By the power of their virtue,
the sons of Kunti build a heavenly kingdom on earth.
The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. As the narration continues, Dhrtarastra, the blind uncle of the Pandavas, has just been advised by his brother Vidura and the respected elders Bhisma and Drona that he should treat the Pandavas fairly and give them their rightful kingdom.
DHATARASTRA SAID: "Bhisma, son of Santanu, is a learned man, my dear Vidura, and Drona is an exalted sage. Both of them have explained the highest good, and you too are telling me the truth. As much as the Pandavas, those heroic warriors, are sons of Pandu and Kunti, so they are my sons, undoubtedly and by religious law. And as much as this kingdom is to be enjoyed by my begotten sons, so without a doubt it is to be enjoyed equally by the sons of Pandu.
"Vidura, go and bring them and their mother with all honors, and also bring Draupadi, who is as lovely as a goddess. Thank heaven the sons of Kunti are alive. Thank heaven our Kunti lives. Thank heaven those great warriors have won the daughter of Drupada. By the grace of providence all of us shall flourish, and by heaven's grace the arsonist Purocana has been put to rest. O brilliant brother, thank God my greatest sorrow has been removed."
At Dhrtarastra's command, Vidura went to see King Drupada and the Pandavas. Vidura was expert in all the scriptures and knew his duty and how to perform it. Upon reaching Drupada's palace, he waited properly on the king, who received him according to the religious law for hosts. Drupada and Vidura rightly inquired about the health and well-being [of their respective friends, families, and kingdoms].
Vidura then saw the Pandavas and Sri Krsna, and he affectionately embraced them and asked if they were all well. They in turn welcomed and honored Vidura, whose intelligence was vast. Following Dhrtarastra's order, Vidura asked Pandu's children about their health and happiness, with much affection and again and again. He presented to the Pandavas and Kunti and Draupadi, and to Drupada and his sons, jewels and varieties of wealth sent by the Kauravas.
Then with grace and deference the vastly learned Vidura spoke most humbly to Drupada in the presence of the Pandavas and Lord Kesava (Krsna).
Vidura said: "O king, may you kindly listen with your ministers and sons to my words. Dhrtarastra, along with his sons, ministers, and close associates, has the great satisfaction to offer you repeated wishes for your health and happiness, for he has real affection for you and your family. Similarly, the most learned Bhisma, son of Santanu, and all of the Kauravas are anxious to hear that you are well and prospering in all your affairs. They send their sincere inquiries.
"The great archer Drona, son of Bharadvaja, considers himself your dear friend, and he sends his embrace and sincere wishes for your well-being. Dhrtarastra has now become related to you through marriage, and he and all the Kauravas feel they are now successful by such a family tie. Even by acquiring a new kingdom, they would not feel the same pleasure as by achieving a family tie with you, O Yajnasena [Drupada].
"Knowing this to be true, kindly let the Pandavas depart, for the Kurus are extremely anxious to see Pandu's legitimate heirs. These mighty Pandavas have been away for a long time, and surely both they and Kunti will be jubilant to see their city. And all the fine Kuru ladies are waiting anxiously to see Draupadi, the princess of Pancala. Indeed, our whole city and country are waiting.
"Please, sir, order without delay that the sons of Pandu depart with their wife, for that is my purpose in coming. Your Majesty, as soon as you release the exalted Pandavas, I shall dispatch the speediest messengers to Dhrtarastra, and the sons of Kunti with their wife Draupadi will then come home."
Drupada said: "Very wise Vidura, just as you expressed it to me now, so do I feel the greatest joy that a family tie has been established between us, my lord. And it is befitting that those great souls return now to their home. But it is not right that I tell them they can leave. Rather, when Kunti's heroic son Yudhisthira decides, with Bhimasena, Arjuna, and the two mighty twins, and especially when Krsna and Balarama agree, then the Pandavas must go. Krsna and Balarama are tigerlike personalities who know the religious principles and are devoted to the happiness and welfare of the Pandavas."
Yudhisthira said, "We and our followers are all dependent on you, O king. We shall gladly do whatever you tell us, for we know of your love for us."
Then Lord Krsna said, "I think it is right to go, or whatever King Drupada decides, for he understands all the religious principles."
King Drupada said, "Lord Krsna, the great-armed hero of the Dasarhas, is the Supreme Personality, and I fully agree with Him that the time has come for the Pandavas to return, for as much as the sons of Kunti are now dear to me, they are just as dear to Lord Krsna, without doubt. When the tigerlike Lord Krsna recommends what is best for them, Yudhisthira, son of Dharma, does not even consider the matter, so great is his faith in Krsna."
Then, granted permission by the great soul Drupada, the Pandavas, Sri Krsna, and great-minded Vidura, taking Draupadi and the illustrious Kunti with them, began an easy journey to the city of Hastinapura, stopping along the way for recreation.
Arrival in Hastinapura
When Dhrtarastra heard that the Pandava heroes had arrived, he sent the Kauravas out to welcome and receive them. Citrasena, Krpa Gautama, the great archer Vikarna, and the supreme archer Drona all went out to meet the Pandavas. The arriving heroes, surrounded by such exalted men, shone beautifully as they slowly entered the city of Hastinapura.
