The Mahabharata 4
Vyāsa
Hindu
7:18 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 4: Virata Parva
Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr.

Section I

Pandava-Pravesa Parva

OM! Having bowed down to Narayana, and Nara, the most exalted of male beings, and also to the goddess Saraswati, must the word Jaya be uttered.

Janamejaya said, “How did my great-grandfathers, afflicted with the fear of Duryodhana, pass their days undiscovered in the city of Virata? And, O Brahman, how did the highly blessed Draupadi, stricken with woe, devoted to her lords, and ever adoring the Deity , spend her days unrecognised?”

Vaisampayana said, “Listen, O lord of men, how thy great grandfathers passed the period of unrecognition in the city of Virata. Having in this way obtained boons from the god of Justice, that best of virtuous men, Yudhishthira, returned to the asylum and related unto the Brahmanas all that had happened. And having related everything unto them, Yudhishthira restored to that regenerate Brahmana, who had followed him the churning staff and the fire-sticks he had lost. And, O Bharata, the son of the god of Justice, the royal Yudhishthira of high soul then called together all his younger brothers and addressed them, saying, ‘Exiled from our kingdom, we have passed twelve years. The thirteenth year, hard to spend, hath now come. Do thou therefore, O Arjuna, the son of Kunti, select some spot where we may pass our days undiscovered by our enemies.’”

Arjuna replied, “Even by virtue of Dharma’s boon, we shall, O lord of men, range about undiscovered by men. Still, for purposes of residence, I shall mention some spots that are both delightful and secluded. Do thou select some one of them. Surrounding the kingdom of the Kurus, are, many countries beautiful and abounding in corn, such as Panchala, Chedi, Matsya, Surasena, Pattachchara, Dasarna, Navarashtra, Malla, Salva, Yugandhara, Saurashtra, Avanti, and the spacious Kuntirashtra. Which of these, O king, wouldst thou choose, and where, O foremost of monarchs, shall we spend this year?”

Yudhishthira said “O them of mighty arms, it is even so. What that adorable Lord of all creatures hath said must become true. Surely, after consulting together, we must select some delightful, auspicious, and agreeable region for our abode, where we may live free from fear. The aged Virata, king of the Matsyas, is virtuous and powerful and charitable, and is liked by all. And he is also attached to the Pandavas. Even in the city of Virata, O child, we shall, O Bharata, spend this year, entering his service. Tell me, ye sons of the Kuru race, in what capacities ye will severally present yourselves before the king of the Matsyas!”

Arjuna said, “O god among men, what service wilt thou take in Virata’s kingdom? O righteous one, in what capacity wilt thou reside in the city of Virata? Thou art mild, and charitable, and modest, and virtuous, and firm in promise. What wilt thou, O king, afflicted as thou art with calamity, do? A king is qualified to bear trouble like an ordinary person. How wilt thou overcome this great calamity that has overtaken thee?”

Yudhishthira replied, “Ye sons of the Kuru race, ye bulls among men, hear what I shall do on appearing before king Virata. Presenting myself as a Brahmana, Kanka by name, skilled in dice and fond of play, I shall become a courtier of that high-souled king. And moving upon chess-boards beautiful pawns made of ivory, of blue and yellow and red and white hue, by throws of black and red dice. I shall entertain the king with his courtiers and friends. And while I shall continue to thus delight the king, nobody will succeed in discovering me. And should the monarch ask me, I shall say, ‘Formerly I was the bosom friend of Yudhishthira.’ I tell you that it is thus that I shall pass my days (in the city of Virata). What office wilt thou, O Vrikodara, fill in the city of Virata?”


Section II

Bhima said, “I intend to present myself before the lord of Virata as a cook bearing the name of Vallabha. I am skilled in culinary art, and I shall prepare curries for the king, and excelling all those skilful cooks that had hitherto dressed his food I shall gratify the monarch. And I shall carry mighty loads of wood. And witnessing that mighty feat, the monarch will be pleased. And, O Bharata, beholding such superhuman feats of mine, the servants of the royal household will honour me as a king. And I shall have entire control over all kinds of viands and drinks. And commanded to subdue powerful elephants and mighty bulls, I will do as bidden. And if any combatants will fight with me in the lists, then will I vanquish them, and thereby entertain the monarch. But I shall not take the life of any of them. I shall only bring them down in such way that they may not be killed. And on being asked as regards my antecedent I shall say that Formerly I was the wrestler and cook of Yudhishthira. Thus shall I, O king, maintain myself.”

Yudhishthira said, “And what office will be performed by that mighty descendant of the Kurus, Dhananjaya, the son of Kunti, that foremost of men possessed of long arms, invincible in fight, and before whom, while he was staying with Krishna, the divine Agni himself desirous of consuming the forest of Khandava had formerly appeared in the guise of a Brahmana? What office will be performed by that best of warriors, Arjuna, who proceeded to that forest and gratified Agni, vanquishing on a single car and slaying huge Nagas and Rakshasas, and who married the sister of Vasuki himself, the king of the Nagas? Even as the sun is the foremost of all heat-giving bodies, as the Brahmana is the best of all bipeds, as the cobra is the foremost of all serpents, as Fire is the first of all things possessed of energy, as the thunderbolt is the foremost of all weapons, as the humped bull is the foremost of all animals of the bovine breed, as the ocean is the foremost of all watery expanses, as clouds charged with rain are the foremost of all clouds, as Ananta is the first of all Nagas, as Airavata is the foremost of all elephants, as the son is the foremost of all beloved objects, and lastly, as the wife is the best of all friends, so, O Vrikodara, is the youthful Gudakesa, the foremost of all bowmen. And O Bharata, what office will be performed by Vibhatsu, the wielder of Gandiva, whose car is drawn by white horses, and who is not inferior to Indra or Vasudeva Himself? What office will be performed by Arjuna who, dwelling for five years in the abode of the thousand-eyed Deity (Indra) shining in celestial lustre, acquired by his own energy the science of superhuman arms with all celestial weapons, and whom I regard as the tenth Rudra, the thirteenth Aditya, the ninth Vasu, and the tenth Graha, whose arms, symmetrical and long, have the skin hardened by constant strokes of the bowstring and cicatrices which resemble those on the humps of bulls, that foremost of warriors who is as Himavat among mountains, the ocean among expanses of water, Sakra among the celestial, Havya-vaha (fire) among the Vasus, the tiger among beasts, and Garuda among feathery tribes!”

Arjuna replied, “O lord of the Earth, I will declare myself as one of the neuter sex. O monarch, it is, indeed difficult to hide the marks of the bowstring on my arms. I will, however, cover both my cicatrized arms with bangles. Wearing brilliant rings on my ears and conch-bangles on my wrists and causing a braid to hang down from my head, I shall, O king, appear as one of the third sex, Brihannala by name. And living as a female I shall (always) entertain the king and the inmates of the inner apartments by reciting stories. And, O king, I shall also instruct the women of Virata’s palace in singing and delightful modes of dancing and in musical instruments of diverse kinds. And I shall also recite the various excellent acts of men and thus conceal myself, O son of Kunti, by feigning disguise. And, O Bharata should the king enquire, I will say that, I lived as a waiting maid of Draupadi in Yudhishthira’s palace. And, O foremost of kings, concealing myself by this means, as fire is concealed by ashes, I shall pass my days agreeably in the palace of Virata.”

Vaisampayana continued, “Having said this, Arjuna, that best of men and foremost of virtuous persons, became silent. Then the king addressed another brother of his.”


Section III