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Mahabharata : Vana Parva Part 1

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.

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