The Enchanted Pool
THE stipulated period of twelve years was drawing to a
One day, a deer was rubbing itself against a poor
brahmana's fire-kindling mortar and as it turned to go, the mortar got
entangled in its horns and the affrighted animal fled wildly with it into the
In those days matches were unknown and fire was kindled
with pieces of wood by mechanical friction.
"Alas! The deer is running away with my fire-kindler.
How can I perform the fire sacrifice?" shouted the brahmana and rushed
towards the Pandavas for help in his extremity.
The Pandavas pursued the animal but it was a magic deer,
which sped in great leaps and bounds, decoying the Pandavas far into the forest
and then disappeared. Worn out by the futile chase, the Pandavas sat in great
dejection under a banyan tree.
Nakula sighed: "We cannot render even this trifling
service to the brahmana. How we have degenerated!" said he sadly.
Bhima said: "Quite so. When Draupadi was dragged into
the assembly, we should have killed those wretches. Is it not because we did
not do so that we have had to suffer all these sorrows?" and he looked at
Arjuna agreed. "I bore in silence the vulgar and
insulting brag of that son of the charioteer, doing nothing. So we have
deservedly fallen into this pitiable state."
Yudhishthira noticed with sorrow that all of them had lost
their cheerfulness and courage. He thought they would be more cheerful with
something to do. He was tormented with thirst and so he said to Nakula:
"Brother, climb that tree and see whether there is any pool or river
Nakula climbed the tree, looked around and said: "At
a little distance I see water plants and cranes. There must certainly be water
Yudhishthira sent him to fetch some to drink.
Nakula was glad when he got to the place and saw there was
a pool. He was very thirsty himself and so thought of quenching his thirst
first before taking water in his quiver for his brother. But no sooner did he
dip his hand in the transparent water than he heard a voice, which said:
"Do not be rash. This pool belongs to me. O son of
Madri, answer my questions and then drink the water."
Nakula was surprised, but carried away by his intense
thirst and heedless of the warning, he drank the water. At once, overcome by
irresistible drowsiness, he fell down, to all appearance dead.
Surprised that Nakula had not returned, Yudhishthira sent
Sahadeva to see what the matter was.
When Sahadeva reached the pool and saw his brother lying on the ground,
he wondered whether any harm had come to him. But before looking into the
matter further, rushed irresistibly to the water to quench his burning thirst.
The voice was heard again: "O Sahadeva, this is my
pool. Answer my questions and then only may you quench your thirst."
Like Nakula, Sahadeva also did not heed the warning. He
drank the water and at once dropped down.
Puzzled and worried that Sahadeva also did not return,
Yudhishthira sent Arjuna to see whether the brothers had met with any danger.
"And bring water," he added, for he was very thirsty.
Arjuna went swiftly. He saw both his brothers lying dead
near the pool. He was shocked at the sight and felt that they must have been
killed by some lurking foe.
Though heart-broken with grief and burning with the desire
for revenge, he felt all feelings submerged in a monstrous thirst, which
irresistibly impelled him to the fatal pool. Again, a voice was heard:
"Answer my question before you drink the water. This pool is mine. If you
disobey me, you will follow your brothers."
Arjuna's anger knew no bounds. He cried: "Who are
you? Come and stand up to me, and I will kill you," and he shot keen-edged
arrows in the direction of the voice. The invisible being laughed in scorn: "Your
arrows do but wound the air. Answer my questions and then you can satisfy your
thirst. If you drink the water without doing so, you will die."
Greatly vexed, Arjuna made up his mind to seek out and
grapple with this elusive foe. But first he had to quench his terrible thirst.
Yes, thirst was the enemy he must kill first. So he drank the water and also
fell down dead.
After anxious waiting Yudhishthira turned to Bhima:
"Dear brother, Arjuna, the great hero, has also not yet returned.
Something terrible must have happened to our brothers, for our stars are bad.
Please seek them out and be quick about it. Also bring water, for I die of
thirst." Bhima, racked with anxiety, hurried away without a word.
His grief and rage can be imagined when he saw his three
brothers lying there dead. He thought: "This is certainly the work of the
Yakshas. I will hunt them down and kill them. But O! I am so thirsty, I shall
first drink water the better to fight them." And then he descended into
The voice shouted: "Bhimasena, beware. You may drink
only after answering my questions. You will die if you disregard my
"Who are you to dictate to me?" cried Bhima, and
he drank the water avidly, glaring around in defiance. And as he did so, his
great strength seemed to slip from him like a garment. And he also fell dead
among his brothers.
Alone, Yudhishthira wailed full of anxiety and thirst.
"Have they been subjected to a curse or are they wandering about in the
forest in a vain search for water or have they fainted or died of thirst?"
Unable to bear these thoughts and driven desperate by an overpowering thirst, he started out to
look for his brothers and the pool.
Yudhishthira proceeded in the direction his brothers had
taken through tracts infested with wild boar and abounding in spotted dear and
huge forest birds. Presently he came upon a beautiful green meadow, girdling a
pool of pellucid water, nectar to his eyes.
But when he saw his brothers lying there like sacred
flagpoles thrown pell-mell after a festival, unable to restrain his grief, he
lifted his voice and wept. He stroked the faces of Bhima and Arjuna as they lay
so still and silent there and mourned:
"Was this to be the end of all our vows? Just when
our exile is about to end, you have been snatched away. Even the gods have
forsaken me in my misfortune!"
As he looked at their mighty limbs, now so helpless, he
sadly wondered who could have been powerful enough to kill them. Brokenly, he
reflected: "Surely my heart must be made of steel not to break even after
seeing Nakula and Sahadeva dead. For what purpose should I continue to live in
Then a sense of mystery overcame him, for this could be no
ordinary occurrence. The world held no warriors who could overcome his
brothers. Besides, there were no wounds on their bodies which could have let
out life and their faces were faces of men who slept in peace and not of those
who died in wrath.
