After defeating Drupada and fulfilling the wish of their Guru, Pandavas with Kauravas and Guru Drona returned to Hastinapur. A year passed and in that one year, firmness, kindness, knowledge, benevolence and patience of Yudhishthira spread all across Hastinapur. Beholding the popularity of young prince, Dhritarashtra in agreement of other elders declared Yudhishthira as heir apparent. Albeit he wanted his son Duryodhana to be the next king, but Yudhishthira was proving to be most deserving among all princes.
That decision of all elders of selecting Yudhishthira as the Yuvraj of Hastinapur, didn’t go well with Duryodhana. Since childhood, Duryodhana had felt the Pandava brothers as his prime opponents and with the decision of Yudhishthira becoming Yuvraj, all his hopes of becoming king and ruling Hastinapur were ruined. At all means he wanted to get the Pandava brothers killed and with the support of Karna and Shakuni made couple of attempts to compass the death of the Pandavas. But Pandavas with their skills and prowess, counteracted all the acts and remained unhurt. The popularity of the five Pandu sons was growing day after day, and a sense among the citizens started floating to see Yudhishthira on the throne. Beholding the enthusiasm and eagerness of the denizens, Bhishma suggested to coronate Yudhishthira as the king of Hastinapur. Bhishma was sure that Yudhishthira would be able to balance the growing friction among brothers and his benevolence will help reduce the growing differences among the population of Hastinapur.
But, Duryodhana had some other plans. He already had accepted Pandavas as threat to his dreams. And then came the time of festival of Pasupathi in Varnavat. The festival came with a devil plan in Duryodhana’s mind. And He with his uncle Shakuni started paving the path for his vile act. While Shakuni ordered preparation of a palace made of wax, erected on bamboos and dried woods in Varnavat, Duryodhana started convincing his father Dhritarashtra to send Yudhishthira to Varnavat to participate in festival as Yuvraj of Hastinapur. Dhritarashtra couldn’t negate the stubborn ask of his son and asked Yudhishthira to go to Varnavat.
Not knowing the dreadful and deceitful act of his cousin, Yudhishthira decided to go. Duryodhana convinced him to stay in the newly built palace, the palace of wax. The other brothers of Yudhishthira and mother Kunti too decided to go with Yudhishthira.
All was going as per the plan of Duryodhana and Shakuni, when Vidura sensed the danger. He sensed the concealing debauchery in the fake smiling faces of uncle-nephew duo. He sensed something behind the mirror of fakery which Duryodhana had planned to hurt the Pandavas. He wanted to stop Pandavas from going but couldn’t and hence he decided to alert Yudhishthira. At the time when Pandavas were leaving for Varnavat and came to meet elders, Vidura took Yudhishthira aside and expressed his fear of danger on Pandavas lives. He said, “If jungle catches fire, mice and rodents hid in burrows.” Yudhishthira wasn’t convinced that his own cousins could plan his death. But he ensured Vidura that he would be alert and take care of his family members.
The caravan of Pandavas reached Varnavat. The town was decorated for the festival and the people were excited to welcome the Yuvraj of Hastinapur. They welcomed Pandavas and Kunti with great reverence and presented several gifts as sign of honor to royal guests. Yudhishthira too gifted each citizen with jewels, ornaments and other princely gifts. The festival was planned for several days and hence later in the evening all five brothers with Kunti went to the palace for their stay. The palace of wax was decorated with several flowers and painted with different colors. The finest artistry was in display and many servants were put in the service of Yuvraj.
Pandavas were accompanied by Purochana, a mole of Duryodhana. Purochana was involved in the construction of the wax palace, and also instructed by Duryodhana to fire the palace when Pandavas get comfortable in Varnavat. But Purochana was least aware that Yudhishthira was already alerted by Vidura.
After entering the palace, Yudhishthira asked his brothers to inspect the whole house and find out all the suspicious things. And as expected, they found that the house was made of wax and dried woods, and there was no alternate exit present in that palace. The only exit was guarded by Purochana. Hence Pandavas decided not to do anything which could raise suspicion in Purochana’s mind and whenever the right time come, they would escape.
