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A A S H R A M A V A A S A - P A R V A

"After praying to Naaraayana, Nara, Sarasvathi and Vyaasa, then one should recite the Jayam."

This parva has three (some say two, not reckoning the third) sub parvas.

The word 'aashrama' means a hermitage. 'vaasa' means 'living'. 'Aashramavaasa' ( or 'aashramavaasika', as in some traditions. ) means 'of or relating to living at hermitage'. This parva describes - Yudhishthira's taking care of Dhritharaashtra; Dhritharaashtra's renouncing and retiring to forests alongwith Gaandhaari, Kunthi and Vidura; their hermit life; Paandavas visiting them in the forests; Vyaasa's showng of all the people killed in the war to them; Vidura's leaving of this world; the death of Dhritharaashtra Gaandhaari and Kunthi in a forest fire; Naarada's relating this incident to Yudhishthira; and Yudhishthira's grief over their death and his performing commemorative rituals for them.



Sootha continued his narration to the sages Shounaka and others at the Nymisha forest.

Janamejaya asked Vyshampaayana. " Sir, After settling on the throne, how did my great-grandfathers live? How did they behave with the former king Dhritharaashtra and the former queen Gaandhaari? And how did the old blind king, bereft with the loss of all his sons and follwers, spend his days? How did the pious old lady Gaandhaari live thereafter? Also tell me how and howlong did the Paandavas rule? "

Vyshampaayana told. " Janamejaya! After performing the sacrifices and settling on the throne, the Paandavas ruled their lands,posting their uncle Dhritharaashtra in the lead. They stood by his word and always consulted with him in all regal matters. They visited the old king and his queen everyday and bowed to them paying sincere respects. The old couple too blessed them heartily. Yudhishthira presented good garments, jewels, beds and varieties of foods to Dhritharaashtra every day. Vidura, Sanjaya and Yuyuthsu always waited upon the old king, ready for his service. Kripa, the old preceptor of archery, always stayed with him. Vyaasa too gave him an audience frequently and told him many ancient episodes of the gods, Demons, sages and pitris. Dhritharaashtra got done all his priestly and religious activities through Vidura. All the wishes of the old king were made fruitful by Vidura through proper persons employing his intellect and knack in policies. Dhritharaashtra ordered in is own name for release of the imprisoned when he thought it was right. He would also pardon the ones sentenced with death punishment and grant them life. Yudhishthira never objected to any of his acts. Moreover, he made every arrangement for keeping the old king in good spirits through various entertainments. All kinds of expert cooks and brewers awaited for serving him as was usual to him earlier. They prepared various foods,drinks and other eatables for him. Even the kings and tributories who visited Yudhishthira, would also pay their visits and respects to the old king as they did earlier.

Kunthi was always with the aged couple, taking good care of them. All the wives of the Paandavas, including Droupadi, Subhadra, Chithraangada, Uloopi, Jaraasandha's daughter and Dhrishtakethu's sister, served both the old ladies with equal reverence. Yudhishthira ordered his brothers not to give any scope for the old bereaved king to feel sad or sorrowful. They too obliged his orders and behaved accordingly, with occasional exception of Bheema, as he could not spare his uncle's misbehaviour on the day of dice game and his conduct that was always biased in favour of his sons.

Vyshampaayana continued. " Yudhishthira also told all his brothers and their men. ' This king deserves respect from me and you all too. He who abides by his word is dear to me. Others shall incur my wrath and punishment. During the days of anniversaries of his dead sons, his desire, whatever it might be, shall be fulfilled the way he prefers.' All his brothers obeyed his words. They decided among themselves that their uncle should continue to enjoy all the royal luxuries and status as he was wont to, during the reign of his sons. Whatever Dhritharaashtra or Gaandhaari expressed, minor or major, Yudhishthira paid utmost attention to that and saw that it was done first, to their pleasure. He never resorted to do any act that would even slightly displease the old king.

Dhritharaashtra too, on his part, received their obedient behaviour in right spirit and blessed them always like a benevolent elder. He did not find any flaw in the sincerely respectful service of his nephews. In course of time, he lowered his grief and turned affectionate towards them. With the conveniences offered by the Paandavas,he could donate many villages to eligible Braahmanas. Gaandhaari too performed all rituals she wished to do in the names of their sons. Though he occasionally thought of his foolishly adamant sons and lament about their destruction, yet he could slowly overcome that sorrow . He treated the Paandavas as his own sons. He got up early in the morning, did his routine rituals and prayed for the wellfare of Paandavas. He sought the blessings of Braahmanas for their benefit. Eventually, he was so pleased with Paandavas that he never felt such pleasure even from his own sons. The old king remained equally respectable to the Braahmanas, Kshathriyas and Vyshyas of his subjects. Yudhishthira never bore in his mind any of the past misdeeds of the old king or his sons. Any one causing even a minute discomfort to Dhritharaashtra was severely dealt with by Yudhishthira. Fearing his displeasure, None talked of the wrong doings of Dhritharaashtra or his sons. The old king, the old queen and Vidura were satisfied with Yudhishthira's sincerity and devotion to them. But they could not be pleased with Bheema, who outwardly followed Yudhishthira's orders but turns unpleasant by seeing Dhritharaashtra. Out of his hatred towards his uncle's earlier partiality against them, he kept on growing his grudge against him.

Thus Dhritharaashtra enjoyed equal reverence as Yudhishthira from all the people. Still, whenever he thought of his sons, he would feel unpleasant about Bheema. Similarly, Bheema too kept considering him cruel and wicked and so didn't approve of his honour. Quite iften, Bheema privately effected some displeasures to Dhritharaashtra. He instigated his confidants to defy the old king's words too. Growing impatient and angry when he thought of Duryodhana, Karna or Dushshaasana, he would clap his shoulders with his hands and say to his fellows, within hearing of the old couple, 'See my terrible hands that resemble iron posts. Between these unchallengeable hands, I crushed Duryodhana and his followers to their death. See how beautiful these hands look with sandal paste smeared on them. With these two powerful hands, I killed all the sons of the blind king.' Likewise, he would utter many severe words alluding to the old couple. All this happened without Yudhishthira's knowledge. Nor did Arjuna or Kunthi or Droupadi or The Twins knew that. Both Dhritharaashtra and Gaandhaari silently heard Bheema's censuring remarks but kept silent about it half due to helplessness and half due to guilty conscience.


Thus Dhritharaashtra spent fifteen years under Yudhishthira's care and protection. By that time Dhritharaashtra became vexed with Bheema's biting comments. He could not bear that humiliation any more. Oneday, he called for all his near ones and spoke to them with tears in his eyes.

" You all knew how the Kuru clan perished due to my own folly. It was my mistake to post Duryodhana in the leadership of the Kurus, despite knowing him to be immature and hateful. Krishna advised me to punish my son and his followers but I turned a deaf ear to his words. Doting too much to my son, I refused to listen to the advice given by Vidura, Bheeshma, Drona, Kripa, Sanjaya, sage Vyaasa and queen Gaandhaari. That burns my heart even now. I didn't allot to my good Paandavas their due share in the ancestral kingdom. Krishna foresaw the destruction of all the kings and advised me to give Paandavas' share to them, yet I didn't consider to follow his word. I have been bearing all such follies of me for the last many years. Now in this fifteenth year, I see their gravity increase. To cleanse myself of those sins, I have been adopting many penitentiary practices. I have been eating or drinking a little, just enough to quench my thirst, either late in the day or late in the night. Gaandhaari knows that. But I keep an external appearance of taking my food as usual, which my servants too think to be true. Lest Yudhishthira should feel sad. I sleep on the floor on the reeds, tucked in stag-skins, I am keeping myself engaged in chanting and prayers. Unfortunately I lost my hundred sons who died unswerving in the battles. I am not sorry for their end, as they followed the code of true Kshathriyas.'

Having said this to his men, Dhritharaashtra then talked to Yudhishthira.

" My son, Yudhishthira! May good come upon you. Listen to my words. I have been carefully protected by you for these many years. I have made all possible alms and donations. All rituals for our ancestors are made to my satisaction. Many holy deeds are accomplished. Gaandhaari bravely stood by me despite her grief from loss of all her sons. They all, in fact, caused insult to Droupadi and stole your wealth. They met the fate they deserved falling dead in war showing commitment to our code. Nothing to be done for them I can see. What remains now is to take care of my own self and my course to the other world. So for Gaandhaari too. You need permit us to proceed on that purpose. You are our king now and a king is like an elder to all. Hence your accord is needded. You are master of all codes and conducts. You are always righteous and you know what is to be done by whom and also the when and the how of it. If you grant us permission, I wish to retire to the forests with Gaandhaari wearing barks and deer-skins. You also know that this is the practice of Kshathriyas that they leave their wordly wealth to their sons and spend their last years in the forests engaging with sages. I too will so retire to solace in the woods and spend there in penance, with water or air as my food or even without food at all, all the while praying for your well-being. The result of my penance there will devolve upon you too, as the king receives the share in the results of the good or bad acts of his subjects."

Yudhishthira felt extremely sad. He said to his uncle ." King! Learning your grief and trouble, I am unable to manage myself. With you like this, this empire and wealth don't please me. What a fool I am! I have been so much immursed in my affairs that I could not at all come to know of your grief and your fasting. Nor did my brothers seem to have known this. You made me so trust with your appearance that you are all well but I am deceived by that external show. You are my father, mother, teacher and all. And your speech tells that you are upset and unwell.If you are unwell like this, what comfort can my empire or its pleasures or my sacrifices offer me? Without you, how can we live? In fact, you are the real king. I am only an attendant of you. You may rule this empire yourself and order me to go to the forests. Or, you may install your own son Yuyuthsu or any other one of your choice on the throne. I have no grudge in my heart against Duryodhana for his misdeeds. We and they were all forced by our bad stars to behave then like that. We all are your sons just like Duryodhana and others. Both Kunthi and Gaandhaari are equal to me. If you decide to leave us and go, my dear king, I will follow you , I swear upon my honour. even the entire world without you cannot make me happy. I pray you with my head bent low before you, my Lord, may your inner suffering vanish. We are all yours. We will serve you better and make you happier. Please do not leave us orphans."

Dhritharaashtra simply said, " Yudhishthira! No flaw on your part. You have served me for many years with sincere devotion which made me feel safe and happy. Now my mind prefers penance to the wordly life. Isn't this the practice of our ancestors too? I am old enough to do that now. May you accord me permission." Thus saying to him, the old king addressed the other people there. " Sanjaya! Kripa! I request you both to convince our king to permit me to retire. I am weakening. My mouth is drying due to too much talk and physical debilitation from my age." With these words, he slid onto Gaandhaari's shoulder falling out of his senses. Yudhishthira was agitated to see that old man like that and he burst into crying. " Alas! a man whose strength equals that of a ten thousand elephants, now drops himself motionless upon his wife's shoulder. He who could clasp to powder the iron statue of Bheema, now rests on a woman's shoulder. To hell with my power, knowledge and discretion! It is due to me that this old king came to this unbecoming stage now! I too go without food until the old king and queen take theirs."

Then Yudhishthira dabbed the old king's face and chest with his palm dipped in cold water. With that touch of his hand bearing powerful gems and smelling sweet, Dhritharaashtra slowly regained his senses. And said, " My son! Keep on touching me with your hand. I feel as if coming back to life with that soothing touch. I strongly wish to embrace you with my hands and kiss your head too. But I cannot move my hands as I have not eaten for eight days. And the trouble of this much talk to you made me sick and fall. Your touch revived me again. It is like the ambrosia to me. "

Hearing his words, Yudhishthira soothingly touched all over his uncle's body as if treating him out of his physical and mental grief. Gaining strength a bit, the old man took the king into his hands and kissed him on the head. Vidura and others there too wept aloud seeing the old man's plight. They could not speak anything. Gaandhaari could hold herself with much effort but simply said,'shouldn't have happened like this.' Kunthi and other women there stood around them with their eyes full of tears.

Dhritharaashtra again told Yudhishthira. " King! I cannot speak much again and again. It is not fair on your part to bother me more. Kindly allow us to proceed to retirement to forests for penance."

As he was saying like that again, all the men around them burst into a bitter wailing. Yudhishthira was unable to control himself. Amidst sobs, he requested the old man. " My Father! My king! I cannot do so. I cannot enjoy the empire or even my life in your absence. I prefer caring for your desire to any other thing in the world. If you have any affection on me, If I am your beloved one, please take food first and then we will think about this."

But Dhritharaashtra insisted, " I will do so only after your permission to me for retiring."


As the the uncle and the nephew were thus talking to each other, sage Vyaasa made his appearance there. They all stood up in respect and reverently offered him all the formal worships. After the formal reception was over, Vyaasa spoke to Yudhishthira.

" Yudhishthira! Let Dhritharaashtra do what he now wishes to do. He has been old enough to do that. He lost all his sons. He will not be able to bear that grief any longer, as I see. Alas, Gaandhaari too, is bereived bitterly, but she holds herself with commendable courage. I too advise you to allow him to do as he likes. Lest he should have an unworthy death at home. Let him follow the path of ancient saintly kings. Going to the forests in the end is their common practice. It is the fittest recourse for him now during the last years of his life."

Yudhishthira contained his sorrow and answered the sage with folded hands. " Sage! You are the utmost guide to our entire clan. You are my teacher and my elder too. Your word is our duty. I am just like a son to you and a son should only obey his father's words. I can noway oppose your word. "

Vyaasa further said. " You spoke truth. This man has become ripen with age. Now he thinks of the ultimate goal of life. I allow his wish, you too grant him permission for his renunciation. Do not hinder him out of your attachment to him. This is the accepted custom for Kshathriya. Either to lay his life in war or leave the body ritually in the forests. There need not be any feeling that he has not enjoyed the wordly pleasures. During your father Paandu's reign, he served this man like a disciple does a teacher. During those days, he performed many sacrifices with huge gifts to the priests and the public. He enjoyed the kingship and ruled the subjects to his satiation. Also during your exile, he again enjoyed the pleasures of the empire for thirteen full years, performing rites and giving alms. Later, in your rule too, he has done all that is eligible and all that is desired. Of all, he and his wife were served by you, your brothers, your wives and your men, to their sincere satisfaction. Never think that he is dissatisfied or angry with you. There is not even a trace of such feeling in his heart against you. You had better let him go for penance."

