Pandavas in Hastinapura

Vaisampayana continued, “The Rishis resolved to go to Hastinapura with Pandu’s children, desiring to place them in the hands of Bhishma and Dhritarashtra. And though unused to toil all her life, the affectionate Kunti now regarded as very short the really long journey she had to perform. Having arrived at Kurujangala within a short time, the illustrious Kunti presented herself at the principal gate. The ascetics then charged the porters to inform the king of their arrival. The men carried the message in a trice to the court. And the citizens of Hastinapura began to come out in numbers with their wives and children to behold those ascetics. And there also came out Bhishma and Dhritarashtra and Vidura and the venerable Satyavati accompanied by the other ladies of the royal household. And the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra, decked with various ornaments, also came out. The Kauravas, then, accompanied by their priest, saluted the Rishis by lowering their heads, and took their seats before them. Then the oldest of the ascetics with matted locks on head and loins covered with animal skin, stood up, and with the concurrence of the other Rishis, spoke as follows, ‘You all know that that possessor of the sovereignty of the Kurus who was called king Pandu, had, after abandoning the pleasures of the world, repaired hence to dwell on the mountain of a hundred peaks. He adopted the Brahmacharya mode of life, but for some inscrutable purpose the gods have in view, this his eldest son, Yudhishthira, was born there, begotten by Dharma himself. Then that illustrious king obtained from Vayu this other son – the foremost of all mighty men – called Bhima. This other son, begotten upon Kunti by Indra, is Dhananjaya whose achievements will humble all bowmen in the world. Look here again at these tigers among men, mighty in the use of the bow, the twin children begotten upon Madri by the twin Aswins. Leading in righteousness the life of a Vanaprastha in the woods, illustrious Pandu hath thus revived the almost extinct line of his grandfather. Steadily adhering to the path of the virtuous and the wise, and leaving behind him these children, Pandu departed hence seventeen days ago. His wife Madri, beholding him placed in the funeral pyre and about to be consumed, herself ascended the same pyre, and sacrificing her life thus, hath gone with her lord to the region reserved for chaste wives. Accomplish now whatever rites should be performed for their benefit. Here are their children – these oppressors of foes – with their mother. Let them be received with due honours. After the completion of the first rites in honour of the dead, let the virtuous Pandu, who had all along been the supporter of the dignity of the Kurus, have the first annual Sraddha (sapindakarana) performed with a view to installing him formally among the Pitris.'”

“‘Dhritarashtra then said, ‘O Vidura, celebrate the funeral ceremonies of that lion among kings viz., Pandu, and of Madri also, in right royal style. For the good of their souls, distribute cattle, cloths, gems and diverse kinds of wealth, every one receiving as much as he asketh for. Make arrangements also for Kunti’s performing the last rites of Madri in such a style as pleaseth her. And let Madri’s body be so carefully wrapped up that neither the Sun nor Vayu (god of wind) may behold it. Lament not for the sinless Pandu. He was a worthy king and hath left behind him five heroic sons equal unto the celestials themselves.’ Then Vidura, O Bharata fixed upon a sacred spot for the funeral rites of Pandu. The family priests went out of the city without loss of time, carrying with them the blazing sacred fire fed with clarified butter and rendered fragrant therewith. Then friends, relatives, and adherents, wrapping it up in cloth, decked the body of the monarch with the flowers of the season and sprinkled various excellent perfumes over it. And they also decked the hearse itself with garlands and rich hangings. Then placing the covered body of the king with that of his queen on that excellent bier decked out so brightly, they caused it to be carried on human shoulders. With the white umbrella (of state) held over the hearse with waving yak-tails and sounds of various musical instruments, the whole scene looked bright and grand. Hundreds of people began to distribute gems among the crowd on the occasion of the funeral rites of the king. At length some beautiful robes, and white umbrellas and larger yak-tails, were brought for the great ceremony. The priests clad in white walked in the van of the procession pouring libations of clarified butter on the sacred fire blazing in an ornamental vessel. And Brahmanas, and Kshatriyas, and Vaisyas, and Sudras by thousands followed the deceased king, loudly wailing in these accents, ‘O prince, where dost thou go, leaving us behind, and making us forlorn and wretched for ever?’ And Bhishma, and Vidura, and the Pandavas, also all wept aloud. At last they came to a romantic wood on the banks of the Ganga. There they laid down the hearse on which the truthful and lion-hearted prince and his spouse lay. Then they brought water in many golden vessels, washed the prince’s body besmeared before with several kinds of fragrant paste, and again smeared it over with sandal paste. They then dressed it in a white dress made of indigenous fabrics. And with the new suit on, the king seemed as if he was living and only sleeping on a costly bed. When the other funeral ceremonies also were finished in consonance with the directions of the priests, the Kauravas set fire to the dead bodies of the king and the queen, bringing lotuses, sandal-paste, and other fragrant substances to the pyre. Bhishma, Vidura, Dhritarashtra, the Pandavas and the Kuru ladies, all performed the watery ceremony of the king. And when all this was over, the people, themselves filled with sorrow, began to console the bereaved sons of Pandu. And the Pandavas with their friends began to sleep on the ground. Seeing this the Brahmanas and the other citizens also renounced their beds. Young and old, all the citizens grieved on account of the sons of king Pandu, and passed twelve days in mourning with the weeping Pandavas.”

