Thursday, June 22, 2017

32. The Escape

On learning about the arrival of the Pandavas to their city, the people of Varanavata gave them a rousing welcome. They received the Pandavas by performing the auspicious rituals and by presenting them with garlands, flowers and other gifts. Standing in their midst, Yudhishtira shone like Indra, the king of the celestials.

The Pandavas, with their mother, visited the houses of the officials of the town, the leading citizens and even the poor people by way of honouring them by accepting their invitation.

After about ten days, Purochana met the Pandavas and invited them to reside in the mansion he had erected for them .Accepting his invitation, the Pandavas, with their mother, accompanied Purochana to the mansion. Purochana put them up in the mansion and made them settle down there comfortably.

Kunti and their sons began to live in the palace, well attended to by Purochana and adored by the people of Varanavata.

Yudhishtira, on inspecting the house, smelled the scent of fat mixed with butter and lac. 

He told Bhima, “Bhima! This house has been built using inflammable materials like hemp, resin, straw, wood and bamboos soaked in butter and mixed with lac. The wicked Purochana, acting at the behest of Duryodhana, is planning to burn all of us alive. Our uncle Vidura has sensed this plan and warned me of the danger, in a subtle way.“

Hearing this Bhima said, “If you think that this house is inflammable, will it not be better for us to leave this house immediately and stay at  some other place?”

Yudhishtira replied, “It will be a better strategy for us to continue to remain here acting unsuspicious, while remaining vigilant and quietly looking for an escape route. If Purochana suspects that we are aware of his designs, he may hasten his plan and burn us to death immediately.

"If we flee from here, Duryodhana who has power and wealth at his command, will devise some other way to destroy us. Let us, therefore, live here, deceiving Purochana and his master Duryodhana. 

"We will move about and explore this area, engaging ourselves in hunting. We should familiarize ourselves with various paths. We will also dig a subterranean passage from our chamber. If we follow this plan, fire will not consume us.”

After a few days, a man skilled in mining, sent by Vidura met Yudhishtira secretly and told him “I am sent by Vidura to render you any help you need. He told me that Purochana  would set fire to your house on the fourteenth night of Krishna Paksha (new moon phase). He gave you a message in a foreign language which  you acknowledged. I am mentioning this incident to prove my credentials.”

Yudhishtira replied, “Since you have proved your credentials, I accept you as a person sent by Vidura, who cares for us. This mansion has been built by Purochana, at the command of Duryodhana, using inflammatory materials. He plans to burn us to death. You can help us by structuring a secret path of escape.“

The miner, began to construct a subterranean  passage from the chamber in which the Pandavas slept. The excavation was done secretly ensuring that Purochana or his men won’t be able to sense it. The mouth of the passage was covered by wooden planks.

The Pandavas slept with arms in their hands, ready to confront any attack. During the day, they went out for hunting.

Thus, the Pandavas  were always on guard, while outwardly  trusting Purochana. They lived there for one year. Seeing them living with cheer and trust in him, Purochana was highly pleased.

Yudhishtira told Bhima and Arjuna  “The wicked Purochana has become complacent. It is time for us to leave this place. We will leave after setting fire to the house.”

The Pandavas arranged for a mass feasting. A number of people were fed.  A woman belonging to the Nishada caste, with her five sons,  came for the feast. She and her sons drank excessively and became intoxicated. They  lost their consciousness and lay down in the mansion falling into sleep.

In the night, there were heavy winds. Bhima   set fire  first to the entrance and then to the other parts of the mansion. Purochana, the Nishada woman and her five sons were sleeping in the mansion.when the fire was set.

The Pandavas, with her mother, escaped through the subterranean passage.

In the morning, after the entire mansion had been burnt, the residents of Varanavata visited the site and were appalled at the tragedy.

They concluded that Purochana  had constructed the mansion using inflammable materials, made the Pandavas stay there and burnt them alive when they were sleeping, all under the instruction of Duryodhana and that he himself  got trapped inside inadvertently and was burnt to death. 

They cursed Duryodhana  for his wickedness, while also blaming Dritharashtra  for his failure to restrain Duryodhana.

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