TTS Mahabharata 2003 - 1.21 - The Pandavas Exiled

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MBK: 1.21: The Pandavas Exiled
Chapter 21 The Pandavas Exiled
After everyone had left the gambling match, Dushashana said to Duryodhana, "O great hero,
that old man gave everything back that we strived so hard to acquire. The Pandavas have
been sent back to their kingdom and we are back where we started."
The two brothers consulted Karna and Sakuni. They condemned the blind king for his softness.
How could he have been so foolish as to show kindness to such powerful enemies? That was
a serious mistake. Unless they acted quickly to reverse the situation, they would soon
be facing a great danger. Their spies had already reported how the five brothers were
proceeding toward Indraprastha. Bhima was whirling his massive mace, Arjuna was repeatedly
twanging the Gandiva, Nakula and Sahadeva were waving their great swords, and Yudhisthira
held aloft his spear. It was clear that they were ready to fight.
On Sakuni's suggestion, Duryodhana again approached his father. Their only hope, Sakuni said,
was another gambling match. This time, the Kauravas should win something. The Gandhara
monarch revealed his plan and Duryodhana immediately went to Dhrtarastra's chambers.
Duryodhana found the king seated on a golden couch. Sitting at his feet he said, "Father,
we must recall the Pandavas for another game before it is too late. We have stirred to
anger a number of venomous serpents. How can we possibly expect them to tolerate the insult
we offered to their wife? A powerful enemy must be destroyed by any means. We have started
something which we cannot now stop."
Duryodhana told his father that if the Pandavas could somehow be sent away, then it would
give him time to find allies and build his strength. Using the Pandavas' vast wealth,
he could make his position unassailable. First, however, Yudhisthira and his brothers had
to be removed from the scene. Duryodhana described the plan Sakuni and he had contrived. The
king should call the Pandavas back for one final game of dice. It was clear that they
and the Kauravas would not be able to co-exist peacefully. Therefore, whoever lost the dice
game should live in the forest in exile for thirteen years. During the final year, they
could emerge from the forest but had to remain incognito. If they were discovered, then they
would have to again go into the forest for a second twelve years. Such would be the stakes
for this final game.
Dhrtarastra remained silent after his son had stopped speaking. It was true that the
Pandavas were now a real threat. Who could gauge the outcome of a war between those powerful
brothers and his own sons? But another gambling match? What would Vidura and Bhisma say? It
would probably be wiser to let things stand as they were for the present. Yudhisthira
was virtuous and would keep his brothers in check.
Seeing his father's hesitation, Duryodhana implored him. The king felt himself weakening.
It was almost impossible for him to refuse his son. And if Duryodhana were to win the
final match, as seemed likely, then the Kauravas would become the undisputed rulers of the
earth. He himself would sit at their head. Even though Yudhisthira was the world's emperor,
if he agreed to the stakes and lost he would certainly feel honor-bound to enter the forest.
Considering that everything lay in the hands of fate, the king agreed to Duryodhana's proposal.
He ordered that the Pandavas should be brought back to play one last game in which everything
would be settled.
When they learned of this, the other Kuru elders objected strongly, but Dhrtarastra
would not listen. He ignored their counsel and messengers were sent from Hastinapura
to find the Pandavas.
Seeing her husband's blind acceptance of Duryodhana's dark plans, Gandhari became anxious. She had
been mortified to learn of Draupadi's ordeal in the assembly hall. It seemed that Duryodhana
lacked all moral scruples. How could the king support him? How could he possibly have sat
in silence as the gentle Pandava queen was so harshly abused? When Dhrtarastra was alone,
the blindfolded queen approached him. "Do you not recall Vidura's advice when Duryodhana
was born? He warned us that if we did not cast aside that disgrace of our race, he would
surely cause our destruction. It seems this is now coming to pass. O ruler of men, do
not for your own fault sink into an ocean of calamity. Do not accept the counsel of
wicked-minded persons who are but boys. Who would rekindle a great fire after it has been
extinguished? Who could be so foolish as to again provoke Kunti's peaceful sons?"
