by Swami Krishnananda
Sri Krishna attended the ceremony of the wedding of Draupadi with the Pandavas in the palace of Drupada, and he was silently sitting there unidentified by people. He uttered not a single word. In that audience he never revealed himself. But, when the ceremony was over and Draupadi was back at home, the Pandavas were in their little cottage with their mother Kunti, Sri Krishna came there with large presents, gold, silver, treasure, horses, elephants and what-not. Yudhishthira was in a state of daze. He was not to reveal himself because they were living incognito. Yudhishthira asked Sri Krishna, "Krishna, how could you recognise us?" Sri Krishna replied humbly, "Fire cannot be hidden. Wherever fire is, one can know that it is there." Smilingly, he offered them rich presents and walked back to Dvaraka, as if he had nothing to do with the Pandavas any more, except to pay homage and respect as a gesture of goodwill, love and affection. This is the first time, perhaps, that Sri Krishna met the Pandavas. He only knew their presence and was fully aware of their difficulties. And in his great vision he knew all the things that were to take place eventually. Unfortunately, the mystery of the divine ordinance is that he was not present during the gambling game of Yudhishthira in the palace of Duryodhana. When the Pandavas were driven into the forest as a result of the play, Sri Krishna came to know of this catastrophe, collected a large number of people, and with a huge army, went to the forest, to greet the Pandavas in their condition of destitution, poverty and sorrow. The Mahabharata tells us that Sri Krishna sat for a few moments closing his eyes and he appeared to be filled with an insurge of power which terrified those around him. Arjuna who observed the peculiar manifestation of something that is coming out from him, prostrated himself before the great Master, begged him with folded hands and offered a prayer, "Master, cool down, cool down. If you get angry, the world cannot stand." Sri Krishna spoke, "What a pity that I was not able to be present when the shameful drama of the play of dice took place in the hall of the Kauravas. I was in Dwaraka at that time in an encounter with Saubha who harassed the people of Dwaraka, and, therefore, I was not able to be present. Otherwise, I would have averted this misfortune with the power of my arms." Satyaki was roused. He got up and announced that the Yadava army should proceed straight to the Kauravas and put an end to the whole problem without associating the Pandavas in any way in this matter. Sri Krishna knew the mind of Yudhishthira and said, "The Pandavas are Kshatriyas; they will not accept charity from anybody. There is no point in our gaining the kingdom and handing over the dominion to Yudhishthira. Being a Kshatriya, he would like to acquire it with his own prowess and would not accept it as a gift from us." This reply calmed down Satyaki, and Yudhishthira thanked Sri Krishna for having taken the trouble of coming all the way from Dwaraka to see them in the forest. The Yadavas leave the place; Sri Krishna returns to Dwaraka.
For a long time there is a gap, as it were, after this meeting that took place between Sri Krishna and the Pandavas till the subsequent events. The Pandavas underwent great hardship due to lack of facilities in the forest. Being princes, they were not accustomed to that kind of difficult living. However, time passed. But Duryodhana was not satisfied even with the exile of the Pandavas. He wanted to see their death. He was hatching plans to put an end to the Pandavas even while they were in the forest, so that he might be rid of them and not have the anxiety that perhaps after twelve years or thirteen years they may come back and create further troubles for him. He was thinking what to do. He was conniving with Karna and Sakuni about this idea in his mind, which somehow reached the ears of Bhishma, the grandsire, who became enraged that Duryodhana had plans of this mean nature. Hearing of this, Bhishma summoned Duryodhana and reprimanded him severely. Duryodhana had no alternative but to yield. Then he thought again, what he could do under the circumstances. He concocted some story, as his previous plan failed due to the intervention of Bhishma: "The cattle of the palace have strayed away to the forest and so we are all to go there in search of the cows and bulls." With this pretext he thought he would go to the forest and put an end to the Pandavas by some means. He mentioned this sojourn of his to his father Dhritarashtra-not to Bhishma-that they are all going to the forest for bringing back their cattle that had strayed away. Dhritarashtra knew Duryodhana to some extent. He had some suspicions in his mind. However, he warned Duryodhana, "When you go to the forest side, do not go near the place where the Pandavas are staying. Do not go there. I advise you not to go near the Pandavas." "No, no, we are going to collect our cattle." Duryodhana went with an army. God is great. Indra. in heaven knew why Duryodhana with his army was going to the forest. How God works one can know from this incident. How compassionate God is! Even when we do not ask for help, He comes to our aid.