Thus convincing Yudhishthira and making him concede his assent to his uncle's retiring to forests, sage Vyaasa left that place. Yudhishthira told Dhritharaashtra in a feeble voice. " Sir! I will do as is told by Vyaasa, you, Vidura,Sanjaya and Yuyuthsu, as you all are wellwishers to our clan. But I humbly pray, eat something first and then you will go to hermitage." Dhritharaashtra accepted and left for his inner apartments with Gaandhaari, moving with slow and unfirm steps like a debilitated old elephant. Vidura and Kripa follwed him. He attended to his morning rituals, worshipped Braahmanas to their pleasure and then ate his food. Gaandhaari too was attended by Kunthi and other women and took her food. Paandavas, Vidura and others too had their food and sat around Dhritharaashtra. Then Dhritharaashtra spoke to Yudhishthira sitting beside him, stroking him on his back with his palm.


" King! You know that an empire based on virtue comprises eight faculties (king,counsellors,allies,treasury, territory,army, forts and jury). In its administration you need be most careful, since kinghood is protected only by virtue. You know this already but ny affection tells you again, please listen to me.

" you always honor and worship the learned people who are good at policies. Visit them or grant them audience every morning. Respect them always as your elders. Seek their advice at times of need and do as they say without any hesitation as such people will prescribe only what is good to you. you keep your senses under control. Kept in that status, they will help you like moneies amassed for future use. For all assignments, always employ your counsellors who are recruited from their respective lineal descendents but only after thoroughly putting them to tests to your satisfaction that they are pure,pious and able in al respects . Plant your well-tested and dependable spies whereever you need, without being noticed by others. But be careful in selecting the soiep, they should be able to stand against the probes of the subjects where they work.'

" Your city shall be well protected with tall surrounding walls with many observation points at all sides. There shall be six-tier protection to the capital city. All its entry gates shall be wide and large, well partitioned and well equipped with defence mechanisms. Your works shall be taken care of by well tested and well established employees. You must excercise good care always about yourself regarding food, sleep etc. Your guards of inner apartments shall be of advanced years, pure character and good learning. They shall be given the responsibility of guarding the women folk during the times of their food, sleep and entertainments.'

" Your advisors shall be preferably learned Braahmanas of humility and with mastery over dharma and artha. Consult with them before you decide things, some times with some, some times with all, some times with only one, but neither for too long nor with too many. Your consulting place shall be a well enclosed one. A terrace of the palace or in a forest without any shurbs around is still better. Never sit for consulting at night times. Monkeys and birds that can immitate humans, the dumb, the dull, the lame and the like should be avoided in a place of consultation. I believe that the evils springing from leakages of consultations cannot be remedied by any way. You should time and again mention with your counsels about the troubles coming from leakage of secret consultations and the advantages of their remaining secret.

" You should arrange for educating your subjects of towns and villages, about good and bad and right and wrong. The affairs of criminal and legal administration shall be carried out everyday, without fail and without postponement. They should be done with the assistance of your close, learned, pleased and able well-wishers. Your officers should judge the crime and its suitable punishment based on principles of virtue and justice. The degree of punishement imposed on the offenders should be in proportion with the offence. Such offenders like bribe-mongers, adulterers, trouble-makers, rowdies, rumour-raisers, liers, false imputers, the greedy, thieves and way-layers, encroachers or destroyers of public places, violators of their duties(prescribed to their class), shall be punished either with monetary imposition or capital punishment, depending on the place, time and person in question.

"In the first hours of the day itself, you should complete the affairs relating to income and expenditure and to the persons in charge of those subjects. Next should follow your personal matters like dressing and food. Next to that, you should meet your generals to please them with praise and honour. In the late evening, you should see your spies bringing news from different places. Midday and midnight should be your liesure time for your personal pleasures. Late night hours are suitable for consider decision-making in respect of news received through your spies. And, at times, any affair can be taken up at any hour depending on the need of the hour. The business of state administration is like a turning wheel. It has continuous engagements. You should always appear in your regal attire with all the regalia and retinue.

"You should amass your treasury through means within justice and virtue, but should always avoid the other way. Always secure information about your enemies that are looking for your lacunae and take steps to emply your confidants to settle with them, before they can act. Select your personnel only after testing their performance in executing the tasks given to them. And, entrust jobs to them according to the standards of their ability and knowledge. Your generals should be valorous, gallant, faithful, perseverent, enduring and well-wishing. All the craftsmen and workers in your state should be groomed to attend to your regal work as hard as domesticated animals like bulls and donkeys. You should be constantly as cautious about demerits of you and your people as about those in others and their men. If you come to know about any of your subjects outstanding in their works, you should incite them by awarding suitable recognitions, thereby endearing them to you. A tested and established worker shall not be bothered with unwarranted scrutinies.

Dhritharaashtra continued. "Yudhishthira! You should always be as well conscious of the alliances among the supporters, enemies and neutrals of you as the same among those of your enemies. Be aware of your enemies of four types (1.enemy, 2.enemy's friend, 3.enemy's sympathiser and 4.common sympathiser), every attacker, every friend and every friend of your friends. Evince good care in watching your supporters, provinces,forts and forces to ensure that they are not influenced by your enemies. A king has twelve (4 types of enemies as listed above, 6 types of attackers like house-blazers etc., friend, enemy's enemy) objects to concentrate upon. There are seventy two attributes in case of counsels, some to possess and some to shed (agriculture etc-8, truce etc-20, atheism etc-14, consulting etc-18, total sixty. Taking the king's objects and counsel's traits, the total objects are 72. Elaboration in Shukra-Neethi-Saaram). And the king's six (truce, war, march or campaign, to remain at home, dualistic approach and surrendering) policies rest on the alliances I mentioned just now. From these seventy two objects in all, all the derivatives from the six policies are to be observed by a king. Always take care of the two aspects namely, increase (vridhi) and decrease (kshaya) of strength or resources. When his own side is strong and his enemy's side is weaker, a king should opt for a war and win. In the converse case,a wise king shouldprefer truce. When the time is found suitable yo march against the enemy, no time shall be wasted before accumulating resources. Never should a king concede his land to enemy normally. In case a king has to yield some territory to his foe, he should concede such land that yields little. If a friend is weak, a king should supply lots of money to him. And, as much money as possible should be extracted from an enemy ( These last two sentences can be read like this too, due to variations in text - When forced to forego gold to his foe, a king should give impure gold. When forced to forego some force, he should give the less powerful part of his forces.). But, when it is his chance to demand lands or gold or forces, he should be careful in selecting the fertile lands, pure gold and strong forces. While negotiating truce proposal from a (defeated) king, it is good to have the enemy's son as a hostage (or pledge). But he should not do so usually when it comes to him. Even if forced to do so, in case of any danger, his secure releasing must be tried for, by all means and through all strategies.

" Always show interest in caring for the underprivileged class of the subjects. Even while protecting his own kingdom, a king should try to employ one or some or many of his means to subdue his enemy, causing harassment or causing immobility to him or causing revenue loss to him. But a prospering king should never aim at troubling a tributory or subordinate ruler. Thinking of troubling them is not proper for a king that wishes to gain more and more lands. You should constantly look to the possibilities of bringing differences among your foes and their allies, through the means of harbouring the good and punishing the bad, with the help of your counsels. A strong king should not always be at harassing the weaker kings, as that leads to unrest. If you are attacked by a stronger enemy, ten follow the course adopted by a cane wire against a spating river ( a spating current of river can uproot the erect trees but cannot harm a bending cane wire). In such a case, try to abstain him slowly through the policies of conciliation or ceding or differences, but never try to deter him through the means of force. However, if such strong foe remains insusceptible to all such means, then the only course is to rush for a war with all the resources at disposal, like supporters, treasury,forces and subjects. If all these fail to bring the desired result, then, a king should jump into the war even with the support of his lone physical power. That leads to fulfilment of the highest purpose of this body. Salvation too comes only through that."

Dhritharaashtra further continued. "King! You need care for the policiy of Truce and War too. This policy has two origins, has many ways to implement and various results. The enemy being strong or weak are the two origins for this policy. You should assess both ways, about your strength and weakness and those of your enemy too. After stabilising your position first, you should draw up your course. Understand that an enemy whose forces are spirited and powerful, is confident and composed. If he happens to be in a position to suppress you, you should avoid any confrontation with him. If you firmly know him to be otherwise, adopt the course of war. Learning him to be weak, you should try to overpower him through means like causing direct harm to him or attracting his friends towards you or snatching his wealth or threatening him or decimating his forces in war. A king intending a campaign against his enemy must assess the three types of strengths of his own as well as his enemy's. A campaighn should be undertaken only if he finds himself superior to his enemy in all the three faculties i.e. strength of ruler, strength of enthusiasm and strength of the counsels. In the converse case, he should keep quiet."

"A king should accumulate various forces and keep them ready for use at call. The forces may be basic, allied,paid, gathered or sundry (Basic forces are those in the king's service through recruitment on permanent basis. Allied forces are those sent by allies for assistance in case of need as per their agreement or friendship. Paid forces are those hired on wages temporarily for a purpose. Gathered forces are those brought from their keepers at a payment to the keepers. Sundry forces or those formed from the recruitees selected from forests and deeper lands.). Of all these, basic and allied are better than the others. Paid and gathered ones are similar, in my view. Generally, all the kings have similar levels of espionage strength. A king should properly know about these forces at the time of their considering for use. "

"Also, the perils are of various sources and forms. A king should know thouroughly about them too. Any damage caused by any peril shall be properly assessed and rectifying steps ahould be taken, but it it is not advisable to disregrd them as minor or unaffecting. A king going on a campaign should first he himself be active and cheerful. He should take with him forces that comprise soldiers with strength and spirit and those who can sustain stays in various places and in various seasons. For a king strong in all the aspects with no flaw whatsoever, the time of the year is immaterial to undertake a campaign. In order to destroy an enemy, a king should employ the river of his forces, of which the horses and chariots are the current, the flags and banners are the shores rubbed by the current, the soldiers are the elephants trampling the earth and forming mud."

"Depending the circumstances, the forces should be arrayed into the various formations like Padma (lotus), Vajra (diamond), Shakata (cart) and others as described by Shukra. Fully exhibiting his own force and fully studying the enemy's forces too, a king should start war either in his land or in the enemy's land. A king should please his forces always. Strong healthy and sincere persons should be taken into its service. After coming to a clear assessment of his own affairs,status and convenience or otherwise, a king should adopt any of the four ( 1.conciliation, 2.conceding, 3.seeding differences and 4. war) policies that suits him. Most importantly, a king should ensure his physical protection and safety always by all means. It is through this body that one achieves the purposes of living in this world and makes way to higher status in the next world. the ultimate principle is that a king that performed a thousand Ashvamedha sacrifices cannot achieve more than one who endeared himself to his subjects by ruling them perfectly according to virtue and justice. Following the principles of administration of the empire like this, a king wins this world while alive and wins the next world after this life. Though you were thoroughly taught and instructed by such scholars as Vidura, Krishna and Bheeshma, I too am to advise you likewise, as a matter of my duty due to my affection towards you." Dhritharaashtra concluded.

Yudhishthira responded , "Sir, I desire that you instruct me further in this. With grandsire Bheeshma gone, Krishna being away from me and you preparing to leave alongwith Vidura and Sanjaya, who will be there to advise me like this? I promise to bear your instructions in my mind and to practise them rightly."

Then Dhritharaashtra granted leave to Yudhishthira to leave. 'Son, Take rest. I too am very tired due to too much speaking.' Saying this, the old king went into his inner apartments with Gaandhaari.


As he was seated there, the noble queen asked him in a pleasing tone, "King! Sage Vyaasa himself allowed you to retire to the forests. Even Yudhishthira accorded to the sage's word. When are we going to leave for hermitage?"

He replied,"Yes, my father Vyaasa allowed me to retire to the forests. I am going to do so in a short time, after taking Yudhishthira's permission too. But, before that, I wish to call for all our subjects in the city for a final hearing to them and obtain their accordance too. Also, I need perform the rituals to all our worthless gambler sons too, for the last time, before renouncing the household." Saying that, he sent a word to Yudhishthira to arrange for that. Yudhishthira promptly called for all classes of the subjects. Braahmanas, Kshathriyas, Vyshyas and Shoodras all attended the king's call. Dhritharaashta came out and gave audience to the group comprising all subjects from all segments of the empire.

(It was customary for a king, though not essentially a de facto ruler, about to renounce, to call the representatives of his subjects and obtain their leave too, as also from his family members and relatives. This second part of the custom is common for any householder about to go to hermitage.- Tr)

He respectfully greeted them all and said,"My dear people of all classes! You and the kings of our race have lived together for many ages in an affectionate manner, each interested in the welfare of the other. I believe that the love and respect that exist between you and us are nowhere seen between any other rulers and subjects. I request you all to listen to my word thst fits the time and accord me your permission without altering my decision. I prefer retiring to the forests for hermitage along with my queen Gaandhaari ,at the permission of sage Vyaasa and our king Yudhishthira too. I pray you all too, to permit me to do so. I have become old enough that my mind is now calm and unaffected. Bereft of all my sons, I spent these years with observing fastings and rituals. We both are emaciated physically and mentally too. After Yudhishthira came to the throne, I live more happily and more satisfied, than under care of my son Duryodhana himself. For a blind old man who lost all his sons, what recourse is there other than retiring to the forests? I repeat my request that you all may kindly allow me to take the final leave from you."

