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Adi Parva


Chapter One

Maharaja Shantanu Marries the Celestial Ganga


According to the historical records of this earth, there once lived a King named Maharaja Shantanu, the son of Pratipa, who took his birth in the solar dynasty and was considered naradeva, the manifest representative of the Supreme Lord on earth. His fame and rule extended to all parts of the world. The qualities of self-control, liberality, forgiveness, intelligence, modesty, patience and power always resided this exalted emperor. His neck was marked with three lines like a conchshell, and his shoulders were broad. In prowess He resembled a maddened elephant. Above all these qualities, he was a devoted servant of Lord Vishnu, and therefore he was given the title, "King of kings".

Once when Maharaja Shantanu, that bull among men, was wandering in the forest, he came upon a place frequented by the Siddhas and Charanas (a class of heavenly demigods). There he saw an angelic woman who appeared like the goddess of fortune herself. In truth, she was the personification of the river Ganges. She was glancing at the monarch with her youthful longing eyes, and Maharaja Shantanu became attracted to her. He then approached her inquiring, "O beautiful woman, are you from the race of the Gandharvas, Apsaras, Yakshas, Nagas or the human race? As yet I have no queen, and your birth appears divine. Whatever your origin, O celestial beauty, I request you to become my wife."

The beautiful apsara (celestial maiden) then smilingly replied, "O King, I shall become your wife and obey your commands, but there are certain conditions. You should not interfere with my actions, whether agreeable or disagreeable. Also you should never chastise me with harsh words. If you assent to my request, I shall live with you.  The King, infatuated with love, agreed to her proposals.

Having taken the lovely Ganga for his wife, Maharaja Shantanu passed many years in her association. She satisfied the King by her charm and affection, as well as by her music and dance; and thus the King passed many seasons unconscious of time. While enjoying himself in her company, he conceived eight children by her that were equal in quality to the heavenly gods. However, on the birth of each child, Ganga threw them into the river, exclaiming, "This is for your good!  The King was not pleased with his wife's conduct, but he dared not speak a chastising word, lest she leave his company. However, when the eighth child was born, the King could not tolerate the killing of another child and he spoke harshly, "Do not kill this child! Why do you kill your own children? O murderess of your sons, the reaction to such sin is very great!

When reproached in these words, the celestial beauty replied, "I shall not cast this child into the river, but according to our marriage agreement, our relationship has ended. I am Ganga, the personification of the River Ganges, and I am ever-worshipped by the great sages and common people. My origin is the divine feet of Lord Vishnu. I have lived with you only to accomplish the purpose of the demigods. The eight Vasus were cursed by Vashistha Muni, and thus they have appeared on earth as a reaction to that curse. They have pleaded wth me to free them from this bondage immediately after their birth. I have lived with you long enough to fulfill my promise to the Vasus. This last child is destined to live on earth for some time. His name will be Devavrata, and he shall be famous as a lion among men.

Maharaja Shantanu then inquired from his wife, "What offense did the Vasu's commit for which they were born on earth as human beings? Why, also, is this last child destined to live on earth longer than the others? O Ganga, my wife, please clarify this.

 Being thus questioned by the King of the earth, Ganga replied to the Monarch, "O best of the Bharata race, on Mount Meru there are many picturesque forests. In one such wooded region lives a renowned sage named Vashistha Muni. He is adept in the practice of austerity and meditation. With the help of his Kamadhenu cow, he performs sacrifices to please the Supreme Being. One day, the eight Vasus headed by Prithu came to that forest. Roaming about with their wives, the Vasus entered the hermitage of Vashistha Muni. At that time they spotted the celestial cow named Nandini. One of the Vasus, whose name was Dyu, then informed his wife, This cow belongs to the eminent sage Vashistha, and it is said that the mortal who drinks the milk of this cow remains unchanged for ten thousand years.' Turning to her husband she replied, I have a very dear friend named Jitavati who is the daughter of the sage Usinara. I wish to take this cow and calf as a present for her.' When repeatedly petitioned by his beautiful wife, Dyu, along with his brothers, abducted the Kamadhenu cow, forgetting who was the actual owner.

That evening, when Vashistha returned to his hermitage, he could not find his Kamadhenu cow or its calf. He began to search the forest, but nowhere could they be found. By his mystic power, obtained by long years of austerity, he then understood that the cow and its calf had been taken away by the Vasus. When the sage's wrath was kindled, he cursed the Vasus, Because the Vasus have stolen my Kamadhenu cow, I curse them to be born on earth as ordinary mortals.' The sage then returned to his practice of ascetic meditation.

"When the Vasus heard of Vashistha's curse, they came to his hermitage to pacify him. They praised him with amiable words and offered to return the cow. However, they failed to obtain clemency from the great sage. The great brahmana Vashistha, who is naturally kind to everyone, then compassionately said, This curse is the suitable punishment to rectify your enjoying mentality. You will be freed from it shortly after your earthly birth. However, your brother Dyu, who actually stole my cow, shall have to domicile on earth for a long period of time. Dyu, though living on earth, shall not marry and have children. He will, however, be a man of kingly virtue and will know the essence of the holy scriptures. He will be an obedient servitor to his father, but will have to live without female companionship.'

"The Vasus  Ganga continued, "then came to me and begged a benediction. They asked that I cast them into the waters of the Ganges immediately upon taking their birth. O best among kings, I have fulfilled their desire, but this last child, Dyu, will have to reside on earth for some time to fulfill the curse of Vashistha Muni.  Having related the Vasus' history, Ganga disappeared with the child, and the King returned to his palace with a sorrowful heart.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata Summation to the First Chapter of the Adi Parva, Entitled, Maharaja Shantanu Obtains the Celestial Ganga for His Wife.


Chapter Commentary


Maharaja Shantanu lived in the age of the Dvapara yuga, more than five thousand years ago. He was a saintly King who cared about his citizens and sought their welfare. Time passes through four ages; the first being the Satya yuga which is compared to spring time. In this age persons have long lives and are very much inclined toward meditation and austerity. The Treta yuga is compared to the summer time. In this age people are very pious and there are hardly any stringent miseries. The Dvapara age is like autumn time. Material miseries become apparent and the principles of religion decline. The age we are living in now is the age of kali, which is compared to the winter season. Most people are not inclined toward spiritual life, and because of this they suffer stringent material miseries. They commit grossly sinful acts for which they suffer life after life. The history of the earth, before the Kali age, is recorded in such Vedic literatures as the Puranas, Mahabharata, and Ramayana. These divinely inspired literatures are filled with histories of saintly emperors who protected their citizens, endeavoring to elevate them to the platform of God realization. This Mahabharata is a factual historical account of what happened on earth thousands of years ago.

In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna told Arjuna, "In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Vishnu, and blessed them by saying, Be thou happy by this yajna [sacrifice] because its performance will bestow upon you all desirable things.' (Bg.3.10) Advanced human society centered on God realization has been existing since the beginning of creation. In fact, the Puranas are historical records of civilizations more advanced than the one today. The people and civilizations of this present age, Kali yuga, have actually diminished in good qualities as confirmed in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, "O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky and, above all, always disturbed.  (S.B. 1.1.10) This is a quotation by Saunaka rishi to the sages of Naimisharanya. We learn from Vedic history that thousands of years ago men were more advanced in moral qualities and that civilizations were more prosperous, materially and spiritually. This point will be discussed in greater detail as this narration proceeds.

Since the historical past cannot be perceived by the gross senses, we have to accept authorities who have knowledge of the past, present and future. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna states, "From Me comes knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known. I am the compiler of Vedanta and, indeed, I am the knower of the Vedas.  (B.g. 15.15) Lord Krishna is the Supreme Godhead and the Supreme Authority. Because He is God, He knows everything about the past, present and future. What is written in the Puranas is His account of the past. Therefore, if we accept His statements as they are handed down in disciplic succession and understood by the spiritual master, then we can have perfect knowledge of the past without having to waste billions of dollars on mental speculation. This Mahabharata is an emanation from that Supreme Being, and was compiled by Shrila Vyasadeva who was empowered for this exact purpose.

The disciplic succession is maintained by Lord Krishna so that perfect knowledge is available at all times. The skeptics will say that it is impossible not to make a mistake in handing down disciplic knowledge, because of man's imperfection. However, a bona fide spiritual master does not have the imperfection of mortal senses. How is this? Because a pure devotee of God is being directed by the Lord in the heart, his senses become as good as the Lord's. Pure devotees of God may differ in implementing God's will according to time, place and circumstance, but the conclusion of the teachings is the same. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna states, "The Supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings received it in that way. But in the course of time the succession was broken, and, therefore, the science as it is appears to be lost.  (B.g. 4.2) The disciplic succession was broken when Duryodhana became king, and therefore Lord Krishna had to reestablish it by removing Duryodhana and establishing Maharaja Yudhisthira as a saintly king, able to carry on the disciplic succession. The Supreme Lord fulfills all desires. If one wants perfect knowledge of God, the Lord will send his authorized representative to teach him.

Sometimes we fantasize that we are more materially advanced than previous civilizations, considering our archeological findings. We will learn from the Mahabharata that human beings had superior intelligence and stronger bodies in bygone ages. A man could capture knowledge just by hearing it once and could recall it anytime during his life, verbatim. He didn't need computers, printing presses or books, for just by hearing from teachers and authorities once, he would remember it for the rest of his life. However, today, we are not so fortunate. The brain cannot retain knowledge just by hearing once. The knowledge needs to be repeated again and again. We need computers and books to help us for we lack that power of remembrance. Oral tradition is actually superior if the brain is superior.

In this first chapter of the Adi Parva, Ganga, the goddess of the river Ganges, was married to Maharaja Shantanu to fulfill the curse of Vashistha Muni. The children born of their marriage were destined to die after birth, due to a sin that was performed in a previous life. Today, children are killed in the womb for the same reason. If we kill, we will be killed. That is the law of nature or karma. For sins committed in a previous life, we suffer in this life. If a child is aborted in this life, that child killed in a previous life. How do we stop abortion? We have to stop killing in this life for which we will suffer in the next. For good works done in a previous life, we prosper in this life. God is not so cruel as to allow some to enjoy and others to suffer. The living being is the cause of his or her own happiness and distress. This is confirmed by Lord Krishna in the thirteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, "Nature is said to be the cause of all material activities and effects, whereas the living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world.  (B.g. 13.21) When suffering comes to us, we should understand that it is for our sins. We should not blame others, but we should blame ourselves.



Chapter Two

Maharaja Shantanu and Devavrata


 Many, many years passed, and Maharaja Shantanu had to learn to live in separation from his wife and son. One day while chasing a deer along the bank of the Ganges, the King noticed that the river had become shallow. He had never seen this before, and he sought the cause. While searching along the river bank, he spotted a handsome, powerful, and heroic youth. The boy was releasing celestial weapons impeding the flow of the Ganges. This young boy was Maharaja Shantanu's son, whom he had not seen since the boy was born. However, the King could not recognize him as such because he had only seen his son for a few moments after his birth. The youth, upon seeing his father, knew him to be so and out of shyness disappeared from sight.

King Shantanu was struck with wonder and imagined that the youth might be his own son. He then continued down the river bank, and there he saw Ganga whom he had not seen in years. As he approached her, he saw the same boy standing at her side. She then informed the king, "O best among kings, our eighth child is standing next to me. His name is Devavrata. He has been trained in the heavenly planets and has knowledge of all the celestial weapons of warfare. Devavrata has been the student of Vashistha Muni, who has taught our son the Vedas and their branches. O descendent of Bharata, both the demigods and the demons look upon him with favor. Whatever knowledge the sage Brihaspati has learned, this child has also learned, and whatever weapons the powerful and great Parashurama possess, this boy also possesses. Now that his training is complete, you may take Devavrata and raise him as your own.  Thus commanded by Ganga, Devavrata accompanied Maharaja Shantanu to his capital city.

 Maharaja Shantanu became attached to the boy who was endowed with all good qualities. Devavrata also became attached to his father, and it was seen that the two were always together. They talked together, walked together, ate together, slept together, and hunted together. Indeed, they were almost inseparable. Four years passed in this way.

One day, the King entered the forest along the bank of the Yamuna. While roaming in that region, he perceived a sweet aroma coming from an unknown direction. He followed the scent, and while wandering here and there, he came across a woman of heavenly beauty. Her name was Satyavati, and she was the daughter of a fisherman. He was pierced by the arrows of Cupid, and desiring her for his wife, he inquired, "Who are you, and who is your father? Also, please tell me what you are doing here.  Replying to the King she said, "My name is Satyavati, and I am the daughter of the fishermen King. My father has engaged me in the pious activity of rowing passengers across the river Yamuna.

Bewildered by the beauty and charm of this girl, the King approached the fisherman and spoke to him of a proposed marriage. The fisherman replied, "My daughter certainly could not find a more suitable husband than yourself. However, you must fulfill my one desire. I wish that the son born of my daughter be the next king of the world, and no one else can become your successor.

When that great descendant of Bharata heard the terms for gaining Satyavati, he felt no desire to grant such a benediction, and thus he returned to his capital. While riding on his chariot, he constantly thought of the beautiful fisherman's daughter. With a sorrowful heart, he entered his palace and did not say a word to anyone, not even Devavrata. Upon seeing his father's unhappiness, Devavrata approached him inquiring, "Please tell me father why you are so unhappy? You have not spoken a word to me, nor have you performed your daily duties. Please reveal the cause of your distress, and I will find a cure for it.

When requested in these words, Maharaja Shantanu replied, "My dear son, I am thinking of the instability of human life. If sudden death were to overcome you, I would be without a son. You are like a hundred sons to me, and I do not desire to marry again. I only desire that our dynasty be perpetuated. The wise say that he who has one son has no son at all. It is quite possible that you will be slain on the battle field, and if that happens, what will be the state of the Bharata dynasty? It is these thoughts that have made me so unhappy.

Devavrata was intelligent and reflected on his father's words. He felt there was something more than his father had revealed. He then went to the King's chariot driver and questioned him about the cause of the monarch's sullen mood. The charioteer told Devavrata about the fisherman's daughter and the benediction sought by her father. Understanding the situation, Devavrata, accompanied by some of the family elders, went to the fisherman's cottage. The chief of the fishermen greeted Devavrata, offering him a seat. He then informed him in sweet words, "O son of Shantanu, I welcome you for you are the pride of the kshatriya race. You are certainly invincible, but I have something to tell you. Even if the future husband of my daughter were to be Indra himself, he would have to lament, for the requirements for marrying Satyavati apply to all. Many sages have told me that your father is the only suitable husband for Satyavati. I have even rejected the requests of the great rishis in the matter of her marriage. The one great obstacle to this marriage is that you will be crowned King and not the son born of Satyavati and Shantanu. This is all I have to say in the matter.

Understanding the fisherman's desire, Devavrata meditated on the situation, and wanting to benefit his father, he informed the fisherman, "O fisherman, listen to my vow. There has not been, nor will there ever be born a man who can make this vow. I shall fulfill your request. I take the vow that the son born from Satyavati and my father shall be king, and I shall relinquish my claim to the throne.

Upon hearing Devavrata's promise, the fisherman, who sought sole sovereignty for Satyavati's son, said, "This vow that you have taken will certainly come to pass, but I have one doubt that is still in my mind. What will happen to your children? They may also claim the throne.  Devavrata replied, "O chief among fishermen, listen to the vow I shall make in the presence of these assembled elders. I have already relinquished my claim to the throne, and now I shall settle the matter of my descendants. I shall adopt the vow of brahmacharya and agree never to marry.

Hearing the oath spoken by Devavrata, the hair on the fisherman's body stood on end, and he promised, "I shall hand over my daughter to Shantanu.  When Devavrata made this vow, the heavenly denizens showered flowers, and the firmament was filled with the sounds, "This one shall be known as Bhishma [one who has taken a difficult vow].  The only sounds heard were "Bhishma!, Bhishma!, This one shall be called Bhishma!

Ganga's son then took Satyavati on the chariot and returned to Hastinapura. When Maharaja Shantanu heard about the oath his son had taken, he was pleased and gave him a benediction, "You shall never experience death as long as you wish to live. Indeed, you will die only when you desire it.  Thus Satyavati was married to Maharaja Shantanu, and that glorious King accepted her into his palace and maintained her as she desired.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata Summation to the Second Chapter of the Adi Parva, Maharaja Shantanu and Devavrata.



Chapter Commentary


Devavrata had taken a life-long vow of celibacy, and this was a rare occurance amongst the ksatriyas. Ksatriyas usually have many wives and sometimes hundreds of children. This was not uncommon in the previous ages. Because ksatriyas are in the mode of passion, it was almost impossible for them to control sex desire, which is the cause of all bondage to this world. They, therefore, took many wives and maintained them in great opulence. Bhishma was a great devotee of the Lord and because of his devotion to the lotus feet of the Lord, he was able to make a life-long celibacy vow, rejecting the feminine beauty of this world. By keeping the seminal fluid within, a man increases in strength, memory, intelligence and duration of life. This is one reason why Bhishma was destined to become the most powerful of the great warriors. Even in his old age during the battle of the Bharatas at Kurukshetra, he was considered to have been the most powerful warrior.

Another point to be learned from this chapter is position of young women in Vedic society. Young girls were never allowed to walk the streets searching for a husband. It was the duty of a father to get his daughter married at a young age. The sex desire becomes very prominent when a young girl reaches puberty. If she is married at that time, this will save her from becoming a prostitute. In Vedic times, if a girl was even touched by another man, no one would marry her. Wives were chosen on the basis of chasity and purity. It has become a social custom in the western world for young girls to mingle freely with young boys and often lose their virginity before marriage. Sometimes these girls become pregnant and give birth to unwanted children. The young girl, bereft of a husband, has to fend for herself, which may lead her to further sinful activities. The child born out of such lust generally turns out to be a useless member of society, and no one can understand why our youth are becoming degraded. This is all due to ignorance of God's law concerning the social organization of human society.

In the western societies, abortions and contraceptives have become the standard. Aborting a child in the womb means suffering a future sinful reaction. The mother, the father, the doctor and anyone else involved will suffer the karmic reaction of killing another living being. In their next lives they will be forced to enter the womb of a woman and be aborted themselves. The pain that they inflicted by aborting the innocent child in the womb will come back to them in a future birth. Due to ignorance of material nature's laws, people suffer greatly; and even when they are told of sinful activities and their consequences, they say they don't believe in such things. In this dark Kali age we seem to have to learn things the hard way.

Another important point in this chapter is Maharaja Bhishma's vow. Generally, great devotees take vows to please Lord Krishna; they never take vows for fruitive gain. Bhishma took this vow of celebacy so his father could enjoy material sense gratification. One may say that this has nothing to due with pure devotional service, and in fact it doesn't. However, we learned from the previous chapter that Bhishma, as the Vasu, Dyu, was cursed by Vashistha Muni to not have female companionship while living as an ordinary mortal. His vow was simply a fulfillment of that curse, and had nothing to do with any fruitive desire of his own. Also, Bhishma was a great devotee and was under the influence of Krishna's Yogamaya potency. In other words, this situation set the scene for the Lord's forthcoming appearance and would play a role for instructing the whole world.





Chapter Three

Bhishma Abducts Three Princesses


In due course, Maharaja Shantanu's Queen, Satyavati, bore a highly qualified son named Chitrangada. He was blessed with invincible power and was destined to become a renowned archer. Later, another son was born to Satyavati, named Vichitravirya. He developed into a natural leader and heroic warrior. As the two sons grew to maturity, they brought joy to the King and Queen. Soon Maharaja Shantanu found himself growing old, and seeing the influence of inevitable time, he decided to retire to the forest to practice austerities for realizing the kingdom of God. Before entering the forest, Maharaja Shantanu enthroned Chitrangada as the world's king under Bhishma's protection. He then departed to the forest alone to perform penances and austerities. Maharaja Shantanu soon became absorbed in trance and realized his original relationship with the Lord in the kingdom of God. When his meditation upon the Lord's transcendental form was unbroken, he ascended to the spiritual world.

When Chitrangada became King, he soon challenged and eliminated all opponents on the planet earth. Indeed, all the earthly kings considered that there was no kshatriya equal to him. Nevertheless, in the heavenly planets there lived a Gandharva King whose name was also Chitrangada. Upon hearing that an earthly being bore his name and was considered invincible, he challenged the son of Satyavati. There then took place on the field of Kurukshetra a battle that endured for a full three years. Both Chitrangadas were powerful, and the battle was fierce, but in the end the Kuru prince was slain. The King of the Gandharvas then ascended to the heavenly planets satisfied at heart. After the death of his step brother, Bhishma performed the last funeral rites and then enthroned Vichitravirya as the world's emperor, although he was only a small boy. Until Vichitravirya matured in age, Bhishma ruled the kingdom. Maharaja Bhishma took care of Vichitravirya like a father, arranging for the education and military training of the future king.

When Maharaja Bhishma saw that Vichitravirya was of marriageable age, he thought of obtaining a queen for him. At this time he heard that in the kingdom of Kashi three daughters were being offered in marriage. These princesses had heavenly beauty, and it was known that they were to select their own husbands. Bhishma went alone in his chariot to the city of Varanasi, and there he saw countless monarches who had assembled hoping to wed one of the princesses. The names of those beautiful girls were Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. While the daughters of the King were being introduced to the assembled heroic princes, Bhishma stood up in the assembly and commanded, "The wise have declared that when a qualified person has been invited to a svayamvara, a maiden may be bestowed upon him. There are eight kinds of marriage ceremonies, but the wise highly applaud that a princess taken by force in the presence of competitors is the foremost svayamvara. Therefore, strive to your best ability to defeat me or be defeated.

After challenging the assembled kings and princes, Bhishma put the three princesses on his chariot and proceeded to leave the Kashi kingdom. The kshatriya princes then stood up and, in great fury, challenged Bhishma to a fight. They put on their armour and pursued him in great haste. Attacking Ganga's son with full force, they poured a thick deluge of arrows upon him. Maharaja Bhishma, however, nullified those arrows with his own, and then pierced each prince with three shafts.The princes in turn pierced Bhishma with many arrows, and then released javelins and darts hoping to encompass his death. The battle was fought with such intense fury that even those who were courageous became struck with fear. Keeping his bow drawn in a constant circle, Bhishma severed arrows, bows, flagstaffs, coats of armor and human heads by the hundreds. The son of Ganga defeated the supporting armies that opposed him, and those who were heroes applauded the prowess of such a great warrior. When Shantanu's son had crushed all opponents, he proceeded to the Kuru kingdom, taking with him the three heavenly princesses.

While Maharaja Bhishma was proceeding toward Hastinapura, King Salwa, whose prowess was famed, suddenly appeared from behind. He challenged Bhishma, "Wait!, Wait!  Bhishma flamed up in anger and turned to meet the challenge of the oncoming monarch. All the princes, who had been defeated, assembled to see the battle between those two bulls among men. King Salwa first covered Bhishma with many golden arrows. All the assembled princes applauded Salwa's prowess, but Bhishma was furious and told his charioteer, "Take me closer to Salwa's chariot, so I may kill him in the way Garuda kills a serpent.  The Kuru chief then fixed the varuna weapon to his bow, and releasing it put Salwa's horses into confusion. This weapon caused a tidal wave to appear. Showing his supremacy with the bow, Bhishma released a flaming arrow which killed Salwa's charioteer. The powerful son of Shantanu then released the aindra weapon which killed Salwa's horses. (This weapon is similar to a modern day machine gun, but is more powerful and more accurate.) As the battle continued, Bhishma shattered all the weapons of Salwa, but left him with his life. After defeating all opponents, Bhishma proceeded to Hastinapura and offered the beautiful princesses to his younger brother.

After performing this uncommon exploit, Bhishma arranged the marriage ceremony for Vichitravirya. At that time the eldest daughter of the Kashi King, whose name was Amba, approached Bhishma appealing to him, "At heart I had chosen King Salwa as my husband. He had in his heart chosen me for his wife. This was also approved by my father. At the svayamvara in Kashi I would have garlanded him and accepted him as my lord if you had not forcibly taken me away. You are aware of moral principles, so please decide whether I am free to go.  Bhishma deliberated for some time, and after consulting with qualified brahmanas, he decided that Amba could return to the kingdom of Kashi and marry the lord of her heart.

The other two princesses, Ambika and Ambalika, who were as beautiful as the heavenly denizens, accepted Vichitravirya as their husband and considered themselves very fortunate. They considered him a worthy husband, and loved and respected him in every way. Vichitravirya was endowed with the prowess of the devas and could steal away the heart of any woman. Thus King Vichitravirya was duly married to the princesses of Kashi, and he passed seven years happily in their company. However, while he was still in his youth, he was attacked by tuberculosis, and although everyone tried to effect a cure, the Kuru prince died, setting like the evening sun. Bhishma lamented the death of his younger brother, and finally performed the last funeral rites.



Thus Ends the Mahabharata Summation to the third Chapter of the Adi Parva, Bhishma Obtains Three Queens for Vichitravirya.


Chapter Commentary


Maharaja Shantanu wanted to be enlightened in self realization and factually know the difference between the body and the soul. The soul takes one body after another according to the sinful or pious activities of this life. Emperor Shantanu wanted to stop the repetition of birth and death by becoming fully absorbed in God consciousness. Not only did he himself take spiritual realization seriously, but he also instructed his citizens about the life's ultimate aspiration. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, "O scion of Bharata, you should understand that I am also the knower in all bodies, and to understand this body and its owner is called knowledge. That is my opinion.  (B.g. 13.3) Because spiritual knowledge is the zenith of wisdom, Vedic civilization centered on this point, and therefore was considered more progressive than the present civilizations in which knowledge of the external body is given primary importance. Any civilization that doesn't teach the difference between the body and the soul is an animal civilization, no matter how materially advanced. The animals simply eat, sleep, mate and defend, and any civilization that teaches these animalistic propensities as life's prime goal cannot obtain spiritual perfection. As Lord Jesus Christ states, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all things will follow.

Kings in Vedic culture were called naradeva, because they were representatives of the Supreme Lord. They never thought themselves to be the highest authority, but acted on the advice of highly qualified priests and sages. Any head of state who does not act as the representative of the Lord will surely guide himself and his citizens down to hellish life. They become like blind men who lead their citizens into the ditch of repeated birth and death. King Shantanu set the example for his citizens, and upon seeing that his body was aging, went to the forest to attain liberation in complete Krishna consciousness.

When both Chitrangada and Vichitravirya died, there was lamentation by all the family members. Happiness in this material world is temporary. Everyone wants an eternal lover, father, mother, friend, son or daughter. We are eager to have a lover eternally, but the lover grows old and is no longer appealing to the mind. We are always eager to have a parent-child relationship, but the son grows up, or as in this case the son dies. We are very eager to have a friend, but we find that the friend moves to a distant country or we are cheated in personal dealings. And the relationship of master and servant is broken by mistrust. The temporary relationships in this world are like drinking sweet rice mixed with sand. The nice taste of the sweet rice is there, but the sand particles make it unpalatable. Similarly, the relationships of this material world are only temporarily pleasing, because the sand particles of birth, death, old age and disease make it unpalatable. In the spiritual world, however, one can have Krishna as a lover eternally, as in the case of the Gopis of Vrindavana. Mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja enjoy having Krishna as their son eternally. In the spiritual world one can play with Krishna as a cowherd boyfriend eternally. One can have God as his master eternally and never feel cheated. Therefore this material world is only a mirror reflection of the spiritual world. If you place a banana in front of a mirror and try to eat the mirror reflection, you will be frustrated. Similarly if we try to enjoy the temporary relationships of this world, we will be frustrated. We have to reestablish our loving relationship with the Supreme Lord, and then we will be happy and never have to lament as did the queens of Vichitravirya.




Chapter four

Bhishma Battles Parashurama


After receiving consent from Maharaja Bhishma, Princess Amba left the city of Hastinapura, and traveled to the province where King Salwa ruled. She was granted an interview and bowing before him she pleaded, "I have come to take shelter of your mighty arms, O brave King. Please accept me as your queen.  King Salwa laughed to hear Amba's request and informed her, "I no longer desire you for my queen, for you have been touched by another. It is Bhishma only who can marry you. When Bhishma abducted you, you followed him willingly enough. How can a king like myself, who is acquainted with Vedic knowledge and is supposed to guide others accordingly, accept into his palace a woman who is intended to marry another? O princess of Kashi, you may go wherever you like, but I cannot accept you as my queen.

Amba was aggrieved by King Salwa's rejection. She pleaded again, "O lord of the earth, it is not as you say. Bhishma took me away by force. I did not go with him willingly. I am attached to you, and I beg you to accept me. The scriptures declare that a king should not abandon one who is dependent on him. I swear, O tiger among men, that I have never thought of any other man except you. Bhishma will not marry anyone, and my two sisters have been married to Vichitravirya. Therefore, O King, accept me as you wife for I have no other shelter.  Although she repeatedly solicited King Salwa, he would not accept her and ordered her to leave his kingdom. Thus Amba left the kingdom of Salwa, lamenting her destiny.

Amba decided to inhabit the forest and practice austerities and penances for the rest of her life. In her wanderings, she came upon the ashrama of some great rishis, and she informed them of her plight. It so happened that among those great sages was her maternal grandfather, Hotravahana. The royal sage felt despondent for what had befallen her and told her that on the following day, Parashurama, the martial teacher of Bhishma, would come to the ashrama. He was sure Parashurama would influence Bhishma to accept her hand in marriage.

The next day Parashurama arrived at the ashrama and Amba related to him the events of her abduction by Bhishma and her rejection by King Salwa. She requested the great sage to kill Bhishma. Parashurama felt sorry for the girl and gave her hope by saying, "O daughter of Kashi, I will not take up weapons except to protect those that follow the Vedas. Tell me, therefore, what I can do for you. Both Bhishma and Salwa are obedient to me. Do not lament. I will fulfill your desire.

