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Lamentation Over the Dead Relatives
After the Kurukshetra war was over, King Dhritarastra, accompanied by Gandhari and the other wives of the dead warriors, proceeded toward the Kurukshetra battlefield. When they arrived there, they met the Pandavas and Lord Shri Krishna. The Pandavas offered obeisances unto the King, and the King in turn embraced each one of them reluctantly. Having embraced Yudhisthira and spoken words of comfort for the loss of his sons, the blind King sought to embrace Bhima. Knowing the intentions of Dhritarastra, Lord Krishna took Bhima to the side and put an iron statue of Bhima in his place. That statue had been kept in the Kaurava camp, and Duryodhana had daily practiced on it with his mace. When Dhritarastra had seized the iron statue of Bhima, he squeezed it with all his strength and thus crushed it into dust. The King's chest was bruised, and he began to vomit blood. Sanjaya came to his side, and lifted him up saying, Do not act in this way.
Understanding what had happened, Dhritarastra thought that he had killed Bhima, and tears of lamentation came to his eyes. Seeing that the blind King was truly repenting for his attempted murder, the lotus eyed Lord Vasudeva said, Do not grieve, O King, for Bhima has not been slain. It was an iron statue that you embraced. Through grief for your sons' death, you are acting in this way, but Bhima's death would not have brought you any happiness. Why do you cherish such wrath when all that has happened to you is a result of your own foolishness? I had spoken to you before the battle, and you had been advised by Bhishma, Drona and Vidura. You did not, however, take our advice. Overcome by affection for your cruel son, you allowed him to control you. Your wicked son has reaped the sinful reaction of dragging Draupadi into the king's assembly. The sons of Pandu are innocent of any fault, yet, still, they were mistreated by you and your sons.
Knowing Lord Krishna's words to be truth, Dhritarastra called for Bhima and embraced him out of affection. He also embraced Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva and pronounced blessings upon them. He then told them to offer their respects to Gandhari. Thus being ordered by the King, the Pandavas, headed by Yudhisthira, proceeded toward the chaste lady. Gandhari, on account of grief for her one hundred children, wanted to curse the Pandavas. Understanding her evil intentions, Vyasadeva appeared on the scene. He then instructed his daughter-in-law as follows, Do not curse the faultless Pandavas! You should not be angry, but forgiving. Restrain the words that are about to fall from your lips. Everyday, before the battle, your son would come to you requesting, Mother, bless me in my fight with the enemy.' Your answer everyday was, There will be victory where there is righteousness.' These blessings were not uttered in vain for those who are righteous have won this great battle. You have always been one to forgive others. Now is the time to use this virtue, and show affection towards the sons of Pandu.
O holy one, Gandhari replied, I do not cherish any ill feelings toward the Pandavas. By the fault of Duryodhana, Duhshasana, Shakuni and Karna, the annihilation of these warriors has taken place. However, there is one act that Bhima committed in the presence of Vasudeva that I cannot tolerate. While Bhima was fighting with my son, and finding it difficult to defeat him, he struck Duryodhana below the waist and thus killed him unfairly. It is this action that has kindled my wrath.
Hearing Gandhari's words, Bhima replied, Your mighty son was incapable of being slain by fair means. Certainly there is no warrior who could compete with Duryodhana in the use of the mace. Formerly, Duryodhana cheated Yudhisthira unfairly at a game of dice. He also caused Draupadi to be dragged into a King's assembly and ordered that she be undressed. He then showed her his thigh. For that immoral behavior, I vowed to break those thighs. Your son has reaped the fruits of his sinful activities. When we were exiled in the forest, your son was always planning some crooked scheme to put us into difficulty. Remembering all these atrocities, I have slain him and thus ended the deadly hostilities between us.
All that you have said about Duryodhana is true, Gandhari replied, and most certainly he has met with a death that he deserves. There was, however, another act that you have performed that was most heinous. After you killed my son Duhshasana, you drank the blood from his chest. Such an act is most wicked and resembles the behavior of Rakshasas and not of great heroes. Such a abominable act in never sanctioned by the codes of fighting and is condemned by all.
When the unfair gambling match took place in Hastinapura, Bhima replied, Duhshasana seized Draupadi's sanctified hair. At that time I took a vow that I would drink his blood for that sinful act. The fact is, however, that the blood never passed my lips. I never actually drank the blood of Duhshasana. Karna new this well. For fulfilling the vow I had taken after the gambling match, I apparently drank his blood. You should not, O Gandhari, find any fault in me. Without having restrained your sons in former days from their sinful acts, you should not grieve when the reaction accrues to those sinful deeds.
Gandhari tearfully said, You have killed the hundred sons of this elderly man without leaving even one to act as a crutch to this old blind couple. Alas, why did you not spare just one child?
Lamenting greatly the loss of her sons, Gandhari inquired, Where is Yudhisthira? At that time Yudhisthira went to Gandhari and offered his obeisances. Yudhisthira said, I am here, O venerable mother. It is I who have slain your sons. I deserve all your curses for I am the cause of this mass slaughter. Gandhari said nothing but lifted her blindfold slightly and burnt the tips of Yudhisthira's fingers. Seeing this action, Arjuna moved behind Lord Krishna, and the other Pandavas moved some distance away. After casting off her anger in the form of burning Yudhisthira's finger nails, she became compassionate upon them and began to treat them with motherly affection.
