- Mahābhārata – Episode 1 – Birth of Bhīṣma
- Mahābhārata – Episode 2 – Birth of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Pāṇḍu, and Vidura
- Mahābhārata – Episode 3 – Birth of the Pāṇḍavas and Kauravas, Death of Pāṇḍu
- Mahābhārata – Episode 4 – Test of Skill of the Kuru Princes
- Mahābhārata – Episode 5 – Enter Karṇa
- Mahābhārata – Episode 6 – Pāṇḍavas in Vāraṇāvata
- Mahābhārata – Episode 7 – Bhīma and Hiḍimbā
- Mahābhārata – Episode 8 – The Pāṇḍavas in Ekacakranagara
- Mahābhārata – Episode 9 – Bhīma and Bakāsura, Pāṇḍavas in Pāñcāla
- Mahābhārata – Episode 10 – The Birth of King Kuru, Meeting Sage Dhaumya
- Mahābhārata – Episode 11 – Draupadī’s Svayaṃvara
- Mahābhārata – Episode 12 – Draupadī’s Wedding
- Mahābhārata – Episode 13 – Duryodhana’s Evil Plans
- Mahābhārata – Episode 14 – Building Indraprastha
- Mahābhārata – Episode 15 – Arjuna’s Exile; the Khāṇḍava Forest-fire
- Mahābhārata – Episode 16 – The Killing of Jarāsandha
- Mahābhārata – Episode 17 – The Killing of Śiśupāla
- Mahābhārata – Episode 18 – Duryodhana’s Grief; Plans for the Game of Dice
- Mahābhārata – Episode 19 – The Gamble Begins; Vidura’s Advice
- Mahābhārata – Episode 20 – Yudhiṣṭhira Loses the Gamble, Draupadī Laments
- Mahābhārata – Episode 21 – Draupadī’s Infinite Saree; Bhīma Vows to Kill Duśśāsana
- Mahābhārata – Episode 22 – Pāṇḍavas are Released; Second Game of Dice Begins
- Mahābhārata – Episode 23 – Pāṇḍavas Lose Again; Twelve-year Exile Begins
- Mahābhārata – Episode 24 – Pāṇḍavas Reach the Kāmyaka Forest; Maitreya Curses Duryodhana
- Mahābhārata – Episode 25 – Vāsudeva meets the Pāṇḍavas in the Kāmyaka Forest
- Mahābhārata – Episode 26 – Pāṇḍavas in the Dvaita Forest
- Mahābhārata – Episode 27 – Arjuna’s Encounter with Śiva, Sojourn in Indraloka
Kirmīra was an asura endowed with magical powers who inhabited the Kāmyaka forest. He was a brother of Bakāsura and a friend of Hiḍimba; Bhīma killed him. When Vidura visited the Pāṇḍavas in the forest, Kirmīra’s fallen body was still lying there. Having seen this and heard all the details about the episode, Vidura told Dhṛtarāṣṭra later on, after he returned to Hastinagara.
When they learnt about the exile of the Pāṇḍavas to the forest, kings of various Kekaya lineages including the Bhojas, Vṛṣṇis, and Andhakas; the relatives of the king of Pāñcāla; and Vāsudeva came to the Kāmyaka forest and sought an audience with the sons of Pāṇḍu. Vāsudeva said, “It will not be long before the earth shall drink the blood of the evil-souled Duryodhana, Karṇa, and Śakuni. That which annihilates the treacherous is dharma. Thus, we shall kill them and crown Dharmarāja as king of this land; we shall perform a paṭṭābhiṣeka for him!”
Overcome by sorrow, Draupadī said, “Kṛṣṇa! Being a friend of yours, the wife of the Pāṇḍavas, and the sister of Dhṛṣṭadyumna, can such misfortune strike me? In the period of my menses, when I was clothed in but a single piece of raiment, the Kauravas dragged me into an assembly full of people and toyed with me! Am I not a daughter-in-law of Dhṛtarāṣṭra? Can they make me into a slave? When I, their dharma-patni (wife), was being tormented thus, O these Pāṇḍavas remained silent! Fie upon the might of Bhīma and the archery of Arjuna! However helpless husbands may be, they will always protect their wives. At least for the sake of these five children of mine, should they have not protected me?” She covered her face with her palms and wailed aloud. Once again wiping her tears, choking, and sighing repeatedly, she said, “Kṛṣṇa! As far as I’m concerned, I have nobody – neither husbands nor children, not you, no father, no elder brother, neither relatives nor friends! Looking at my pitiable state, that rogue Karṇa laughed out loud – how can I forget that sorrow?” Saying so, she continued wailing.
