(Rajya-labha Parva continued)
“Narada continued, ‘Meanwhile the Asura brothers having subjugated the earth were without a rival. The fatigue of exertion gone, they, having brought the three worlds under equal sway, regarded themselves as persons that had nothing more to do. Having brought all the treasures of the gods, the Gandharvas, the Yakshas, the Nagas, the Rakshasas, and the kings of the earth, the brothers began to pass their days in great happiness.
When they saw they had no rivals (in the three worlds), they gave up all exertion and devoted their time to pleasure and merriment, like the celestials. They experienced great happiness by giving themselves up to every kind of enjoyment, such as women, and perfumes and floral wreaths and viands, and drinks and many other agreeable objects all in profusion. In houses and woods and gardens, on hills and in forests, wherever they liked they passed their time in pleasure and amusement, like the immortals.
And it so happened that one day they went for purposes of pleasure to a tableland of the Vindhya range, perfectly level and stony, and overgrown with blossoming trees. After every object of desire, all of the most agreeable kind, had been brought, the brothers sat on an excellent seat, with happy hearts and accompanied by handsome women. And those damsels, desirous of pleasing the brothers, commenced a dance in accompaniment to music, and sweetly chanted many a song in praise of the mighty pair.’
“Meanwhile Tilottama attired in a single piece of red silk that exposed all her charms, came along, plucking wild flowers on her way. She advanced slowly to where those mighty Asuras were. The Asura brothers, intoxicated with the large portions they had imbibed, were smitten upon beholding that maiden of transcendent beauty.
Leaving their seats they went quickly to where the damsel was. Both of them being under the influence of lust, each sought the maiden for himself. And Sunda seized that maid of fair brows by her right hand. Intoxicated with the boons they had obtained, with physical might, with the wealth and gems they had gathered from every quarter, and with the wine they had drunk, maddened with all these, and influenced by wishful desire, they addressed each other, each contracting his bow in anger, ‘She is my wife, and therefore your superior,’ said Sunda. ‘She is my wife, and therefore your sister-in-law’, replied Upasunda. And they said unto each other, ‘She is mine not yours.’ And soon they were under the influence of rage. Maddened by the beauty of the damsel, they soon forgot their love and affection for each other. Both of them, deprived of reason by passion, then took up their fierce maces.
Each repeating, I was the first, I was the first,’ (in taking her hand) struck the other. And the fierce Asuras, struck by each other with the mace, fell down upon the ground, their bodies bathed in blood, like two suns dislodged from the firmament. And beholding this, the women that had come there, and the other Asuras there present, all fled away trembling in grief and fear, and took refuge in the nether regions. The Grandsire himself of pure soul, then came there, accompanied by the celestials, and the great Rishis. And the illustrious Grandsire applauded Tilottama and expressed his wish of granting her a boon.
The Supreme Deity, before Tilottama spoke, desirous of granting her a boon, cheerfully said, ‘O beautiful damsel, thou shalt roam in the region of the Adityas. Thy splendour shall be so great that nobody will ever be able to look at thee for any length of time!’ The Grandsire of all creatures, granting this boon unto her, establishing the three worlds in Indra as before, returned to his own region.’
“Narada continued, ‘It was thus that Asuras, ever united and inspired by the same purpose slew each other in wrath for the sake of Tilottama.
Therefore, from affection I tell you, ye foremost ones of Bharata’s line, that if you desire to do anything agreeable to me, make some such arrangements that you may not quarrel with one another for the sake of Draupadi.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘The illustrious Pandavas, thus addressed by the great Rishi Narada, consulting with one another, established a rule amongst themselves in the presence of the celestial Rishi himself endued with immeasurable energy. And the rule they made was that when one of them would be sitting with Draupadi, any of the other four who would see that one thus must retire into the forest for twelve years, passing his days as a Brahmacharin.
After the virtuous Pandavas had established that rule amongst themselves, the great Muni Narada, gratified with them, went to the place he wished. Thus, O Janamejaya, did the Pandavas urged by Narada, established a rule amongst themselves in regard to their common wife. And it was for this, O Bharata, that no dispute ever arose between them.'”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘The Pandavas, having established such a rule, continued to reside there. By the prowess of their arms they brought many kings under their sway. And Krishna became obedient unto all the five sons of Pritha, those lions among men, of immeasurable energy.