Vaisampayana said, “Then Bhishma and Kunti with their friends celebrated the Sraddha of the deceased monarch, and offered the Pinda. And they feasted the Kauravas and thousands of Brahmanas unto whom they also gave gems and lands. Then the citizens returned to Hastinapura with the sons of Pandu, now that they had been cleansed from the impurity incident to the demise of their father. All then fell to weeping for the departed king. It seemed as if they had lost one of their own kin. When the Sraddha had been celebrated in the manner mentioned above, the venerable Vyasa, seeing all the subjects sunk in grief, said one day to his mother Satyavati, ‘Mother, our days of happiness have gone by and days of calamity have succeeded. Sin beginneth to increase day by day. The world hath got old. The empire of the Kauravas will no longer endure because of wrong and oppression. Go thou then into the forest, and devote thyself to contemplation through Yoga. Henceforth society will be filled with deceit and wrong. Good work will cease. Do not witness the annihilation of thy race, in thy old age.’ Acquiescing in the words of Vyasa, Satyavati taking the permission of Bhishma, went to the forest. And arriving there with her two daughters-in-law, she became engaged in profound contemplation, and in good time leaving her body ascended to heaven. Then the sons of king Pandu, having gone through all the purifying rites prescribed in the Vedas, began to grow up in princely style in the home of their father. Whenever they were engaged in play with the sons of Dhritarashtra, their superiority of strength became marked. In speed, in striking the objects aimed at, in consuming articles of food, and scattering dust, Bhimasena beat all the sons of Dhritarashtra. The son of the Wind-god pulled them by the hair and made them fight with one another, laughing all the while. And Vrikodara easily defeated those hundred and one children of great energy as if they were one instead of being a hundred and one. The second Pandava used to seize them by the hair, and throwing them down, to drag them along the earth. By this, some had their knees broken, some their heads, and some their shoulders. That youth, sometimes holding ten of them, drowned them in water, till they were nearly dead. When the sons of Dhritarashtra got up to the boughs of a tree for plucking fruits, Bhima used to shake that tree, by striking it with his foot, so that down came the fruits and the fruitpluckers at the same time. In fact, those princes were no match for Bhima in pugilistic encounters, in speed, or in skill. Bhima used to make a display of his strength by thus tormenting them in childishness but not from malice.”

“Seeing these wonderful exhibitions of the might of Bhima, the powerful Duryodhana, the eldest son of Dhritarashtra, began to conceive hostility towards him. And the wicked and unrighteous Duryodhana, through ignorance and ambition, prepared himself for an act of sin. He thought, ‘There is no other individual who can compare with Bhima, the second son of Pandu, in point of prowess. I shall have to destroy him by artifice. Singly, Bhima dares a century of us to the combat. Therefore, when he shall sleep in the garden, I shall throw him into the current of the Ganga. Afterwards, confining his eldest brother Yudhishthira and his younger brother Arjuna, I shall reign sole king without molestation.’ Determined thus, the wicked Duryodhana was ever on the watch to find out an opportunity for injuring Bhima. And at length at a beautiful place called Pramanakoti on the banks of the Ganga, he built a palace decorated with hangings of broad-cloth and other rich stuffs. And he built this palace for sporting in the water there, and filled it with all kinds of entertaining things and choice viands. Gay flags waved on the top of this mansion. Skillful cooks prepared various kinds of viands. When all was ready, the officers gave intimation to Duryodhana. Then the evil-minded prince said unto the Pandavas, ‘Let us all go to the banks of the Ganga graced with trees and crowned with flowers and sport there in the water.’ And upon Yudhishthira agreeing to this, the sons of Dhritarashtra, taking the Pandavas with them, mounted country-born elephants of great size and cars resembling towns, and left the metropolis.”

