Fate brings brothers together

In the final leg of their pilgrimage, the Pandavas approach Mount Kailasa, the abode of Nara and Narayana.

Published: 13th February 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th February 2018 10:25 PM   |  A+A-

In the final leg of their pilgrimage, the Pandavas approach Mount Kailasa, the abode of Nara and Narayana. Their excitement grows, as they understand that it might be possible to meet Arjuna now, who had earlier gone to the same area in search of weapons and other powers.

However, the path is strenuous and involves scaling the peak called Gandhamadan. Accompanied by Draupadi, and travelling with a large troupe of Brahmins, cooks, servants, and other staff, it becomes difficult for the Pandavas to keep on progressing amid the difficult terrain. When Yudhistira suggests that only some of them make the journey, Bhima tells him that such a solution would be harsh on whoever was asked to stay behind.

At one point, Draupadi faints from all the exertion, and the four husbands around her panic collectively. Yudhistira laments how his foolhardiness with the dice game has brought misfortune to this princess. Bhima then realises that the only way the journey can be completed is if he carries everyone on his shoulders. But the number is too high even for him. So he remembers Ghatotkacha, his son from Hidimba, who is equal in strength to himself. Ghatotkacha is, as per his promise earlier, available to Bhima as soon as the strongest Pandava remembers him. Once Ghatotkacha meets the Pandavas, he is tasked with taking care of his ‘mother’, Draupadi, whom he lifts on shoulders. Thus, the Pandavas begin their journey again.

While reading through this passage, one wonders if the upliftment that Ghatotkacha provides to the Pandavas is only the physical sort. The Mahabharata, true to its character, does not delve into the banal or the quotidian. Crises are solved through strength, not personality. So we cannot know if Ghatotkacha, in fact, said something funny to Draupadi, and lifted not only her body but her spirit as well. This element should, perhaps, be left to the modern novelist’s imagination. The text we have today does change its track immediately after Ghatotkacha is included in the fray; if that leads someone to speculate about Ghatotkacha’s character, it should be a welcome speculation.

Draupadi’s spirits are so lifted, in fact, that she begins to make tough demands. She asks Bhima to procure a rare flower, which she intends to offer to Arjuna when they all meet him. Bhima, who goes into the deep forest to look for the flower, is his usual blustering self, disturbing the flora and fauna around him. Somewhere in the forest, guarding a path between the earthly and the celestial is a monkey sitting, from another eon: Hanuman. The famous encounter between Bhima and Hanuman then takes place.

In mythological terms, the two are born from the same father, Vayu, and do indeed identify as brothers eventually — after Bhima’s silly attempt to displace Hanuman’s tail from the path. With the pilgrimage nearly over, sage Lomasha’s story series seems to have come to an end now, and the narrative responsibility has gone back to Vaishampayana.

Tanuj Solanki

@tanujsolanki

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