Parashurama, the annihilator of the ksatriyas, then went to Hastinapura, and when Bhishma learned that his preceptor had arrived, he went out of the city to greet him. Bhishma worshipped him according to his position and then waited for him to speak. Rama inquired from Bhishma, "After taking a vow of celibacy, in what mood did you abduct the princess of Kashi and then send her away? Contaminated by the touch of your hands, no one will marry her. Salwa has rejected her because you have forcibly placed her on your chariot. O King, it is not proper for her to be humiliated in this way. Therefore, at my command take her yourself and marry her according to Vedic rites.

"O brahmana,  Maharaja Bhishma replied, "I could not bestow this maiden upon my brother because of her desire to accept Salwa as her lord. As for myself, I have taken a vow of perpetual celibacy, and I will not break that vow under any circumstances.  Upon hearing the disobedient words of his disciple, Parashurama was outraged and rolling his eyes in anger, he said, "If you do not follow my commands, then I shall kill you this very day, along with your counsellors!  Bhishma tried to placate his preceptor by sweet words, but Parashurama could not be pacified. He told Bhishma, "You accepted me as your preceptor, yet, O Kaurava, you will not follow my instructions. If you want to please me then accept this maiden as your wife.

"I cannot follow this instruction, O best of the rishis,  Maharaja Bhishma replied. "O son of Jamadagni, all your attempts to secure this marriage will be in vain. What warrior would accept into his abode a woman whose heart was wedded to another. O brahmana, I will not forsake justice even from fear of Indra. One can reject the order of the preceptor if he is filled with vanity, destitute of knowledge concerning right and wrong, and who follows a devious path. You are my preceptor, and I have tried to pacify you as far as possible. However, this instruction is not according to religious principles, and therefore, I will fight with you. I would never slay my preceptor in battle. However, it is a well known truth that one is not guilty of slaying a brahmana who takes up arms like a kshatriya. Because you are acting unrighteously, I will fight with you. O Rama, equip yourself with proper weapons and position yourself on the Kurukshetra field. Subdued by my arrows, you will obtain the higher regions. The brahmanas have spoken of the power which you exhibited against the kingly dynasties long ago. However, in those days there was no Bhishma, nor were there any warrior kings like Bhishma. Kshatriyas endowed with power took their births later on. The person who will quell your pride has now taken birth, and this is none other than myself.

Bhishma and Parashurama then made their way to Kurukshetra. Maharaja Bhishma was stationed on a chariot drawn by white horses. Parashurama had created by his mystic power a beautiful chariot drawn by horses that could travel at the speed of the mind. The fighting began when Parashurama struck his disciple with hundreds of arrows. Bhishma countered with many more arrows, and the fighting went on till the end of the day. However, it was seen that neither was the victor.

After the battle had ceased, Bhishma's charioteer plucked out Parashurama's arrows from his own body. He also withdrew the arrows from the horses and those of his master, Bhishma. The son of Ganga then went to his tent for his nightly rest. When the sun had risen the following day, the battle resumed. Bhishma offered his obeisances unto his preceptor and again fought with him. On this day all the celestial weapons were used. Rama released the vayavaya weapon (tornado weapon), but Bhishma countered it with the guhyaka weapon. Bhishma then released the agneya weapon which brought about great fire. However Parashurama released the varuna weapon (water weapon) causing the fire to abate. The preceptor neutralized all the weapons released by his disciple. Parashurama then released a flaming arrow that struck Bhishma in the chest, causing him to fall unconscious on the floor of his chariot. The charioteer then took Bhishma away from the battlefield. All the followers of Parashurama, including the princess of Kashi, were pleased with that action. However, Bhishma regained consciousness and came back to fight with his martial teacher. He struck Parashurama with a powerful arrow, causing him to fall unconscious on the battlefield. The princess of Kashi and others came to his side, reviving him with cold water and sweet words. Parashurama then rose up like lightning, and again engaged in furious combat with his disciple. In this way the duel went on for twenty three days.

On the night of the twenty third day, Maharaja Bhishma retired to his tent and, lying down on his bed, began to reason, "This fighting has been going on for many days, and still I have not defeated him. I am unable to vanquish the son of Jamadagni. If I am to succeed in subduing this foremost brahmana, then the gods must assist me.  Thinking like this, Bhishma fell asleep. In a dream, eight brahmanas appeared before him encouraging, "Rise up, O son of Ganga. Do not fear. We will protect you from Parashurama. We will help you conquer Rama in battle. During tomorrows encounter, the mantras for the praswapa weapon will come to your mind. Neither Parashurama nor any other person is acquainted with it. With this weapon you will defeat your preceptor. O King, it will not slay Parashurama outright, and, therefore, there will be no sin incurred in using it. After he has been defeated, you will be able to awaken him with the samvodhana weapon.  Having said this much, the eight effulgent brahmanas disappeared.

When dawn appeared the next day, Maharaja Bhishma joyfully equipped himself for battle. Parashurama also ascended his chariot and prepared to fight his disobedient disciple. Parashurama first hurled a dart that was as relentless as Indra's thunderbolt. It was thrown with such lightning force that it appeared like a blazing meteor. That dart descended upon the Bhishma's shoulder, causing severe pain to the great hero. Angered by the weapon, Bhishma released an arrow that struck his martial teacher in the forehead. Rama paid no attention to the pain and invoked the brahmastra weapon. This weapon is similar to a modern day atomic bomb. Bhishma also released the same weapon, and when the two weapons met, there was an expansion of light similar to that at the time of dissolution. When the two weapons were neutralized, Bhishma thought of releasing the praswapa weapon. When he was thinking in this way, the mantras for the weapon appeared in his mind. While Bhishma was fixing the weapon to his bowstring, he heard many voices in the sky loudly exclaiming, "O son of the Kuru race, do not release the praswapa weapon!  Bhishma paid no attention and drew back the string of his bow. At that time Narada appeared on the scene imploring Bhishma, "O descendent of Kuru, do not release this weapon. Even the demigods are forbidding you. Rama is a brahmana who has performed great austerities, and he is also your teacher. O Bhishma, never humiliate him.

Upon hearing Narada's order, Bhishma withdrew the praswapa weapon. Parashurama's father, Jamadagni and grandfather, Richika, then appeared before Parashurama ordering, "O son, never again engage in battle with Bhishma or any other kshatriya. Heroism and courage in battle are the qualities of a warrior, and study of the Vedas and the practice of austerities are the wealth of the brahmanas. Previously you took up weapons to protect the brahmanas, but this is not the case now. Let this battle with Bhishma be your last.

Parashurama then replied to his forefathers, "I cannot give up this combat. I have vowed that I will never leave the battlefield without defeating my enemy. This battle can only cease if Ganga's son desists from fighting.

Those great sages then went to Bhishma requesting, "O son of Shantanu, you should not fight any longer with your preceptor. You should now worship that esteemed brahmana.

"I have taken a vow that I will never lay down my weapons without defeating my enemy,  Bhishma replied. "I cannot abandon my kshatriya oath.

The sages once again spoke to Rama, "O son of the Bhrigu race, it is not possible to defeat Bhishma, nor is it possible for Bhishma to defeat you. It has been ordained by providence that the son of Indra, Arjuna, will be the slayer of Bhishma.  While the forefathers of Rama were speaking to him, the pitris (a class of demigods) appeared on the scene and obstructed the chariot of Rama. They forbade him to fight any longer.

Just at this time, the eight effulgent brahmanas that Maharaja Bhishma had seen in his dream appeared before him requesting, "O powerful warrior, go to your preceptor and worship him. Without his benediction, you cannot obtain happiness.

Bhishma, upon seeing that his mentor had laid aside his weapons, bowed before him and offered respectful worship. Rama then praised his disciple, "There is no kshatriya equal to you on earth. You have pleased me with your prowess and your humility.  Bhishma then offered respects to his teacher and returned to Hastinapura.

Parashurama then called for Amba and remorsefully said to her, "O princess of Kashi, I have fought to my best ability, but I could not defeat Bhishma. I have fought with the weapons of the heavenly gods, but still I could not slay him. O beautiful lady, fate seems to have you in her strong grip. It will not be possible for me to change what providence has destined for you.

Amba was determined that Bhishma should die. She again inhabited the forest and practiced very severe austerities. She gave up all food and water and lived only on air. She stood immovable like a tree for six months. After this she increased her austerities by entering the waters of the Yamuna for one whole year. She then stood on her toes for twelve years, scorching the heavens by her austerities. Soon Lord Shiva became pleased and appeared before her. He asked her to take a benediction. With joined palms, she solicited Bhishma's death. He granted the benediction saying, "It will be you who will cause his death.  Amba then inquired, "How will it come to pass that I, a woman, will defeat Bhishma?  Lord Shiva replied, "My boons will never go in vain. You will be born in your next life as a female in the family of King Drupada, changing to manhood in that very life. You will become a great maharathi (chariot fighter), and remembering your former hatred for Bhishma and the incidents in this life, you will cause his death in battle.  After granting this benediction, Lord Shiva disappeared from that place.

Amba was joyous to receive Lord Shiva's boon. Wanting to take her next birth as soon as possible, she gathered logs for a funeral pyre. When the fire was blazing, she entered it uttering the words, "I pray for Bhishma's death.  Amba then took her birth in the family of King Drupada, and she was known as Shikhandi. She was born to fulfill Lord Shiva's benediction.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata Summation to the fourth Chapter of the Adi Parva, Entitled, Bhishma battles Parashurama.



Chapter Commentary


Parashurama was the martial teacher of Bhishma, and, therefore, it was expected that Bhishma would submit to the demands of his preceptor. That is how one advances in spiritual life. Both Bhishma and Parashurama are in the category of liberated associates of the Lord. Parashurama is an shaktavesha avatara [an empowered living entity], and Bhishma was a pure devotee of the Lord, one of the twelve mahajanas. This pastime was arranged by the internal potency of the Lord and therefore cannot be imitated. The four Kumaras were liberated devotees, and they disobeyed the order of their father, Brahma, when he requested them to get married and beget progeny. The conditioned soul cannot imitate these pastimes and disobey the order of the spiritual master. It is stated by Vishvanatha Chakravarty Thakur that by pleasing the spiritual master one pleases God, and by displeasing the spiritual master one displeases God. We have personally seen during the life of our spiritual master that certain disciples fell down from the path of devotional service by displeasing the spiritual master. For the conditioned soul it is imperative that he follow the order of Guru so that he can come to the transcendental platform of self realization.

All the spiritual masters and acharyas in the disciplic line of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu have set the example of strictly following the order of the spiritual master. Even Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Lord Krishna Himself, accepted a spiritual master, Isvara Puri, and strictly followed his instructions. Isvara Puri instructed Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to only chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra and not to read Vedanta Sutra. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Lord Krishna Himself, is the author of Vedanta Sutra, but to show the conditioned souls in this age of Kali how to follow the instructions of a bona fide spiritual master, he never studied Vedanta Sutra again. When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu defeated Prakashananda Saraswati, a mayavadi sannyasin, in debate, he did so on the basis of Shrimad Bhagavatam. He did this to show humility before the order of the bona fide spiritual master.

In this chapter the revengeful attitude shown by Amba is not the nature of a Vaishnava (devotee). Due to sinful activities performed in many millions of births, the living entity has caused his own suffering. In the thirteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna told Arjuna purusah sukha-duhkhanam, "The living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world.  From this we understand who is the actual cause of Amba's suffering. Due to some impious deed performed in a previous life, she is suffering for want of a husband. Therefore, she should not blame a respected person like Bhishma, but herself.

When a person comes to Krishna consciousness, the Supreme Lord minimizes the karma of the living entity, karmani nirdhahati kintu ca bhakti bhajan (Bs.5.54) What ever karmic reactions the living entity would have received under the modes of material nature are now minimized and given directly by Lord Krishna. Therefore, a devotee should see everything as God sent and take the humble position as mentioned by Lord Chaitanya in His shikshastaka, "One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street, more tolerant than a tree and ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.(Shikshastaka 3)

Unfortunately, Amba had not conquered the real enemy of hatred within. She had not achieved the platform of a Vaishnavi. If she had, she would have tolerated the situation, taking it as the mercy of the Lord. In Lord Brahma's prayers to Lord Krishna the ideal mentality is revealed, "My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.  [Bhag. 10.14.8] Our sufferings are due to our own misdeeds, and others are simply instruments to receive our punishment. We should learn, not to see the immediate cause, but the remote cause of our suffering, our own sins. Therefore, Jesus Christ told the stone throwers, "Let he who is free from sin cast the first stone.  We cannot blame anyone else for our own sufferings.



Chapter Five

The Birth of Dhritarastra, Pandu and Vidura


After the last funeral rites were performed for Vichitravirya, Satyavati wept and lamented for her deceased son. Ambika and Ambalika were also greatly overwhelmed at the untimely death of their husband. Upon realizing the possible extinction of the dynasty, Satyavati approached Bhishma requesting him, "The perpetuation of the Kuru dynasty now depends on you. The wives of your brother, Ambalika and Ambika, desire progeny, and under my order you should procreate children by them to continue this dynasty. You should duly marry a wife of good character and enthrone yourself as king. Do not plunge our ancestors into hell.

Upon hearing Satyavati's request, the relatives and friends of the Kuru family agreed. However, Bhishma replied to his stepmother, "O mother, what you have said is certainly sanctioned according to the code of virtue, but you forget my vow regarding marriage and children. I have taken a vow of lifelong celibacy. I may have to renounce kingship of the three worlds, the kingdom of heaven, and anything greater that exists, but this vow I will never renounce. The earth may lose its scent, water may lose its moisture, the sun may lose its glory, and fire, its heat. The moon may lose its cooling rays, or Indra his prowess, but I will not renounce this vow.

Hearing Bhishma's determination, Satyavati replied, "I know the vow that you have taken is on my account, but considering the present emergency you should accept this order as duty to the ancestors.  Bhishma again emphasized his duty to truth, "O Queen, do not sway from the path of virtue. Renunciation of a vow is never acclaimed in the shastras (holy scriptures). Listen to this narration and then decide the right course of action. In a former millennium, Parashurama, killed Kartavirya Arjuna in battle for the sin of slaying his father. Not only did he kill the followers of Kartavirya Arjuna, but he destroyed the entire kshatriya race twenty-one times. When the earth was devoid of great warriors, the queens approached the great rishis and procreated children by them and thus the kshatriya race was revived. Therefore, a purified brahmana should be invited with an offer of wealth, and let him raise children by the wives of Vicitravirya.

Smiling brightly, Satyavati agreed with Bhishma and informed him, "O descendant of Bharata, I agree with this proposal. I now understand what is to be done in this connection. My father was an honest man, and to maintain pious activities, he kept a boat for rowing passengers across the river Yamuna. One day the great sage Parashara came and requested me to take him across the river. While I was rowing the boat, the sage became attracted to my beauty and requested fulfillment of his passionate desire. However, I was afraid of my father's wrath, but I was also afraid that the rishi might curse me. The sage brought me under his control, and in the middle of the river Yamuna, he created a dense fog. He satisfied his sensual desires and was very pleased with my submissiveness.

"Before that time,  Satyavati continued, "a fishy odor emanated from my body, but after the rishi's touch, a celestial aroma radiates from my person. The sage assured me that by bringing forth a child in the middle of the river, I would still remain a virgin. The child born of our union was the eminent erudite sage, Vyasadeva. He has compiled the Vedic knowledge, and expounded the science of devotion to God. Because he was born in the middle of a river, he became known as Dwaipayana [the island born]. Because he compiled the Vedas, he is known as Vyasadeva, and because of his blackish complexion, he is known as Krishna. He is truthful in speech, sense controlled, and freed from all sins. If I ask him, then certainly he will generate good children by the wives of your brother. Previously, Vyasa had promised me, Mother, when you are in difficulty simply remember me, and I will come to you by the speed of the mind.' If you are willing, Bhishma, I will call him this very moment.

Upon hearing the name of Vyasa, Bhishma joined his palms in reverence saying, "This sage has true wisdom and sense control, and would be a fit person to continue the Kuru dynasty. Therefore, you have my full approval."

When Bhishma had given his consent, Satyavati immediately thought of her son, Vyasa, and within moments, the great sage appeared before her. Satyavati duly welcomed her son and taking him in her arms, bathed him with affectionate tears. Vyasa offered obeisances to his mother saying, "O mother, I have come to fulfill your desire. Command me at once, and I shall carry out your order.

"O my son,  Satyavati replied, "recently Vichitravirya, the King of this world, expired leaving no descendant, and thus the Kuru dynasty is in danger of extinction. Here is Bhishma, Shantanu's son, but he has taken a vow of celibacy and will not beget children. The two wives of Vichitravirya, Ambika and Ambalika, are still living, and I request you to conceive children by them to continue the Kuru dynasty.

Vyasadeva, hearing the appeals of his mother, replied, "Since Vichitravirya is my brother, born of your womb, I shall give birth to children who will equal the heavenly gods. Let the queens observe the vows I indicate for one full year.

Satyavati expressed her urgency, "There is very little time for vows. The earth is without a king, and the citizens, being without a protector, will certainly perish.

"If conception must take place this month,  Vyasadeva replied, "then the queens of Kashi must be willing to bear my ugliness, strong odor and matted locks. If they can perform these austerities, then they will give birth to noble children. Let one of the queens, dressed in clean clothes and bedecked with ornaments, wait for me in her bed chamber.

Satyavati then approached Ambika, explaining to her the situation. With great e fort Ambika was convinced that it was for the good of the world. When the right time came for conceiving a child, Satyavati took Ambika to the bed chamber and told her, "Vichitravirya had an older brother who has been, until this time, unknown to you. He will soon come here and conceive a child by you that will perpetuate our dynasty. Wait for him here without dropping off to sleep.

Ambika then waited in her room contemplating the person to be Bhishma or one of the other Kuru elders. Suddenly Vyasadeva entered the room, and Ambika, seeing his matted locks, ugly features and grim visage, closed her eyes in fear and did not open them once during the time of conception. When Vyasa came out of the chambers, he met his mother who inquired, "Will this princess have a worthy son?  Hearing her, he replied, "The child born shall have the power of ten thousand elephants. He will be equal to a royal sage, and will possess learning, intelligence and prowess. However, because the princess has closed her eyes during conception, the child shall be born blind.  Upon hearing this prediction from her son, Satyavati wondered, "How can a blind king rule this earth? How will he protect his family and the people of this world? You must again conceive another child that can act as a King.  Vyasadeva agreed and went away. In due course of time, Ambika gave birth to a male child who was blind. After the child's birth, he was given the name Dhritarastra.

Satyavati was anxious to beget another male child who could rule the world, and after receiving Ambalika's consent, she called for Vyasadeva. Vyasadeva came as promised and approached the chambers of Ambalika. Ambalika, seeing the repulsive features of Vyasa, turned pale with fear. After conception, the sage left the chambers and told his mother, "Because this queen has paled upon seeing my austere features, the child born will be white in color. His name, therefore, will be Pandu, or one with a white complexion.  In due course of time, Ambalika gave birth to a child endowed with auspicious marks. He was pale in complexion, but was handsome in all respects. Indeed, it was this child who would become the future father of the Pandavas.

Sometime after this child was born, Satyavati approached the beautiful Ambalika, again asking her to conceive a child by Vyasadeva. The princess felt she could not bear again to see the ugly features of the sage, and thus she sent to her chambers one of her maid servants who had heavenly beauty. When Vyasa entered the chambers, the maid servant offered respects to the sage, treating him kindly. She took her seat near him when asked. Vyasadeva was well pleased with her, and upon leaving told her, "You shall be a slave no longer. Your child will be justice personified and esteemed among intelligent men on earth.

After leaving the queen's chambers, Vyasa met his mother and informed her of Ambalika's deception, and how he had begotten a son by a shudra woman. After speaking with his mother, Vyasa disappeared. The child born of the maid servant was named Vidura. He was an incarnation of Yamaraja, the great vaishnava mahajana and the lord of death. Due to the curse of Mandavya Muni, Yamaraja had to be born on earth as a shudra. Thus from the wives of Vichitravirya, Vyasadeva begot two sons, Dhritarastra and Pandu, who would save the Kuru race from extinction.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata summation to the Fifth Chapter of the Adi Parva, Entitled, The Birth of Dhritarastra, Pandu and Vidura.

Chapter Commentary


After Vichitravirya's death, the mother and wives lamented greatly. Attachment is found even in the families of great dynasties. Maya is so strong that one thinks that his family members will live eternally and that he or she will never die. Queen Kunti was born in a royal dynasty descending from the moon god. Her sons were all born of great demigods and were highly qualified. She understood her attachment was not proper, and therfore she prayed in the presence of Lord Krishna, "O Lord of the universe, soul of the universe, O personality of the form of the universe, please sever my tie of affection for my kinsmen, the Pandavas and the Vrishnis.  (Bhag. 1.8.41) There is nothing wrong with affection and attachment, but we must owe our greatest affection to God first. Queen Kunti concluded her prayers to Lord Krishna, "O Lord of Madhu, as the Ganges forever flows to the sea without hindrance, let my attraction be constantly drawn unto You without being diverted to anyone else.  (Bhag. 1.8.42) Or as Lord Jesus Christ put it, "I have not come to this earth to bring peace, but a sword, I will turn the father against the son and the mother against the daughter. Those of his own household will be his enemy. He, who loves father and mother more than me, is not worthy of me.

It is not that emotional feelings can be suddenly cut off. Feelings of affection have to be transferred to Lord Krishna, and then one not only has affection for his family members, but for all living entities, because one comes to the realization that everyone is part of the family of the Supreme father, Lord Krishna. The process for becoming attached to Krishna has been given to us by Lord Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Yuga Avatara for the Kali age. He has requested us to chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This will cleanse the heart of all material desires and attachments and fix the mind on the lotus feet of Lord Krishna.

Queen Satyavati was very anxious beget a qualified king to give protection to the citizens. In the age of Kali powerful warrior kings no longer exist nor do qualified brahmanas. Previously the kings were heroic men who would face each other on the field of battle and fight till death. They knew that if they died on the field of battle facing the enemy, they would attain a higher destination after this life. Therefore, they were fearless in battle. As the iron age of Kali progressed, the warrior kings lost their strength and heroism. Today armies no longer face each other in battle, but hide in trenches and behind trees, fearful of death. They are not conviced that there is another life after this one. Gone are the days of these chivalrous warriors, because everyone in this Kali age is fastly becoming a shudra. The modern leaders of the world do not have a heroic fighting spirit, and thus they do not come out on the field of battle to lead their forces. They sit in their offices thousands of miles away from the battlefield. Even the modern day generals do not lead their forces into battle, but direct them miles away from the front line. Great generals such as Bhishma and Arjuna commanded the respect of all the citizens by being fearless in battle.

In the Kali-yuga, the act of begetting a child in a brother's wife is forbidden. In the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, there is the following verse, asvamedham gavalambham, sannyasam pala-paitrikam, devarena sutopattim, kalau panca vivarjayet, "In the age of Kali, five acts are forbidden: the offering of a horse in sacrifice, the offering of a cow in sacrifice, the acceptance of the order of sannyasa, the offerings of flesh to the forefathers, and a man's begetting children in his brother's wife.  [Brahma-vaivarta Purana, Krishna-janma-khanda 185.180] In the Kali-yuga the offering of a cow or horse in sacrifice is forbidden because the brahmanas are no longer qualified. The brahmanas would first kill a cow or horse by mantra, and then by another mantra bring it back to life with a new body. This power of mantra has been lost in the Kali-yuga, and therefore the act is forbidden. When the brahmanas could not bring the animal back to life, they continued with the sacrifices, considering the animal meat as the prasad or mercy of the Lord. In this way meat eating began in Vedic culture. It was for this reason that the Lord incarnated as Buddha, saving the the poor animals from slaughter. He stopped all Vedic sacrifice by preaching the philosophy of ahimsa or nonviolence.

The only sacrifice recommended in the age of Kali is the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. After all, sacrifices are meant to please God, and in this age the Lord is satisfied by such a simple process. In the age of Kali, the Supreme Lord in His form of Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu should be worshiped with his associates by performance of sankirtan yajna, the congregational chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. This process is accepted by intelligent men. yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi sumedhasah [Bhag. 11.5.32]. The word sumedhasah refers to intelligent men who possess sufficient brain substance.

Sannyasa is also forbidden in the age of Kali because it is difficult to find a person qualified for complete renunciation. In the Kali-yuga people are very fallen. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam Shrila Saunaka Rishi addressed Suta Goswami thus, "O learned one, in this iron age of Kali persons have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky and above all always disturbed.  [Bhag. 1.1.10] In India it has become popular to accept the renounced order of life simply to fill one's belly. This has give a very bad name to the sannyasa order, and people no longer have respect for that ashrama. These so-called renunciates have sex with many women and are more like monkeys than sannyasis. Because people are generally in the modes of passion and ignorance, it is not possible for them to accept the renounced order of life and follow the strict rules and regulations of that order. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the renounced order of life at the age of twenty-four. He did so to deliver the fallen condition souls. Only a person who has transcended the modes of passion and ignorance, and is firmly established in goodness can become a sannyasi, strictly following the regulative principle of no sex.

It is also forbidden to beget children in the womb of a brother's wife. In previous yugas if a man was sterile or the husband had died, then the brother was called upon to propagate children as in the case of Vicitravirya and Vyasadeva. However in the Kali-yuga unscrupulous people will take advantage of this Vedic principle simply to have illicit sex. This leads to further incest which degrades the quality of the population. Thus this is a forbidden act in this age.



Chapter Six

The Pandavas are Born


Upon the birth of Dhritarastra, Pandu, and Vidura, the earth prospered. There was an abundant harvest of crops, and all the trees were ladened with fruits and flowers. The seasons arrived and passed on time, and there was ample rainfall in the land of Bharatvarsha. The people became learned, brave and honest, and guided by Maharaja Bhishma, performed devotional sacrifices for the pleasure of Lord Vishnu. The people of Hastinapura were so contented with the rule of Maharaja Bhishma that they thought they were living in the Vaikuntha planets. Hearing of the Kuru's prosperity, people came to take shelter in that kingdom. Thus under the influence of a godly King the earth prospered.

Maharaja Bhishma raised the three children, Dhritarastra, Pandu and Vidura, as if they were his own. As Pandu grew, he excelled all men in archery, whereas Dhritarastra excelled in personal strength, and it was soon known to everyone that there was no one equal to Vidura in devotion to Vishnu and knowledge of the dictates of morality. In due course of time Pandu became King, for Dhritarastra was blind, and Vidura was born of a maid servant. Therefore, neither of them could accept the throne.

As Dhritarastra and Pandu matured in age, the time came to marry them to proper wives. Considering the situation, Bhishma decided that three princesses were worthy of being married to the Kuru princes. They were Gandhari, the daughter of the Gandhara King, Pritha, the daughter of King Surasena, and Madri, the daughter of the King of Madras. Bhishma had heard that Gandhari, the daughter of King Subala, was granted a benediction by Lord Shiva that she could have one hundred sons. Attracted to the idea of marrying Dhritarastra to Gandhari, Bhishma, the grandfather of the Kurus, sent messengers to the father of Gandhari. King Subala at first hesitated, hearing that Dhritarastra was blind, but taking into consideration the blood line of the Kurus, he consented to marry her to Dhritarastra. When the chaste Gandhari heard that her future husband was blind, she voluntarily blindfolded herself and took a vow to remain so for the rest of her life. Shakuni, the son of Subala, then took Gandhari to the city of the Kurus, Hastinapura, and formally handed her over to Dhritarastra. Gandhari became so chaste and devoted to Dhritarastra, that she never spoke of men other than her husband or her superiors.

The chief of the Yadu dynasty was Surasena. He was the father of the magnanimous Vasudeva. He also had a daughter named Pritha, who was unrivaled in beauty among earth women. She was adopted by King Kuntibhoja, who had no children. This was an agreement made previously by the two Kings. They agreed that if a girl was born to Surasena, she would be handed over to King Kuntibhoja who was childless. Thus Pritha, who later became known as Kunti, lived in the palace of King Kuntibhoja and looked after the duties of greeting important guests and brahmanas. Once, during her youthful years, she pleased, by menial service, the easily angered brahmana Durvasa Muni. The muni gave her a benediction that she could call any celestial being from the heavenly regions to produce children of the highest quality. Kunti, while still a virgin girl, once called, out of curiosity, Surya, the sun god. When she chanted the mantra, the sun god immediately appeared before her saying, "I have come before you, O lotus-eyed lady. Please fulfill the purpose of the mantra.  Kunti was stunned and told the sun god, "I simply tested the mantra given to me by Durvasa Muni. O lord, please forgive my offense.  Surya replied, "Once I have been called by this mantra, the result cannot go in vain; it must bear fruit. Although you will bear a son by me, you shall remain a virgin girl.

Thus succumbing to the desires of the deva, Kunti immediately conceived and bore a child that was equal to the sun god himself. The child was born with natural golden armor and glittering earrings. To keep her virginity intact, the sun god arranged that the child be born from Kunti's ear, and for this reason the child was named Karna. The sun god immediately ascended to heaven. Not knowing what to do, Kunti placed the child in a basket and set it afloat on the Ganges. She prayed to the sun god to protect the child. The child floated down the river for some time and was eventually picked up by a carpenter and chariot driver named Adiratha. In great happiness he took the newly found child to his wife Radha, who was childless. Together, both mother and father began to care for the child considering him a gift of providence. Unfortunately, Kunti had to give the child up out of fear of her relatives.

