Meanwhile, Hidimba was waiting for his sister. She had never been late before. She had always been quick and efficient in her kills.
- Short Stories from the Mahabharatha
- Stories from Puranas
- Stories from the Ramayana
- Stories of Arjuna
- Stories of Bheema
- Stories of Ganesha
- Stories of Garuda
- Stories of Hanuman
- Stories of Indra
- Stories of Kings
- Stories of Krishna
- Stories of Panchatantra
- Stories of Princes
- Stories of Sages
- Stories of Shiva
- Stories of the Mother Goddess
- Stories of Vishnu
- The Mahabharatha
Friday, August 4, 2017
Chapter 3 – A Palace on Flames
“Would there be anything else, my prince?” Purochana asked as he bowed to Yudhishtara and the other Pandavas. Yudhishtara was struggling not to let anything show on his face as he nodded to Purochoana, “That would be all for today. Thank you so much,” Yudhishatara said with the false smile that he had cultivated over the year that he had stayed here in the Palace of Lac at Vanavarata.
In fact, Purochana did not even notice anything amiss as he nodded and went back to his quarters, outside the palace.
Yudhishtara’s gaze followed the man as he made sure that Purochana was out of the palace and could not overhear them. It was only after that Yudhishtara went inside his own inner apartment where his brothers and the miner were working on the tunnel as his mother was keeping a watch making sure that the servants did not come inside the room.
They all stopped the work as Yudhishtara came inside and sat heavily on the throne behind him.
Yudhishtara peered inside the tunnel and saw that the tunnel had reached outside the palace, all the way underground.
“It is time,” Yudhishtara said finally looking at his brothers.
“Now?” It was Bhima who asked the question.
Yudhistara nodded. “We need to do it before Purochana beats us to punch. As of now, Purochana believes that we are deceived. It would be difficult to keep these appearances for much longer.”
One by one, the other brothers nodded as they looked at the miner who was watching and not saying anything.
“It will be done, my princes,” The miner nodded finally.
That night Kunti spoke to her eldest son, “Son, we need to organize a feast for tomorrow.”
Yudhishtara looked at Kunti for a huge second and then blinked. He realized what his mother was saying and knew that it was wrong to do it. But they did not have a lot of choice in this matter. It needed to be done. With a heavy head, Yudhishtara nodded not saying anything else.
The next day people thronged at the palace of the Pandavas. Though the sons of Pandu were generous with the money, still for the people of the kingdom, a feast was a feast. That was something which was eagerly awaited by all the people in the kingdom. Especially, since they all realized how much the second son Bhima enjoyed his food. The food from the royal kitchens was almost unmatched with anything found anywhere else in the kingdom.
Among the people who came to the palace was a Nishada woman and like Kunti she also had five sons. Probably, it was fate as the Nishada woman came to the palace of Lac with her five sons to enjoy the feast.
Neither the woman nor her sons realized that they had had more wine than they should have had. Unable to control themselves, the woman and her five sons slept in the very inside the palace, fast asleep and completely oblivious to the real world.
The feast was over and the other guests had all gone back to their homes. Purochana had helped the Pandavas during the entire day and was completely exhausted as he went to his quarters just outside the quarters and was asleep even before his head hit the pillow.
Yudhishtara saw all this and then nodded to Bheema as they opened the hole of their floor.
Bhima took the fire torch from the place and lit it. Without another thought, Bhima set fire to the entire palace. And Bhima set fire to all parts of the palace and outside the palace, making sure that no one who was inside or around the mansion could escape the fire. Bhima, started the fire from outside the palace and came inside as he walked inside the innermost room with the hole in it and closed the door.
Ignoring the heat and spreading fire, the Pandavas entered the tunnel and closed the hole behind them as they walked out of the passage.
The townspeople were shocked as they saw the blazing fire. They all brought buckets of water and tried to put out the fire and that was when the townspeople realized something horrific. The palace was completely combustible. No matter how much they tried putting out the fire, the fire spread so quickly that there was never really any hope of protecting anyone who was inside the palace.
Slowly, the next day, as the townspeople saw the unrecognizably charred body of the Nishada woman and her five sons and all the people arrived at the conclusion that they were meant to arrive at – that the Pandavas and their mother had perished in the fire.
And they saw the charred body of Purochana outside the house and they all realized that it was a plan…A plan made by the prince of Hastinapur to get rid of his cousins. The townspeople even believed that Purochana had perished in the fire because he had been unable to get out of the fire after setting the palace on fire.
The townspeople all cursed Duryodhana and Dhirdarashtra for their wickedness.
No one noticed the well-made tunnel which was made right in the centre of the palace mostly because none of them were looking for it and more importantly because the tunnel was built brilliantly well to make sure that it was not seen from the outside.
