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.