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At Hastinapura, brooding alone over the happenings of the past few days, King Dhritarashtra felt restless and desired conversation with someone near to him. He sent for Vidura and asked him, “Kshatta, I am disturbed at what has happened. You alone have the clear mind to tell me what is in store for us. Does destruction await us?”

In his characteristic adherence to truthful talk, Vidura replied, “O King. What your son has done to the Pandavas is certain to draw fearful consequences. Yet it is not too late to make amends. Make peace with the Pandavas and give them back their kingdom. Knowing Yudhisthira, I am confident that he will forgive his vicious cousin for all his misdeeds. The two families should live in peace and amity with each other.”

Advice such as this tasted bitter to the king who could find no fault with his son. He became angry with Vidura and told him, “Truly Kshatta, you are like an unfaithful wife. Stay here and accept things or go away.”

Saddened by the king’s rude words, Vidura left Hastinapura. He knew where the Pandavas had gone and made that his destination. News of Vidura’s departure was received with great joy by Duryodhana and his cohorts.

The sons of Pandu had moved from the banks of the river Ganga to the forest known as Kamyaka. As Vidura reached the Pandava camp, an overjoyed Yudhisthira welcomed him with respect and the two were engaged in fruitful conversation.

As`soon as Vidura had left Hastinapura, the king was smitten with repentance at his treatment of his brother. He fell down in a swoon. On being revived, he bade his faithful servant Sanjaya to immediately follow Vidura and bring him back. Sanjaya soon brought Vidura back, much to the consolation of the king.
 As Yudhisthira, his brothers and Draupadi proceeded to the gates of Hastinapura, the citizens, whose eyes were red with crying, surrounded them. “Leave us not, O noble Pandavas,” they said. “We could not conceive of life without you. We would follow you, wherever you go, and continue to live under your protection.”

 “We are undeserving of so much love,” Yudhisthira told them. “Our hearts do go out for you. But the grandsire Bhishma, the king, Vidura and our revered mother are all here in Hastinapura. In this hour you should stay back and be of support to them.”

 The citizens bade the Pandavas a tearful farewell at the Vardhaman gate (they left, not through the Royal gate, but the traders’ gate). There the exiles got into their chariots and drove towards the Ganga river. They spent the night under the great Banyan tree, Pramana, on the banks of the river where the Pandavas had played as children. A number of brahmins, chanting holy verses, followed them and set camp with them.

 The next morning Yudhisthira addressed the mendicants who were depending on him for food. “It is the duty of the king to provide the necessities of brahmins. His wealth is for this reason alone. But you know I have been divested of all my wealth. I do not know how well I could support you.” The brahmins would not listen to him and continued to stay.

 The priest Dhaumya advised Yudhisthira to pray to the Sun god, for he it was who provided food and sustenance to all living things. Dhaumya knew a Mantra for invoking the Sun god, which he imparted to Yudhisthira. Yudhisthira recited the Mantra, and meditated deeply. The Sun god was pleased with Yudhisthira’s prayer and he appeared before the erstwhile king. Learning about Yudhisthira’s concern to provide food for his followers, the god presented him with a copper vessel called Akshaya Patra of celestial quality,

 “As long as the chaste Panchali, who always eats last, does not eat out of it and clean it, this vessel will be full with the four kinds of food made in her kitchen and stored in it; the four kinds of food being meat, root, vegetable and fruit. May your objective be achieved, and may you regain your kingdom in fourteen years.” With these blessings, the Sun god disappeared.
 With the divine bowl providing inexhaustible quantities of food, Yudhisthira pleased the brahmins, after feeding whom he and his family fed themselves.

Frightened by these omen, Duryodhana and his brothers prayed to Drona to protect them in the coming days. Drona assured them that he would, but added that the Pandavas were gods, and humans cannot kill them.

“In the next thirteen years,” Drona told Duryodhana, “the Pandavas would adopt strict celibacy, perform penance and seek more education. They would have become more formidable when they come back. My own death has been sealed with the birth of a son from the sacrificial fire of Drupada. Do what good you can during the period till the Pandvas returned.”

A distraught Dhritarashtra bade his attendant Sanjay recall the Pandavas. But before Sanjay could react, that wavering moment passed, and the king was caught once again in the web of his love for his first-born. He sighed and retired


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