not going to be possible, and that they had a lot of other things they need to attend to.  Hidimbi replied, “On the day I have a child with Bhima, an heir to lead the clan, I will let you go your way.”  Kunti was so charmed by Hidimbi’s obedience and well-mannered behavior, she could not refuse her request for the company of Bhima. 

Kunti went up to Hidimbi and showered blessings on her.  Then Kunti turned to Bhima and asked him if he was ready to marry to Hidimbi.  She was so delighted to see Bhima falling for Hidimbi too.  She wanted the best for them.  But she requested that Hidimbi leave Bhima free at nightfall so that he could come to protect them, especially at night. 


https://mahabharatham.arasan.info

Hidimbi wanted everyone to stay in the clan’s grounds.  Kunti agreed and the wedding was done in a very fancy way according to the clan’s customs.  The couple requested blessings from Kunti and Yudhishthira.  Kunti and Yudhishthira blessed them both, saying Hidimbi is the first daughter to come into their family.  Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva congratulated their brother and Hidimbi.  Bhima enjoyed the company of Hidimbi and all of them got used to living with the demon clan.  Days passed, followed by weeks, while things went on quite smoothly for them. 

After some time, Hidimbi gave birth to a male child who was a true copy of his father Bhima.  He was named Ghatotkacha.  Being a child of a demon, he grew up to be a young man in a few days.  He was a mighty warrior, just like his father, gifted with immense physical strength.  He also inherited his mother’s magical powers.  All the Pandavas were very happy to see him doing wonderful things. 

After the birth of Ghatotkacha, Kunti and the Pandavas decided to take leave of the clan as they had to move on.  Hidimbi remembered her word and let them go with a very heavy heart.  Ghatotkacha was named the leader of the clan.  When they were leaving the forest, Kunti called Ghatotkacha, telling him that even though he was Bhima’s son, he would always be regarded as the eldest son of the Pandavas.  Ghatotkacha promised to come to their aid whenever they needed him.  He asked his father merely to think of him when needing his assistance, and he would be there without any delay.  Bhima embraced both Hidimbi and Ghatotkacha, before accompanying his mother and his brothers out of the Maya Vana.

Krishna Avatar Part 22

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

The Pandavas had proved their excellence and superiority to the Kauravas once again by fulfilling Guru Drona’s wish.  The display of various martial skills and their distinctive noble qualities gained wide popularity, not only with the elders of the family but among the people of Hastinapura as well. 

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The good citizens of Hastinapura wanted Pandu’s eldest son Yudhishthira to be declared as Crown Prince.  His fine qualities of patience, benevolence, honesty and selflessness made him loved by all.  Since he was the eldest of all the princes, Bhishma advised Dhritarashtra to declare Yudhishthira as successor, and to crown him as, the prince first in line to the throne. 

This upset Dhritarashtra who was hoping for his son Duryodhana to be his successor.  But most of all, Duryodhana was deeply hurt by all this.  His dream of becoming Crown Prince was shattered.  Unable to tolerate it, burning with jealousy, he again began to plot against the Pandavas in order to safeguard the throne for himself.  Even though all his earlier conspiracies had failed miserably, he was not ready to give up his efforts.  So he laid out a plot with his brothers, his uncle Shakuni and his best friend Karna. 

He went straight to his father and met with him privately, saying, “Father, the people of Hastinapura have lost their minds.  They are not even respecting you or grandsire Bhishma.  They want to make Yudhishthira the successor.  Once Yudhishthira is crowned, that will be end of you and all of us Kauravas.  None of us will ever be kings, not even our children.” 

This made Dhritarashtra pause and think.  Still, he tried to convince Duryodhana, describing Yudhishthira as being like his own brother Pandu, who was very kind and loving.  Pandu would never have done anything unjust to the Kauravas, or to anyone for that matter.  Dhritarashtra also warned Duryodhana, saying that Pandu was loved by all, which was also the case with Yudhishthira.  It would be very hard to convince the people otherwise.  Fighting against all of them would never bring the victory Duryodhana was expecting. 

Duryodhana reminded his father that Grandsire Bhishma would be always loyal to the throne of Hastinapura, due to his great vow.  Thereby Bhishma would always support Dhritarashtra, as long as he was the king.  Dhritarashtra finally fell for his son’s plot against the Pandavas.  Dhritarashtra had a soft spot for his brother’s children, but his love for his own children often overshadowed that.  Because of this weakness, the love of his son Duryodhana, he often knowingly chose the wrong path. 

Duryodhana
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The annual festival held in Varanavata was a great opportunity to accomplish the plot.  Duryodhana asked his father to send the Pandavas, along with their mother Kunti, to participate in the annual festival.  His request seemed strange at first, but Duryodhana emphasized the importance of sending Yudhishthira in the capacity of the Crown Prince, in accordance with the custom.  He told his father that, while the Pandavas were away, he would try to convince those who supported the Pandavas and turn them into his allies.  If needed be, by bribing them, as the last resort.  Yet, Dhritarashtra was not giving in.  It took more convincing from all the accomplices of Duryodhana, before Dhritarashtra agreed to cooperate with the plot.

However, Duryodhana hatched a more dreadful plot with his brothers, his uncle Shakuni and his best friend Karna.  He approached Purochana, one of his ministers, for help.  Under the strict supervision of Purochana, a beautiful palace was built at Varanavata.  Its walls were made of lacquer, a highly flammable substance, while its roof was thatched so that it could catch fire at the slightest contact with a single spark of fire.  The plan was to burn the Pandavas while they were sleeping at night, so that nobody would suspect foul play.  Thus the death of the Pandavas would pass off as an accident. 

