The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'When such a fate overtook that high-souled monarch who was engaged in austere penances, notwithstanding the fact of his having such kinsmen as ourselves all alive, it seems to me, O regenerate one, that the end of human beings is difficult to guess. Alas, who would have thought that the son of Vichitraviryya would thus be burnt to death. He had a hundred sons each endued with mighty arms and possessed of great prosperity. The king himself had the strength of ten thousand elephants. Alas, even he has been burnt to death in a forest-conflagration! Alas, he who had formerly been fanned with palm leaves by the fair hands of beautiful women was fanned by vultures with their wings after he had been burnt to death in a forest-conflagration! He who was formerly roused from sleep every morning by bands of Sutas and Magadhas had to sleep on the bare ground through the acts of my sinful self. I do not grieve for the famous Gandhari who had been deprived of all her children. Observing the same vows as her husband, she has attained to those very regions which have become his. I grieve, however, for Pritha who, abandoning the blazing prosperity of her sons, became desirous of residing in the woods. Fie on this sovereignty of ours, fie on our prowess, fie on the practices of Kshatriyas! Though alive, we are really dead! O foremost of superior Brahmanas, the course of Time is very subtle and difficult to understand, inasmuch as Kunti, abandoning sovereignty, became desirous of taking up her abode in the forest. How is it that she who was the mother of Yudhishthira, of Bhima, of Vijaya, was burnt to deathlike a helpless creature. Thinking of this I become stupefied. In vain was the deity of fire gratified at Khandava by Arjuna. Ingrate that he is, forgetting that service he has burnt to death the mother of his benefactor! Alas, how could that deity burn the mother of
[paragraph continues] Arjuna. Putting on the guise of a Brahmana, he had formerly come to Arjuna for soliciting a favour. Fie on the deity of fire! Fie on the celebrated success of Partha's shafts! This is another incident, O holy one, that appears to me to be productive of greater misery, for that lord of Earth met with death by union with a fire that was not sacred. How could such a death overtake that royal sage of Kuru's race who, after having ruled the whole Earth, was engaged in the practice of penances. In that great forest there were fires that had been sanctified with mantras. Alas, my father has made his exit from this world, coming in contact with an unsanctified fire! I suppose that Pritha, emaciated and reduced to a form in which all her nerves became visible, must have trembled in fear and cried aloud, saying,--O son Yudhishthira, and awaited the terrible approach of the conflagration. She must have also said,--O Bhima, rescue me from this danger--when she, my mother, was surrounded on all sides by that terrible conflagration. Among all her sons, Sahadeva, was her darling. Alas, that heroic son of Madravati did not rescue her.' Hearing these lamentations of the king, those persons that were present there began to weep, embracing each other. In fact, the five sons of Pandu were so stricken with grief that they resembled living creatures at the time of the dissolution of the universe. The sound of lamentations uttered by those weeping heroes, filling the spacious chambers of the palace, escaped therefrom and penetrated the very welkin."'
Next: Section XXXIX