MANY brahmanas visited the Pandavas during their exile. And one such, returning to Hastinapura, went to see Dhritarashtra, who received him with due honor.
The brahmana told him how the Pandavas, born princes, were, by unkind destiny, at the mercy of the wind and the sun and suffered great privations.
Dhritarashtra was probably sorry to hear this. But what troubled him most were the consequences to his own sons. Could Yudhishthira continue to hold the justly wrathful Bhima in check?
Dhritarashtra feared that the anger of the Pandavas, long pent up, might one day break its bounds and overflow in a devastating flood.
The king anxiously pondered thus: "Arjuna and Bhima will certainly try to punish us. Sakuni, Karna, Duryodhana and the short-sighted Duhsasana are perched precariously up a tree in search of a honeycomb while below is the abyss of Bhima's anger yawning to receive them to their destruction."
The blind king pursued his thought: "Alas, why did we become a prey to covetousness? It is not as though poverty drove us to it! Why did we take to the path of injustice? Instead of enjoying our boundless wealth in contentment we succumbed to lust of power and possession and coveted what was not ours. Wrong cannot but yield its bitter harvest! Arjuna has returned from heaven with divine weapons. What could tempt one back to earth from heaven but the craving for vengeance? And we have earned it!" These thoughts would haunt and give him no peace.
Though Dhritarashtra was thus worried, Sakuni, Karna and Duryodhana were giddily happy and found much pleasure in exulting congratulation of one another on their prosperity.
Karna and Sakuni said to Duryodhana: "The kingdom which was in the hands of Yudhishthira has become ours. We need no longer burn with jealousy."
Duryodhana replied: "O Karna, all that is true, but would it not be a joy of joys to see with my own eyes the sufferings of the Pandavas and bring their sorrow to a climax by a display of our happiness? The only way to perfect our happiness is to go to the forest and see the distress of the Pandavas, but my father will refuse permission," and Duryodhana shed tears at his father's cruelty in denying him this pleasure.
He said again: "The king fears the Pandavas, as he thinks that they are endowed with the power of austerities. He forbids us to go to the forest and meet them, lest danger should befall us. But I tell you, all we have done so far is labor lost, without a sight of the sufferings of Draupadi, Bhima and Arjuna in the forest. This life of idle ease is torment to me without that great joy. Sakuni and yourself must seek a way of obtaining the king's consent for us to go to the forest and see the Pandavas in their misery."
Early next morning, Karna went to Duryodhana with a cheerful face and announced that he had found a way out of the difficulty.
He said: "What do you think of going to our ranches at Dwaitavana for the annual stock-taking of the cows? The king certainly cannot object to that." Sakuni and Duryodhana applauded this bright idea and sent the leader of the cowherds to the king to secure his permission.
But the king would not assent. He said: "Hunting is indeed beneficial to the princes. It is also desirable to take stock of the cows. But I learn that the Pandavas are dwelling in that forest. It is not advisable for you to go there. I cannot agree to send you to a place near the abode of Bhima and Arjuna while there is still occasion for anger and strife."
Duryodhana said: "We shall not go near them. On the contrary we shall be very careful and avoid them." The king answered:
"However careful you may be, there is danger in mere nearness. Also, it is not right to intrude on the sorrows of the Pandavas in their forest life. Anyone of your soldiers might trespass and give offence, which may lead to trouble. Someone else can go in your stead to count the cattle."
Sakuni said: "O king, Yudhishthira knows and follows the path of dharma. He has given his promise in the open assembly and the Pandavas will follow his bidding. The sons of Kunti will not show any enmity towards us. Do not oppose Duryodhana who is fond of hunting. Let him return after taking stock of the cows. I shall also accompany him and see to it that none of us go anywhere near the Pandavas."
The king, over-persuaded as usual, said: "Well, please yourselves." A heart full of hate can know no contentment. Hate is a cruel fire, which extorts the fuel, on which it lives and grows.