The Mysterious Lake

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One day, out of breath and visibly worried, a Brahmana came to them.

“You are Pandu’s sons,” he said, “and you are Kshatriyas. Your first and sacred duty is to help the Brahmanas, so please do not abandon me. I need you.”

Yudhisthira replied:

“Pious ascetic, do not fear anything. Tell us what is the problem that torments you and we will do the impossible to solve it.”

“A little while ago,” said the Brahmana, “I was lighting the fire and briefly set my arani sticks near a bush. A deer passing by has inadvertently stolen one away from me. Then I pursued it, but he escaped with the speed of the wind and I couldn’t reach him. Without that stick I can’t light the sacred fire. Please retrieve it and I’ll be eternally grateful.”

The Pandavas set out in search of the animal, but when they spotted it and tried to reach it, they couldn’t. As the Brahmana had said, it seemed to be running as fast as the wind. The brothers ran for a long time under the scorching sun and after a long time, tired and discouraged, they threw themselves under the shade of a tree, burning with an unbearable thirst.

“Nakula, my brother,” said Yudhisthira, “climb up this tree and see if there is any lake or stream nearby where we can quench our thirst.”

“There is a small lake not far from here,” Nakula said after he climbed up.

“Go get water for everyone, since we’re too tired.”

Happy to finally be able to drink, the Pandava ran towards the lake, and as soon as he arrived, he hurried to fill the container. But beset as he was with thirst, he thought of drinking first. A powerful voice stopped him.

 “Stop! This lake is my property and you cannot drink. If you do, you will die. But if you know how to answer my questions, I will allow you to quench your thirst without exposing you to any danger.”

Nakula looked around and saw no one; then, driven by the heat, he drank the water and fell poisoned.

The others waited a long time, then, not seeing him return, Yudhisthira told Sahadeva to go and find his brother. Soon he arrived at the lake and saw Nakula lying on the ground, lifeless. Desperate for that tragedy but also tortured by an unbearable thirst, he thought about drinking. The same voice stopped him.

“Stop! If you drink this water before you have answered my questions, you will die.”

Sahadeva shrugged and drank. He too, killed by that powerful and mysterious poison, fell to the ground lifeless.

The same fate befell Arjuna and then Bhima.

Frightened by the inexplicable delay of his brothers and tortured by an intolerable thirst, Yudhisthira ran to the place, and there he found all his brothers lying by the lake lifeless. But that terrible thirst prevailed over the pain of his brothers’ death, and when he was about to drink a few sips, the mysterious voice stopped him.

“Stop! If you drink this water before you have answered my questions, you will die as your brothers did.”

Yudhisthira was able to control the disturbance caused by the thirst and answered difficult questions of a philosophical and moral nature. The mysterious voice, satisfied, said to him:

“You answered my questions well and you deserve an award. I will bring one of your brothers back to life. Tell me, who do you want with you more than the others?”

“Let Nakula come back to life”, he answered.

“Why Nakula,” the voice asked in an astonished tone, “and not Bhima, the one with superhuman strength, or Arjuna, the one of uncontainable courage even to the gods themselves? In a war, you have to fight, and one of these two would be of greater help to you.”

“If it is the fate that three of my brothers die, I must ensure Madri’s satisfaction too, and it would be fair that one of her sons come back to life. Kunti already has me, Nakula will represent Pandu’s other wife.”

For a moment there was silence; then the voice spoke again.

“I am very happy with your righteousness and your wisdom, and therefore I will revive all your brothers. Know that I am Yamaraja, your father, and I wanted to test you. It was I, in fact, who took the Brahmana’s stick and who sought that intolerable thirst. I am very proud of you. I bless you: may you never deviate from the path of virtue.”

After recovering the stick, the Pandavas returned to the ashrama.

 

And precisely in those days the twelfth year of exile expired.

Now they would have to spend a year without being recognized by anyone, otherwise they would have been forced to return to the forests for another twelve years.

 In those days, the most discussed issue at hand was where they should go to spend that last period of exile.

 

This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.

To buy the complete book, click above

 

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