Krishna tried to make the Kaurava’s see reason, in order to avoid war. So he reached Dhridhrashtra’s court and tried to make peace. However, Duryodhana and his brothers were not amenable. Karna too, was eager for war. Even as the king, Krishna, Drona and the other elders advised avoiding a battle, Karna and Duryodhana did not listen.
There were many arguments in court, where Krishna fearlessly spoke the truth. Angry, Duryodhana gave orders to have Krishna taken prisoner.
Krishna only laughed at Duryodhana’s arrogance. He took his universal form, as the great Vishnu in court and said, “Imprison me if you can.”
Dhridhrashtra begged Krishna for the gift of sight, so that he could ‘see’ His True Self.
Krishna blessed him, and lo! He saw the Lord in all his glory.
After Krishna resumed his normal form, Dhridhrashtra begged Krishna to become blind again saying, “After beholding your glorious form, I don’t want to see anything else.”
The Pandava army commander
While everyone knows that Bhisma commanded the Kaurava armies at the start of the Mahabharata war, do you know who the Pandava Commander was?
It was none other than Dhristadyumna, brother of Draupadi.
The choice of Dhristadyumna was put forth by Krishna during the meeting convened to choose the Commander.
While one brother put forth Drupada, Draupadi’s father for the post, another suggested Shikandi, while yet another suggested Virata, the king in whose court the Pandavas had spent a year in disguise in their time of exile.
But Krishna’s suggestion was accepted wholeheartedly by all the Pandavas.
Duryodhana is cursed
When the Pandavas were in exile, many rishis and learned people visited them in their abode in the forest. One of the visitors was Sage Maitreya.
Maitreya also later visited the Kaurava court at Hastinapur, where Dhirdhrashtra hosted him warmly. The blind king anxiously asked the sage how his nephews were doing in the forest.
Maitreya said, “They are happy and are contented. Many sages and wise people visit them and they spend time talking about spiritual matters.”
Dhridharashtra replied, “I am happy to hear that they are well. But do you think they would continue to be in exile or would they break their promise and return home?”
Maitreya was very disappointed to hear such talk. He told Dhridhrashtra, “They are your own brothers sons and I think you should call this whole matter off and invite them back to your kingdom.”
This annoyed Duryodhana. He got up from his seat, slapping his thighs in a sign of disrespect.
Maitreya understood and said, “O Duryodhana! Your arrogance and jealousy will see an end. One day, you will die on the battlefield at the hands of Bhima, your thighs broken in the fight.”
Duryodhana brushed aside the curse and went away.
However, Dhridhrashtra was anxious. He begged Maitreya to take back the curse. The sage only said, “The curse will not work if he makes peace with the Pandavas and brings them back home. Otherwise, he will meet his end.”
After twelve years of exile, it was the thirteenth year, the year when the Pandavas would need to spend in disguise, undetected by the Kauravas.
As they sat round in the forest in secret, to discuss where to go and what disguises to take on, their priest and advisor Dhaumya said, “In the real world, thanks to our births and our situations in life, we have to take up occupations which may not fully please us or give pleasure to us in its pursuit. Each of us have professions therefore, that may not make us truly happy. I think each of you should take up the hobby you love, and take it up as your profession, this one year. Take on the disguise suitable for this profession and enjoy the time doing what you like.”
This is what the Pandavas did. They decided to take up various jobs in the court of King Virata. Arjuna, who had been cursed by the apasara Urvashi to become a eunuch for a year, decided to become a dance teacher. Bhima who loved to eat and therefore, loved to cook, decided to be a cook.
Yudhishtra decided to take on the garb of a holy man, and become a courtier in Virata’s court. Nakula, whose loved working with cattle decided to do so, while Nakula wanted to work with horses. Draupadi wanted to be safe after her experiences at the Hastinapur court. So she decided to seek the job of a maid in the queen’s apartments, and be a Sairandhri.
The talk that Dhaumya gave to the Pandavas on facing the world during bad times, is called the Dhaumya Gita. It is peppered with lively observations of the world, of people and has plenty of advice to the Pandavas, on their situation and their need to cope with it.
Change is the one constant
After the Mahabharata, the Yadava race that Krishna belonged to killed each other. Krishna himself fell prey to the arrow of a hunter and breathed his last.
Arjuna went to Dwaraka, not just to perform the rites for Vasudeva, Balarama and Krishna, but also to take back to Hastinapur, the women of the household. For Dwaraka was in danger of being submerged under the ocean.
Arjuna did all the rites and along with Rukmini, Sathyabama, the other queens of Krishna, and other women of the household, was journeying back when they were attached by barbarians. Arjuna fought hard but the barbarians were stronger. They looted all the valuables and Arjuna barely managed to save the women and bring them back home.
With Krishna’s death, life had come to a standstill for the Pandavas. Vedavyasa visited them and said, “Change is the one constant. Old things go, giving place for new. Krishna is dead. Move forward and make plans for the future. It is time for the Pandavas to seek Self-Realisation.”
Kali Yuga had begun.
Sage Jamadagni, father of the Parasurama was milking the cow in his hermitage one day. The god of anger broke the milk pot. Jamadagni merely smiled and went into the hermitage to bring a fresh pot.
The god of anger begged his forgiveness saying, “Your family is known for its short-temper. That’s why I tried to test you. Forgive me.”
However, Jamadagni’s forefathers were angry and cursed him that he would be born as a weasel. But they were kind enough to give him a way out too. “The day you convince a group of learned men that they are wrong, on a great day when they are full of self-achievement, you will get release from your weasel-body,” they said.
This is what came to pass and the weasel’s story is a story on its own.
On the bed of arrows
Bheeshma lay on the bed of arrows in Kurukshetra till after the end of the war. After Yudhishtra was crowned king, Krishna suggested that they go visit the grandsire saying, “He is near his end, O Pandava. You wanted to learn so many things from him. Now is the time.”
In those last days, Yudhishtra learnt many matters from Bheeshma. The role of dharma, righteous conduct, the duty of a king and the Real God… all these matters were imparted by the grandsire to the new king.
When the day came for Bheeshma to depart the world, Krishna and the Pandavas went to the battlefield of Kurukshetra once more. The old man opened his tired eyes and looked at Dhridhrashtra who had come there too. “Don’t sorrow for your sons my child. Yudhishtra and his brothers are now your children.”
He then asked for flowers and worshipped Krishna with them. He then closed his eyes and willed himself to die. Thus passed a great soul.
The Pandavas conducted his last rites and then offered his remains to Ganga, his mother. Ganga wept, for her strong, brave and heroic son was no more. Krishna said soothingly, “O mother. Your son was a god and he is a god once more. He has been released forever from the curse to live life as a man. Don’t allow human emotions to cloud your wisdom.”
Ganga vanished and there remained only the river, flowing as it always did.