The Mahabharata 15
3:37 h
The Mahābhārata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa. It narrates the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes and their succession. Along with the Rāmāyaṇa, it forms the Hindu Itihasa. It also contains philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four “goals of life” or puruṣārtha (12.161). Among the principal works and stories in the Mahābhārata are the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Damayanti, an abbreviated version of the Rāmāyaṇa, and the story of Ṛṣyasringa, often considered as works in their own right.
The Mahabharata
BOOK 15: Asramavasika Parva
Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr


(Asramavasa Parva)

OM! AFTER HAVING bowed down to Narayana, and Nara, the foremost of men, and unto the goddess Saraswati also, must the word Jaya be uttered.

“Janamejaya said ‘After having acquired their kingdom, how did my grandsires, the high-souled Pandavas, conduct themselves towards the high-souled king Dhritarashtra? How, indeed, did that king who had all his counsellors and sons slain, who was without a refuge, and whose affluence had disappeared, behave? How also did Gandhari of great fame conduct herself? For how many years did my high-souled grandsires rule the kingdom? It behoveth thee to tell me all this.’

“Vaisampayana said, ‘Having got back their kingdom, the high-souled Pandavas, their foes all slain, ruled the Earth, placing Dhritarashtra at their head. Vidura, and Sanjaya and Yuyutsu of great intelligence, who was Dhritarashtra’s son by his Vaisya wife, used to wait upon Dhritarashtra. The Pandavas used to take the opinion of that king in all matters. Indeed, for ten and five years, they did all things under the advice of the old king. Those heroes used very often to go to that monarch and sit beside him, after having worshipped his feet, agreeably to the wishes of king Yudhishthira the just. They did all things under the command of Dhritarashtra who smelt their heads in affection. The daughter of king Kuntibhoja also obeyed Gandhari in everything. Draupadi and Subhadra and the other ladies of the Pandavas behaved towards the old king and the queen as if they were their own father-in-law and mother-in-law. Costly beds and robes and ornaments, and food and drink and other enjoyable articles, in profusion and of such superior kinds as were worthy of royal use, were presented by king Yudhishthira unto Dhritarashtra. Similarly Kunti behaved towards Gandhari as towards a senior. Vidura, and Sanjaya, and Yuyutsu, O thou of Karu’s race, used to always wait upon the old king whose sons had all been slain. The dear brother-in-law of Drona, viz., the very Superior Brahmana, Kripa, that mighty bowman, also attended upon the king. The holy Vyasa also used to often meet with the old monarch and recite to him the histories of old Rishis and celestial ascetics and Pitris and Rakshasas. Vidura, under the orders of Dhritarashtra, superintended the discharge of all acts of religious merit and all that related to the administration of the law. Through the excellent policy of Vidura, by the expenditure of even a small wealth, the Pandavas obtained numerous agreeable services from their feudatories and followers. King Dhritarashtra liberated prisoners and pardoned those that were condemned to death. King Yudhishthira the just never said anything to this. On those occasions when the son of Amvika went on pleasure excursions, the Kuru king Yudhishthira of great energy used to give him every article of enjoyment. Aralikas, and juice-makers, and makers of Ragakhandavas waited on king Dhritarashtra as before. Pandu’s son, collected costly robes and garlands of diverse kinds and duly offered them to Dhritarashtra. Maireya wines, fish of various kinds, and sherbets and honey, and many delightful kinds of food prepared by modifications (of diverse articles), were caused to be made for the old king as in his days of prosperity. Those kings of Earth who came there one after another, all used to wait upon the old Kuru monarch as before. Kunti, and Draupadi, and she of the Sattwata race, possessed of great fame, and Ulupi, the daughter of the snake chief, and queen Chitrangada, and the sister of Dhrishtaketu, and the daughter of Jarasandha, — these and many other ladies, O chief of men, used to wait upon the daughter of Suvala like maids of all work. That Dhritarashtra, who was deprived of all his children, might not feel unhappy in any matter, was what Yudhishthira often said unto his brothers to see. They also, on their part, listening to these commands of grave import from king Yudhishthira, showed particular obedience to the old king. There was one exception, however. It embraced Bhimasena. All that had followed from that match at dice which had been brought about by the wicked understanding of Dhritarashtra, did not disappear from the heart of that hero.(He remembered those incidents still).”’


