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Chapter 3

Mahabharata English - ASRAMAVASIKA PARVA

“Vaisampayana said, ‘The people who lived in the Kuru kingdom failed tonotice any variance in the cordiality that subsisted between kingYudhishthira and the father of Duryodhana. When the Kuru king recollectedhis wicked son, he then could not but feel unfriendly, in his heart,towards Bhima. Bhimasena also, O king, impelled by a heart that seemed tobe wicked, was unable to put up with king Dhritarashtra. Vrikodarasecretly did many acts that were disagreeable to the old king. Throughdeceitful 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 thehearing of Dhritarashtra and of Gandhari. The wrathful Vrikodara,recollecting his foes Duryodhana and Karna and Dussasana, gave way to atransport of passion, and said these harsh words: ‘The sons of the blindking, capable of fighting with diverse kinds of weapons, have all beendespatched by me to the other world with these arms of mine that resemblea pair of iron clubs. Verily, these are those two arms of mine, lookinglike maces of iron, and invincible by foes, coming within whose clasp thesons of Dhritarashtra have all met with destruction. These are those twowell-developed and round arms of mine, resembling a pair of elephantinetrunks. Coming within their clasp, the foolish sons of Dhritarashtra haveall met with destruction. Smeared with sandal-paste and deserving of thatadornment are those two arms of mine by which Duryodhana has beendespatched to the other world along with all his sons and kinsmen.’Hearing these and many other words, O king, of Vrikodara, that wereveritable darts, king Dhritarashtra gave way to cheerlessness and sorrow.Queen Gandhari, however, who was conversant with every duty and possessedof great intelligence, and who knew what Time brings on its course,regarded them as untrue. After five and ten years had passed away, Omonarch, king Dhritarashtra afflicted (constantly) by the wordy darts ofBhima, became penetrated with despair and grief. King Yudhishthira theson of Kunti, however, knew it not; nor Arjuna of white steeds, norKunti; nor Draupadi possessed of great fame; nor the twin sons of Madri,conversant with every duty and who were always engaged in acting afterthe wishes of Dhritarashtra. Employed in doing the behests of the king,the twins never said anything that was disagreeable to the old king. ThenDhritarashtra 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 iswell known to you. All that was brought about by my fault though theKauravas approved of all my counsels. Fool that I was, I installed thewicked minded Duryodhana, that enhancer of the terrors of kinsmen, torule over the Kurus. Vasudeva had said unto me, ‘Let this sinful wretchof wicked understanding be killed along with all his friends andcounsellors.’ I did not listen to those words of grave import. Allwisemen gave me the same beneficial advice. Vidura, and Bhishma, andDrona, and Kripa, said the same thing. The holy and high-souled Vyasarepeatedly said the same, as also Sanjaya and Gandhari. Overwhelmed,however, by filial affection, I could not follow that advice. Bitterrepentance is now my lot for my neglect. I also repent for not havingbestowed that blazing prosperity, derived from sires and grand sires, onthe high-souled Pandavas possessed of every accomplishment. The eldestbrother of Gada foresaw the destruction of all the kings; Janarddana,however, regarded that destruction as highly beneficial.[2] So manyAnikas of troops, belonging tome, have been destroyed. Alas, my heart ispierced with thousands of darts in consequence of all these results. Ofwicked 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 orsometimes at the eighth division, with the regularity of a vow, I eat alittle food for simply conquering my thirst. Gandhari knows this. All myattendants are under the impression that I eat as usual. Through fear ofYudhishthira alone I concealed my acts, for if the eldest son of Panducame to know of my vow, he would feel great pain. Clad in deer-skin, Ilie down on the Earth, spreading a small quantity of Kusa grass, and passthe time in silent recitations. Gandhari of great fame passes her time inthe observance of similar vows. Even thus do we both behave, we that havelost 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 theobservance of Kshatriya duties.’ Having said these words, the old kingthen addressed Yudhishthira in particular and said, ‘Blessed be thou, Oson of the princess of Yadu’s race. Listen now to what I say. Cherishedby thee, O son, I have lived these years very happily. I have (with thyhelp) made large gifts and performed Sraddhas repeatedly.[3] I have, Oson, to the best of my power, achieved merit largely. This Gandhari,though destitute of sons, has lived with great fortitude, looking all thewhile at me. They whom inflicted great wrongs on Draupadi and robbed theeof thy affluence,–those cruel wights–have all left the world, slain inbattle agreeably to the practice of their order.

I have nothing to do for them, O delighter of the Kurus. Stain with theirfaces towards battle, they have attained to those regions which are forwielders of weapons.[4] I should now accomplish what is beneficial andmeritorious 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 ofall 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 withthis Gandhari, I shall live in the woods, always blessing thee. It ismeet, O son, for the members of our race, to make over sovereignty, whenold age comes, to children and lead the forest mode of life. Subsistingthere on air alone, or abstaining from all food, I shall, with this wifeof mine, O hero, practise severe austerities. Thou shalt be a sharer ofthese penances, O son, for thou art the king. Kings are sharers of bothauspicious and inauspicious acts done in their kingdom.'[5]

