In that splendid asylum in which they had spent those last years, Yudhisthira called around him all those who, having not accepted to live far from them, had shared all sorts of pains and privations during that long period of time, and he told them:
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to show my appreciation for all you’ve done for us in recent years. I’m not sure this is the best way to do it either. Your company has been of great relief; if it had not been so, this unjust exile would have weighed much more. Your practical help and your discourses on the foundations of eternal wisdom that only a few treasure has made it seem that these twelve years have passed in an instant.”
“Now my heart is crying as we have to tell you that we will have to forcibly separate, for if we stay together this year the vile Duryodhana would easily discover us. But it will be only a year, after which we will find ourselves so as not to part again. We still don’t know where we’re going; however, even if we knew, we would prefer not to say it, so that there is no risk of inadvertently revealing the secret as far as you are concerned.”
“There are many places where you can go and will be welcome; you are free to decide as you please.”
In the days that followed, almost all those dear friends departed and only Dhaumya stayed. With him, the Pandavas discussed the best place to go. Of course they would have preferred Dvaraka, or Panchala, the kingdom of Drupada. But that would have been too risky. Those would be the first places Duryodhana’s skilled spies would go looking for them. Thus, after everyone had expressed their opinion, the territory of Matsya, the kingdom of Virata, was chosen. It remained only to decide the best way to present themselves without arousing suspicion.
“I will say that I am a Brahmana named Kanka,” said Yudhisthira. “I will keep the king company discussing with him the subtle rules of morality and teaching him to play dice.”
“I will say my name is Valala,” said Bhima. “I will work as a cook and occasionally will give a sample of my strength in Virata’s arena.”
“Thanks to Urvashi’s curse,” Arjuna said, “I will pass myself off as a eunuch and live in the women’s apartments. My name will be Brihannala, and I will teach them the arts of singing and dancing.”
“I will put my knowledge of horses to good use,” Nakula said, “by taking care of the king’s stables. My name will be Damagranthi.”
“I’ll take care of his herds,” Sahadeva said, “and I’ll say my name is Tantripala.”
“I will be Sairandhri,” Draupadi finally said, “and I will ask to work in the queen’s apartments. I will comb her hair, keep her company and make flower decorations. I will say that I am married to five powerful Gandharvas, so that everyone will be afraid to bother me and I’ll be able to keep myself chaste without any problems.”
Dhaumya left for Panchala, and the Pandavas left Dvaitavana and headed for the capital of Virata, famous for being one of the most beautiful cities in the world and for being full of artistic treasures.
Arriving near the city, they found themselves forced to solve the problem of the weapons they were bringing with them; they were too flashy and famous to keep them with them, so they decided to hide them outside the city gates. They wrapped them in a large sheet, trying to give the wrapping as much as possible the shape of a man; then they hid it at the top of a large shami tree. Not entirely reassured, Yudhisthira thought of leaving them in Durga’s custody during the time they were to be absent. Mentally, he prayed to the supreme goddess of the universe, not to allow anyone to get close to their precious treasure.
The Devi then appeared in the Pandava’s mind and said to him:
“Yudhisthira, listen to me. Soon this last year will be over and the time will come for you to meet with the evil militias of Duryodhana and destroy them. Do not fear for your weapons, no one will touch them. And do not even be afraid of your anonymity, as no one will know you. Go quietly, I bless you. “
Some people had seen in the distance six individuals wrap something in a sheet and place it on the top of the tree. In an instant the rumor spread that the wrapping contained a corpse and that an evil spirit was watching over it. The Pandavas immediately fed this rumor, stating that it was their mother’s body and that, due to a curse, her spirit would be released only if it remained for several years in that position without anyone touching it. For this reason they had begged a spirit to watch over the dead and to kill anyone who profaned her body.
Reassured by the fact that the weapons were now in a protected location, for the first time in their life the Pandavas separated and each entered the city on their own.
Yudhisthira was the first to ask to be able to speak with the king.
Virata immediately noticed the noble bearing of his interlocutor and was amazed that such a person could be a Brahmana. However, he welcomed him with all honors, and happily accepted him as a companion and adviser.
So did everyone else, including Draupadi who found employment as queen Sudeshna’s personal companion.
Virata was a good king and had married a virtuous woman who was well disposed towards everyone. And as happens in all kingdoms ruled by upright and magnanimous rulers, the subjects lived in serenity and well-being.
Four months had already passed, when in the days of Shivatri Virata, like every year, he held a wrestling competition that has now become famous all over the world and in which the strongest athletes took part. Among them stood out Jimuta, the champion of champions, so strong that he was left practically without any opponents.
“Kanka, look at Jimuta,” said Virata during the tournament. “His muscles are steel and his skill is unmatched just like his insolence. There is no one left who can be his rival.”
“Once, in Indra-prastha I saw the cook Valala fight,” replied the latter, “and I assure you it would be worth seeing him in action against Jimuta.”
The king nodded and asked Valala if he would like to go down to the arena to fight. Bhima, who had waited more than enough to stretch his arms a little, immediately agreed to face the champion.
After a spectacular fight, the Pandava defeated Jimuta and, still not satisfied, he also faced the wild beasts and reduced them to shreds. Such strength earned him the esteem and admiration of the Matsya monarch and other court dignitaries.
In the months that followed, life passed placidly without anything particularly important disturbing the government of Virata.
This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.
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