The king remained impassive. Gandhari was wise and thought always of his welfare and
the good of the Kuru house, but her advice now was like a bitter medicine. He could not
swallow it. She continued, "You alone have caused the disaster we now face. Lead your
sons on the right path. Do not watch them rush towards death. Abandon Duryodhana now.
The affection you bear for him will destroy this kingdom. Let your mind, guided by wise
counsels, follow its natural inclination toward peace and virtue. Surely you know that prosperity
acquired through wickedness is soon lost, while that which is gained through honest
means takes root and descends from generation to generation."
Dhrtarastra sighed and stood up to leave. "If it is time for the destruction of our
race then, what can I do? If it is God's will, then let it take place without hindrance.
How can I influence events ordained by destiny? Let the Pandavas return and again gamble with
my sons."
The queen said nothing more. It was hopeless. Surely the end of the Kurus was nigh, since
no one could sway the king from his folly. She called for her servants and was led back
to her quarters.
* * *
The Pandavas had gone a considerable distance from Hastinapura when to their surprise they
saw a group of messengers from Hastinapura, headed by the pratikamin, approaching them.
Yudhisthira dismounted from his chariot and the servant stepped forward and said, "O Yudhisthira,
your uncle has ordered, 前 best of the Bharatas, the assembly awaits you again. Come back for
one final game of dice.'"
Yudhisthira could immediately understand Dhrtarastra's intention. He turned to his brothers and said,
"All creatures receive the good or evil fruits of their work as ordained by the Supreme.
Whether I play another dice game or not, the fruits of my past activities are unavoidable.
Although I know the Kauravas wish to destroy me, I cannot ignore the summons. A living
creature made of gold had never before been seen, yet Rama allowed himself to be fooled
by a golden deer. When calamity approaches, men's minds become confused. Surely the path
of religion is subtle and highly difficult to ascertain."
Yudhisthira turned and retraced his steps back to Hastinapura. He was fearful. Despite
his best efforts to follow the orders of his elders and avoid conflict, still a war seemed
inevitable. To refuse Dhrtarastra's summons would only bring the conflict into the open
more quickly. But what would be the result of another dice game with Duryodhana?
The five brothers soon arrived back at Hastinapura. To the consternation of their friends and
well-wishers, they again entered Dhrtarastra's great hall. Although he knew full well that
he had no chance of success, Yudhisthira sat down to play dice with Sakuni one last time.
When the Pandavas were again seated in the hall, Sakuni said, "O Yudhisthira, the old
king has returned your wealth. That is well. Now let us play with a stake of greater value.
If we are defeated, we shall accept exile in the forest. We will wear deerskins and
remain there for twelve years. During the thirteenth year we will live in a city, town
or village. If you should discover us, however, we shall be exiled in the forest for another
twelve years. If you are defeated, you and your brothers, along with Draupadi, will accept
the same conditions."
Sakuni's mouth curved into a sinister smile. The ivory dice in his hand clacked as he explained
the stakes. Whichever side was the loser would be expected to surrender their kingdom to
the winner. The kingdom would be returned when the thirteen-year period was over.
As the stakes were described, all those in the hall cried out, "Alas! Shame upon Duryodhana's
friends that they do not warn him of the danger he brings upon himself!" Some of them turned
to Dhrtarastra and said, "Whether or not Duryodhana understands his foolishness, you should order
him to stop. He will bring down only death and destruction. Check him at once. This is
your duty."
Dhrtarastra said nothing and Yudhisthira replied, "O King, how can one like me who always observes
a ksatriya's duty refuse your challenge? Everyone knows this about me. Besides, it is Dhrtarastra,
my father and guru, who orders me to play. What can I do but accept the stakes?"
The game began. Everyone in the hall sat breathless as it moved toward its inevitable conclusion.
Finally, Sakuni's "I have won!" echoed round the hall again. The Kuru elders cried out,
"Alas! Shame! This ancient house is doomed!"
Duryodhana laughed and ordered that deerskins be brought immediately for the Pandavas. When
the brothers had put on the ascetic garb and were preparing to leave for the forest, Dushashana
spoke in great happiness. "Now Duryodhana's unopposed and absolute sovereignty shall begin.