The Pandavas knew nothing of this matter. No body knew anything at all. But God knew. Indra sent Chitrasena, the Gandharva, to encounter the Kauravas an,d drive them out. What a coincidence! When Duryodhana's retinue entered the forest, the Gandharva attacked and drove them out, caught hold of Duryodhana, bound him tightly with ropes and wanted to carry him away. Duryodhana cried in a loud tone. The Pandavas were living nearby. Yudhishthira heard a voice which sounded like Duryodhana's. He was surprised. "How am I hearing the voice of Duryodhana here?" He told Bhima, "Go, and find out what is the matter. I am hearing some voice like that of Duryodhana. How is it possible?" Bhima went and saw what was happening. Duryodhana was bound hand and foot by the Gandharva and was being dragged. Bhima came back and exclaimed in joy, "Very good, very good, indeed. Very nice, I am very happy. Duryodhara is about to see his end just now at the hands of a Gandharva." Yudhishthira queried, "Why do you speak like this, he is our own brother. Go and help him if he is in trouble." "No, I will not; let him die." "I am your elder brother; you must do what I say." "No, I shall not. Let the evil Duryodhana go." Then Yudhishthira instructed Arjuna to go and help Duryodhana. Arjuna went and fought with Chitrasena, the Gandhanva, defeated him and released Duryodhana from bondage. Then Chitrasena, revealed to Arjuna, "Do you know why I have come here? I was sent by Indra. Otherwise, you could not imagine what would have been the consequence." Arjuna understood the whole situation. Duryodhana was in the pangs of shame and wanted to commit suicide at that very moment. He came to do something, and something else happened! He had come to kill the Pandavas and the Pandavas had to come and rescue him! What a life! When he was sitting there and telling everyone that he would be there till he died, without eating and without drinking, Karna came and advised, "Kshatriyas do not speak like this. The past is past, dead and gone. Get up and be a hero." Duryodhana, thus dissuaded from his intention of fasting unto death, was taken back to the palace. So goes this wondrous story which can make anyone shed tears.
Duryodhana was evil incarnate. He was not to be satisfied, yet. He thought of some other plan to destroy the Pandavas. When he was thinking like this, the sage Durvasa came to the palace with his eighty thousand disciples. Duryodhana received the sage with great honour, respect and hospitality, fed him and arranged for his stay in the palace, very comfortably. The next morning, when the sage was to leave, Duryodhana made a request, "I have a humble request, great Master. My brothers are in the forest. They would be immensely happy if you would bless them too, by receiving their hospitality." The sags Durvasa replied, "Well, I shall go, of course." The intention of Duryodhana was something different. He knew that the Pandavas were not in a position to receive the sage and to feed this large number of disciples, as they were themselves living in utter poverty. Moreover, the sage was renowned for his anger, his sudden rage, for even the smallest displeasure. Duryodhana thought that this would end in the destruction of the Pandavas, because the sage would be so wroth with the inhospitable reception meted out to him by the Pandavas, that he would curse them to death, and that would rid Duryodhana of the Pandavas. This was the mischievous intention that was in the mind of Duryodhana when he made this seemingly pious request to the sage that he might very kindly receive the hospitality of the Pandavas living in the forest. Durvasa went with his large retinue of disciples. Yudhishthira received him with love. "Sage, today we are all thrice-blessed by your visit. You all shall have your day's meal with us."