Before leaving for Vanaravata, the Pandavas paid respect to all the elders of Hastinapur.
In the end the Pandavas met Vidura, the man who was wise beyond his age and who through his extensive spy system knew almost everything which happened in the kingdom of Hastinapur and outside it.
As Vidura was blessing Yudhishtara, the eldest Pandava, a rather strange thing happened.
The learned Vidura spoke in the language of the Mlechchas, instead of the language spoken in Hastinapur. This language was hardly known to anyone in the kingdom of Hastinapur and the words of Vidura sounded like utter garble - except to one person. The person for whom it was intended – Yudhishtara.
Yudhishtara, the eldest Pandava knew the language of the Mlechchas and was steadily getting worried as he understood exactly what Vidura was saying.
“You need to know what your enemies are upto and avoid the dangers. And remember that fire cannot destroy someone who is hiding under the hole in the woods and when you are in a strange home it is best to be like a jackal and make not one escape route, but make many ways out.”
Yudhishtara stared at Vidura, who was studying his nephew with dangerous eyes as Vidura continued in the same language, “Sometimes, son, it is best to keep wandering from one place to another to acquire knowledge and that way you would also keep your five senses safe.”
Yudhishtara was silent as Vidura and Yudhishtara studied each other.
“I understand!” Yudhishtara said in the same language, as a sudden crinkly smile broke in Vidura’s face.
Soon the Pandavas came out of the house of Vidura and bid goodbye to the Pandavas and their mother Kunti, as they set out to Vanaravata.
The Pandavas then were out of the kingdom of Hastinapur and were walking when a confused Kunti came to her son.
“What was it that Vidura said?” she asked Yudhishtara. “And I did not even know what it was that you said in return.”
Yudhishtara saw the kingdom of Hastinapur far behind him and took in a deep breath as he saw his mother and brothers look at him, questioningly.
“There is going to be a fire. A huge fire and we need to escape it!” Yudhishtara said finally.
The Pandavas were met by a man called Purochana in the city of Vanaravata. He saw the Pandavas and told them that he was here to help them. The Pandavas then met all the high officials in the city of Vanravata and the people were all glad to see the Pandavas.
Finally with Purochana’s help, they went to the palace built for them in the city of Vanravata.
It was a beautiful palace, by any stretch of imagination.
Yudhishtara saw the palace and nodded at Purochana. “We would like to inspect the palace ourselves!” Yudhishtara told Purochana. “It has been built so beautifully.”
Purochana nodded not saying anything as he walked away leaving the six of them alone.
Hurriedly, the Pandavas entered the palace and they were all shell shocked because they made a sad discovery. The beautiful palace was combustible and was built out of resin, hemp, straw, bamboo and butter and lac!
All it needed was a tiny spark and the fire inside the palace would be uncontrollable and destroy everything inside it.
Yudhishtara turned to Bheema, “We need to build an underground tunnel out of the palace. In secret. No one can know about it. To the outside world we act normally, but we work on the tunnel everyday.”
“Tunnel?” Bheema asked as Yudhishtara nodded.
“After we escape the fire, then what?” Bheema asked his eyes popping with anger.
Yudhishtara remembered Vidura’s words.
“We keep moving.” Yudhishtara said slowly. “Right now, we have neither power nor rank in the country. Once, everyone believes that we are dead, no one would be looking for us. Then, we can move freely and we go to all the kingdoms in the country, to build alliances and make ourselves strong!”
Purochana was being very friendly to the Pandavas and he tried to make their stay as comfortable as possible. As he was talking animatedly about the place, a strange man came to see Yudhishtara.
Yudhishtara stared at the man who with his hard and coarse hands looked to be some sort of manual labourer. What really surprised Yudhishtara was that the man introduced himself in the Mlechcha language.
Yudhishtara left Purochana and turned to the newcomer and took him to the inside quarters and for what it was worth replied in the language of the Mlechchas.
“Who are you?” Yudhishtara asked the man.
“I am a miner!” the man said in the same language, “and I was sent by Vidura to help you.”
A beautiful smile broke out in the face of Yudhishtara as he nodded happily at the man.
And so with the help of the miner, right in the middle of the palace, the Pandavas dug a tunnel out of the palace. They hid the hole of the tunnel by a slab to make sure that Purochana who was living outside the palace, did not know what they were doing.
Chapter 1 - The Palace of Lac
Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava was really jealous of his cousins – the Pandavas. After the death of Pandu and Madri, the Pandavas had returned from the forests with their mother Kunti, Duryodhana just could not bear it. Duryodhana saw the Pandavas as his enemy and did not care who knew it.
Duryodhana’s insane jealousy and eating him up and it was not helped by the fact that Bheema, the second Pandava, was ferociously strong. Even as a young boy, Bheema was a very strong and Bheema found the puny Kauravas very funny.