“Vaisampayana said, ‘Thus worshipped by the Pandavas, the royal soil of Amvika passed his time happily as before, waited upon and honoured by the Rishis. That perpetuator of Kuru’s race used to make those foremost of offerings which should be given to the Brahmanas. The royal son of Kunti always placed those articles under Dhritarashtra’s control. Destitute of malice as king Yudhishthira was, he was always affectionate towards his uncle. Addressing his brothers and councillors, the king said, ‘King Dhritarashtra should be honoured both by myself and you all. He. indeed, is a well-wisher of mine who is obedient to the commands of Dhritarashtra. He, on the other hand, who behaves otherwise towards him, is my enemy. Such a man should certainly be punished by me. On days of performing the rites ordained for the Pitris, as also in the Sraddhas performed for his sons and all well-wishers, the high-souled Kuru king Dhritarashtra, gave away unto Brahmanas, as each deserved, as profuse measures of wealth as he liked. King Yudhishthira the just, and Bhima, and Arjuna, and the twins, desirous of doing what was agreeable to the old king, used to execute all his orders. They always took care that the old king who was afflicted with the slaughter of his sons and grandsons, — with, that is, grief caused by the Pandavas themselves, — might not die of his grief Indeed, the Pandavas bore themselves towards him in such a way that that Kuru hero might not be deprived of that happiness and all those articles of enjoyment which had been his while his sons lived. The five brothers, viz., the sons of Pandu, behaved themselves even thus towards Dhritarashtra, living under his command. Dhritarashtra also, seeing them so humble and obedient to his commands and acting towards him as disciples towards preceptors, adopted the affectionate behaviour of a preceptor towards them in return. Gandhari, by performing the diverse rites of the Sraddha and making gifts unto Brahmanas of diverse objects of enjoyment, became freed from the debt she owed to her slain children. Thus did that foremost of righteous men, viz., king Yudhishthira the just, possessed of great intelligence, along with his brothers, worship king Dhritarashtra.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Possessed of great energy, that perpetuator of Kuru’s race, viz., the old king Dhritarashtra, could not notice any ill-will in Yudhishthira Seeing that the high-souled Pandavas were in the observance of a wise and righteous conduct, king Dhritarashtra, the son of Amvika, became gratified with them. Suvala’s daughter, Gandhari, casting off all sorrow for her (slain) children, began to show great affection for the Pandavas as if they were her own children. Endued with great energy, the Kuru king Yudhishthira, never did anything that was disagreeable to the royal son of Vichitraviryya. On the other hand, he always behaved towards him in a highly agreeable way. Whatever acts, grave or light, were directed by king Dhritarashtra, or the helpless Gandhari to be done, were all accomplished with reverence, O monarch, by that slayer of hostile heroes, viz., the Pandava king. The old king became highly gratified with such conduct of Yudhishthira. Indeed, he was grieved at the remembrance of his own wicked son. Rising every day at early dawn, he purified himself and went through his recitations, and then blessed the Pandavas by wishing them victory in battle. Making the usual gifts unto the Brahmanas and causing them to utter benedictions, and Pouring libations on the sacred fire, the old king prayed for long life to the Pandavas. Indeed, the king had never derived that great happiness from his own sons which he always derived from the sons of Pandu. King Yudhishthira at that time became as agreeable to the Brahmanas as to the Kshatriyas, and the diverse bands of Vaisyas and Sudras of his realm. Whatever wrongs were done to him by the sons of Dhritarashtra, king Yudhishthira, forgot them all, and reverenced his uncle. If any man did anything that was not agreeable to the son of Amvika, he became thereby an object of hatred to the intelligent son of Kunti. Indeed, through fear of Yudhishthira, nobody could talk of the evil deeds of either Duryodhana or Dhritarashtra. Both Gandhari and Vidura also wore well pleased with the capacity the king Ajatasatru showed for bearing wrongs. They were, however, not so pleased, O slayer of foes, with Bhima. Dharma’s son, Yudhishthira, was truly obedient to his uncle. Bhima, however, at the sight of Dhritarashtra, became very cheerless. That slayer of foes, seeing Dharma’s son reverencing the old king, reverenced him outwardly with a very unwilling heart.”’


