The Mahabharata Home
Vaisampayana said, "Thus addressed by Bhimasena, the high-souled king Ajatasatru firmly devoted to truth, mustering his patience, after a few moments said these words, 'No doubt, O Bharata, all this is true. I cannot reproach thee for thy torturing me thus by piercing me with thy arrowy words. From my folly alone hath this calamity come against you. I sought to cast the dice desiring to snatch from Dhritarashtra's son his kingdom with the sovereignty. It was therefore that, that cunning gambler--Suvala's son--played against me on behalf of Suyodhana. Sakuni, a native of the hilly country, is exceedingly artful. Casting the dice in the presence of the assembly, unacquainted as I am with artifices of any kind, he vanquished me artfully. It is, therefore, O Bhimasena, that we have been overwhelmed with this calamity. Beholding the dice favourable to the wishes of Sakuni in odds and evens, I could have controlled my mind. Anger, however, driveth off a person's patience. O child, the mind cannot be kept under control when it is influenced by hauteur, vanity, or pride. I do not reproach thee, O Bhimasena, for the words thou usest. I only regard that what hath befallen us was pre-ordained. When king Duryodhana, the son of Dhritarashtra, coveting our kingdom, plunged us into misery and even slavery, then, O Bhima, it was Draupadi that rescued us. When summoned again to the assembly for playing once more, thou knowest as well as Arjuna what Dhritarashtra's son told me, in the presence of all the Bharatas, regarding the stake for which we were to play. His words were, O prince Ajatsatru, (if vanquished), thou shalt have with all thy brothers, to dwell, to the knowledge of all men, for twelve years in the forest of thy choice, passing the thirteenth year in secrecy. If during the latter period, the spies of the Bharatas, hearing of thee, succeed in discovering thee, thou shalt have again to live in the
forest for the same period, passing once more the last year in secrecy. Reflecting upon this, pledge thyself to it. As regards myself, I promise truly in this assembly of the Kurus, that if thou canst pass this time confounding my spies and undiscovered by them, then, O Bharata, this kingdom of the five rivers is once more thine. We also, O Bharata, if vanquished by thee, shall, all of us, abandoning all our wealth, pass the same period, according to the same rules. Thus addressed by the prince, I replied unto him in the midst of all the Kurus, 'So be it!' The wretched game then commenced. We were vanquished and have been exiled. It is for this that we are wandering miserably over different woody regions abounding with discomfort. Suyodhana, however, still dissatisfied, gave himself up to anger, and urged the Kurus as also all those under his sway to express their joy at our calamity. Having entered into such an agreement in the presence of all good men, who dareth break it for the sake of a kingdom on earth? For a respectable person, I think, even death itself is lighter than the acquisition of sovereignty by an act of transgression. At the time of the play, thou hadst desired to burn my hands. Thou wert prevented by Arjuna, and accordingly didst only squeeze thy own hands. If thou couldst do what thou hadst desired, could this calamity befall us? Conscious of thy prowess, why didst thou not, O Bhima, say so before we entered into such an agreement? Overwhelmed with the consequence of our pledge, and the time itself having passed, what is the use of thy addressing me these harsh words? O Bhima, this is my great grief that we could not do anything even beholding Draupadi persecuted in that way. My heart burneth as if I have drunk some poisonous liquid. Having, however, given that pledge in the midst of the Kuru heroes, I am unable to violate it now. Wait, O Bhima, for the return of our better days, like the scatterer of seeds waiting for the harvest. When one that hath been first injured, succeedeth in revenging himself upon his foe at a time when the latter's enmity hath borne fruit and flowers, he is regarded to have accomplished a great thing by his prowess. Such a brave person earneth undying fame. Such a man obtaineth great prosperity. His enemies bow down unto him, and his friends gather round him, like the celestials clustering round Indra for protection. But know, O Bhima, my promise can never be untrue. I regard virtue as superior to life itself and a blessed state of celestial existence. Kingdom, sons, fame, wealth,--all these do not come up to even a sixteenth part of truth.'
Next: Section XXXV