Thursday, 23 February 2012

Abhimanyu marries Uttarae. Mahabharata 101

Three days later, Pandavas bathe and dress in white and arrive at the sabha of king Virata and occupy the seats meant only for the royals. Virata appears to hold court as usual  and perceives the well adorned five radiant  men. Seeing Yudhisthira in the midst of the pandavas, he asks lightly 'Did you not play dice with me? Were you not an assistant in my court? How is it that you are so well dressed and are occupying a seat which is reserved only for the kings?'

Arjuna replies with a pleasant smile 'Maharaja! This person is worthy of occupying even the throne of devata Indira! He is Yudhisthira, the son of Kunti! His fame has spread the world over like the brilliance of the sun. While in the land of the kurus, ten thousand elephants would follow him whenever he travelled. Thirty thousand golden chariots with the best horses in harness would go behind him. Eight hundred minstrels would sing in his praise. Multitude of  kings are loyal to him. He is a follower of dharma, patient, without anger and speaker of truth. Duryodhana and Sakuni were jealous of his wealth and his qualities. How is it that such a person is not fit to occupy a seat suitable for a king?'

King virata asks, 'If he is king Yudhisthira, where are his brothers Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and  Sahadeva and where is Draupadi?  None knew where the Pandavas went after they lost their kingdom in a game of dice.' Arjuna replies, 'Your cook Ballava is the courageous and powerful Bheema, he is the one who killed the evil-natured Keechaka, and the one who killed the tigers, bears and wild boar to amuse the ladies in your antahpurah (अन्तःपुर.).  The protector of your horses is Nakula, Sahadeva took care of your cattle. Sairendri is Draupadi and I am Arjuna. We completed our stay in concealment with you, safe as in an embryo and were happy.'

Uttara then speaks in praise of the pandava, 'Maharaja! He is the one who moved amidst the enemy chariots, like a lion amongst the deer, and punished them. He is the one who defeated the kauravas and recovered our cattle from them. The sound  of  his conch has made me deaf!' And adds, 'Father, they are worthy of being worshipped and honoured!'  Virata concurs, 'I was caught by the enemies and it was Bheema who rescued me and also recovered the cattle for us!'  He then turns towards Yudhisthira, 'I and my ministers beg your forgiveness. Please pardon us! Everything in my treasury is yours!'  and embraces Yudhisthira with a lot of warmth.

Virata with the intention of developing a greater  relationship with the pandavas, offers, 'Let Arjuna marry Uttarae, he is the ideal choice for her.'  Yudhisthira looks at Arjuna to seek his reaction, and Arjuna responds, 'I will accept her as my daughter-in-law. It is the proper connection between our two families'. Virata wonders why Arjuna does not want to marry Uttarae!

Arjuna explains, 'Maharaja! I used to see Uttarae everyday. She always treated me as if I was her father. As a teacher I had her trust, affection and regard! Having been with her for an year, if I get married to her now, people may suspect of things which were not there. I have been pure and in control of my senses and have also seen to that she is also pure. If you accept my suggestion, there will be no room for speculation by anyone! My son is the nephew of  Vasudeva, truly a deva kumara. Sri Krishna's favourite and became an expert in the use of weapons at a very young age! He is eminently suitable as your  son-in-law and a husband to your daughter.'  Virata gladly accepts the suggestion and as he and Partha come to an understanding, they send messages to friends,  relatives and Vasudeva.

The pandavas move to a place within king Virata's domain. Many kings come to visit them and are received with great hospitality by king Virata. Later Balarama, Krishna, Subhadra, Abimanyu and the rest of the family arrive. Following them are ten thousand elephants, a lakh of horses, innumerable chariots and soldiers. Sri Krishna gifts the pandavas with fine clothes, jewellery and women. The marriage is performed with due rituals and ceremony. It is full of grandeur, a variety of meat and intoxicating drinks are served. Singers and dancers keep the invitees entertained. The grandly dressed women of Matsya Raja arrive with Sudheshne in the lead and Draupadi looks best among all the women present. The princess Uttarae beautifully adorned is brought forward and Arjuna acceptes her on behalf of his son. Abimanyu is gifted with seven thousand horses and two hundred elephantas. Later after the wedding he is also gifted with thousands of cattle, fine clothes and precious stones  by Sri Krishna. The whole city looks festive. 

Virata parva is interesting in many ways.  Some details of the story are mystifying, the number of foot soldiers accompanying Krishna is said to be a निखर्व, which translates into a billion! The Chariots are numbered अर्बुद which is ten million! We must check if population in such numbers existed in those days!

Equally significant is the offer by Virata that Arjuna marries his daughter Uttarae and the reasons why Arjuna declines. Close proximity men and women who were not blood relatives was unusual and did give room to speculation!

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