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Chapter 18: Indraprastha

WHEN news of the incidents that took place during the swayamvara at Panchala reached Hastinapura, Vidura was happy.

He immediately went to Dhritarashtra and said: "O King, our family has become stronger because the daughter of Drupada has become our daughter-in-law. Our stars are good."

Dhritarashtra thought in his blind fondness for his son that it was Duryodhana, who had also gone to take part in the swayamvara, that had won Draupadi. Under this mistaken impression he replied: "It is indeed, as you say, a good time for us. Go at once and bring Draupadi. Let us give Panchali a joyous welcome."

Vidura hastened to correct the mistake. He said: "The blessed Pandavas are alive and it is Arjuna who has won the daughter of Drupada. The five Pandavas have married her jointly according to the rites enjoined by the sastras. With their mother Kuntidevi they are happy and well under the care of Drupada."

At these words of Vidura, Dhritarashtra felt frustrated but concealed his disappointment. He said to Vidura with apparent joy: "O Vidura, I am delighted at your words. Are the dear Pandavas really alive? We have been mourning them as dead! The news you have now brought is balm to my heart. So the daughter of Drupada has become our daughter-in-law.

Well, well, very good."

Duryodhana's jealousy and hatred redoubled when he found that the Pandavas had somehow escaped from the wax palace and after spending a year incognito had now become even more powerful on account of the alliance with the mighty king of Panchala. Duryodhana and his brother Duhsasana went to their uncle Sakuni and said in sorrow: "Uncle, we are undone. We have been let down by relying on Purochana. Our enemies, the Pandavas, are cleverer than ourselves, and fortune also seems to favor them.

Dhrishtadyumna and Sikhandin have become their allies. What can we do?"

Karna and Duryodhana went to the blind Dhritarashtra. Duryodhana said: "You told Vidura that better days were ahead of us.

Is it good time for us that our natural enemies, the Pandavas, have so waxed in strength that they will certainly destroy us? We could not carry out our plot against them and the fact that they know about it is an added danger. It has now come to this, either we must destroy them here and now or we shall ourselves perish.

Favor us with your counsel in this matter."

Dhritarashtra replied: "Dear son, what you say is true. We should not, however, let Vidura know our mind. That was why I spoke to him in that manner. Let me now hear your suggestions as to what we should do."

Duryodhana said: "I feel so distracted that no plan occurs to me. Perhaps, we may take advantage of the fact that these Pandavas are not born of one and the same mother and create enmity between the sons of Madri and those of Kunti. We can also try to bribe Drupada into joining our side. That he has given away his daughter in marriage to the Pandavas will not stand in the way of our making him an ally. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished by the power of wealth."

Karna smiled and said: "This is but futile talk."

Duryodhana continued: "We should somehow make sure that the Pandavas do not come here and demand of us the kingdom that is now in our possession.

We may commission a few brahmanas to spread convenient rumours in Drupada's city and severally tell the Pandavas that they would meet with great danger if they were to go to Hastinapura. Then the Pandavas would fear to come here and we shall be safe, from them."

Karna replied: "This too is idle talk. You cannot frighten them that way."

Duryodhana continued: "Can we not create discord among the Pandavas by means of Draupadi? Her polyandrous marriage is very convenient for us. We shall arouse doubts and jealousies in their minds through the efforts of experts in the science of erotics. We shall certainly succeed. We can get a beautiful woman to beguile some of the sons of Kunti and thus make Draupadi turn against them. If Draupadi begins to suspect any of them, we can invite him to Hastinapura and use him so that our plan prospers."

Karna laughed this also to scorn. He said:

"None of your proposals is any good. You cannot conquer the Pandavas by stratagem. When they were here and were like immature birds with undeveloped wings, we found we could not deceive them, and you think we can deceive them now, when they have acquired experience and are moreover under the protection of Drupada. They have seen through your designs. Stratagems will not do hereafter.

You cannot sow dissensions among them.

You cannot bribe the wise and honorable Drupada. He will not give up the Pandavas on any account. Draupadi also can never be turned against them.

Therefore, there is only one way left for us, and that is to attack them before they grow stronger and other friends join them.

We should make a surprise attack on the Pandavas and Drupada before Krishna joins them with his Yadava army. We should take the heroic way out of our difficulty, as befits kshatriyas. Trickery will prove useless." Thus spoke Karna.

