The Pandavas are exiled
We have seen that the Pandavas, having been deceitfully defeated in the game of dice by Shakuni and his team of Kauravas, have been exiled for twelve years in the forest, and in the thirteenth year, they must live incognito. At the end of thirteen years, they can return and reclaim their kingdom. This is the agreement. Yudhishthira, being the son of Dharmaraja, is so true, and so just that in spite of severe criticism from Bhima, Draupadi and the others, he sticks to Dharma.
The Akshaya Patra
Now, the Pandavas have entered the forest. This is the Vana parva-’vana’ meaning ‘forest’. There is a huge host of praja-people, who accompany the Pandavas and Panchali into the forest. Raja Yudhishthira is in a fix. He asks the people to live a comfortable, normal life, because life in a forest is going to be extremely difficult. There are no resources in a forest like they have in a civilized society. Comforts are minimal. What will they eat? Where will they stay? There will be wild animals. Hence, Raja Yudhishthira asks them to stay back. Some of them stay back, but many-in fact, thousands of brahmanas accompany Yudhishthira and the Pandavas to the forest. And hence, Yudhishthira seeks the counsel of their spiritual preceptor, Rishi Dhaumya. Dhaumya asks Yudhishthira to pray to the Sun god, and on his prayer, Surya himself appears in his embodied form and presents the copper vessel — the Akshaya Patra to Raja Yudhishthira. He further states, “Until Draupadi has eaten of it, this vessel will overflow with food of different kinds. Whatever food is cooked in it will keep flowing until Draupadi has eaten of it. ” So after that, for twelve years, the Pandavas have no lack of food and are able to provide for everybody who accompanies them-the rishis, the munis, the yogis, the brahmanas and the praja- all of them are taken care of because of the Akshaya Patra. What a wonderful gift!
Dhritarashtra is disturbed
Meanwhile, in Hastinapura, Dhritharashtra is extremely disturbed. He cannot sleep. When one has done a wrong, knowingly, consciously, one cannot sleep. So he seeks the counsel of his brother Vidura — the wise Vidura. Vidura advises Dhritharashtra, ”Even now, it is not too late. Call the Pandavas back, make peace with them. Give them back their kingdom. Yudhishthira has such a large heart that he will forgive you, forgive Duryodhana and everybody else, for all that has happened. And you can live in peace. Yudhishthira is such a great man. Just call them and make peace with them. ” Dhritharashtra does not like this advice, although he knows that this is true and the only way as per Dharma. But encountering Duryodhana is distasteful, because he cribs and cries and has his way. Dhritharashtra cannot overcome his trivial affection, his parental affection, which blinds him to the faults of Duryodhana. Though he understands Dharma very well and knows clearly that Duryodhana’s actions are wrong, he feels that it is not in his power to stop him. Hence, he says, “This is all fate. Fate is playing its role. What can I do?” Vidura further states, “Dhritharashtra , do not take this lightly. O brother, if need be put Duryodhana in jail. Imprison him. You are the king. You should be righteous. ” But all this sane advice falls on deaf ears. Dhritharashtra is not just blind, he is also deaf to good advice.
The Kauravas scheme to kill the Pandavas
In the meantime, Duryodhana is scheming further. Karna proposes that they attack the Pandavas while they are in the forest, unarmed and helpless. He says, “Attack them and kill them there. After that, Duryodhana, you can really rest in peace. After thirteen years, if they come back, the same story would have to repeat itself. So why don’t we kill them once and for all? That way, the problem is solved. ” Everybody agrees to this. And hence Duryodhana, Dushasana, Karna and Shakuni prepare themselves with their armies. At that moment, Vyasa Maharishi enters the scene and foils this dastardly attempt of the evil four. He intervenes and saves the Pandavas. He further goes to Dhritharashtra and says, “Your son is mad. He is a fool, an idiot. He is making such evil plans. You are the one who is supposed to control him and put a check to his actions. What are you doing? What sort of a king are you?” Dhritharashtra again blames it all on fate, on destiny. He does not take responsibility for what he needs to do. He says again, “This is all fate. ”
Rishi Maitreya’s curse
Vyasa announces the arrival of Rishi Maitreya. Maitreya arrives in the sabha where everybody, including Duryodhana is seated. Dhritharashtra welcomes Rishi Maitreya the usual way. After he is appropriately taken care of and seated at ease, Maitreya reveals that in his travels, he went to Kamyaka vana where the Pandavas were staying. There he met Yudhishthira and the other Pandavas, along with Draupadi. On hearing from Yudhishthira, the sorrowful events that had happened, the rishi is sad and angry. Then he advises Duryodhana, “Oh my child!You are so great. You do not need to covet the kingdom of others. By yourself, and with the help of your counselors, you will be able to achieve great things in the world. Why do you want to take something which rightfully belongs to the Pandavas? What you are doing is not right, my child. ” Duryodhana, all this time, while Maitreya is advising him, is smiling with his head lowered and making designs on the floor with his toe. He also slaps his left thigh, making it very evident that he does not care for the rishi’s advice. Maitreya gets very angry and he curses Duryodhana, ”Since, you are so heedless, you will find that in the war that happens after thirteen years, and there will definitely be a war; and in that war, your thigh will be broken and that will be your end. ”
