Pandavas begin their rule. Yudhisthira treats Dhritharashtra as the head of the family. Pandavas take all decisions after consulting Dhritarashtra, Draupadi, Subhadra, other wives and Gandhari. It is Sanjaya, Vidhura and Yuyutsu who take care of Dhritarashtra's well being and needs. Pandavas do not make any distinction between themselves and the elderly royal couple. Knowing their grief at the loss of all their sons, it is Yudhisthira's intention to give them as much solace as possible. The couple also understand, are at peace and show their appreciation.
Dhritharashtra continues to feel sad as he thinks of his foolhardy son. But each day after offering his morning prayers, he includes a special prayer for the well being of pandavas. If someone, even unintentionally, hurts Dhritharashtra, Yudhisthira is prone to get very upset and angry. Because of this none dare talk about the misadventure of Dhritharashtra's children at any time. While Bheema is also careful about this, he just cannot contain his feelings. He is still full of anger. Hence once in a while, he gives his arms a resounding slap within the earshot of Dhritharashtra, and mutter 'Because of my powerful arms, I banished the blind king's skilled children to the other world.' Dhritharashtra feels deeply hurt at such words!
Fifteen years go by and it becomes more and more difficult for Dhritharashtra to bear Bheema's taunts. One day he calls his close friends and family, speaks to them. He is in tears,'You know that it was due to my folly that the kaurava vamsha was destroyed'. He then recounts how he suffers because of this, unable to eat and sleep. He says that he and Gandhari have chosen to lead a very austere life.
He then addresses Yudhisthira, thanks him for his care and says while he is happy, he desires to go and live in a forest. As his children are dead because of their deeds, there is nothing for him to do. Anyway, he says it is the tradition in their family and it is time to think about themselves and do penance. He adds that Yudhisthira will also benefit. A portion of the the good or the bad deeds by his citizens goes to the king.
Yudhisthira is unhappy and also is upset that he was not aware of the austere lifestyle of his uncle. Typically he offers to renounce the kingdom as he cannot think of living in the palace without them. He offers to make Yuyutsu, his uncle's only surviving son the king, and follow them to the forest. Dhritharashtra does not want change his mind and requests others to convince Yudhisthira to let him go. He faints and looses his balance due his weakness and Gandhari supports her husband. This again makes Yudhisthira more upset, as he remembers the strength of Dhritharashtra compared to his present state. He caresses his uncle and revives him. The scene is charged with emotion. The uncle has not eaten for four days and is weak. Yudhisthira embraces his uncle and urges him to eat. Dhritharashtra says that he will eat only if Yudhisthira agrees to let him go. Yudhisthira has no other option but to agree!
The next day the old king talks to his people and seeks permission from them to go to the forest. He talks about the past and assures the people that they will be well looked after by the Pandavas and seeks forgiveness for any mistakes he or his children had made and thanks them for their loyalty and support. A brahmin represents the populace and assures the king that eighteen day war was not because of Duryodhana and others, but it was destined to be so. He also states that his kuru vamsha has always taken care of the people. They wish the old king well and expresses the confidnece that the kunti putras will take very good care of them. Dhirtharashtra is satisfied and he returns home with Gandhari.
How old was Dhritharashtra? Anyway age seems to have finally caught up with him. The taunts from Bheema finally begins to affect him. I have seen, as we grow older, me included, we get more sensitive. I do not think our society treats age with respect, if it ever did, unless there is more to it than just age. They need to be the ever green politicians or heads of family owned industries or those with money or occasionally a scholar! In fact, if you are just old, it is the other way round, no respect.
I remember a documentary about a speices of monkeys. In this species a group of she monkeys are the leaders and they support each other, so that males dare not bother them, especially the bachelors. Then one day one of the older ladies falls out of favor. Apparently her old age is the reason. She can only hover around the fringe of the community and without protection she is attacked by the males and dies. But life is as usual in the community of the monkeys. It shocked me then and it still is disturbing!