“On arriving at the place, the princes dismissed their attendants, and surveying the beauty of the gardens and the groves, entered the palace, like lions entering their mountain caves. On entering they saw that the architects had handsomely plastered the walls and the ceilings and that painters had painted them beautifully. The windows looked very graceful, and the artificial fountains were splendid. Here and there were tanks of pellucid water in which bloomed forests of lotuses. The banks were decked with various flowers whose fragrance filled the atmosphere. The Kauravas and the Pandavas sat down and began to enjoy the things provided for them. They became engaged in play and began to exchange morsels of food with one another. Meanwhile the wicked Duryodhana had mixed a powerful poison with a quantity of food, with the object of making away with Bhima. That wicked youth who had nectar in his tongue and a razor in his heart, rose at length, and in a friendly way fed Bhima largely with that poisoned food, and thinking himself lucky in having compassed his end, was exceedingly glad at heart. Then the sons of Dhritarashtra and Pandu together became cheerfully engaged in sporting in the water. Their sport having been finished, they dressed themselves in white habiliments, and decked themselves with various ornaments. Fatigued with play, they felt inclined in the evening to rest in the pleasurehouse belonging to the garden. Having made the other youths take exercise in the waters, the powerful second Pandava was excessively fatigued. So that on rising from the water, he lay down on the ground. He was weary and under the influence of the poison. And the cool air served to spread the poison over all his frame, so that he lost his senses at once. Seeing this Duryodhana bound him with chords of shrubs, and threw him into the water.”

“The insensible son of Pandu sank down till he reached the Naga kingdom. Nagas, furnished with fangs containing virulent venom, bit him by thousands. The vegetable poison, mingled in the blood of the son of the Wind god, was neutralised by the snake-poison. The serpents had bitten all over his frame, except his chest, the skin of which was so tough that their fangs could not penetrate it. On regaining consciousness, the son of Kunti burst his bands and began to press the snakes down under the ground. A remnant fled for life, and going to their king Vasuki, represented, ‘O king of snakes, a man drowned under the water, bound in chords of shrubs; probably he had drunk poison. For when he fell amongst us, he was insensible. But when we began to bite him, he regained his senses, and bursting his fetters, commenced laying at us. May it please Your Majesty to enquire who is.’ Then Vasuki, in accordance with the prayer of the inferior Nagas, went to the place and saw Bhimasena. Of the serpents, there was one, named Aryaka. He was the great grandfather of Kunti. The lord of serpents saw his relative and embraced him. Then, Vasuki, learning all, was pleased with Bhima, and said to Aryaka with satisfaction, ‘How are we to please him? Let him have money and gems in profusion.’ On hearing the words of Vasuki, Aryaka said, ‘O king of serpents, when Your Majesty is pleased with him, no need of wealth for him! Permit him to drink of rasakunda (nectar-vessels) and thus acquire immeasurable strength. There is the strength of a thousand elephants in each one of those vessels. Let this prince drink as much as he can.’ The king of serpents gave his consent. And the serpents thereupon began auspicious rites. Then purifying himself carefully, Bhimasena facing the east began to drink nectar. At one breath, he quaffed off the contents of a whole vessel, and in this manner drained off eight successive jars, till he was full. At length, the serpents prepared an excellent bed for him, on which he lay down at ease.'”