Like the river Saraswati decked with elephants, which again take pleasure in that stream, Draupadi took great delight in her five heroic husbands and they too took delight in her. And in consequence of the illustrious Pandavas being exceedingly virtuous in their practice, the whole race of Kurus, free from sin, and happy, grew in prosperity.
“After some time, O king, it so happened that certain robbers lifted the cattle of a Brahmana, and while they were carrying away the booty, the Brahmana, deprived of his senses by anger, repaired to Khandavaprastha, and began to reprove the Pandavas in accents of woe. The Brahmana said, ‘Ye Pandavas, from this your dominion, my kine are even now being taken away by force by despicable and wicked wretches! Pursue ye the thieves. Alas, the sacrificial butter of a peaceful Brahmana is being taken away by crows! Alas, the wretched jackal invadeth the empty cave of a lion! A king that taketh the sixth part of the produce of the land without protecting the subject, hath been called by the wise to be the most sinful person in the whole world. The wealth of a Brahmana is being taken away by robbers! Virtue itself is sustaining a diminution! Take me up by the hand, ye Pandavas for I am plunged in grief!”
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Dhananjaya, the son of Kunti, heard those accents of the Brahmana weeping in bitter grief. As soon as he heard those accents, he loudly assured the Brahmana, saying, ‘No fear!’ But it so happened that the chamber where the illustrious Pandavas had their weapons was then occupied by Yudhishthira the just with Krishna.
Arjuna, therefore, was incapable of entering it or, going alone with the Brahmana, though repeatedly urged (to do either) by the weeping accents of the Brahmana. Summoned by the Brahmana, Arjuna reflected, with a sorrowful heart, Alas, this innocent Brahmana’s wealth is being robbed! I should certainly dry up his tears. He hath come to our gate, and is weeping even now. If I do not protect him, the king will be touched with sin in consequence of my indifference; our own irreligiousness will be cited throughout the kingdom, and we shall incur a great sin. If, disregarding the king, I enter the chamber, without doubt I shall be behaving untruthfully towards the monarch without a foe. By entering the chamber, again, I incur the penalty of an exile in the woods.
But I must overlook everything. I care not if I have to incur sin by disregarding the king. I care not if I have to go to the woods and die there. Virtue is superior to the body and lasteth after the body hath perished!’ Dhananjaya, arriving at this resolution, entered the chamber and talked with Yudhishthira. Coming out with the bow, he cheerfully told the Brahmana, ‘Proceed, O Brahmana, with haste, so that those wretched robbers may not go much ahead of us. I shall accompany thee and restore unto thee thy wealth that hath fallen into the hands of the thieves.
‘ Then Dhananjaya, capable of using both his arms with equal skill, armed with the bow and cased in mail and riding in his war-chariot decked with a standard, pursued the thieves, and piercing them with his arrows, compelled them to give up the booty. Benefiting the Brahmana thus by making over to him his kine, and winning great renown, the hero returned to the capital. Bowing unto all the elders, and congratulated by everybody, Partha at last approached Yudhishthira, and addressing him, said, ‘Give me leave, O lord, to observe the vow I took. In beholding thee sitting with Draupadi, I have violated the rule established by ourselves.
I shall therefore go into the woods, for this is even our understanding.’ Then Yudhishthira, suddenly hearing those painful words, became afflicted with grief, and said in an agitated voice, ‘Why!’ A little while after, king Yudhishthira in grief said unto his brother Dhananjaya of curly hair who never departed from his vows, these words, ‘O sinless one, if I am an authority worthy of regard, listen to what I say. O hero, full well do I know the reason why thou hadst entered my chamber and didst what thou regardest to be an act disagreeable to me. But there is no displeasure in my mind.
The younger brother may, without fault, enter the chamber where the elder brother sitteth with his wife. It is only the elder brother that acts against the rules of propriety by entering the room where the younger brother sitteth with his wife. Therefore, O thou of mighty arms, desist from thy purpose. Do what I say. Thy virtue hath sustained no diminution. Thou hast not disregarded me.'”Arjuna, hearing this, replied, ‘I have heard, even from thee, that quibbling is not permitted in the discharge of duty. I cannot waver from truth. Truth is my weapon.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Obtaining then the king’s permission, Arjuna prepared himself for a forest-life; and he went to the forest to live there for twelve years.'”