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Chapter 87: The celestial bowl from the Sun god

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 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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