Dhritarashtra could not make up his mind.

The king, therefore, sent for Bhishma and Drona and consulted them.

Bhishma was very happy when he heard that the Pandavas were alive and well as guests of King Drupada of Panchala, whose daughter they had married.

Consulted on the steps to be taken, Bhishma, wise with the ripe knowledge of right and wrong, replied:

"The proper course will be to welcome them back and give them half the kingdom. The citizens of the state also desire such a settlement. This is the only way to maintain the dignity of our family.

There is much loose talk not creditable to you about the fire incident at the wax house. All blame, even all suspicion, will be set at rest if you invite the Pandavas and hand over half kingdom to them. This is my advice."

Drona also gave the same counsel and suggested sending a proper messenger to bring about an amicable settlement and establish peace.

Karna flew into a rage at this suggestion.

He was very much devoted to Duryodhana and could not at all bear the idea of giving a portion of the kingdom to the Pandavas. He told Dhritarashtra:

"I am surprised that Drona, who has received wealth and honors at your hands, has made such a suggestion. A king should examine critically the advice of his ministers before accepting or rejecting it."

At these words of Karna, Drona, his old eyes full of anger, said: "O wicked man, you are advising the king to go on the wrong path. If Dhritarashtra does not do what Bhishma and myself have advised, the Kauravas will certainly meet with destruction in the near future."

Then Dhritarashtra sought the advice of Vidura who replied:

"The counsel given by Bhishma, the head of our race, and Drona, the master, is wise and just and should not be disregarded.

The Pandavas are also your children like Duryodhana and his brothers. You should realise that those who advise you to injure the Pandavas are really bent upon the destruction of the race. Drupada and his sons as well as Krishna and the Yadavas are staunch allies of the Pandavas. It is impossible to defeat them in battle.

Karna's advice is foolish and wrong. It is reported abroad that we tried to kill the Pandavas in the wax house, and we should first of all try to clear ourselves of the blame. The citizens and the whole country are delighted to know that the Pandavas are alive and they desire to see them once again. Do not listen to the words of Duryodhana. Karna and Sakuni are but raw youths, ignorant of statesmanship and incompetent to advise. Follow Bhishma's advice."

In the end Dhritarashtra determined to establish peace by giving half the kingdom to the sons of Pandu. He sent Vidura to the kingdom of Panchala to fetch the Pandavas and Draupadi.

Vidura went to the city of King Drupada in a speedy vehicle taking along with him many kinds of jewels and other valuable presents.

Vidura rendered due honor to King Drupada and requested him on behalf of Dhritarashtra to send the Pandavas with Panchali to Hastinapura.

Drupada mistrusted Dhritarashtra, but he merely said: "The Pandavas may do as they like."

Vidura went to Kuntidevi and prostrated himself before her. She said: "Son of Vichitravirya, you saved my sons. They are, therefore, your children. I trust you. I shall do as you advise." She was also suspicious of Dhritarashtra's intentions.

Vidura thus assured her: "Your children will never meet with destruction. They will inherit the kingdom and acquire great renown. Come, let us go." At last Drupada also gave his assent and Vidura returned to Hastinapura with the Pandavas, Kunti, and Draupadi.

In jubilant welcome of the beloved princes who were returning home after long years of exile and travail, the streets of Hastinapura had been sprinkled with water and decorated with flowers. As had been already decided, half the kingdom was made over to the Pandavas and Yudhishthira was duly crowned king.

Dhritarashtra blessed the newly crowned Yudhishthira and bade him farewell with these words: "My brother Pandu made this kingdom prosperous. May you prove a worthy heir to his renown! King Pandu delighted in abiding by my advice. Love me in the same manner. My sons are wicked and proud. I have made this settlement so that there may be no strife or hatred between you. Go to Khandavaprastha and make it your capital. Our ancestors Pururavas, Nahusha, and Yayati ruled the kingdom from there. That was our ancient capital.

Re-establish that and be famous." In this manner Dhritarashtra spoke affectionately to Yudhishthira.

The Pandavas renovated that ruined city, built palaces and forts, and renamed it Indraprastha. It grew in wealth and beauty and became the admiration of the world.

The Pandavas ruled there happily for thirty-six years with their mother and Draupadi, never straying from the path of dharma.