Hearing about Varanavata and the famous festival, the Pandavas were thrilled about visiting there.  With their mother Kunti, they left for Varanavata after being blessed by the elders and given well-wishes by the others.  The people of Hastinapura followed them as far as they could go and then returned home.

Even though Purochana managed to get the palace built, only by bribing the builders, the news of terrible plot somehow leaked out.  It reached Vidura’s ears.  Knowing about Duryodhana’s plot, Vidura had wisely taken into confidence a builder involved in the construction.  With his help, a secret tunnel was constructed as an escape path that led from the palace to an opening on the riverside.  The builder managed to finish the task of digging the tunnel so secretly that even Purochana did not know about the underground escapeway. 

Vidura
bonobology.com

Vidura alerted the Pandavas well in advance, even before they started off on their journey.  As he was unable to meet the Pandavas privately, Vidura tactfully, in the presence of the Kauravas, warned the Pandavas about the imminent danger in an indirect way.  On his going away blessings to Yudhishthira and the others, He said some cryptic words, “A weapon not made of steel or any other material element can be more than sharp to kill an enemy.  He who knows this is never killed.  The substance that devastates a forest and helps with the cold cannot hurt a rat, which shelters itself in a hole or a porcupine which burrows in the earth.  The wise man knows his bearings by looking at the stars.”

Vidura’s tactical way of passing the message worked.   Yudhishthira understood its meaning, knowing the means to escape the danger, which was imminent.  This message made Kunti and her sons sad, that Duryodhana had started his plots to kill them again.  All their happiness about going to Varanavata’s famous festival disappeared. 

When Pandavas reached Varanavata, they acted as if they knew nothing about the plot.  They attended the fair regularly, while spending most of the daytime hunting in the forest.  This was to get familiar with the surroundings.  At nightfall, they returned to the palace.  They slept in the tunnel itself and not inside the palace.  They did it in such a way that nobody knew they were not inside the palace at night.  They kept close watch on the activities of Purochana. 

Purochana was fully confident of the success of Duryodhana’s evil plan.  Duryodhana was equally sure that the Pandavas would not be able to escape, and thus would never return back to Hastinapura. 

On the last day of the fair, the Pandavas and Kunti performed a special puja and yaj~na, and gave away alms to the poor.  That was the night Purochana had been waiting for, to set the fire to kill the Pandavas.  It was a moonless dark night.  Anticipating the plot, the Pandavas were alert and fully armed.

With a view to having an upper hand, Bheema got up at midnight.  He set fire to the palace at different locations.  He wanted to kill Duryodhana’s accomplices and weaken his enemy’s strength.  Bheema escaped through the tunnel, along with his brothers and mother Kunti.  In no time the palace was engulfed in horrible flames and reduced to ashes. 

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Unfortunately, a poor woman about the age of Kunti had attended the feeding ceremony that morning, along with her five adult sons.  She stayed in the palace that night, as she didn’t have any other place to stay, so she and her sons, along with Purochana himself, were killed in the fire.  Purochana had gotten caught in the fire when Bheema beat him to setting the palace on fire.

The Pandavas escaped through the underground tunnel and reached the riverbank of Ganga.  Vidura had arranged for a boat for them, so when they came to the riverbank they found a boatman waiting for them, ready to ferry them across the river.  They boarded the boat and safely landed on the other bank of the Ganga. 

When the news about the catastrophe reached Hastinapura, the kingdom was hit by shock waves.  Both Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana were pleased, relieved and extremely delighted in their hearts, outwardly they pretended to be very sorrowful and in grief.  They were sure that the path to the throne was now clear for Duryodhana.  Bhishma and other like-minded royal dignitaries were shocked at the sad happening.  Their sorrow was indescribable indeed.

Duryodhana rushed to Varanavata.  There he found burned bodies of a woman and five men.  The death of Purochana surprised him, as it was he who was to set fire to the house.  Duryodhana wondered why Purochana couldn’t save himself.  Unfortunately, the burnt woman was the homeless woman with her five sons, who had sought refuge in the palace.  After his survey, Duryodhana declared a state of mourning in the kingdom, returning to Hastinapura. 

Outwardly Dhritarashtra and the Kauravas acted grief-struck, but in their hearts they were feeling ecstatic.  They thought that the road was now clear, that all the hurdles in Duryodhana’s way to the throne had been taken care of.  Grandsire Bhishma and other ministers were in state of shock and their sadness was beyond words.  They were not in the mindset to suspect any foul play.  Only Vidura knew the actual story, but didn’t say anything to anyone, leaving it to the Pandavas to emerge when they wished to.  Though he knew they survived the fire, he didn’t know their whereabouts after they landed on the other side of Ganga.

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On the other side of Ganga, Kunti and the Pandavas landed with a sigh and a deep breath.  They thanked the boatman and disappeared into the jungle.  At that point, they knew that Duryodhana was never going to let them live in harmony.  At Kunti’s request, they decided they would sacrifice the throne for their mother’s peace of mind.

We had started to talk about the Kuru family, including the Pandavas and Kauravas, some time ago.  It was after Krishna and Balarama had rushed to Hastinapura, having heard that their cousins from the Kuru family were in great danger.  This was the incident that brought them to Hastinapura.