Duryodhana and Karna advise Dhrtarastra how to get rid of the Pandavas.


The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. As the narration continues, the Pandavas, who had been living disguised as brahmanas, have just married Princess Draupadi, the daughter of King Drupada. Now the world knows that the Pandavas, supposedly dead, are alive.

SPIES AND AGENTS brought news to the world leaders that the Pandavas were not dead and had won splendid Draupadi as their wife. It was the great soul Arjuna, a most glorious fighter with mighty bow and arrows, who had strung the impossible bow and pierced the difficult target. And the mighty one who had lifted up Salya, king of Madra, and spun him around, and who had terrified the men in the arena by angrily brandishing a tree there was no more confusion whatsoever about the identity of that great soul, for he was Bhimasena, of the awesome touch, who brings down whole divisions and armies of enemies. Hearing that the sons of King Pandu had done all this disguised as brahmanas, the rulers of mankind were wonderstruck.

After Draupadi's svayamvara, the kings in attendence, having formerly heard that Kunti and her sons had burned to death in a house of lac, now felt as if the Pandavas had risen from the dead. Cursing and reviling Bhisma and Dhrtarastra, the Kuru king, for the most cruel act of trying to kill the Pandavas (which was in fact perpetrated by Purocana under the direction of Duryodhana), the kings had dispersed at the conclusion of thesvayamvara festival knowing that it was the Pandavas in disguise whom Draupadi had chosen. King Duryodhana, having seen Draupadi select as her husband Arjuna, who was known for his pure white stallions, was discouraged, and he returned home with his brothers and Karna, Krpa, Sakuni, and Asvatthama.

Duryodhana's brother Duhsasana was ashamed at this setback for the Kurus, the Pandavas' enemies, and in a whisper he said to Duryodhana, "If Arjuna had not disguised himself as a brahmana, he never would have won Draupadi. Actually, king, no one knew he was Dhananjaya Arjuna. But I consider the will of God supreme and the efforts of men of no avail. Our manly strength is useless, dear brother, for the Pandavas have stolen the prize."

Thus conversing, and rebuking Purocana, the Kurus entered the city of Hastinapura in confused and dejected spirits. Seeing that the mighty sons of Prtha had escaped the raging fire and were now allied with Drupada, the Kuru princes were deeply afraid of retaliation, for they had failed in their sinister plot. They also worried over Dhrstadyumna, born to kill Drona, and Sikhandi, bent on slaying Bhisma, and the other sons of Drupada, for all these warriors were masters of war.

Vidura Informs Dhrtarastra

Vidura, the uncle of the Kurus and Pandavas, was pleased and amazed upon hearing that Draupadi had chosen the Pandavas and that the sons of Dhrtarastra had returned embarrassed, their pride broken. He said to his eldest brother, Dhrtarastra, "By God's grace the Kuru dynasty is expanding."

Hearing the news from Vidura, Dhrtarastra, the son of Vicitravirya, was filled with joy and cried out, "Thank heaven! Thank heaven!" for the blind king, who was said to have an eye of wisdom, mistakenly assumed that young Draupadi had chosen his eldest son, Duryodhana. Dhrtarastra then ordered a wealth of ornaments to be given to Draupadi and sent word to his son Duryodhana, "Let my new daughter-in-law Draupadi be brought here at once!"

At this point, Vidura explained that Draupadi had actually chosen the Pandavas, and that those heroes had survived the fire and were healthy; moreover, now that Drupada had honored and welcomed the Pandavas into his family, they had acquired many powerful allies.

Dhrtarastra said, "As much as Pandu loved his sons, so do I love them and more. My pleasure has now increased, Vidura, and the Kurus have prospered more than I had imagined, for the heroic Pandavas are alive and healthy and have acquired important friends. Indeed, what king deprived of his opulence and seeking prosperity would not be eager to approach Drupada and his associates and secure their friendship?"

Vidura replied, "O king, may you always see things this way, for a hundred autumns."

Duryodhana's Schemes

Thereupon Duryodhana and Karna came to see Dhrtarastra, O king, and they said to him, "We are unable to speak to you in the presence of Vidura. We will speak to you in private."

[When Vidura had gone,] Duryodhana said, "What does he want with you? Father, do you think the success of your rivals is your own? You praise the Pandavas highly in the presence of Vidura, O noble man. But we must constantly cut down their strength. The time has come for all of us to seriously plan what we wish to do, so that they do not swallow us whole, along with our friends, armies, and children."

Dhrtarastra said, "I, too, am worried about this, just as all of you are, but I do not wish to reveal my real feelings to Vidura, and so especially in his company I praise the good qualities of the Pandavas. Duryodhana, tell me where you think we stand now. And Karna, you also tell me how you see the present situation."

