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Chapter 115: Pandavas’ hospitality tested

Yudhisthira dreamt that the deer in Dwaita appealed to him to stop their slaughter for food or the species would disappear. The Pandavas immediately moved to a spot near Lake Trinavindu in the Kamyaka forest. There they continued to find food for themselves and also supported their followers, thanks to the celestial bowl.

The sage Durvasa, famous for his eccentricities and short temper, visited Duryodhana. Knowing the ascetic’s nature, Duryodhana did all he could to please him. He was in personal attendance on the sage during his stay in Hastinapura. The holy one was always unpredictable, especially in his eating habits. When food was ready, he would decline it. And at unearthly hours he would demand that he and his big retinue of brahmins be fed.

Duryodhana pleased the sage with his devotion. “Ask for a boon,” the sage told the Kaurava prince. “O great sage,” Duryodhana prayed to him. “Please visit my brother Yudhisthira in the forest. Call on the Pandavas at a time when Panchali has fed the brahmins and her family, and lies down after feeding herself.”

“So be it,” the sage said and left. Duryodhana rejoiced with Karna. “This is the end of the Pandavas,” he said.

Ascertaining that Draupadi had finished her repast and was resting, Durvasa descended on the Pandava abode, followed by ten thousand brahmins. Yudhisthira received him with all honours. He bade the sage to proceed to the river along with his followers, and return for dinner after performing the evening rites.


Chapter 116: Give me food, demands Krishna

The Pandavas were deeply worried. The celestial bowl had been retired for the day. They could see no way to feed Durvasa and his army of brahmins. While they were so despairing, Draupadi prayed to Krishna. “Save us from this grave danger, O Kesava. The Muni is known for his wrath. If we do not feed him and the brahmins, we are doomed.” Krishna heard her prayers in Dwaraka. Leaving Rukmini’s side, he appeared at the Pandava abode.

In the midst of the crisis they were in, Draupadi and her husbands were greatly cheered by Krishna’s arrival. After the exchange of courtesies was over, a tired Krishna addressed Draupadi, “Panchali. I have reached here after a strenuous journey. I am hungry. Bring me some food.”

Draupadi hung her head down and said, “Alas Krishna, we have no food to offer you. Since I have finished eating, the celestial bowl can no more produce food for the day.” Krishna insisted on seeing the bowl.

When Panchali brought the vessel, Krishna pointed to a particle of rice and a piece of vegetable sticking to the rim. The bowl soon overflowed with food. Bhima was sent to fetch Durvasa and his followers.

In the river, the brahmins had a refreshing bath. Suddenly they felt as though they had partaken of a heavy dinner. When they heard Bhima’s voice calling them, they rushed to their preceptor and told him that it would be impossible for them to eat even an atom of food. Durvasa told them, “Yudhisthira has great spiritual power. He would have prepared dinner for us. If we do not eat he may curse us. It is therefore best that we make ourselves scarce.”

When Bhima reached the river, he found Durvasa and his disciples had vanished. Greatly perplexed, he returned home without the guests, Krishna smiled and told his Pandava hosts, “Your guests have all vanished. They will never come here again.” Krishna took leave of his cousins and returned to Dwaraka.


Chapter 113: Duryodhana’s strange dream

The Asuras Danavas and Daityas who were opposed to the gods, were watching these events. They became worried. They were depending on Duryodhana for their fight against the gods. They immediately arranged for Duryodhana to be present before them.

The Danavas said, “O mighty Duryodhana. We specially obtained you from Maheswara after pleasing him with our austerities. Your upper portion is made of parts of Vajra (thunderbolt). The goddess Uma herself offered flowers to make your lower portion, thus making it attractive for females. You are therefore no ordinary human being. It is the soul of the demon Naraka who resides in the body of Karna. Due to our influence, even Bhishma, Drona and Kripa who were previously inclined towards the Pandavas are now turning their support to you. Many, many rakshasas and Daityas have been born as Kshatriyas, only to aid you. The Samasapthakas, those do or die warriors, whom you will obtain during the war, are none but our kin. If Arjuna is the weapon of the gods, you are our weapon. Do not despair. Victory will be yours.”

Duryodhana considered his encounter with the Danavas and the Daityas as a mere dream. But the experience restored to him his self-confidence as he returned to Hastinapura.

Chapter 114: The Vaishnava sacrifice

As could be expected, Duryodhana and his friends came in for severe criticism in the court of Dhritarashtra. Bhishma was particularly severe on Karna. “It was Karna who led you to this foolish campaign,” he told Duryodhana. “But at the slightest danger the coward abandoned you and ran away.”

Karna’s pride was hurt. Alone with Duryodhana, he told the prince, “The grandsire is always against me. Give me permission and I shall prove my valor. Let me go on a tour of conquest. I shall bring all the kings of this world to your feet.”

Permission for such a mission was easily obtained from the king, and Karna left with a huge army. He marched against rulers all over the country, and soon, as promised, he was able to make them all acknowledge Duryodhana’s superiority and pay him tributes.

