Vaishampayana said, “Hearing these words of Gandhari, Bhimasena, lookinglike one in fright, said these words for soothing her, Be the actrighteous or unrighteous, it was done by me through fear and for theobject of protecting my own self. It behoveth thee therefore, to forgiveme now.Thy mighty son was incapable of being slain by anybody in a fairand righteous battle. It was for this that I did what was unfair.Duryodhana himself had formerly vanquished Yudhishthira unrighteously. Heused always to behave guilefully towards us. It was for this that I hadrecourse to an unfair act. Thy son was then the sole unslain warrior onhis side. In order that that valiant prince might not slay me in themace-encounter and once more deprive us of our kingdom, I acted in thatway. Thou knowest all that thy son had said unto the princess of Pancalawhile the latter, in her season, was clad in a single piece of raiment.Without having disposed of Suyodhana it was impossible for us to rulepeacefully the whole earth with her seas. It was for this that I acted inthat way. Thy son inflicted many wrongs on us. In the midst of theassembly he had shown his left thigh unto Draupadi. For that wickedbehaviour, thy son deserved to be slain by us even then. At the command,however, of king Yudhishthira the just, we suffered ourselves to berestrained by the compact that had been made. By this means, O queen, thyson provoked deadly hostilities with us. Great were our sufferings in theforest (whither we were driven by thy son). Remembering all this, I actedin that way. Having slain Duryodhana in battle, we have reached the endof our hostilities. Yudhishthira has got back his kingdom, and we alsohave been freed from wrath. Hearing these words of Bhima, Gandhari said,Since thou praisest my son thus (for his skill in battle), he did notdeserve such a death. He, however, did all that thou tellest me. WhenVrishasena, however, had deprived Nakula of his steeds, O Bharata, thouquaffedst in battle the blood from Duhshasanas body! Such an act is crueland is censured by the good. It suits only a person that is mostdisrespectable. It was a wicked act, O Vrikodara, that was thenaccomplished by thee! It was undeserving of thee. Bhima replied, saying,It is improper to quaff the blood of even a stranger, what then need besaid about quaffing the blood of ones own self? Ones brother, again, islike ones own self. There is no difference between them. The blood,however, (that I am regarded to have quaffed) did not, O mother, passdown my lips and teeth. Karna knew this well. My hands only were smearedwith (Duhshasanas) blood. Seeing Nakula deprived of his steeds byVrishasena in battle, I caused the rejoicing (Kaurava) brothers to befilled with dread. When after the match at dice the tresses of Draupadiwere seized, I uttered certain words in rage. Those words are still in myremembrance, I would, for all years to come, have been regarded to haveswerved from the duties of a Kshatriya if I had left that vowunaccomplished. It was for this, O queen, that I did that act. Itbehoveth thee not, O Gandhari, to impute any fault to me. Without havingrestrained thy sons in former days, doth it behove thee to impute anyfault to our innocent selves?
“Gandhari said, Unvanquished by anyone, thou hast slain a hundred sons ofthis old man. Oh, why didst thou not spare, O child, even one son of thisold couple deprived of kingdom, one whose offences were lighter? Whydidst thou not leave even one crutch for this blind couple? O child,although thou livest unharmed, having slain all my children, yet no griefwould have been mine if thou hadst adopted the path of righteousness (inslaying them).”
Vaishampayana continued, “Having said these words, Gandhari, filled withwrath at the slaughter of all her sons and grandsons, enquired afterYudhishthira, saying, Where is the king? After she had said these wordsking Yudhishthira, trembling and with joined hands, approached her andsaid these soft words unto her, Here is Yudhishthira, O goddess, thatcruel slayer of thy sons! I deserve thy curses, for I am the cause ofthis universal destruction. Oh, curse me! I have no longer any need forlife, for kingdom, for wealth! Having caused such friends to be slain, Ihave proved myself to be a great fool and a hater of friends. UntoYudhishthira who spoke such words, who was overcome with fear, and whostood in her presence, Gandhari, drawing long sighs, said nothing.Conversant with the rules of righteousness, the Kuru queen, possessed ofgreat foresight, directed her eyes, from within the folds of the cloththat covered them, to the tip of Yudhishthiras toe, as the prince, withbody bent forwards, was about to fall down at her feet. At this, theking, whose nails had before this been all very beautiful, came to have asore nail on his toe. Beholding this, Arjuna moved away to the rear ofVasudeva. and the other sons of Pandu became restless and moved from onespot to another. Gandhari then, having cast off her wrath, comforted thePandavas as a mother should. Obtaining her leave, those heroes of broadchests then proceeded together to present themselves to their mother,that parent of heroes. Having seen her sons after a long time, Kunti, whohad been filled with anxiety on their account, covered her face with hercloth and began to weep. Having wept for some time with her children,Pritha beheld the wounds and scars of many weapons on their bodies. Shethen repeatedly embraced and patted each of her sons, and afflicted withgrief wept with Draupadi who had lost all her children and whom she sawlying on the bare earth, indulging in piteous lamentations.
“Draupadi said, O venerable dame, where have all your grandsons, withAbhimanyu among them, gone? Beholding thee in such distress, why are theydelaying in making their appearance before thee? Deprived as I am of mychildren, what need have I of kingdom? Raising the grief-strickenprincess of Pancala who was weeping thus, Pritha began to comfort thatlady of large eyes. Then Kunti, accompanied by the princess of Pancalaand followed by her sons, proceeded towards the grief-afflicted Gandhariherself in greater affliction still. Beholding that illustrious lady withher daughter-in-law, Gandhari addressed her, saying, Do not, O daughter,grieve so. Behold, I too am as much stricken with grief as thou. I thinkthis universal destruction has been brought about by the irresistiblecourse of Time. Inevitable as it was, this dreadful slaughter has notbeen due to the voluntary agency of human beings. Even that has come topass which Vidura of great wisdom foretold after Krishnas supplicationfor peace had failed. Do not, therefore, grieve, in a matter that wasinevitable, especially after its occurrence. Having fallen in battle,they should not be grieved for. I am in the same predicament with thee.(If thou actest in such a way) who then will comfort us? Through myfault, this foremost of races has been destroyed.”
Here ends the Jalapradanika-parva in the Stri-parva.