The Pandavas stand vanquished. Indeed they are miserable. Whether or not we have acted
sinfully does not matter. It is clear that the gods have bestowed their grace upon us,
for today we have defeated our enemies. Kunti's sons are deprived of happiness and kingdom
forever. Those who laughed at Duryodhana shall now abandon their royal robes and armor and
go to the forest possessing nothing."
Relishing the moment to the full, Dushashana continued to taunt the Pandavas with cruel
words. Seeing the five brothers in their black deerskins resembling five powerful rsis, he
said, "Although the Pandavas look like wise men installed in a sacrifice, they should
now be considered unworthy to perform any sacrifice."
Dushashana then turned toward Draupadi. "King Drupada did not act well when he bestowed
this princess upon the Pandavas, who are impotent men. O Draupadi, what joy will you get from
serving your husbands in the forest? Select a better husband from among the Kauravas so
that this calamity may not overwhelm you. Do not waste any more time waiting upon the
Bhima rushed toward Dushashana like a Himalayan lion might rush toward a jackal. "O crooked
wretch, you rave in words uttered only by the sinful. You have won today only by Sakuni's
skill, yet still you dare to boast. As you pierce our hearts with words as sharp as arrows,
so shall I pierce your heart in battle to remind you of your words today. Then I shall
send you to Yamaraja's abode along with your followers."
Giving up all shame Dushashana laughed and danced around in the Kuru's midst, singing,
"O cow, O cow."
Bhima restrained himself, with difficulty, by fixing his mind on virtue. He spoke again
to the sneering Dushashana. "Wretch, how do you dare to use such harsh words, having won
by foul means? I shall surely tear open your chest and drink your life-blood in battle,
or I will never attain to the regions of bliss. My anger shall be pacified only when I have
slain all of Dhrtarastra's sons."
Yudhisthira headed for the door, followed by his brothers and Draupadi. In great joy
Duryodhana walked alongside Bhima, mimicking his powerful lion-like gait. Half-turning
toward him, Bhima said, "Do not think that by this you have gained anything over me.
I will be back to kill you and all your followers. Neither of us will forget what has happened
Dhrtarastra was still silent. Bhisma, Vidura, Drona and Krpa, all of whom were shedding
tears to see the Pandavas go into exile, called out, "Fie! Fie!" They looked helplessly at
the blind king.
Before the Pandavas left the hall, they stopped before the king and Bhima spoke again. "I
shall kill Duryodhana and all his brothers, O King. Arjuna will slay Karna, and Sahadeva
will kill the evil Sakuni. My words will be made good by the gods. When I have beaten
Duryodhana to the ground with my mace, I will then place my foot on his head."
Arjuna added, "The promises of superior men are not empty words. You will see all this
come to pass on the fourteenth year. As Bhima directs, I will kill Karna, who is malicious,
jealous, harsh-speeched and vain. I will also slay all kings who foolishly stand against
me in battle. If my vow is not carried out, then so shall the Himalayas be moved, or the
sun's rays become cool. I will not fail. This will come to pass in fourteen years if Duryodhana
does not return our kingdom."
Arjuna felt sure that Duryodhana would never return their kingdom. The war was inevitable.
All the brothers knew it. As Arjuna finished speaking, Sahadeva, sighing like a snake,
his eyes red with anger, said, "O Sakuni, you have destroyed the fame of your race.
What you call dice are actually pointed arrows aimed at your heart. If you have anything
left to do in this life, do it now, for I shall certainly kill you in battle when we
return from the forest."
Nakula also vowed to rid the earth of Duryodhana's followers. Having made their promises, the
brothers turned toward Dhrtarastra. Yudhisthira said, "I bid you farewell, O King, and also
you, O Kuru elders. I shall see you all again upon my return. I bow to you and ask your
The elders were too ashamed to reply. They prayed for the Pandavas' welfare. Then, after
a moment, Vidura spoke. "Your mother, the revered Kunti, is a royal princess and should
not be made to go to the forest. She is delicate and old. Let that blessed lady remain in my
house while you are gone."
Yudhisthira agreed, saying, "You are our uncle and as good as our father. Let it be as you
say, O learned man. We are all obedient to you. Without doubt you are our most respected
guru. Please command us what else should be done."
