صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

the splendid lists in sorrow, and the blind Raja determined to separate the unfriendly cousins before further harm could come from their rivalry.

Before this could be done, another event increased their hostility. Drona had agreed to impart to the Kauravas and the Pandavas his skill in warfare, on condition that they would conquer for him his old enemy, the Raja of Panchala. On account of their quarrel the cousins would not fight together, and the Kauravas, marching against the Raja, were defeated. On their return, the Pandavas went to Panchala, and took the Raja prisoner.

After Yudhi-sthira had been appointed Yuva-Raja, a step Dhrita-rashtra was compelled by the people of Hastinapur to take, the Kauravas declared that they could no longer remain in the same city with their cousins.

A plot was laid to destroy the Pandavas, the Raja's conscience having been quieted by the assurances of his Brahman counsellor that it was entirely proper to slay one's foe, be he father, brother, or friend, openly or by secret means. The Raja accordingly pretended to send his nephews on a pleasure-trip to a distant province, where he had prepared for their reception a house of lac,” rendered more combustible by soaking in clarified butter, in which he had arranged to have them burned as if by accident, as soon as possible after their arrival.

All Hastinapur mourned at the departure of the Pandavas, and the princes themselves were sad, for they had been warned by a friend that Dhrita-rashtra had plotted for their destruction. They took up their abode in the house of lac, to which they prudently constructed a subterranean outlet, and one evening, when a woman with five sons attended a feast of their mother's, uninvited, and fell into a drunken sleep, they made fast the doors, set fire to the house, and escaped to the forest. The bodies of the five men and their mother were found next day, and the assurance was borne to Hastinapur that the Pandavas and their mother Kunti had perished by fire.

The five princes, with their mother, disguised as Brahmans, spent several years wandering through the forests, having many strange adventures and slaying many demons. While visiting Ekachakra, which city they freed from a frightful rakshasa, they were informed by the sage Vyasa that Draupadi, the lovely daughter of the Raja Draupada of Panchala, was going to hold a Svayamvara in order to select a husband. The suitors of a princess frequently attended a meeting of this sort and took part in various athletic contests, at the end of which the princess signified who was most pleasing to her, usually the victor in the games, by hanging around his neck a garland of flowers.

Vyasa's description of the lovely princess, whose black eyes were large as lotus leaves, whose skin was dusky, and her locks dark and curling, so excited the curiosity of the Pandavas that they determined to attend the Svayamvara. They found the city full of princes and kings who had come to take part in the contest for the most beautiful woman in the world. The great amphitheatre in which the games were to take place was surrounded by gold and jewelled palaces for the accommodation of the princes, and with platforms for the convenience of the spectators.

After music, dancing, and various entertainments, which occupied sixteen days, the contest of skill began. On the top of a tall pole, erected in the plain, was placed a golden fish, below which revolved a large wheel. He who sent his arrow through the spokes of the wheel and pierced the eye of the golden fish was to be the accepted suitor of Draupadi.

When the princes saw the difficulty of the contest, many of them refused to enter it; as many tried it only to fail, among them, the Kaurava Duryodhana. At last Arjuna, still in his disguise, stepped forward, drew his bow, and sent his arrow through the wheel into the eye of the golden fish.

Immediately a great uproar arose among the spectators because a Brahman had entered a contest limited to members of the Kshatriya, or warrior class. In the struggle which ensued, however, Arjuna, assisted by his brothers, especially Bhima, succeeded in carrying off the princess, whose father did not demur.

a

When the princes returned to their hut they went into the inner room and informed their mother that they had brought home a prize. Supposing that it was some game, she told them it would be well to share it equally. The mother's word was law, but would the gods permit them to share Draupadi ? Their troubled minds were set at rest by Vyasa, who assured them that Draupadi had five different times in former existences besought Siva for a good husband. He had refused her requests then, but would now allow her five husbands at once. The princes were well satisfied, and when the Raja Draupada learned that the Brahmans were great princes in disguise, he caused the five weddings to be celebrated in great state.

Not satisfied with this, the Raja at once endeavored to make peace between the Pandavas and their hostile cousins, and succeeded far enough to induce Dhrita-rashtra to cede to his nephews a tract of land in the farthest part of his kingdom, on the river Jumna, where they set about founding a most splendid city, Indra-prastha.

