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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
More to come…