When it was time for Kunti to be married, her foster father, Kuntibhoja, invited princes and kings from other countries to be present. In this svayamvara (wedding) ceremony she was to pick her own husband. The budding youthful Kunti, upon entering the assembly hall, saw the handsome Pandu, proud as a lion, broad-chested and endowed with unsurpassable prowess. He was like the moon amidst its many luminaries. Advancing with modesty, she placed the wedding garland around Pandu's neck, and thus she accepted the Kuru prince as her beloved husband. King Kuntibhoja arranged for the wedding functions and bestowed upon Pandu a large dowry. Afterwards, Pandu took his new wife back to Hastinapura and gave her the opulence she deserved.

Sometime later, Bhishma set his heart upon getting Pandu married to a second wife. Accompanied by his army, Bhishma went to the kingdom of Madras. There he obtained Madri, the attractive sister of Salya, and, after receiving a sufficient dowry, brought her back to Hastinapura where she was united to Pandu in great pomp.

After some time, Pandu set his mind on conquering the world. With his vast army, consisting of many akshauhini divisions of soldiers, Pandu subjugated one country after another (A solid phalanx of 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 109,650 infantry and 65,000 calvary is called an akshauhini). He first conquered the robber tribes of Asarna. He next headed toward the kingdom of Magadha, where there reigned a King named Dhirga. This King was proud of his strength and had made numerous offenses against other monarches. Pandu broke the strength of his army and killed him on the field of battle. Taking everything in the King's treasury, he marched into Mithila and subjugated the Videhas. He then conquered the kingdoms of Kashi, Sumbha, and Pundra. When all the kings of the world were thus defeated, they considered Pandu to be a demigod like Indra, the King of heaven. They paid tribute to him and offered all kinds of wealth to gain his favor. Thus the Kuru King returned to his capital, taking with him his acquired opulence.

After establishing his power over the earth, King Pandu retired to the forest along with his two wives, Kunti and Madri. There they lived in opulence and enjoyed the beautiful wooded areas at the base of the Himalayan mountains. One day, Pandu, while roaming about the forest, saw a large deer that seemed to be the leader of a herd. It was engaged in sex with its female companion. Pandu pierced them both with five sharp arrows. The animal was not actually a deer but a rishi's son of great ascetic merit, who was enjoying his mate in the form of a deer. When pierced in this way, the deer fell uttering cries like a human being.

In anger the deer chastised Maharaja Pandu, "O King, even men that are slaves to lust and anger and who are ever sinful never commit cruel acts such as this. Why have you pierced me with arrows while I was enjoying my wife?

"Kings engage in the sport of killing deer in the same way as they kill opponents of religion,  Pandu replied. "You should not reproach me for a sin done in ignorance. Animals of this species are killed in the open or hidden from view. Formerly, the sage Agastya, while engaged in the performance of sacrifice, killed every deer in the forest and offered it in sacrifice to the heavenly gods. I am presently killing deer in the forest for use in sacrifice. You have been killed for the same reason. Seeing that I am following in the footsteps of the great sages, why do you reproach me?

"O King,  the deer replied, "I do not blame you for slaying a deer. But instead of acting so cruelly, you should have waited till the act of intercourse was complete. I am a muni named Kindama, and I was engaged in sexual intercourse with my mate, because unrestricted sex life is not allowed in human society. You have slain me without knowing that I am a brahmana, and therefore, the reaction for killing a brahmana will not come upon you. However, because you have killed me while I was enjoying my wife, certainly your fate will be like mine. When you approach your wife for intercourse, premature death will overcome you and your wife. You have brought lamentation to me when I was seeking happiness, and now I say, grief will come to you when you seek pleasure with your wife.  Pronouncing this curse, the sage, in the form of a deer, left his body and attained the heavenly regions due to his ascetic merits.

After the sage's death, King Pandu was momentarily bewildered by such a reversal in his life. "The wicked,  Pandu exclaimed, "even if born in pious families, are deluded by their passions. Although I am the son of the great Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, I have engaged in the frivolous act of killing deer in the forest. O, how foolish I have been; the demigods have forsaken me. I now seek liberation. The great impediments to salvation are the desire to beget children and the other pleasures related to sex life. I shall live the life of an ascetic and bring my passions under control by severe austerities. I shall renounce my kingdom and, shaving my head, wander the earth begging my sustenance from the trees and the rivers. I will no longer find fault with others, but have a friendly attitude, devoted to the good of all creatures. I will take complete shelter of the Supreme Lord, who is the only savior from all miseries.

After this unforeseen calamity, King Pandu sent all his servants and wealth back to Hastinapura, and he also sent the news to Bhishma and his brothers of all that had taken place. The elders in the court at Hastinapura were sullen on hearing what had happened. Dhritarastra was especially affected by the turn of events.

While living in the forest, Pandu renounced sense gratification and became a distinguished sage, although born of the warrior race. The great rishis in the forest treated him like a brother or friend. While living in the forest, Pandu became fully satisfied in himself, but he understood that the world was now without protection. Also he knew that his debt to his forefathers could not be paid unless he had children who could perform sacrifices. When the rishis in the forest visited the heavenly realm, Pandu could not accompany them. With some anxiety in his heart, he requested Kunti, "For the world's protection and to preserve the Bharata dynasty, I want you to procreate children by a highly advanced brahmana. Without powerful children to maintain the Kuru dynasty, the whole world may fall into ruin. Also, one has a debt to pay to his ancestors by begetting good children. In the same manner that Vyasadeva conceived me, I want you to concieve children by the semen of some great rishi.

Kunti was ever agreeable to her husband's desires and advised him, "When I was a young girl, I used to wait upon guests and satisfy them to their hearts' content. One day a brahmana named Durvasa Muni came to my father's palace. By my menial services I satisfied the brahmana, and he desired to grant me a benediction. He bestowed upon me a mantra by which I could call any demigod from the heavenly realms. He benedicted me saying, With this mantra you may call any demigod, and they will abide by your will. Any demigod you summon will give you children.' On your order, I shall petition any celestial being you wish. O foremost of all truthful men, tell me which of the devas I should summon.

Kunti's words delighted Pandu, and he joyfully replied, "O most fortunate Kunti, invite the ruler of justice, Yamaraja. He is most pious and devoted to Lord Vishnu. Indeed, he is a mahajanas and will not pollute our dynasty with sin.  Kunti abided by Pandu's order and prepared to call the demigod Yamaraja. (At this time Gandhari had been pregnant for one whole year.) Kunti repeated the incantation that Durvasa Muni had imparted to her, and Yamaraja appeared. By him she conceived a child that was equal to the great Yamaraja himself. When the child was born, there was a celestial voice from the heavens that announced, "This child will possess divine consciousness, and he will be the foremost of virtuous. He will become famous as one who rules by the will of God. Endowed with invincibility and truthful speech, he will become the emperor of this earth. This first son of Pandu will be named Yudhisthira, and his fame shall be celebrated throughout the heavens.

Pandu was overjoyed by the birth of such a pious son, and he again ordered Kunti, "The wise have declared that a king must be endowed with physical strength, otherwise he is no warrior. Therefore, call for Vayu, the mighty demigod of the wind.  Kunti then summoned the celestial being Vayu, and coming before her, the wind god inquired, "O Kunti, please tell me why you have called me.  Smiling with modesty, she replied, "Please give me, O best of the celestials, a child endowed with super human strength and a robust body. Let him be capable of humbling the pride of everyone.  Vayu then conceived a child by her who was destined to become the strongest human on earth. When the child was born, a voice from the heavens announced, "This child shall be known as Bhima, and by his physical prowess he will conquer all men.  On this same day that Bhima took his birth, Duryodhana was also born from Gandhari.

One day, shortly after Bhima's birth, Kunti was holding him in her lap. The child had just fallen asleep, when suddenly a lion roared. Kunti rose, forgetful that the child was on her lap. The child fell down the mountain side and pulverized a large stone upon which he fell. The child was not hurt in the least, but Pandu was amazed at the sturdy body of his son.

After the birth of Bhima, Pandu desired more children. He told Kunti to practice austerities for one year, and he himself stood on one leg from morning till evening every day in rapt meditation, hoping to satisfy Indra, the King of heaven. Indra, being pleased with Pandu, appeared before him and said, "I will give you, O King, a child who will be celebrated for all time. He shall annihilate the impious and give joy to the virtuous. He will be a great devotee of the one Supreme Lord.

King Pandu then called for Kunti, and told her to summon Indra. Kunti, following the order of her husband, called Indra, and by him a child was born that was to be the intimate friend of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Upon the birth of this child, a celestial voice from the heavens announced, "This child shall be known as Arjuna. He will be equal in bowmanship to the great Kartavirya, and in prowess he will resemble Lord Shiva. Invincible in battle, he will propagate the fame of the Kuru dynasty far and wide. After acquiring all celestial weapons, he will retrieve the fortunes of your dynasty.  After these prophetic words were heard, kettledrums rolled, and the heavenly gods and rishis showered flowers on the Earth.

The celebrated Pandu was overjoyed and approached his wife aspiring for more children. However, before Pandu could speak, Kunti warned, "The wise do not sanction a fourth child even in case of emergency. The woman who has intercourse with four different men is called a prostitute, and with a fifth she is called a harlot. Therefore, O great King, because you are learned in the scriptures, please do not ask me again to bear children.

After the birth of Kunti's first three sons and also the birth of one hundred sons to Gandhari, Madri, the daughter of the Madras King, approached Pandu requesting, "O great King, I have no objection if you do not favor me. O sinless one, I also have no complaint that although I am senior to Kunti, I am inferior to her in position. I do not grieve when I hear that Gandhari has obtained 100 sons. This, however, is my great grief that while Kunti and I are equal, I am childless. If Kunti could teach me to have children in the same way that she has conceived these children, then I would be satisfied. Please ask her on my account.

Pandu then lovingly requested Kunti to teach the mantra to Madri so that she could also have children. Kunti readily agreed, and told Madri, "Think of some demigod you favor and certainly by him you shall bear children.  Madri thought of the twin Asvini-kumara demigods, and within a matter of seconds, they appeared before her. They gave her two children named Nakula and Sahadeva, who were unrivaled on earth for personal beauty. As soon as they were born, a voice from the heavens proclaimed, "In prowess and beauty these two children shall excel even the twin Asvins themselves.  Thus five children were born to Pandu, and the great King felt fully satisfied to see the good quality of his children. As they grew, they were favored by the great sages in that region.

Gandhari also gave birth to children. She received a benediction from Vyasadeva that she could have one hundred sons. Sometime thereafter, Gandhari conceived, and she bore the pregnancy for two years without delivering. When she heard that Kunti had given birth to a child whose splendor was like the morning sun, she was angered and violently hit her womb. She then gave birth to a piece of flesh that was hard like an iron ball. When she was about to throw the ball of flesh away, Vyasadeva appeared. Without disguising her feelings, she angrily cried, "When I heard that Kunti gave birth to a child who was radiant like the sun, I struck my womb. You have promised me a hundred sons, but here is a ball of flesh.

"O daughter of Subala,  Vyasadeva replied, "my boons will always bear fruit. I have never falsified a benediction even in jest. You should now arrange that a hundred pots full of clarified butter be brought instantly. In the meantime sprinkle cool water over this piece of flesh.

Gandhari was pacified and began sprinkling water on the ball of flesh. It separated into 100 pieces, each about the size of a thumb. Each piece of flesh was then placed in a pot of ghee and covered. Vyasadeva told Gandhari that a child would be born from each of the pots. He then left for the Himalayan Mountains.

The first child born from one of the hundred pots was Duryodhana. As soon as he could cry, he began to bray like an ass. And hearing that sound, the asses, vultures, jackals and crows uttered their respective cries. Violent winds began to blow, and there were fires in various directions. Duryodhana was born on the same day that Bhima was born.

After the birth of Duryodhana, Dhritarastra called for Bhishma, Vidura and all the senior brahmanas and members of the Kuru household. He questioned them, "The oldest of the princes is Yudhisthira, and he shall become King. By virtue of his being the first born, he has gained the kingdom. But what about this son born to me. Will he become king?  While inquiring from the elders, jackals, crows and asses began to howl frightfully.

"O King,  Vidura said, "when these frightful omens are noticeable at birth, it is evident that this child will destroy your dynasty. Your prosperity depends on forsaking him, and if you decide otherwise, misfortune will befall the Kurus. You already have 99 other sons, so let this one go. O King, favor the world by casting away this child.

When Vidura had wisely spoken, all the brahmanas agreed, but Dhritarastra had no heart to destroy a small baby. Within a month's time all the one hundred pots of ghee had produced a child, and in addition to these one hundred, Vyasadeva produced another pot in which a female child named Duhsala was born. There was also a vaishya woman who used to serve Dhritarastra very faithfully. By her the King conceived a child named Yuyutsu who later became renowned for sharp intelligence. Thus one hundred and one sons as well as one daughter were born to Dhritarastra. In order of birth, they were Duryodhana, Yuyutsu, Duhshasana, Duhshaha, Duhshala, etc. All the hundred and one sons became heroes and great chariot fighters.

One day after the birth of his five sons, King Pandu was wandering about the woods with his wife Madri. It was springtime and the forest flowers were in bloom, casting their scent in all directions. Birds like the parrot, the cuckoo, the crane, and the peacock were singing sweetly, and the bees were humming. Bewildered by the atmosphere, Pandu became attracted to his wife, and forgetting the curse of the rishi, forcibly embraced her. Madri tried to resist the advances of her husband, but it was no use. Impelled by fate, the great King, overwhelmed by passion, ended his life, trying to enjoy his beautiful wife.

Embracing the dead body of her husband and weeping aloud, Madri called out for Kunti. Kunti heard her cries and came to where Madri lay with Pandu. Viewing the dead body of Pandu, Kunti fell to the ground lamenting. She was overpowered by separation, and she chastised Madri repeatedly for not resisting the King. Madri related to her all that happened and how she tried to stop Pandu's advances. Kunti then decided, "I am the eldest wife, and therefore the religious rite of Sati belongs to me. You must now take care of the children and see that they are raised properly.

"Kunti, it is I who should enter fire with our lord,  Madri replied. "He approached me for enjoyment, and his desires being unfulfilled, ascended to the heavens. Therefore, I shall accompany him to Yamaraja's abode to satisfy him. If I survive, I shall certainly not be able to raise your children as if they were my own. But you, O Kunti, shall be able to raise my sons as if they were your own. Therefore, let my body be burnt with his.  Kunti reluctantly agreed to the proposal. With tearful eyes and sorrowful hearts, they built a funeral pyre and laid the dead body of Pandu upon it. As the body burned, Madri entered the flames and attained the same destination as her husband.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata Summation to the Sixth Chapter of the Adi Parva, The Pandavas Divine Birth.


Chapter Commentary


In the beginning of this chapter the glories of Maharaja Bhishma are extoled. He was a leader par excellence. Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita, "Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.  (Bg. 3.21) Because Maharaja Bhishma was a powerful devotee and saintly king, the citizens wanted to follow in his footsteps. By engaging in the Lord's devotional service, the citizens automatically became joyful and radiant. This process is like watering the root of a tree. If the water is applied to the root, then the whole tree prospers. Similarly, if a king engages his citizens in worshipping Lord Vishnu, the root of all creation, then automatically they become happy.

If a head of state engages his subjects in sense gratification, the citizens wither in good qualities, creating an environment of sinful life. Directing our life toward sense gratification is like trying to water the leaves of the tree individually. The whole tree dies from such a watering process. The citizens in Maharaja Bhishma's kingdom loved him as a father, and always extoled his qualities and activities. They knew that Maharaja Bhishma would not utilize them for his sense gratification; for they truly believed that he was God's representative on Earth, and he never let them down in that regard. In today's society, no one trusts the leaders. They now travel in bullet proof cars to protect themselves from the discontented citizens whom they have exploited. Such is the difference between a self motivated leader and a godly king like Maharaja Bhishma.

When Gandhari was married to Dhritarastra, she voluntarily blindfolded herself for the rest of her life. Gandhari was the ideal chaste woman of all time. She did not want to feel superior to her husband in any way. The ornament of a woman is her chastity or faithfulness to her husband. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna told Arjuna, "Among women I am fame, fortune, speech, memory, intelligence, faithfulness (chastity) and patience.  (Bg.10.34) A woman, who is chaste to her husband, is elevated in transcendental qualities. In the modern world, chasity is not emphasized. Women have been given independence in practically all matters. They can go to war, vote, head the household, or they can even lead a country. Because chastity is not in vogue, women are allowed to sample many men to find the right one according to their estimation. Many unwanted children are born out of such sampling. The whole situation degenerates the quality of the population, but what is to be done? We can only encourage everyone to chant the holy names of God and try to lead a pure life. The holy name alone can change the course of this age.

King Pandu possessed all the good qualities of a heroic and powerful king. The qualities of a brave warrior are given in Bhagavad-gita, "Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the qualities of work for the kshatriyas.  (Bg.18.43) Maharaja Pandu was decorated with these qualities. He ruled the earth toward the end of the Dvapara Yuga more than five thousand years ago. At that time society was guided by the divine varnashrama system. As Lord Krishna states in Bhagavad-gita, "According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.  (Bg.4.13) The four divisions of society are the brahmanas, the kshatriyas, the vaishyas and the shudras. The priestly class was meant to guide all other classes of men in spiritual knowledge. The warrior kings were meant to protect the citizens so that they could peacefully execute their prescribed duties. The mercantile and farming men were meant to till the land, take care of cows and do business. The worker class were meant to serve the other three sections of society. There was no exploitation of one class over another, because the common goal was to please Lord Vishnu. When God is placed in the center of civilization, everyone becomes happy and prosperous, and there is no artificial dominance of one section of society over another.

The varnashrama social system is compared to a human body. The priestly class was like the head that gives direction to the other parts of the body. The kings were like the arms that give protection. The vaishyas were like the stomach that gives nourishment to the head, arms and legs. And the workers were like the legs that give service to the rest of the body. In present day society there are no priestly intelligent men to guide society toward self realization, and thus the social body wanders aimlessly like a headless trunk.

The fall of the divine varnashrama system began when the brahmana boy Shringi cursed the powerful king Maharaja Parikshit. Because Shringi wrongly cursed the saintly King, the priests gradually lost their purity by which they controlled the kings. When the brahmanas lost their power, the kshatriyas became the leaders of society. This is like having a body without a head. The result of this was that the population in general forgot the aim of life+spiritual realization+and gradually became influenced by sensual monarches who simply engaged in the pursuit of material pleasure.

For the last five thousand years, the world has been ruled by monarchies, except in a few rare cases where a powerful ascetic priest directed the ruling kings. Chanakya Pandit directed Maharaja Chandragupta to conquer the major portion of India. Maharaja Patraparudra,the king of Orissa in the 1500's, took inspiration from Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Lord Krishna in this age of Kali. Within the last one hundred years, monarchies have been abolished for the most part. Why? Because the kings became corrupt. They were no longer saintly leaders, but degraded rogues and thieves. Gradually the mercantile men threw out the powerless kings and instituted democracy, or government run by the people. The businessmen and the workers are now competing with one another for the supremacy of the world. There is no trust because the leaders are simply self motivated. Everyone has forgotten the goal of life, self realization, and as a result people are confused and bewildered. As the businessmen become more degraded, the worker class will take power. Modern communism is a government for the worker class. As Kali yuga progresses, all governments will be run by men with base qualities, leading to nothing but anarchy, or no government at all.

Maharaja Pandu went out to conquer the world, leading his powerful army. He was the first warrior to engage the enemy, and he would not have been considered a king unless he came back from the battle scarred by some weapon. Leaders, who are afraid of fighting and simply sit in their comfortable offices and order others to fight, are not of the warrior class, but businessmen or workers. They have none of the heroic qualities mentioned in Bhagavad-gita. They do not know how to protect the citizens properly, nor do they know how to respect saintly persons. They are like Kali, who dressed like a king, but was found beating a bull and cow. Maharaja Parikshit, a real king, appeared on the spot to kill the pretender. Unfortunately, today there are no pious and powerful kings like Pandu or Parikshit who can make the representatives of Kali tremble at their feet. The whole situation has become chaotic.

When Maharaja Pandu pierced the deer, he did not know that it was a disguised sage named Kindama. The sage had stated to Maharaja Pandu that unrestricted sex was not allowed in human society. At that time in Vedic culture it was understood that this one desire binds all persons to the material world. While Lord Rishabhadeva was instructing his one hundred sons, he told them, "The attraction between male and female is the basic principle of material existence. On the basis of this misconception, which ties together the hearts of the male and female, one becomes attracted to his body, home, property, children, relatives and wealth. In this way one increases life's illusions and thinks in terms of I and mine.' (Bhag. 5.5.8) Unrestricted sex life is simply animal life, and it is for this reason that the sage took the body of a deer so he could enjoy like an animal. When a person engages in too much sex, he considers himself to be this body and this life to be all in all. One comes to the human platform when sex life is regulated for producing saintly children. If one is serious about getting out of this material world, one must refrain from four sinful activities: unrestricted sex, meat eating, indulging in intoxication and gambling. After giving these up, one must engage in the devotional service of the Lord in nine different categories: Hearing, chanting and remembering the Supreme Lord, serving His lotus feet, offering prayers, serving Him, worshipping His deity form, making the Lord one's friend and surrendering everything to Him. If one is absorbed in this nine-fold process, he will realize his eternal nature and liberate himself from the path of birth and death.

Maharaja Pandu realized that although he was a powerful king, he had not conquered his real enemy, lust. He was therefore subject to the reactions of his fruitive activities. There is danger in this world at every step and therefore, one can never know when some tragedy will strike. Therefore, one should take close shelter of the Lord. This is confirmed in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, "For one who has accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation and is famous as Mukunda or the giver of liberation, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calf's hoofprint. The kingdom of God should be our goal, not this material world where there is danger at every step of life.  (Bhag. 10.14.58) No matter how comfortable one may be in this world, at


Chapter Seven

The Poisoned Cake


After King Pandu's demise, the sages in the forest assembled and discussed the future of Kunti and her sons. The rishis decided that the Pandavas, along with their mother, should live in Hastinapura and take shelter of Grandfather Bhishma and the Kuru elders. The sages had great compassion upon the people of the world. They were not just interested in their own salvation, but in the protection and advancement of the people in general. Knowing these boys to be future Kings of the earth, the great sages made arrangements for them to be placed under proper guidance.

Accompanied by the sages and the Charanas [a species of celestial beings like the seraphim and cherubim], Kunti and her children appeared outside the city gates of Hastinapura. Upon hearing that Kunti was at the city gate, the members of the Kuru court, headed by Bhishma, Dhritarastra and Vidura, came forward to welcome them. The citizens of Hastinapura also came there to see the sons of Pandu. Everyone was wonder struck to behold the godlike sages accompanied by the celestial Charanas.

The sages then informed the Kuru elders, "As you well know the former king of this world, Pandu, had been living in the forest as an ascetic due to a muni's curse. The curse has now taken its toll and that great King has ascended to the heavenly planets. Here are his five children. The oldest is Yudhisthira, conceived by the controller of religion, Yamaraja himself. He is the future king. The second son, Bhima, conceived by the demigod Vayu, possesses infinite strength. The third son is Arjuna, conceived by the noble Indra himself. He will humble the pride of all archers on earth. The last two children are Nakula and Sahadeva, begotten by the Asvini-kumara demigods through Madri. The birth, growth and development of Pandu's children will give great pleasure to all. King Pandu and his wife Madri departed seventeen days ago. The last funeral rites need to be performed with honor befitting a king of this earth.  After informing the Kuru elders of all matters, the sages and Charanas disappeared from sight.

Dhritarastra then requested Vidura, "O brother, we must perform the last rites for this King of kings and arrange charity to be given freely to whomever is in need.  The ashes of Pandu and Madri were then taken in state to the banks of the Ganges, where the last funeral rites were performed. The ashes were then cast into the Ganges. All the citizens, young and old, wept over the loss of their King, and thus passed twelve days in mourning.

One day after the shraddha ceremony (offering of Vishnu prasad to the forefathers) had been performed, Vyasadeva approached Satyavati and warned her, "Mother, the days of happiness in the Kuru house will set like the evening sun. The empire of the Kauravas will no longer endure. You should not be a witness to the annihilation of your dynasty. Therefore, enter the forest and fix your mind on the Supreme Lord Vishnu, the protector of all.  Following the advice of Vyasa, Satyavati, along with Ambika and Ambalika, entered the forest. When their meditation attained perfection, they entered the spiritual world, Vaikuntha.

After the Pandavas settled in their father's palace, they accustomed themselves to the opulence that was due to them. Whenever Bhima was engaged in play with the sons of Dhritarastra, his strength became apparent. Bhima proved superior in speed, striking objects, consuming food and scattering dust. The son of the wind-god pulled the sons of Dhritarastra by the hair and made them fight with one another, laughing all the while. Bhima would seize them by the hair, throw them down, and drag them along the ground. In his playful mood, Bhima would accidentally break their knees, their heads and their shoulders. Sometimes while swimming together, the second son of Pandu would hold ten of them at a time under water until they were almost dead. When the sons of Dhritarastra would climb a tree to gather fruits, Bhima would shake the tree until the fruits as well as the one-hundred sons fell to the ground. He would play with them in childishness, but would never hurt them out of envy.

When it was obvious that Bhima could challenge all the one-hundred sons of Dhritarastra single-handedly, Duryodhana began to make deceitful plans to harm him. He thought, "There is no person who can compare with Bhima's strength. He does not think twice of challenging my one-hundred brothers to combat. I will exterminate him and confine Yudhisthira and Arjuna to imprisonment. Then I shall be the sole heir to the throne without hindrance.

Possessed with this mentality, the wicked Duryodhana built a palace on the banks of the Ganges that was just for sporting in the water. His plan was to invite the Pandavas to this house and feed Bhima a poisoned cake. When Bhima was unconscious from the poison, Duryodhana and his brothers would throw him in the Ganges. With this evil plan in mind, Duryodhana began construction. After the palace was completed, Duryodhana invited his cousins, "Let us go to Gange's bank and sport in the water. We shall have a picnic and enjoy the scenery.

Not understanding Duryodhana's evil intentions, the Pandavas accompanied Dhritarastra's sons to the banks of the Ganges and inspected the newly constructed palace by the water. They all sat down to a feast before swimming. Duryodhana brought Bhima a cake filled with enough poison to kill one hundred men. That wicked youth, who spoke sweetly, but whose heart was like a razor, continued to feed Bhima different kinds of food that were filled with poison. After the feast the boys began playing in the water. Bhima became fatigued from the poison, and rising from the water, lay down on the ground. Seizing this opportunity, Duryodhana and some of his brothers bound him with ropes and threw him into the Ganges. He sank down to the bottom of the river where the Naga (snake) kingdom is situated. Thousands of Nagas began to bite him, and the poison from the cake was neutralized by the serpents' venom.

On regaining consciousness, the son of Kunti broke his bonds and began killing the snakes that were biting him. The rest of the snakes fled and went to their leader Vasuki, telling him the events that had taken place. Vasuki happened to be related to Bhima through the wind god Vayu, and upon hearing that Bhima was present, he went to the spot and embraced him. Bhima then related to Vasuki the sinister plan of the poisoned cake. Vasuki, wanting to protect him from future attacks, offered Vayu's son eight bowls of nectar which empowered a person with the strength of ten thousand elephants. Bhima drank one bowl in one breath, and after drinking all eight, he lay down on a bed prepared by the serpents.

After Yudhisthira, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva and Dhritarastra's sons were satiated in their swimming play, they set out for Hastinapura anticipating that Bhima had already gone there. The wicked Duryodhana was elated thinking that Bhima was dead, and he appeared very happy on the way back to Hastinapura. Yudhisthira, who was unacquainted with vice and wickedness, thought nothing of the matter. Upon entering the palace chambers of his mother, he inquired, "O mother, have you seen Bhima? I cannot find him anywhere. While swimming in the Ganges, he became tired and slept on the shore. After finishing our water sports, he had disappeared. Has he come here early because of exhaustion from swimming?

Kunti became alarmed when she heard that Bhima was missing. "My dear Yudhisthira,  she said, "I have not seen Bhima. He has not come here. Return in haste with your brothers and try to find him.  After dismissing her sons, Kunti summoned Vidura and anxiously spoke to him, "O illustrious Vidura, Bhima is missing. Today the boys went swimming in the Ganges, and they returned without him. I know that Duryodhana is envious of him. This first son of Dhritarastra is crooked, malicious, low-minded and cruel. His only desire is to obtain the throne. I am afraid he might have killed Bhima and this is saddening my heart.

"Blessed lady,  Vidura replied, "do not grieve. Protect your sons with care. If Duryodhana is accused, he might slay the other sons. The great sage Vyasadeva has foretold that your sons will be long-lived. Therefore, Bhima will surely return and gladden your heart.  Vidura then left for his residence and Kunti, unable to shake her anxiety, stayed in her quarters.

Meanwhile, Bhimasena awoke from his deep sleep after eight days. The Nagas extoled him and tended to his needs. "O greatly powerful Bhima,  they said, "you are filled with the nectar of the heavenly gods. This will give you the vitality of ten thousand elephants. No one will be able to defeat you in battle. You must now return home, for your mother is in deep anxiety over your absence.  The Nagas then dressed him in fine silks and ornaments and returned him to the palace by the river.

Bhima sprinted to Hastinapura with great haste. He entered the palace of his mother and bowed at her feet and at the feet of his elder brother. Queen Kunti took her son on her lap, and as she affectionately embraced him, tears glided down her face. The other brothers gathered round and welcomed him warmly. Bhima then briefed them on everything that had happened. He explained how Duryodhana had tried to poison him, and how the wicked son of Dhritarastra and his brothers had tied him up and thrown him in the Ganges. Bhima also explained how the Nagas had bitten him, countering the poison in the cake. He told how he had been given eight bowls of immortal elixir, and how his strength had increased thousands of times. "Do not speak of this to anyone,  Yudhisthira said. "From this day on we should protect one another with care. Under Vidura's guidance, no harm can come to us.