Taking leave of Gandhari, the Pandavas proceeded to their mother, Kunti, whom they had not seen in a long time. They offered her obeisances, and out of maternal love, Kunti embraced each of them and shed incessant tears. She then comforted Draupadi who was still lamenting the loss of her five sons.
At this time Gandhari was given the vision, by dint of her penances and austerities, to see the slain warriors on the Kurukshetra plain. While Lord Krishna was standing next to her, she saw the great maharathis and adhirathas laying on the field of battle. She saw their wives lamenting over their bodies. She could see her son Duryodhana as well as her other sons. She saw Karna, Bhishma, Drona, Salya, Jayadratha, Bhurishravas, as well as the Pandava generals, all slain in battle. As she saw the wives of those great warriors lamenting over the dead bodies, she felt great compassion. Within her heart she blamed Krishna for the mass slaughter. She then cursed Lord Krishna, The Pandava warriors and the Kauravas have been slain on this field of Kurukshetra. While they were being killed, why were You indifferent? You were competent to prevent the slaughter of this vast force of men. Since You have deliberately neglected this massacre, You will reap the fruit of this act. By what little merit I have acquired through being chaste to my husband, I will curse You. O wielder of the discus and mace, since You have looked indifferently upon the death of all these men, I curse You that Your family will die by fratricide, and just as the Kuru women are lamenting the death of these great warriors, so also the Yadu and Vrishni women will lament the death of their husbands.
After Gandhari had cursed His family, the lotus eyed Lord smiled and calmly replied, There are none in this world who could cause the death of the Yadu heroes except Myself. I have been contemplating how their demise would take place. In uttering this curse, you have aided Me in accomplishing this task. The Vrishnis are incapable of being slain by any other warriors including the heavenly gods and demons. The Yadavas shall therefore, die by the weapons of one another. O foremost of all chaste women, I approve of this curse.
Lord Krishna continued speaking, O Gandhari, do not set your heart on revenge. Through your fault this vast carnage has taken place. Your son, Duryodhana, was wicked, envious, and arrogant. Encouraging him, either by words or by silence, you have given him support. You knew the wickedness of your brother Shakuni. Why did you allow him to make friendship with Duryodhana. You were negligent and not I. Why did you look indifferently on the gambling match and not speak up when the Pandavas were mistreated. By your silence, you encouraged the sinful activities of your son. You are responsible for the deaths of all these men. I endeavored to stop this war. I came to Hastinapura to make peace, but your vicious son would not listen. It was in your power to have him arrested and thrown in prison, but out of affection you did not follow My advice. You also knew about the burning of the house of lac before it happened. Your husband also knew, but both of you looked in another direction. This massacre of men is the fruit of your indifference toward your son's nefarious activities. Do not blame Me for all that has happened. Hearing these truthful words from Lord Shri Krishna, Gandhari said nothing.
Dhritarastra then spoke to Yudhisthira, It is now necessary to see to the last funeral rites of all these dead warriors. Yudhisthira then took the necessary steps to see that all the warriors on the battlefield, numbering six hundred and forty million, be given a proper funeral. Their bodies, as well as their weapons and chariots, were piled in great mountains with wood and burned.
After this, the Pandavas and the Kauravas went to the banks of the Ganges to offer oblations to the dead relatives. The wives and relatives of the dead warriors were numerous. When it was time for Karna's relatives to offer water, Kunti stepped forward and offered her oblation. Everyone looked on with curiosity at her actions. Ashamed and tearful, Kunti gathered her sons together and confessed to them, This great hero, the leader of an akshauhini division, who has been killed by Arjuna and who you took to be Radha's son, who appeared like Surya himself among Duryodhana's forces, who was unretreating in battle, and who knew no fatigue or exhaustion, was actually your elder brother. You must offer oblations to Karna, who was born from the union of the Sun god and myself. That great hero, who was born with natural golden armor and earrings, was undefeatable in battle. Because I was unmarried and still living with my father, I was forced to cast him into the Ganges to save myself from shame. The child was picked up by Adhiratha and Radha and raised by them, but in actuality, he was my son.
Hearing these shocking words from their mother, the Pandavas were speechless. For some time they meditated on the thought that Karna was their brother, and upon doing so, their lamentation increased. Yudhisthira said, Alas, mother, you have burdened our hearts with yet another sorrow. Why did you neglect to tell us before? The grief I feel now is a hundred times greater than the grief I felt upon the death of Abhimanyu or Draupadi's sons. The thought that Karna was my elder brother is burning my limbs. Yudhisthira could not speak another word and his brothers were standing next to him with tearful eyes, remembering how Karna had neglected to kill them in battle. They suddenly felt great affection in their hearts, but could say nothing in reply to their mother's confession.
Yudhisthira then called for Karna's wives and other relatives to come forward. He informed them of Karna's relation with Kunti, and together they offered water to the great son of Surya. Yudhisthira then bathed in the Ganges, but after rising from the waters, he could not shake the grief he felt for the mass annihilation of warriors at Kurukshetra.
Thus Ends the Stree Parva, Entitled, Lamentation Over the Dead Relatives.