Three days after these happenings, the five Pāṇḍavas had their bath, wore fine white-coloured clothes, adorned themselves, proceeded to Virāṭa’s sabhā with Yudhiṣṭhira in the lead, and perched themselves on the royal seats reserved for kings. As usual, Virāṭa entered the sabhā to carry out his official duties, and the sight that he beheld! Seated there were the five of them, brilliant as burning fire. He saw Yudhiṣṭhira, who was seated like Indra among the devatas, and said in disdainful tone, “Were you not the one with whom I used to play dice? Had I not made you an assistant in this assembly? That being the case, you’ve adorned yourself and you’re sitting on the royal seat meant for kings! What’s all this?”
Arjuna replied to him with a smile, “Mahārāja! He is worthy of sitting even on the throne of Indra, if he so desires. He is Yudhiṣṭhira, the son of Kuntī. His fame has spread worldwide, like the radiant sun rays. In the land of the Kurus, wherever he walked, ten thousand elephants would follow him as part of his entourage; thirty-thousand golden chariots full of divine weapons would accompany him. Eight hundred professional raconteurs with gem-studded earrings would go with him along with several bards and singers of praise. The Kauravas would wait upon him and serve him daily; all the kings of the world would offer him tributes. He adheres to dharma and he is self-restrained, free from anger, speaks only the truth, and devoted to the Supreme. Duryodhana, Karṇa, Śakuni, and others burned with rage and jealousy looking at the splendour of his immense wealth. It is impossible to make a list of all his good qualities. How is it then, this great king, the son of Pāṇḍu, isn’t deserving of the royal seat meant for kings?”
Virāṭa asked, “If this is King Yudhiṣṭhira, the son of Kuntī, then who are his brothers Bhīma, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva? Who is Draupadī? After the Pāṇḍavas lost the game of dice, how come nothing was known about them?”
Arjuna said, “The man who donned the guise of your royal chef Ballava is the great Bhīma of terrible feats. It is he who killed all those who attacked him on the Gandhamadana mountain and brought the Saugandhika flowers to Draupadī; he is the gandharva who killed the evil Kīcaka; he is the one who killed tigers, bears, and wild boars as part of the entertainment in your inner chambers. Nakula is the one who takes care of horses in your stables. Sahadeva takes care of your cows. The sweet-smiling Sairandhrī of beautiful eyes is Draupadī; it is in connection with her that Kīcaka lost his life. I am Arjuna; details about me must have fallen on the ears of the gracious king; I am Bhīma’s brother, Pārtha; the elder brother of these twins. Mahārāja! All these days, we stayed in your home in great comfort, like infants in the mother’s womb; thus we spent our year incognito.”
After Arjuna made the introductions, Uttara described in great detail Arjuna’s prowess on the battlefield. He spoke these words of praise: “Mahārāja! He is the one who went right in the middle of the enemy chariots just as a lion pounces on a herd of deer; it is he who stormed into the enemy ranks and conquered them; it is he who defeated the Kauravas and retrieved our cows. My ears deafened upon listening to the tumultuous sound of his conch shell. Father, these Pāṇḍavas are great souls; they are truly worthy of worship; we must honour them well!”
Virāṭa said, “Even I had been captured by the enemies; it was Bhīmasena who released me from their clutches and retrieved the cows. It is because of the courage of their arms that victory was ours. Yudhiṣṭhira! I and all my ministers beg you all for forgiveness. My best wishes and blessings to all of you! If out of ignorance we have uttered something unpleasant or incorrect, please forgive us! Here, this entire royal treasury is yours!” Saying these words, he joyfully embraced Yudhiṣṭhira. However long he looked at them, he wasn’t fully satisfied. Thus, with great affection he told Yudhiṣṭhira, “Owing to good fortune, all of you came out of the forest safely; you have successfully completed this difficult year of living incognito. Without the slightest hesitation, please take this kingdom or anything else that belongs to me. Let the ambidextrous Dhanañjaya take my daughter Uttarā’s hand in marriage; he is indeed the best-suited husband to her!”