Hearing his pitiable words, the men there shed tears from their eyes but could not speak anything. Seeing them all filled with sorrow, the old king himself spoke again. " You all might have heard or some of you might have even seen, how the great king Shanthanu ruled this land for many years. Next to him, his son and my father Vichithraveerya under Bheeshma's guardianship, ruled to his best. You know, how my younger brother Paandu endeared himself to you by ruling virtuefully, leaving all the authority to me, though he was the actual ruler. I too, subject to my inabilities, served you well or badly, for which you may kindly bear with me. When Duryodhana began to enjoy this empire without any opponent, did the foolish prince show any misbehaviour with you? It was due to his folly that all the Kshathriyas of this country met a devastating destruction. My role in that, whether good or bad, you all may please pardon and ignore, I implore you. Considering me as an old man or a blind man or one bereft of his sons or the descendent from your kings' lineage, you please aloow me to take the course I declared. And this old queen Gaandhaari too, unfortunately losing all her sons and becoming decimated with that great grief, requests you for the same through me. It is upto you to take care of our present king Yudhishthira, through good and bad times. However, he who has his four valorous and virtuous brothers as his aides, will never fall into bad times. He will protect you all as the god Brahma does all the beings in the creation. Though it is not necessary to tell expressly, I tell you all as a matter of formality, I entrust my son Yudhishthira to you. I entrust you all to him too, at the same time. I again pray you with folded hands, to forgive me, my disobedient sons and any one belonging to me for any trouble caused to you, knowingly or unknowingly. I am greatfully aware that you were never dissatisfied with me. My thankful obedience to such loving subjects as you. For the acts of my greedy and unthoughtful sons , I and my queen both appologise to you, requesting to allow us to leave."

The citizens were moved to the core at the the old king's helpless appeal. Everybody of them wept, kept looking at one another and remained silent but none could speak anything as an answer to his appeal. Looking them weping and sobbing but unable to speak, Dhritharaashtra himself spoke again. "I grew to a ripe old age. My sons were all killed in the war. I and my wife have been suffering this sorrow for all these years. As a final measure for peace of mind and for making way to the next world, I desided to retire to hermitage. Sage Vyaasa and the virtueful Yudhishthira too accorded to my request. We both pray you again and again to permit us to leave. You may kindly allow us to do so."

The audience kept on weeping, some covering their faces with their upper garments and some with their hands. Hearing the news of the old king's decision to leave them, thay all became like senseless for a while. Slowly coming to normal state, they talked to one another about their opinions and finally selected an old and Rik-veda scholar named Saamba to formally offer their representative response to the king. The wise and learned old Braahmana obtained the approval of the audience, blessed to the king conveyed the common response to the king as following.

"King, I am asked to convey the reply of these people to you. You may please listen. All you said is true to every letter of it. We are pleased with you and you are affectionate to us. In your lineage, no ruling king was known to be disagreeable to his subjects. All the kings of your dynasty ruled us like the parents protecting their own children or elder brothers guarding their younger siblings. Even Duryodhana too, did not do anything unseemly to the people. He too protected us like Shanthanu, Chithraangada under Bheeshma's care and by Paandu under your subordination. Not a minute disturbance did he cause to us the subjects who lived happily in his rule like the children taken care of their father. You know well as to how we the people behaved with the kings of your race. We are confident that we will live happily for thousand years under the able and noble Yudhishthira's care and protection. He will continue the great and honourable tradition of the celebrated kings of your dynasty like Kuru, Bharatha and many.

The Braahmana continued ." King! I will convey our answer about the two aspects you mentioned. The first one about the folly of your son that brought the destruction of Kshathriyas. Though it looks as if Duryodhana or Karna or Shakuni or you caused all that, we see no fault of any one of you in that. We all believe that what had happened was just as ordained by the destiny, which no human effort can alter. Eihgteen Akshouhinis were razed to ashes in a span of just eighteen days. Such a horrendous destruction could not be a result of just any human effort but all those warriors like Bheeshma, Drona,Kripa, Karna, Saathyaki, Dhrishtadyumna, Paandavas or Ashvaththaama, involved in it were simply the pawns in the game of destiny.Also, it is the bounden duty of a Kshathriya to fight and die in war. As a matter of their duty, they took part in killing of kings, their elephants and horses. Duryodhana or you or Karna or Shakuni cannot be put to blame for that. Believe that all the course of destruction was bidden by god. Who can stand in its way? Your son who fell in the war alongwith his brave followers must have surely attained the heaven meant for martyrs of war. We clearly express that you or your son are not guilty of anything.

" And the second aspect we wish to speak about is your entrusting Yudhishthira to us. You rightly said that we should stand by him through thick and thin. He is eligible to rule even the heaven , what to say about mortal empire? Paandavas will respect and protect all the endowments and conferments given to Braahmanas. They are soft towards good people and like cobras in case of bad ones. They are all interested in welfare of the subjects. Yudhishthira is well cultured, soft hearted and farsighted. His counsels are acceptable to the world. Noble at heart, he is merciful to the low and affectionate to the near and dear. Due to his control and instruction added to their original character, his brothers too never cause any trouble to the subjects. They are capable of bringing even the bad into the path of the good. Neither Kunthi nor Droupadi nor Uloopi nor Subhadra will ever look down us. And your bond of love with us will be further strengthened by Yudhishthira which the people of this Kuru empire will never slacken or forget. You need not worry at all about Yudhishthira. And finally, about your renunciation. After the sage Vyaasa said a word, there cannot be anything against it. He is mentor to all of us. You can obey his words. Even though we will be missing your companionship in future, we are all with one mind an agreeing to your proposal of renunciation. We will be talking about your goodness and friendship with us. You take up the path of penance and do good deeds. May you attain higher status in this world as well as in the next one. We all are in agreement with what you said. May good befall upon you."

All the audience aprreciated the appropriate response conveyed on their behalf by the Braahmana and praised him for his nice expression. Dhritharaashtra too accepted the permission of the people and felt happy. He thanked the people and the Braahmana Saamba too and sent them off with due formalities. They all left the old king showering blessings on him. He then entered his mansion with his queen.


Early the following mornning, Dhritharaashtra sent a word to Yudhishthira through Vidura who went to him and said, "Yudhishthira! Our old king says that he is going to go to hermitage in the coming month of Kaarthikam (eigth lunar month, usually corresponding to present Gregarian calender's October-November months. - Tr) He wants some money for performing the shraaddha(=rituals made in memory and service of the dead dear ones, intending their going to heaven. -Tr) in memory of his dear ones like Bheeshma,Drona, Somadaththa, Baahlika, his own sons and Jayadratha too, if you permit."

Yudhishthira was pleased to hear those words. So was Arjuna. But Bheema furiously objected for that, still sore about his cunning uncle for his partiality towards them and the adversities they were to suffer from him. Arjuna understood Bheema's mood, leaned a bit towards him and said to him in a low and convincing voice. "Brother! I know you are against the old king's request. And I also know that you have your sound reasons to deny that. But, think of him and his pitiable state. The old man wants to satisfy his dear dead ones like Bheeshma. He wants to do so with the money earned by you. Though we once asked him for something in vain, now he himself is to ask us for something.See the turn of the things and time! Having once been the ruler of the entire earth, he is going to retire to the forests in distress about life, bereft of hif sons and grandsons, you may kindly give him what he asks. Do not deny. You are the one that gives but not the one that takes. Refusing his request will mark a blemish upon your character and it is against justice and virtue too. In this matter, youjust follow our brother Yudhishthira."

Yudhishthira applauded Arjuna's righteous words. But Bheema did not change his stand. He remained still angry. He refuted Arjuna's words saying, "If the offers be given to the manes, we ourselves will do so for Bheeshma, Baahlika, Somadaththa, Bhoorishravas, Drona and any others. Mother Kunthi will do for Karna. But Dhritharaashtra need not and should not do that. My mind is that Duryodhana and his followers brought this destruction to the empire and let them go to the worst of the worst worlds. May my enemies too not find fault with me if I say this. How could you ever forget our miseries of the exile in woods for twelve years, one year incognito and of all Droupadi's insults? Where did Dhritharaashtra's affection on us go then? When you followed Yudhishthira to the forests, devoid of garments and ornaments, clad in deer skins and followed by Droupadi, where did these fellows Somadaththa, Drona or Bheeshma go? When they left us to our fate to live in the forests by eating forest food for tweleve years, Dhritharaashtra's avuncular affection did not fall upon you to come to rescue. Did you forget even what he kept on asking Vidura during the dice game? Wasn't he each time asking Vidura, 'What did we win now?' How could you forget all this and honour the request of this destroyer of our clan?"

Yudhishthira heard the harsh words of Bheema whose anger against the old king was still fresh but he simply ordered him to be quiet. Arjuna again pleaded with Bheema trying to convince him. " Bheema, you are elder to me. I cannot say more to you. Dhritharaashtra is an aged person of our regal clan. He deserves our respect and honour. Men of right character and of interest in following the right customs will never remember the wrong deeds of others though they always keep in mind their good ones. You gad better decide in te right way." But Bheema did not slacken his mind. Yudhishthira heard Arjuna's words and observed Bheema's reluctance to agree. He said to Vidura. "Sir, You tell our old king as my word that he may take as much as he needs from my own treasury. I will give whatever he needs for making offers to the dead like Bheeshma and others. Let Bheema not displease himself over this." Yudhishthira again said to Vidura as if appologising for Bheema's conduct. "Sir, Do not mind Bheema's behaviour. Let the old king too not mind this. Bheema suffered unbearable miseries in the forest, scalding in the sun, drenching in the rains and shivering from the cold winds. You and the king both know that. Plead him to be satisfied with my monies and pray him not to be agitated by Bheema's acts lead by anger, sorrow and vengeance. Tell him that he is the master of anything that lies in my house or Arjuna's. Also tell my word that my body wealth and empire are all his. Tell him to donate freely to the Braahmanas and to spend as much as he likes. We will be happy if he frees fromself from the debt to his manes and the dead dear ones." Saying this, Yudhishthira praised Arjuna for his righteous words but Bheema just looked at Arjuna with an askance.

Vidura returned to Dhritharaashtra and conveyed what had happened at Yudhishthira. "King! Yudhishthira heard your message and he was very happy about that. He admired your decision of offering to the manes. Arjuna too appreciated that. They both offered their household, wealth, life and enpire to your use at will. But, Bheema, still angry with you like a hissing snake about the past miseries, did not agree but Yudhishthira and Arjuna somehow made him silent. He appeared as if allowing this with much displeasure to his mind. Yudhishthira sent a message to you like this. 'Father! Do not mind Bheema's unbecoming behaviour emanating from his anger caused by his earlier miseries. He always sticks to Kshathriya code and war. And the code of Kshathriyas is verily this. I and Arjuna offer appologies on behalf of him. You are the lord of whatever exists at our disposal. My empire and my life are given to you. You may spend as much and as long as you like. You may order from my stocks, for monies, gems, men, maids,cows, sheep and goat. Donate villages to Braahmanas and make offerings to your dead sons. Donate generously any alms to any one in need.' And he told me to order to set up halls for offering free food and drink to people, sheds for cows to donate grass and water and anything you need and desire. I await your further orders."

Dhritharaashtra listened to Vidura's message from Yudhishthira and became pleased with Yudhishthira and Arjuna for their goodness. He decided to start the peformance of alms and donation in that coming month of Kaarthikam.

Vyshampaayana continued to Janamejaya.
" On the day fixed for offerings, alms and donations, Dhritharaashtra began to perform the rituals in sequence. He called for thousands of Braahmanas eligible for the donations. Followin the systematic procedures, he first offered them food and water to their satiation. Later, he donatedvehicles, garments,gold,gems, jewels, maids, servants, goats, sheep, rugs, villages,fields, elephants with all decoration, horses and other things, in the name of each of the dead, naming every one like Bheeshma, Drona,Baahlika, Somadaththa, Duryodhana, his brothers, their sons, Jayadratha and other relatives and friends. The alms performance went on with Yudhishthira's accord for many days. Yudhishthira's accountants always kept on asking Dhritharaashtra, as ordered by their king, 'Sir, What shall we bring? How much is to be brought? What should be given to these people?' The men at duty posted by Yudhishthira were very generous to the occasion and they obeyed Yudhishthira's words to the core, giving a thousand in place of hundred and a lakh in place of a thousand. Thus performing the alms-giving occasion, he next called for the people of all orders. He arranged for delicious foods and drinks to them all. Following it, he gave away alms, to every one that came and asked for, clothes, monies, gems and any other thing prayed for. Thus the old king looked like a cloud raining gems and monies on the people. After that he performed the rituals in memory of his manes and those of his wife Gaandhaari too. His donation and alms went uninterrupted for a good ten days and he declared it closed, feeling tired of it. In that manner, he relieved himself of the debt to his manes and dead sons.


And as the month of Kaarthikam commenced, one morning, Dhritharaashtra called for the Paandavas and talked to them along with Gaandhaari. He asked his priests to perform the renunciation rituals which were accordingly done punctiliously. His house was adorned with (laajas) parched grains. He gifted all his attendants and workers with many things to their satisfaction and moved. He kept his househod fires (Agni or fire is of three types,Aahavaneeya,Dakshina and gaarhapathya, the last being the one referred here. It means the fire of a householder which he maintains continuously at home or at hermit till he adopts the last and fourth order sanyaasa. It is used for carrying out all the sacrifcial performances. -Tr) ahead of him and started walking out of his mansion, clad in bark-made garment. Vidura and Sanjaya too took up the vow of penance and followed him. All the women folk followed themm weeping and wailing. The sound of their weeping was heard well out of the palaces. Seeing him walking out away, Yudhishthira could not contain himself. He shouted with a sobbing voice, 'Father! Where are you going!' and fell down on the ground. Arjuna , he himself in an uncontrollable grief, rushed to him and caught hold of him, sighing and weeping. Bheema, Kripa, The Twins, Vidura, Sanjaya,Yuyuthsu, Dhoumya and other Braahmanas, all slowly walked behind the old king. Gaandhaari, with a ribbon tied over her eyes, held Kunthi by her shoulder and Dhritharaashtra himself held Gaandhaari's shoulder and they walked slowly out of the palace. Droupadi, Subhadra, Uththara with her little son, Dussala, Chithraangada and other ladies of the harem walked by foot alongwith them. Hearing the noise of weeping of the royal women, women folk of the city too came out and followed them, weeping and mourning. Such women of the city, who never saw the son or moon too, did walk along the main streets of the city, wailing over the old and blind king's departure. Amidst those sounds of weeping and shouting, the old king went on, with trembling feet and with folded hands in reverence to the subjects of the empire. The heart-rending noise of weeping of women looked similar to that arose when Paandavas went to the forests with Droupadi.