Duryodhana said, "At this point we must employ expert and trustworthy brahmanas to divide the sons of Kunti from the sons of Madri. Or perhaps we can use huge amounts of wealth to entice King Drupada, his sons, and all his ministers, and then we can tell them, 'You must all renounce King Yudhisthira.' Or the brahmanas might convince the Pandavas to make their permanent home right there in the kingdom of Drupada. Thebrahmanas would have to explain to each of the Pandavas the disadvantages of their living here, so that the Pandavas themselves will make up their minds to separate from us.

"Or perhaps some very clever men expert in such affairs should divide the Pandavas by manipulating their affections or causing Draupadi to stand up against them. That should be an easy job, since she has to deal with so many of them. Or the men might sew seeds of conflict in the Pandavas against Draupadi and then cut her off from them.

"Another point, O king, is that some expert men must secretly arrange Bhimasena's death, for he is definitely the strongest of them all. When he is cut down, so will be their daring, vigor, and stamina. They will no more struggle for their kingdom, since he is their shelter and foundation. Arjuna is invincible in battle as long as Bhima guards him from behind, but without him Arjuna is not even one fourth the man in battle that Karna is. Knowing their great weakness without Bhima and recognizing our strength, they will perish with little resistence in his absence.

"When the Pandavas come here, if they agree to be ruled by our command then we shall move forward and crush them with full faith in our plan. Or we can always arrange beautiful, maddening women to seduce them, one by one, and Draupadi will surely give up her affection for them.

"Or let us send Karna to bring them here, and we shall arrange for professional criminals we can trust to kill them on the way.

"Whichever of these methods you consider to be free of flaws, set it into motion at once, before time runs out. Only so long as Drupada, that bull of a king, has not developed full trust in the Pandavas are these plans possible to carry out. Once Drupada's alliance with them is firmly in place, these plans will be impossible to execute. That is my opinion, father, which proceeds from the conviction that we are to curb the Pandavas. What do you think, Karna? Is my opinion right or wrong?"

Karna's Opinion

Karna said, "Duryodhana, I feel that your thinking on this matter is not accurate. O Kuru prince, the Pandavas cannot be subdued by the means you propose. In the past you have attempted to subdue them through subtle plots, my hero, but you could not overcome them. They were living right here with you, O king, like children or little birds without wings, and it was impossible to stop them. Now they have grown their wings, are based in a foreign country, have risen up to strength and prosperity, and in all ways have matured. You cannot deal with the sons of Kunti by such means as you propose. This is my view, O unfailing one. They seem to embody the will of Providence, and it is impossible to entangle them in vice; moreover, they are on their guard now and are yearning to get back their ancestral kingdom.

"To create division among them is impossible; they all love a single wife and will not be separated from her. Nor can Draupadi be separated from them by the work of outsiders. Why, she chose them when they were in a miserable condition, and what to speak of now, when they have ended their troubles! Women desire to be maintained and protected by many men. Draupadi has attained such a status, and she will not be easily separated from her husbands.

"King Drupada is a religious man of noble character; he is not mad after wealth. I am certain he would not renounce the Pandavas even in return for gifts of kingdoms. His son is just as noble and is very attached to the Pandavas. Therefore I conclude that in no way can we handle the Pandavas through such means.

"O best of men, this is what we can actually do now: as long as the Pandavas have not yet spread their roots, O king, we must directly attack them. May you approve and be pleased with a plan that depends on valor [and not trickery]. As long as our side is strong and the side of King Drupada much smaller, we should seize the moment to attack them. There is nothing more for you to analyze. Now, while they still lack many friends or an abundance of vehicles and mounts, O godly son of Gandhari, march on them at once! It is now, while the king of Pancala and his powerful sons cannot even imagine such an enterprise, that you must make war!

"And especially now that Sri Krsna has not yet come leading the war machine of the Yadu dynasty to rescue the kingdom of the Pandavas, you must at once go to war! For the Pandavas' sake, O king, Krsna is prepared to sacrifice vast amounts of wealth, varieties of enjoyment, and His entire kingdom.

"By force the great soul Bharata gained the earth, and by force Indra conquered the three worlds. People praise a warrior's prowess, my king, for to use power courageously is the duty of heroes.

"We ourselves, with our fourfold armies, O king, shall harass Drupada and then quickly capture the Pandavas and bring them here. No sweet words, no gifts, and no ploys to divide and conquer will ever be successful in controlling the Pandavas. Therefore we must conquer them by courage and strength. When you have conquered them with your courage, you will enjoy every land on the face of the earth. I do not see any other means to carry out this task, O lord of the people."

Hridayananda Dasa Goswami led the team of devotee-scholars who completed the translation and commentary of the Srimad-Bhagavatam begun by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He is now doing graduate work in Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University.

Dramatic readings by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami of his Mahabharata translations may be purchased from: HDG Tape Ministry, P. O. Box 1156, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. Phone: (904) 418-4644