VICHITRAVIRYA, son of Shantanu had a son named Dhritarashtra to his wife Ambika and another son named Pandu to Ambalika. Since the elder, Dhritarashtra was born blind, Pandu, the second son, became king. Dhritarashtra had hundred sons and Pandu had five. Duryodhana was the first of the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra.
Pandu had two wives, Kunti and Madri. The king retired to forest life with his two wives and there his five sons were born: Yudhishtira, Bhima and Arjuna to Kunti and Nakula and Sahadeva to Madri. Pandu had died untimely in the forest. Madri jumping into the funeral pyre of her husband had immolated herself. When the five boys grew the saints in the forest where Pandu was leading his later life, brought them to Hastinapura, the capital of Dhritarashtra. Dhritarashtra’s sons were known as the Kauravas and Pandu’s as Pandavas.
As they grew up Duryodhana’s envy and hatred for his cousins also grew. He did not want to give half the kingdom, which was due according to the customs to the Pandavas. He tried to kill them in many ways. All his evil attempts were foiled. With the intervention of many friends and relatives, Indraprastha was given to the Pandavas. They built a beautiful palace there. Yudhishtira ruled the country which became prosperous. He conducted a Rajasuya yajna and became the emperor. All these added fuel to fire in Duryodhana’s envy. He invited Yudhishtira for a game of dice with the connivance of all his friends and relatives. His maternal uncle Sakuni was his evil advisor. On behalf of Duryodhana, Sakuni played dice in proxy and miserably defeated Yudhishtira.
Yudhishtira, along with his brothers and wife was sent to banishment for twelve years. Observing his mighty armed brothers and wife who was a world famous beauty and princess, lying on the muddy sands or dry leaves in the forest, Yudhishtira’s sorrow grew beyond containment. Many saints and Brahmans who had followed them to the forest tried their best but could not quell his sorrow. At this juncture, there appeared Saint Brihadasva.
Yudhishtira and his brothers and wife received the honourable guest with due respect. After the customary salutation the saint asked Yudhishtira:
“Son, are you alright? Are your brothers and wife doing well? Don’t your routine and rituals continue without hassles?”
Yudhishtira was gloomy and silent for some time. He cast a downward look as if in guilt and then he broke his silence:
“Oh, saint venerable, salutations unto your holy feet. You are the knower of all,present, past and future. What is in store for me? Do tell me, please. There won’t be a sinner as graver as I. This hero, Arjuna, brother of mine, is unrivalled in warfare and now sleeps on the floor. Look at this brother of mine, Bhima, who can contain the whole world with his bare arms. And he too sleeps on the floor. Looking at them in this predicament, I am unable to contain my tears. All these are my mistakes and making. I have no relief from the pangs of sins I have committed.”
Saint Brihadasva meditated for some time, slowly he opened his eyes, He smiled at Yudhishtira and addressed him: “Vatsa, there is no point in lamenting now after committing wrongs persuaded by Kali. In Kaliyuga, truth will be defeated and cheating will stand to win. Those cruel and wicked will have wealth, bounty and success. This is but temporary. At the end, truth and dharma alone will succeed. You are a simple, principled and straight forward person of lofty principles who never flinch from dharma. You will get back your kingdom in due course of time. Therefore don’t get disheartened. If one becomes a coward in adversity, he will traverse through the wrong path. Each one under misery thinks that his grief is the gravest because he does not have the first person experience of the man dwelling next doors. His grief and sorrows may be thousand times graver than yours. I shall tell you a story of a less fortunate man.”
Then the saint narrated the story of Nala, who lost his kingdom, lost his wife, lost his own sanity and wandered in the forest, who lost his own personality after being bitten by a serpent, who had to take up certain menial work of a lesser king as his cook. Finally, because of fortitude and God’s grace he retrieved everything he lost.
The saint concluded: “As compared to Nala, how fortunate you are! You have your mighty brothers with you. You have your dedicated wife with you. Over more, you have your own sense intact with you. What more you want? Wait. The time will be favourable and fortune will serve you!”
Having said this, the noble soul blessing his wife, brothers and friends proceeded.
(Courtesy: Nala and Damayanti for students)