Dhritharaashtra came out of his city of Hasthipuram through one of its main gates. From there, he repeatedly told the folks to return. When all the citizens were sent back, he similarly sent back Kripa and Yuyuthsu too, entrusting them to Yudhishthira. After all of them returned, Yudhishthira was about to take leave from the departing king. He went to his mother Kunthi and pleaded. " Mother! Why do you leave us? Since the king is firm on adopting penances, let him go to forests. I will follow him. You may go back with the ladies to the city to live with your sons." Kunthi's eyes spurted out tears at her son's pleading but she kept on walking with Gaandhaari. Yet, she told him,'Yudhishthira! You are the king for many years. Never displease Sahadeva. He is a pet to me and he respects you too heartily. Do not forget your elder brother Karna who was fond of wars but fell in the war, his luck and talent departing him at the same time. My heart must have been made of iron, otherwise it would have broken into pieces at the loss of sight my eldest son gifted by Sun god. Nothing was in my hands. What could have I done if the destiny is like this? It was my illluck and sinful mistake that I could not declare him to the world as my son from Sun god. Keep giving alms and donations in his name always alongwith your brothers. Please Droupadi always. Keep Bheema, Arjuna and Nakula too happy. The weight of fame and name of our clan now rests on you. For me, I will serve these elders in the forests and observe penance alongwith them."

Yudhishthira could not speak anything for a while. He kept as if thinking for some time and said again to her. "Why did you decide like this? I will not agree to your leaving us. please be kind to us and stay with us. Then you goaded us through Krishna, with Vidula's words and encouraged us for war thereby making us kill all the kings in the war. But, now, you want to go to the forests. What was the purpose of all that you did then? You taught us about the Kshathriya duty and you yourself now deviate from that, by choosing to avoid the wealth earned by your sons through acceptable means." Kunthi heard all her sons words but she kept on going, her eyes still leaving tears down her cheeks. Bheema too prayed to her mother. "When all your sons won the empire for you, you should enjoy the wealth. You should guide them in their regal duties. But, why do you leave us? Why were we made to do all this ? Why did you direct us to destroy the kings and decide to leave for the forests? In the beginning itself, when we were very young kids, why did you bring us and The Twins from the forests to the city? Mother! Please show mercy on us. Come and staywith us enjoying Yudhishthira's wealth and empire." But Kunthi was firm about her decision and she kept on walking, still weeping too. Droupadi and Subhadra too,entreated teir mother-in-law to come back, but she walked on, looking at her sons again and again. Seeing Yudhishthira, his brothers, their wives, the other ladies and the maids still following her pleading to return, Kunthi wiped her eyes and said to them. "Yes, my sons! I goaded you harshly then when I found you depressed and devoid of efforts to retain your status. When you lost your kingdom to your kins and received insult in their hands, when you were deprived of all your normal comforts, I goaded you to kindle your rage. To see that the children of king Paandu would not destroy themselves, I goaded you to kindle your manliness. To see that you all, despite your valour equalling Indra, should not remain at the beck and call of someone, I goaded you to kindle your anger. To see that a noble king like you should not suffer again in the forests, I goaded you then to kindle your valour. To see that a son like Bheema with the strength of ten thousand tuskers should not live pitiably, I then goaded you to rekindle your losing senses. To see that a valourous son like Arjuna should live royally, I goaded you then to rekindle your dying thoughts. To see that these gentle Twins should not be harassed with troubles, I goaded you then with Vidula's words to rekindle your falling hopes. When I saw this noble Droupadi insulted in the house, I thought that such trouble should not befall on her again and it was for that I goaded you to rekindle your low spirits. Bheema! When this trembling Droupadi, passing through her menstruous days, was dragged like a poor slave into the open court by Dushshaasana, then itself I understood that this clan was cursed to its destruction. When all our elders kept silently looking at her, weeping and calling for guard from the god himself, then itself I understood that this clan was cursed with its end. Hearing Droupadi dragged by her hair in the hall, I lost my senses and for that I goaded you to rekindle your sinking souls. To see that king Paandu's lineage does not end due to my sons, I goaded you then with Vidula's words. How can a destroyer of a clan achieve higher worlds? That was the purpose of all that, understand my sons. I was not then avaricious towards regal pleasures, as I had already enjoyed my husband's empire to my satisfaction. I sat with my husband in many pious sacrifices and drank the Soma juice. It was not for my benefit that I told Krishna to goad you, but just for the protection of your future. I am in no case a woman that wants to enjoy the empire of sons. I adopt penance and reach only my husband's world. I will spend the rest of my life serving these two elders. Yudhishthira, go back now with your brothers and women. May your mind always observe virtue and justice. May your mind always think high. I say you go back now."

Kunthi's calculated and royally meticulous speech made the Paandavas silent with shy. They did not speak anything, though sad all the same. Dhritharaashtra understood the situation. He called Vidura and Gaandhaari near him and told Gaandhaari. "Queen! Try to send back Kunthi. What Yudhishthira said is just a plain truth. Which ignorant woman retires to forests foregoing the vast empire of her sons and the possible benefits from that? Even with her sons in the empire, she can perform penance of alms as much as she likes. Listen to me, let her return. I am already pleased with her service all these years. You too know all the systems and practices. You persuade her and send back with her sons." Then Gaandhaari too tried to prevail upon Kunthi to send her back as was told by her husband and she himself pleaded with her. But Kunthi did not change her mind. None was able to make her change her decision. Helplessly, Paandavas bowed to them all, circumambulated and receiving their blessings, turned back. Seeing them turn and Kunthi persistent on her going, the royal ladies burst into a loud wailing once again. With some effort, the Paandavas took the women with them and started to return to the city. They all reached home sad and depressed with grief as if losing their everything. The Paandavas remained dull and sad like calfs bereft of their mother. The city as a whole looked like having plunged into a deep sorrow, with all its population including children,women and the old in a mourning mood.

Dhritharaashtra continued his journey to a good distance till evening of that day and reached the banks of Ganga. He wished to stay there for the night. The Braahmanas with him lit their worship-fires all over the camp and performed the evening worships as usual. Dhritharaashtra too got his fire lit and performed evening oblations in the sacrificial fire. He also offered the evening worship to sun god. Vidura and Sanjaya arranged a bed of grass(i.e. darbha grass) to the old king and another to Gaandhaari nearby. Kunthi sat on a grass mat near them. Vidura and Sanjaya rested at an audible distance from them. The Braahmanas too rested here and there . Having done the fire god worship and having the company of the learned Braahmanas, they spent the pleasant night but their hearts were heavy with the sadness caused by parting with their lamenting subjects. As advised by Vidura, Dhritharaashtra lived on the banks of Ganga for a few days. During those days, all the people in the nearby hermits, comprising Kshathriyas, Vyshyas and Shoodras, came to see and wish him. He too, received them with pleasure and honoured them duly with all formalities. He involved in talking to them on various topics of interest to a hermit. Slowly, he sent them by bidding farewel to one batch after another. After sending them all away, he began to go to all the bathing points along the river Ganga. At every point, he bathed, worshipped the sun god and offered oblations to the gods at the appropriate hour. Vidura and others too performed the necessary rites everywhere. After going around all the pious bathing places along the river, they returned back to their original camp. Kunthi helped Gaandhaari and Dhritharaashtra in all their trips in walking, bathing, worshipping and other works. One evening, after performing the bathing and fire-worship, Dhritharaashtra left that place and travelled to Kurukshethram. There, he reached the hermitage of a royal saint named Shathayoopa who had been a great king of the Kekaya states before he took to hermitage, leaving his kingdom to his sons. Shathayoopa welcomed Dhritharaashtra and took him to Vyaasa's hermitage. Both bowed to Vyaasa and he blessed them both. There, Vyaasa told Shathayoopa to administer oath of hermitage to Dhritharaashtra. Shathayoopa done accordingly and explained to Dhritharaashtra about the systems, regulations and practices of a hermit (one in the order of Vaanaprastha). Later, they returned to Shathayoopa's hermitage again, where Dhritharaashtra too chose to live for his penance. He got set up a few small cottages for them near Shathayoopa's hermitage and lived there. Thus instructed by Vyaasa and Shathayoopa, Dhritharaashtra engaged himself in severe penance and his followers too did the same as he. Gaandhaari too, wearing barks and serving her husabnd, undertook equally severe penance. Kunthi too adopted penance of higher standards alongwith them. They controlled their sensories, activities and mind. Dhritharaashtra so strictly engaed himself in his penances that he equalled the sages in it practice and observance. Vidura and Sanjaya too were very keen in serving their old king and queen and also in observing hard penance as devotedly as their king. Due to the severity of the penances they undertook, they all became thin and remained just skin and bones.


After they spent a few months involving in serious and strict penance like that, one day, the divine sage Naarada came to them alongwith the great sages parvatha and Devala. Learning about his arrival there, Vyaasa and Shathayoopa too came there to see the sages and Dhritharaashtra. Kunthi invited them all with respect, worshipped and served with attention and devotion. The sages were pleased with her service and blessed them all wishing them higher worlds. After the routine formalities were over, they all talked about topics related to virtue and salvation. Their discussions and instructions pleased Dhritharaashtra very much.

During their talk, Naarada said to Dhritharaashtra. " O Kuru king Dhritharaashtra! I wish to tell you something of interest to you. There was a very brave and valourous king of the Kekaya provinces named Sahasrachithya. He was grandfather of this Shathayoopa. He left the kingdom to his eldest son and renounced and came here at Kurukshethram as a hermit to take up penance. The virtueful king observed very severe penances for a long time with strict devotion and attained Indra's abode as a reward of his penances. I saw him many times at Indra's abode. Another king named Shylaalaya, who was Bhagadaththa's grandfather, too lived here as a hermit after his ruling was over and he too reached heaven. Another king named Prishadhra, as great as Indra himself, also observed his penance here and finally went to heaven to live with Indra. You might have heard of king Maandhaatha's son Purukuthsa. The river Narmada herself loved him and married him. He too carried out his penance here and reached heaven. Also, another king named Shashaloma too similarly engaged himself in the penances here and attained the heaven. Like those royal sages, you too started your penance here with the blessings of sage Vyaasa. You too ,with your wife Gaandhaari, will attain the same higher status as of those ancient kings. Your brother Paandu living in the heaven with Indra would many a time talk about you. He too will see that you reach the higher abodes. Due to her sincere and wholehearted service to you and your wife, Kunthi too will reach the same world as her husband Paandu's. We all know that that is the well established and most honoured tradition for a woman to go to her husband's world. As to Vidura, he will absorb with Yudhishthira. Sanjaya will reach heaven due to his constant following and thinking of Vidura and his teachings. I know all this from my supernatural perception."

Dhritharaashtra and his wife felt happy at those words. The old king payed his respects to the sage as a token of his pleasure and gratitude for such bleessings. All the Braahmanas in the hermitage too praised Naarada for his wonderful powers. Then Shathayoopa asked Naarada,"O Divine sage! Your Excellency has blessed Dhritharaashtra with the most desirable results. We are all exalted by your grace on us, our penance and our place of hermitage.Your citation of the success of the earlier hermits from this place increases our faith and confidence in our success too. But, if you pardon me, I have something to ask about this old king Dhritharaashtra. As you have the knowledge of all the things, past or future, you only can tell about the future of anyone. You have clearly mentioned about the abodes which the earlier royal sages from here had attained. But, you did not expressly tell which abode this king would reach. I am curious to know asto which higher regions this king would reach and when that would happen."

Hearing those words of Shathayoopa that in fact spoke everybody's mind there, Naarada understood the curiousity of all of them and said. " Recently, I happened to pass through Indra's abode where I saw Paandu. While they talked , they made a mention of Dhritharaashtra and his severe penances. In that context, I heard Indra saying 'Dhritharaashtra has three more years to live. Then, he will reach Kubera's abode alongwith his wife Gaandhaari. Becoming pious with his penance, he will fly in his flier around the regions of Gandharvas, Raakshasas and celestials.' Though this is matter of divine secret, I told this to you Shathayoopa, and all these here, as you all became pious with your penence burning down all your sins and as I know that this revealation is not going to affect your determination anyway." All the Braahmanas and sages were very much pleased with the sage's words. They all bowed to him and took leave. The divine sages too left the hermit and went on their own ways.


Vyshampaayana continued to Janamejaya.
"You heard that the Paandavas left their mother with Gaandhaari and Dhritharaashtra and went home back to their capital Hasthipuram. Even after reaching home, they and their ladies were always filled with the thoughts about Kunthi. With their concern over their mother and the old couple as well as the two noble persons Sanjaya and Vidura, Paandavas could not be happy at all. Even the people of the city too were like distreessed. Every small gathering of the public anywhere was engaged in talk about the pitiabe old Dhritharaashtra. They always talked among themselves about him like this. "How does the old king live in the lonely forests? He befits comforts but what state might he be in there? Is he still not out of the grief about the death of all his sons? How can the old queen Gaandhaari survive in the hermitage? And the pious lady Kunthi abandoned her sons and their empire choosing to serve her elders in the forest. How can she bare the troubles of living in the remote forests? How is the wise Vidura in the forests? He devoted himself to the service of his blind brother all these years in his life. Now too, he serves him there in the forests very faithful to his brother as if repaying his debt to him." This was the talk that was heardeverywhere in the town among the people right from the young to the old, even after many years after Dhritharaashtra left for the forests.