Thus Ends the Seven Chapter of the Adi Parva to the Summary Study of the Mahabharata, Entitled, The Poisoned Cake.


Chapter Commentary


After the advice of Vyasa, Queen Satyavati and her daughters-in-law went to the forest for austerities and meditation. Meditation is meant for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As stated in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (Bhag. 12.13.1), dhyanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pasyanti yam yoginah--Yoga or meditation is meant to focus on the transcendental form of the Lord. In previous ages persons were so pious that they could go to the forest and meditate on the eternal form of Lord Krishna. However, in this age of Kali people are not so advanced. Therefore, the incarnation of Lord Krishna in this age, Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has advised us to fix our minds on the Holy Name by chanting Hare Krishna maha-mantra, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Duryodhana's only desire was to gain the throne and become king. He was possessed by greed. This mentality is typical of the demoniac person. Lord Krishna speaks to Arjuna in the sixteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gita about this state of mind. Lord Krishna says, "The demoniac person thinks, So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more. He is my enemy, and I have killed him; and my other enemy will also be killed. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am. I shall perform sacrifices, I shall give some charity, and thus I shall rejoice.' In this way, such persons are deluded by ignorance.  (Bg.13.13-15) Because Duryodhana was puffed up and arrogant, he had no appreciation for the spiritual qualities of the Pandavas. He offences against the Pandavas would soon fructify in the form of annihilation of the entire dynasty.

This was the beginning of many transgressions committed against the Pandavas by the sinister Duryodhana. The Pandavas and their mother Kunti were completely helpless; therefore they had to take close shelter of the Lord's lotus feet. In Queen Kunti's prayers to Lord Krishna, she states, "My dear Krishna, Your Lordship has protected us from a poisoned cake, from a great fire, from cannibals, from the vicious assembly, from sufferings during our exile in the forest and from the battle where great generals fought. And now You have saved us from the weapon of Ashvatthama.  (Bhag. 1.8.24) The Pandavas and their mother were destined for political intrigues, but because they took shelter of Lord Krishna, they were protected in all circumstances. We can also follow in the footsteps of Queen Kunti and her sons by taking shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord whenever difficulties arise.


Chapter Eight

The Preceptor Drona


Seeing the princes enter adolescence, Maharaja Bhishma began searching for a suitable teacher to tutor them in the science of warfare. One day the heroic princes came out of Hastinapura. to play ball, and they roamed the forest areas absorbed in the ecstasy of young boys. When the ball fell into a well, they all tried their best to retrieve it, but found it impossible.

As they were looking in the well, a brahmana appeared who had just finished his daily performance of agnihotra (fire sacrifice). Seeing the princes unsuccessful in retrieving the ball, the brahmana, whose name was Dronacharya, approached them. He was dressed in white robes and looked thin and effulgent due to his performance of austerity and sacrifice. "Shame on your kshatriya strength!  Drona chided the boys, "You are born in the dynasty of Bharata and you cannot recover this ball from the well? Witness the power of my weapons!

Drona slipped off his ring and dropped it into the dry well. The ring landed on the ball. Taking a handful of grass, he chanted some Vedic mantras, turning the blades of grass into arrows. He then pierced the ring and the ball simultaneously. Piercing one arrow after another, he made a chain of arrows that came up to the top of the well. He then pulled the ball out of the well as the boys stood watching, struck with wonder. The boys offered their obeisances to the brahmana and inquired from him, "O great brahmana, no one possesses such skill. Please reveal your identity and how we may render service to you.

"Go to Bhishma,  the brahmana replied, "and describe my likeness and what you have just seen. He will tell you who I am.  The boys ran to Bhishma and explained to him everything that had happened. Bhishma smiled and exclaimed, "This is Drona!  He then went out of the city to receive the elevated brahmana. Maharaja Bhishma brought him into the palace, and in private inquired from him, "Dear brahmana, please let us know the reason for your arrival in Hastinapura.

"In my younger years,  Drona replied, "I lived in the ashrama of my teacher along with the Panchala prince, Drupada. We made a close friendship, and were always looking after each other. He always told me that he was the favorite of his father, and that one day he would inherit the kingdom. Because we were close friends, he promised me that some day half his kingdom would be mine. After he finished his studies, he left for his own country.

"In time,  Drona continued, "I married Krpi, the daughter of the sage Gautama, and begot a son named Ashvatthama. Because of poverty I could not even feed my son milk, and therefore, I went to the kingdom of the Panchalas to see my old friend, Drupada. When I entered the royal court, I greeted him joyfully, O tiger among men, It is Drona, your old friend.' Drupada was angered and derided me saying, You are certainly senseless, because you, a poor brahmana, are addressing me as your friend. My former friendship with you was for a particular reason. One of impure birth can never be a friend to one who is born of a high caste. Friendships can only exist between persons of equal rank. There cannot be friendship between the rich and the poor, or between a coward and a hero. O simpleton, great kings can never have friendships with poor and luckless fellows. I do not remember ever promising half my kingdom. I will, however, give you food and shelter for one night.' Unable to tolerate his abusive words, I quickly left his kingdom with a vow to win half his possessions. I have now desire to train competent students who can conquer the pride of this vain King. I have received all the celestial weapons from Parashurama, the annihilator of the kshatriyas. Because I am a brahmana, he taught me the complete science of warfare.

After Dronacharya had detailed his purpose, Maharaja Bhishma humbly implored him, "String your bow, O great brahmana, and take the sons of Pandu and Dhritarastra as your disciples.  When Drona had been appointed the martial preceptor of his brother's children, Maharaja Bhishma gave him a suitable home that was furnished with all opulences.

After Drona had been properly situated, he soon began to train the young princes. Drona taught the sons of Pandu and the sons of Dhritarastra the use of many weapons, both human and celestial. Although the instruction given to them was the same, still Arjuna, the third son of Pandu, excelled all students. His lightness of hand and skill were beyond compare. Arjuna became very faithful to Drona and always stayed by his side. One day, Drona gave to each of his students a narrow mouthed vessel to fill with water. However, he gave to his own son, Ashvatthama, a wide mouthed vessel so by filling it quickly, he could return to his father and receive special instructions. Arjuna came to know of this, and filling his vessel by means of the varuna astra (a celestial mantra that could produce water on the battlefield), he would come to the preceptor at the same time as Ashvatthama. Arjuna's allegiance and his strong appetite to learn won the heart of Drona. It soon became evident to everyone that Arjuna was the preceptor's favorite student.

One day Dronacharya told his cook, "Never serve Arjuna food in the dark, nor tell him that I have given this order.  However, one night Arjuna was taking food in his tent by candlelight and suddenly a turbulent wind rose blowing out the candle. Arjuna continued to eat, although it was dark, and while he was eating, he thought, "If I can eat in the dark, why can't I practice archery in the dark?  Thus he began training at night, and hearing the twang of Arjuna's bow, Drona came to him and embraced him lovingly, "You are my foremost student, and I give you the benediction that there will not be an archer your equal in the world.

Thereafter, Drona began to teach Arjuna the art of fighting from a horse, from the back of an elephant, on a chariot and on the ground. He instructed him how to fight with the mace, sword, javelin and the dart. He trained him how to use many weapons at one time and how to fight with many men at one time.

Hearing reports of Drona's teachings, princes flocked to him by the thousands. Amongst them came a prince of the Nishadas, named Ekalavya. By caste he was lower than shudra, and fearing that because he was a Nishada, who in time might excel his high born students, Drona refused to accept him. After bowing at Drona's feet, Ekalavya went back to the forest, made a clay image of Drona and began to worship it. He practiced with great zeal in front of this deity of Drona, and in due course all the science of weaponry became known to him.

One day the Pandavas and the Kurus set out for the forest on a hunting excursion. They brought along a dog who could help them search for certain animals. When the dog was wandering in the forest, it saw Ekalavya, the prince of the Nishadas, releasing arrows in all directions. The prince wore black garments and was filthy due to not bathing, as was common among the lower classes. His hair was matted. Seeing this frightful sight, the dog began to bark. The Nishada prince, wanting to exhibit his prowess with the bow and arrow, shut the dog's mouth with seven arrows. The dog then ran back to the Pandavas. When the princes saw the dog, they were struck with wonder and immediately began searching the forest for the archer who had performed such a feat. They soon came upon the unknown bowman and seeing his grim appearance, questioned him, "Who are you and who is your father?

"I am Ekalavya,  he replied, "the son of Hiranyadhanus, the king of the Nishadas. Please know that I am a disciple of Dronacharya.

After questioning Ekalavya further, the Pandavas went back to Drona and informed him of what had happened. Arjuna thought that the Nishada prince had come to Drona in secret and learned the art of weapons. He humbly questioned Drona, "You have embraced me and told me that I would have no equal in archery. How then has this Ekalavya surpassed me?

After reflecting on a proper course of action, Drona took Arjuna to the forest. In the woods they soon came upon Ekalavya. Drona saw his matted hair, ragged clothes and filthy appearance. When Ekalavya saw Drona, he approached him and offered his prostrated obeisances, touching his preceptor's feet. He then stood before his teacher waiting for his command.

"If you are really my disciple,  Drona said, "then give me my dakshina (payment for tutorship).  Ekalavya was gladdened to hear the words of his preceptor and replied, "O my teacher, what shall I give you? Command me, for there is nothing I will not sacrifice.

"If you are really intent on making me a gift,  Drona said, "then please give me your right thumb.  Ekalavya was devoted to obedience, and with an unflinching mind, cut off his right thumb and gave it to his teacher. When the prince tried to shoot again with the use of his right hand, he found that he did not have the same accuracy as before.

One day Drona, the foremost martial teacher, called his disciples together to test their comparative excellence in the use of arms. He had placed an artificial bird on a tree top as the proposed target. He then commanded his students, "Take up your bows, aiming at the bird in the tree. Release your arrow and cut off the bird's head as I give the order.

Drona then called for Yudhisthira and inquired, "Do you see the bird at the top of the tree?  Yudhisthira replied to his preceptor, "Yes, I do.  Drona then asked him, "Do you see anything else?  Yudhisthira replied, "I see the tree, myself, my brothers and the bird.  Drona was not pleased and ordered, "Stand aside! You are not fit to strike the target.

Drona then repeated the experiment with Duryodhana and the other sons of Dhritarastra, and the result was the same. He ordered them all to stand aside. When everyone had failed, Dronacharya called for Arjuna. He commanded him, "Fix your arrow to your bow and await my order. When I say so, cut off the bird's head.  He then asked him, "Do you see the bird in the tree.  Arjuna replied, "I only see the neck of the bird.  Dronacharya again inquired, "What else do you see? Do you see the tree, your brothers or me?  Arjuna replied, "I only see the neck of the bird!  With his hairs standing on end out of ecstasy, Drona ordered, "Release your arrow!  Instantly Partha released his arrow and severed the head of the false bird. Drona immediately embraced Arjuna to his chest, considering Drupada already defeated in battle.

On another day Drona called for Yudhisthira and Duryodhana, and ordered them, "My dear Yudhisthira, please follow my instructions. Go among the citizens and find someone who has some faults. When you have found that person, bring him to me.  Drona then requested Duryodhana, "Go among the citizens and find someone who is superior in quality to you. When you find that person, bring him to me.  Both the students then left, and Drona returned to his quarters.

At the end of the day Duryodhana returned to his teacher and informed him, "O my teacher, I have searched the kingdom for a person who is superior in quality to me, but I have not found anyone. Having concluded my inspection, I have returned to your presence.  Drona then dismissed Duryodhana.

When the sun had set on the horizon, Yudhisthira arrived and offered obeisances to his martial teacher. Drona then inquired, "Have you found someone of inferior quality?  Yudhisthira replied, "I have searched all day, but I could not find anyone. However, toward the end of the day, I saw a vaishya man drawing water from a well, and since it was ekadashi (fasting day), I thought to bring him to you. Just as I was about to arrest him, I saw that he fed the water to his animals. Therefore, I have not found anyone with inferior qualities, but I have brought myself for fault finding with others.  Drona then dismissed Yudhisthira and reflected on the qualities of the two princes. He concluded that Yudhisthira was the personification of humility and fit to rule the people, whereas Duryodhana was too proud to be a pious king and would ultimately ruin the Kuru dynasty.

On another day, Drona and his pupils went to the Ganges to bathe in the sacred waters. When Drona had entered the river, an alligator seized him by the thigh. Although capable of killing the alligator, he called to his students, "Please kill this animal and rescue me!  Instantly Arjuna released five arrows that struck the alligator and killed it. This happened so fast that the others stood looking dumbfounded. The alligator released Drona and died within the waters.

When Drona emerged from the river, he embraced Arjuna and said, "O best of all warriors, I award you the brahmastra weapon, which is the most powerful of all astras (celestial weapons). It can never be used against an inferior opponent, or it will destroy the whole universe. This weapon has no equal in the three worlds. Keep it with great care and use it only against an enemy who is equal to or greater than you.  Drona then taught the mantras for this weapon to his disciple, and Arjuna received them with great respect. He then pronounced blessings upon Arjuna, "There will never be a archer greater than yourself. You will never be defeated by any enemy, and your achievements will be recorded in the history of the world.

Thus Drona continued to instruct the sons of Pandu and the sons of Dhritarastra. When Drona felt he had given sufficient instructions to all the boys, he informed Bhishma that he would soon collect his dakshina (student payment) from all whom he had trained.


Thus Ends Mahabharata Summation to Chapter Eight of the Adi Parva, entitled, The Preceptor Drona.



Chapter Commentary


After Drona tested Yudhisthira, he saw that the prince possessed the qualities of an exalted personality. He was completely free from envy and was the well wisher of all. He saw only the good qualities in others. Yudhisthira considered all others worthy of respect and himself worthy of no respect. This is the most emphasized teaching of Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, trnad api sunicena, taror api sahisnuna, amanina manadena, kirtaniyah sada harih, "One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street. One should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name constantly.  (Shikshastaka 3)

In the material world the predominant mentality is to think oneself better than others. However, if one is desiring to become a citizen of the spiritual world, he has to develop the vision to see all others as more worthy of respect than himself. This mentality is pleasing to Lord Krishna. Maharaja Yudhisthira possessed this divine vision and therefore had great love for the citizens. Because of Yudhisthira's humility, Drona considered him to be a fit ruler. On the other hand, Duryodhana possessed the materialistic mentality of thinking oneself better than all others. It is unfortunate that in the Kali-yuga, the Duryodhana mentality has become prominent.

Historians consider the bow and arrow a primitive weapon. However, when seen in the light of the Mahabharata, it more effective than the gross weapons of modern times. It is possible to release an arrow faster than a bullet if the archer is very powerful. The kshatriyas during Drona's time had the strength to release arrows with tremendous velocity. By the power of mantra, Arjuna was able to release hundreds of arrows from his bow at a time, and they were so accurate that each arrow would pierce a warrior or stop an oncoming weapon.

In this chapter we have read how Drona imparted the brahmastra weapon to Arjuna. This mantra weapon was more powerful than the combined atomic weapons of the world. It could be directed to a single person or it could destroy the whole universe. There were many weapons invoked by the power of Vedic mantras; they were called astras. These astras manipulated the material energy in a subtle way and were much more powerful than the atomic weapons of our times. There were astras such as the vayavya astra, which created a hurricane on the battlefield; the varuna astra, which created tidal waves; and the agneya astra, which created intense fire capable of burning large numbers of warriors. There were weapons capable of putting men to sleep and weapons that could bind the enemy soldiers and stop their movement. There were weapons that could release thousands of arrows at a time and not one arrow would miss a target. There were these and many more. This was all possible by the use of Vedic mantras. These mantras were able to manipulate the material energy by the use of sound vibration as opposed to the gross manipulation used today. Any of the great maharathis in the days of yore would be a suitable match for crude tanks, howitzers, submarines, battleships and atomic weapons.

As Kali yuga progressed, the warrior kings gradually diminished in strength to the point where they were unable to draw the strings of powerful bows. The knowledge of different astras became lost, and a warrior was reduced to releasing one arrow at a time and with not much accuracy or force. Finally, a few centuries back, the cross bow was invented, which allowed an archer to mechanically draw back the string. However, this was not very useful because a bowman could not release many arrows quickly. The bow and the arrow became obsolete with the invention of gunpowder. To compensate the loss of strength, the rifle was invented, which, by the use of gun powder, released a bullet with great velocity.




Chapter Nine

The Curse of Parashurama



As stated in chapter six of the Adi Parva, Kunti, before her marriage to Pandu, had conceived a child by the Surya, the sun god. Due to fear of her relatives, she placed the child in a basket and set it afloat on the river Ganges. The child was picked up by Adhiratha, a well known carpenter and chariot driver, and his wife Radha. They were attracted by the beautiful features of the child, especially his kavacha [natural golden armor] and kundala [golden earrings]. He was given the name Karna. They raised the child very carefully for sixteen years.

On Karna's sixteenth birthday, his father offered him a new chariot and horses. Not feeling a desire to drive the chariot, he addressed his mother, "Today, father has brought me a chariot and horses, but I do not feel the desire to drive a chariot; I feel the desire to hold a bow and arrow. I cannot think of anything else. Waking or sleeping, my thoughts are ever fixed on this desire. I want to be an archer and fight.

Radha then explained to her foster son Karna all that had happened; how she had found him at the bank of the Ganges wrapped in precious silk and floating in a basket. Hearing about his mysterious past, he was struck with wonder. After consulting with his mother and father, he took permission from them and left for the city of Hastinapura, desiring to find a martial guru.

Karna's goal was to learn archery. He approached the great Drona who was teaching the Pandavas in Hastinapura. After receiving an audience with him, he pleaded, "My lord, please accept me as your pupil. I want to learn the science of archery. I am the son of Adhiratha, a carpenter and chariot driver by caste.  Drona did not like the idea of teaching archery to the son of a suta (chariot driver) and sent him away.

Karna was determined to learn archery. He decided to approach Parashurama, the chastiser of the kshatriyas. Previously Parashurama had annihilated the warrior race twenty-one times because of the death of his father. Knowing that the great sage hated warriors and kings, Karna decided to tell him that he was a brahmana, a pri st. Actually Karna's foster father was born of a mixed caste, a brahmana and a kshatriya; therefore he decided to request tutorship from the rishi despite the fact that he might be cursed or even killed.

With this plan in mind, Karna approached Parashurama's hermitage. When Karna first saw Parashurama, he was seated in meditation. Upon his head were matted locks of hair, and his eyes were burning like fire. Falling at the feet of this awesome personality, Karna requested, "I have come to you with a deep longing. Please do not send me away without granting me your mercy.  Karna was weeping and his body was trembling. Parashurama picked up Karna, and asked him, "Are you a kshatriya?  Karna replied, "No, my lord, I am a brahmana.  Parashurama smiled at him and said, "I will certainly impart to you the military science. I am pleased with your humility, and because you are a brahmana, I have a natural affection for you.

Karna's education began, and he spent many months in the ashrama of the renowned sage. He forgot the pain in his heart of being a carpenter's son. He even forgot the mystery attached to his birth. Karna was only interested in education--how to become a powerful warrior. He learned all the astras; even the brahmastra and the very powerful hhargavastra. He pleased his martial teacher in all respects. When his education was complete, Parashurama advised him, "Your presence in my ashrama has brightened my life. I have taught you the complete science of military arts. You are very honest, fond of those who are elder to you, and you are eager to walk the path of righteousness. You must never use the knowledge I have given you for an unrighteous cause.

It was now noontime, and the sun was at it's meridian. Feeling tired, Parashurama told Karna to bring him a roll of deerskin to use as a pillow. "My lord,  Karna replied, "please use my lap as a pillow. I can at least do this service for the foremost of men.  Parashurama then laid his head in his disciple's lap and fell fast asleep. Karna was meditating on all that had taken place over the past year. He had lied to the great sage telling him that he was a brahmana. Would the reaction to this ever come upon him? His only desire was to acquire knowledge. The wise declare that the end justifies the means. He had not tried to commit any sin. Surely his small offense would be forgiven.

As Karna was thinking in this way, he felt a pain in his right thigh. The pain became unbearable. He looked down and saw a boar-like insect cutting into his skin. Karna could not stop it from penetrating his flesh. But what could he do? He did not deem it proper to awaken his guru. The insect bored right through his thigh and blood touched the face of Parashurama. The great brahmana awoke, and seeing the blood exclaimed, "Where did the blood come from?

"My lord, It came from my thigh,  Karna answered. "While you were sleeping, an insect bit me on the leg. It caused me pain for some time but I did not want to awaken you.  Parashurama flared up with anger, "You say this insect stung you, and you tolerated it? Why did you not awaken me and stop the pain?

"My lord,  replied Karna, "you were asleep, and I did not want to disturb you. For this reason I have tolerated this pain.  Parashurama was furious, "How could a brahmana bear so much pain? Only a kshatriya could have done so. Have I, after all this time, taught my astras to a sinful warrior? I will never forgive you for this deception.

Karna fell at the feet of his teacher and tears flowed from his eyes thinking that all he had learned would be futile. He held onto the feet of his guru and pleaded, "Forgive me, my lord. You have been more of a father to me than my own father. A father should forgive the faults of his son. I am not a brahmana, but neither am I a kshatriya. I am the son of a carpenter named Adhiratha. I only wanted to learn the science of archery. I told a lie to you, but it was only to become your student. I have been devoted to you, and you are more dear to me than anything else in this world. Please show mercy and forgive me.

Parashurama was furious, and he was not moved by Karna's prayers. The only thought in his mind was that this person had told a lie and a kshatriya is supposed to be truthful. He then remembered the kshatriyas who had killed his father and, becoming angry, he cursed Karna, "You have learned the science of archery under false pretenses. I curse you that when you are in desperate need of an astra, your memory will fail you. You wanted fame, however, and I say that here after you will be known as one of the greatest archers of all time.  Parashurama then left and went back to his ashrama leaving Karna in tears.

Wiping the tears from his eyes, Karna began walking aimlessly. He walked for days thinking of the curse of the great rishi. Suddenly, what he thought was a lion flashed by him, and out of instinct, he took an arrow from his quiver and shot the animal. However, it was not a lion but a cow. Karna was horrified. He went to the brahmana who owned it and told him that he had shot the cow in ignorance. Karna tried to appease him, but the brahmana was not to be pacified. He cursed Karna saying, "When you are fighting with your worst enemy, the wheel of your chariot will sink into the mud, and just as you killed my poor innocent cow when she was unaware of danger, you will also be killed by your opponent when you are least prepared for it.  Karna was stunned that all these things were suddenly happening to him.

Karna then understood that this was his karma. Otherwise how could these events take place without his control. He took it that he was the chosen target of providence and thought how cruel she was. He remembered his mysterious birth and the stigma of his being a sutaputra (son of a chariot driver). He might have overcome it by being the student of the great Parashurama, but his teacher had cursed him and gone away. Now he had been cursed by another brahmana. This was all his fate. He accepted it as such and went back home to his mother. His mother was proud when she heard that he had learned from the great Parashurama, but he did not tell her of Parashurama's curse, or of the curse of the brahmana. After some time he heard about a tournament of weapons at Hastinapura and decided to go there to enter the competition.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata summation to the Ninth Chapter of the Adi Parva, Entitled, The Curse of Parashurama.



Chapter Commentary


Materialistic people are very worried about their status in society. If one takes a high birth, he or she is considered fortunate by common people. In this world there is always competition to get to the top. Those on top want to push down those who are rising. Those, who are at the bottom, strive to climb to the top. Therefore, there is always friction. Fortunately, God does not care for our pedigree. He is attracted only to loving devotion. The rich man or poor man, the black or white, the man or woman, the young or the old, all have an equal opportunity to approach the Lord. Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavad-gita, "One can understand the Supreme Person as He is, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Lord by such devotion, he can enter the kingdom of God.  (Bg. 18.55) Queen Kunti considered it an impediment to have a high birth. In her prayers to Lord Krishna she states, "My Lord, Your Lordship can be easily approached, but only by those who are materially exhausted. One who is on the path of material progress, trying to improve himself with respectable parentage, great opulence, high education and bodily beauty, cannot approach You with sincere feeling.  (Bhag. 1.8.26) As long as one is trying to advance materially, one will experience frustration. There is only one person at the top and that is Lord Krishna. We should just desire to remain the servant of His humble servant.

When Karna was cursed by his guru, karma took its effect. Nothing happens by accident. Everyone in this material world is under the law of Karma--action and reaction. It is impossible to tell where it begins or where it ends. For every action we perform, there is an opposite and equal reaction. If a person performs a sinful act, he gets a sinful reaction. If he performs a pious act, he gets a pious reaction. Sinful or pious actions cause us to take birth again in this world. Karna was suffering the reactions to past sinful activities, and they took the shape of curses from great personalities. The only way to stop the waves of repeated birth and death is to become Krishna conscious. Fortunately for Karna, he died on the battlefield with his vision fixed on Lord Krishna and Arjuna. Thus, ultimately, he was elevated and purified of all the offences he had committed against the Pandavas. As confirmed by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita (8.5), "And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.

Another point to be learned from this chapter is that a person should be judged by his quality and not by his birth. Karna's birth was celestial, his father being Surya and his mother being Kunti. Although he was rasied by lower caste parents, his quality was that of a kshatriya or warrior. He should have been accepted by his quality and not by the caste which he was raised in. Narada Muni states in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, "If one shows the symptoms of being a brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya or sudra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification (Bhag. 7.11.35). Drona should not have rejected Karna on the basis of his foster parents. He should have judged him by quality. It is a fact that in the glorious days of Vedic culture a person born of a particular caste had the qualities of that caste, but there are always exceptions to the rule, and Karna was an exception.



Chapter Ten

The Tournament of Arms


When Dronacharya saw that his students had been sufficiently educated, he assembled the Kuru elders and informed them, "O best of the Kuru kings, your children have now completed their education. I suggest there be a tournament of arms where the youths may display their prowess.

"O invincible brahmana,  King Dhritarastra replied, "you have indeed accomplished something wonderful. I envy those who have eyes and can see the achievements of my children. Vidura will make the necessary arrangements so that all will be able to witness the prowess of these mighty youths.  Understanding the intentions of the King, Vidura left the palace and began making preparations for the tournament of arms.

When the day for the tournament came, all the Kings and elders of the Kuru dynasty assembled in the arena in their respective seats. The ladies headed by Kunti and Gandhari also entered the arena and took their seats on the platforms assigned to each of them. The inhabitants of Hastinapura were so anxious to witness the exhibition that there was an instant crowd at the arena. The whole sky was filled with the sounds of conchshells, drums, kettledrums and trumpets.

Dronacharya entered the arena and announced the students one by one. He then called them forward in their chariots and ordered them to display their prowess with different weapons. With Yudhisthira at their head, the boys came forward and released their arrows at selected targets. Fearing that some of the arrows might miss their target, some of the spectators lowered their heads. However, others fearlessly gazed on in wonder. After exhibiting their skill with the bow and arrow, they showed their ability with other weapons such as the sword and shield, the javelin and celestial darts.

Then Bhima and Duryodhana, both eager for combat, entered the arena with mace in hand. They began to exhibit their energy, roaring like two lions. As they were fighting, Vidura was describing to Dhritarastra and Gandhari all the feats of the two princes. When the fighting became too intense, Dronacharya ordered his son, Ashvatthama, to stop the fight. The spectators in the crowd were taking sides, and the whole atmosphere of the competition became tense.

To ease the mood of the competition, Drona called for Arjuna and announced to the crowd, "Now all behold Partha, who is dearer to me than my own son. He is the master of all arms, the son of Indra himself.  Arjuna then entered the arena of competition carrying his bow and a quiver of arrows. He was dressed in golden mail and appeared like a streak of lightning in the bright sun. There arose a great uproar of appreciation from the assembly exclaiming, "This is the graceful son of Kunti! The son of the mighty Indra! This is the protector of the Kurus! Unequalled of those versed in arms! The annihilator of all unwanted elements!  Upon hearing those exclamations, tears flowed from Kunti's eyes and milk filled her breasts.

Arjuna then began to exhibit his celestial weapons. By the agneya weapon, he created fire, and by the varuna weapon he created water. By the vayavya weapon, he created a hurricane, and by the parjanya weapon he created clouds. With the bhauma weapon, he created land, and with the parvatya weapon he brought mountains into being. By the antardhana weapon all these were made to disappear. Within a short time, he exhibited all the astras given by Drona, and the crowd was struck with wonder.

When Arjuna had finished, and the excitement of the crowd had died down, a personality dazzling like the sun appeared at the gate of the arena. Struck with wonder, Duryodhana stood up along with his one hundred brothers. Not knowing who the celestial person was, Drona, as well as the five Pandavas, stood to receive him. He was actually Karna, Kunti's first born son. He was the son of Surya, the sun god and was endowed with his power. Natural golden mail and exquisite golden earrings were a part of his body from birth. The spectators talked among themselves about the unknown person whose effulgence was spreading in all directions. Karna offered his obeisances to the preceptors Kripa and Drona, and then challenged Partha (Arjuna), "I shall perform feats before this crowd that will excel yours. You will be amazed to behold them.

On hearing these challenging words, Duryodhana was delighted, and his affection for this unknown warrior increased when he saw the rivalry with Arjuna. Karna introduced himself to all present and then with the permission of Drona, he accomplished all that Arjuna had accomplished. Witnessing the superexcellence of this great warrior, Duryodhana and his followers embraced Karna saying, "Welcome, O mighty-armed warrior! I have obtained you as my friend by good fortune. Live as you please in the kingdom of the Kurus.

