The capital of the Pandava half of the kingdom of the Kuru clan is named Indraprastha, and Yudhistira rules there according to dharma. That Yudhistira has far fewer subjects to rule over compared to Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana in Hastinapur is most likely true, for the Pandava half of the kingdom was initially a forest.
However, the risk that there will be conflict among the Pandavas over Draupadi is ever alive. Seeing that the Pandavas have not established any clear protocol regarding their rights to intimacy with Draupadi, devarshi Narada (of the Narayana Narayana! fame) teleports himself to Indraprastha, with the intention of having a conversation with the brothers.
Narada narrates the story of asura brothers Sunda and Upasunda. The two performed terrible austerities of great endurance, forcing the gods to create obstacles and temptations to prevent them from attaining their vows.
When the gods’ machinations fail, Brahma appears before the two. Sunda and Upsunda demand boons of power, deception, shape-shifting, and immortality. Except the last one, Brahma agrees to all, advising them to ask for a boon that according to them could be the equivalent of immortality. The brothers demand that their deaths be destined to happen by each other’s hand. Brahma agrees.
The asura brothers, made powerful through the boons received from Brahma, begin to establish a reign of terror in the three worlds, first of all sweeping the gods out of heaven.
Apropos earth, Sunda and Upasunda are intelligent enough to note that this world’s subjugation is nothing more than the extermination of brahmans — in other words, the destruction of the elite layer that is putatively providing the spiritual direction for the rest of the population. How much of their anger against brahmans is due to the latter’s relegation of their kind to the lower depths of the social (and mythical) hierarchy is up for guessing.
After vanquishing every enemy, the two asuras live in Kurukshetra. To recover the three worlds from their grasp, Brahma creates a lady of supernatural beauty, someone who could not be resisted, and gives her the name Tilottama. Tilottama is instructed to seduce Sunda and Upasunda.
When Tilottama appears before them, the two brothers are struck by desire and a conflict ensues. When shouting with the ‘my wife, your sister-in-law’ reasoning doesn’t bring results the two pick up clubs and decide to fight it out. It so happens that each delivers a deathly blow to the other at precisely the same instant. Thus, Brahma’s initial boon is brought true, and driven by lust for Tilottama, the two asuras end up killing each other.
Narada uses the story of Sunda and Upasunda to drive home a message to the Pandavas, asking them to specify clear rules of exclusive engagement with Draupadi. The Pandavas decide that if any of them sets eyes on Draupadi while she is with another, the former would have to retire to the forest and live as a brahmachari for twelve years.
(The writer is reading the unabridged Mahabharata)