Bheema had been born and brought up in the forests. The rough jungles had just made Bheema more stronger and Bheema had nothing but disdain for the soft Kauravas, who had known nothing other than the the luxuries of the palace.
Bheema used to bully the Kauravas and the Kauravas were really terrified on him. In fact, whenever they used to see Bheema, the Kauravas used to hide on the treetops. And Bheema would still not leave the Kauravas alone. Bheema used to stand at the base of the tree and with his ferocious strength, Bheema used to shake the very tree.
The Kaurava boys used to fall down from the tree like fruits and look shaken and run away terrified of the young Bheema who would laugh at the fleeing Kaurava princes.
And all these events only made Duryodhana hate the Pandavas even more.
Duryodhana’s hatred for the Pandavas and Bheema is particular went so bad that when they all started learning warfare and the science of the administration of the kingdom from Dronacharya, Duryodhana actually tried killing Bheema.
Duryodhana poisoned the food which was to be eaten by Bheema and when the drugged Bheema fell unconscious, Duryodhana tied up Bheema’s hands and feet and pushed the second Pandava inside the river.
And without a second glance, Duryodhana walked away from the place.
Luckily for Bheema, the place under the river where Duryodhana had pushed him had a huge kingdom of snakes. The snakes bit the unconscious Bheema as he sunk inside the waters. The poison in Bheema’s body and the poison of the snake acted as antidotes to each other and the poison from Bheema system was completely gone, when he reached the snake kingdom.
And on talking with the snakes, Bheema realized that he was related to the snakes through his mother – Kunti. The snakes were very glad for their new visitor though he had come to them in unfortunate circumstances. In honour of their new guests, the snakes fed Bheema with the nectar of the snakes. It is believed that this drink actually made Bheema even more strong than he previously was.
And that was how Duryodhana’s first plan of killing Bheema had badly backfired. After pushing Bheema into the river, Duryodhana came back to the palace and he claimed to have no knowledge of what had happened to Bheema. Kunti and the Pandavas were distraught and they kept combing the river for some signs of Bheema and that was when they had some suspicion of foul play. But Duryodhana was quiet and said absolutely nothing.
Duryodhana almost thought that he had gotten away with it, when the impossible happened. Bheema came back from the dead. And not only that, Bheema came back even more stronger than before. And a little wiser.
The event was an eye-opener – both to the Pandavas and to Duryodhana.
Duryodhana realized that he would have to be more careful of disposing off his annoying cousins in the future because they seemed to be lucky and the Pandavas realized that Duryodhana was really insane in his jealousy and that there was no line that Duryodhana would not cross if it meant the destruction of the Pandavas.
That was the reason, the Pandavas never spoke of the incident again. The Pandavas feared that if they spoke about Duryodhana’s involvement in the whole affair, Duryodhana might do something even more horrific.
But just because the Pandavas were silent, it did not make Duryodhana change his mind. Duryodhana was as bad as ever and his plans if anything were becoming more and more bold and the next time, Duryodhana had an even more audacious plan to kill the Pandavas.
Duryodhana spoke highly of a place called Varanavatha where the huge festival was to be organized in honour of Lord Shiva. Duryodhana manipulated things that he sent the Pandavas to Varanavatha and at the time the Pandavas went there, Duryodhana had a beautiful palace built. The palace was one of the most beautiful constructions of its times and definitely the most combustible – because the palace was made of lac.
And Duryodhana was patient this time. He did not want any of the events to ever lead back to him, which was why Duryodhana wanted for a whole year. The Pandavas had lived in the lac palace of Vanaravatha for an entire year when Duryodhana through one of his men called Purochana, set his plan in action.
In the dead of the night, when a huge feast was conducted during the day, when Duryodhana was sure that the Pandavas were fast asleep, Duryodhana asked Purochana to set the entire palace on fire.
In the dead of the night, a fire broke out in the lac palace of Varanavata. The lac palace was built completely of things which could burn and burn very easily. Which was why, the time between the commencement of the fire and the spreading of the fire was too short.
The people from Varanavata were horrified when they saw the entire lac palace go down in flames. The people tried dousing the flames of the palace and that was when they discovered something impossible – the fire was spreading too fast. Far too fast, than in the case of a normal fire. The fire kept raging and there was no part of the palace which even escaped the fire.
The next morning a charred body of a woman with five men were inside the palace and the people were terrified.
They all realized that the Pandavas were gone and this time, there was no one who could bring them back. And the fire had started right from the room where Purochana was sleeping, who was also killed in the fire.
So the entire kingdom believed that the evil Purochana had set fire to the lac palace and Purochana himself killed in the fire.
