To the defense of Virata

When Duryodhana heard about the mysterious way in which Kichaka was killed, he guessed that Bhima could have killed Kichaka, because it was a well-known fact that only Bhima was as strong as Kichaka. So, Duryodhana surmised that the Pandavas were living under a different identity in the kingdom of Matsya. Moreover, word had reached Duryodhana that Sudeshna had a maid Sairandri who claimed that she had five Gandharvas as her husbands. There was no further doubt about the Pandavas being in the kingdom of Matsya.
“Kichaka’s death will have weakened the Virata king. If we were to attack him now and if the Pandavas are really hiding there, they will definitely come out to fight to repay for his hospitality. We will thus have tracked them down and can banish them +o the forest again, thought Duryodhana. When he put forward this idea to Kama and others, they too agreed. Susharma, king of Trigarth was Duryodhana’s friend and hence he agreed to invade Matsya by seizing the cattle and by destroying the gardens and fields on the way. Duryodhana was to launch his attack from the northern side.
Virata was yet to get over the loss of Kichaka and hence he was in no condition to face a war with the neighbouring kingdom. When he discussed his plight with Kanka, that is Yudhishtira, the latter said, “O King, there is no time to waste. You summon the army and I will help you out. Similarly Valala, the cook Dharmagranthi in the stable and Tantripala were earlier employed in the army of the Pandavas and so, given an opportunity, they will prove their skill in warfare.” Virata was too glad to have help.
Bhima, Nakul and Sahadev were happy to prove their worth and in no time defeated Susharma’s army. Virata was delighted with the victory.
Meanwhile, the Kauravas had rounded up the cows in the north and the cowherds ran to the palace to seek help. In the absence of Virata, they met Utter Kumar, his son. Utter boasted to them about his valour and also that he could defeat the Kauravas and recover the cows single-handed if only he could get a charioteer to take him to the battlefield. Sairandri who overheard this conversation suggested to him, “O Prince! Take Brihannala with you. She will be a very good charioteer.”
Uttarkumar doubted whether a female could be a charioteer but since he did not have the courage to go alone, he agreed to the suggestion and took Brihannala (Arjun in disguise) to the war front. But there the sight of a big army, the sight of the wounded soldiers and the sound of clashing weapons unnerved the prince. Trembling with fear, he wanted to go back to the safety of his palace. But Arjun, in the disguise of Brihannala, encouraged Uttarkumar to fight like a brave person, “You have to fight to protect your land,” he told the prince, “otherwise, the enemy will destroy all of us. Do not fear; I am with you.”
Arjun took Uttarkumar to the tree in the crematorium where the Pandavas had hid their weapons. He asked the prince to bring down the weapons from the tree, which, he said belonged to the Pandavas. The prince who no longer felt any cowardice, brought down the gleaming weapons from the tree. He felt that Brihannala was no ordinary person. He wanted to know her true identity. When Brihannala told him that she was Arjun. Uttara folded his hands in
reverence. “Please forgive in for treating you – a valiant hero, as a charioteer,” he said in a humble tone.
Arjun advised him about behaving like a warrior and together they hastened towards the battlefield.
When Duryodhana saw Uttarkumar approaching the battlefield with a female charioteer, he felt that victory was undoubtedly very easy. Arjun observed from a distance Bhishma, Drona and Kripacharya standing along with Kama and Duryodhana in the battlefield. He stringed his bow and used three arrows. One arrow fell at the feet of Bhishma, the other at Drona’s and the third at Kripa’s feet. This salutation made all of them exclaim, “Arjun is here.” On hearing^this, Duryodhana immediately cried aloud, “Arjun has been identified before the exile period is over. The Pandavas should undergo twelve more years of exile.” But Drona clarified and said, “The stipulated period ended just before we recognised Arjun as the charioteer.” There was an argument over this between Drona, Duryodhana and Drona’s son Ashwathama. Finally Bhishma put an end to this war of words by reminding them that they had to urgently confront Arjun.
Arjun and Uttarkumar fought valiantly and defeated the Kaurava army. Duryodhana fled from the battlefield leaving behind the stolen cattle. The entire army retreated to Hastinapur.
Virata who was overjoyed to hear about this victory against the Kauravas arranged a grand welcome to his son, Uttara. But he did not realise that a youngster like Uttara could not have defeated war veterans like Bhishma and Drona. He was so full of praise for his son. So, when Yudhishtira revealed the truth that Brihannala was the true reason for winning the war, Virata was annoyed that Kanaka equated Uttara with a mere woman. In a fit of anger, Virata flung the dice he was playing on Kanka’s face. Kanka was hurt and blood oozed from his face. Immediately Sairandri hastened to his side, wiped the blood with a cloth and squeezed it into a cup. Virata was further enraged. He shouted at Sairandri, “Why are you concerned about a total stranger?” he asked her.
“Kanka is not his true name,” replied Sairandri. “He is a king and it does not augur well for your kingdom if his blood drops on the floor.” Virata was very confused with this reply.
Right at that moment, Uttarkumar entered the palace and revealed to his father, the identity of Brihannala, Kanka, Sairandri, Bhima, Nakul and Sahadev. Virata was aghast at the thought that he had treated the mighty
Pandavas as servants and that Draupadi worked as a maid to the queen. The queen sought Draupadi’s forgiveness.
Virata, in gratitude to the Pandavas for defending the kingdom, gave his daughter, Princess Uttara, in marriage to Arjun’s son Abhimanyu in the presence of Krishna, Balaram and Drupada.
The exile and the incognito life of the Pandavas came to an end. What would be their next action? Was the thought foremost in everybody’s mind. Some suggested to the Pandavas to defeat the Kauravas through a war and win back their kingdom. But war meant bloodshed and loss of lives. Hence Krishna advised the Pandavas to avoid a war. “But don’t be cowards,” he counselled, “If a peaceful settlement between you and the Kuravas cannot be reached, let us wage a war. But before that, let us try to reach a compromise with them.” Krishna wanted to avoid war, though he knew that Duryodhana would never listen to any reason. Krishna also knew that a war was inevitable between the Pandavas and the Kauravas.

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