Maitreya narrates the story of Kidmira
Rishi Maitreya curses him thus and further reveals that Kidmira, the great rakshasa was single-handedly butchered by Bhima in the Kamyaka vana. Dhritharashtra becomes very anxious and he asks Muni Maitreya, ”How did Kidmira meet his end in the hands of Bhimasena?” For which Maitreya says, ”I am disgusted that my words fall on deaf ears. You will hear all of this from Vidura. ”And he departs. Now, the Muni’s curse is very powerful. Dhritharashtra feels very helpless and is dejected that his son keeps earning the curses of people. He asks Vidura, ”How did Kidmira meet his end?” Vidura reveals the story. The Pandavas and Draupadi enter Kamyaka vana. They decide to stay there. But they find that all the beings of the vana run helter and skelter, in anxiety. They are not peaceful, joyful and at ease. Also, they don’t find any rishis or munis around. They are very very surprised. They don’t find the regular ashramas that usually exist in vanas. It is evening time, and, all of a sudden, they encounter a huge monster, as tall as a Shala tree. He challenges these human beings, ”You have come to my vana and I have been waiting for human flesh for a long time. I challenge you, and after defeating you, I will eat you up. ” This is Kidmira. The Pandavas are fearless. They depend on their own strength. That is very important. One needs to be self-reliant. The Pandavas have been taught that and hence they are always self-reliant. Yudhishthira announces, “I am Yudhishthira, the Just, Son of Pandu and Kunti Devi. These are my brothers and our wife Draupadi. “After hearing this, Kidmira is really angry. ”Finally, I encounter Bhima. Bhima, who killed Hidimba. Bhima, who killed Bakasura. All of them were my mates. I have always wanted to kill Bhima as revenge. Finally I meet him. ” And hence, Kidmira and Bhima clash. It’s a terrible war. Finally Bhima pounds Kidmira into a mass of flesh and kills him. After listening to Vidura’s narration, Dhritharashtra feels really helpless for his son. His feeling of helplessness and despair only increases after Rishi Maitreya’s curse. Vidura clearly states, ”It is all your fault, my brother. Even now, it is not too late. Make peace with the Pandavas. They are very powerful. ”
Krishna’s promise to Draupadi
In the forest, Krishna and the Vrishnis visit the Pandavas and Draupadi. Krishna is extremely furious on learning about the events that have taken place in his absence. Draupadi, in fact, adds to his anger by relating her tale of woe at the hands of Dushasana, in the midst of the sabha, at Hastinapura. On hearing this, Krishna is unable to take it. He says, ”If only I were there, I would not have allowed this to happen. I would not have allowed this game of dice to happen in the first place. Yudhishthira, how could you do this?” For which the Pandavas are curious. “O Krishna, you were not here? You did not know that this happened?” Krishna says, “No, I was actually out to defeat Salva, Salva of the Sauba country. Salva attacked Dwaraka in my absence when I was in Indraprastha with you all. He did immense damage to Dwaraka. Though the brave Vrishni warriors put up a good fight and protected the people, immense damage was done by Salva. And hence when I reached there, I heard this news, and I set out to defeat Salva. Salva was furious for the killing of Sishupala, Kamsa and all his friends. So he wanted revenge. And when I went to Sauba through the ocean, I also discovered the Paanchajanya. ” Paanchajanya is the famous conchshell of Sri Krishna. This is when he gets his Paanchajanya. Then, after a gory war, Salva of Sauba is defeated and eliminated. Krishna says, ”I could not be here, otherwise I would definitely have prevented this course of events. ” But what has happened has happened, and he gives his solemn pledge to Draupadi, ”Just as you are crying now, all the women of Hastinapura will cry after the death of all those warriors in the battle that happens between them and us. ” Draupadi is a bit satisfied on hearing Bhagavan Krishna’s words, because his words cannot be untrue. And then Krishna, along with the Vrishnis, leaves.
Vyasa Maharishi arrives on the scene
After their departure, Vyasa Maharishi arrives there and says, ”Yudhishthira, this is the time for Arjuna to obtain all the divine celestial weapons from Indra and Shankara, because you need to face Bheeshma, Drona, Kripa, Ashwatthama and Karna in battle. Arjuna will definitely need all the divine weapons, otherwise there is no chance of victory. I will teach you the science of Pratismrithi and you can teach it to Arjuna. With that, he will be able to travel without fatigue, know the directions, and, he will also be able to know the future through spiritual vision. And with the blessings of Shankara, he will be able to obtain all the celestial astras. ” So Yudhishthira learns Pratismrithi from Vyasa. Vyasa advises them that staying too long in one place depletes the resources of that region. The animal life and the resources of that forest will get depleted. And hence they need to give the forest sufficient time for its rejuvenation. He advises Yudhishthira and his team to move to Dwaita vana. So they all go to that forest.
Many rishis visit the ashrama of the Pandavas, which makes them very happy. Though, in the process, they have to cross many hurdles, at least for Yudhishthira, there is solace in the company of the rishis.