Aśvatthāma said, “O Karṇa! We have not yet won the cows that we’ve captured, we’ve not crossed the borders, we haven’t returned to Hastināpura; and you’ve already begun a bout of self-praise! Warriors who have won numerous wars, attained great wealth and prosperity, and conquered the earth speak not about their courage and valour even a little. Without the slightest noise, fire boils things; the sun shines his light in silence; the earth bears the animate and inanimate beings without uttering a word.
Upon hearing these despondent words of Droṇa, Duryodhana addressed Bhīṣma, Droṇa, and Kṛpa: “Karṇa and I have said this several times in the past; yet I repeat it now – when the Pāṇḍavas lost the game of dice, as per our wager they had to spend twelve years in exile in the forest and one year incognito; this is the year they have to live unrecognized by all; the year of living incognito is not yet complete; if we encounter Arjuna now, then the Pāṇḍavas have to spend another twelve years in forest exile. Let us assume that it is indeed Arjuna; even so, why should we fear or retreat?
Arjuna ran behind Uttara for less than a hundred steps before he caught the young man’s tuft of hair, bringing him to a halt. Uttara began whining like a person overcome by a great calamity. “I will give you a hundred coins made of pure gold; I will gift you ten elephants in rut; leave me alone Bṛhannaḍā!” he pleaded with outstretched hands. Fear had paled the reasoning and consciousness of the young prince; listening to his words and his entreaties, Arjuna smiled and led him to the chariot. He said, “O prince!
While at one end, Virāṭa was in the process of releasing the cows captured by Suśarma, at the other end of the kingdom, Duryodhana—accompanied by Bhīṣma, Droṇa, Karṇa, Kṛpa, Aśvatthāma, and others—captured the cows of Virāṭa. Looking at that, the chief of the cowherds rushed to the palace and came to Virāṭa’s son Bhūmiñjaya or Uttara and pleaded, “O Prince! Your cows are being captured; rush, go at once, and protect them! When the king isn’t present, you are verily the king.
Back at Hastināpura, the spies that Duryodhana had set out in search of the Pāṇḍavas returned to the capital and reported to their king. “We thoroughly searched the forests and we were unable to find the Pāṇḍavas there. We don’t know where they are gone. We heard that their chariots were taken to Dvārāvati and we went there to take a look. It appears that the charioteers had brought empty chariots without the heroes in it. There was no trace of the Pāṇḍavas or Draupadī anywhere. It is quite likely that they are dead. On a different note, there is pleasant news.
Draupadī told Bhīma, “I cried out loud, pouring out my miseries, for I could not control my sorrow; not with a desire to criticize the Mahārāja. Let bygones be bygones; now we must take up the work at hand, that which is possible to accomplish. Every day, Sudeṣṇā looks at me and my body, and says in a tone of suspicion, “Will the king ever let her go if he sets eyes on her!” She constantly doubts my fidelity. Knowing her thoughts and temperament, her brother Kīcaka, himself an evil man, constantly asks for my hand and pleads with me.
Draupadī told Bhīma, “What is that which ails the wife of Yudhiṣṭhira? Knowing only too well all my sorrows, why do you ask me again? That Prātikāmi addressed me as ‘Hey maid-servant!” and dragged me to the court – even now I’m boiling with rage when I think about it. Putting up with such shame and sorrow, which other daughter of a king but for me would continue to be alive? When we lived in the forest, I was attacked by that wretched Saindhava. And here, Kīcaka kicked me in the presence of that evil king. Experiencing such difficulties, what is the use of staying alive?
Kīcaka’s joy knew no bounds when he saw Sairandhrī. He felt like a person who had found a boat just by chance when he badly wanted to cross a lake. He said, “Sairadhrī! Welcome, my lady! Please come in! Today’s night is going to be a happy one. Come, give me pleasure!”
Draupadī said, “The queen has sent me here; it appears she's really thirsty. I must get her a drink.”
Sahadeva entered Virāṭa’s court in the guise of a cowherd. “O king! I tended the cows of the Pāṇḍavas. I don’t know where they are now. I’ve come looking for employment at your court. I do not wish to seek refuge in anyone else but you.”
Virāṭa said, “Revered one! You appear to be a brāhmaṇa or a kṣatriya. You’re so handsome, you don’t have any features of a cowherd. What are you skilled at? What kind of work do you wish to do in my kingdom? How much do you expect me to pay you?”
The Pāṇḍavas spent twelve years in the forest in this manner. One day, Dharmarāja called his brothers and said, “It has been twelve years since we left our kingdom and we are now in our thirteenth year. It’s difficult to spend this year under the conditions our enemies have put down for us. Where shall we live incognito without them discovering our whereabouts?”