“Meanwhile the Kauravas and the Pandavas, after having thus sported there, set out, without Bhima, for Hastinapura, some on horses, some on elephants, while others preferred cars and other conveyances. And on their way they said to one another, ‘Perhaps, Bhima hath gone before us.’ And the wicked Duryodhana was glad at heart to miss Bhima, and entered the city with his brothers in joy. The virtuous Yudhishthira, himself unacquainted with vice and wickedness, regarded others to be as honest as himself. The eldest son of Pritha, filled with fraternal love, going unto his mother, said, after making obeisance to her, ‘O mother, hath Bhima come? We long sought for him everywhere in the gardens and the beautiful woods; but found him nowhere. At length, we thought that the heroic Bhima preceded us all. Have you sent him anywhere?’ Hearing these words of Yudhishthira, Kunti shrieked, in alarm, and said, ‘Dear son, I have not seen Bhima. He did not come to me. O, return in haste, and with your brothers search for him.’ Having said this in affliction to her eldest son, she summoned Vidura, and said, ‘O illustrious Kshattri, Bhimasena is missing! Where has he gone? The other brothers have all come back from the gardens, only Bhima of mighty arms does not come home! Duryodhana likes him not. The Kaurava is crooked and malicious and low-minded and imprudent. He coveteth the throne openly. I am afraid he may have in a fit of anger slain my darling. This afflicts me sorely, indeed, it burns my heart.’ Vidura replied, ‘Blessed dame, say not so! Protect thy other sons with care. If the wicked Duryodhana be accused, he may slay thy remaining sons. The great sage hath said that all thy sons will be long-lived. Therefore, Bhima will surely return and gladden thy heart.’

“Meanwhile, Bhimasena awoke from that slumber on the eighth day, and felt strong beyond measure in consequence of the nectar he had taken having been all digested. Seeing him awake, the Nagas began to console and cheer him, saying, ‘O thou of mighty arms, the strength-giving liquor thou hast drunk will give thee the might of ten thousand elephants! No one now will be able to vanquish thee in fight. O bull of Kuru’s race, do thou bath in this holy and auspicious water and return home. Thy brothers are disconsolate because of thee.’ Then Bhima purified himself with a bath in those waters, and decked in white robes and flowery garlands of the same hue, ate of the paramanna (rice and sugar pudding) offered to him by the Nagas. Then that oppressor of all foes, decked in celestial ornaments, received the adorations and blessings of the snakes, and saluting them in return, rose from the nether region. Bearing up the lotus-eyed Pandava from under the waters, the Nagas placed him in the self-same gardens wherein he had been sporting, and vanished in his very sight. The mighty Bhimasena, arrived on the surface of the earth, ran with speed to his mother. And bowing down unto her and his eldest brother, and smelling the heads of his younger brothers, that oppressor of all foes was himself embraced by his mother and every one of those bulls among men. Affectionate unto one another, they all repeatedly exclaimed, ‘What is our joy today, O what joy!’ Then Bhima, endued with great strength and prowess, related to his brothers everything about the villainy of Duryodhana, and the lucky and unlucky incidents that had befallen him in the world of the Serpents. Thereupon Yudhishthira said, ‘Do thou observe silence on this. Do not speak of this to any one. From this day, protect ye all one another with care.’ Thus cautioned by the righteous Yudhishthira, they all, with Yudhishthira himself, became very vigilant from that day. And lest negligence might occur on the part of the sons of Kunti, Vidura continually offered them sage advice. Some time after, Duryodhana again mixed in the food of Bhima a poison that was fresh, virulent, and very deadly. But Yuyutsu (Dhritarashtra’s son by a Vaisya wife), moved by his friendship for the Pandavas, informed them of this. Vrikodara, however, swallowed it without any hesitation, and digested it completely. And, though virulent the poison produced no effects on Bhima. When that terrible poison intended for the destruction of Bhima failed of its effect, Duryodhana. Karna and Sakuni, without giving up their wicked design had recourse to numerous other contrivances for accomplishing the death of the Pandavas. And though every one of these contrivances was fully known to the Pandavas, yet in accordance with the advice of Vidura they suppressed their indignation.”

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, shows the young Bhima fighting the Nagas, after being poisoned by his cousin Duryodhana. The illustration was published by Gorakhpur’s Geeta Press.

Reference:

  • The Mahabharata (translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, 1883-1896)