Mahabharata

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189

THE Pandavas were camping at Upaplavya in Virata's territory. From there, they sent emissaries to all friendly rulers. Contingents arrived from all parts of the country and soon, the Pandavas had a mighty force of seven divisions. The Kauravas did likewise and collected an army of eleven divisions.

Then, as now, a division was made up of all arms grouped together in accordance with established military practice. In those days, a division consisted of 21,870 chariots, an equal number of elephants, thrice as many horses and five times as many foot soldiers, and they were provided with weapons of all kinds and other war equipment.

Chariots were the "armored cars" of ancient warfare and elephants, specially trained for war, corresponded to the " tanks" of modern times.

Drupada's brahmana messenger reached Dhritarashtra's court. After the usual ceremonial introduction and enquiries were over, the messenger addressed the assembled gathering on behalf of the Pandavas:

"Law is eternal and of inherent validity. You know this and I need not point it out to you. Dhritarashtra and Pandu are both Vichitravirya's sons and are, according to our usages, equally entitled to their father's property. In spite of this, Dhritarashtra's sons have taken possession of the whole kingdom, while Pandu's sons are without their share of the common inheritance. There can be no justification for this. Scions of the Kuru dynasty, the Pandavas desire peace. They are prepared to forget the sufferings they have undergone and to let bygones be bygones. They are unwilling to resort to war, because they fully know that war never brings any good but only destruction. Render unto them, therefore, the things that are due to them. This would be in accordance both with justice and with the agreement previously reached. Let there be no delay."

After this appeal of the messenger, the wise and brave Bhishma spoke. "By the grace of God," he said, "the Pandavas are safe and well. Although they have obtained the support of many princes and are strong enough for battle, they are not bent on war. They still seek peace. To restore to them their property is the only right thing to do."

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Bhishma had not finished when Karna angrily broke in and, turning to the messenger, exclaimed: "O brahmana, is there anything new in what you have said? What tortures it to tell the same old story? How can Yudhishthira claim the property that he lost at the game board? If, now, Yudhishthira wants anything, he must beg for it as a gift! He arrogantly prefers this absurd claim in fond reliance on the strength of his allies, particularly Matsya and Panchala. Let me tell you clearly that nothing can be got out of Duryodhana by threats. As the plighted word, that the Pandavas should live undiscovered during the thirteenth year, has been broken, they must once again go back to the forest for another twelve years and return thereafter."

Bhishma interposed: "Son of Radha, you speak foolishly. If we do not do as this messenger tells us, war will be upon us in which we are certain to be defeated. And Duryodhana and all of us are doomed to destruction." The disorder and excitement in the assembly made Dhritarashtra intervene.

He said to the messenger: "Having in mind the good of the world and considering the Pandava's welfare, I have decided to send Sanjaya to them. Please return at once and tell Yudhishthira this."

Then Dhritarashtra called Sanjaya aside and instructed him thus: "Sanjaya, go to the sons of Pandu and convey to them my affectionate regards and my kind inquiries about Krishna, Satyaki and Virata. Give all the princes assembled there my regards. Go there on my behalf and speak conciliatingly so as to secure the avoidance of war."

Sanjaya went to Yudhishthira on this mission of peace. After the introductory salutations, Sanjaya thus addressed Yudhishthira in the midst of his court: "Dharmaputra, it is my good fortune to be able to see you again with my eyes. Surrounded by princes, you present the picture of Indra himself. The sight gladdens my heart. King Dhritarashtra sends you his best wishes and desires to know that you are well and happy. The son of Ambika (Dhritarashtra) detests all talk of war. He desires your friendship and yearns for peace."

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When Dharmaputra heard Sanjaya say this, he felt glad and answered: "If so, Dhritarashtra's sons have been saved, nay, we have all escaped a great tragedy. I, too, desire only peace and hate war. If our kingdom is returned to us, we will wipe out all memories of the sufferings we have undergone."

Sanjaya spoke again: "Dhritarashtra's sons are perverse. Disregarding their father's advice and their grandsire's wise words, they are still as wicked as ever. But you should not lose patience. Yudhishthira, you stand ever for right conduct. Let us eschew the great evil of war. Can happiness be gained with possessions obtained through war? What good can we reap from a kingdom won after killing our own relatives? Do not therefore commence hostilities. Even if one were to gain the whole earth bounded by the ocean, old age and death are inescapable. Duryodhana and his brothers are fools. But that is no reason why you should swerve from rectitude or lose patience. Even if they do not give back your kingdom, you should not abandon the supreme path of dharma."

Yudhishthira answered: "Sanjaya, what you say is true. Rectitude is the best of possessions, but are we committing wrong? Krishna knows the intricacies of rectitude and dharma. He wishes both sides well. I shall do as Vasudeva orders."

Krishna said: "I desire the welfare of the Pandavas. I desire also that Dhritarashtra and his sons should be happy. This is a difficult matter. I think I can settle this issue by myself going to Hastinapura. If I could obtain peace from the Kauravas on terms that do not conflict with the welfare of all, nothing would make me and the Pandavas happier. If I succeed in doing so, the Kauravas will have been rescued from the jaws of death. I shall also have achieved something good and worthwhile. Even if, through a peaceful settlement, the Pandavas get back what is due to them, they will still serve Dhritarashtra loyally. They desire nothing else. But they are also prepared for war if need be. Of these two alternatives, peace and war, Dhritarashtra can choose what he pleases."

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And Yudhishthira said to Sanjaya: "Sanjaya, go back to the Kaurava, court and tell the son of Ambika this from me: 'Was it not through your generosity that we obtained a share of the kingdom when we were young? You, who made me a king once, should not deny us our share now and drive us to make a beggar's living on the charity of others. Dear uncle, there is enough room in the world for both of us and the Kauravas. Let there be no antagonism, therefore, between us.' Thus should you request Dhritarashtra on my behalf. Give the grandsire my love and regards and ask him to devise some way of ensuring that his grandchildren live happily in amity. Convey the same message to Vidura also. Vidura is the person who can best see what is good for all of us and advise accordingly. Explain matters to Duryodhana and tell him on my behalf: 'My dear brother, you made us, who were princes of the realm, live in the forest, clad in skins. You insulted and harassed our weeping wife in the assembly of princes. We bore all this patiently. Give us back, at least now, what is lawfully ours. Do not covet what belongs to others. We are five. For the five of us give at least five villages and make peace with us. We shall be content. Say thus to Duryodhana, Sanjaya. I am prepared and ready for peace as well as for war."

After Yudhishthira had said these words, Sanjaya took leave of Kesava and the Pandavas, and went back to Hastinapura.