Paandavas were not at all able to bare with their partition from their mother. Every moment, they thought of her, they talked of her, they remembered how she suffered for many years in their absence. They also felt sad thinking about the fate of their old and blind uncle who was to go to the forests after seeing the death of all their sons. The memories of Vidura , Kunthi and Gaandhaari heavily weighed on their minds. Also, Yudhishthira and his brothers could not enjoy the empire nor the pleasures nor women nor food nor vedic studies nor worships, always smouldering within themselves about the war and its devastating effect on their clan and other Kshathriya races too. Thinking of the earth robbed of its warriors, kings and wealth, they could not find peace in anything. Especially, the untimely death of their dear son Abhimanyu, the cruel killing of their five sons and Karna's death, made them distressed. Droupadi and Subhadra both were out of their normal stature, wilting under the pressure of grief about their sons. Among all those sinister memories that made them sad, there was but one hope of ray to their consolation. Janamejaya, that was your father Pareekshith, son of Uththara, who made them hold their souls in those days of grief and sorrow.

Paandavas plunged into sorrow like that about their mother and loss of dear kins. They could not not show interest in state administration too, as keenly as they did earlier. They seemed like not taking anything to their heart. They did not talk to people properly, even when they were called and talked to. Though proound in character and brave at heart by nature, their sorrow made them lose their senses and courage. Day in and day out, they always thought of their elders at the forest. "How are they living in the lonely forests infested with wild animals? How is the old and blind king? How is his old and blindfolded queen Gaandhaari with her blind husband? And how is mother Kunthi in service of those two? How is our dear uncle and wellwisher Vidura? How is our faithful follower Sanjaya?" Such continuous thoughts about them made the Paandavas nostalgic about their mother. Everyone felt an urge to see the old people in the forests.

Oneday, Sahadeva bowed to Yudhishthira and said." I understand your mind that you wish to go to see our mother in the forests. I could not say it myself till now but I see this moment right to express my wish to you. May I be lucky enough to see mother, bearing matted hair and fingers hurt with prickings of reed grass tips. How can I see her in the forests though she befits the stay in mansions here with us? Alas, she is suffering many troubles in the forests with no one to help her but all the while engaged in service of the elder couple. It is true that the course of life of humans cannot be the same all through the life."

Droupadi too added to Sahadeva's words. "I always long to see her. When can I see her again? I fondly wish to see her alive again as quickly as possible. Then only does my heart please. I request you O king, to grant us the wish. May your mind always think like this and what you are going to gove us will be to the greatest happiness of all of us. All our women folk are on their toes to go to see the queen and the elder couple. Will you please see that our wish is fulfilled?"

Yudhishthira heard Sahadeva's and Droupadi's words which manifolded his own urge to see the elders. He soon sent for his generals and harem superintendents and passed orsers to them. "We wish to go the forest near Kurukshethram to see the old king there. Make sufficient forces ready, with elephants and chariots. Various vehicles like carts, sedans and palanquins shall be ready in their thousands. Make arrangements for trnasport of monies, goods, luggage, workers, sculptors, entertainers and all varieties of provisions. Cooks, caterers, cuisine experts and other food makers shall move alongwith all the stores of the kitchen. All varieties of food and drink shall be readily available to everybody. Declare in the city as my orders that anybody wishing to see the king is free to come with the royal troups. Arrange for cionstruction of rest camps all along the route enough and suitable for all those that travel. We shall strat tomorrow morning."

All his orders were obeyed and arrangements were made as directed. Yudhishthira started early next morning with his brothers, women, elders and others. He entrusted the responsibility of guarding the capital to Yuyuthsu and his chief priest Dhoumya. Then, he camped outside the capital for five days waiting for the people who wanted to join the yourney. With all those citizens wishing to come joining the travelling party, he ordered to move. Soon there arose a cheerful noise 'Ready, Yoke, Come, Start,move' all over. The drivers brought the vehicles and the people mounted them. A group of learned Braahmanas walked in the lead. Behind them, Yudhishthira moved sitting in his golden chariot yoked with four steeds. A white parasol was held above his head. Many chariots with full equipment and adornment followed him. The terrible Bheema mounted on a tusker folowed by many such mounted elephants. Arjuna's divine chariot with his famous white steeds ran behind him. Nakula and Sahadeva mounted horses and followed their brothers. The royal ladies Droupadi, Subhadra, Uththara and others mounted their palanquins and went under guard of the harem superintendents. Kripa walked with a sizable army protecting the huge retinues and royal personnel as well as the other people. They all continued their journey, donating enormous monies and gold to the peopele all along the way. The citizens of the capital travelled along with them, some by elephants, some by horses,some by chariots, some by carts, some by sedans, some by palanquins and some by foot. The large troup looked very much pleasing to the heart with the musical instruments like drums, harps, flutes and pipes played all the while.

They camped every here and there so as not to burden the people with labour. Sometimes they camped on a river bank and sometimes near a lake. Slowly, after a few halts, they crossed the river Yamuna and reached Kurukshethram. They saw the hermitage of Dhritharaashtra and Shathayoopa from a great distance. The very sight of the place of the elders made them all happy and they reached it quickly. All the Paandavas, the generals, the royal ladies and other people stopped at some distance from the hermitage and dismounted from their vehicles. Leaving the vehicles, animals and the forces away, they walked by foot to the hermitage with obedience and discipline. With mixed feelings of anxiety and happiness, they entered the lonely and peaceful hermitage where a number of groups of deer were freely grazing around. Many banana groves were around the hermitage. The hermits in the surrounding hermitages came with curiousity to see the king and his followers. Yudhishthira asked them with tears filling his eyes, "Honourable sages! I bow to you all. Can you tell me where my uncle Dhritharaashtra has gone?" They replied that he went to the river Yamuna with others to bathe and bring water and flowers. Yudhishthira inquired them about the way they had gone and they all went on that way eager to see them. After a good walk, they saw Dhritharaashtra and others at some distance coming back to their hermitage. They could not help striding speedier towards them. But, Sahadeva ran ahead of others and fell at his mother's feet. Bowing to her, he burst into a loud cry unable to contain himself. Kunthi too, looked at her youngest son, with tearful eyes and disturbed mind. She embraced him with her hands and lifted up with love. Then she announced him to Gaandhaari in a fond voice. Then she saw her other sons and women coming towards them. Unable to withhold her eagerness, she walked off towards them leading the old couple as nearly as pulling them with her. Yudhishthira and others walked to her like running and fell on the feet of the elders, naming themselves . Dhritharaashtra knew them by touch and wished them all affectionately. Paandavas came to their normalcy an a while with their mother's consolations. They took the water pots from the old people into their hands. All the royal ladies and people too visited the old couple and Kunthi to their pleasure. Yudhishthira declared everybody by his name and clan to Dhritharaashtra. The old king too, was very happy by being visited by them all and felt like he was in Hasthipuram again. He, Gaandhaari and Kunthi received the respects of all the royal ladies like Droupadi and blessed them heartily. Slowly, he returned to his hermitage which was by then full of many visitors swarming to see the Paandavas and their ladies.

As Yudhishthira sat in the hermitage with his brothers and ladies, many hermits and sages inthe surrounding areas came to see the noble king of whom they heard earlier. Some of them asked Sanjaya, "Who among these is Yudhishthira? Who is Bheema?Who is Arjuna? Who are The Twins? who is the pious lady Droupadi?" Sanjaya began to introduce each one of them to the sages.

"The tall and slim one with a gold colour body ,a high nose and wide eyes with red corners, is the noble king Yudhishthira himself. This one with a golden coloured body, with as sprightly a walk as a tusker's, with wide shoulders, long hands and large eyes, is Bheema. The one standing next to him with a blue coloured skin, with high suoulders, with eyes like lotus leaves and bearing the great bow, is the greatest archer Arjuna. Those two standing beside Kunthi are The Twins, Nakula and Sahadeva, who have no matches among mortals, in handsomeness or character or valour or wisdom. The lady with a body like a blue lily, with wide eyes, appearing like a celestial woman and like a bit nearing the middle age, is Droupadi. The lady standing beside her, as shining as made of gold, like the moon's light personified, is Subhadra, the sister of Krishna, the supreme power. That lady wearing garlands made of Madhooka flowers, with gold coloured body, is the naaga princess Chithraangada, Arjuna's wife. And that blue coloured lady shining like a garland of blue lilies is Bheema's wife and daughter of king Shalya who always competed with Krishna in driving skills. That lady with her skin glowing like a champaka flower is Sahadeva's wife and daughter of Magadha king Jaraasandha. That lady standing beside her, as blue as a lily, is Nakula's wife. And this young lady with gold coloured skin, standing with her young son beside her, is king Viraata's daughter Uththara, whose husband Abhimanyu was killed by the six great fighters like Drona in a mass attack in which they destroyed his chariot but they themselves mounted in their cars and continued the attack. And these ladies, wearing white veils with no ornaments, more than a hundred in number, are the widows of king Dhritharaashtra's sons. Those women are widows of other Kuru chiefs. Alas, all of them lost either their husbands or sons. O Braahmanas and sages! I introduced the royal personnel and their pious ladies to you as you asked me, but only the prominent ones."

Thus explained by Sanjaya about the Paandavas and the women, the sages left for their works. Dhritharaashtra talked to every one of them and inquired about their well-being. All the visitors gathered around him and sat on the ground, including women, children and the aged. Then, Dhritharaashtra talked to Yudhishthira. "My boy, Yudhishthira! I am pleased to see you after a long time. It is as if regaining my sinking spirits. How are you there in the city? Are all your brothers well and haapy? How are the people? Are all your dependents well and free from ill-health? Are all your mentors safe and well? Are all your subjects happy and free from troubles? Are you following the customs established by our ancient kings? Are you enriching your treasuries without harming the rules of justice? Are you adopting the right polies towrads your friends, adversaries and neutrals? Are you honouring the Braahmanas with endowments of Agrahaaras(= villages whose revenues go to the donees free of taxes).Are they pleased with your character and behaviour? I know that you never have enemies amongst your subjects or employees or own men. Are you continuing the worship of your manes with devotion? Are you receiving your guests and visitors with love and offering food and water to them to their satisfaction? Are all your Braahmanas are strictly following their disciplines? Are your Kshathriyas, Vyshyas or Shoodras happy without any discomfort or downfall of wealth? I hope your empire is free from such poor destitutes as beggars. How are you keeping the standards of the fame of our clan? I am aware that you are the best ruler but my affection makes me speak like this."

Yudhishthira answered like wishing him and inquiring about his welfare. "King! Is your penance going on smoothly, day by day? Are your patience, forgiveness and forbearance improving with time? Is my mother Kunthi attending your needs well? Will her choosing to be a hermit be successful? How is my elder mother Gaandhaari doing here in forest? Isn't she suffering from the attacks of sun, cold and wind? Isn't she wearing out from severe penance and much of walking around? Does she at times think of her sons and feel sour with us for our sinful harm done to her? Where is the learned Vidura? He is not seen around here? How is Sanjaya in his austerities and penance? Did he set on them properly?"

Dhritharaashtra answered to Yudhishthira's question, 'Son! Vidura has been in a very severe penance of hard standards. He doesn't eat. Sometimes subsists only on air. He has become thin and wane showing the veins from his skin. The sages of these hermitages sometimes see him somewhere in this lonely forest." Even as the old king was talking praisingly about Vidura like that, Yudhishthira caught a glimpse of Vidura at a distance. He has no clothes on his body that was very thin and coated with dust, his hair was altogether matty and he kept a small woodden piece in his mouth as a symbol of control of speech. But, as soon as he was seen, Vidura whisked back and walked into the dense forest. Yudhishthira alone ran after him calling him aloud and declaring himself with his name, shouting' O Vidura! Uncle! It is I, your dear Yudhishthira. Stop! Talk to me! Wait, Let me come!' Thus calling him aloud, with a bit of difficulty, he followed the track of Vidura who was once visible and once not in the thick forest. After running after him for a while, Yudhishthira saw Vidura in a lonely place, standing leaning against a tree on his back. Yudhishthira saw the waned out wise man that could be identified only from his form and recognized him to be verily Vidura. Yudhishthira said to him, " Sir, I am Yudhishthira." and stood right before him within hearing distance. Vidura did not speak anything. He kept looking concentratedly at Yudhishthira without a wink. Slowly, he went into yogic trance and absorbed his senses, sensories and life ( here the original word is 'lives', in plural, as the yoga science tells that life is of five divisions, praana, apaana, vyaana, udaana and samaana- Tr), respectively into those of Yudhishthira. Thus, the great man of wisdom entered Yudhishthira making him resplendent like a blazer. Yudhishthira saw Vidura's body remain still and unwinking and finally lose its life. He felt as if he became thousand times stronger and powerful. He also recalled about the yoga that Vyaasa taught to him before all, a few years ago. He wanted to perform the last rites to Vidura's body and became prepared to burn it there itself. As he was making that efort, he heard a voice from above. "No,no, Yudhishthira, Do not go for that. This body that bore the name of Vidura shall not be burnt. This is the best accepted custom for people like him. He lived a true ascetic and renounced life. He will reach the higher regions of abodes named Saanthaanikas. Nothing to worry about his further status."

Yudhishthira honoured the voice and stopped his efforts. He returned to Dhritharaashtra's hermitage with wonder and sorrow weighing upon him. He told Dhritharaashtra and others about what had happened to Vidura. The old king and his brothers all felt astonished about such happening. Dhritharaashtra was very much pleased about Vidura's yogic transposition into Yudhishthira.

Later, Dhritharaashtra said to Yudhishthira, "King! You may accept the water, roots and fruits that I am going to offer you. You know that a guest takes what his host has." Yudhishthira agreed and said, "As you say , Sir." And he ate the roots and fruits from the hermits along with his brothers. He then took rest in the shades of the trees for some time. He spent time talking to the elderly people about various things and mentioning many annecdotes that were related to virtue, vedas and penance. And when it was time to sleep, Paandavas slept on the floor, in the moonlight, near and around their mother, not minding the cushions and beds that were available in their tents. They slept happily that night forgetting all their ealier sorrow of being away from their mother.

