The news of Jayanta’s dramatic event spread in a flash throughout Hastinapura. From homes and public places people began pouring into the streets.
Little by little an immense crowd formed that, shouting and condemning the impious king, headed towards the southern gate of the city, in the direction of the Ganges, where the Pandavas were headed.
After seeing the five brothers, they all began to praise their righteousness.
“Duryodhana wanted to send you to the forest,” they said, “and we will follow you, so we will create a real city in the forest, depopulating Hastinapura. Allow us to come with you.”
Yudhisthira spoke to them saying:
“I thank you for these demonstrations of affection, but you cannot come with us. In the place where we are going to live there will not be enough food for everyone, nor will we be able to afford any kind of comfort. But don’t worry. We are now forced to go to the forest because we are bound by a gambling debt, but in thirteen years we will come back and decide what is right. “
After some time the crowd reluctantly dispersed, but the brothers were not left alone: in addition to their teacher Dhaumya, many Brahmanas and faithful friends had not accepted the proposal to return to their homes and were determined to follow the Pandavas wherever they went.
When they reached the great river sanctified by the contact of Shiva’s head, the group refreshed themselves, drinking its fresh and holy water. They spent the first night of exile under the trees.
The next morning Yudhisthira, worried about those friends who had slept outdoors in uncomfortable conditions, tried to persuade them to return to their homes.
“Dear friends, you know how dear your company is to me and how much in the next few years I will need to talk and hear about topics related with Brahman, the Spiritual Reality, of which all of you are experts. But life will be hard, and I don’t want to see you suffer because of me. Please go back to Hastinapura.”
But they refused.
“Don’t worry, Yudhisthira,” they replied. “We are ready to face any sacrifice to be in your company. We would never accept to live in a kingdom ruled by perfidy personified. We will know how to find sustenance for our lives.”
Despite those assurances, Yudhisthira felt anxious: his first duty as a Kshatriya was to provide for the needs of the Brahmanas, and how could he do it in the forest?
Privately, he talked about it with Dhaumya.
“Everything grows by the grace and energy of the sun,” replied the guru, “so, ultimately, it is Vivasvan who in this world provides for our needs. Now, since it is on him that the sustenance of billions of living beings depends, do you think that we, being only a few dozen people will have any problem finding what is necessary to live? I will teach you some meditations through which you can talk directly with him and ask him for help.”
In the months that followed, the son of Dharma practiced severe asceticism and eventually Surya, the Deva who dominates the solar planet and who performs this function through pious activities over the course of numerous lifetimes, descended to Earth.
“I know what worries you,” he said, “and that is worthy of you because it is a sign of virtue. A king must always think first of the sustenance and well-being of others and then of himself. Here, I give you this pot of copper which will produce as much food as you need for twelve years. But be careful because this will only happen once a day and as soon as Draupadi has eaten the pot will run out until the next day. So make sure your wife always serves and that she eats her meal only after you have finished”.
Thus, having solved the main problem and feeling happy for not having to deprive himself of the company of so many Brahmana sages, Yudhisthira began to spend his days discussing complex philosophical issues and the transcendental activities of the Lord and His intimate associates.
In those days, they headed for the Kamyaka forest, and they stood there for some time.
Meanwhile, in his opulent palace, Dhritarastra could not calm down as he realized what it might mean to have treated his nephews that way; he had bitterly regretted allowing his son to harm them in such an overtly incorrect manner. He called Vidura, who was the only one who in the darkest moments could relieve his anxiety by giving him good advice. But he, as always when asked to examine the problem with the Pandavas, was very explicit:
“How can you be calm if you do not behave according to the principles of virtue? You made yourself an accomplice to an abomination towards the children of your younger brother, who respected and loved you. What do you think Pandu would say if he were still alive? That you are anxious and do not know what to do, yet it is so simple: you must give them back what Duryodhana and his friends have stolen and humbly ask for forgiveness for such ignoble impiety. Only in this way, perhaps, the anger of Bhima, Arjuna, and the twins could subside and the lives of your children would be saved.”
But those words infuriated Dhritarastra, and he replied:
“From the way you speak it seems that the only powerful warriors and the only wise people in the world are the Pandavas and that my children are worthless. You are exaggerating, Vidura. What interest do you have in always protecting them and denigrating my children? What do you hide behind this unacceptable attitude of yours?”
Harshly disputed, Vidura realized that once again his words would not be heard by his older brother, and he said to him:
“Since because of you every concept of holiness has been banished from this court that was once ruled by wise kings, I will abandon it, and will go where dharma is revered and followed.”
Embittered, Vidura left the city the same day and joined the Pandavas in the forest. He was welcomed by all with immense joy.
However, when Dhritarastra realized that his brother had meant it and that he had turned away from Hastinapura, he regretted having said those words and sent Sanjaya to beg him to return.
“I can do a lot more if I go back,” he told Yudhisthira. “There I can always try to instill wisdom and virtue in the heart of Dhritarastra, who not only has no eyes to see the things of this world, but also cannot discern those of God’s world. Being in Hastinapura I can try to save my brother’s soul. However, you can’t imagine how much I would have liked to stay here with you, instead.”
This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.
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