"Vaisampayana said, 'Then Bhishma and Kunti with their friends celebrated the Sraddha of the deceased monarch, and offered the Pinda. And they feasted the Kauravas and thousands of Brahmanas unto whom they also gave gems and lands.
Then the citizens returned to Hastinapura with the sons of Pandu, now that they had been cleansed from the impurity incident to the demise of their father. All then fell to weeping for the departed king. It seemed as if they had lost one of their own kin.
"When the Sraddha had been celebrated in the manner mentioned above, the venerable Vyasa, seeing all the subjects sunk in grief, said one day to his mother Satyavati,
'Mother, our days of happiness have gone by and days of calamity have succeeded. Sin beginneth to increase day by day. The world hath got old. The empire of the Kauravas will no longer endure because of wrong and oppression.
Go thou then into the forest, and devote thyself to contemplation through Yoga. Henceforth society will be filled with deceit and wrong. Good work will cease. Do not witness the annihilation of thy race, in thy old age.'
[Page 267] "Acquiescing in the words of Vyasa, Satyavati entered the inner apartments and addressed her daughter-in-law, saying,
'O Ambika, I hear that in consequence of the deeds of your grandsons, this Bharata dynasty and its subjects will perish. If thou permit, I would go to the forest with Kausalya, so grieved at the loss of her son.
O king, saying this the queen, taking the permission of Bhishma also, went to the forest.
And arriving there with her two daughters-in-law, she became engaged in profound contemplation, and in good time leaving her body ascended to heaven.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Then the sons of king Pandu, having gone through all the purifying rites prescribed in the Vedas, began to grow up in princely style in the home of their father. Whenever they were engaged in play with the sons of Dhritarashtra, their superiority of strength became marked.
In speed, in striking the objects aimed at, in consuming articles of food, and scattering dust, Bhimasena beat all the sons of Dhritarashtra. The son of the Wind-god pulled them by the hair and made them fight with one another, laughing all the while.
And Vrikodara easily defeated those hundred and one children of great energy as if they were one instead of being a hundred and one. The second Pandava used to seize them by the hair, and throwing them down, to drag them along the earth. By this, some had their knees broken, some their heads, and some their shoulders.
That youth, sometimes holding ten of them, drowned them in water, till they were nearly dead. When the sons of Dhritarashtra got up to the boughs of a tree for plucking fruits, Bhima used to shake that tree, by striking it with his foot, so that down came the fruits and the fruitpluckers at the same time.
In fact, those princes were no match for Bhima in pugilistic encounters, in speed, or in skill. Bhima used to make a display of his strength by thus tormenting them in childishness but not from malice.
"Seeing these wonderful exhibitions of the might of Bhima, the powerful Duryodhana, the eldest son of Dhritarashtra, began to conceive hostility towards him. And the wicked and unrighteous Duryodhana, through ignorance and ambition, prepared himself for an act of sin. He thought,
'There is no other individual who can compare with Bhima, the second son of Pandu, in point of prowess. I shall have to destroy him by artifice. Singly, Bhima dares a century of us to the combat. Therefore, when he shall sleep in the garden, I shall throw him into the current of the Ganga.
Afterwards, confining his eldest brother Yudhishthira and his younger brother Arjuna, I shall reign sole king without molestation.'
Determined thus, the wicked Duryodhana was ever on the watch to find out an opportunity for injuring Bhima. And, O Bharata, at length at a beautiful place called Pramanakoti on the banks of the Ganga, he built a palace decorated with hangings of broad-cloth and other rich stuffs. And he built this palace for sporting in the water there, and filled it with all kinds of entertaining things and choice viands. Gay flags waved on the [Page 268] top of this mansion. The name of the house was 'the water-sport house.'
Skilful cooks prepared various kinds of viands. When all was ready, the officers gave intimation to Duryodhana. Then the evil-minded prince said unto the Pandavas,
'Let us all go to the banks of the Ganga graced with trees and crowned with flowers and sport there in the water.'
And upon Yudhishthira agreeing to this, the sons of Dhritarashtra, taking the Pandavas with them, mounted country-born elephants of great size and cars resembling towns, and left the metropolis.
"On arriving at the place, the princes dismissed their attendants, and surveying the beauty of the gardens and the groves, entered the palace, like lions entering their mountain caves. On entering they saw that the architects had handsomely plastered the walls and the ceilings and that painters had painted them beautifully.
The windows looked very graceful, and the artificial fountains were splendid. Here and there were tanks of pellucid water in which bloomed forests of lotuses. The banks were decked with various flowers whose fragrance filled the atmosphere.
The Kauravas and the Pandavas sat down and began to enjoy the things provided for them. They became engaged in play and began to exchange morsels of food with one another. Meanwhile the wicked Duryodhana had mixed a powerful poison with a quantity of food, with the object of making away with Bhima.
That wicked youth who had nectar in his tongue and a razor in his heart, rose at length, and in a friendly way fed Bhima largely with that poisoned food, and thinking himself lucky in having compassed his end, was exceedingly glad at heart. Then the sons of Dhritarashtra and Pandu together became cheerfully engaged in sporting in the water. Their sport having been finished, they dressed themselves in white habiliments, and decked themselves with various ornaments.
Fatigued with play, they felt inclined in the evening to rest in the pleasurehouse belonging to the garden. Having made the other youths take exercise in the waters, the powerful second Pandava was excessively fatigued. So that on rising from the water, he lay down on the ground. He was weary and under the influence of the poison. And the cool air served to spread the poison over all his frame, so that he lost his senses at once.
Seeing this Duryodhana bound him with chords of shrubs, and threw him into the water. The insensible son of Pandu sank down till he reached the Naga kingdom. Nagas, furnished with fangs containing virulent venom, bit him by thousands. The vegetable poison, mingled in the blood of the son of the Wind god, was neutralised by the snake-poison.
The serpents had bitten all over his frame, except his chest, the skin of which was so tough that their fangs could not penetrate it.
"On regaining consciousness, the son of Kunti burst his bands and began to press the snakes down under the ground. A remnant fled for life, and going to their king Vasuki, represented,
'O king of snakes, a man drowned under the water, bound in chords of shrubs; probably he had drunk [Page 269] poison. For when he fell amongst us, he was insensible. But when we began to bite him, he regained his senses, and bursting his fetters, commenced laying at us. May it please Your Majesty to enquire who is.'
"Then Vasuki, in accordance with the prayer of the inferior Nagas, went to the place and saw Bhimasena. Of the serpents, there was one, named Aryaka. He was the grandfather of the father of Kunti. The lord of serpents saw his relative and embraced him. Then, Vasuki, learning all, was pleased with Bhima, and said to Aryaka with satisfaction,
'How are we to please him? Let him have money and gems in profusion."
"On hearing the words of Vasuki, Aryaka said,
'O king of serpents, when Your Majesty is pleased with him, no need of wealth for him! Permit him to drink of rasakunda (nectar-vessels) and thus acquire immeasurable strength. There is the strength of a thousand elephants in each one of those vessels. Let this prince drink as much as he can.'
"The king of serpents gave his consent. And the serpents thereupon began auspicious rites. Then purifying himself carefully, Bhimasena facing the east began to drink nectar. At one breath, he quaffed off the contents of a whole vessel, and in this manner drained off eight successive jars, till he was full. At length, the serpents prepared an excellent bed for him, on which he lay down at ease.'"