When Karna returned, there was much celebration of this event. He found himself to be a hero. Remembering Yudhisthira’s Rajasuya, Duryodhana desired to hold a similar sacrifice. But he was advised by the priests that with his father Dhritarashtra alive, Duryodhana should not perform Rajasuya. Instead, he could perform the sacrifice known as Vaishnava, which was much superior to Rajasuya.

The sacrifice was performed in great splendour. Only the Pandavas were not present. When a messenger was sent to them, Bhima replied, “Tell your king that we shall come to Hastinapura as his conquerors, not as his guests.”

Established as an overlord, Duryodhana ruled the world. He looked after the welfare of all the rulers under him and was very generous to his subjects.

Chapter 112: A needless humiliation for Duryodhana

Duryodhana was spending some very happy years in Hastinapura. Monarchs in all four directions had been subjugated by him. His coffers were overflowing. His friends Karna and Sakuni, and his brother Dushasana, were always with him, praising and flattering him.

Karna came up with the idea that Duryodhana should visit Dwaitavana in the pretext of a hunting expedition. He could derive great pleasure in observing the Pandavas’ miserable existence in the forest. At the same time he could flaunt his own prosperity to the Pandavas.

Duryodhana fully endorsed the idea but was diffident about getting his father’s permission. It was Karna again who came up with a solution. ”Huge herds of our cattle are stationed near Dwaitavana,” he said. “As king you have the duty to inspect our cattle stations. Your father, the king, will certainly approve of your visiting the place. As a relief from your strenuous duties, you could then go for a hunt in the forest.”

Dhritarashtra was far from happy over the prospect of Duryodhana and his friends going anywhere near the Pandava abode. But he relented eventually, and plans were made for the trip.

Duryodhana reached the cattle station with a big retinue, including many royal ladies. Karna, Sakuni, Dushasana and the other brothers accompanied him. He set up camp four miles away from Dwaitavana. After dutifully inspecting the cattle, the prince retired for some sport and diversion. He ordered his men to enter the forest and set up a camping place near the lake.


The Kaurava soldiers who approached the lake were stopped by Gandharvas who told them, “This is the habitat of Gandharvas. Humans are not permitted to enter here.” When Duryodhana heard of this, he became angry and sent his army. This time his men forced their way in, despite opposition from the Gandharvas. Those heavenly creatures rushed to their king Chitrasena and reported the matter.

Chitrasena, with a horde of Gandharvas, descended on the scene to beat back the Kaurava army. Meanwhile, Duryodhana and the other prominent Kauravas reached the lake. What ensued was a battle between the Kauravas and the Gandharvas. Although the Kauravas at first beat back the guardians of the lake, soon Chitrasena overcame them. All the Kaurava soldiers retreated, leaving only their masters in the field. Karna showed courage initially, but he soon lost his car and his weapons. To save himself, he had to run away from the battle.

Most of the Kauravas had, by now, abandoned their king and run away. Chitrasena fought relentlessly. Soon he could capture Duryodhana, Dushasana and a few other princes. He also rounded up the royal ladies. They were all taken prisoners.

The soldiers who fled from the battle approached the Pandavas and told them about the misfortune that had befallen the Kaurava prince and his entourage. While Bhima expressed his glee over Duryodhana’s plight, Yudhisthira told his brother, “This is no time for rejoicing. Members of our family have been captured by the Gandharvas. It is our duty to see that they are released.” He instructed his brothers to leave immediately.

“Approach the Gandharvas,” Yudhisthira said, with wisdom. “Get the Kauravas released by adopting conciliatory methods. If the Gandharvas do not listen, engage in light skirmishes. If they are still stubborn, then crush the foe.” The four brothers proceeded to carry out their elder brother’s orders. The Gandharvas were in no mood to yield to the Pandavas. A great battle ensued. The brothers fought off the thousands of Gandharvas who poured in. Chitrasena employed various subterfuges to overcome Arjuna, but the Pandava hero who was armed with celestial weapons, effectively answered him. In the end, Chitrasena, who had become Arjuna’s friend when the latter visited Indralok, appeared before the Pandavas. “Cease my friend,” he told Arjuna. “I do not desire to fight with you.” The two embraced each other.

Arjuna asked Chitrasena the reason for his taking the Kauravas prisoners. Chitrasena replied, “This wretched son of Dhritarashtra, along with his friends, came to Dwaitavana with the sole purpose of mocking at you, your brothers and Draupadi. Indra sent me here to chastise the miscreants. You can do what you want with them.”
 The brothers took Chitrasena to Yudhisthira who welcomed and honored the Gandharva chief. At the request of Yudhisthira, Chitrasena released Duryodhana and the rest of the Kauravas.

After the departure of Chitrasena, Yudhisthira addressed his chastised cousin, “Child, do not again commit such rash acts. Nothing good will come out of it.”

Hanging his head in shame and weary of his misadventure, the Kaurava prince trudged back to his camp. Seeing him return, Karna thought that Duryodhana was alive because he had subdued the Gandharvas. Duryodhana related his story to the Karna king.

“Instead of plunging the Pandavas in misery, it is I who is now plunged in misery,” the Kaurava prince lamented. Full of humiliation and anger, Duryodhana expressed his resolve to kill himself rather than live in shame. Neither Karna nor Sakuni was able to dissuade him. At this point, Duryodhana fell on the ground unconscious.

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