Arjuna's account of events in Dwaraka induces Yudhisthira to give up everything and embark on a great pilgrimage. He looks at Arjuna, 'Everything ripens with time. I am controled by it! You also know this.' Arjuna agrees, 'Ah! Time! Time!! Who can escape time?' The other three pandavas also agree. So they decide to abdicate. Yudhisthira installs Yuyutsu as the king of the Kaurava kingdom and gives Parikshit his kingdom. He then speaks to Subhadra, 'Amma! Your grandson in now the king. Take care of him and Vraja, the king of yadavas. Ensure that dharma is always followed!'
Yudhisthira then performs ceremonies for the dead Yadavas, offers many gifts. He invites Kripacharya and requests him to tutor Parikshit. Summons leading citizens and eminent people and informs them of their decision. They try to persuade Yudhisthira not to go, but are unable to convince him, he knows that his time has come!
Yushisthira divests himself of his royal clothes and jewellery, wears clothes made of jute fibres, brothers and Draupadi follow suit. They begin their journey, people follow them till the gates of the town. But a dog keeps following them and they are unable to chase him away. Arjuna's wife, Ulupi enters the Ganges and Chitrangada goes back to Manipura.
Pandavas have not eaten as they turn towards the east. Yudhisthira is in the lead, following him are Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva and lastly Draupadi. They walk in a single file and the dog is still with them. When they reach Lauhitya sea, god Agni appears and asks 'Let Arjuna give up his gandiva bow, as he no use for it now! I had borrowed it from god Varuna and want to return it now.' Arjuna immediately drops gandiva and the inexhaustible quiver into the water.
They go forward to see the submerged Dwaraka and turn North. Days later they reach Himatparvata. They cross that and go further to reach Valukarnava and Meruparvata. They start climbing with their minds focused in meditation and Draupadi suddenly falls. Bheema asks, 'Elder brother, why did Draupadi fall, she has not been unrighteous!' Yudhisthira replies, 'She was partial, very partial towards Arjuna and this is the result!' and keeps walking calmly without a glance towards her. A little further, Sahadeva falls, Bheema agains asks, 'Why did he fall? He was without any ego and was taking care of us so well!' Yudhisthira says 'He used to think that there was no one as intelligent as he was. This defect brought him down.' Then it was Nakula. Yudhisthira tells Bheema, 'Nakula was vain, thought none was as handsome as he was, and so he fell!
Then it is Arjuna! Bheema cannot understand and asks, 'Arjuna is a great soul. I have never heard him speak a lie, then why did he have to fall?' Yudhisthira replies, 'He thought he was a great warrior and claimed he would destroy enemies single handed and failed to do so; he spoke disparagingly of other archers, something a brave warrior should not, hence he fell'. A little further Bheema fell and asked 'Brother even I fell, can you tell me why?' Yudhisthira said, 'You ate without thinking of others. Fond of self-adulation.' Yudhisthira walks on without a glance at Bheema. The dog keeps following Yudhisthira.
A little later, there is a thundering noise and Indra descends from heaven in a chariot and invites Yudhisthira to get on the chariot and he would take him to heaven. At this invitation, Yudhisthira's eyes fill with tears and he tells Indra, 'My brothers and Draupadi, a delicate princess and deserving all the luxuiries of the world, have fallen by the wayside. I do not want to go to heaven unless they are with me'. Indra informs him that it is only their mortal body that has fallen, his brothers and wife are already in heaven with their divine bodies. 'You can see them soon; you can come with your earthly body.' But Yudhisthira has another demand, he wants his dog to go with him!.
Indra tells Yudhisthira that dogs are not allowed in heaven! Yudhisthira insists on taking the dog with him. Indra argues that as he did not stop even for his brothers and wife who fell on the wayside, it makes no sense to insist that a mere dog goes with him. Yudhisthira justifies his stand, 'There is no friendship possible with the dead, no fight; we cannot revive them, we can only accept their death and move on. But why should I give up a living being, one which is so devoted to me?'
A pleased Dharmadeva, reveals himself and praises Yudhisthira for his character, awareness and kindness. Tells him that he is just like his father. Remembers his earlier request in Dvaitavana to save Nakula and not Bheema or Arjuna, so that both the mothers would have an offspring. 'Now, you refused to take the gods chariot because you wanted your faithful dog to accompany you. There is no one like you, not even in heaven. Hence you have attained an exalted status and are able to go to heaven in your present body.'
Yudhisthira blessed thus, climbs the chariot and it flies upwards heaven bound. On reaching heaven and not seeing his brothers and others, he tells Indra that he would like to be with his brothers. 'It does not matter whether they are in a good place or not.' Indra asks him to stay on, as this is the place he has earned, the result of his good actions. 'Why are you trying to drag your earthly bonds here? You have achieved which no other mortal has achieved and your brothers did not!'
But Yudhisthira tells Indra that he cannot be without his brothers and Draupadi and it is his desire to be with them.
This story is well known. I was a bit surprised at the brief manner it is narrated in vachana bhartaa. While the lessons are universal; One should not be, partial, proud of being good looking or intelligent, arrogant about your prowess or just self-centred. It surprised me a bit that Yudhisthira is deemed to be perfect and eligible for the most exalted place in heaven.