“Vaisampayana said, ‘The people who lived in the Kuru kingdom failed to notice any variance in the cordiality that subsisted between king Yudhishthira and the father of Duryodhana. When the Kuru king recollected his wicked son, he then could not but feel unfriendly, in his heart, towards Bhima. Bhimasena also, O king, impelled by a heart that seemed to be wicked, was unable to put up with king Dhritarashtra. Vrikodara secretly did many acts that were disagreeable to the old king. Through deceitful servitors he caused the commands of his uncle to be disobeyed. Recollecting the evil counsels of the old king and some acts of his, Bhima, one day, in the midst of his friends, slapped his armpits, in the hearing of Dhritarashtra and of Gandhari. The wrathful Vrikodara, recollecting his foes Duryodhana and Karna and Dussasana, gave way to a transport of passion, and said these harsh words: ‘The sons of the blind king, capable of fighting with diverse kinds of weapons, have all been despatched by me to the other world with these arms of mine that resemble a pair of iron clubs. Verily, these are those two arms of mine, looking like maces of iron, and invincible by foes, coming within whose clasp the sons of Dhritarashtra have all met with destruction. These are those two well-developed and round arms of mine, resembling a pair of elephantine trunks. Coming within their clasp, the foolish sons of Dhritarashtra have all met with destruction. Smeared with sandal-paste and deserving of that adornment are those two arms of mine by which Duryodhana has been despatched to the other world along with all his sons and kinsmen.’ Hearing these and many other words, O king, of Vrikodara, that were veritable darts, king Dhritarashtra gave way to cheerlessness and sorrow. Queen Gandhari, however, who was conversant with every duty and possessed of great intelligence, and who knew what Time brings on its course, regarded them as untrue. After five and ten years had passed away, O monarch, king Dhritarashtra afflicted (constantly) by the wordy darts of Bhima, became penetrated with despair and grief. King Yudhishthira the son of Kunti, however, knew it not; nor Arjuna of white steeds, nor Kunti; nor Draupadi possessed of great fame; nor the twin sons of Madri, conversant with every duty and who were always engaged in acting after the wishes of Dhritarashtra. Employed in doing the behests of the king, the twins never said anything that was disagreeable to the old king. Then Dhritarashtra one day honoured his friends by his confidence. Addressing ‘them with tearful eyes, He said these words.’

“Dhritarashtra said, ‘How the destruction of the Kurus has happened is well known to you. All that was brought about by my fault though the Kauravas approved of all my counsels. Fool that I was, I installed the wicked minded Duryodhana, that enhancer of the terrors of kinsmen, to rule over the Kurus. Vasudeva had said unto me, ‘Let this sinful wretch of wicked understanding be killed along with all his friends and counsellors.’ I did not listen to those words of grave import. All wisemen gave me the same beneficial advice. Vidura, and Bhishma, and Drona, and Kripa, said the same thing. The holy and high-souled Vyasa repeatedly said the same, as also Sanjaya and Gandhari. Overwhelmed, however, by filial affection, I could not follow that advice. Bitter repentance is now my lot for my neglect. I also repent for not having bestowed that blazing prosperity, derived from sires and grand sires, on the high-souled Pandavas possessed of every accomplishment. The eldest brother of Gada foresaw the destruction of all the kings; Janarddana, however, regarded that destruction as highly beneficial. So many Anikas of troops, belonging tome, have been destroyed. Alas, my heart is pierced with thousands of darts in consequence of all these results. Of wicked understanding as I am, now after the lapse of five and ten years, I am seeking to expiate my sins. Now at the fourth division of the day or sometimes at the eighth division, with the regularity of a vow, I eat a little food for simply conquering my thirst. Gandhari knows this. All my attendants are under the impression that I eat as usual. Through fear of Yudhishthira alone I concealed my acts, for if the eldest son of Pandu came to know of my vow, he would feel great pain. Clad in deer-skin, I lie down on the Earth, spreading a small quantity of Kusa grass, and pass the time in silent recitations. Gandhari of great fame passes her time in the observance of similar vows. Even thus do we both behave, we that have lost a century of gong none of whom even retreated from battle. I do not, however, grieve for those children of mine. They have all died in the observance of Kshatriya duties.’ Having said these words, the old king then addressed Yudhishthira in particular and said, ‘Blessed be thou, O son of the princess of Yadu’s race. Listen now to what I say. Cherished by thee, O son, I have lived these years very happily. I have (with thy help) made large gifts and performed Sraddhas repeatedly. I have, O son, to the best of my power, achieved merit largely. This Gandhari, though destitute of sons, has lived with great fortitude, looking all the while at me. They whom inflicted great wrongs on Draupadi and robbed thee of thy affluence, — those cruel wights — have all left the world, slain in battle agreeably to the practice of their order.