Wherever the heroes passed, the great city burst into festivity, for the Pandava princes vanquished the sorrow of the people, who had mourned them as dead. The people loved their princes and, eager to show their love, called out in all kinds of voices. The Pandavas heard those words, which went to the core of their hearts.
"He has returned the knower of virtue, the tiger of a man, who protects us with justice like his own begotten children! Today Pandu Maharaja [in the form of his sons] has come from the forest he loves to show his love for us, and there's no doubt here! All has been accomplished now, for those whom we love most, the heroic sons of Kunti, our real protectors, have returned to us. If ever we have given charity, offered sacrifice, or endured austerity, then by all our merit may the Pandavas stay in our city for one hundred autumns."
The Pandavas then bowed at the feet of Dhrtarastra, the great soul Bhisma, and the other venerable elders. After asking about the well-being of all the city's residents, they went to their quarters at Dhrtarastra's invitation.
After those great souls and Sri Krsna had rested for a short time together, they were called by Dhrtarastra and Bhisma.
Dhrtarastra said, "Yudhisthira, may you and your younger brothers please listen carefully to my words. There must not be any more fighting between my sons and you princes. Go and settle in the land of Khandava Prastha. Once you are living there, protected by Bhima, no one will be able to bother you, just as no one can harass the gods when they are guarded by the thunderbolt of Indra. Half the kingdom will be yours, so go and settle there in Khandava Prastha."
The Pandavas Build Indraprastha
Accepting the order, the Pandavas bowed to the king and departed. Taking half the kingdom, those best of men settled in the land of Khandava Prastha. With Krsna in the lead, they reached their new land, and at once the unfailing Pandavas built a beautiful town that resembled the cities of heaven.
They chose a pure and holy stretch of earth, and led by Dvaipayana Vyasa those heroes performed religious rites to bring peace and security to their new land. Then they measured, mapped out, and constructed the city.
The new town was surrounded by moats that resembled the wide sea. The town was enhanced with sparkling white walls that stood so high they seemed to cover the sky like masses of white clouds or snowy peaks. That most opulent city shone like Bhogavati, the wondrous land of the Nagas.
The city was protected by great double-hung doors as frightening to see as the wings of Garuda, and also by towering archways that resembled masses of clouds or a range of Mandara mountains. The city was filled with varieties of deadly lances and missiles that rose up, perfectly guarded, like the bifurcated tongues of snakes. The city shone with rows of turrets guarded by battle-ready soldiers.
The city was splendidly defended with sharp hook weapons that could slay a hundred men each, and it was adorned with trellises crafted with mystic designs. The skyline of that fabulous city glittered with giant metal discs.
A well-designed system of wide roads virtually did away with collisions, and the city sparkled with various styles of elegant white mansions. This city, known as Indraprastha, shone with all the beauty of a celestial abode and seemed to float on the earth like a community of broad clouds filled with streaks of lightning.
There in that charming, innocent land, the dwelling of the rightful Kuru leaders was so brilliant with wealth and treasure that it resembled the city of Kuvera, the lord of the cosmic treasury.
Brahmanas who were the greatest Vedic scholars and who spoke all languages began to notice and enjoy that city, and they began to establish their homes there. Enterprising merchants began to move there, coming from all directions, and workers expert in all the fine arts and crafts came there to settle.
All around were parks and gardens lush with fruit- and flower-bearing trees such as palm, mango, jasmine, nipa, sala, asoka, punnaga, lakuca, kadamba, bakula, naga-puspa, and tropical plum. The trees bore enchanting arrays of flowers and bent down under the weight of luscious fruits. There were many full-grown trees, including lodhras, amalakas, patalas, kubjakas, karaviras, rose apples, heavenly parijatas, luxuriantatimuktakas, and magnificent flowering ankolas. The trees were ever in season and always filled with fruits and flowers, and all manner of birds adorned them. Maddened peacocks cried out all around them, the peacocks' songs mixing with the melodies of the cuckoos, who seemed to be ever enchanted.
The houses were so clean they shone like mirrors. There were varieties of garden houses covered with flowering creepers. There was a charming variety of styles in the residential areas, with recreation areas atop the neighborhood hills.
There were varieties of ponds filled with the purest water. There were fabulous lakes perfumed with the scents of blossoming lotuses and moving with the elegant strokes of swans, cakravakas, and fine ducks. There were also variegated lotus-filled ponds, shaded by surrounding woods, and large, wide pools of great charm.
As they dwelled in that great country with their good and honest neighbors, the Pandavas felt ever-increasing pleasure. When Bhisma and King Dhrtarastra brought forth the principles of justice, the Pandavas became residents there in the land of Khandava Prastha. And boasting five great archers equal to Indra in prowess, the most glorious city shone like Bhogavati, the wondrous abode of the Nagas.
Mighty Krsna lived there for some time. Then He took permission from the Pandavas and returned with Balarama to the city of Dvaraka.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, who holds a Ph.D. in Indology from Harvard University, is Professor of Vaisnava Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He frequently speaks at universities and is translating the Mahabharata and other Sanskrit works.