Here they lived happily with Draupadi, conquering so many kingdoms and accumulating so much wealth that they once more aroused the jealousy of their old enemies, the Kauravas. The latter, knowing that it would be impossible to gain the advantage of them by fair means, determined to conquer them by artifice, and accordingly erected a large and magnificent hall and invited their cousins thither, with a great show of friendliness, to a gambling match.

The Pandavas knew they would not be treated fairly, but as such an invitation could not be honorably declined by a Kshatriya, they went to Hastinapur. Yudhi-sthira's opponent was Shakuni, the queen's brother, an unprincipled man, by whom he was defeated in every game.

Yudhi-sthira staked successively his money, his jewels, and his slaves; and when these were exhausted, he continued to play, staking his kingdom, his brothers, and last of all his peerless wife, Draupadi.

At this point, when the excitement was intense, the brutal Dhusasana commanded Draupadi to be brought into the hall, and insulted her in every way, to the great rage of the helpless Pandavas, until Dhrita-rashtra, affrighted by the evil omens by which the gods signified their disapproval, rebuked Dhusasana for his conduct, and giving Draupadi her wish, released her husbands and herself and sent them back to their kingdom.

To prevent the Pandavas from gaining time to avenge their insult, the Kauravas induced their father to invite their cousins to court to play a final game, this time the conditions being that the losing party should go into exile for thirteen years, spending twelve years in the forest and the thirteenth in some city. If their disguise was penetrated by their enemies during the thirteenth year, the exile was to be extended for another thirteen years.

Though they knew the outcome, the Pandavas accepted the second invitation, and in consequence again sought the forest, not departing without the most terrible threats against their cousins.

In the forest of Kamyaka, Yudhi-sthira studied the science of dice that he might not again be defeated so disastrously, and journeyed pleasantly from one point of interest to another with Draupadi and his brothers, with the exception of Arjuna, who had sought the Himalayas to gain favor with the god Siva, that he might procure from him a terrible weapon for the destruction of his cousins.

After he had obtained the weapon he was lifted into the heaven of the god Indra, where he spent five happy years. When he rejoined his wife and brothers, they were visited by the god Krishna and by the sage Markandeya, who told them the story of the creation and destruction of the universe, of the flood, and of the doctrine of Karma, which instructs one that man's sufferings here below are due to his actions in former and forgotten existences. He also related to them the beautiful story of how the Princess Sâvitrî had wedded the Prince Satyavan, knowing that the gods had decreed that he should die within a year; how on the day set for his death she had accompanied him to the forest, had there followed Yama, the awful god of death, entreating him until, for very pity of her sorrow and admiration of her courage and devotion, he yielded to her her husband's soul.

Near the close of the twelfth year of their exile, the princes, fatigued from a hunt, sent Nakalu to get some water from a lake which one had discovered from a tree-top. As the prince approached the lake he was warned by a voice not to touch it, but thirst overcoming fear, he drank and fell dead. The same penalty was paid by Sahadeva, Arjuna, and Bhima, who in turn followed him. Yudhi-sthira, who went last, obeyed the voice, which, assuming a terrible form, asked the king questions on many subjects concerning the universe. These being answered satisfactorily, the being declared himself to be Dharma, the god of justice, Yudhi-sthira's father, and in token of his affection for his son, restored the princes to life, and granted them the boon of being unrecognizable during the remaining year of their exile.

The thirteenth year of their exile they spent in the city of Virata, where they entered the service of the Raja, – Yudhisthira as teacher of dice-playing, Bhima as superintendent of the cooks, Arjuna as a teacher of music and dancing to the ladies, Nakalu as master of horse, and Sahadeva as superintendent of the cattle. Draupadi, who entered the service of the queen, was so attractive, even in disguise, that Bhima was forced to kill the queen's brother, Kechaka, for insulting her. This would have caused the Pandavas' exile from Virata had not their services been needed in a battle between Virata and the king of the Trigartas.

The Kauravas assisted the Trigartas in this battle, and the recognition, among the victors, of their cousins, whose thirteenth year of exile was now ended, added to the bitterness of their defeat.

Their exile over, the Pandavas were free to make preparations for the great war which they had determined to wage against the Kauravas. Both parties, anxious to enlist the services of Krishna, sent envoys to him at the same time. When Krishna gave them the choice of himself or his armies, Arjuna was shrewd enough to choose the god, leaving his

« السابقةمتابعة »