They got up in the last hours of the night and performed all the morning rituals like ablutions, fire-worship and oblations to the gods. Yudhishthira obtained Dhritharaashtra's permission and went around to see the hermitages and visit the sages there. Followed by his brothers, women, priests and servants, he went to every hermitage in the vicinity. He saw the flaming fires in the altars at some places, at some places he saw the sages , afresh after their ablutions, ofering oblations in the altar fire. Many baskets of forest flowers were kept near them for worshipping the gods. The pleasant smell arising from the burning ghee(=melted or clarified butter) poured into the fire spread the entire area. Groups of deer unperturbed by movements of strangers were jumping around there. Various birds too, incurring no fear from the newcomers, were warbling as if singing for the pleasures of the listners. At some places, the cries of peacocks were musically pleasant to their some places, the cooings of the nightingales offered a feast to their ears. at someplaces, many waterbirds looked like playing in the water. At some places, the sounds of rhythmic recital of the hymns by the Braahmanas was heard upto a long distance. At some places, lots of fruit and roots,kept for the purpose of food and visitors were seen. At some places, teachings on different subjects were going on. Yudhishthira visited all the hermitages and felt pleasure at their serene tranquility. He then told his men to offer to ths ascetics, the various useful things he brought from the city, like tumblers, woodden basins, spoons, deer-skins, mats, long and short ladels, pots, pitchers and many other metal utensils. After donating all the things sufficient to their needs, he returned to Dhritharaashtra's place. By that time, Dhritharaashtra completed his midday rituals and sat quietly with Gaandhaari. Kunthi too sat near them obediently in all readiness to serve them. Yudhishthira and his brothers declared themselves to him by their names and bowed to him touching his feet. Dhritharaashtra told them to sit and with his permission, they all sat around him. With those great persons sitting around him, Dhritharaashtra shone like Brihaspathi surrounded by the gods. As they all sat like that talking among themselves, there came the great sage Vyaasa, along with whom were Shathayoopa and other hermits too. As soon as they arrived, Dhritharaashtra, Yudhishthira and his brothers and others stood up and bowed to them in reverence. Vyaasa then permitted them all to sit and he himself sat on a grass mat offered to him that was covered with the skin of a black deer . Everyone sat and looked ay Vyaasa as if in waiting to listen to his words.


With all them sitting around, Vyaasa talked to Dhritharaashtra. " How is your penance going? Is it running without any hindrance? Are you able to enjoy the life in the forests? Could you shed your sorrow from the loss of your sons? Are all your senses quite under your control? are you able to follow the ways of a hermit with a syeadfast mind? How is this voble lady Gaandhaari in her hermit life? Is she still mourning over the loss of sons? Could she come out of that grief, as she is wise enough and well aware of the routine course of coming and going of the mortals? Is Kunthi attentive in serving you both here? She need be praised, for she forewent the luxuries of her son's empire and chose to serve you in these lonely forests. Could you appreciate your nephew Yudhishthira? Are all his brothers well received and blessed by you? Are you pleased with their presence with you? Did your realisation wash off your sorrow? Is your mind now calm and clean? Dhritharaashtra! There are three great qualities in the world, which are the best. Truthfulness, being lovingly to all and being devoid of anger. Are you surely not disturbed by your life in the forest as hermit? Are you able to comfortably cope up with the forest food or are you forced to fast ? I hope you must have heard of Vidura's departing from this world by absorbing into your dear son Yudhishthira, senses into senses, mind into mind and life into life. Vidura was none other than the god Yama who incurred sage Maandavya's curse. Maandavya cursed Yama at the expense of the power of his penance that he had earned for a long time. As a result of that curse, due the power of god Yama and with me as an instrument in the hands of the creator , the great wise man was born to your father Vichithraveerya's servant woman . Brihaspathi among the gods or Shukra among the Demons are not a match to him in thought or wisdom. King! Understand that your younger brother Vidura was verily the great god Yama whom the learned scholars know to be the Dharma himself, with their supernatural powers of meditation and concentration. Dharma or Yama nourishes with penances done through truthfulness,forbearance,non-violance and self-control. He is everywhere in this world and the other one, like the fire, wind,earth,water and the sky. He stays everywhere, goes everywhere and pervades everything. He is perceived only by the pious and pure like the chiefs of the celestials. He took birth as Vidura and Yudhishthira too. Yama is Vidura and Vidura is Yudhishthira. Such Yudhishthira is standing before you like a servant ready at call. That great soul Vidura absorbed with this equally great soul Yudhishthira through his yogic powers. you too will see better fruits in a short time. Learn that I am here to cast your doubts off. I am going to show you such wonders that never a sage did before , with the powers of my penance.Tell me king, whatever you want to see, feel or hear. I will fetch that for you."





Sootha continued to the sages in the forest of Nymisha. "At that point of narration, Janamejaya inquired with Vyshampaayana. "Sir! You said that after Vidura's absorbing with the visiting Yudhishthira during Dhritharaashtra's hermit-life, Vyaasa went to Dhritharaashtra and told him that he would do a wonder for him. What was that never-before-witnessed wonder? Also tell me, how long did the Paandavas stay in the forest with the old king? What kind of foods did they, their ladies and their forces take in the forest? I am curious about these things."

Vyshampaayana answered Janamejaya's question. " Though the Paandavas and their ladies took the hermit food on the first day in the forest, later Dhritharaashtra permitted them to enjoy their normal food and they took their normal food along with their women, soldiers and workers. All the food items and cookery material were already brought with them. They lived there in the forest with their elders for one full month. Then, as I told you earlier, sage Vyaasa arrived there and ensured them that he would show them wonders if they wanted anything of their choice. At that time, as they all were listening to Vyaasa's talking to them, there went the divine sages like Naarada, parvatha, Devala, Vishvaavasu, Thumburu, Chithrasena and others.Yudhishthira honoured them all with Dhritharaashtra's permission. They all sat on the mats made of birds' quills and after they comfortably sat, Dhritharaashtra and others too sat down. All the women folk too sat around. Then the sages went on talking among themselves about the gods Demons and ancient sages. After the talk was over, Vyaasa again asked Dhritharaashtra the same question. " King! what do you want to have? I know what you wish to tell me. I know what is in your queen's mind. Both of you are boiling with the unbearable grief about your dead sons. I know what kind of sorrow weighs on the minds of Kunthi, Droupadi and Subhadra too. In fact, after learning that you all gathered here, I came here to free you all from your mental agony and relieve you from the grief by solving all your doubts. I am ready to grant you whatever you wish. Tell me your wish. See how powerful the results of my penance is. All the gods, Gandharvas and these hermits and sages too will see my long-accumulated powers of penance."

Dhritharaashtra heard Vyaasa's words, thought pensively for a while and then said to him. " " Father! I am a lucky one and a blessed one too, for having had your arrival here. It seems that my mind is able to understand what is good to me. My life is really fruitful today and it has become pure and pious,out of no merit from me, as I could meet all such great sages as you. That makes me feel no fear about the next world. But, as I am weak in my mind about my sons, my undying affection towards rhem burns my mind day and night. Due to my foolish son's greedy and unwise decisions, the pious and noble Paandavas were harassed, all the Kshathriyas met their end, all their elephants and horses were killed, many great kings of all the states were made to lay their lives in the war. They all jumped into the fire of war,leaving behind them their dear fathers, sons, brothers and wives,for the sake of my son who destroyed himself and them too equally. What is going to be their fate? Which dominions of higher orders will they reach? My sinful son caused the fall of our great hero Bheeshma and our devoted mentor Drona, a poor Braahmana who deserved respect and honour. Our clan was as badly brought to its destruction as the other Kshathriya clans. And all that was due to my son's greedy and ineligible claim to the throne. I could not correct his behaviour, taking sides with him at the cost of justice and Paandavas. Reminiscing all that to my mind evry while, greta sage, I am unable to sleep a wink or eat peacefully. Peace has become an unthinkable object to my mind. How can I subside the ever-rising fire of grief that eats into the very strength of my body and mind?"

Listening to Dhritharaashtra's words, Gaandhaari, Kunthi, Droupadi, Subhadra and other ladies felt their sorrow afresh. Moved by her husband's lamentations, Gaandhaari stood up with folded hands and said to Vyaasa nearly weeping. "Sir, Sixteen long years have passed since we lost our sons. Yet, this old king is unable to recover from that grief. With his heart buring with sorrow from the fall of his sons in the war, he keeps on sighing and lamenting. He doesn't sleep during the nights too. The powers of your penance are so great that you can simply create new worlds themselves. Then, what task can it be for you, to show him his dead sons once again? Droupadi is our most beloved daughter-in-law.She still wails about her five sons and her brothers. Subhadra too, poor girl, suffers beyond words, due to loss of her son Abhimanyu. This ons is our Bhoorishravas' dearest wife. She sees no end to her sorrow. She, alas,lost not only her husband but his father Somadaththa and grandfather Baahlika too.The hundred sons of this old king never swerving from wars, all died in the war in a few days, and their hundreds ofwifes appear sunk in the sea of grief. Shaken to their roots by the death of their husbands they cling to me whenever I am near them. What can be the destinations of those heroes like Somadaththa and others? May this helpless old king shed his sorrow due to your grace upon him, which act will make me and Kunthi too very happy andrelieved from our severe grief.

As Gaandhaari was making her pitiful appeal to the sage, Kunthi fell into her memories of her secretly born son Karna who was as radiant as the Sun God himself. Sage Vyaasa could sense Kunthi's feelings, due to his super natural powers that hear and see the remote things. He said to her, "N0ble lady, tell me the thoughts in your mind. What do you want to tell or do? I will do good to you today." Moved by his touching words Kunthi bowed to him and shyly began to tell him about the incidents that had happend long back in her life during her childhood days.


"Sire! You are not only just a father-in-law to me, but god beyond the gods to me. I wish to open my mind before you and reveal the secrets of the past incident that later weighed heavily upon my life , not that all that is beyond your knowledge, but only to have relief from my sense of guiltiness. The irascible sage Durvaasas once visited my foster father Kunthibhoja's house for staying as a guest for some days. My father entrusted me with the duty of serving the sage. I served him with care and devotion, creating no chance for his dissatisfaction in the least. Satisfied with my careful and respectful service rendered to him for many days, he was really pleased with me , not giving place to his natural irritation, even when there was any slight or good chance for him. You know, Sir, it was not a little or easy achievement, given his nature and power. While leaving our house satisfied, he granted me a boon, saying that I must accept it. Out of my fear from displeasing him by saying anything against his mind, I obeyed his grant. He blessed me and said, " O pious girl! You will be mother of the god Yama himself. I give you a chant. Such is the power of this chant that if you invoke any God with it, he will come and give what you want from him." Saying that and gifting me that chant, he vanished on the spot. I was wondered at that. Due to my childinh curiousity, I was all the while thinking about the boon and the chant. Once I was standing in the balcony of my mansion looking at the rising sun and then too, my mind was chanting that hymn given by the sage. Though I did so inadvertantly, the Sun God appeared before me in a radiant form even having his celestial form in the sky as earlier. While I was shuddering with fear at the unexpected result, he said that I might seek a boon from him. I humbly bowed to him and prayed to go back. He was angry and said to me, "My coming to you here cannot be a futile one. Unless you ask and accept a boon from me, I will scald to ashes, you and the unwise Braahmana that gave such a powerful chant to such an imbecile girl as you.

"Dreading his anger that might cause danger to the honoured sage, I prayed the Sun god to grant me a son as radiant as he himself looks. Soon, he stole my senses and his glory took control over me. I did not know what had happened but I heard his clear words that I was going to get a son as glorious as he. Next moment I did not see him before me. I remained helpless and perplexed. I was forced to keep the secret away from the world, confining myself to the inner apartments of my mansion. When I gave birth to a male baby, I reluctantly left him in the current waters of a nearby river. As the Sun god himself granted, I remained a virgin again, as the sage himself told me. Thus I was to forego my first son with full knolwdge of my sin in doing so. You know for yourself, Sire, how that burns my heart eversince, till now. I confessed before you, the omnicient, about my sin or otherwise that has been flaming the fire of grief in my heart all these years. I pray you , to remove that and relieve me. You know what my mind longs for. Also, let your great grace fall on this old king today and give him his desired thing too."

Vyaasa considerately listened to Kunthi's confession. He consoled her by saying,"What you said is true to its every letter. I know that already. That is possible in case of the celestials. They are capable of entering and occupying mortal bodies or minds. You are not at fault. You became a virgin again. The gods naturally have such powers to give offspring to the mortals in five ways, through their mere intention, through their word, through their sight, through their touch and through normal intercourse. A mortal propertty overridden by a divine ordinance is not to blame. It remains as pure and original as it was before. You understand this and your mental agony subsides by itself. For the capable ones, everything is fitting, everything is pure, everything is admitted and everything is reachable."