“Yudhishthira said, ‘When thou, O king, art thus subject to grief,sovereignty does not please me at all. Fie on me that am of wickedunderstanding, devoted to the pleasures of rule, and utterly heedless ofmy true concerns. Alas, I, with all my brothers, was ignorant of thyselfhaving so long been afflicted with grief, emaciated with fasts,abstaining from food, and lying on the bare ground. Alas, foolish that Iam, I have been deceived by thee that hast deep intelligence, inasmuchas, having inspired me with confidence at first thou hast latterlyundergone such grief. What need have I of kingdom or of articles ofenjoyment, what need of sacrifices or of happiness, when thou, O king,hast undergone go much affliction? I regard my kingdom as a disease, andmyself 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 thypresence, how shall we live? O best of king, let Yuyutsu, the son of thyloins, be made king, or, indeed, anybody else whom thou mayst wish. Ishall go into the woods. Do thou rule the kingdom. It behoveth thee notto burn me that am already burned by infamy. I am not the king. Thou artthe king. I am dependent on thy will. How can I dare grant permission tothee that art my preceptor? O sinless one, I harbour no resentment in myheart on account of the wrongs done to us by Suyodhana. It was ordainedthat it should be so. Both ourselves and others were stupefied (by fate).We are thy children as Duryodhana and others were. My conviction is thatGandhari is as much my mother as Kunti. If thou, O king of kings, goestto 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 asource of joy to me when I am deprived of thy presence. All this belongsto thee. I gratify thee, bending my head. We are all dependent on thee, Oking of kings. Let the fever of thy heart be dispelled. I think, O lordof Earth, that all this that has come upon thee is due to destiny. Bygood luck, I had thought, that waiting upon thee and executing thycommands 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 retireinto the woods. I have lived long under thy protection, O son, I have formany years been served by thee with reverence. I am now old. It behoveththee, O king, to grant me permission (to take up my abode in the woods).’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Having said these words unto king Yudhishthira,the just, king Dhritarashtra, the son of Amvika, trembling the while andwith hands joined together, further said unto the high-souled Sanjaya andthe great car-warrior Kripa, these words, ‘I wish to solicit the kingthrough you. My mind has become cheerless, my mouth has become dry,through the weakness of age and the exertion of speaking.’ Having saidso, that perpetuator of Kuru’s race, viz., the, righteous-souled oldking, blessed with prosperity, leaned on Gandhari and suddenly lookedlike one deprived of life. Beholding him thus seated like one deprived ofconsciousness, that slayer of hostile heroes, viz., the royal son ofKunti, became penetrated by a poignant grief.

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Alas, he whose strength was equal to that of ahundred thousand elephants, alas, that king sitteth today, leaning on awoman. Alas! he by whom the iron image of Bhima on a former occasion wagreduced to fragments, leaneth today on a weak woman. Fie on me that amexceedingly unrighteous! Fie on my understanding! Fie on my knowledge ofthe scripture! Fie on me for whom this lord of Earth lieth today in amanner that is not becoming of him! I also shall fast even as mypreceptor. Verily, I shall fast if this king and Gandhari of great fameabstain from food.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘The Pandava king, conversant with every duty,using his own hand, then softly rubbed with cold water the breast and theface of the old monarch. At the touch of the king’s hand which wasauspicious and fragrant, and on which were jewels and medicinal herbs,Dhritarashtra regained his senses.[6]

“Dhritarashtra said, ‘Do thou again touch me, O son of Pandu, with thyhand, and do thou embrace me. O thou of eyes like lotus petals, I amrestored to my senses through the auspicious touch of thy hand. O rulerof men, I desire to smell thy head. The clasp of thy arms is highlygratifying to me. This is the eighth division of the day and, therefore,the hour of taking my food. For not having taken my food, O child ofKuru’s race, I am so weak as to be unable to move. In addressing mysolicitations to thee, great hag been my exertion. Rendered cheerless byit, O son, I had fainted. O perpetuator of Kuru’s race, I think thatreceiving the touch of thy hand, which resembles nectar in its vivifyingeffects I have been restored to my senses.’

“Vaisampayana said, ‘Thus addressed, O Bharata, by the eldest brother ofhis father, the son of Kunti, from affection, gently touched every partof his body. Regaining his life-breaths, king Dhritarashtra embraced theson of Pandu with his arms and smelled his head. Vidura and others weptaloud in great grief. In consequence, however, of the poignancy of theirsorrow, they said nothing to either the old king or the son of Pandu.Gandhari, conversant with every duty, bore her sorrow with fortitude, andloaded as her heart was, O king, said nothing. The other ladies, Kuntiamong them, became greatly afflicted. They wept, shedding copious tears,and sat surrounding the old king. Then ‘Dhritarashtra, once moreaddressing Yudhishthira, said these words, Do thou, O king, grant mepermission to practise penances. By speaking repeatedly, O son, my mindbecomes weakened. It behoveth thee not, O son, to afflict me after this.’When that foremost one of Kuru’s race was saying go unto Yudhishthira, aloud sound of wailing arose from all the warriors there present.Beholding his royal father of great splendour, emaciated and pale,reduced to a state unbecoming of him, worn out with fasts, and lookinglike a skeleton covered with skin, Dharma’s son Yudhishthira shed tearsof grief and once more said these words. ‘O foremost of men, I do notdesire life and the Earth. O scorcher of foes, I shall employ myself indoing what is agreeable to thee. If I deserve thy favour, if I am dear tothee, do thou eat something. I shall then know what to do.’ Endued withgreat energy, Dhritarashtra then said to Yudhishthira,–‘I wish, O son,to take some food, with thy permission.’ When Dhritarashtra said thesewords to Yudhishthira, Satyavati’s son Vyasa came there and said asfollows.`

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