They were all there as invited: Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Vidura prominent amongst them. Bheeshma in his deep sonorous voice speaks his mind. He advises Duryodhana not to nurse his anger against the Pandavas and expresses his pain at the state of affairs. 'They have as much right as you have, over the ancient kingdom of Kurus. You must ask them to come here and share the kingdom with you.'
He also speaks of the importance of a good name.'You perish when you loose it in the eyes of the good men...It looks as though fate has given you a second chance. Like the spoken word, like the lost chance, fate never comes back to redress the wrong done. God has allowed the Pandavas to live. If you behave with affection towards the Pandavas, the stigma attached to your name and that of your father, imputing the burnng of the house of lac to you both, will all be washed away.' Then praises Duryaodhana for his good qualites and urges: 'Give half the kingdom to the Pandavas'. Drona who speaks next concurs. 'They must be asked to come here, to Hastinapura. It is the duty of the king to be kind to these orphans.'
But Radheya is not for this unnatural friendliness on the part of the Kauravas. He was for fighting. Then Vidura addresses his brother, concuring with both Bheeshma and Drona: 'All of us are here as well wishers. We really want to save your reputation and that of the your son. Please do not pay any attention to Radheya. He and Duryodhana do not realise the gravity of the situation'.
While he speaks of the stigma attached to them and holds that it is proper to give half the kingdom to Pandavas. Also reminds them of the realities of the present. 'They are now strong. Drupada and his son are related by marriage. They have support of Balarama and Krishna. Some of the kings tried recently and failed to defeat them.' (Probably the arguments which tilted the scale towards a truce!)
Unable to defy his elders, Dhritarashtra agrees! There was still a spark of decency in his heart. Deputes Vidura to carry his message to Panchala. Tears flowed down the cheeks of Vidura when he meets Pandavas. The fact that they had escaped death made him realise how much they meant to him. He offers the gifts sent by Dhritarashtra and gives them the message, inviting them back to Hastinapura.
While Pandavas are not keen, as Drupada leaves it to them, Krishna thinks they ought to go! Vidura then goes and meets Kunti, falls at her feet. Tear from his eyes washed her feet. She comforts him and saiys: 'Your sons are now alive because of your wisdom and love. I think of you day and night. I do not know if it is safe to go to Hastinapura. My mind is upset: I cannot think for myself'. Vidura says: 'My dear sister, please do not be afraid. Very soon, you will see your sons as lords of the earth'.
The Pandavas set out for Hastinapura. They were accompanied by Krishna. The citizens were all eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Pandava princes. The city was beautifully decorated. The streets were sprayed with perfumed water. There were flowers everywhere. Sons of Dhritarashra, Vikarna and Chitrasena receive them. So does Drona and Kripa. On reaching the palace, they fall at the feet of Bheeshma and Dhritarashtra.
Duryodhana's wife receives the young bride and prostrates before Kunti. They then meet Gandhari and seek her blessings. Gandhari, who had the power to see into the future, tells herself as she embraces Draupadi 'This woman is fated to be the death of my sons' and blesses both Kunthi and Draupadi.
This narration is based Kamala's version.
The proceedings in the assembly is a classic case of conflicting views between the doves and hawks! Doves seem to have won now and the story could have ended here in very happy note! However, while Gandhari had a vision of the future, we know how the story developed. I guess my grandmother would have said; 'If only the cousin brothers had got along, there would not have been a Mahabharata war!'