Back in Hastinapur, Duryodhana could not hide his glee when he heard of the six dead bodies found inside the lac palace. And with the death of Purochana, Duryodhana realized that another loose end was tied up and this time there was nothing which could lead back to him. And Duryodhana was actually happy. He felt that he had got rid of the Pandavas in a masterly stroke and he had done with with absolutely no suspicions leading back to him.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
"Why don't you tell us about yourself, king?" Krishna asked the king, as they had reached the kingdom of Dwaravathi. The moats of the country were drawn in and the princess and the king were treated with utmost respect.
It was only after this that Krishna started talking. Balarama for his part was strangely silent. If Krishna found that odd, he made no mention about it. But absolutely everyone could know that Krishna's eyes were looking unduly mischievous. Even more mischievous that he usually looked.
Kakudmi, unfortunately did not know much about Balarama and saw nothing unusual as he continued. "As I have told you, I am the king of Kusasthali." Kakudmi paused as he studied his beautiful daughter. She blushed slightly and she looked almost dazzlingly beautiful as Kakudmi turned to Krishna. "I wanted to find a good groom for my daughter."
Balarama nearly gasped as he caught himself at the last minute as the king continued. "I could not find anyone on earth or even among the Devas. So I approached Lord Brahma."
"Lord Brahma?" Krishna murmured. "You went to Satyaloka?" (Satyaloka is the realm where Lord Brahma resides.)
Kakudmi nodded as he realized that Krishna had understood his problem. But for the benefit of Balarama, Kakudmi continued. "When we arrived at Satyaloka, Lord Brahma was listening to the musical presentation of the Gandharvas, the musicians of the Devas."
Balarama frowned as Kakudmi continued. "I waited for the presentation to get over. That proved to be a mistake." Kakudmi said heavily.
"Mistake?" Balarama asked almost harshly.
"Yes." Kakudmi continued. "You see the time in the different realms pass differently. A few minutes in Satyaloka is a few years on earth. Me and my daughter were there for the entire musical presentation. So, by the time the presentation was over, all the people that I knew on earth were dead - even their families were all gone. Nothing remained."
"Then what happened?" Balarama asked and now he was really intrigued.
"At that time that I was talking to Lord Brahma, I did not realize this. I told him of my problem and asked him to suggest a good groom for my daughter." Kakudmi looked at the fierce eyes of Balarama and continued. "Brahma told me of what had happened and he instead told me another story and asked me to come back to Raivataka."
"What story?" Krishna asked, struggling not to smile. He just knew where this was going.
"He told me the story of Chakshush Manu, a powerful king who ruled over the earth." Kakudmi sounded worried as he looked at the two brothers.
"What about him?" Balarama demanded impatiently.
"Not him." Kakudmi corrected slowly. "His daughter - Jyotishmati."
"Who is Jyotishmati?" Balarama was almost exasperated as he threw up his hands in despair.
"Chakshush Manu conducted a great sacrifice and Jyotishmati was born from the fires. She was supposed to be a great beauty. When she grew up, she wanted to marry the mightiest man of them all."
"Ok." Balarama said realizing that he had to let the man go at his own pace.
"So, Jyotishmati first approached Indra."
"Indra?" Krishna asked and he rolled his eyes looking very mischievous.
Kakudmi nodded. "But Indra said that Vayu, the Lord of the Wind was stronger than him. And he sent Jyotishmati to the Lord of the Wind."
Balarama and Krishna looked at each other as Kakudmi continued. "Vayu said that he was not strong enough and that the earth was stronger than him and that the Goddess of the Earth would know who was stronger than Vayu."
Now, Balarama realized why Krishna had been smiling the whole time and he nearly blushed.
Naturally, Kakudmi did not realize this, as he continued. "The Earth Goddess told Jyotishmati that Sesha, the thousand headed Snake on which Lord Vishnu rested was even more powerful than the earth because Sesha held up the very earth on his head."
"Sesha?" Balarama nearly croaked as Krishna just could not stop laughing.
"But the story does not end there." Kakudmi said, not realizing the mood of the two brothers. "Lord Brahma it seems told Jyotishmati, that an incarnation of Lord Sesha would appear on earth, but he would appear 27 Yugas after she was born."
"Oh." Was all Balarama could manage as he was struggling not to look at laughing Krishna.
"Jyotishmati was furious with this, when Brahma told her that she would cross those 27 yugas and still marry the man." Kakudmi said as he looked at the two brothers a little hopefully. "I just do not know what this story has to do with me or my daughter."
Naturally, Revathi, the daughter of Kakudmi who was Jyotishmathi reincarnated, married Balarama, who was supposed to be the incarnation of Sesha, the thousand headed snake on which Lord Vishnu rests.
(The story of Jyotishmati, the daughter of Chakshush Manu, is found in the Garga Samhita.)