Dharmarāja looked at Arjuna’s face; immediately grasping his elder brother’s thoughts, Arjuna told Virāṭa, “O king! I will accept your daughter as my daughter-in-law. It is indeed a great thing if Mātsya and Bhārata kingdoms can come together by means of a marital alliance.”
Virāṭa asked, “Why won’t you accept her hand in marriage?”
Arjuna replied, “Mahārāja, I lived in the harem and have seen your daughter from close quarters; whether it was in private or in the open, she always looked upon me as a father and with great trust. Further, in matters of music and dance, I was loved and respected by her. After being with her for a year, now if I were to marry her, people will become suspicious and imagine things that didn’t happen. I am pure, restrained, and self-controlled; I’ve ensured that she is also pure and chaste. If you do as I have requested, nobody will have any opportunity for sort of suspicion, be it daughter-in-law, daughter, son, or father; everything will be clean and pure. That’s the reason I insist that you should make your daughter my daughter-in-law. My son Abhimanyu is the nephew of Vāsudeva; he is a divine child; he is loved by Śrīkṛṣṇa; he attained great martial prowess even as a child; he will be a suitable son-in-law; he will be a suitable husband for your daughter.”
Virāṭa said, “Indeed, these words are truly befitting of you Dhanañjaya, who are a strict adherent of dharma, a man of wisdom, and a great scion of the Kuru dynasty. Pārtha, what you deem to be appropriate, please undertake it at once. With you as my relative through marriage, I feel like all my desires have been fulfilled!”
In this manner, they both concurred on the matter. Virāṭa and Yudhiṣṭhira sent messengers to convey this news to Vāsudeva and all their friends and relatives.
Thus, after the completion of the thirteenth year, the Pāṇḍavas went to Upaplāvya, a place in Virāṭa’s kingdom, and settled down there. The king of Kāśi, Śaibya, Drupada, and several other kings with powerful weapons and great armies came to Upaplāvya to meet the Pāṇḍavas. Virāṭa offered his respects to all of them and sent them after giving them many gifts. After that Vāsudeva, Balarāma, Kṛtavarma, Sātyaki, Akrūra, Sāmba, and others came there bringing Abhimanyu and Subhadrā with them. Following them was an entourage of ten thousand elephants, a hundred thousand horses, a hundred million chariots, and a billion foot soldiers. Several Vṛṣṇyandhakas and Bhojas came. Śrīkṛṣṇa gave each of the Pāṇḍavas several gifts including women, clothes, and ornaments. After this, the marriage was conducted in the ordained manner. The Matsya kingdom was filled with the ebullient sounds of the blowing of conches, beating of drums, tabors, kettledrums, and other percussive instruments. Animals were freely killed and meat was prepared in a lavish manner. Several intoxicating drinks like sura, maireya, and others were prepared in large quantities. Musicians were singing, raconteurs were telling stories, actors and dancers were presenting dance-dramas, bards were singing songs of praise, and everyone who came there was entertained in a wholesome manner. All the beautiful damsels in Virāṭa’s harem adorned themselves with precious gems and came there, led by Queen Sudeṣṇā. In beauty and grace, Draupadī excelled them all. They adorned Princess Uttarā with several ornaments and with great pomp brought her there. Arjuna accepted her for his son. Yudhiṣṭhira, who was resplendent like Devendra himself, accepted the girl into his family. With the blessings of Śrīkṛṣṇa, Abhimanyu came there and was married; as a wedding gift, his uncle gave him seven thousand horses that could run as fast as the wind, two hundred elephants, and a great deal of wealth. After the wedding was over, Śrīkṛṣṇa donated several gifts that were given to him, a thousand cows, precious stones, a variety of clothes, many ornaments, vehicles, and beds, among other things. The capital of the Matysa kingdom was filled with great celebration and shone brilliantly because of the numerous citizens who were overflowing with joy.
End of Virāṭa-parva
To be continued…
This is an English translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’s Kannada classic Vacanabhārata by Arjun Bharadwaj and Hari Ravikumar published in a serialized form. Thanks to Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh for his review and astute feedback.