Arjuna welcomed the competition and addressed Karna with challenging words, "Exhibit the weapons you have learned from your preceptor. I shall counter all of them, and prove my superiority with the bow and arrow. Stand and prepare to fight!

"O Phalguna [Arjuna], this arena is meant for all,  Karna replied, "not only for you. Why do you fight with words only, O Bharata. You may release your arrows until I strike off your head before the great Drona himself!

Encouraged by his brothers, Partha, with the permission of Drona, advanced for combat. On the other side, Karna, having been embraced by Duryodhana, took up his bow and arrows and stood ready for the fight. Indra shaded his son Arjuna with many clouds, and the sun god dispersed the clouds above his son Karna. Understanding that a fatal competition was about to take place, Kunti fainted to the ground. She was brought back to consciousness by Vidura. When she saw her two sons dressed in armor, she was seized with fear.

Kripa, the son of Saradwat, who was conversant with the rules of fighting, questioned Karna, "This Pandava, the youngest son of Kunti, belongs to the Kaurava race. But, O mighty-armed one, you must also announce the royal dynasty to which you belong. Upon hearing this, Partha will fight with you as he sees fit. Sons of kings never fight with men of lower castes.

When thus addressed by Kripa, Karna's vanity disappeared like a lotus flower during the rainy season. Rising up from his seat, Duryodhana hastily said, "O Kripa, the scriptures say that there are three classes of persons who lay claim to royalty: persons of royal blood, heroes, and lastly, those who lead armies. If Phalguna is unwilling to fight with one who is not a king, I will establish Karna as the king of the Angas.

At that time Duryodhana called for a golden throne, and seating Karna on it, anointed him King of the Angas. This was done under the direction of some brahmanas well versed in Vedic mantras. He was fanned with yak tails, and the royal umbrella was held over his head. The crowd loudly applauded and signaled their approval. Feeling grateful to Duryodhana, Karna said, "O tiger among men, what shall I give you that can compare to this gift. I will follow your instructions and become your faithful friend.  And Duryodhana said to Karna, "I am eager for your friendship.  Thus the two embraced. This was the beginning of a strong bond of friendship that would annihilate the Kuru dynasty.

At that time Adhiratha, the foster father of Karna, entered the arena. He embraced Karna and tears of joy wetted his son's head. Bhimasena thought Karna to be the son of a charioteer, and thus addressed him, "O suta, do you desire death at the hands of Partha? You are not worthy to rule over the kingdom of Anga anymore than a dog deserves butter from the sacrificial fire.

Hearing these words, Duryodhana rose up in anger, and addressed Bhimasena, "These are not truthful statements. Heroism and courage in battle are the symptoms of a kshatriya, and even a kshatriya of inferior birth should be fought with. Can a she-deer bring forth a tiger like Karna? Can this warrior, who resembles a demigod, born with natural golden mail and earrings, be the son of a chariot driver? This prince among men deserves the sovereignty of the world. If there is anyone who cannot tolerate what I have done for Karna, let him ascend the chariot and string his bow.

There were mixed feelings in the crowd upon hearing Duryodhana's statements. The sun, however, set on the horizon signaling the end of the days activities. Some thought Arjuna to be the victor of the day, and others thought Karna to be the champion. And Kunti, recognizing her lost son by various auspicious marks, was pleased to see him alive and faring well. Upon seeing the gifted genius of Karna, Yudhisthira was convinced that there was no warrior on earth who could equal his bowmanship.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata summation to Chapter Ten of the Adi Parva, Entitled, The Regatta of Arms.


Chapter Commentary


When Duryodhana was chastising Bhima for considering Karna's birth, it seems that for once in his life Duryodhana spoke some truth. A person was placed in the divine varnashrama (caste) system by quality and not by birth. In the fourth chapter of Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says that he created the divine varnashrama system according to quality of work. Generally, in those days a person of priestly quality, warrior quality, business quality or worker quality took birth in their respective classes. However, as the age of Kali (quarrel) progressed, men born in priestly families exhibited lower class qualities but were not put into those classes due to their pride. Also saintly persons were born in lower families, but not allowed to elevate themselves socially due to the pride of the priestly class. When this happened the whole system collapsed. One should be classified by quality and not by birth. Here Duryodhana states that Karna had the quality of a warrior, and therefore he should be held in esteem as a warrior. Although what Duryodhana said was truth, he was motivated by his own ambitions. If it had suited his purpose for Karna to be called a chariot driver, he would not have hesitated to award him that classification.

In all societies and countires these classifications exist. Some men are naturally inclined toward priestly activities; some are inclined to be warriors and fight; some men are attracted to business, farming or banking; and some men are interested in labor activities. In the Vedic culture some 5,000 years ago civilization was set up along these lines of brahmana (priest), kshatriya (warrior), vaishya (merchantile) and shudra (labor). There was also four divisions of ashrama or spiritual life. The first division was brahmacharya where a student was trained in spiritual and material knowledge. The brahmana, kshatriya and vaishya were trained in spiritual knowledge and received the brahmincal initiation or sacred thread as an indication of second birth or reformation of character. This teaching was given to instill in a person that the goal of life was not to be happy in this earthly realm, but to prepare oneself for entering the kingdom of God. The laboring class was not given this training due to their inability to control the senses. The student training lasted for different amounts of time according to a person's classification. The vaishya spent till his twelfth year in his guru's ashrama. The kshatriya could spend more years, say to this fifteeth year, and the brahmana could staty with his guru till his 24th year, and if he remained a brahmacharya, he could spend the rest of his life in the ashrama.

The next division was the grihasta ashrama where the student took permission from his teacher and married according to his classification. The marriage institutition was called an ashrama because it was meant for spiritual cultivation and not just to enjoy the senses. Marriage was mandatory for all classes except the brahmanas who could accept the order of sannyasa without going through the different stages. The third stage was vanaprastha or retired life. In this stage the children are grown and married. The man and woman visit different places of pilgrimage for spiritual upliftment and detachment. The brahmana, kshatriya and vaishya can accept this order. The last stage is the sannyasa ashrama where the husband leaves the wife with the eldest son and dedicates his life to preaching the glories of the Lord. This ashrama was meant for the brahmana class only. This may sound cruel by western standards, to leave the wife behind, but the reward is very great. If the husband attains perfection by gaining birth in the kingdom of God, the wife automatically attains that positon. This is the greatest gift a husband can give his wife. This ashrama was held in high esteem by the people in general, because the sannyasis or itenerant preachers were decorated with spiritual qualities such as compassion, austerity, forgiveness, learning and sense control.





Chapter Eleven

Tuition for Drona


Drona saw that all his students were now adept in the use of weapons, and therefore their training period was over. It was time to ask for daksheen (tuition) from them. One day he assembled them and gave the following order, "Challenge Drupada, the King of the Panchalas, to battle. Capture him and bring him to me. This will be suitable payment for my teaching.

All the students readily agreed and mounted their chariots eager to fulfill the desires of their martial teacher. Drona followed them. As the Kurus approached Drupada's capital, they informed the King of their desire for battle. The Kuru army was led by Duryodhana, Karna, Yuyutsu, Duhshasana and Vikarna. King Drupada, not tolerating the attack on his kingdom, mounted his chariot and along with his brothers met the Kuru army head on. Duryodhana and his followers then competed with one another to see who could capture King Drupada first.

Before the battle started, Arjuna saw the vanity of Duryodhana and his brothers. He therefore informed Drona, "O best of the brahmanas, we shall refrain from fighting until Duryodhana has displayed his prowess. The King of the Panchalas can never be captured on the battlefield by any of these warriors.  Having made his plan, Arjuna, surrounded by his brothers, waited outside the town about a mile away.

Meanwhile, King Drupada, beholding the Kuru army, rushed forward releasing hundreds of arrows from his powerful bow. The Kuru ranks were so afflicted that they thought that there were many Drupadas opposed to them. There arose from the Panchala army a war cry that shook the firmament. Duryodhana and his brothers became furious and began to shower their arrows upon the enemy. But the mighty bowman Drupada was not affected and began killing the enemy with greater vigor. He challenged Duryodhana, Vikarna and Karna, and sent them running from the battlefield. The arrows from the Panchala army began to rain upon the Kurus, breaking their ranks and causing them to flee for their very lives.

The Pandavas, seeing the fun, offered their obeisances to Drona and mounted their chariots. Arjuna asked Yudhisthira to stay in the background and appointed the sons of Madri as the protectors of his chariot wheels. Bhimasena, mace in hand, rushed into the center of the army. He headed for the elephant battalion and began to destroy those huge beasts with a single blow from his powerful club. The elephants screamed and fell to the ground, their heads cracked in many places. With his invincible club, Bhima began to destroy chariots, horses, infantrymen and elephants. As a cowherd man controls countless cows with his staff, so Bhimasena controlled the army of Drupada with his fierce club.

Meanwhile, Phalguna (Arjuna), wanting to please his martial teacher, innundated King Drupada with a deluge of arrows and caused him to fall from the back of his elephant. With his arrows, Arjuna then killed soldiers, elephants, and horses by the thousands. The Panchala army challenged Arjuna head on with a downpour of arrows, and sending up courageous shouts, fought desperately with him. The battle became furious and frightening to behold. The son of Indra was filled with fury and released thousands of arrows intending to annihilate the Panchala army. Those who were watching Arjuna could not see any interval between his fixing the arrows on the bow string and releasing them. The King of the Panchalas, accompanied by his commander in chief, Satyajit, assaulted Arjuna with the speed of the wind. Arjuna covered King Drupada with hundreds of arrows. Partha then rushed at King Drupada to apprehend him. Seeing Arjuna coming forward, Satyajit tried to stop him. As the two warriors approached for combat, they began to destroy each other's army. Suddenly Arjuna pierced Satyajit in the chest with ten arrows. Unaffected by the force of those arrows, Satyajit released one hundred shafts at the son of Pandu. Arjuna, not wanting to waste anymore time, released an arrow that cut the bow of Satyajit in two. Taking up another bow, the commander-in-chief of the Panchalas attacked Arjuna again. This time Arjuna cut the bow, killed the horses and charioteer, and shattered the chariot. When Satyajit found his bow useless and his horses slain, he desisted from fighting.

Seeing his general defeated, the Panchala king began to rain arrows upon the Pandava prince. Arjuna immediately cut King Drupada's bow and pierced his chariot driver with five arrows. Setting aside his bow, Arjuna took out a scimitar and, sending forth a loud battle cry, jumped from his chariot to the chariot of Drupada. He seized King Drupada as Garuda would seize a snake, and at the sight of this, the Panchala army fled the field of battle.

Thus Dhananjaya [Arjuna], having exhibited the strength of his arms, sent up a loud roar and made his way from the battlefield to the presence of Drona. He asked Bhima to desist from any further slaughter, as the Panchalas were related to the Kurus. Bhimasena was unsatiated in battle, but agreed to Arjuna's proposal. They then took the King of the Panchalas to Drona. Drona, seeing King Drupada brought under his complete control, remembered how Drupada had formerly humiliated him in his court.

"I have now taken possession of your capital and your kingdom,  Drona said. "You need not fear for your life. I once again desire your friendship. O mighty warrior, previously you told me that only one who was a king could be a king's friend. I therefore will give you half of the kingdom south of the Bhagirathi, and I shall rule over the land north of that river. And if it pleases you, I ask again for your friendship.

On hearing these words, Drupada answered, "You appear to be an invincible brahmana, and your prowess is superior to a kshatriya. Therefore, O brahmana, I am not surprised at what you have accomplished. I am very satisfied with you and desire your eternal friendship.  Drona then released Drupada, and from that day on the King of the Panchalas resided in the city of Kampilya in the province of Makandi on the banks of the Ganges.

King Drupada was convinced that by kshatriya strength alone he could not defeat Drona. He began to wander the earth searching for a sage who could help him obtain a son to kill Drona. He also desired a daughter who would be a suitable wife for Arjuna. King Drupada was so impressed with Arjuna that he thought there was no warrior comparable to him. Therefore, by means of marriage, he wanted to unite the two families.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata Summation to the Eleventh Chapter of the Adi Parva Entitled, Tuition For Drona.


Chapter Commentary


Formerly the kings of this earth were endowed with an heroic nature. They would face the enemy and not retreat. They were convinced that by dying in battle they would attain a higher state after death. They did not sit behind the lines and command ordinary soldiers to do their work for them. We have seen in the course of history that generals began to stay behind the lines and order their soldiers to fight. These days the leader of a country doesn't even appear anywhere near the battlefield. He sits behind his comfortable desk in his capital and orders others to do the job. This is why no one has respect for modern leaders.

By the push of a button millions of people can be wiped out by atomic weapons, not just fighting soldiers, but innocent women, children and old men. In the glorious days of Vedic culture such barbarianism was unheard of. As we see in this pastime Arjuna and Bhima were the first ones into battle and they would not retreat. For a great warrior to leave the battlefield would cast him to shame. He would be unable to face the citizens or his relatives. This spirit of heroism and chivalry has been lost as human society regresses in quality in this age of quarrel and hypocrisy. We are not advancing in good qualities but descending into the mentality of barbarians despite so much progress in the field of technology.





Chapter Twelve

The House of Lac at Varanavata


A year after this incident, Dhritarastra decided to appoint Yudhisthira, the first son of Pandu, as the heir-apparent to the kingship of the world. His firmness, fortitude, patience, benevolence, straightforwardness and unswerving honesty won the hearts of the people of the earth. Within a short time, he had overshadowed the accomplishments of his father, the great Pandu.

The second son of Pandu, Bhimasena, began to receive instructions from Balarama, the brother of the Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. He received continued lessons in the use of the mace and sword. After Bhima's education was finished, his strength and prowess with the mace were unsurpassed except for the all-powerful Lord Balarama.

Arjuna, the third son of Pandu, was esteemed for his mastery of the bow and arrow. Drona certified that there was none in the world who was Arjuna's equal in the use of weapons. Sahadeva obtained the whole science of morality and duties from Brihaspati, the heavenly priest of the demigods, and Nakula, the favorite of his brothers, became known as a skillful warrior and a great chariot fighter.

Indeed, Arjuna and his brothers became so powerful that they killed in battle the great Sauvira, who was powerful due to his sacrifices to the heavenly gods. The King of the Yavanas, whom Pandu had failed to subjugate, was conquered by the mighty bow of Arjuna. While riding on a single chariot, Arjuna and Bhima conquered the kings of the East backed by ten thousand chariots. The five Pandavas conquered all the kings of the earth and extended their influence to all parts of Bharatvarsha. Seeing the great prowess of the sons of Pandu, Dhritarastra's sentiments towards them suddenly changed. The blind King, who was also blind spiritually, was overcome with envy and began a plot to kill the Pandavas.

Dhritarastra called to his side one of his chief ministers who was expert in the art of politics and inquired, "O best of the brahmanas, Kanika, the Pandavas are daily growing in power and influence. I am envious of them. Tell me whether I should make peace with them or endeavor to destroy them. I will act on your advice.

Kanika, who was crooked by nature, then ill advised the blind king who was intent on sovereignty for his own sons, "Listen to my words, O sinless King and do not be angry with me. If your son, friend, brother, father, or even the spiritual preceptor--anyone who becomes your enemy--should be killed by all means. By curses or mystic power, by gift of wealth, by poison or fire, or by deception, the enemy should be slain. To maintain the interests of the Kurus and your own self, you should not let the enemy know what you are thinking. Comfort your foe with sweet words, give him a gift of wealth, and then kill him when he is not looking. You should burn the house of the person you wish to kill. You should act with the greatest cruelty, and sharpen your teeth to inflict the greatest pain. You should strike him in such a way that he will never raise his head again. O King, protect yourself from your brother's sons for they are stronger than your own sons.  The so-called brahmana, Kanika, then returned to his own chambers, and the King contemplated the ill advice of the crooked brahmana.

The citizens of Hastinapura became affectionate to the sons of Pandu because of their good qualities and desired Yudhisthira as their King. In the market places, in the homes, in the countrysides, the glories of the Pandavas were spoken. The sinful Duryodhana, hearing the citizen's discussions, became distressed. Inflamed with envy, he went to King Dhritarastra and said, "O father, I have heard the words of the citizens favoring the Pandavas. They desire Yudhisthira to rule the kingdom. What then will be our fate? If Yudhisthira does indeed become King, we and our children shall be excluded from the royal line. We should act quickly to acquire the kingdom and win the hearts of the citizens.

Overcome by affection for his sinful son, King Dhritarastra made a plot to kill the Pandavas by fire in the town of Varanavata. One day, in the court at Hastinapura, some of the King's counsellors began to speak of the glories of Varanavata. These counsellors, instructed by Dhritarastra, spoke of the beauty of the town and its pious citizens. Hearing these descriptions, the Pandavas became attracted to go there. King Dhritarastra noticed that the curiosity of the Pandavas had been awakened, and he then advised them, "My counsellors have spoken of Varanavata and the activities that go on there. If you desire to witness the festivities in this beautiful town, then take your followers and friends and enjoy the atmosphere. Give away charity to the brahmanas and the citizens, and after living comfortably for some time, return to the city of Hastinapura.

Yudhisthira fully understood the motives of his blind uncle, but because he was in a helpless condition, he had to agree with the proposal. He took permission from the leaders of the Kuru dynasty and prepared to leave for Varanavata. Previously, Duryodhana had summoned his counsellor Purochana and ordered him, "O Purochana, this world is destined to be mine, and you can share in it equally. It is in our best interests to protect it. I have no more trustworthy counsellor than you to consult with. Therefore, help me to kill my enemy by doing as I ask. My father will request the Pandavas to go to Varanavata to enjoy the festivities there. I want you to construct a palace made of flammable materials. It should be constructed in such a way as to deceive the Pandavas. Soak the walls with ghee, resin, oil and a large quantity of shellac. Do it in such a way that they will not think it flammable. Make sure the palace is of the finest workmanship, and with the greatest humility, request the Pandavas to live there. On a certain day chosen by me, you will burn the palace of lac while the Pandavas and their mother are sleeping.  Agreeing to all of Duryodhana's proposals, the sinful Purochana went to Varanavata and did all that he was told.

As the Pandavas and their mother were leaving Hastinapura, Vidura approached Yudhisthira and instructed him in a Mleccha (lower class) language which no one else could understand. Vidura lovingly said to him, "One who knows the schemes of his enemy should act in such a way as to avoid all danger. He who knows that there are sharp weapons capable of cutting the body which are not made of steel, and understands the means of avoiding them, can never be harmed. One who knows that the consumer of straw and wood and the drier of dew never burns the inmates of a hole in the forest, lives to see another day. Remembering this, be on guard. One who is given a weapon by his foes that is not made of steel, can escape from his enemies by making his abode like unto the jackal [one who lives underground]. By wandering, a man can acquire certain knowledge, and by the stars he can ascertain direction, and he who keeps his senses under control can never be oppressed by his enemies.

When offered good counsel, Yudhisthira replied, "I have understood you.  Vidura then bade them farewell and returned to his own house. When Vidura had left, Kunti approached Yudhisthira and questioned him, "What did the pious Vidura say to you? He spoke in such a way that no one could understand him. If it is not improper for me to know, then I should like to hear everything that he has spoken.  Yudhisthira replied, "The pious Vidura has told me that the palace in which we are to live is built of flammable materials. He further said, The path of escape will be known to us, and that he who has controlled his senses can acquire sovereignty of the world.' The reply that I gave to him was, I have understood you.'

The Pandavas had set out on the eighth day of the waning moon in the month of Phalguna when the star Rohini was in ascendance. Upon arriving in the city of Varanavata, the townspeople came to greet them. The assembly consisted of many thousands of people who were anxious to see the pious Pandavas. The sons of Pandu were presented many auspicious articles and taken on a tour of the town. The scheming Purochana then took them to the palace made of lac. The foremost of all virtuous men, Yudhisthira, upon inspecting the palace, said to Bhima, "O chastiser of the enemy, this house is truly made of burnable materials. Our adversaries, by the aid of trusted artisans, have built this house with hemp, resin, straw and bamboos, all soaked in ghee. The wicked Purochana is also staying in this palace to burn us to death when we least expect it. Our well wishing uncle Vidura has warned me that Duryodhana has had this house constructed for our death.

"If this is the fact,  Bhima replied, "then we should live in another house in Varanavata.

"It seems to me that we should continue living here,  Yudhisthira said, "seemingly unsuspicious. However, we should always be on guard and know all means of escape. If Purochana has found out that we have understood his plans, he may try to burn the house immediately. If we leave here, Duryodhana may try to have us killed by spies. While we have no rank and power, Duryodhana has both. We also have no friends and allies, and Duryodhana has both. While we have no wealth, Duryodhana has a full treasury. Duryodhana should think that we have died by fire. Deceiving him in this way, we shall escape from here when the occasion presents itself.

After some time, a friend of Vidura's, well skilled in excavation, arrived at the palace of the Pandavas. In private he talked to Yudhisthira, "I have been sent by Vidura for excavating a tunnel under this house. Purochana will set fire to this palace on the fourteenth day of the dark moon. This is all the plan of the wicked Duryodhana. Previously, Vidura instructed you in the mleccha language, and you replied in the same language. I am saying this so you will know that I am actually acting on Vidura's behalf.

"I know you as a trusted friend of our uncle Vidura,  Yudhisthira replied. "This large mansion has been built of flammable materials, and there are few doors. I want you to build a large tunnel beginning from the center of the house and ending by the river Ganges. We will spend our days hunting in the forest so that the sinful Purochana will not detect that you are working. Make sure the floor is covered well, so no one will suspect that there is a tunnel.

On hearing these instructions, the miner agreed, and the next day he began his work. Every day the Pandavas would go to the forest accompanied by Purochana, and they seemed very happy to be under Purochana's care. Thus they lived in that palace for one full year.

Seeing the Pandavas living in the palace cheerfully and without any suspicion, Purochana felt content that his plan would be successful. Beholding Purochana in a happy mood, Yudhisthira, the pious son of Kunti, spoke to his brothers, "The cruel-hearted Purochana has been well deceived. I think the time has come for our escape. Let us set fire to the mansion and burn Purochana to death. Then we shall leave here unobserved by anyone.

Yudhisthira planned a festival in the palace of lac and invited many of the leading citizens of Varanavata. At the end of the night all had left, and Purochana had become so drunk with wine that he lay on the floor unconscious. It so happened on that occasion that a nishada (lower class) woman and her five sons had come to the festival in hopes of receiving charity. They also became drunk and laid on the floor unable to move. They fell fast asleep in a part of the palace that few people frequented. When everyone had left the house, it was late at night and suddenly a violent wind began to blow outside. Yudhisthira ordered Bhima to set fire to the house. Bhima first of all set fire to the place where Purochana was sleeping and then to other parts of the house. Soon the whole mansion was ablaze, and the Pandavas and their mother escaped through the tunnel excavated by the miner. They came out near the bank of the Yamuna, and in the distance, as they looked back, they could see the palace of lac high in flames.

The heat of the fire became intense and awakened the townspeople. Seeing the house ablaze, the citizens with sorrowful faces began to exclaim, "The wicked Purochana, guided by Duryodhana, has built this death house. O, to hell with Dhritarastra who has such a wicked heart. He has burnt to death the sinless sons of Pandu.

The citizens thus lamented the loss of the Pandavas, and waited the whole night until the flames died down. They extinguished the fire and searched through the ashes. They then found the burnt body of Purochana and the bodies of the nishada woman and her five sons. The people began to weep saying, "Indeed, this is the plan of the evil Duryodhana. By his wickedness, he has brought about the death of the Pandavas. There is little doubt that Duryodhana has, with Dhritarastra's permission, burnt to death the heirs of Pandu. Let us send a message to King Dhritarastra saying, Your desire has been achieved! You have burnt to death the sinless Pandavas!'

Upon receiving news of the supposed death of the Pandavas, Dhritarastra and Duryodhana were jolly at heart, but outwardly expressed great regret. They arranged for the last funeral rites of the Pandavas, and Lord Krishna Himself attended the ceremony. Neither Vidura nor Lord Krishna were in lamentation because they knew that the Pandavas and their mother were happy and alive. The deceitful Duryodhana felt his desires had been fulfilled, and in due course of time began to rule the kingdom under the direction of his father Dhritarastra.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata Summation to Chapter Twelve of the Adi Parva, Entitled, The House of Lac at Varanavata.


Chapter Commentary


The burning of the Lac house was the second in an ongoing series of attempts to kill the Pandavas. It is said that whoever God protects, no one can kill, and whoever God doesn't protect, no one can save. It is obvious that the Pandavas were divinely protected by Lord Krishna, and therefore, no amount of scheming plots by Duryodhana could possibly kill them. Asuras cannot understand the divine protection of the Lord. They think that sheer numbers, power, or wealth alone can defeat the pious.

Whatever harm we try to do to others always backfires on us. When we try to hurt someone else, the reaction always comes back to us. Instead of hurting someone else, we suffer more. Similarly, if we do good to others, good will come to us. Because Yudhisthira was always looking after the welfare of others, his welfare was automatically looked after. Everytime Duryodhana tried to to harm to the Pandavas, the Pandavas simply became stronger. We will see the result of Duryodhana's attempt to kill the Pandavas in the upcoming chapters. The Pandavas simply gained by the attempted murder designed by Dhritarastra and Duryodhana.

What is required to receive the protection of the Lord? It is simple; one has to surrender everything to the Lord and become His obedient servant, as did the Pandavas. Anyone can receive this protection. One has to take the Lord into the heart and remember Him at all times. Lord Krishna will then carry what we lack. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita, "But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form+to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.  (B.g. 9.24) If we always think of Krishna, Krishna will always think of us. The Pandavas were eternal associates of the Lord and always carried the beautiful form of Lord Krishna in their heart of hearts. Thus, they could not be harmed under any circumstances.

One may wonder how it was posssible for the Pandavas to allow the nisadha woman and her five sons to die in the house of lac to cover their own trail. Yudhisthira has been pictured as a kind hearted soul who could not hurt anyone. The fact of the matter is that the palace was very big as was most palaces in those days and it could may have well been that the Pandavas did not know that they had fallen asleep due to intoxication. Yudhisthira or any of the Pandavas would not unnecessarily hurt anyone. It is not stated that they knew the woman and her sons were there. The could have fallen asleep in some room not seen by any of the Pandavas.



Chapter Thirteen

Hidimba Slain


While the palace of shellac was burning intensely, the Pandavas escaped unnoticed. Upon immerging from the tunnel, they looked back and saw the palace blazing in the distance. They then looked toward the bank of the Ganges and saw a man sitting in a boat. The man was sent by Vidura, and by signals he indicated that they should board the boat. He convinced the Pandavas by certain messages that he was actually sent by their uncle. The Pandavas then boarded the boat and the boatman lead them across the river Ganges to safety. They thanked the boatman and sent a message back to Vidura that they were heading in a southerly direction.

Then Bhimasena, who was endowed with supernatural power, placed his mother on his shoulders, the twins on his sides, Yudhisthira and Arjuna on his arms, and proceeded quickly through the darkness. The son of the wind god ran at the speed of the wind, breaking the trees and bushes before him. With every step he caused the earth to tremble. The motion of his legs created a wind so intense that it was comparable to the March winds. Indeed, so great was the force with which Bhima moved that his brothers and mother seemed to faint on his body. Before the day was over, Bhima had covered a distance of one hundred and sixty miles.

Towards the evening Bhima reached a densely dark forest where fruits and water were scarce and which echoed terrible cries of wild birds and beasts. The wind blew strongly, breaking the branches of the trees. Afflicted with hunger, thirst, and sleep, they were unable to proceed further. Bhimasena carefully lifted his mother and brothers off his body. Exhausted, they all lay down to sleep with the exception of Bhima, who stayed awake to guard against Duryodhana's spies or any Rakshasas who lived in the forest. As Bhima glanced over his mother and his brothers, he felt a deep pain in his heart. After all it was just a night ago that they were sleeping in the finest beds, and eating the finest foods. Did Queen Kunti, the wife of the great Pandu and the daughter of King Surasena, deserve to lie on the bare ground? Did the sister of Vasudeva and the mother of the Pandavas deserve leaves as a bed sheet? Yudhisthira, the son of Yamaraja, was lying on the bare ground. Did he deserve such a fate? Did he not deserve sovereignty of the three worlds? Did Arjuna, the greatest bowman the world has ever known, deserve to lie on the ground like an ordinary man? Did Nakula and Sahadeva, who are like demigods in appearance, deserve to be soiled by the dust of the earth? Bhima then spoke as if the sons of Dhritarastra were present, "You sons of Dhritarastra have little foresight. You wicked fellows may enjoy your temporary success. You still breathe only because Yudhisthira does not command me to take your lives. If ordered by him, I would send you all to the region of Yamaraja this very day!  Having said this, the mighty armed Bhima squeezed his palms, breathing heavily in anger. Looking over his dear brothers and mother, he continued to guard the rest of the night.

Not far from where the Pandavas were sleeping, there lived a rakshasa (man eater) named Hidimva and his sister Hidimvi. Hidimva was not an ordinary rakshasa for he ruled over all others in his race. He had sharp teeth and a protruding belly. His shoulders were like the neck of a tree, and he was reddish in hue. Longing for human flesh, he sat in a tree along with his sister. Understanding by the scent in the air that some humans were nearby, he ordered his sister, "O Hidimvi, I smell human flesh close by. My mouth waters at the thought of eating, for I have not satisfied my hunger all day. Go and see who has come. Attacking the human throat and opening the veins, I shall drink to my full satisfaction a large quantity of human blood. Go and bring to me any human beings who are nearby. We will feast on human flesh and dance together in happiness.

