CHENNAI : One of the conditions at the infamous dice game required that the Pandavas adopt disguises in the thirteenth year of their exile. If those disguises were to be found out, an additional twelve years of exile shall be imposed on the brothers.The episode at the lake, where the youngest four Pandavas die and are resurrected, leads to Yudhistira obtaining the boon of safety for spending the thirteenth year in the city of Virata. However, as the period begins, the Pandavas still need to make elaborate plans regarding their disguise. Each one of them, and Draupadi, will need to develop new identities for themselves.
Yudhistira decides to pose as a brahman named Kanka and become a member of the king’s assembly. Kanka’s main skill shall be gambling, a declaration that is of course ironic in the case of Yudhistira. However, readers might recall that during the retelling of the story of Nala and Damayanti, the sage Brihadashva had instructed Yudhistira in the art of the dice.
The saga of Nala and Damayanti had involved Nala showcasing various kinds of knowledge to regain his wife. The knowledge of dice, the knowledge of horses, and the knowledge of cooking were the major ones among them. And it seems that the Pandavas are taking quite a lot of inspiration from Nala. After Yudhistira, Bhima chooses the name Ballava for his disguise and plans to pose before the king of Virata as a culinary expert and a superintendent of the kitchen. The knowledge of horses is chosen by Nakula, who plans to join the king’s staff as Granthika, the keeper of horses.
Draupadi, on the other hand, follows the model of Damayanti, who had joined the staff of women workers in the kingdom of Chedi. Draupadi decides to become a maidservant named Sairandhri, and enter into the service of Sudeshna, the famous wife of the king of Virata.
Arjuna, with the multiple marks on his body because of bowstrings, needs to adopt a cleverer disguise. So he chooses an identity that allows him to cover his entire body, that of a eunuch named Brihannada. He plans to enter the inner quarters of the palace and please the various members with his singing and dancing. As Brihannada, he is also likely to have access to the women in Virata’s abode. Therefore, he will have the opportunity to be closer to Draupadi as compared to the others.
After these disguises are defined, the Pandavas disperse their forest camp and tell everyone living with them to keep mum about the plans and designs of the brothers. Finally, as they approach the city of Virata, they decide to hide their weapons, including Arjuna’s redoutable Gandiva, atop a huge tree. To dispel others from approaching the tree, the Pandavas tie the weapons around a dead body: the idea is that the stench shall keep anyone from coming too close.Curiosity makes us ask: Whose dead body is it? Did the Pandavas kill someone along the way?