The Mahabharata Home
Vaisampayana said, "Then another endued with the dreadful strength and blazing in beauty, approached king Virata, with the playful gait of the lion. And holding in hand a cooking ladle and a spoon, as also an unsheathed sword of sable hue and without a spot on the blade, he came in the guise of a cook illumining all around him by his splendour like the sun discovering the whole world. And attired in black and possessed of the strength of the king of mountains, he approached the king of the Matsyas and stood before him. And beholding that king-like person before him, Virata addressed his assembled subjects saying, 'Who is that youth, that bull among men, with shoulders broad like those of a lion, and so exceedingly beautiful? That person, never seen before, is like the sun. Revolving the matter in my mind, I cannot ascertain who he is, nor can I with even serious thoughts guess the intention of that bull among men (in coming here). Beholding him, it seems to me that he is either the king of the Gandharvas, or Purandara himself. Do ye ascertain who it is that standeth before my eyes. Let him have quickly what he seeks.' Thus commanded by king Virata, his swift-footed messengers went up to the son of Kunti and informed that younger brother of Yudhishthira of everything the king had said. Then the high-souled son of Pandu, approaching Virata, addressed him in words that were not unsuited to his object, saying, 'O foremost of kings, I am
a cook, Vallava by name. I am skilled in dressing dishes. Do thou employ me in the kitchen!'"
Virata said, "I do not believe, O Vallava, that cooking is thy office. Thou resemblest the deity of a thousand eyes; and in grace and beauty and prowess, thou shinest among these all as a king!"
Bhima replied, "O king of kings, I am thy cook and servant in the first place. It is not curries only of which I have knowledge, O monarch, although king Yudhishthira always used in days gone by to taste my dishes. O lord of earth, I am also a wrestler. Nor is there one that is equal to me in strength. And engaging in fight with lions and elephants, I shall, O sinless one, always contribute to thy entertainment."
Virata said, "I will even grant thee boons. Thou wilt do what thou wishest, as thou describest thyself skilled in it. I do not, however, think, that this office is worthy of thee, for thou deservest this (entire) earth girt round by the sea. But do as thou likest. Be thou the superintendent of my kitchen, and thou art placed at the head of those who have been appointed there before by me."
Vaisampayana continued, "Thus appointed in the kitchen, Bhima soon became the favourite of king Virata. And, O king, he continued to live there unrecognised by the other servants of Virata as also by other people!"
Next: Section IX