After freeing Draupadi from Jayadratha, Bhima’s intention is to kill the king of Sindhu. Yudhistira, however, tries to restrain the strongest of the Pandavas, reminding him that Jayadratha is married to their cousin, Duhshala.
Though Bhima decides not to kill Jayadratha, he does give him a thorough beating. Punches and kicks are rained on him. With an arrow — and one can only imagine how frightening and humiliating this must have been for the Kauravas’ famed brother-in-law — the Pandavas shave Jayadratha’s head, save the customary five tufts of hair. Bhima tells Jayadratha that the condition on which his life is being spared is that in assemblies of kings, he must always call himself a slave of the Pandavas. Jayadratha has no option but to agree.
After he is let go from the Pandavas’ grasp, Jayadratha understandably avoids going back to any kingdom, and heads instead for the mouth of the Ganga, where he immerses himself in austerities. He is eventually able to please Lord Shiva. Jayadratha’s intention is to acquire enough power so as to vanquish the Pandavas in battle. Lord Shiva is unable to fulfill that wish for him, but he does grant Jayadratha the power to restrain all Pandavas except Arjuna. This grant of power will definitely have its role to play in the oncoming great war.
The Pandavas, on the other hand, return to their abode in the Kamyaka forest, and feel somewhat saddened by the recent events. Yudhistira bemoans his misfortune, just like he has been doing for more than a decade now. And sage Markandeya, as he is wont to, recounts another story to bring peace to the Pandavas’ hearts.
This time, though, the storytelling is close to the context and the story is a special one: about the abduction of Sita by Ravana and her eventual rescue by Rama. But like all stories in Mahabharata, this one also begins with the origins of the key players.
Markandeya starts with Ravana’s history and lineage, narrative how the learned one came to acquire the kingdom of Lanka. The narration of Ravana’s thousand-year austerities read like a suggestion the text is making about Jayadratha’s austerities in the current time. Ravana receives the boon of being invincible in front of gods and supernatural creatures, his only vulnerability being man. As Ravana oppresses all the known worlds, the Gods approach Brahma, who tells them about Vishnu’s human avatar, Rama. Brahma also advises the gods to take birth among various species on earth.
A gandharvi named Dundubhi, born as Manthara in the world of humans, begins a particular chain of events. As a palatial associate of Rama’s stepmother, Kaikeyi, Manthara contributes to the cosmic story by motivating Kaikeyi to initiate a domestic melodrama that shall eventually result in the exile of Rama, Sita, and Laxmana. This exile is necessary to make it possible for Rama and Ravana to be in conflict with each other.
After that, the well-known story of Sita’s abduction, similar to Draupadi’s recent travails, is recounted to the Pandavas.
The writer is reading the unabridged Mahabharata