In a bid to pacify her, Kṛṣṇa offered words of solace and said, “Dear Kṛṣṇā! Those who have angered you thus will meet their end by the arrows of Arjuna and while they are fallen on the ground, lurching in their own blood, their wives shall cry just the way you are crying now. In this matter, I will help the Pāṇḍavas to the best of my ability; you will rule as a queen; this is my promise; if my words go in vain, the sky shall break loose, the Himalayas shall crumble, the earth shall be torn into pieces, and the oceans shall dry up!” Then, turning towards Dharmarāja, he said, “O king! During that time, if I had been in Dvārakā, even without your calling me, I would have come to the gambling hall and prevented it from happening. Women, gambling, hunting, drinking—these four will destroy one’s wealth; and of those, gambling is particularly harmful; within a day, everything that one has can go away from him, leaving behind only harsh words. Sorrow is guaranteed—thus I would have counselled you in detail. If you had listened to my advice and followed my instructions, fine; if not, I would have used my force and restrained you. But what to do! At that time, I had to leave our Ānartadeśa itself and go elsewhere. Therefore you had to fall prey to this blunder of gambling. I came to know about your situation only now; it was too late – I came here with a heavy heart. Poor souls, how much difficulty you’ve had to face!”
Yudhiṣṭhira asked, “Where were you at that time, Kṛṣṇa?”
Kṛṣṇa said, “I had gone to destroy King Śālva’s city, Saubhanagara. When I attended the Rājāsūya yajña and killed Śiśupāla, that enraged his brother Śālva and he launched an attack on Dvārakā, killed many young Vṛṣṇi heroes, destroyed all the city-gardens, and loudly expressed his desire to capture me, with a view to finish me off. I learnt about that only after I went there. At once I took an army and attacked his town, killing him and the demons fighting on his side. Therefore, although I heard about the gambling match, I could not come to Hastinapura. If I had come, Suyodhana would not have survived.”
Thus Kṛṣṇa gave solace to the Pāṇḍavas, offered salutations to Dharmarāja, and returned home to Dvārakā, taking Subhadrā and Abhimanyu with him. Dhṛṣṭadyumna took Draupadī’s children back with him. Dhṛṣṭaketu took his sister Reṇumati (Nakula’s wife) back with him to his hometown.
Soon after that, the Pāṇḍavas moved from there to the Dvaita forest. In that forest, there was a lake by the same name (i.e. Dvaita lake). It was rich in fruits and flowers. Several sages had made it their home. Therefore, the Pāṇḍavas felt that they could spend the entire time of their twelve-year exile there.
One evening, the Pāṇḍavas and Draupadī were sitting down and chatting. Draupadī told Dharmarāja, “That sinner Duryodhana has no compassion towards us! He has hurled you and me to the forest; he spoke not a single word; he never bothered to think about what would befall us; he didn’t feel bad for us; his heart must be made of metal. When we left for the forest, those four sinners alone did not shed a tear; everyone else was weeping. When I see the bed on which you have to sleep now and think about the bed on which you used to sleep, I am engulfed with sadness. In the great assembly hall, all around you sat the royal entourage, of family and friends; none of that is present here, now; how can my heart that sees this ever find peace? The body that would be anointed with fragrances is now dust-laden. Instead of expensive silks, now you wear clothes made from fibrous bark. You would feed thousands of householders and ascetics in golden vessels and then partake of your meal. Your brothers, who would eat polished rice now have to eat whatever they find in the forest. How can my heart that sees this ever find peace? Seeing this Bhīmasena toiling away in the forest till the point of exhaustion – why doesn’t it evoke any anger in you? He is so eager to annihilate the very existence of the Kauravas but is restraining himself merely waiting for your permission. Although Arjuna has two arms, he is equal to Kārtavīryārjuna of a thousand arms; seeing him brooding away, why don’t you feel any anger? Arjuna took with him magnificent and amazing elephants, horses, and chariots as he attacked several kings and took their wealth only to offer it to you; he is capable of shooting—at the same speed—five hundred arrows; when you see this selfsame Arjuna roaming about in the forest, why don’t you get angry? So also, when you see the handsome and courageous twins, Nakula and Sahadeva, exhausted by their toil in the forest, why don’t you get angry? When you see me—the daughter of Drupada and the daughter-in-law of Pāṇḍu—in the forest, why doesn’t that evoke any anger in you? It appears that you are not pained to see your brothers and me in this pitiable state and therefore you have no feeling of anger. No kṣatriya in the world is free from anger. But in you, it is entirely absent! If a kṣatriya does not become angry at a time when anger is appropriate, then such a man is scorned by even animals. Thus, you must not display forgiveness when it comes to enemies; you must conquer them through courage and valour. There is no doubt in this. So also, a kṣatriya who does not maintain peace at a time when wellbeing is appropriate is hated by even animals and eventually gets destroyed. Long back, King Bali asked his grandfather Prahlāda, ‘Is forgiveness better or is valour better?’ In reply, it seems that Prahlāda said, ‘Be it forgiveness or valour, neither can be always good; one cannot say that either one will be good in all situations, at all times. If one is always forgiving, even the lowliest of servants will ignore him and look upon him with scorn and apathy. None will show respect or display humility; petty-minded people will constantly think of robbing him of his wealth, clothes, jewellery, and his food; why, they will also be happy if they can get his wife. Even his wife will be lapped up and he will be left clean. Death is better than such dishonour. A person who has no forgiveness in his heart and whose behaviour is forever driven by rajas makes opponents of even his friends. His own people will relieve him of his wealth and life. Therefore, one should not always be soft nor should one always be harsh. Only such a person (i.e. who knows how to behave in a manner appropriate to the situation) find happiness in this world and beyond. In this manner, one must forgive a person who is guilty of a petty crime; one should forgive a person who has committed a crime unknowingly. The reason for this is that not everyone is learned. One must forgive the first mistake of everyone. The second mistake should be punished. Sometimes, due to the fear of society, one might have to forgive a criminal. Thus, there is a time for forgiveness, and there is a time for ruthlessness!’ Mahārāja, I have learnt that this is the time to display our dignity to those avaricious and harmful Kauravas!”
Yudhiṣṭhira said, “Draupadī, anger is the root of man’s rise and fall; if one controls his anger, then he rises and if not, he falls; an angry man commits sin; he may even kill his guru! He may even kill his wife! Why, he might even kill himself! He loses the power to discern between what is to be spoken and what is not, what is to be done and what is to be avoided, who is to be slain and who is to be sheltered. Knowing all this, I have not fallen prey to anger. Both the weak and the strong must abandon anger; if not, the weak man faces misfortune here, while the strong man faces misfortune in the hereafter. What is hailed as brilliance is actually made up of anger! The reason is this: competence, valour, and alacrity are the traits of brilliance; one who is angry will not have these; if there didn’t exist people who were endowed with earth-like forbearance, how would there be solace in the world? The result of anger is quarrel; curses in response to curses, violence in response to violence. Thus, anger leads to only two things: absolute annihilation and ascent of adharma. Indeed, one who has mastered anger is learned, noble. Therefore, a wise man should be endowed with forgiveness. Bhīṣma, Vidura, Kṛpa, Sañjaya – all of them advocate the path of equanimity. This is the way in which an awakened man conducts himself, this is sanātana dharma; therefore I have firmly held on to forgiveness and non-injury!”
Draupadī said, “Dharma, ahiṃsā, forgiveness, integrity, compassion – these things never really help anyone; if that was not the case, then would you and your brothers be subject to such torment? Dharma is something you hold dearer than life. I’ve heard that dharma protects those who protect it. However, it doesn’t seem like dharma is protecting you. Where have you fallen short in dharma? Even when you are exiled to the forest, you have not swerved in your adherence to dharma. This being the case, how did you lose your mind while gambling? How did you lose all your lands and treasures and all of us? The world and its people are dependent on the Supreme, who controls them all; not humans. We are but puppets in His hands; He is indeed the reason for both the auspicious and malicious. Like a piece of log fallen in a river, man is helplessly drawn towards heaven or hell. The Supreme doesn’t look after us with compassion, like our parents do; is He angry with us, treating us like outsiders; if not, why should good people face so much trouble? How do the evil ones gloat in comforts? When I see our difficulties and Suyodhana’s prosperity, I feel like scolding the Supreme. If the fruit of the action is not appropriate to the action, then even the Almighty will be stained with sin because of this! If the fruits are not going to befit the action then He must repent upon seeing the weak and the helpless ones!”
Yudhiṣṭhira said, “Kṛṣṇā! I adhere to dharma not in expectation of its fruits; one should not regard dharma as a milch cow we have tied in our home for the sake of milk; further, dharma is something that is innately within me, as part of my conduct. Due to the influence of the trait of rajas you are doubting dharma, finding fault with the Supreme. One who knows, finds satisfaction with less; one who does not know, never finds contentment however much he receives; don’t curse dharma just because you can’t see its fruits.”
To be continued…
This is an English translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’s Kannada classic Vacanabhārata by Arjun Bharadwaj and Hari Ravikumar published in a serialized form. Thanks to Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh for his review and astute feedback.