"O Yudhisthira, best of the Bharata race," Vidura replied, "do not feel pained by this
turn of events. There is no shame in being defeated by sinful means. You five brothers
will reside happily in the forest, enjoying each other's company along with the company
of the virtuous Draupadi. You have already received many instructions from rsis and saints.
This exile will be a further opportunity to receive spiritual training. The learned Dhaumya
and the godly Rsi Narada will instruct you as you lead a simple forest life. Actually,
you will be benefited by your withdrawal from worldly affairs and wealth."
Vidura wished them well, praying that they would return in safety. He blessed them that
they might obtain from the gods their various opulences: victory from Indra, patience from
Yamaraja, charity from Kuvera, sense control from Varuna, strength from Vayu, forbearance
from the earth and energy from the sun-god. Finally Vidura said, "Leave then with our
permission, O son of Kunti. None can accuse you of ever having acted sinfully. Farewell."
Yudhisthira thanked his uncle for his blessings and bowed low before him, Bhisma and Drona.
Each of his brothers then offered their respects to the Kuru elders, who in turn blessed them.
They then made their way out of the hall.
Before following her husbands, Draupadi approached Kunti to ask her leave. As she entered the
inner chambers a loud cry went up from all the ladies there. They were plunged in grief
to see the Panchala princess about to enter the forest. Draupadi saluted and embraced
them all according to their status. She bowed before Kunti, who lifted her up and embraced
With tears in her eyes, Kunti said, "O child, do not grieve for this great calamity which
has overtaken you. The hearts of good women are never moved by the inevitable influence
of destiny. Knowing all your duties, you should follow your husbands with a happy heart and
continue to render them service. You are chaste and accomplished, and you adorn the ancient
Kuru race. It is fortunate indeed for the Kurus that they were not burnt by your wrath.
O sinless one, go now in safety, blessed by my prayers. Protected by your own virtue,
you will soon obtain good fortune."
Kunti's voice was choked. She had never been separated from her sons before. How could
she face thirteen years away from them? Sobbing loudly, she asked Draupadi, "O child, take
particular care of Sahadeva. That gentle boy holds a special place in my heart." Draupadi
replied, "So be it," and, still wearing a single blood-stained cloth, her hair disheveled,
she left the inner apartments in tears. Kunti followed close behind. As she came out she
saw her sons, shorn of their royal robes and clad in deerskins. They were surrounded by
rejoicing foes and pitying friends. Overwhelmed by motherly affection, Kunti embraced them
and said with difficulty, "You are all virtuous and well-behaved. You are devoted to the Lord
and ever engaged in the service of your superiors. How then has this calamity overcome you? I
do not see whose sin has fallen upon you. Surely it is due to your having taken birth
in my womb that you now face this reversal despite your numerous excellent qualities."
Kunti lamented loudly for her sons. How would they survive in the wilderness? She decided
that Madri had been the more fortunate wife. She had already attained her liberation. Surely
she had forseen this terrible disaster and had entered Pandu's funeral fire in relief.
If Kunti had known that this was to happen, she would never have brought her sons from
the mountains to Hastinapura.
Kunti let out an anguished cry. "O great creator! Have you forgotten to ordain my death? Surely
that is why I am still living although faced with such tragedy. O my sons, I obtained you
after so much difficulty. How can I leave you now? I shall accompany you to the forest."
Folding her hands, she prayed aloud to Krsna, "O Krsna, O You who dwell in Dwaraka, where
are You? Why do You not save me and my sons, the best of men? Those who are wise say that
You always protect those who think of You. Why is this now proving false?"
Kunti then censured the Kuru elders who could stand by and watch as her virtuous sons were
exiled to the forest. Weeping, she turned to Sahadeva. "O my son, you should not go.
Stay behind and earn the fruit of the virtue of serving the mother. Let your pious brothers
fulfill the terms of the vow."
The Pandavas were pained to see their mother grieving. They consoled her as best they could,
then took their leave. Vidura gently took Kunti by the hand and led her toward his house.
Gandhari and the other ladies of the royal house also wept, covering their faces with
their lotus-like hands.
With difficulty the brothers made their way along Hastinapura's crowded streets. The news
of their exile had spread quickly, and the streets were filled with grieving citizens.
Led by Dhaumya, they left the city and the people they loved, unable to say anything
to anyone.