In the previous episode, we had witnessed Yudishtra in conversation with his people, who wanted to follow him wherever he goes. However, Yudishtra isn’t interested in taking all of them with him, as he wouldn’t be able to take care of all of them amidst the dense forest. Thus, Yudishtra gives a beautiful explanation as to why he has to descend to the forest alone. He says to his people that there are no dangers for him in the forest and if at all there are dangers from wild animals, he can manage them quite easily. But the real danger is from the animal-like people in Hastinapura. Yudishtra advises his people to remain in the kingdom and take care of Vidura, Guru Dhronachaary and Bhishmachaarya from these animal-like people of Duryodhana, Duchaasana, etc. While many are convinced with Yudishtra’s request, some aren’t. Those who are convinced, return to their homes from the “Pramaana-Koti” Kshetra with a heavy heart. However, they are very clear with their resolution – To follow the path of “Dharma”, no matter whatever happens in the kingdom henceforth. They take a vow to remember Yudishtra’s words of wisdom and are determined to execute his words with their full zeal until he comes back.
As the people are sent back thus, Yudishtra and Co. stay at Pramaana-Koti Kshetra for a night and they live only on water and a few fruits. At that moment, they did not have any resources to collect fruits, vegetables, etc. to prepare a meal. Thus, once the dawn arises, the Paandava brothers make their way into the dense forest. As the Paandavas leave Pramaana-Koti, a few people follow them, but a vast majority of them return back. At this point, we can witness a few similarities with Ramayana. We’ve witnessed in our earlier Ramayana project that when Bhagawan Rama left Ayodhya for the forest, all the Ayodhya-Vaasis followed Bhagawan Rama until a certain point. However, just as Yudishtra advised his people, Bhagawan Rama also advised his people to go back to Ayodhya and be of support to Bharata. Even though Bhagawan Rama advised them thus, many were not ready to go back. Thus, Bhagawan Rama instructed Sumantra overnight that He, along with Lakshmana and Mother Sita would secretly get into the chariot, proceed northwards towards Ayodhya for a certain distance with the footprint of the chariot on the ground, and subsequently drive westwards towards Chitrakoota, without the footprints of the chariot being seen on the ground. Upon seeing the footprints of Bhagawan Rama’s chariot proceeding northwards the next day, all the Ayodhya-Vaasis followed it. All of them thought that Bhagawan Rama returned back to Ayodhya and in fact, they even went to Ayodhya to check whether Bhagawan Rama was there or not! However, to their disbelief, Bhagawan was not there and by the time they realized this fact, He disappeared into the forest.
Similarly here also, Yudishtra convinces his people to go back to Hastinapura / Indraprastha and wait for him till he returns. Many went back, but some chose to follow him. As these are some similarities between the Ramayana and the Mahabharata at this point, there are certain differences too. When Bhagawan Rama descended to the forest, He had made a “Prathignya” (Resolve) to Kaikeyi that He would live a detached life without any family life, even though Mother Sita was beside him. However, there are no such restrictions here for the Paandavas. They could lead their lives for the next twelve years in whatever way they wanted to, and it is only in the thirteenth year that they had to lead a secretive life without being noticed by anyone. However, in the Ramayana, it was not necessary for Bhagawan Rama to lead a secretive life like how Yudishtra did. There was no compulsion for Bhagawan Rama to be unnoticed by anyone, although He chose to be that way when He had to invade Ravana. Thus, these are certain similarities / differences between the Ramayana and the Mahabharata that we can identify at this point.
Coming back to the context thus, Yudishtra and Co. descend to the forest, accompanied by Sage Shaunaka. We’ve already witnessed how Sage Shaunaka had rendered his services to Yudishtra and Co. in the past. Now Yudishtra is sitting along with Sage Shaunaka and pondering over what had just concluded at Hastinapura. Yudishtra could not believe himself as to how things took a complete U-turn within just one single day! With tears in his eyes, Yudishtra laments to Sage Shaunaka thus, “Oh Sage! Twenty-four hours earlier, I never anticipated things to take such a drastic turn in such a way that I would completely become a popper! I’m not worried that I’m not rich and I’m not a king at this point. But my biggest worry is that I’m unable to feed all those people who are dependent upon me for their living. When I was the king, I used to feed enormous numbers of Brahmins, cows, etc. and now I’m unable to do any of that. Here too, there are a few people who have still made their way along with me to the forest, and here I am – A helpless individual now, who is unable to feed myself too at this point in time! Oh Sage Shaunaka! What do I do now? How do I handle this situation without compromising the “Dharma” path? You’ve to give me some important advice!”
Saying thus, Yudishtra seeks important words of wisdom from Sage Shaukana to begin with. So for today, let us understand up to this point and we shall wait till the next episode to find out what Sage Shaukana’s replies! Stay tuned! 🙂