Why did Yudhishthira speak like this? How could he utter such words when he knew that there was nothing in the house! No doubt, there was a vessel with the Pandavas, given to them by Bhagavan Suryanarayana who was pleased with the worship they offered to him. There was a condition attached to the gift of the vessel. Bhagavan Surya had ordained, "O Pandavas, you are in sorrow; you have prayed to me for succour. Well, I give you this vessel. The food that is cooked in this vessel shall be inexhaustible. You may take any amount of food from this vessel, it shall not get exhausted. But it shall become empty after Draupadi eats from it, so that it could be cleaned for the next day's cooking." So there was no difficulty with the Pandavas as far as food was concerned. And, always, Draupadi was the last one to eat, because the condition was that when she ate there would be nothing left in the vessel. It so happened that, on that day, when sage Durvasa arrived, Draupadi had already eaten. And so, the question of feeding the sage and his disciples did not arise. Draupadi was very much disturbed in mind when she heard, through the window, Yudhishthira inviting the sage for meal. She was wondering, "What is this person speaking? From where will we get the food?" The sage Durvasa responded, "Yes, I shall have my bath in the river and come back by noon." "Yes, please," said Yudhishthira, "We shall be honoured." Then Draupadi spoke into the ears of Yudhishthira, "What have you done? How is this indiscreet behaviour of yours? From where shall we get food to serve the sage? I have already eaten. There is nothing in the vessel." "Well, I have said what I have said. What can I do now? Let the inevitable happen," spoke back Yudhishthira in his usual demeanour. This was a foolish promise and indiscriminate behaviour of Yudhishthira, which had no remedy. Neither did he know what was to take place. Great trouble was to come; everyone knew the nature of the sage, a terrible person, short-tempered and capable of getting roused into irascible, cursing mood in a moment.
Draupadi went in and silently wept. "What is going to happen to us? Krishna, are you alive? Do you see what is happening to us? Are you aware of our condition? The wickedest heart on seeing us being forced into the woods like this, would burst." Her soul was crying. When the soul calls for God, Gad has to come. Tradition holds that Sri Krishna knew the predicament of the Pandavas. He was in Dwaraka, some thousand miles away from this forest where the Pandavas were living. In his omniscience, he knew what was happening. There was a sudden knock at Draupadi's door. She was seated inside and beating her breast in sorrow, weeping. When, on hearing the knock, she opened the door, she saw the miracle man standing there, stunning her vision. "O! You! How did you happen to come in the thick of this forest now, at this moment? From where are you coming?" "Sister, I am tired, coming on a long journey. I am hungry, having eaten nothing since yesterday. Give me something to eat." "Lord, do you tease me, knowing well that I have nothing with me?" "Do not pretend. Do not hide your food." "No, Krishna, nothing is left there with me. Why do you trouble me with this request?" "You do have something left; give it to me." "I have nothing. I have told you. I have already eaten from the vessel and cleaned it. Nothing is left." "No, you are not telling the truth, Draupadi. When I am hungry, you must not speak like this." No, please, I do not know why you say thus. There is nothing left. See, here is the vessel, empty!" Sri Krishna saw that she had not cleaned the vessel properly. There was some little leaf of vegetable sticking to the side. He took out the leaf. "Here is something. Why did you tell me that there is nothing with you. You have not told me the truth. Here is the food for me." He took out that, ate it and mentally invoked his blessings, "May the Universe be appeased." Unceremoniously, he then left the place, saying nothing, to the consternation of Draupadi. She wondered, "What has happened; where has he gone? What is this, he has vanished!" She looks. He was not to be seen. It was noon. The sage was not coming. It was one o'clock; nobody comes. Three o'clock; no news of the sage! Yudhishthira was distressed. "How is it that the sage has not yet come? He must be angry with us. And we shall receive his wrath if he is annoyed." He sent Sahadeva. "Please invite the sage for the meal." When Sahadeva was seen, the sage and the disciples ran in fear. Why they so ran, nobody knew. Sahadeva returned and reported to Yudhishthira, "They are running away." "Oh! They are running away? Are they annoyed with me?" He sent Nakula. When the sage and the disciples saw Nakula, they ran faster. "Listen, Bhima, you go and see why they are not coming. Are they angry with us? Go and find out what the matter is." Bhima went. On seeing him, they all wailed, "Let us run away. He is coming. He will kill us." No one knew what had happened. Only God knew the mystery. It appears, the stomachs of all those people got bloated as if filled with food to the brim; they all felt a satisfaction as if they had eaten up to their noses. They ran because they had no space in the stomach to eat further. The thing was that if they had gone back to Yudhishthira, and he offered food, they would not have been able to eat, which would be an insult to Yudhishthira. They ran in fear of Yudhishthira's displeasure. They ran, and ran, and ran, and never came back. And nobody knew anything. Neither Yudhishthira knew, nor his brothers, nor even Draupadi. The mystery, only Sri Krishna knew. Who else can? Thus did Sri Krishna protect the Pandavas. God listens to the prayer of a helpless soul. This incident is narrated in the Aranya Parva of the Mahabharata.