Saying thus in consolation to Kunthi, Vyaasa told Gaandhaari. " O pious lady! Today you will see your sons and brothers. All your daughters-in -law too will see their husbands as simply as waking from sleep. Kunthi will see Karna, Subhadra will see Abhimanyu, Droupadi will see her five sons and her brothers and all will see their dear ones. I thought of doing this favour to you the moment when you, this king and Kunthi requested me for that. But, asto those that were killed in the war, they need not be lamented about. They all rightly performed their right duty and met their end falling in the war. That was an affair of gods destined by the gods themselves which was to happen verily that way but not otherwise. The gods descended to the mortal land and went back to their original places after their job here was over. gods, Gandharvas, apsaras, pishaachas, Yakshas, Demons and divine sages all took mortal forms and met their end in the war at Kurukshethram. you must know that this Dhritharaashtra is from the Gandharva chief named Dhritharaashtra; our Paandu was from the maruths, Yudhishthira and Vidura are both from the god Yama; Duryodhana was from Kali; Shakuni was from Dvaapara; Dushshaasana and others were from the Demons; Bheema is from the Vaayu god; this sage-like Arjuna is from the divine sage Nara; Krishna is from Vishnu; The Twins are from Ashvis; Arjuna's son Abhimanyu, uncermoniously killed by six heroes, was from the moon; the terror of the enemies Karna was from the sun god; Droupadi's brother Dhrishtadyumna is from Agni; Shikhandi is from a guhyaka demon ( a kind of Yaksha- Tr); Drona is from Brihaspathi; Ashvaththaama is from Shiva; Bheeshma is from Vasus. Thus, they all returned to their original abodes, once their duty on this earth was accomplished. Today, I will uproot your fears and doubts about their fate in the next world, as well as about yours. You all go to the baks of the river Ganga. There you will see all your dear ones killed in the war."

Hearing Vyaasa's strange promise, every one cried with joy and they started to go to the river banks. Dhritharaashtra walked along with the Paandavas, the sages,his flllowers and the people from the city and reached the river bank. There, they spent the rest of the day which seemed to them to be as long as a hundred years, due to their curiousity and anxiety. As the sun sank into the west, they all performed the evening rites and went to Vyaasa and sat near him. Dhritharaashtra, Paandavas and sages sat at a place, Gaandhaari and women sat at a place. The people from Hasthipuram sat at a place according to their age. Then, Vyaasa walked into the waters of the river Ganga, dipped into it and chanted invokations inviting all the souls from the higher abodes.He invited those that belonged to the Paandavas, those that belnged to the Kouravas and many kings of various countries. At that moment, a great noise was heard from within the water of the river, as enormous as the one that arose from both the armies of Paandavas and Kouravas at the Kurukshethram. In an instant, there came out from the river waters, Bheeshma, Drona, Viraata, Drupada, their sons, their forces, Droupadi's sons, Abhimanyu, Ghatothkacha, Karna, Duryodhana, Shakuni, Dushshaasana with his brothers, Jaraasandha's son Sahadeva, Bhagadaththa, Jalasandha, Bhoorishravas, shala, Shalya, vrishasena with his brothers, lakshmana, Dhrishtadyumna's sons, Shikhandi's sons, Dhrishtakethu with his brothers, achala, vrishaka, demon Alaayudha, Baahlika, Somadaththa,Chekithaana and many kings innumerable to name, all with the same attire, same vehicle and same banner as he had at the time of his death. All were clad in divine garments, wore divine garlands amd ear-rings, surrounded by apsaras and exalted by the Gandharvas from around. None bore any illfeeling like anger or envy towards any one. Vyaasa endowed Dhritharaashtra and Gaandhaari with supernatuiral vision to witness their dead sons standing before them again along with others. Seeing that never-before wonder, every body was goose-pimpled with excitement and looked at that unbelievable scene with an unwinking eye. Everything loked like a painting drawn on a cloth but it was difficult for them to believe. Dhritharaashtra felt extremely happy by seeing all his sons. The women folk immursed in pleasure by seeing their beloved husbands after a long time in an unbelieavable manner.

Then, they all met one another, due to the sage's great grace that favoured them heavily. Sons met their parents, fathers met their sons, brothers met their brothers, friends met their friends and husbands met their wives. Paandavas met Karna and Abhimanyu with pleasure and Karna received them with love, causing them to fell happy to the core. Every one met his dear ones, without any enemity,fear,doubt or blame. The women felt immensely happy with the company of their beloved husbands. That reunion of the living and the dead went till the end of that night. As the night drew to its close, Vyaasa relieved all the invitees to their original abodes with the power of his penances. The descenders bade farewell to their dear ones and sank into the river with their vehicles and banners, vanishing right before their eyes, in a wink. Some went to the heaven, some to Brahma's abode, some to Varuna's, some to Kubera's, some to Yama's, some to the Northern Kuru lands and some to the regions of Raakshasas and pishaachas.

After they all disappeared, Vyaasa still stood in the river, called the women and told them. "Those of you who want to reach the abodes of their husbands may come and immurse in the river now , without any hesitation." The pious women heard his words, took leave from ther parents-in-law and entered the river waters. Soon, they cast off their mortal bodies and reached the abodes of their husbands, with divine forms, clad in divine garments, ornaments and garlands. They all mounted the divine fliers and went where their husbands were. Also, Vyaasa accomplished the desire of everyone whoever that expressed his. The common people witnessing that superhuman wonder from Vyaasa, were amazed. He that devotedly listens to this episode of reunion of the dead heroes with their beloved ones on the earth, will reap all the goods here and in the next world too. And he that recites this to others too, will have pleasure from union with his dear relatives, earn fame in this world and attains good in the next world too. Those dedicated to their regular recitals, devoted to their penances, sticking to their pious customs, those that freed themselves from the sins through alms and those prosecute the vedas, will, by listening to this great and wonderful episode, attain the best abodes of the higher regions.


Sootha said to the sage Shounaka and others in the forest of Nymisha.
"King Janamejaya heard this wonderful episode of his dead greatgrandfathers about their coming back to the earth and returning to their abodes. He felt strangely astonished and asked Vyshampaayana. " Learned Sir! How was it possible that the dead people who left their bodies could come again and appear with the same bodies and other things as they bore at the time of their death?"

Vyshampaayana answered his querry. "Young king! Your question is natural but its answer is very complicated and incomprehensible to the normal minds. It is the inference of the learned that the deeds never become extinct. And the bodies and forms of the beings result verily from the deeds. Also, the five gross elements are eternal due to their resorting with the super soul. These five gross elements reside in the mortal body and depart from it at its end but they temselves never cease to exist. Deeds done in abdication give true and eternal results and the resident soul experiences pleasure or trouble etc by them,though it never gets affected by such things. Similarly, the resident soul without linkage to deeds, too is unceasing. the base existence of the elements never ceases. As long as the (results of the) deeds remain unreaped, so long does the form of the body exists (as if it itself is the soul). The moment the results of the deeds are completely experienced by the resident soul through a particular mortal body, it departs from that mortal body and assumes another body depending on its latest deeds done. Various things like the elements and sensors together form the body but they remain eternal even after the body becomes destroyed, as the learned sages teach us. The vedic hymns used in the Ashvamedha sacrifice describing the sacrificed beast confirm that the lives and sensors of the beings are eternal and they reach the higher abodes where they stay unified with their original roots. I will tell you Janamejaya, if you like this, you too heard that the path of rituals (deva-yaana or divine route) is good to you. By rituals like sacrifices, you make the gods your votaries who are capable of transporting the beings to the higher abodes. Only by performing such sacrifices does one satisfy the gods and satisfying the gods is the only way for the mortals to attain the status of higher abodes. When the set of five elements and the gods formed from it are eternal, and when the soul itself too is eternal, then one who sees them as linked only to a particular body, is a person of unsound knowledge. And he that becomes subject to grief for destruction of the body i.e. death, is unwise in my opinion. He who understands that a disunion(cessation of body by dissolution of its contents i.e. elements and sensories) is itself false, shall first avoid the very association wherefrom neither a feeling of disunion (cessation of body ie death) nor grief from it can occur. One who does not possess the highest level of true knowledge, can see the difference between the ultimate and penultimate. after understanding the ultimate, he too attains the final level of knowledge and relievs himself from all the bonds. That which comes from the unseen (super soul) absorbs with the unseen itself, nor do I know him, nor does he know me, nor am I that much detatched to be able to know. Finally, whatever one does with his body or mind (physical or mental acts ie deeds), though all due to not having his own control over himself, shall experience their results through his body or mind , as the case may be, again for having no control of his own on anything.
( Here, the original and the commentaries are both unintelligible, to be frank. The lengthy speech of Vyshampaayana looks opaque, given Janamejaya's question about reaappearance of the dead people with their original physical bodies that were long back discarded and destroyed. Here, what I feel the essence is this - The bodies we see are temopral in our view. That is true. They are discarded by burning or otherwise and look destroyed and disappearing to us, that is also equally true. But, the components with which the mortal things or bodies are made of, are eternal. That means, the elements, the sensories,life etc, even after their derivatives are physically destroyed, still exist in their source abode in their original forms. Those things can be commanded to assume their earlier combination to present the respective lost forms again before us, though such task is possible to be done only by the gods or those nothing short of gods. Since Vyaasa'a penace and its powers are that great, he could order the gross elements, sensories and life to reassume their one-time existing combination for representing those earlier forms once again, to be visible to the normal eye too. I think further discussion only confuses a young reader. Any other more meaningful explanation from the learned is welcome for the benefit of the youngsters. - Tr).


Sootha continued his narration to the group of saints at Nymisha forest.
Vyshampaayana went on telling Janamejaya. "Thus, Janamejaya, Dhritharaashtra could see the forms of his dead sons again, due to sage Vyaasa's grace upon him, though his sons died long ago. Also serving the sage with devotion, he could acquire a thourough understanding of duties and policies of kings, profound knowledge of vedas and soul, all leading to stabilization of the intellect. Thus, Vidura could reach the destination with his penances while Dhritharaashtra could do so with Vyaasa's help."

At this point, Janamejaya again expressed his earlier doubt. "Sir! I will be able to believe all that you said to be true about the vision of the dead again, if the merciful Vyaasa can show me my father too, as he was at the time of his death. With that kind of grace of the sage upon me, my fondest desire will be achieved and I am sure of becoming a man of fruitful life. May my curious desire be served by his grace."

Vyaasa heard Janamejaya's words and allowed his prayer and called Parrekshith to present before them all. Surprisingly, Janamejaya could see with his own eyes, his father in the same form and age as at the time of death, his ministers and followers with him at that time, the sage Shameeka and his son Shringi too. Feeling wonderful and happy, he recollected many contexts of his father and delightedly went to carry out the final ablution in his sacrifice. And returning from the ablutions, he said to Aastheeka, ' Sir! I think this serpent sacrifice of mine has caused so many wonders to be manifested. The most amazing one among them is reappearance of my dead father, supressing my grief over his death."

Aastheeka replied, "Can there be anything unbelieavable in this? If the great eternal sage Vyaasa sits in anyone's sacrifice, that only means that its performer excels in both the worlds, this and the next. See for yourself. Unlike in any other routine sacrifices, in this, you heard a great epic, the serpents were burnt to ashes, Thakshaka could somehow survive due to your true courtesy, all the sages are worshipped and of all, you could see your dead father again to your unexpected pleasure. From listening to the great epic, you shed all your doubts and you could amass a lot of virtue. All this is due to the company and association with these great people. That is why it is said that, we should always be eager to bow to such people who stick to virtue, whose character is pure and whose company destroys our sins. "


Sootha continued.
Janamejaya heard Aastheeka's words and honoured him immensely. He again asked Vyshampaayana about rest of Dhritharaashtra's hermit life. "Sir, What did Dhritharaashtra do after seeing all his dead sons, grandchildren and other dear ones once again? And what did Yudhishthira do?"

And Vyshampaayana continued his narration to Janamejaya.

"King! Dhritharaashtra witnessed that wonderful scene to shed his grief and happily returned to his hermitage with Paandavas and others. The sages barring Vyaasa and other people left him for their own places. Only Paandavas with their women and troups lived with him for a few days more.

Oneday, Vyaasa told Dhritharaashtra. "Son! You have attentively listened to many episodes from many people who are great in knowledge, elder by age, virtueful by deeds, noble by birth and place, profound in sciences and masters of the vedas with their supplementaries. Never let your mind entertain grief over the past. A wise man never laments about what the destiny directs to. Didn't you hear the divine secret from the omnicient divine sage Naarada? All those that you lost went to the abodes befitting to valouros heroes who die in war. As I have shown you, all your sons dwell in the higher regions, moving at their will. And this king Yudhishthira has been here with you along with his brothers, women and some relatives, friends and followers. May he go back to his capital to take guard of the empire. It is more than a month that he has been here with you in the forests. You too know that an empire is something that should be carefully protected, as it naturally bears many obstacles and its holder has many opponents to trouble him even at the slightest chance. He will not leave you until you send him by yourself. It is not unknown to us what great attachment he has with you, the elders."

Dhritharaashtra saw the point in Vyaasa's words. He called for Yudhishthira and told him in an affectionate tone. "My dear son! Yudhishthira! You have no enemies at all any time , anywhere. May good befalls on you. Listen to me, you and your brothers too. With the enjoyment of your service and respect towards me, I forgot my sorrow. I am no more suffering from any grief. I actually feel as if i am enjoying my earlier life in Hasthipuram under your careful protection, due to your presence here now too with us. I reaped from you the fruits a father begets from his sons. I have nothing against you. I am truly and extremely pleased with you. Because of your company and Vyaasa's grace, I could again see all my dead sons. Though I could somehow keep my emaciated body through strength derived from seeing you all. I only wish that you may now leave for your capital. I am unable to concentrate on my penances, seeing you all around with me. I feel that my life served its purpose, may it be good or bad, to the world. I wish to go for still more severe penances in the little life remaining. These two mothers of you too, old by age and lean from penances, as emaciated as I am myself, will not live much long. You are only to be good enough to allow us to go on with our penances as we had planned. I permit you to go to your city, today or tomorrow. All our clan, its future, all the rites to our manes, everything now rests in you. What is unknown to you, about one's duties and their timely performance? You need be taught nothing newly now, as you have been already the most learned one in all aspects of life. You have done the best to me, nothing remains due. You may happily leave me here and go to your empire to enjoy it along with your brothers."

Yudhishthira replied to Dhritharaashtra in a dejected voice. "Sir! How can you throw me away like this, for no flaw on my part? Let my brothers and all others go back to the capital to take care of the empire. I will stay here serving you and these two old mothers."

Gaandhaari intervened and said, "Not like that, son. Listen to my words and your uncle's. You are now the base of our clan as a whole. You are the one to take care of the ritual offerings to the manes too. You have already served us enough and now it is your duty to obey your uncle's words. No more explanation is needded to you, as you can best understand the time and which decisions suit it nicely."

