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Even as Vyasa left for his abode in the forest, the sage Maitreya arrived at the Kaurava capital. He was received in the court by the king and duly honored with a seat. The sage expressed his dissatisfaction over the injustice done to the Pandavas and urged the king to recall them.

The sage said, “O King! What has happened can never be justified. Moreover, the Pandavas, if not recalled, would return after thirteen years, stronger and merciless.”

Listening to the sage, Duryodhana slapped his thigh and scratched the ground with his foot, showing his impatience and disrespect for the venerable seer. The enraged sage cursed that the mighty Bhima would break the insolent prince’s thigh when war came. A frightened king pleaded with Maitreya to forgive his son. Maitreya said, “My curse will happen, unless you recall the Pandavas and restore to them their kingdom.” So saying he walked out, his anger not a bit abated.

The return to favour of Vidura was a subject discussed by Duryodhana and his confederates with great concern. Duryodhana was afraid that his uncle would try to influence the king in favor of the Pandavas and succeed in bringing the Pandavas back. Karna suggested that the best solution would be to chase the Pandavas and kill them. This suggestion greatly appealed to Duryodhana. Once the Pandavas were dead, Duryodhana thought, he could rule his country without any fear. He immediately raised an army with Karna’s assistance and set out towards the Pandavas’ quarter in Kamyaka.

Vyasa observed Duryadhana’s action through his mental powers and accosted the prince on the way. He stopped Duryodhana and strongly admonished him for his ill-advised move. Duryodhana had no choice but to call off his expedition and return to Hastinapura. Vyasa then called on the king and warned him against any move of Duryodhana to attack the Pandavas. “Even now, stripped of their kingdom, they are more than a match to your evil-minded son,” he told the king.

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.


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