Draupadī was pained listening to the coward speech of Dharmarāja, to which he had given a dhārmic garb. She was also annoyed looking at Bhīma who seemed to have lost his vigour. Fortunately, however, Sahadeva’s words gave her some solace. With tears in her eyes, she pleaded with Kṛṣṇa, “Janārdana! If the Kauravas refuse giving us our share of the land and try to strike a compromise, please don’t accept it. They are not worthy of our compassion. A greedy kṣatriya should be vanquished by another. I again and again need to pose the same question to you. Is there another woman like me? Though I was born out of the auspicious fire as the daughter of Drupada and the sister of Dṛṣṭadyumna, being your close friend, the daughter-in-law of king Pāṇḍu, the wife of the five Pāṇḍavas and the mother of the five mahārathis, the Upa-pāṇḍavas, I underwent a great deal of humiliation. My untied hair fell into the clutches of those evil brothers and I was pulled into the royal court right in front of my husbands who sat there motionless. I was called a ‘dāsī’ (slave) even as you, the Pāṇḍavas, the Pāñcālas and the Vṛṣṇis still live! As the Pāṇḍavas sat helplessly, my mind called out to you for help –“ Govinda! Please come and rescue me!” As Dhṛtarāṣṭra asked for boons, I requested the Pāṇḍavas to be freed from slavery and to let them have their weapons and chariots back. They were let free but forced into the forest! You know all that transpired. If Duryodhana continues to live even for a moment longer - Fie upon Bhīma’s strength and Arjuna’s bow! If you have any concern and want to lend me your soft corner, please show your rage to the Kauravas!” With these words, she held her upbraided hair that looked like a poisonous snake (kāla-sarpa) – “You are going to their court to resolve the issue but always remember these tresses that were caught mercilessly by Duśśāsana! If you pay any heed to the spineless words spoken by Bhīma and Arjuna and come back with a message of peace, my aged father, my brother Dṛṣṭadyumna, my five sons and Abhimanyu will fight the war. Don’t listen to those coward brothers. My anger will not get subsided until I see Duśśāsana’s broken arm eating dust in the battlefield! For thirteen years, I have borne all pain and have waited to avenge for the insult! Bhīma’s preaching of dharma has irked my heart and is like a lance piercing my insides!” She sobbed uncontrollably. Her bosom was wet with tears.
Kṛṣṇa tried consoling her with these words, “Kṛṣṇā! The wives of the men who have caused you pain will soon lose all their relatives and suffer just as you have. I will ensure that the Pāṇḍavas execute my wish and that is what the Fate has in store too. The Kaurava’s time has come! They will be fed to dogs and foxes. Even if the Himalayas tremble or the earth gets broken into a thousand pieces, my words will not go false. I promise you, Kṛṣṇā! Your husbands will kill the enemy soon and will get their kingdom back! You will witness great fortune in the near future. Please do away with tears, O mother!”
The next morning Kṛṣṇa left for Hastināpura in a chariot equipped with weapons. Duryodhana had got beautiful rest houses constructed on the way to welcome Kṛṣṇa. There was a grand welcome at Vṛkasthaḻa. There were a variety of comfortable seats and food to eat. Women waited for Kṛṣṇa’s arrival with scents and delicacies. Kṛṣṇa paid no attention to any of it and proceeded towards Hastināpura.
Dhṛtarāṣṭra was thrilled hearing that Kṛṣṇa had passed through Vṛkasthaḻa and was heading towards Hastināpura. He told Vidura, “Śrīkṛṣṇa, the leader of the Vṛṣṇis is going to be here tomorrow. We need to welcome him with grandeur and respect. Let us offer him four golden chariots with horses of the Bālhika breed pulling them. We’ll also gift him eight elephants and a hundred female servants. Let’s add a thousand goats of the Himalayan breed that possess soft hair on their body and offer gems that shine both during day and night. Let Duryodhana and the others deck themselves up and humbly welcome him. Decorate the city! Duśśāsana’s house is more comfortable than Duryodhana’s. Let Kṛṣṇa stay there.”
Vidura replied, “O King! You are very old now! Try giving up your crooked thoughts, at least now! Don’t lose your kingdom, children and relatives. Kṛṣṇa does deserve everything you are planning to offer him and there is no doubt about that. But I'm certain that you are not doing this out of your affection for him or out of a dhārmic mind. You want to impress Kṛṣṇa with superficial grandeur and want to avoid giving Pāṇḍavas the five villages they have asked for. He will, however, not give away up Arjuna’s side and you can’t entice him with wealth or flattery. Arjuna means everything to him. You may welcome him with arghya (ritualistic welcome with water) and exchange a few pleasantries. Make sure you make him feel comfortable. He has come here for the welfare of the Kauravas. Please pay heed to his words. Treat Pāṇḍavas like your children!”
Duryodhana heard Vidura’s words and said “Vidrua’s words are true. Kṛṣṇa is extremely fond of the Pāṇḍavas. The king need not give him anything that he has planned to. It is not that Kṛṣṇa does not deserve any of that but the times are such. If we show respect to him, he will think that we are doing so out of fear for him; that is going to be an insult to the kṣatriyas. The war has already begun. There cannot be peace without war!”
Bhīṣma, who heard Duryodhana’s words spoke to Dhṛtarāṣṭra – “O King! It does not matter whether you offer those gifts or not. He does not treat anyone in an ill-manner. There is no way to change whatever he has got in his mind. If he does speak his mind out, make sure you work accordingly. Strike a truce with the Pāṇḍavas with his help. He will surely suggest whatever goes in accordance with dharma and artha. In response to his propositions, I suggest that you, along with your men, should speak in a manner that is conducive for peace”
Duryodhana replied, “Grandfather! I'm not the sole ruler of the kingdom. I cannot share it with the Pāṇḍavas. Listen to what I have decided to do. I will bind Kṛṣṇa with ropes – he has always been the greatest support for the Pāṇḍavas. If I keep him chained, the Vṛṣṇis, the Pāṇḍavas and the entire earth will come under my rule. Tell me how I can do this without causing any harm to our men.”
Dhṛtarāṣṭra and his ministers were greatly pained hearing Duryodhana’s words. Dhṛtarāṣṭra said, “ As a king, it is not dhārmic for you to speak in this manner! Moreover, Kṛṣṇa has come as a messenger. He is our relative and friend. He has committed no mistake and why should he put under chains by the Kauravas?”
Bhīṣma said, “Dhṛtarāṣṭra! Your son’s mind is totally corrupted! If you try to preach him good, he interprets your words to suit his desires. He has taken to the wicked course and is in the company of people who share similar characteristics. He has lost his way and you are treading the same path, using him as your guiding light! If your son tries to harm Kṛṣṇa, he will meet his end in no time! I can no longer bear his ghastly words!”
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.