Few days later, a man came to meet Yudhishthira. He was sent by Vidura and was a miner. He was a skilled miner and on orders of Vidura, came there to make a tunnel to rescue the Pandavas from any danger. Immediately, he took up the task and started digging the channel. During day he was guarded by either of the Pandavas to avoid contact with Purochana or his spies. Days passed, and the miner finally dug the entire tunnel whose other end was opened near a river. He accomplished what he was sent for and then he took leave of Yudhishthira and went away.
Now, a day was to be decided to escape. They wanted to escape without letting anyone know, not even Purochana.
Kunti suggested to host a grand dinner for all countrymen and when all people would be busy in the event, they could plan the escape. Yudhishthira agreed and ordered to arrange a grand feast for all residents of Varnavat. All were invited, irrespective of their social status. Hundreds of people gathered for the feast and there came a Nishad woman with her five sons. The sons of same age of five Pandavas. After the dinner was over people left, but that Nishada woman and her sons slept in one corner of that palace. Purochana too went into his room and slept.
At the midnight hour, Bhima set the house of wax on fire. He set the fire to the door of house, he set fire near Purochana’s room and he set fire at several other places in the house ensuring that the house should be burnt completely. Pandavas with mother Kunti then entered the subterranean passage prepared by the miner and escaped from the house.
Beholding the fire in palace, the people of Varnavat ran towards the palace and tried to pacify the fire but in vain. The whole mansion was burnt to ashes leaving the citizens in a belief that the five brothers and mother were killed in the fire.
On the other hand, Pandavas came out of the tunnel and ran towards river Ganga. There they found a boatman, a prudent spy of Vidura who was present there with his boat. All brothers with their mother than successfully escaped in that boat, crossed the river, and entered into the other side of the jungle. That was a terrible forest which resounded with the terrible cries of birds and beasts. But the brothers kept going deep into the woods, not knowing where the next stop will be.
The news of fire in palace reached Hastinapur in no time. Duryodhana was elated as he thought he was successful in his plans, Dhritarashtra was sad as he believed he lost the sons of his brother. Bhishma was shattered knowing the untimely and horrible end of his grandsons, but Vidura was smiling within. Only he knew he had saved the future of Hastinapur.
This ends our today’s episode. We will meet soon with the next episode and know where the fate of Pandavas will take them.
Before we go, lets listen to the back story of Drona and Drupada, their childhood friendship and how friends became foes. So, the story goes like this –
Drona and Drupada were both the students of Drona’s father Rishi Bhardwaj. While Drona was son of a poor Brahman, Drupada was son King Prishata, ruler of Panchal. They both became friends while living in the ashram, so close that they promised to each other that whatever they would earn in life, they would divide between themselves. Half of Drupada’s wealth would be of Drona and vice-versa. That was the childhood promise. Drupada after completion of education returned to Panchal, and with time became the king of Panchal and got involved into affairs of his kingdom.
Here, Drona was living a difficult life in poverty. He got married to Kripi and they became parents of Ashwatthama. There was not enough food and milk in the hermitage to fulfil the needs of the family and finding it difficult to survive without support, Drona decided to meet his friend Drupada and remind him of the childhood promise.
Drona went to Panchal, met Drupada and reminded him of the promise. He demanded half kingdom of Panchal as Drupada was the king then. Drupada laughed and said how a promise made in childhood could become base of dividing the kingdom. He further said, “If you don’t have source for food, I will give you a cow. You can feed your son with cow’s milk.”
This made Drona furious and finding it as an act of insult by Drupada, Drona promised him that he would return one day and snatch the entire kingdom from him. That was the day when childhood friends became foes.
Later Drona visited Parashuram and sought powerful weapons from him and then became mentor of princes of Hastinapur. After completion of education of princes of Hastinapur, he demanded them to captivate Drupada and seize his kingdom. And this is how just a childhood promise became the root of enmity between Drona and Drupada.