o be in exile in a forest is a very
tough experience, because a forest is full of wild animals. It is an area where Rakshasaas roam about freely. Mostly it is dark in the forest. One has to go in search of water and live on tubers and fruits. The Pandavas who had always lived in a royal style had to face all such hardships in the forest. But their courage and their righteousness never failed them.
Yudhishtira along with his brothers and wife lived in a forest called Kampala. Not many people lived there. Only a few sages could be found and
living in a forest was really very tough. All such hardships constantly reminded them about Duryodhana’s treachery. They could never forget that their hard-earned kingdom was lost to Duryodhana in a deceitful game and neither could they forgive him for his treatment towards Draupadi. So they always sought ways and means to get back their kingdom.
Within a short time the Pandavas moved on to another forest. Meantime, Yudhishtira felt that the only way they could get back their kingdom was to wage a war with Duryodhana. For this purpose they had to secure necessary weapons and collect an army for which they had to contact kings friendly to them.
Wicked people always remain wicked. They take great delight in harassing good people. Duryodhana after banishing the Pandavas was afraid that they would reclaim their kingdom once their exile was over. That is why he wanted to have them killed during the exile itself. Hence lie counselled with Shakuni and Kama who were close to him and said, “Pandavas should now be weak without proper food and without proper weapons. It will be so easy to defeat them now.” Shakuni and Kama agreed that it could be so. But, they needed the permission of the elders to put this plan into action. So, Duryodhana thought of an idea. Under the pretext of counting the cattle head he invaded various woods and forests. When he entered the forest where Pandavas had sought refuge, Chitrasena, a Gandharva king, under instructions from Indra, waylaid Duryodhana and his army and defeated him. Shakuni and Kama fled from the place while Chitrasena dragged Duryodhana to Yudhishtira. Yudhishtira was a very righteous man. He always looked upon Duryodhana as one of his brothers. So, he ordered Duryodhana’s release. Feeling insulted at his failure, Duryodhana returned to Hastinapur nursing his wounds and waiting for the right time to avenge defeat on the Pandavas.
During their exile in the forest, the Pandavas met several sages and always sought the righteous path from them. While in exile, Bhima met his elder brother Hanuman. Arjun observed penance in the Himalayas and pleased with him, Eswar, Yama, Kubera, Varuna and others granted him several very powerful weapons. Arjun also learnt dance and music from Chitrasena.
The exile period of the Pandavas was drawing to a close. One day a Brahmin came running to Yudhishtira and requested him to get him back the deer skin which had got entangled in a deer’s horn. The Pandavas went in search of the deer but found it difficult to catch it. They were feeling thirsty after the chase and hence Yudhishtira asked his younger brother Sahadeva to fetch water from a nearby lake.
Sahadeva did not return even after a long time. The worried Yudhishtira sent Nakul after him. Nakul also did not return. Then he sent Bhima. But he too didn’t return. Arjun also followed suit. So, Yudhishtira himself went in search of his brothers. After walking through a long distance, he saw a crystal clear lake. Lotus flowers had bloomed beautifully in the lake and presented a delightful scene. So, he thought that his brothers would be somewhere around,
admiring the scenery. But when he looked around, he was shocked to see his very dear brothers dead by the banks of the lake. Yudhishtira could not believe his own eyes. How could this happen, he wondered. Tears welled up in his eyes at the thought that his brothers were no longer alive. Actually, when the brothers went one by one to fetch water from the lake, a Yaksha had laid a condition that they could not fetch water till they could answer hise questions. But the thirsty brothers ignored him, drank the water and fell unconscious. Yudhishtira was not aware of this. He too could not contain his thirst. When he approached the lake to drink water, he heard a voice. It belonged to this Yaksha.
“Answer my questions before drinking the water!” said the voice.
Without losing his cool, Yudhishtira replied, “You can ask me anything you
want, I will answer them to the best of my ability .
“Which has the fastest speed?” “Speed of the mind.”
“What is superior to earth?” “Mother.”
“What gives happiness to man?”
“To give up anger.”
“How can one be the richest?”
“By giving up desire.”
“What causes man’s destruction?”
“What weapon do you need to face danger?”
The Yaksha had many more such questions to ask and when Yudhishtira answered them promptly, he was highly pleased.
“I can make one of your brothers alive, but who should it be?” said the Yaksha. Yudhishtira loved all his brothers equally. But without hesitating, he said, “My brother Nakul.” Yaksha was surprised. “Instead of Bhima or Arjun, why do you ask for Nakul’s life?”
Yudhishtira said in a calm voice, “Sir, I agree that Bhima and Arjun are my brothers. Nakul is my step mother Madri’s son. I cannot sacrifice him for the sake of my own brothers.”
Appreciating Yudhishtira’s attitude the Yaksha brought back Nakul to life. “I will put back life to another brother of yours. Who should it be”, he asked. Yudhishtira asked for Sahadev. Astonished, the Yaksha said, “Yudhishtira, at least now you could have asked for one of your valiant brothers.” Yudhishtira had an apt reply, “Sir, when my father died, my mother Madri also gave up her life. But she ordained me to look after Nakul and Sahadev as my own children. How could I fail her?”
Extremely pleased with Yudhishtira the Yaksha brought back Bhima and Arjun back to life and blessed all of them well. The Yaksha was none other than Yama, father of Yuddhishtira. He blessed his own son by saying. “Your exile ends now. One more year in incognito and your hardships will be over. So, you go to Matsya Kingdom and live there in disguise under King Virata.”
The Pandavas along with Draupadi began their journey to Matsya Kingdom.
o be in exile in a forest is a very