Thus commanded by Hidimva, Hidimvi proceeded to the spot where the Pandavas were resting. She saw four brothers lying asleep with their mother and the invincible Bhima guarding them. Beholding Bhimasena, unrivalled in strength and handsome appearance, the rakshasi immediately fell in love. She thought to herself, "This person has a body like molten gold, and his shoulders are like those of a lion. His neck is shaped like a conchshell, and his eyes are like lotus petals. Truly he is worthy of being my husband. I shall disobey my brother's order, because affection for one's husband is greater than for one's brother.

The rakshasi, capable of assuming any form at will, assumed the form of a beautiful celestial woman. Approaching Bhima with a mind enchanting smile, she said to him, "O bull among men, where have you come from and who are you? Who also, O sinless one, is this lady of transcendent beauty sleeping here so contently as if in her own chambers? Do you know that this forest is the abode of a rakshasa named Hidimva? I am his sister, and he has sent me here with the intention of killing you all. Speaking truthfully, I tell you that after beholding your celestial handsome features, I can accept no one else as my husband. My heart as well as my body have been pierced by the arrows of Cupid. I will rescue you from this brother of mine who eats human flesh. By my mystic power, I will take you wherever you like. Traveling to the celestial gardens, we can enjoy to our hearts content.

Hearing the affectionate words of the rakshasi, Bhima replied, "O beautiful woman, how can I leave my brothers and mother simply to satisfy lusty desires. I will never run from fear of any rakshasa, for Rakshasas are never able to bear the prowess of my arms. What to speak of Rakshasas, neither mortals nor Gandharvas nor Yakshas can bear my strength. O celestial lady, you may either go or send your cannibal brother. I care not.

Hidimva, the chief of the Rakshasas, seeing that his sister had not returned, got down from the tree and proceeded quickly to where the Pandavas were. He saw that his sister had taken a celestial form bedecked with garlands of flowers and silken garments. The rakshasa, beholding her in that charming form, understood her motives. He was red hot with anger and scolded her, "Why, O sister, have you thrown obstacles on my path when I am now overcome with hunger? O Hidimvi, don't you fear me in the least? You are desiring to enjoy intercourse with my evening meal. You are ready to sacrifice the good name and honor of all the Rakshasas for some gratification of the senses. Therefore, I will kill you this very moment!

Upon seeing the rakshasa rushing toward Hidimvi, Bhima, the foremost slayer of man eaters, jumped up and exclaimed, "O Hidimva, what need is there to awaken these sleeping persons. O wicked cannibal, challenge me first, and do not touch your sister. Why do you want to kill a woman who is scarcely responsible for a desire that pervades all living entities? She does not deserve to be punished for this offense. Come and fight with me, O rakshasa, and I shall send you to the court of Yamaraja without delay!

Replying to Bhima, Hidimva said, "What need is there for all this boasting. Accomplish what you have said and then crow with your tongue! You have wrongly calculated my strength, or else you would not have challenged me to combat. Let your brothers sleep comfortably, and after killing you and drinking your blood, I shall devour them one after another!

The most powerful Hidimva, whose eyes were burning like molten copper, ran at Bhima desiring to kill him. Very quickly Bhima grabbed the outstretched arms of Hidimva and began dragging him away from where his brothers and mother were sleeping. The Rakshasa, humbled by the might of Bhima, became furious, and squeezing the body of Bhima, sent forth a loud roar. The mighty son of Pandu then dragged the demon a further distance so the cries of the Rakshasa would not awaken his brothers. Fighting like two full grown elephants, they pulverized the nearby trees and bushes.

From the sound of falling trees, the sleeping brothers awoke. Kunti also awoke from sleep and gazed in wonder at the beautiful woman who was standing before her. Desirous of knowing her identity, Kunti said, "O beautiful woman, whose complexion resembles the lotus, where have you come from, and what is your name?  Hearing the inquiry of Kunti, Hidimvi replied, "The forest that you have taken shelter in belongs to my brother Hidimva, the powerful Rakshasa. I have been sent here to kill all of you on his order. However, seeing the handsome features of your son Bhima, I have fallen in love with him and have chosen him as my husband. My name is Hidimvi. Presently your son Bhima has dragged my brother to a great distance, and they are engaged in combat.

Rising up from sleep and gazing into the distance, Yudhisthira, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva saw Bhima and the Rakshasa engaged in an earth trembling duel. The dust raised by their feet was filling the whole forest. Rushing to that spot, Arjuna requested his elder brother, "I have now rested from sleep. Step aside and let me kill this Rakshasa.

"Do not fear the result of this battle,  Bhima replied. "Having come within my reach, he shall not escape with his life.  Blazing with fury, Bhima picked up the Rakshasa and whirled him around a thousand times. Speaking to the Rakshasa, Bhima said, "Today I shall make this forest fit for habitation. You shall no longer feast on human flesh.  Saying this much, Bhima threw the Rakshasa down with all his might, causing a big dust cloud to rise into the sky. The demon uttered a ghastly shriek that filled the whole forest. The mighty Bhima then picked up the battered body of the Rakshasa, and holding it with his hands, bent it backwards breaking it in the middle. This action greatly satisfied his brothers. Seeing the mutilated body of the Rakshasa, Arjuna came forward and congratulated Bhima. They all then headed in the direction of a nearby town. The beautiful Hidimvi followed from a distance.

Bhima, seeing the Rakshasa woman following, ordered her, "If you seek revenge for your brother's death, do not follow us or your fate will be the same.  Yudhisthira quickly admonished Bhima, "O Bhima, O tiger among men, however angry you are, never kill a woman. A higher virtue is to protect life. Besides, what can this woman do to harm us?

Hidimvi then respectfully addressed Kunti, "O blessed lady, you know the heart felt pangs women feel at the hands of the deity Cupid. I have cast off my relations and friends and have chosen your son as my husband. I tell you truthfully that if this desire is not fulfilled, I will no longer live in this body. Have mercy upon me and unite me with Bhima, who resembles a heavenly denizen. Allow him to accompany me to the celestial regions. I shall again return him after some time.

Hearing Hidimvi's appeal, Yudhisthira said, "Your desire shall be fulfilled in all respects, O beautiful woman. Sport with him during the day, but you must return him by nightfall.  Smiling bashfully, Bhima also agreed to the proposal and said, "I will fulfill your desires, but I will stay with you only till you have obtained a son.  Bhima then climbed on the back of Hidimvi, and she took him to the abodes of the heavenly gods. They enjoyed each others company day after day, and in time a child was conceived who was destined to become a mighty warrior. He was named Ghatotkacha. The child was born bald, with fierce eyes and a large mouth. Endowed with the invincibility of the devas, the child soon became a great bowman. Although born an infant, he grew to be a youth within the very hour he was born. Rakshasa women give birth to children the day they conceive. The bald headed child bowed at the feet of his mother and father. Bhima then gave him the name Ghatotkacha, which means bald like a pot. Ghatotkacha became exceedingly devoted to the Pandavas and became a favorite among them.

Then Hidimvi, knowing that her period of stay with her husband had come to an end, offered respects to the Pandavas and told them that she would again seek their company. Ghatotkacha told his father that if he thought of him, he would immediately come to his presence. The mother and son then departed, and the Pandavas continued on their journey.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata summation to the Thirteenth Chapter of the Adi Parva Entitled, Hidimva Slain.


Chapter Commentary


A pure devotee like Vidura is the well wisher of all living beings. He was always looking after the welfare of the Pandavas just like the eye lid protects the eye. Vidura was the incarnation of Yamaraja, religion personified, one of the twelve mahajanas. He had been cursed by Mandavya Muni to take birth as a Shudra. However, that did not stop him from being a self realized soul. There is nothing that can impede pure devotional service. Therefore, it doesn't matter what family or what caste one is born in. What matters is how much devotion a person has developed. Lord Krishna is only attracted by pure devotion.

Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has instructed us that any one can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Krishna consciousness. This is open to the man or the woman, the young or the old, the brahmana or the Shudra, the black or the white. Mirabhai was a famous vaishnavi guru in a woman's body. Her devotion and bhajans are famous throughout India. Prahlada Maharaja was only a five year old boy when he instructed his school mates in the science of devotional service. His prayers to Lord Nrisimhadeva detail the most profound devotion. One can find a great devotee in any section of society.




Chapter Fourteen

The Cannibal Baka Slain


The Pandavas continued on their journey wandering from one country to another. Wanting to remain concealed from the general public, they disguised themselves as ascetics, wearing deerskin and the bark of trees. They saw the countries of the Matsyas, the Trigartas, the Panchalas and the Kichakas. In the course of their travels, the Pandavas came upon their grandfather, the exalted sage Vyasadeva. They offered their obeisances and stood before him with joined palms. Vyasadeva then informed them, "O best among the Bharata dynasty, I am aware of the wicked plans of Dhritarastra and his sons. Therefore, I have come here with good counsel. You should not lament your fate. In the future this calimity will work in your favor. Just near here is the town of Ekachakra. I suggest you live there in disguise and no harm will come to you. The sons of Dhritarastra will not find you for you have been blessed by higher powers.

Vyasa then satisfied Kunti with sweet words, "Listen, O daughter, to my words. Your eldest son Yudhisthira, who is ever devoted to truth, will soon rule over all other monarches There is no doubt about this. Backed by the potency of Arjuna's bow and Bhima's mace, Yudhisthira will be the king of this entire earth bounded by the seas and oceans. Your sons and the sons of Madri will together perform many pious sacrifices such as the rajasuya and the ashvamedha. The fame of your sons will spread over the earth and will be known for all time.

After giving these benedictions, Vyasadeva led them to the town of Ekachakra and to the house of a pious brahmana where they could live peacefully. He introduced them to the brahmana, and after situating them properly, he advised them, "Wait here for me until the time I call for you. Do not be impatient. When the opportunity presents itself, you will succeed in your endeavors.  Vyasa then left Ekachakra and returned to his own hermitage on the bank of the Saraswati.

While living in the town of Ekachakra, the sons of Pandu would daily beg their food. When the day's begging was over, they would gather what they had collected and place it before their mother. Kunti would then divide it in half. One half would be for Bhima, and the other half would be for herself and the rest of her sons. In this way they lived a life as mendicants.

One day while the boys were collecting their food, Kunti and Bhima overheard loud crying and wailing in the brahmana's house. Being very grateful to the brahmana for his hospitality, they wanted to relieve his distress. As Kunti approached the brahmana's quarters, she over heard a conversation between him and his wife. "To hell with this earthly life,  the brahmana said, "for it is full of misery. It is hollow like a reed and a fruitless glory. The attachment to wife, children, home and wealth lead only to an unhappy life. When one becomes attached to these and they are then lost, one suffers greatly. How will I escape this danger? How can I sacrifice my son, who all these years I have raised so carefully? If my son or daughter dies then I shall certainly die with them.

Kunti, taking the opportunity, entered the room and spoke soothing words that pacified the brahmana and his wife. Her words were just like nectar that revive dead men. "Please tell me what is causing your distress. I am certain that my sons or myself can remove any anxiety you feel.

"This speech is indeed worthy of you,  the brahmana replied, "but I am afraid this grief cannot be removed by any human being. Not far from this town lives a Rakshasa named Baka. Due to the weakness of the local king, this cannibal rules the country. Because he is the chief asura, he protects us from any enemies, but his fee is very high. Every fortnight one of the householders in this town must deliver to him a cart load of vegetables and rice, two buffaloes and one human being. The turn comes to each family only after many long years. If there are any who seek to avoid their turn, the Rakshasa finds and devours them. It has been decided that this fortnight is our turn, and I don't have the money to buy a man-animal, nor can I part with one of my family members, nor can I escape from the hands of that Rakshasa. For this reason I am sunk in an ocean of grief.

Smiling all the while, Kunti spoke to the brahmana, "Do not be unhappy on account of this danger. I see a way to rescue you from this Rakshasa's grip. You have only one son who is very young, and your daughter is also young and helpless. It also not a good idea for you or your wife to sacrifice your life. So my suggestion is that one of my sons take the offering to this Rakshasa.

Hearing Kunti's offer the brahmana replied, "To save my own life, I shall never sacrifice the life of a guest or a brahmana. The learned have said that a guest who has taken shelter in one's house should be given protection by all means. Therefore, it is fitting that myself and my wife should perish by the hands of this Rakshasa.

"O brahmana,  Kunti replied, "I am also of the firm opinion that brahmanas should be protected. My sons are very dear to me, but this Rakshasa will never be able to kill them, for they are gifted with superhuman powers. This second son of mine will faithfully deliver to the Rakshasa his food, but will not be harmed by him. I have previously seen many invincible Rakshasas fight with my son, but in the end they were vanquished. Do not disclose this fact to anyone, for we have many enemies who might harm us.

Thus addressed by Pritha, the brahmana and his wife smiled with pleasure and agreed with her proposal. Her words were like a soothing balm. Then Kunti and the brahmana approached Bhima and asked him to accomplish all that they had talked about. Bhima agreed saying, "So be it.

Yudhisthira and his brothers, upon returning to the brahmana's house, heard about the proposal and spoke sharply to their mother, "O Mother, what proposal have you offered to this brahmana without consulting us? You should not have acted so rashly. The learned never allow a mother to abandon her own children. This act will be equal to murder. Why do you want to sacrifice your own child for the sake of another? Relying on the strength of Bhima's arms, we shall certainly vanquish the sons of Dhritarastra. If you are resolved to abandon him, how will we accomplish our goals?

Hearing Yudhisthira's anxious words, Kunti replied, "Do not be uneasy about Vrikodara. I have not made my decision on account of womanly weakness. Witnessing his bodily strength in carrying us from Varanavata and also in killing the Rakshasa Hidimva, I have great confidence in him. The prowess of Bhima's arms is equal to that of ten thousand elephants. There is no one on earth who can overcome Bhima in strength. Bhima will kill this Rakshasa with the greatest ease. By this act two objects will be accomplished. One is offering gratitude to the brahmana for allowing us to stay here undetected by the sons of Dhritarastra, and secondly, by killing this demon, Bhima's fame will spread far and wide. It is the duty of a kshatriya to protect the brahmanas, and for this reason I have offered to help this pious brahmana.

Having heard his mother's reasoning, Yudhisthira replied, "What you have done, moved by compassion for this brahmana, is, indeed, the proper choice of action. Bhima will certainly kill this Rakshasa and come back with his life. But tell the brahmana, O mother, that he should not speak to anybody about what is taking place. Make him promise to this request.

The following day Bhimasena, the mighty son of Pandu, loaded the cart full of vegetables and rice, and set out for the place where the Rakshasa lived. As he approached that place, Bhima was eating the food that was intended for the Rakshasa Baka. All the way Bhima was calling out the Rakshasa's name in jest. Hearing his name mocked at and ridiculed, the Rakshasa became furious and came out from the place where he was hiding. The Rakshasa's body was gargantuan, and his power was frightening. He had red eyes, a red beard and red hair, and he was terrible to behold. His mouth opened from ear to ear, and as he advanced toward Bhima, he bit his lips in rage and expanded his eyes in wrath. "Who is this fool,  he yelled, "eating my food and desiring to enter Yamaraja's abode? I shall kill him at once!

Laughing at the Rakshasa's angry mood, Bhima continued eating the food in the cart. Seeing Bhima's indifference, the Rakshasa roared frightfully and ran at Bhima with upraised fists, desiring to kill him then and there. He struck Vrikodara on the back with all his strength, but Bhima was not affected in the least and continued eating the food. The mighty Rakshasa, inflamed with wrath, uprooted a tree and ran toward the son of Kunti. Meanwhile Bhima, having finished his meal, washed his hands and stood cheerfully for a fight. As the tree came his direction, Bhima caught it with his left hand, smiling all the while. The Rakshasa was infuriated and uprooted more trees hurling them with all his power at the son of Kunti. Bhima, however, caught those trees and threw them back at the Rakshasa. Soon the forest became treeless and finding no other weapon, Baka ran at Bhima and seized him with his arms. He dragged Bhima on the ground, and Bhima also dragged him on the ground. Soon the Rakshasa became fatigued and Bhima pressed him down to the earth with his knees and beat him with his fists. Then placing one knee on the middle of the Rakshasa's back, Bhima seized his neck with his right hand and with his left grabbed the cloth around his waist. Lifting up his neck and legs, while keeping his knee on Baka's back, Bhima bent him double with great force. The cracking of his back and the screaming of his voice filled the whole forest. Baka then vomited blood and gave up his life force.

The friends of Baka were frightened, and Bhima commanded them, "Do not kill human beings again, for if you do, you will die as Baka did.  The Rakshasas were terrified at Bhima's power, and from that day on, they were seen by the inhabitants of that town to be very peaceful toward mankind. Then Bhima dragged the lifeless corpse of the demon, placed him on the city gate and went away unseen by anyone.

The next morning the citizens of Ekachakra saw the cannibal's mutilated body covered in blood. News spread quickly through the town and soon a thousand residents were seen at the city gate. They were amazed to see such a superhuman feat, and out of curiosity, they went to the brahmana's home to inquire about the matter. The brahmana was careful to cover-up the identity of the Pandavas, and he told them, "A certain brahmana traveling on pilgrimage came to my home and agreed to take my place. He assured me that no harm would come to him. He then carried the food cart toward the forest. This wonderful deed has been certainly accomplished by him.  The citizens of Ekachakra were joyous to hear what had happened and held a festival especially honoring the brahmana.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata summation to the Fourteenth Chapter of the Adi Parva, Entitled, The Cannibal Baka Slain.


Chapter Commentary


Shrila Vyasadeva spoke words of wisdom when he advised the Pandavas not to lament their fate. Even though it seemed to be a tragic incident, still the Lord had a plan to glorify His devotee. No one understands the inconceivable plan of the Lord. Vyasa prophesied that the Pandavas, in the future, would gain a great kingdom and become famous for all time. The words of the sage would not prove otherwise. Sometimes the Lord puts us through the dark night of the soul so that we can learn to depend completely on His mercy. We should not depend on any other living being. The Pandavas were already eternally liberated souls and knew this fact, but the Lord put them through these trying circumstances to show us how to act. It would be during these distressful times that the Pandavas would kill demons like Hidimva and Baka and win Draupadi as a wife and gain an alliance with Drupada. "All things work together for good to them who love God.  (St. Paul) Even distressful situations turn out for the good for a surrendered soul. Because a devotee gives his life for the service of the Lord, the Lord guides his devotee in all circumstances.





Chapter Fifteen

The Svayamvara of Draupadi


After the killing the Baka demon, the Pandavas continued to reside in Ekachakra as before. One day, a brahmana, traveling to different places of pilgrimage, came to Ekachakra and was invited as a guest in the house where they were residing. The Pandavas, wanting to hear some interesting news, inquired from him about anything he had seen in his travels. The brahmana spoke to them of various countries, holy places and sacred rivers. He also told them about the proposed marriage of Draupadi, the daughter of King Drupada. He explained how Draupadi and her brother Dhristadyumna were born from the sacrificial fire and also how Shikhandi was born.

Wanting to hear more in detail, the Pandavas questioned him, "How, O brahmana, did Dhristadyumna's birth take place from the sacrificial fire? Please also explain the remarkable birth of Draupadi from the center of the sacrificial arena? How also did Drupada's son learn all the military arts from the great bowman Drona?

Thus questioned by those bulls among men, the brahmana began to narrate all they had asked about. He informed them, "After the great King Drupada was defeated in battle by the Pandavas, that pious monarch wandered among the ashramas of brahmanas well-skilled in sacrificial rites. He was searching for someone who could help him kill Drona and regain his kingdom.

"Once he came upon the sacred river Ganges, and there he saw in an ashrama two sages, Yaja and Upayaja, who were descendants of Kasyapa Muni. They were peaceful and had subjugated their senses. The King made friends with them and daily came to see them. He sometimes invited them to his court. One day, King Drupada conversed with Upayaja as follows, O great brahmana, I desire a son who can kill Drona, the preceptor of the Kurus. He has taken half my kingdom and disgraced the Panchala dynasty. If you perform a sacrifice for this purpose, then my desire will be fulfilled. I promise to give you ten thousand cows in charity.'

"The rishi then replied to the King, I cannot perform such a sacrifice.' However, Drupada continued to worship that brahmana, and after one full year, Upayaja said, I desire nothing of this material world, and therefore I will not perform this sacrifice. However, my brother Yaja still covets worldly possessions. Approach him and ask him to perform the sacrifice you desire.'

"Drupada then went to the abode of Yaja and implored him to perform the sacrifice. He pleaded, O brahmana, there is a preceptor of the Kurus named Drona who has unfairly defeated me in battle and taken half my kingdom. There is no kshatriya equal to him on earth. His bow is a full nine feet long, and his arrows are capable of subduing any enemy. His brahminical power combined with kshatriya strength is superior to mine. However, your strength is greater than his, and I request you to perform a sacrifice by which I may receive a son who will be invincible in battle and cause the death of Drona. I promise to give you ten thousand cows in charity.' The brahmana immediately replied, So be it.'

"After Yaja had agreed to perform the sacrifice, the King made all the necessary preparations for the yajna. When everything was prepared, Yaja offered ghee into the sacrificial fire accompanied by the chanting of Vedic mantras. As the flames rose, there appeared from the fire a child who possessed the effulgence of the sun. He was wearing a golden crown and was encased in celestial armor. In his left hand, he held a bow and arrow, and in his right hand, he held a sword. He immediately ascended a chariot and rode about producing thundering roars from his mouth. Suddenly there was a voice from the sky prophesying, This prince has been born for the purpose of slaying Drona. He will dispel all the fears of the Panchalas and spread their fame. He will also remove the sorrows of the King.'

"At this time there also arose from the sacrificial fire a young princess who was blest with good fortune and was comparable to a demigoddess in beauty. Her eyes were black and shaped like lotus petals. Her complexion was dark and her hair bluish and curly. Her nails were raised and the color of copper. She emanated a fragrance like that of a blue lotus, perceivable for a full two miles. Her beauty was such that she had no equal on earth. When she was born, a voice from the sky predicted, This dark complexioned girl will be a crest jewel among women, and she will cause the death of many kings. This slender-waisted girl will accomplish the purpose of the demigods and bestow upon the Pandavas all good fortune.'

"When the family members of King Drupada heard these auspicious omens, they were very happy and roared with joy. The brahmanas then gave the children names. Let this son of King Drupada,' they said,  be called Dhristadyumna. Dhrishta, meaning one who has been born from the fire and dyumna, meaning one who is born with natural armor. The girl shall be called Krishna because she is dark in complexion, and she will also be known as Draupadi, being the daughter of King Drupada.'

The brahmana continued, "Thus those two children were born from the sacrificial fire of King Drupada. Dhristadyumna was taken as a student of the great Drona even though he was destined to kill Drona. Dronacharya welcomed this as Providence and accepted Dhristadyumna as his disciple, giving him equal instructions with the other students.

Hearing of Draupadi's beauty, the Pandavas appeared bitten by Cupid's arrows. Indeed, the sons of Pandu lost their peace of mind. Then Kunti, seeing her sons inattentive and restless, addressed Yudhisthira and said, "For such a long time we have been living in the abode of this brahmana. Now we should leave this place. Perhaps the kingdom of the Panchalas would be a suitable place to go. We have not yet seen that country, and it will no doubt, O hero, prove delightful to us.  All the brothers+Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva+agreed, and they prepared themselves to go to the province of King Drupada.

While they were in the midst of their preparations, Vyasa, the son of Satyavati, arrived at the brahmana's house. The Pandavas and their mother offered obeisances and stood before the great rishi with joined palms. They offered him a sitting place, water, food and sweet words. They then waited for the distinguished sage to speak. Vyasadeva advised, "In the city of Kampilya in the country of the Panchalas lives a king named Drupada. He has a very beautiful daughter named Draupadi who is destined to be your wife. Soon there will be a svayamvara ceremony in which she will choose the husband she desires. Go there and obtain her for your wife, for she will bring happiness to all of you.  Having said this, the great ascetic left and again returned to his hermitage.

The Pandavas then set out for the country of the Panchalas. They traveled along the banks of the Ganges until they came to a sacred place where great sages worshipped Lord Shiva. It was nighttime, and it so happened that a certain king of the Gandharvas was sporting in the water along with his queens. Arjuna was carrying a torch and leading the party along the bank of the river. The King of the Gandharvas, seeing them coming, rose out of the water and ascended his chariot. He picked up his bow, stretching it to full length. He then commanded the Pandavas, "It is commonly known that the hours of nightfall are set aside for the Gandharvas, Yakshas and Rakshasas to sport in this great river. The hours during the day are for the human beings. I am Angaraparna, the Gandharva, and I am the friend of Kuvera, the treasurer of the heavenly planets. This forest on the bank of the Ganges has been given to me by Kuvera and bears my name. Therefore leave this area if you value your life.

Hearing the challenging words of the Gandharva, Arjuna replied, "Blockhead, whether it be day, night, or twilight, who can bar others from the ocean, the Himalayas, and this sacred river, the Ganges? One can bathe in the Ganges and take advantage of its purification. Because this river flows from the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu, it can cleanse one of all sins. It is meant for all living beings at any time. How then can you stop us from drinking its water?

Angered by Arjuna's words, the Gandharva, drawing his bow to a full circle, released arrows that were deadlier than poisonous serpents. Dhananjaya [Arjuna], wielding a shield and torch, deflected all the arrows released. He then addressed the Gandharva, "Do not try to frighten those who are skilled in warfare. If you think that you are very powerful then defend yourself from this weapon.  Arjuna then threw his torch which was empowered with the mantras for the agneyastra. The weapon burnt the Gandharva's chariot and deprived him of his consciousness. He fell from his chariot to the ground. Arjuna grabbed him by the hair, and dragging him along the ground, brought him to his brothers. The Gandharva awoke and spoke to Arjuna, "You have defeated me, and I can no longer boast my strength. I am pleased with you and want to impart to you the science of producing mystic illusions which the Gandharvas possess. I will also bestow upon you one hundred horses that will never tire on the field of battle. These horses cannot be killed and can travel at any speed according to the will of the charioteer. I want in return your weapon of fire.

"I will accept your horses in exchange for my weapon,  Arjuna said. "Let our friendship last forever. Why have you stopped us from traveling the path along the Ganges? Normally, we have nothing to fear from the Gandharvas. This is a well known pilgrimage path so why have you attacked us in this way?

"Kshatriyas are known to be guided by the brahmanas,  the Gandharva replied. "You are traveling from a great distance, but there is no brahmana preceeding you. Also no one can distinguish your ashrama although you have completed your brahmacharya (student) training. The fact is that you are not recognizable to human society. For this reason I have challenged you. In the forest nearby is a sacred place called Utkochaka. Dhaumya, the younger brother of Devala, is engaged in penances and austerities. Go there and request him to become your Guru. His superior intelligence will guide you through distressful circumstances.

Arjuna, being pleased with the Gandharva, gave him his fire weapon and told him to keep the horses until the time he called for them. The Pandavas then approached Dhaumya in the forest, and seeing his good qualities, they humbly requested him to become their priest and advisor, for every kshatriya should be guided by a brahmana. Dhaumya developed an immediate attachment for the Pandavas and agreed to become their priest. Indeed, the Pandavas considered themselves so fortunate to have Dhaumya as their guide that they thought Draupadi to be already obtained and their kingdom returned. They requested Dhaumya to accompany them to Kampilya and help them win Draupadi in marriage. Dhaumya agreed, and they all set out together for the kingdom of the Panchalas.

The city of Kampilya was alive with the sounds of musical instruments and the citizens were busily preparing for the svayamvara. Kings and princes from the most noble dynasties had come for the svayamvara. The Pandavas and Dhaumya took up their residence in the house of a potter and witnessed the preparations for the marriage ceremony. King Drupada had a special amphitheater built for the marriage of his daughter. In his heart he wanted only Arjuna to marry Draupadi, and for this purpose he had a unique bow constructed that was so stiff that only Arjuna could string it. Also, if by chance, someone else could string the bow, on the amphitheater ceiling was a wheel, and on the wheel was a fish. The person who strung the bow also had to pierce the eye of the fish, not by looking at it directly, but seeing the reflection of it in a pot of water on the floor. King Drupada felt that only Arjuna could perform this feat. Having arranged the svayamvara in this way, he announced to all the kings of the earth the means by which to obtain his daughter. He was hopeful that Arjuna had not been killed in the house of lac and that this svayamvara would bring him to the city of Kampilya.

On the day of the svayamvara, those kings and princes who had come from different kingdoms entered the amphitheater and took their respective seats. The citizens, anxious to see the outcome of the marriage ceremony, assembled in thousands. The priest for the marriage ceremony lit the sacrificial fire by means of Vedic mantras. When everyone was perfectly quiet, Dhristadyumna, taking the hand of the beautiful Draupadi, spoke to the assembled kshatriyas, "Welcome to all kings and princes from different lands. Here is my sister, Draupadi, whose beauty surpasses the beauty of all women on earth. To gain my sister in marriage, one must string this strongly constructed bow. When the bow is strung, one must pierce the fishas it lies on the chariot wheel below the ceiling in the eye. One cannot directly look at the fish, but must see it by the reflection in this pot of water. Whoever can achieve this feat will obtain my sister Krishna for his queen.

Having spoken to the assembled monarches, Drupada's son then informed his sister, "Here, O Draupadi, are assembled the best of the kshatriya race. Here is Duryodhana and his one hundred brothers accompanied by Karna. They have come here to obtain you for a wife. Innumerable other monarches have also come for you. Here is Shakuni, the son of the Gandhara King. He is also accompanied by his brothers. Here is the great bowman Ashvatthama, the son of Drona. Here is King Susharma with his five brothers, and here is the very powerful Jarasandha. There is King Virata along with his two sons, Sankha and Uttara. There is King Paundraka and King Bhagadatta who are counted amongst the great maharathis. The King of Kalinga has come as well as the King of Madras, Salya, whose strength equals thousands of elephants. There, sitting in front of you, is Krishna, the son of Vasudeva and His very powerful brother Balarama. Also from the Yadu dynasty have come Satyaki, Kritavarma and Akrura. There are many kings from the Vrishni dynasty as well as powerful kings from the Kuru race. There is Somadatta and his three sons Bhuri, Bhurishrava and Sala. Also here is King Shishupala. All these warriors as well as many others have come to gain your hand in marriage. Endowed with unsurpassable might, they will endeavor to pierce the eye of the fish.