Then Yudhishthira said to his mother Kunthi with tears flowing down his cheeks. "Mother! See, this king says that I should go and the old queen also says the same. How can I leave you here and go back with my heart sinking in grief? Nor do I like to desturb your penances too. I know that penance is the ultimate pious and powerful thing and penance brings us the best of the results, here and in the next world too. In fact, my mind is not that much interested in ruling the empire as it was earlier. The world seems hollow to me, with the loss of all dear and near ones. Our close relatives are all gone and our strength too is not as grand as it was long ago. The Paanchaalas are all but few now a history. Drona burnt most of them to ashes and the few surviving him were accounted by his son Ashvaththaama in the night melee. I see no one to proliferate their clan further. The Chedis and the Mathsyas are now only past memories to us. Only the Yaadavas look prosperous at present, evidently due to Krishna's protection to them. It is with them in my mind that I am able to hold my life and body together, just for the sake of duty, but not out of pleasure. I really lost any feeling of possession about the worldly affairs. In stead I now tend towards solitude and penance, hence I too will take up penance as a hermit with you here. Let me be with you all elders, bless me with your kindness. I cannot see you easily again. And this old king says that he is going to take more intensive class of penances. Given his physical debilitation and yours, my heart melts by hearing those words."

Sahadeva was moved with Yudhishthira's bewailing and said with his own eyes filled with tears, " Brother! You should not ignore our ancestral empire. Nor shall we leave the ripe elders here alone in the forests. As it is your duty to take guard of the empire as the eldest of us, you go back to the city. I will stay with these elders here, I myself taking up the penance too.I will spend the rest of my life in the service of the king and our mothers and shed my body in the end through penance."

But Kunthi embraced him with affection and said, " No, No, my son. You are wrong. You compose yourselves. May good fall upon you all. All that you both say is only an impediment to our penances. If stay here, we will be ever remain attached to you and that destroys our solitude, determination and purpose of our stay here. We will altogether deprave in the course of our penances. Also, we are left with little time to live. We cannot afford to lose much of the little time in worldly bonds again. You better leave us and return for the good of us and you too."

Thus the old trio convinced Yudhishthira and his brothers to return to their empire. With their compulsions, he began to take leave from them all finally. He prostrated before the old king and the two old ladies and prayed for leave to go back."Father! You all consoled us. We wish to take your leave blessed by you all. Shall I move now?" Dhritharaashtra expressed his permission to them to leave. He embraced him and Bheema to whom he particularly talked soothingly. Bheema too responded in the right manner to the old king. Then he took Arjuna and The Twins in to his hands and blessed them fondly. Then they all bowed to Gaandhaari and Kunthi and obtained their leave with hearty blessings. All the royal ladies , with Droupadi in their lead, bowed to Dhritharaashtra and the two old ladies in obedience and got their permission to move. The old ladies briefly advised their younger folk asto their duties and bade farewell to them. Paandavas, their women and their followers, all circumambulated the old people and started to go back, turning backwards and seeing their mother again and again, like the calves being lead away from their mother cows. As the orders to move were given, there rose a simultaneous noise of the shouting drivers and workers coupled with the screams of the elephants and neighings of the horses. In a short while, Yudhishthira and his brothers moved along with their women, towards their capital Hasthipuram.

(Note: All this was one year after Dhritharaashtra went to forests. This one year and the thirteen years Dhritharaashtra lived with the Paandavas in the city, in total, fourteen years passed after the war. -Tr)





Sootha's narration to the sages in the forest of Nymisha continued.
Vyshampaayana continued his narration to Janamejaya. "Nearly two years after the Paandavas returned , the divine sage Naarada casually made a visit to them. Yudhishthira invited him, worshipped and duly paid all formal respects and said to him. "Divine Sir! I have not the honour of seeing you for a good time. Are you well? Which places did you see recently Sir? What brought you here? What service can I be of to you my dear Sir? you may bless me by ordering for your service. Who are to our ultimate rescue, barring you?"

"Yudhishthira! I too felt like seeing you since it has been long after meeting you. And came here to see you once. I happened to wander around many holy places including those along the river Ganga."

Soon Yudhishthira asked with curiousity and concern. " Sir! My men from the regions along Ganga reported that our Uncle Dhritharaashtra was around there, immursed in his severe penances. did Your Highness chance upon seeing him? Ishe well now? How is Gaandhaari? How is our mother poor Kunthi? Is Sanjaya well, good at penance and at service of his master? If you saw them, can you kindly tell me how they are living there?"

Naarada answered. "Yudhishthira, Listen carefully. I will tell you what I heard and saw in respect of your uncle and mothers. After you all returned from their hermitage, your uncle left that place Kurukshethram and went to Gangadvaaram, a holy place along the banks of Ganga, along with Gaandhaari, Kunthi, Sanjaya and his priests who carried his sacrificial fires with them. There he undertook severe penance of stringent standards. He kept a woodden ball in his mouth and remained foodless, subsisting only on air. He observed such great penance for six months, deserving the praise of all the sages in the forest. He remained only skin and bones. Gaandhaari subsisted only on water. Kunthi observed fasting, eating once in a month.Sanjaya too observed fasting, eating a little once in six days. Dhritharaashtra's priests performed the fire worship for him irrespective of his presence or absence there. Your father wandered around the forest without a fixed homestead anywhere. The two old women and Sanjaya followed him. Sanjaya helped Dhritharaashtra leading him through the ups and downs of the uneven ground in the forest. Similarly, Kunthi helped Gaandhaari in walking in such places. At times, he went to his cottage and lived there as usual.

Living a strict ascetic life that way, oneday, the old king bathed in Ganga and started returning to his hermit along with the women and Sanjaya. Suddenly there was a terrific gale followed by a flaring forest-fire. That terrible fire soon spread in all directions and surrounded them too. Groups of deer were burnt alive and snakes were scalded where they were. Herds of boars ran in fear and sheltered in lakes and ponds. With the fire pervading all around them, the debilitated king and the women could not move away from the fire into a safe place, due to their emaciation from fasting and penance. Dhritharaashtra understood their situation that the fire was not far away from them. He called Sanjaya and told him,"Sanjaya! Haste retreat to a safer place, not to be burnt by this fire. We prefer getting burnt by this fire and take the best exit from this world." But Sanjaya answered with anxiety. "King! You are likely to face an untoward death from this impious fire. But I could not see a way out to save you from this peril too. What shall I do and what is our best course now, please order me."

Dhritharaashtra again told Sanjaya. "No, Sanjaya. This is not an unseemly death for us who came out renouncing the home and the world. Nor is this fire an impious one. Fire, water, wind and fasting unto death are the accepted means of death to an ascetic in the forest. You go away, quick!" Telling that to him, the old king sat facing east with Gaandhaari and Kunthi. They all concentrated their mind on the god and went into yogic trance. Sanjaya saw them in that state, circumambulated them and said, "King! Hold your mind and concentrate on the God through yoga.". Saying that to them, he left that place and walked away. Dhritharaashtra withdrew his senses and mind into within himself and remained like a log. both the women too took to yogic meditation and sat stiff like wood. Eventually, the forest conflagration consumed them. Sanjaya could survive the fire and I saw him near Ganga with other ascetics. He told them about Dhritharaashtra's end and went to the Himaalayas for penance. That way, your uncle, his wife along with your mother met their end in the forest. As I happened to pass through that forest where that fire occurred, I saw their remains there. All the ascetics in the surrounding hermitages learnt the news of Dhritharaashtra's death and came to see the place but none of them felt bereft, as they all were aware that the old king went to the higher abodes. I too heard all this from the ascetics . King! You need not lament about the death of your uncle or his queen or your mother, because they voluntarily invited their end through that fire."

No sooner did Naarada complete his words than the already agitated Paandavas burst out into a loud weeping. Yudhishthira could not control himself. He threw his hand into the air and cried out again and again, "Alas! Fie! Helpless king! My poor mother!" His brothers too could not bear with the sad news of the death of their dear mother and wept aloud bitterly. The people around them, the women of the harem and the servant folks too cried out in grief and despair. The horrendous noise of weeping and cries from the royal mansions spread out into the city and the citizens toofelt shocked at the sad news of the horrible death of their old king with his queen and pious Kunthi too, helplessly burnt by a forest fire. the noise of cries, shouts and weepingtouched the sky and the entire city was subjugated by a wave of grief.

After a long while, Yudhishthira could somehow gather himself. He said to Naarada, "Your Holiness! What can I say! Our uncle leading an ideal ascetic life was to die in the forest in that manner like an orphan, with all of us alive here in the city. It seems that what a man's life has in store for him is simply unpredictable. The ruler that had one hundred valourous sons and who himself was as strong as ten thousand elephants, was to die burnt by a forest fire. what a pity! He who had once been fanned from either side by royal maids with white whisks, was to be fanned by cruel vultures with their wings. He who was used to rise from his bed listening to the songs of the bards, was to lie dead on the hard ground in a lonely forest, all due to my sinful deeds. I am not to lament about Gaandhaari though she lost all her hundred sons, since she could follow her husband till the end.She must have gone to the abodes of the chaste women with her husband. but, my heart melts if I think about the fate meted out to my poor mother Kunthi. Having lost her husband when she was very young, she sustained many troubles all through her life solely to take care of us, her useless sons! Even after all her troubles are over, she voluntarily forewent the wealth of her son's empire and chose to walk into the forests to live as a hermit and to serve our uncle and his queen. But, what happened to her in the end? Sir! Very subtle is the course of the time, it seems. Or, how could that happen to her who preferred serving the elders to the pleasures and luxuries from her son's empire? Shame upon our empire, upon our valour, our strength and the Kshathriya life itself! I lose my senses by the very thought that the mother of Yudhishthira, Bheema and Arjuna was burnt by fire. I imagine her helplessly trembling and calling me and Bheema for help when surrounded by the fire. How much must she have called out 'Yudhishthira! Bheema! Run here to save me!' Arjuna's satisfying the fire god at Khaandavam looks useless as I feel that the fire god is ungrateful enough to burn my mother alive. He came in the guise of a Braahmana and begged our Arjuna for help and he did not mind burning the mother of that very Arjuna! Shame on the fire god himself and shame on Arjuna's truthfulness! Sahadeva was her fondest son. Even he was not of use to her rescue in the end. Besides this, sage, another matchless cruelty of the time is that my uncle was burnt by a common fire,after having ruled our vast empire and with his sacred fires still in his hermitage there with him. If his end came like this, what can anyone say about anybody's future? "

Thus wailing variousLy, the brothers held one another and wept . The whole mansion seemed to be crying when every one in it wept aloud unable to withhold himself. The sound of their weeping seemed to have pierced the walls of the mansion and went around, when everybody everywhere was seen wailing.



Naarada consoled Yudhishthira to some extent and said to him. " King! As I heard it, your uncle was not burnt by the common fire. I will tell you that also. We were told that your uncle, while leaving the hermitage to enter into the forest to spend the days with unending fasting, observed the final performances of his sacred fires and he let them off, systematically renouncing them. Later, his priests left the fires in an uninhabitted part of the forest and went on their way. We heard that the fires later becamed flared up due to strong winds and caught with the trees around, turning into a fierce conflagration. The ascetics there told me that the conflagration spread over the forest and eventually consumed your uncle and the ladies. Thus, the old king was burnt by his own sacred fires but not by an ordinarry common place fire. And those ascetice whom I met on the banks of Ganga too, told me the same way. You need not lament that he was burnt uncermoniously. He offered his body to his own sacred fires. He went to the best abodes. Nothing to worry about him. I also believe that your pious mother too must have reached the higher abodes, as a result of her devoted service to the elders. And now, you are to perform the water-rites (= dropping water and sesamum seeds together as a memorial service to the dead, at the time of death and subsequently every year on the day of death. - Tr)them . Arrange for that with your brothers. You know that the physical existence of all mortal beings ends oneday or other."

Yudhishthira sighed in grief and started out with his brothers and women to bathe in the river Ganga for performing the necessary rites to the dead elders. The royal staff and the prominent citizens that were ever loyal to their rulers also followed them . They all went on foot wearing only lower garments ( the readers may see the link 'customs ' for details. -Tr). Yudhishthira kept Yuyuthsu in the lead ( because he was the only surviving son of Dhritharaashtra) and bathed in the river. Next, they all offered water-rites to Dhritharaashtra, Gaandhaari and Kunthi, mentioning the name and origin, of the dead as well as of themselves in detail. They spent the days of ceremonial impurity outside the city. Meanwhile, Yudhishthira sent learned Braahmanas with sufficient guard and giving all the necessity things abundantly, to the place Gangaadvaaram where Dhritharaashtra died, for perform the required rites for him there itself on the banks of Ganga. On the twelfth day after the days of impurity are over, Yudhishthira performed the obsequies in the name of the three dead elders, giving huge amounts of gifts and alms to the befitting ones. In the name of each of the three Dhritharaashtra, Gaandhaari and Kunthi, he gifted away gold, silver, cows, beds, monies,servants, villages,gems,food and whatever the needdy ones asked for without any limit or restriction whatsoever. After satisfying himself with the offerings he made in memory of his belowed mother, Yudhishthira entered the city. The Braahmanas whom he sent to Gangaadvaaram too, performed all the required rites there and returned with the collection of their remainings (i.e. bones and ashes). Again, the necessary rites for the remainings were done systematically. Naarada too consoled Yudhishthira once again and went on his way.

Thus, Dhritharaashtra spent fifteen years with the Paandavas at home, engaging himself in performing the memorial rites to his dear ones and manes and thereafter three years in the forests as a hermit.

After the death of his mother, Yudhishthira kept on ruling the empire, with a thouroughly displeased mind due to his guilty feeling of having killed and lost all his relatives in the war. The only thing of solace for him was the young grandson Pareekshith who was their heir apparent.




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11:42 AM 11/24/2013