The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'Great was the uproar, at that time, O king, of both men and women standing on the terraces of mansions or on the Earth. Possessed of great intelligence, the old king, with joined hands, and trembling with weakness, proceeded with difficulty along the principal street which was crowded with persons of both sexes. He left the city called after the elephant by the principal gate and then repeatedly bade that crowd of people to return to their homes. Vidura had set his heart on going to the forest along with the king. The Suta Sanjaya also, the son of Gavalgani, the chief minister of Dhritarashtra, was of the same heart. King Dhritarashtra however, caused Kripa and the mighty car-warrior Yuyutsu to refrain from following him. He made them over into Yudhishthira's hands. After the citizens had ceased following the monarch, king Yudhishthira, with the ladies of his house-hold, prepared to stop, at the command of Dhritarashtra. seeing that his mother Kunti was desirous of retiring into the woods, the king said unto her, 'I shall follow the old monarch. Do thou desist.' It behoveth thee, O queen, to return to the city, accompanied by these thy daughters-in-law. This monarch proceeds to the woods, firmly resolved to practise penances. Though king Yudhishthira said these words unto her, with his eyes bathed in tears, Kunti, however, without answering him, continued to proceed, catching hold of Gandhari.
"Kunti said, 'O king, never show any disregard for Sahadeva. He is very much attached to me, O monarch, and to thee also always. Thou shouldst always bear in mind Karna who never retreated from battle. Through my folly that hero has been slain in the field of battle. Surely, my son, this heart of mine is made of steel, since it does not break into a hundred pieces at not seeing that child born of Surya. When such has been the case, O chastiser of foes, what can I now do? I am very much to blame for not having proclaimed the truth about the birth of Surya's child. O crusher of foes, I hope thou wilt, with all thy brothers, make excellent gifts for the sake of that son of Surya. O mower of foes, thou shouldst always do what is agreeable to Draupadi. Thou shouldst look after Bhimasena and Arjuna and Nakula and Sahadeva. The burthens
of the Kuru race have now fallen on thee, O king. I shall live in the woods with Gandhari, besmearing my body with filth, engaged in the performance of penances, and devoted to the service of my father-in-law and mother-in-law.' 1
'Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed by her, the righteous-souled Yudhishthira, with passions under complete control, became, with all his brothers, plunged into great distress. Endued with great intelligence, the king said not a word. Having reflected for a little while, king Yudhishthira the Just, cheerless and plunged in anxiety and sorrow, addressed his mother, saying,--'Strange, indeed, is this purpose of thine? It behoves thee not to accomplish it. I can never grant thee permission. It behoves thee to show us compassion. 'Formerly, when we were about to set out of Hastinapore for the woods, O thou of agreeable features, it was thou who, reciting to us the story of Vidula's instructions to her son, excited us to exertion. It behoves thee not to abandon us now. Having slain the kings of Earth, I have won sovereignty, guided by thy words of wisdom communicated through Vasudeva. Where now is that understanding of thine about which I had heard from Vasudeva? Dost thou wish now to fall away from those Kshatriya practices about which thou hadst instructed us? Abandoning ourselves, this kingdom, and this daughter-in-law of thine who is possessed of great fame, how wilt thou live in the inaccessible woods? Do thou relent! Kunti, with tears in her eyes, heard these words of her son, but continued to proceed on her way. Then Bhima addressed her, saying,--'When, O Kunti, sovereignty has been won, and when the time has come for thee to enjoy that sovereignty thus acquired by thy children, when the duties of royalty await discharge by thee, whence has this desire got hold of thy mind? Why then didst thou cause us to exterminate the Earth? For what reason wouldst thou leave all and wish to take up thy abode in the woods? We were born in the woods. Why then didst thou bring us from the woods while we were children? Behold, the two sons of Madri are overwhelmed with sorrow and grief. Relent, O mother, O thou of great fame, do not go into the woods now. Do thou enjoy that prosperity which acquired by might, has become Yudhishthira's today.' Firmly resolved to retire into the woods, Kunti disregarded these lamentations of her sons. Then Draupadi with a cheerless face, accompanied by Subhadra, followed her weeping mother-in-law who was journeying on from desire of going into the woods. Possessed of great wisdom and firmly resolved on retirement from the world, the blessed dame walked on, frequently looking at her weeping children. The Pandavas, with all their wives and servitors, continued to follow her. Restraining then her tears, she addressed her children in these words.'"
27:1 Nilakantha explains that as Dhritarashtra is Pandu's elder brother, therefore, Kunti regards him as Pandu's father. Queen Gandhari therefore is Kunti's mother-in-law. The eldest brother is looked upon as a father.
Next: Section XVII