Gazing upon the loveliness of Draupadi, all the princes and kings stood up anxious to exert their strength. They all became jealous of each other exclaiming, "Draupadi shall be mine!  They were all infatuated by the celestial beauty of King Drupada's daughter, and some were so drunk with that beauty that they could barely walk. The demigods assembled in the sky in their stellar airplanes to witness the event. The whole arena became alive with excitement, and the Pandavas, dressed like brahmanas, stood up to get a better view of the beautiful princess. Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, seeing the Pandavas sitting amongst the brahmanas, leaned over and spoke to Balarama, "O son of Rohini, sitting in the midst of the brahmanas is Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva.  Lord Balarama glanced in the direction of the brahmanas, and seeing the Pandavas looking intently upon Draupadi, smiled with satisfaction.

One by one the kshatriyas came forward to string the bow. They were all adorned with crowns, garlands, golden armlets and other ornaments. They were full of enthusiasm and energy. However, most of them could not even string the bow. Indeed, in the attempt, they were knocked to the ground when their strength proved insufficient. Some, such as Duryodhana, were able to string the bow, but missed the fish's eye by the width of a finger. The great Salya missed the target by the width of a bean seed. Shishupala, the son of Damaghosa, was able to string the bow, but missed the target by the width of a sesame seed. Jarasandha was the next to try. He was able to string the bow, but missed the target by the width of a mustard seed. Seeing no one able to pierce the target, Karna, the foremost wielder of the bow and arrow, rose from his seat and approached the bow. Everyone was watching him with tense excitement. The Pandavas regarded the eye of the fish as already pierced. He quickly strung the bow and placed the arrow on the string. However, Draupadi loudly exclaimed, "I will not select a suta as my lord.  Karna released his arrow, but missed the target by a hair's breadth.

When none of the great kings were able to fell the target, Arjuna in the dress of a brahmana stood up and inquired from Dhristadyumna, "Is a brahmana allowed to take part in this competition? I see that no king or prince can hit the target.  His fearless eyes swept over the assembly of monarches with a contemptuous look. "Yes,  Dhristadyumna replied, "anyone can take part in the competition. Come forward and string the bow, and if you can, pierce the target.  Arjuna then picked up the bow and stood there like a mountain. Remembering Lord Krishna in his heart, he quickly strung the bow and set his arrow. There was not a sound in the audience. All eyes were on Arjuna. Looking at the reflection of the fish in the water, Arjuna raised his bow toward the ceiling. He slowly drew back the string to full length and let loose his arrow, which pierced the fish's eye causing it to fall to the ground. There was an uproar amongst the demigods in the firmament, and the amphitheater resounded with joy. The demigods began to shower flowers upon Arjuna, and the brahmanas waved their upper garments in the air. The kings, who had been unsuccessful, were shocked with disbelief. The whole arena was filled with the sounds of drums, kettledrums, cymbals and conches. And thinking the brahmana to be Arjuna, King Drupada was smiling from ear to ear. The beautiful Draupadi, whose smiling eyes resembled lotus petals, then approached Arjuna and placed the garland of victory upon his neck.

Unable to tolerate King Drupada bestowing his daughter upon a brahmana, the assembled kings contemptuously bellowed, "This Drupada has insulted us deliberately. The Vedic statement is that the svayamvara ceremony is meant for the kshatriyas and not for the brahmanas. Since the brahmanas are to be protected, we can do nothing to harm this one who has pierced the target. However, in order to avoid total disgrace let us kill this Drupada.

After speaking to one another in this way, they picked up their weapons and rushed at King Drupada to kill him. And Drupada, seeing the kings and princes approaching him, took shelter of Arjuna. Arjuna smiled reassuringly at him and told him, "Do not fear! I am able to handle all of them.  In order to counteract the weapons of the enemy, Bhima uprooted a tree and stood next to his brother. Yudhisthira, Nakula and Sahadeva also stood ready for combat.

Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, addressed His brother, "That hero there, who walks like a lion and wields a bow four cubits in length, is Arjuna! There is no doubt of this. Look at that brahmana standing with an uprooted tree in his hand. That must surely be the second son of Pandu, the mighty Bhima. The tall youth who walks like a lion and is kingly in stature is Yamaraja's son, Yudhisthira. The other two handsome youths are the sons of Madri, Nakula and Sahadeva. They have not died in the house of lac after all.  Lord Balarama, smiling at His brother, said, "This is good news, My dear Krishna. I am happy to hear that our Aunt Kunti and her five sons are alive.

While Lord Krishna and Balarama were speaking, the kings approached Arjuna for combat. The brahmanas stood up to help Arjuna, but he assured them that he could handle the whole situation himself. Karna then rushed against Arjuna, and Salya rushed at Bhima. Duryodhana fought with Yudhisthira, and Shakuni fought with Nakula and Sahadeva. Arjuna counteracted all the arrows of Karna, and Karna, becoming furious, fought with greater vigor. Unable to defeat his opponent, Karna addressed him, "O foremost brahmana, I am amazed to see the strength of your arms in combat. Are you Parasurama, or the great Indra himself? Could you be the younger brother of Indra, the infallible Lord Vishnu, disguised to defeat me in battle? No one can defeat me except for the son of Sachi or Arjuna, the son of Pandu.  Hearing these words, Arjuna replied, "O Karna, I am not Parasurama, Indra or the eternal Lord Vishnu. I am only a brahmana, and I have learned the science of archery from my preceptor. I am here to vanquish you in battle.

Karna then desisted from fighting for fear of angering a brahmana. Meanwhile, Bhima, engaged in battle with Salya, picked him up and threw him a distance without hurting him. No one could understand who the brahmanas were, and being unable to defeat them, they stopped their advances. Arjuna, followed by his brothers and Draupadi, left the arena of competition and went back to the potter's house. Lord Krishna, desiring to help the Pandavas, followed from a distance.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata Summation to the Fifteenth Chapter of the Adi Parva, Entitled, The Svayamvara of Draupadi.


Chapter Commentary


The marriages of beautiful princesses were always full of pomp and excitement. There are eight kinds of marriage ceremonies mentioned in the vedas. They are brahma, arsha, prajapatya, daiva, Gandharva, asura and Rakshasa. Draupadi was married to Arjuna in the Gandharva style which means that the suitor had to exhibit his prowess before the would be bride. The word svayamvara means placing the garland on the neck of the future husband. Before Arjuna could receive the garland of Draupadi, he had to pass the test of piercing the eye of the fish. Krishna married the beautiful Satya, the daughter of King Nagnajit, in the same style when He had to wrestle with seven bulls and defeat them. Similarly Lord Ramachandra obtained Sita by stringing a bow that was impossible for an ordinary mortal.

There are other types of marriages such as Rakshasa where the proposed husband steals the beautiful maiden and fights with competitors to show his prowess. Krishna married Rukmini in this type of ceremony. There are other types of marriages where the father gives the daughter to some young prince for a certain price, or when a man of good qualities and good family is asked to come and take the bride. All these marriages were rich in culture and full of chivalry and pomp.

A majority of the marriages that take place presently are based simply on physical attraction and sexual compatibility, and therefore, when there is some disturbance to the physical beauty, like aging, or sexual incompatibility, there is divorce. Unrestricted sex life will cause one to lose respect for the partner. Therefore, in Vedic culture sex was allowed for the purpose of procreation. If a man could not control his sex drive, he was allowed to take more than one wife, but unrestricted sex was not allowed even in marriage.

In present times, degradation of the marriage institution has come about because of too much free mingling between men and women. The animals do not have a marriage institution. The male monkey will go from female to female whenever the urge arises, which is quite often. If a human being ignores marriage vows and simply goes from one woman to another, then he is no better than a monkey in mentality. In his next life he becomes an animal and fulfills his desires for unrestricted sex.

In Vedic times men and women were not allowed to mingle freely. The boys and girls were restricted in their association. When the British conquered India, they highly criticized the marriage of women at an early age before their puberty. They called it child marriage. The actual fact is that a youthful marriage is very good for chastity. The husband is usually ten years older than the female. If the girl is ten or twelve, then the male is twenty or twenty-two. The girl does not live with her husband immediately, but her mind is fixed on one man. By service and association she develops an attraction only for her husband, and her husband develops an attraction only for his young wife. In this way the girl will never have sex with any other male. So many problems in society are solved by chasity between husband and wife.

From the grand arrangements of the marriage ceremony of Draupadi, one can glimpse the richness of Vedic culture. Marriage at that time was something magnificent. In Vedic age there was no divorce. Before the marriage the partners were chosen on the basis of like personalities. A man who was brahminically (priestly) inclined was married to a woman who had a similar attraction. A man with kingly qualities was married to a woman of a similar nature. The same was true for the merchants and worker class. An astrological reading was taken to see if the marriage was compatible and would last through the whole life. This type of marriage was more stable than the present system where it is left up to the girl and boy to search out their partners. Not taking into consideration like mentalities, they marry on the basis of physical attraction. The divorce rate in the western world is over fifty percent, showing us that this type of marriage is not working. In fact no one is objecting, because men and women are liking the animal consciousness of unrestricted sex. Many of our troubles in society stem from this one problem.

One may question why none of the Kings except Lord Krishna and Balarama could recognize the Pandavas in the dress of brahmanas. The answer is that brahmanas were generally thin due to not eating often. In fact B hima had become slender due to not living the lavish style of kingly life. Generally, brahmanas also kept their heads shaved with a sikha or tuft of hair on the head. Along with the simple dress of a brahmana, they were not to be recognized by the other kings present.



Chapter Sixteen

The Pandavas Marry Draupadi


When the Pandavas entered the potter's house, they called out to Queen Kunti, "Mother, come and see what we have collected today.  Kunti was inside the house, and without seeing her sons she said, "Whatever you have brought today shall be shared equally among you.  The next moment she saw Draupadi and exclaimed, "Oh, I have spoken too soon.  They then informed her of the events that had taken place that day. She took the daughter of Drupada by the hand and approached Yudhisthira, "The daughter of King Drupada has been given to me as the alms collected for the day. In ignorance I have spoken the words, Share equally what you have obtained.' O best among the Kuru race, tell me how my words will not prove false.

Thus addressed by his mother, Yudhisthira reflected for a moment and then ordered Arjuna, "Today, you have won Draupadi. It is proper, therefore, that you marry her. Ignite the sacrificial fire and wed her according to the Vedic rites.

Hearing the order of his elder brother, Arjuna declined, "I do not want to take part in any sinful activities. You are the oldest, and according to the Vedic injunctions, the older brother must be married first. Once you are married, then the rest of us will marry according to our birth. We, therefore, await your decision after due deliberation.

Arjuna's remarks were full of respect and devotion for his elder brother. After Arjuna declined to accept Draupadi, all the brothers cast their glance at the beautiful princess, and Draupadi also looked upon all the Pandavas with affectionate glances that captivated their hearts. Understanding what was within their minds, Yudhisthira, fearing division, decided, "The beautiful Draupadi shall be our common wife!  With these words, all the brother's faces blossomed like lotus flowers.

After the Pandavas had left the svayamvara assembly at Drupada's palace, Lord Krishna and Balarama had followed them. Lord Krishna is the universal Godhead and is very kind to His devotees. The Pandavas are all His eternal associates, and Lord Krishna wanted to benedict them with His association, which is hankered after by all pure devotees. Lord Krishna entered the house of the potter along with His brother Balarama. There They saw the Pandavas sitting around their mother, and They also saw Draupadi. Lord Krishna then approached Yudhisthira and offered His obeisances saying, "I am Krishna, the son of Vasudeva.  The Lord then touched the feet of Queen Kunti. Balarama did the same. Krishna then embraced Arjuna because they were the same age and accepted the obeisances of Nakula and Sahadeva. Lord Balarama embraced Bhima because they were the same age and accepted the obeisances of Arjuna and the twins.

Yudhisthira then inquired from Lord Krishna, "O Vasudeva, how did you detect us though we have been living in disguise?  Lord Krishna was smiling and then answered Yudhisthira's inquiry, "O King, fire, even if it is covered, can never be concealed. Who else but the Pandavas could exhibit such prowess as was shown today? It is by good fortune that you have escaped the burning house of lac. Those evil sons of Dhritarastra could not carry out their wicked plans. Remain hidden for some time, and do not let the sons of Dhritarastra know where you are until you have made alliances. You have the support of the Yadu and Vrishni dynasties. Do not fear anything. We must leave soon so that no one will know we have come here.  Then obtaining King Yudhisthira's permission, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Lord Balarama, His immediate expansion, left the potter's house and returned to Their own abodes.

There was also someone else who had followed the Pandavas to the potter's house. It was Dhristadyumna, the son of Drupada. He was anxious to find out who had gained his sister in marriage. After Lord Krishna and Balarama left the house, he came close to the window to listen to their conversation. Kunti was talking with Draupadi about the food that they had collected that day. "First, take a portion and offer it to Lord Vishnu,  she said, "then distribute it to the brahmanas and guests. Divide what is left into two portions. One portion is for Bhima, for my second son is ever hungry.  Bhima turned red from embarrassment and Draupadi smiled. Dhristadyumna saw the happy expressions on her face and was glad to know that she was not sad or depressed. Queen Kunti continued, "The other portion can be divided amongst the other four brothers and ourselves.  Draupadi then did as she was told. After her husbands had eaten, Draupadi took her portion of prasad (food offered to Lord Vishnu).

When they were finished with their evening meal, the sun was setting. Sahadeva then laid a bed of kusha grass on the floor. Deerskins were laid on top of the kusha grass, and the brothers lay down to sleep. Kunti lay at their heads and Draupadi at their feet. They talked about chariots, bows, arrows, maces, elephants and armies. Dhristadyumna overheard their whole conversation, and then after they had fallen asleep, he went back to the palace of his father.

King Drupada was lamenting, unsure of who had taken his daughter. After returning from the potter's house, Dhristadyumna entered the palace and offered obeisances to his father. As his son stood before him, King Drupada inquired, "Oh my son, where has Krishna [Draupadi] gone? Who has taken her away? Has a shudra of the lower orders abducted her? Has a vaishya taken her and polluted my dynasty? Has a kshatriya of high birth taken her away from my palace, or has a brahmana obtained my daughter in marriage? O my son, I would feel greatly happy if Draupadi has been united with Partha, that foremost warrior. Please tell me who has won my daughter. Are the sons of Pandu alive? Was it Arjuna who took up the bow and pierced the mark?

Dhristadyumna then related all that he had seen during the night. He then told his father, "From their conversation I can understand that they are not shudras, vaishyas or brahmanas, for their talk was only on military topics. Their voices were deep and commanding. They are definitely heroes of the highest order. It seems, O father, that our hopes have fructified. From the way in which the mark was shot down by the youth, and the strength in which the bow was strung by him, and the manner in which I have heard them talk with one another, I conclude that they are the sons of Pandu wandering in disguise.

King Drupada regained the hope that he had cherished in his heart. He sent his priest and other messengers to the potter's house to announce that the wedding would be that day, and that they should come to the palace. Drupada sent valuable dresses for Draupadi, and he also sent valuable clothes and ornaments for the five heroes whom he hoped were the Pandavas. A royal chariot then arrived at the potter's house to bring them to the palace. The Pandavas and their mother as well as Draupadi ascended the chariot and soon arrived at the palace.

Queen Kunti, upon entering the palace, was taken away by the ladies of the King's household and worshipped according to her position. Draupadi went with her. The Pandavas then entered the palace, and King Drupada saw those bulls among men dressed in deerskin and walking with the gait of lions. Each had broad shoulders and long arms extending to the knees. He could understand that they were of royal blood and offered them the finest seats. He fed them all with the finest food, and after they were fully satisfied, inquired from them, "Are we to know you as kshatriyas, brahmanas or demigods in disguise? Tell us the truth for we have great doubts. Hearing your reply, I shall make arrangements for my daughter's wedding according to the order to which you belong.

Thus questioned by King Drupada, Yudhisthira replied, "Do not be unhappy, O King. Your cherished desire has been fulfilled. We are kshatriyas and the sons of Pandu. Know me to be the eldest of Kunti's sons, Yudhisthira, and here is Bhima, by whose prowess all the earthly monarchs were humbled yesterday. Here is Arjuna, whose expert bowmanship has won your daughter. Here also are Nakula and Sahadeva and our mother Kunti. O foremost of kings, drive away the distress in your heart. Your daughter, O Monarch, like a lotus flower, has been transferred from one lake to another. O King, you are our chief refuge and our worshipable superior.

Drupada's eyes rolled in ecstasy, and he almost lost consciousness. His voice was choked, and for a moment he could not reply to the statements of Yudhisthira. With great effort he inquired how they had escaped from the house of lac. Yudhisthira related everything, and hearing what had happened, King Drupada condemned Dhritarastra for his diplomacy. Drupada then vowed to support Yudhisthira and help him regain his paternal throne.

King Drupada was overjoyed that the Pandavas were now living in his kingdom, and he requested them, "According to the Vedic injunctions, let the Kuru prince Arjuna take my daughter in marriage on this auspicious day.  Replying to the King, Yudhisthira said, "O great King, the shastras declare that the oldest son must be married first.  King Drupada replied, "If it pleases you, take my daughter yourself, or give Draupadi in marriage to whomever of your brothers you like.  Yudhisthira then said, "Your daughter, O King, shall be the common wife of all of us. It has been ordered by our mother. This jewel of a daughter has been won by Arjuna. It is a standard rule amongst us that we enjoy equally what we obtain. That rule of conduct we shall not abandon. Krishna [Draupadi] shall become the wedded wife of all of us.

King Drupada was confused by Yudhisthira's decision, "O scion of the Kuru race, it has been declared that one man may have many wives. But it has never been heard that one woman may have many husbands. O son of Kunti, you are conversant with the rules of morality and opposed to sinful acts. Please tell me, O Prince, on what basis have you made your decision?

As they were discussing, the great Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa appeared on the scene. He was given a proper reception and an elevated seat. King Drupada then inquired, "O esteemed sage, you very much welcomed in my court. At this time there is something that is troubling us, and I am sure that you can settle the matter. Please tell me how one woman can become the wife of many men without being touched by sin.

Wanting to speak with Drupada in private, Vyasa arose from his seat and took the monarch by the hand, leading him away to his quarters. The others waited for the return of the great sage. Vyasa then explained that in Draupadi's previous birth she had prayed to Lord Shiva to obtain an elevated husband. Since she asked Lord Shiva five times, Shiva appeared before her and and gave her a benediction that she would have five husbands. Vyasadeva then informed King Drupada that the Pandavas in their previous births were demigods and eternal associates of the Supreme Lord. Vyasadeva then granted divine vision to Drupada so that he could see who the Pandavas were in their previous lives. King Drupada was then convinced that it was the desire of higher authorities, and he agreed to the marriage proposal.

The day the marriage ceremony took place, the moon had entered the constellation of Pushya which is considered very auspicious. King Drupada planned a grand and opulent ceremony. The palace was decorated beautifully. Flags and festoons hung from the ceilings of the different rooms and thousands of multi-colored garlands were draped everywhere. The whole palace was alive with excitement, and people were moving here and there making the necessary preparations. When the marriage ceremony bagan, Dhaumya, the priest of the Pandavas, lit the sacrificial fire with mantras recited from the Vedic literatures. He then called the Pandavas one by one and had them circumambulate the fire, each holding the hand of Draupadi. King Drupada then bestowed upon the Pandavas an opulent dowry consisting of one hundred golden chariots, each drawn by magnificent horses with golden bridles. He also gave them one hundred elephants endowed with auspicious marks. He gave jewels, gold, bedding, carpets and maidservants. He gave all this out of affection for his beautiful daughter.

After the marriage ceremony was over, Lord Krishna, the Infallible Lord, sent to the Pandavas many presents such as golden ornaments set with pearls and lapis lazuli, many beautiful and soft blankets, carpets and golden chariots. He also gave them many well- trained elephants and many excellent horses. He gave them hundreds and thousands of gold coins and many precious jewels. Yudhisthira, feeling great devotion, accepted all those gifts from Lord Krishna, whom he always thought of in the core of his heart.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata Summation to the Sixteenth Chapter of the Adi Parva, Entitled, The Pandavas Marry Draupadi.



Chapter Commentary


King Dhritarastra had planned to kill the Pandavas by burning them in a house of lac. This so-called reversal for the Pandavas turned out to be a benediction, because they acquired Draupadi as their wife, and they developed a more intimate friendship with Lord Krishna, the Supreme Person. They also acquired an alliance with the most powerful King Drupada. The devotees of the Lord never lament when reversals come upon them. They take these reversals as the mercy of God. As stated in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, "One who seeks Your compassion and thus tolerates all kinds of adverse conditions due to the karma of his past deeds, who engages always in Your devotional service with his mind, words and body, and who always offers obeisances unto You, is certainly a bona fide candidate for liberation.  (S.B.10.14.8) This is part of Lord Brahma's prayers to Lord Krishna. Brahma offered prayers to Lord Krishna after he had been humbled by Lord Krishna's mystic potency. This quotation explains how we should accept reversals. When impediments come to a devotee, he does not complain, but continues his service to the Lord, knowing that he must be given a slight punishment for sins committed in the past. No harm can ever come to a devotee and even seeming reversals turn out favorable in the end.

In Vedic culture all actions were seen through the eye of scripture. Vedic culture was set up to elevate a person to a high standard of life. By following the Vedic injunctions a person could prosper both materially and spiritually. King Drupada had a doubt, and rightly so, about marrying his daugther to five men, because this was not sanctioned by scripture. In the Vedic times the kings were trained in sastra so they could lead society on the right path. It is unfortunate that today all scripture has been taken out of the schools on the basis of a secular society. Even in India, the mother land of religion, Bhagavad-gita is no longer taught in the school system. It is no wonder then that the youth are imitating the westerners and taking up a life of sense gratification that will lead them to an animal birth in the next life.




Chapter Seventeen



News spread quickly that Draupadi had been married to the Pandavas, and that Arjuna was the brahmana who had pierced the eye of the fish and defeated Karna in battle. Everyone thought that the Pandavas had died along with their mother in the house of lac. They now regarded the Pandavas as persons resurrected from the dead. They remembered the cruel scheme of Purochana and cursed Dhritarastra again and again. After the svayamvara was over, all the kings and princes returned to their respective kingdoms. When Duryodhana heard that Draupadi had selected Arjuna as her lord, he was greatly despondent. He left the city of Kampilya accompanied by his brothers, Ashvatthama, Shakuni, Karna and Kripa. Understanding that the mighty sons of Pritha had escaped from the house of lac and were allied with King Drupada, the sons of Dhritarastra were embarrassed and frustrated that their plan had not succeeded.

When Vidura learned that Draupadi had been won by the Pandavas and that Duryodhana and his allies had been humiliated, he was elated. Approaching Dhritarastra, Vidura exclaimed, "The Kurus are faring well by the grace of God!  Dhritarastra thought that Vidura was referring to his sons and that Duryodhana had won the competition for Draupadi. He immediately ordered ornaments made for Draupadi and that Duryodhana and his new wife be brought to Hastinapura in great pomp. It was then that Vidura told the blind King that Draupadi had chosen the Pandavas as her lords. Vidura told Dhritarastra that the Pandavas were alive and well. He also informed his brother that the Pandavas had made a pact of friendship with the family of King Drupada and also many other families including the Yadu and Vrishni dynasties.

Dhritarastra pretended he was cheerful to hear news of the Pandava's success and well being. Actually the news broke his heart. He said to Vidura, "To hear that the sons of my brother are living is good news. They are more dear to me than my own sons. I am delighted to hear that they now have many friends and that the great Drupada is their ally.

"Let this realization remain within your heart for one hundred years,  Vidura replied. Vidura then returned to his own residence.

Duryodhana then approached his father pouring grief from his evil heart, "The Pandavas have now become invincible by the will of Providence. O Father, we should now act to weaken their strength. The time has come to assemble the Kurus and discuss how the Pandavas may not swallow us.

"You should be happy,  King Dhritarastra replied, "and I will do whatever you recommend. But I do not wish to inform Vidura of this meeting. If you have some plan, then reveal it here so it will remain a secret.

The sinister Duryodhana then revealed his thoughts, "Let us, O Father, by some means produce dissension between the sons of Kunti and the sons of Madri. Or let us win to our side King Drupada by means of gifts and wealth. Perhaps we can send spies who can kill Bhima, and without his strength, the Pandavas can be easily defeated. Or maybe we can send some celestial girls to the Pandavas as a gift, and Draupadi, being neglected, will leave them. By some means we must deflate the power of the Pandavas.

Karna then spoke his mind, "O Duryodhana, your reasoning is not well founded. O brave Prince, you have tried many times to kill the Pandavas by subtle methods, while they were living in the palace and still young. Now they have matured and are more powerful in strength. How then will you defeat them by these methods? Also it is impossible to disunite them. Draupadi chose them when they were in poverty. Will she now neglect them when they are in prosperity? King Drupada is honest and truthful, and by no means can we tempt him with gifts. Dhristadyumna has made a strong pact of friendship with the Pandavas which cannot be broken by offers of wealth. I think we should now attack them, and by our power decimate them from the face of the earth. We should attack now when they are not prepared. Exert your prowess before the Yadu and Vrishni dynasties are able to support the Pandavas. Prowess is the symbol of a kshatriya. We should assault them, supported by our large army, and grind Drupada and the Pandavas into the earth.

King Dhritarastra applauded Karna's opinion as heroic. "You are gifted with intelligence and power,  he said. "But before we take action, let us take counsel with Bhishma, Drona and Vidura, and adopt a plan of action that will suit our purpose.

King Dhritarastra then summoned Bhishma, Drona, Vidura and other elders to the court. When asked by Dhritarastra to give his opinion, Maharaja Bhishma replied, "O Dhritarastra, I would never advise a quarrel with the Pandavas. I have affection for you in the same as I have affection for Pandu, and of course, I look upon your sons as well as the sons of Pandu equally. I think a settlement should be concluded and half the kingdom should be given to them. As Duryodhana looks upon the kingdom as his own, so the sons of Kunti look upon it as theirs. In fact, they are the lawful heirs to the throne. If you act aggressively, a sinful reaction will befall you. You will be veiled with dishonor and will lose your good name. Are you aware how the citizens talk about you? The citizens have more affection for the Pandavas, and if you kill them, what will be your fate? It is said that a person has lived in vain who loses his reputation. A person who becomes famous because of his good deeds lives eternally. O Duryodhana, follow the path worthy of a Kuru king. We are fortunate that the Pandavas and their mother have not perished. We are fortunate that the sinful Purochana was not successful and that he himself was killed. From the time I heard that the sons of Pandu had been burnt in the house of lac, I could not face any citizen of the state. O Duryodhana, upon hearing about the attempted murder of the Pandavas and their mother Kunti, the world does not blame Purochana as much as it blames you. As long as the Pandavas live, they cannot be deprived of their rightful share, even by the powerful Indra. They are being deceitfully kept from their inheritance, and therefore you should give them half the kingdom.

After Maharaja Bhishma had finished, Drona gave his opinion, "Bhishma has spoken wisely. We must give the Pandavas half the kingdom. Messengers should be sent to the kingdom of the Panchalas with a gift of wealth for the Pandavas. Let Yudhisthira know that both yourself and your son are truly happy that they are alive. Also, you should make an alliance between the Kurus and the dynasty of King Drupada. The Pandavas should be invited to Hastinapura and greeted like kings. Those exalted princes should be brought to Hastinapura and given their rightful claim. Yudhisthira is the heir to world sovereignty. Therefore, let him become king. This will bring joy to all the people of the world.

After Drona had given his opinion, Vidura said, "O King, Bhishma and Drona have wisely spoken as your well wishers. However, I doubt you can accept their advice because of affection for your son. Bhishma, the son of Shantanu, always gives you good counsel. Drona, the preceptor, has never once offered any ill advice. Without a doubt, O King, both of these great men are comparable to Lord Ramachandra and the great King Gaya. These two great souls have never harmed you. The words of your son and the words of Karna will lead to the extinction of your dynasty. The Pandavas can never be defeated in battle. Arjuna alone is able to subdue all these princes. With Krishna, the eternal Lord, and Balarama as their allies, how do you think you can usurp the kingdom? Duryodhana, Karna and Shakuni are sinister and foolish; and if you remember, I predicted at Duryodhana's birth that he would cause the annihilation of this dynasty. Do not influenced by sinful people.

Hearing the advice given by the Kuru elders, which was meant for his welfare, Dhritarastra concluded, "The learned Bhishma, and the great Rishi Drona, and you also, O Vidura, have spoken the truth. The sons of Pandu are entitled to a share of the kingdom as are my sons. Therefore, O Vidura, go to the Panchala kingodm and induce the Pandavas to come here along with their wife Draupadi. Take with you various presentations such as jewels, horses, chariots and gold. It is by good fortune that the sons of Pandu are still alive.

Vidura then went to the city of Kampilya and requested the Pandavas to come to Hastinapura. With the permission of Lord Krishna and King Drupada, the Pandavas started for the city of elephants. As the Pandavas approached the city of Hastinapura, certain heroes of the Kuru dynasty, such as Vikarna, Drona, Chitrasena and Kripa of Gautama's line, came out to greet them. The whole city became alive as the Pandavas approached. The citizens gathered in thousands and showered flowers upon the saintly Pandavas. The affectionate sons of Pandu enlivened the citizens as the sun enlivens the lotus flower in the early morning. The Pandavas heard the words of the citizens as they moved through the crowd. Some of them said, "Here is Yudhisthira, the first son of Pandu, conversant with all the rules of morality, and who always protects us as if we were his nearest relatives.  Other citizens said, "It seems that King Pandu, the foremost among the descendants of the Kuru dynasty, has returned today after a long absence. If we have ever given in charity, if we have ever performed any pious activities, let the Pandavas remain in this great city for one hundred years.

