Who Can Give Solace?
WHEN the battle was over,
Hastinapura was a city of mourning. All the women and children were weeping and
lamenting their slain, nearest and dearest. With many thousands of bereaved women
accompanying, Dhritarashtra went to the field of battle. At Kurukshetra, the
scene of terrible destruction, the blind king thought of all that had passed,
and wept aloud. But, of what avail was weeping?
"O king, words of consolation
addressed to a bereaved person do not remove his grief. Thousands of rulers
have given up their lives in battle for your sons. It is now time that you
should arrange for proper funeral ceremonies for the dead," said Sanjaya
"It is not right to grieve
for those who die in battle. When souls have left their bodies, there is
nothing like relationship, nothing like brother or son or relative. Your sons
have really no connection with you. Relationship ends with death, being only a
bodily connection and a mere minor incident in the soul's eternal life. From the nowhere do lives come, and, with
death, they again disappear into
nowhere. Why should we weep for them? Those who die in battle after a heroic
fight go as guests to receive Indra's hospitality. Grieving for what is past,
you cannot gain anything in the nature of dharma, pleasure or wealth."
Thus, and in many more ways, did the wise and good Vidura try to assuage the
Vyasa also approached
Dhritarashtra tenderly and said: "Dear son, there is nothing that you do
not know and which you have to learn from me. You know very well that all
living beings must die. This great battle came to reduce earth's burden as I
have heard from Lord Vishnu Himself. That is why this calamity could not be
prevented. Henceforth, Yudhishthira is your son. You should try to love him and
in that way bear the burden of life, giving up grief."
Making his way, through the crowd
of weeping women Yudhishthira approached Dhritarashtra and bowed before him.
Dhritarashtra embraced Yudhishthira, but there was no love in that embrace.
Then Bhimasena was announced to
the blind king. "Come," said Dhritarashtra.
But Vasudeva was wise. He gently
pushed Bhima aside and placed an iron figure before the blind Dhritarashtra,
knowing the old king's exceeding anger. Dhritarashtra hugged the metal statue
to his bosom in a firm embrace and then the thought came to him of how this man
had killed everyone of his sons. And his wrath increased to such a pitch that
the image was crushed to pieces in his embrace.
"Ha! My anger has deceived
me," cried Dhritarashtra. "I have killed dear Bhima."
Then Krishna said to the blind
"Lord, I knew that it would
be thus and I prevented the disaster. You have not killed Bhimasena. You have
crushed only an iron image that I placed instead before you. May your anger be
appeased with what you have done to this image. Bhima is still alive."
The king was composed somewhat
and he blessed Bhima and the other Pandavas who then took leave of him and went
Vyasa was with Gandhari. "Oh
queen,"said the rishi, "be not angry with the Pandavas. Did you not
tell them even when the battle began: 'Where there is dharma, there surely will
be victory'? And so it has happened. It is not right to let the mind dwell on
what is past and nurse one's anger. You must now call to aid your great
Gandhari said: "Bhagavan, I
do not envy the victory of the Pandavas. It is true that grief for the death of
my sons has robbed me of my understanding. These Pandavas also are my sons. I
know that Duhsasana and Sakuni brought about this destruction of our people.
Arjuna and Bhima are blameless. Pride brought this battle about and my sons
deserve the fate they have met. I do not complain about it. But then, in
Vasudeva's presence, Bhima called Duryodhana to battle and they fought. And,
knowing that Duryodhana was stronger and could not be defeated in single combat, Bhima struck him below the navel and
killed him. Vasudeva was looking on. This was wrong and it is this that I find
it impossible to forgive."
Bhima, who heard this, came near
and said: "Mother, I did this to save myself in battle. Whether it was
right or wrong, you should bear with me. Your son was invincible in combat and
so I did in self-protection what was undoubtedly wrong. He called Yudhishthira
to play and deceived him. We had been wronged by your son in so many ways. He
would not give back the kingdom, of which be took unlawful possession. And you
know what your son did to blameless Draupadi. If we had killed your son on the
spot, when he misbehaved in the Hall of Assembly, surely you would not have
blamed us. Bound by Dharmaraja's vow, we restrained ourselves with difficulty
then. We have since discharged honor's debt and found satisfaction in battle.
Mother, you should forgive me."
"Dear son, if you had left
but one out of my hundred sons and killed all the rest and satisfied your
anger, I and my old husband would have found solace in that surviving son for
the rest of our lives. Where is Dharmaputra? Call him." She said.
Hearing this, Yudhishthira
trembled as he, with clasped hands, approached Gandhari, whose eyes were bound
in a cloth in loyal lifelong penance for her husband's blindness. He bowed low
before her and said softly:
"Queen, the cruel
Yudhishthira, who killed your sons, stands before you fit to be cursed. Do
curse me who have committed great sin. I care not for life or for
kingdom." Saying this, he fell on the ground and touched her feet.
Gandhari heaved a deep sigh and
stood mute. She turned her head aside knowing that if, through the cloth with
which her eyes were bound, her vision fell on the prostrate Yudhishthira he
would be reduced to ashes on the spot. But through a little space in the cloth,
even as she turned her face away, her eyes fell on the toe of the prostrate
Yudhishthira. At once, says the poet, the toe was charred black.
Arjuna knew the power of bereaved
Gandhari's wrath, and hid himself behind Vasudeva. The wise and good Gandhari
suppressed all her anger and blessed the Pandavas and sent them to Kunti.
Gandhari turned to Draupadi, who
was in lamentation, having lost all her sons. "Dear girl," said
Gandhari. "Do not grieve. Who can give solace to you and me? It is through
my fault that this great tribe has been destroyed altogether."