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Chapter 55: Not A Needle-point Of Territory

AFTER he had despatched Sanjaya to the Pandavas, Dhritarashtra, filled with anxiety, could not get a wink of sleep that night. He sent for Vidura and spent the whole night talking to him.

"To give the Pandavas their share of the kingdom is the safest plan," said Vidura.

"Only this can bring good to both sides.

Treat the Pandavas and your own sons with equal affection. In this case, the right course is also the wise one."

Vidura counselled Dhritarashtra in this manner at great length.

The next morning Sanjaya returned to Hastinapura. And gave a full account of what had taken place in Yudhishthira's court.

"Chiefly, Duryodhana should know what Arjuna said: 'Krishna and I are going to destroy Duryodhana and his followers, root and branch. Make no mistake about it. The Gandiva bow is impatient for war.

My bowstring is throbbing even without my stretching it and from my quiver, arrows keep peeping out impatiently, demanding when? When? Sanjaya, evil stars make the foolish Duryodhana seek war with Krishna and myself. Not even Indra and the gods can defeat us.' Thus spoke Dhananjaya," said Sanjaya.

Bhishma counselled Dhritarashtra against opposing the combined might of Arjuna and Krishna. "Karna, who boasts repeatedly that he will slay the Pandavas", said Bhishma, "is not equal to a sixteenth part of the Pandavas. Your sons are heading for destruction, listening to his words. When Arjuna beat back your son's attack on Virata's capital and humbled his pride, what was Karna able to do? When the Gandharvas took your son prisoner, where did the invincible Karna bide himself? Was it not Arjuna who drove back the Gandharvas?" Thus did Bhisma taunt Karna and warn the Kauravas.

"What grandfather Bhisma says is the only proper thing to do," said Dhritarashtra. "All wise men say, and I know, that it is best to seek peace. But what can I do? These fools would go their own way, however loudly I protest."

Duryodhana, who had been listening to all this, stood up. "Father, do not worry and tremble about our safety. We know how strong we are. That we shall win is certain. Yudhishthira knows it too, for, giving up all hope of kingdom, he only begs now for five villages. Is it not clear from this that he is already scared about our eleven divisions? What can the Pandavas oppose to our eleven divisions? Why then do you doubt our victory?"

Duryodhana said to his father and tried to cheer him up.

"My son, let us not have war," said Dhritarashtra. "Be satisfied with half the kingdom. It is enough if we govern that half well." Duryodhana could stand it no longer. "The Pandavas will not receive even a needle-point of territory," he exclaimed, and left the court. In the excitement that prevailed, the court broke up.

Let us now relate what the Pandavas were saying among themselves. After Sanjaya left Upaplavya for Hastinapura, Yudhishthira said to Krishna: "Vasudeva, Sanjaya is Dhritarashtra's alter ego. From his speech, I have divined what is in Dhritarashtra's mind. Dhritarashtra is trying to secure peace without giving us any territory. In my simplicity, I was glad at first when I heard Sanjaya speak. But it soon became clear that my joy was unfounded. He then struck a middle line and spoke desiring peace. But the words with which he ended his message seemed to commend meekness to us, even if our just rights were denied. Dhritarashtra has not been playing fair with us. The crisis is approaching. There are none but you to protect us. I made my offer that we would be content with only five villages. The wicked Kauravas will refuse even this.

How can we tolerate this height of intransigence? Only you can advise us in this crisis. There is none but you who knows what our duty is now and can guide us in dharma as well as in statesmanship."

Krishna said in reply: "For the good of you both, I have decided to go to Hastinapura. I shall go to Dhritarashtra's court and try to secure your rights without war. If my mission succeeds, it will be for the good of the world."

Yudhishthira said: "Krishna, pray do not go. What is the good of your going to the enemies' place now? The perverse Duryodhana will stick to his folly. I do not like your going among those unscrupulous men. We cannot let you jeopardise your safety, for the Kauravas will stop at nothing."

Krishna answered: "Dharmaputra, I know how wicked Duryodhana is. But still we should make all attempts at a peaceful solution so as to give the world no cause to accuse us of not having done everything possible to avert war. We must omit nothing, no matter how slender our hopes of success. Have no fears for my safety, for, if the Kauravas offer me, a messenger of peace, any threat of bodily harm, I will reduce them to ashes."

Said Yudhishthira: "You are all-knowing.

You know our hearts as well as theirs. In expounding matters and in the art of persuasion, there is none better than you."

Krishna said: "Yes, I know you both.

Your mind ever clings to righteousness and theirs is always steeped in hatred, jealousy and enmity. I will do all I can to secure the result, which I know is dear to you, a settlement reached without war even though it may have, but little for you. The signs are ominous and portend war. Still duty demands that we should make the attempt for peace."

Thus saying, Krishna took leave of the Pandavas and set off in his chariot to Hastinapura.