The Pandavas entered the city to the sounds of trumpets, bugles, conchshells, drums and kettledrums. The citizens waved their upper cloths and threw flowers before the procession of those pious souls. Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva as well as their mother Queen Kunti entered the palace at Hastinapura in state. They worshipped the feet of King Dhritarastra as well as grandfather Bhishma and then entered the rooms assigned to them.

After they had rested for some time, they were called to the court by King Dhritarastra and Shantanu's son, Bhishma. When they had been seated properly, Dhritarastra spoke to them, "Listen, O Yudhisthira, to what I have to say. I want you to reside in Khandavaprastha so that no quarrels may arise between yourselves and my sons. I am sure if you live there no harm will come to you, protected as you are by the strong arms of Partha. You may rule over this half of the kingdom.  Agreeing to the commands of their uncle, the Pandavas made arrangements to travel to Khandavaprastha.

 After Yudhisthira was crowned the King of Khandavaprastha, he, along with his brothers and their beautiful queen, set out for that tract of land. The history behind this half of the kingdom is that at one time it had been the capital of the Kuru ancestors, but due to the curse of the rishis, it had turned into a barren waste. Nothing would grow there and no animals lived there. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but desert. Lord Krishna had accompanied the Pandavas and upon seeing the situation summoned Indra, the King of heaven, and ordered him, "The Kuru monarch has magnanimously given this tract of land to the Pandavas. I want you to pour rain over this entire region and make it beautiful. Make it so fertile that the finest fruit trees and most fragrant flowers will grow in this region. Also the finest crops should grow in the land of Khandavaprastha. From this time on, because you will beautify this region, it will be known as Indraprastha. Make it as beautiful as Indraloka.

Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then called for Vishvakarma and ordered him to construct a city for the Pandavas. By his mystic power Vishvakarma was able to construct a beautiful city that was dazzling in all respects. Vyasadeva was there to consecrate the new city with mantras from the Vedic hymns. The city was indeed beautiful with its nicely aligned roads and symmetrical houses. The mansions were made of first class marble, and the walls, inside and out, were embedded with precious gems. At different places within the city there were gardens of a transcendental nature. Within the gardens were small lakes decorated with different colors of lotus flowers. These gardens were filled with fruit trees of every description, and beautiful birds such as the peacock, cuckoo, parrots and chakravakas were seen here and there. When the city was complete, men and women from all classes came to live under the protection of the saintly sons of Pritha. All these citizens were pious and devoted to the cause of the Pandavas. With Lord Krishna living in the city as the most beautiful ornament, Indraprastha appeared like Vaikuntha, the spiritual world.

After some time Lord Krishna took leave of the Pandavas and returned to His capital city Dvaraka. The celestial sage Narada then came to Indraprastha. He was received in the palace of the Pandavas with great respect. Draupadi also came and offered her respects to the great sage, and after receiving benedictions from him, retired to her own chambers. Narada then advised the Pandavas in private, "This beautiful princess is your common wife. Some rule must be established so that you do not quarrel amongst yourselves. In former days there lived two brothers named Sunda and Upasunda who were inseparable and could not be killed by anyone. However, when they saw the beauty of the heavenly apsara Tilottama, they quarreled over her and killed each other. Do not let this happen to you.

Hearing these words of wisdom from the great sage Narada, the brothers decided that Draupadi would live with each of them for one year at a time. If it so happened that one of the brothers were to enter another brother's palace where Draupadi was staying without permission, that brother must enter the forest for one year as a punishment.

After establishing this rule, the Pandavas resided happily in Indraprastha. One day providence arranged that some thieves stole the cows of a certain brahmana. The brahmana came to Indraprastha and complained to Arjuna. Arjuna said he would help the brahmana, but that he could not do it immediately, for his bow was in the chambers where King Yudhisthira and Draupadi were sitting. The brahmana wanted immediate action before the thieves went too far. Arjuna had to surrender to the brahmana's demands and entered the chambers where Yudhisthira and Draupadi were residing. He told King Yudhisthira why he had entered and then took his weapons. Arjuna seated the brahmana on his chariot and with great speed followed the same path the thieves had taken. Following their tracks, he soon caught and pierced them with his arrows. He retrieved the cows and the satisfied brahmana bestowed his blessings upon Arjuna. Arjuna then returned to Indraprastha. At that time Partha approached King Yudhisthira and said, "Give me permission, O lord, to fulfill the vow that we had all taken. I had entered the room when you were sitting with Draupadi. I shall, therefore, enter the forest for one year.  King Yudhisthira tried to persuade him from his resolution, but it was no use. Arjuna was determined to go to the forest.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata Summation to the Seventeenth Chapter of the Adi Parva Entitled, Khandavaprastha.


Chapter Commentary


Dhritarastra was truly blind in all respects, both spiritually and materially. Due to his affection for his deceitful son, he could not understand the right path to take. Althought given good advice by Bhishma, Drona and Vidura, still he could not give up his affection for Duryodhana. Duryodhana attracted persons of the same mentality. Shakuni, Karna, Duhsasana, Asvatthama and others were deceitful by nature and were not fit persons to rule the world or act as advisers. As this age of Kali yuga progressed, kings of the Duryodhana mentality gained power. Because of their devious nature the citizens lost faith in them. As seen in this chapter the citizens were cursing Dhritarastra and Duryodhana for their conspiracy to kill the Pandavas. As this age progresses, things will get worse and worse.

In this material world there is always some happiness and distress. Sometimes we gain something and again we lose it. There is always some upheaval. The dualities of the material world exist as long as we identify with the material body. If we think that we are this body, we will be disturbed by happiness and distress, heat and cold, honor and dishonor, etc. The symptom of a liberated soul is that he is transcendental to these temporary situations. The Pandavas, as we will see, are about to lose their acquired kingdom. However, because they took shelter of Lord Krishna in all circumstances, their so called distress turned out to be happiness. For liberated souls there is never distress as we experience it in this world.



Chapter Eighteen

Arjuna Goes on Pilgrimage


After leaving Indraprastha in the dress of a mendicant, Arjuna came to the bank of the Ganges. He entered the celestial waters to bathe, and while coming out he was seized by some unknown force. Actually it was Ulupi, the daughter of the King of the snakes. She was overcome by the handsome features of Arjuna and thus bitten by Cupid's arrows. She took him below the waters of the Ganges to her mansion. Arjuna then addressed her smilingly, "O beautiful girl, you have certainly performed a rash act! Where have you brought me and whose daughter are you?

"There is a Naga (snake) king named Kauravya,  Ulupi replied, "born in the line of Airavata. I am, O Prince, the daughter of that king and my name is Ulupi. O tiger among men, seeing you bathing in the waters of the Ganga, I have been bitten by the arrows of Cupid. O sinless one, I am still unmarried, and if it pleases you, I can become your wife.

"I have entered the forest for one year  Arjuna said, "to perform atonement for breaking a promise to my brother Yudhisthira. I am not free to act in any way I like. I must strictly undergo the vow of brahmacharya for the period of one year. How, therefore, can I fulfill your desires?

"I know why you are wandering the earth,  Ulupi replied. "Draupadi is your common wife, and by accident you have entered the room where she was sitting with Yudhisthira. Thus you have broken a vow that was made in this connection. But this vow of celibacy is only in relation to Draupadi. Therefore, O Arjuna, it is your duty to relieve my distress. I am your worshiper, and if you do not accept me, I will give up this life.

Thus supplicated by the daughter of the Naga king, Arjuna, the son of Kunti, did everything that she desired. The mighty Arjuna spent that night in the mansion of Ulupi, and in the morning she took him back to the bank of the Ganges. Before leaving she gave him a benediction, "You will be able to defeat every creature of the waters.

Arjuna then traveled to the base of the Himalayan mountains and then east toward the ocean. He then came to the province of Manipur, and desiring to meet the king of that country, he went to his palace. The King of Manipur was Chitravahana, and while in his court, Arjuna happened to see Chitrangada, the beautiful daughter of the King. He was astonished by her beauty and immediately petitioned the King for her hand in marriage. Not recognizing Arjuna because of his ascetic dress, the King inquired, "Who are you, and to what dynasty do you belong?

"I am Arjuna, the son of Pandu and Kunti,  Arjuna replied. The King informed Arjuna, "There was a previous monarch belonging to our dynasty whose name was Prabhanjana. Although he had many queens, he was childless. He underwent severe penances and austerities, and thus he pleased Lord Shiva, who granted him the benediction of a child. However, Lord Shiva told him that each successive king would also only have one child. Each of my forefathers has begotten a son, but I have given birth to a daughter. I will give you my daughter on the condition that the son born from her will be given to me as the next king of Manipur.  Arjuna agreed to the proposal, and thus he married Chitrangada and lived happily for three months in that kingdom.

Arjuna then traveled on pilgrimage to different places in South India. At one holy tirtha, he delivered the Panchapsaras. These Apsaras (beautiful heavenly maidens) were cursed by a great rishi to become alligators. They were cursed to take that form for one-hundred years. Arjuna came to that sacred lake and pulled all five alligators out of the waters. The alligators immediately returned to their normal features as beautiful Apsaras. They then thanked Arjuna and left for the heavenly planets.

Arjuna then went north to the city of Dvaraka. When the sons of the Vrishni dynasty were learning archery from Drona at Hastinapura, Arjuna's good friend had been Gada, one of Lord Krishna's cousins. Gada had told Arjuna about his cousin Subhadra. Arjuna had heard so much about her beauty that he always thought of her. Arjuna was curious and wanted to see her. He thought that since he was dressed as a mendicant, no one would recognize him. With this in mind, he went to Prabhasakshetra near the city of Dvaraka. Arjuna sat underneath a banyan tree, and suddenly it began to rain. He thought deeply of Lord Krishna and hoped He would help him. Lord Krishna was staying that night in the palace of His wife Satyabhama. He had heard that a sadhu had arrived at Prabhas, and because He is the Paramatma within everyone's heart, He knew that it was Arjuna. Lord Krishna began laughing, and wanting to know about the situation, Satyabhama questioned Him. He then replied to her, "My cousin Arjuna has been on pilgrimage for several months and now has come to Dvaraka seeking marriage with Subhadra. Indeed, his heart is filled with thoughts of her. He is sitting under a banyan tree at Prabhas in the pouring rain. I must go and welcome him to Dvaraka.

Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the benefactor of His devotee, then went to Prabhas in the rain and greeted His friend who was sitting under a banyan tree. They embraced, and Lord Krishna was smiling to see His friend in the guise of an ascetic. Arjuna told Krishna of his plan to marry Subhadra, and Krishna agreed to the proposal. Lord Krishna then took Arjuna to Raivataka mountain and told him to reside there for a few days.

One day there was a procession of the Yadus and the Vrishnis traveling to the holy Raivataka mountain. They were coming to worship the gods in the temple. In that procession Arjuna saw the beautiful Subhadra, and as he was contemplating her features, he felt that someone was near him. Arjuna looked up and saw it was Lord Krishna. Smiling, Lord Krishna said, "The attraction in your eyes doesn't seem to fit the dress you are wearing.  Arjuna replied, "Please do not tease me. Tell me the truth. Is that Your sister Subhadra who just passed in the procession?  Krishna replied, "Yes, that is Subhadra. If you are very interested in her, I will tell My father about your desire.  Arjuna said, "I want to marry her. Please tell me how she can become my wife.  Krishna replied, "I think if you sit in the temple courtyard there, everything will take its destined course.  Lord Krishna then left and mingled with His relatives.

Arjuna, in an ascetic's dress, then sat in the courtyard of the temple, and when the worship in the temple was over, the members of the Yadu dynasty headed by Lord Balarama came out and saw the young sage sitting under a tree in deep meditation. The son of Rohini was impressed with the young sage and went over to him. Arjuna was very nervous because he knew of Balarama's anger. Lord Balarama was already in favor of handing His sister over to Duryodhana. Therefore Arjuna had to be careful not to reveal his identiy. Lord Balarama fell prostrate before the young sannyasi and asked him who he was and why he had come to Dvaraka. Arjuna told Lord Baladeva that he was on pilgrimage, and that since it was the rainy season, he needed somewhere to stay. The carrier of the club and plough then suggested the gardens of His sister Subhadra, since it would give a chance for His sister to serve a great ascetic. Besides, He lived close by and the sannyasi could take his meals occasionally at His palace.

Lord Krishna came up to them at this time and offered obeisances to the so-called sannyasi. Lord Krishna was playing the part of an ordinary human being and to set the example for society in general, He offered obeisances to the sannyasi although the whole world bows down to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. Lord Baladeva then told Krishna of His plan, and Krishna expressed His displeasure, "I do not think it advisable for this ascetic to associate with our sister. We don't know anything about him. He is young and handsome, and Subhadra could be attracted to him. But You are wiser than I am, and ultimately you should make the decision.  Lord Balarama replied, "This sannyasi has traveled all over the world and has completely controlled his senses. There is no harm in letting him stay in Subhadra's gardens.

Lord Krishna, acting like an ordinary human being, agreed and took Arjuna to meet Subhadra. Krishna introduced the so-called sannyasi to His sister and informed her of the desires of Lord Baladeva. Subhadra then took the ascetic to the gardens and gave him a place to stay. She served him day after day by getting him water and food to eat. Arjuna would sometimes go to the palace of Lord Balarama and take his meals there. Subhadra would come too, and Arjuna would always look upon her beautiful features. Balarama was much pleased with the great ascetic. Subhadra sometimes could not understand why the ascetic looked at her with burning eyes.

In the city of Dvaraka the name of Arjuna was a household word. When young children challenged each other, it was in the name of Arjuna; and if elders blessed young children, it would be in hopes they would become like Arjuna. Subhadra had heard much about Arjuna, especially from Gada. She developed an attraction for Arjuna by hearing about him, just as Rukmini had developed an attraction for Lord Krishna by hearing His glories. Lord Krishna would also tell her about the wonderful qualities of Arjuna; and if anyone came from Indraprastha, she would inquire about Arjuna from them. From the descriptions given by all these persons, Subhadra began to think that maybe this sannyasi was Arjuna.

One day Subhadra began to question him, "People say that you have traveled all over Bharatvarsha. In your travels surely you must have visited Indraprastha. In that city lives my aunt Kunti and my cousins, the Pandavas. Have you met them?  The so-called sannyasi said that he had.

"I have heard,  Subhadra continued, "that Arjuna has been away from Indraprastha and traveling on pilgrimage like you are. Have you by chance met him?

"Oh yes,  Arjuna replied, "I have met him. In fact, I know where he is at the present moment.

"Where?  asked Subhadra in an excited voice.

"I will tell you,  Arjuna replied, "Arjuna has taken the dress of a sannyasi and is sitting in your garden. How is it that you have not recognized me so far?  Subhadra's face turned red and she looked down. She didn't know what to say. Arjuna explained that he was very attracted to her and wanted to marry her. She listened without speaking a word of reply, and then went away to her chambers.

Lord Krishna, the Omniscient Lord, is the Supersoul of every living entity. He knew the inner desires of both, and thus he went to Arjuna and told him to kidnap her as was the custom amongst the kshatriyas. Arjuna went to Vasudeva and Devaki and took their permission; and on the right day, when Subhadra was visiting the temples of the devas, Arjuna grabbed her by force and took her away. Lord Krishna had given Arjuna His own chariot which was drawn by His horses, Saivya, Meghapuspa, Sugriva, and Balahaka. After taking the beautiful Subhadra on the chariot, he headed in the direction of Indraprastha with the greatest speed.

Everyone soon learned that the so-called sannyasi was Arjuna and that he had forcibly taken Subhadra away. Balarama was furious and wanted to kill Arjuna. Lord Krishna came before Him and pacified Him. He said, "Do not be so angry, My dear brother. Let us consider what has happened. Subhadra has accompanied Arjuna willingly. In fact she readied My chariot and horses and even drove the chariot for Arjuna. Surely she has chosen Arjuna as her lord. What better husband could we have chosen for our sister? He is the brightest jewel in the house of the Kurus. Our families are now more closely allied. Let us go to Indraprastha and make peace with them.  Balarama was convinced by the arguments of His brother and His anger ceased. They all then made plans to attend the wedding ceremony of Arjuna and Subhadra in Indraprastha.

Meanwhile, Arjuna reached the city limits of Indraprastha. He thought of Draupadi and how she would be angry about what had happened. He told Subhadra, "Draupadi will be angry. You must win her affection first. Go to her in the dress of a cowherd girl and say that you are her maidservant. Then tell her that you are Subhadra, the sister of Krishna. She will be charmed, and if she finds out later that I have married you, it will not matter.  Subhadra followed Arjuna's instructions.

Subhadra then went to the chambers of Draupadi in her simple cowherd dress. She offered obeisances to Draupadi and said, "I am the sister of Krishna, Subhadra. Please consider me your maidservant.  Draupadi embraced her and blessed her with sweet words, "May you be the wife of a hero and the mother of a hero.  They sat down and talked for hours about Lord Krishna and Dvaraka.

Suddenly, there was a commotion in the streets of Indraprastha. It was announced that Arjuna had arrived. The streets became crowded, and everyone was overjoyed to see their hero return. They showered him with flowers and spoke of him in sweet words. He soon reached the palace and was greeted by his brothers. He went to Draupadi and inquired if she had heard any news. Draupadi said, "I have already met the cow herd girl. She is very beautiful and welcome in the palace.

Within a few days the Yadus headed by Lord Krishna and Balarama entered the city of Indraprastha and were given a royal reception by the Pandavas and the citizens. Together they celebrated the marriage ceremony of Arjuna and Subhadra. Many costly presents were given by the Yadus and Vrishnis, and after enjoying the ceremony, they went back to Dvaraka City. However, Lord Krishna remained in Indraprastha just to give His association to the Pandavas.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata Summation to the Eighteenth Chapter of the Adi Parva, Entitled, Arjuna Goes on Pilgrimage.


Chapter Commentary


One may question how it is possible for a devotee like Arjuna to be attracte by so many women and at the same time be a pure devotee. The devotees of Lord Krishna cannot be swayed by lust; they are free from all material desires. The answer is that Arjuna was playing the part of a kshatriya (king). All kings were married even if they were pure devotees. The role of a king is that he must be an ideal householder. It was known that King Dasaratha, the father of Lord Ramachandra, had 350 wives, but one cannot say that he was a lusty person. It was common in those days that kings take a number of wives and support them in great opulence. The pure devotees of the Lord are always under the influence of the internal energy of the Lord (yogamaya). Arjuna apparently fell under the sway of family affection just before the Kurukshetra war. He didn't want to kill his relatives. That incident happened by the will of the Lord Krishna so the Bhagavad-gita could be spoken. Similarly, these pastimes of Arjuna are not like the lustful attraction men feel for women in this world, although they appear to be so. Arjuna's gusto to get Subhadra as his wife is because of her relationship to Lord Krishna. Arjuna's attraction for Krishna was far greater than the attraction of any woman of this world. An aspiring devotee cannot imitate Arjuna and at the same time think himself a follower of Lord Krishna. There is a class of people called sahajiyas who imitate Krishna's dancing with the gopis. They engage in illicit sex and at the same time think themselves liberated. Lord Krishna's rasa dance was free from any tinge of lust. We must be very careful in judging eternally liberated souls; we have to follow their instructions and not imitate them.




Chapter Nineteen

Devouring of the Khandava Forest


It was now summertime and the heat had become unbearable. Arjuna went to Lord Krishna and suggested, "Dear Krishna, let us go to the Yamuna. We can spend the day there and come back in the evening.  Lord Krishna welcomed the proposal, and they made preparations to go to the Yamuna River, near the Khandava forest. The ladies, including Draupadi, Subhadra, and Satyabhama, also went on the excursion. They set up an encampment near the bank of that sacred river. Leaving the ladies in their tents, Lord Krishna and Arjuna rode in their chariots along the Yamuna bank.

They soon came upon the Khandava forest, which was so thick with trees that no sunlight could penetrate it. It was inhabited by ferocious animals and was the home of the serpent king Takshaka. The whole forest had a terrifying appearance to it. Lord Krishna and Arjuna sat on a fallen tree at the perimeter of the forest and began talking.

While the two heroes were conversing, a certain brahmana came to them. This brahmana had a complexion like molten gold. His eyes and beard were both red. Lord Krishna and Arjuna stood up to offer respect to the brahmana. They seated him and asked if they could satisfy him with any service. The brahmana then said, "I know You, Lord Krishna, to be the Supreme Godhead and you, Arjuna, to be His eternal companion. Therefore you are both capable of fulfilling my desires. I am very hungry, and wish that you satisfy my hunger.

"If you tell us what kind of food you desire,  Arjuna replied, "then we will try to satisfy you to the best of our ability.

"I do not eat ordinary food,  the brahmana said. "Actually, I am Agni, the fire god. I have been waiting a long time for you both to come here. Previously, in a sacrifice to the demigods, I had been offered too much butter, and now I am suffering from sickness. The only cure is to devour this Khandava forest. However, every time I try to ignite it, Indra descends and safeguards it by pouring water from the heavens. He has a friend living in the forest named Takshaka, a certain king of the serpents whom he protects, and it is for this reason that I am not successful. I know that you both are expert in the divine astras; and if you can ward off the rain, then I can successfully devour the Khandava forest.

Upon hearing this unusual request, Arjuna said, "It is a fact that Krishna and I possess the divine astras. However, I do not own a suitable bow that is capable of bearing all of them. If I am to continue releasing arrows, I must also possess a quiver of arrows that is inexhaustible. I also require a chariot that is comparable to the sun and fine white horses with the speed of the wind. Then also Krishna needs some weapon with which to kill the serpents and ghosts that inhabit this region. If you can supply us with these necessities, then certainly we can help you.

Thus petitioned by Arjuna, the fire god Agni called for the demigod Varuna and appealed to him thus, "Here is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Person and His companion Arjuna. They are in need of certain weapons. You have in your possession a divine bow given to you by Soma and also two inexhaustible quivers of arrows. Please offer them as gifts and also supply the finest chariot drawn by white horses. Please give these for Arjuna is in need of them.

"These things that you ask for,  Varuna replied, "eternally belong to these two great heroes. Here is the celestial Gandiva bow along with two inexhaustible quivers of arrows. This bow equals a hundred thousand bows and cannot be destroyed by any weapon. This multicolored bow that resembles a rainbow will enhance your fame and achievements.

After handing over the Gandiva bow, Varuna then gave Arjuna a golden chariot drawn by four white horses obtained from the regions of the Gandharvas. This chariot was invincible and could not be destroyed by the celestial denizens or the Asuras. It delighted the heart of anyone who saw it. Arjuna was emotional with gratitude. He offered obeisances to Agni and then forcefully strung the multi-colored bow. Whoever heard the twang of that bow was struck with fear. Varuna then gave the Sudarshana chakra to Lord Krishna.

"Formerly, my dear Lord, this weapon belonged to You,  Varuna said. "It has been used to vanquish the demons and the asuras. I am returning it to You after a long time. Here also is Your mace named Kaumodaki, which is capable of killing every demon on earth or in the lower regions. Please use these weapons to again establish religious principles.  Lord Krishna and Arjuna thanked Varuna and prepared to help Agni to fulfill his desires.

Agni then ignited the Khandava forest. The forest was soon surrounded on all sides by burning flames. All the living creatures in the forest were from demoniac species, and as they came out of the forest to escape the heat, they were killed by the arrows of Lord Krishna and Arjuna. As the flames rose in the forest, they seemed to reach the sky, and the demigods became alarmed. Indra, upon seeing the forest being consumed by Agni, caused dark clouds to appear over the region and pour torrents of rain. Water hit the fire causing the forest to be filled with smoke, and in combination with flashes of lightning, the forest became fearful to behold. Then the son of Pandu invoked his astras and covered the entire forest with his innumerable arrows that were as thick as fog.

It so happened that on that day Takshaka, the serpent King, was not in the forest. However, his son Aswasena was present and tried to escape the fire, but could not get outside the network of Arjuna's arrows. Aswasena along with his mother rose into the sky, and as they were making good their escape, Arjuna killed the mother. Indra saw all this, and desiring to save his friend's son, deprived Arjuna of his consciousness by a violent wind. While Arjuna was regaining his consciousness, the son of Takshaka escaped.

When Arjuna saw this, he became furious and wanted to fight with the powerful Indra. He began to release thousands of arrows that filled the whole sky. Indra then produced fierce winds that roared loudly. Masses of clouds began to vomit thunder and terrible flashes of lightning charged with thunderclaps were heard and seen in all directions. Arjuna then released the vayavya weapon to disperse the clouds sent by Indra. When the clouds were destroyed, the sun appeared in the sky again. Colossal birds then appeared and attacked Lord Krishna and Arjuna. Also innumerable Nagas (snakes), with mouths emitting poison and fire, attacked those two heroes. Seeing them approaching, Arjuna cut them to pieces with his arrows. Deprived of their lives, they fell into the fire below.

Indra next sent Asuras, Gandharvas, Yakshas and Rakshasas, who bellowed loudly causing the hearts of all to tremble. They poured upon Arjuna a deluge of arrows, but Partha struck off their heads with his own arrows. Indra, desirous of testing his son's strength, caused a heavy downpour of stones to fall upon Arjuna. Arjuna, however, destroyed that shower of rocks. Indra then released a mountain weapon. Arjuna cut that mountain top into thousands of pieces, and it fell into the forest, causing great distress to the demons and Rakshasas living there. They rose up to escape, but were killed by the discus of Lord Krishna.

When Indra and the demigods saw that Lord Krishna and Arjuna could not be defeated, they glorified the prowess of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Suddenly an unembodied voice from the heavens announced, "O Indra, your friend Takshaka has not been slain. He has presently gone to Kurukshetra . It is impossible for you to defeat Lord Krishna and Arjuna, for they are Narayana and Nara. Krishna is Narayana, the Supreme God, and Arjuna is Nara, his eternal companion. They are invincible in battle. They deserve the worship of all the demigods in heaven. You should, therefore, leave with the host of demigods; the destruction of the Khandava forest has been ordained by fate.  Hearing these words, Indra, the destroyer of the Paka demon, left for his own abode accompanied by the demigods.

As the Khandava forest continued to blaze, an asura of the name Maya tried to escape from the abode of Takshaka. He was chased by Agni as well as Lord Krishna, who was ready to kill him with His disc. Seeing his certain death, Maya ran to Arjuna for shelter pleading, "Protect me, O Arjuna!"

"You need not fear for your life,  Arjuna called out. "You will not be harmed.  Because the demon took shelter of Arjuna, Krishna and Agni desisted from chasing him. The fire continued to rage for hours until the whole forest was burnt to ashes. Then Agni came to Lord Krishna and Arjuna and thanked them for their help. Due to devouring the forest, his health was now restored. Lord Krishna and Arjuna then returned to their camp.


Thus Ends the Mahabharata Summation to the Nineteenth Chapter of the Adi Parva, Entitled, The Burning of the Khandava Forest.



Thus Ends the Adi Parva Section to the Summary Study of Mahabharata.


Chapter Commentary


The contents of this chapter are, seemingly, beyond our sensory experience. We can't imagine a person able to devour a forest by fire, because he ate too much ghee. This seems to be in the realm of mythology. However, the beings in charge of this universe are not ordinary mortals. They are beings empowered by the Supreme Lord. Just like the President has a cabinet to help him manage the government, so the Supreme Lord has administrators to help Him manage the universe. Beings like Brahma, Shiva, Indra, Varuna, Vayu, Soma, Surya and others are in charge of the universal elements. They are given powers capable of manipulating the material elements. However powerful they may seem, still, Lord Krishna is their origin. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita, "Neither the hosts of demigods nor the great sages know My origin, for, in every respect, I am the source of the demigods and the sages.  (B.g. 10.2) These heavenly gods are not seen by the common person, especially in this age of Kali when people are devoid of good qualities.

Fire has a presiding deity, and his name is Agni. The wind and water are presided over by Vayu and Varuna respectively. The planets also have presiding deities. Soma rules the moon, Surya rules the Sun, etc. In order to administrate on behalf of the Lord, these beings are given super human powers not found on earth. They need these powers to do their job. The members of the presidential cabinet are given special powers by the president to do their jobs also. We should not be astonished to hear that a heavenly god devoured a forest by fire. Nothing is spectacular in relation to the Lord. Because something is beyond our sensory experience, we should not think it is mythology.

The Supreme Lord simply enjoys in the kingdom of God while the universe continues to perpetuate itself. Sometimes we see a picture of Atlas struggling to hold up the earth, but God is not like that. He doesn't struggle to create, maintain or annihilate this universe. He simple sets His energies into motion, and they do everything on His behalf. However, when Krishna descends to this earth, He does set an example for others to follow. "O son of Pritha, there is no work prescribed for Me within all three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I need of anything-- and yet I am engaged in work.  (B.g. 3.22) He also states in the ninth chapter of the Gita, "This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.  (B.g. 10.10)

One may ask how Lord Krishna received the Sudarshana chakra from Vayu if it eternally belongs to Him. When Lord Krishna appears on this earth, He displays pastimes like those of a human being. When we think of God, we sometimes think that He must act like we think He should act. However, God is God, and He can do whatever He likes. If He wants to create a pastime where He receives one of His weapons from Varuna, He is free to do so. The heavenly god received the weapon originally from the Lord to begin with. The demigod is simply returning the property to its original owner.