I have nothing to do for them, O delighter of the Kurus. Stain with their faces towards battle, they have attained to those regions which are for wielders of weapons. I should now accomplish what is beneficial and meritorious for me as also for Gandhari. It behoveth thee, O great king, to grant me permission. Thou art the foremost of all righteous persons. Thou art always devoted to righteousness. The king is the preceptor of all creatures. It is for this that I say so. With thy permission, O hero, I shall retire into the woods, clad in rags and barks. O king, alone with this Gandhari, I shall live in the woods, always blessing thee. It is meet, O son, for the members of our race, to make over sovereignty, when old age comes, to children and lead the forest mode of life. Subsisting there on air alone, or abstaining from all food, I shall, with this wife of mine, O hero, practise severe austerities. Thou shalt be a sharer of these penances, O son, for thou art the king. Kings are sharers of both auspicious and inauspicious acts done in their kingdom.’

“Yudhishthira said, ‘When thou, O king, art thus subject to grief, sovereignty does not please me at all. Fie on me that am of wicked understanding, devoted to the pleasures of rule, and utterly heedless of my true concerns. Alas, I, with all my brothers, was ignorant of thyself having so long been afflicted with grief, emaciated with fasts, abstaining from food, and lying on the bare ground. Alas, foolish that I am, I have been deceived by thee that hast deep intelligence, inasmuch as, having inspired me with confidence at first thou hast latterly undergone such grief. What need have I of kingdom or of articles of enjoyment, what need of sacrifices or of happiness, when thou, O king, hast undergone go much affliction? I regard my kingdom as a disease, and myself also as afflicted. Plunged though I am in sorrow, what, however, is the use of these words that I am addressing thee? Thou art our father, thou art our mother; thou art our foremost of superiors. Deprived of thy presence, how shall we live? O best of king, let Yuyutsu, the son of thy loins, be made king, or, indeed, anybody else whom thou mayst wish. I shall go into the woods. Do thou rule the kingdom. It behoveth thee not to burn me that am already burned by infamy. I am not the king. Thou art the king. I am dependent on thy will. How can I dare grant permission to thee that art my preceptor? O sinless one, I harbour no resentment in my heart on account of the wrongs done to us by Suyodhana. It was ordained that it should be so. Both ourselves and others were stupefied (by fate). We are thy children as Duryodhana and others were. My conviction is that Gandhari is as much my mother as Kunti. If thou, O king of kings, goest to the woods leaving me, I shall the, follow thee. I swear by my soul. This Earth, with her belt of seas, go full of wealth, will not be a source of joy to me when I am deprived of thy presence. All this belongs to thee. I gratify thee, bending my head. We are all dependent on thee, O king of kings. Let the fever of thy heart be dispelled. I think, O lord of Earth, that all this that has come upon thee is due to destiny. By good luck, I had thought, that waiting upon thee and executing thy commands obediently, I would rescue thee from the fever of thy heart.’

“Dhritarashtra said, ‘O delighter of the Kurus, my mind is fixed, O son, on penances. O puissant one, it is meet for our race that I should retire into the woods. I have lived long under thy protection, O son, I have for many years been served by thee with reverence. I am now old. It behoveth thee, O king, to grant me permission (to take up my abode in the woods).’