There was also no trace of the footprints of an enemy.
There was surely some magic about it. Or, could it be a trick played by
Duryodhana? Might he not have poisoned the water? Then Yudhishthira also
descended into the pool, in his turn drawn to the water by a consuming thirst.
At once the voice without form warned as before:
"Your brothers died because they did not heed my words. Do not follow
them. Answer my questions first and then quench your thirst. This pool is
Yudhishthira knew that these could be none other than the
words of a Yaksha and guessed what had happened to his brothers. He saw a possible
way of redeeming the situation.
He said to the bodiless voice: "Please ask your
questions." The voice put questions rapidly one after another.
The Yaksha asked: "What makes sun shine every
Yudhishthira replied: "The power of Brahman."
The Yaksha asked: "What rescues man in danger?"
Yudhishthira replied: "Courage is man's salvation in
The Yaksha asked: "By the study of which science does
man become wise?"
Yudhishthira replied: "Not by studying any sastra
does man become wise. It is by association with the great in wisdom that he
The Yaksha asked: "What is more nobly sustaining than
Yudhishthira replied: "The mother who brings up the
children she has borne is nobler and more sustaining than the earth."
The Yaksha asked: "What is higher than the sky?"
Yudhishthira replied: "The father."
The Yaksha asked: "What is fleeter than wind?"
Yudhishthira replied: "Mind."
The Yaksha asked: "What is more blighted than
Yudhishthira replied: "A sorrow-stricken heart."
The Yaksha asked: "What befriends a traveller?"
Yudhishthira replied: "Learning."
The Yaksha asked: "Who is the friend of one who stays
Yudhishthira replied: "The wife."
The Yaksha asked: "Who accompanies a man in
Yudhishthira replied: "Dharma. That alone accompanies
the soul in its solitary journey after death."
The Yaksha asked: "Which is the biggest vessel?"
Yudhishthira replied: "The earth, which contains all
within itself is the greatest vessel."
The Yaksha asked: "What is happiness?"
Yudhishthira replied: "Happiness is the result of
The Yaksha asked: "What is that, abandoning which man
becomes loved by all?"
Yudhishthira replied: "Pride, for abandoning that man
will be loved by all."
The Yaksha asked: "What is the loss which yields joy
and not sorrow?"
Yudhishthira replied: "Anger, giving it up, we will
no longer subject to sorrow."
The Yaksha asked: "What is that, by giving up which,
man becomes rich?"
Yudhishthira replied: "Desire, getting rid of it, man
The Yaksha asked: "What makes one a real brahmana? Is
it birth, good conduct or learning? Answer decisively."
Yudhishthira replied: "Birth and learning do not make
one a brahmana. Good conduct alone does. However learned a person may be he will
not be a brahmana if he is a slave to bad habits. Even though he may be learned
in the four Vedas, a man of bad conduct falls to a lower class."
The Yaksha asked: "What is the greatest wonder in the
Yudhishthira replied: "Every day, men see creatures
depart to Yama's abode and yet, those who remain seek to live forever. This
verily is the greatest wonder."
Thus, the Yaksha posed many questions and Yudhishthira
answered them all.
In the end the Yaksha asked: "O king, one of your
dead brothers can now be revived. Whom do you want revived? He shall come back
Yudhishthira thought for a moment and then replied:
"May the cloud-complexioned, lotus-eyed, broad-chested and long-armed
Nakula, lying like a fallen ebony tree, arise."
The Yaksha was pleased at this and asked Yudhishthira:
"Why did you choose Nakula in preference to Bhima who has the strength of
sixteen thousand elephants? I have heard that Bhima is most dear to you. And
why not Arjuna, whose prowess in arms is your protection? Tell me why you chose
Nakula rather than either of these two."
Yudhishthira replied: "O Yaksha, dharma is the only
shield of man and not Bhima or Arjuna. If dharma is set at naught, man will be
ruined. Kunti and Madri were the two wives of my father. I am surviving, a son
of Kunti, and so, she is not completely bereaved. In order that the scales of
justice may be even, I ask that Madri's son Nakula may revive." The Yaksha
was pleased with Yudhishthira's impartiality and granted that all his brothers
would come back to life.
It was Yama, the Lord of Death, who had taken the form of
the deer and the Yaksha so that he might see his son Yudhishthira and test him.
He embraced Yudhishthira and blessed him.
Yama said: "Only a few days remain to complete the
stipulated period of your exile in the forest. The thirteenth year will also
pass by. None of your enemies will be able to discover you. You will
successfully fulfil your undertaking," and saying this he disappeared.
The Pandavas had, no doubt, to pass through all sorts of
troubles during their exile, but the gains too were not inconsiderable. It was
a period of hard discipline and searching probation through which they emerged
stronger and nobler men.
Arjuna returned from tapas with divine weapons and
strengthened by contact with Indra. Bhima also met his elder brother Hanuman
near the lake where the Saugandhika flowers bloomed and got tenfold strength
from his embrace. Having met, at the enchanted pool, his father Yama, the Lord
of Dharma, Yudhishthira shone with tenfold lustre.
"The minds of those who listen to the sacred story of
Yudhishthira's meeting with his father, will never go after evil. They will
never seek to create quarrels among friends or covet the wealth of others. They
will never fall victims to lust. They will never be unduly attached to
transitory things." Thus said Vaisampayana to Janamejaya as he related
this story of the Yaksha. May the same good attend the readers of this story as
retold by us.