Yudhisthira had brought some useful utensils and implements; distributes them to the ashramites and is taking rest, when Vyasa makes an appearance. He inquires after their welfare and tells them, 'If you need anything, tell me!'. Dhritharashtra keeps silent for a while; 'I am indeed blessed to meet a good ascetic like you. My life is fulfilled by this meeting. I am not worried about myself. But when I think of my son's bad behavior, I feel very upset. What is his condition? What is the position of the many kings who died because of him? How are my children and grand children doing? Where did Bheeshma and Drona go? I keep thinking of them day and night and suffer. I have no peace.'
Gandhaari hears this and thinking of her own grief and that of the other women of the family and adds her own question, 'Eminent sage! The king lost his children sixteen years ago! Even then he is as sad as before. He keeps sighing deeply as he remembers them. Draupadi and Subhadra are tormented by the loss of their children and my hundred daughter's-in-law are grieving for their lost husbands. What has happened to those dead? We would like to know and with your blessings we want to have a peaceful time.'
Kunti also remembers her son Karna. Vyasa decides to help them to achieve a calmness of their minds. He takes them to the river and steps in and calls out to all those who had died in the war. There is a loud noise and Beeshma, Drona and the thousands kings and soldiers who had died in the war are seen gradually rising from the middle of the river. They have divine bodies, well dressed and come riding on their chariots with their flags flying. There is no enmity, no egotism, no anger, no jealousy amongst them. They are adorned with divine garlands; gandharvas and apasaras are playing music for them. It is possible for both Dhirtharashtra and Gandhaari to see and they feel much better.
The pandavas stay in the ashram for a few more days and are in no mood to get back. Kunti finally persuades them to get back. She tells them that the longer they stay, her attachment to them would come in the way of her penance. They are also necessary in the city to take care of the kingdom.
After two years Narada visits Yudhisthira and informs him about the final days of Dhritarashtra and others. After pandavas' visit, Dhritharashtra, Gandhaari, Kunti and Sanjaya move to Gangadwara and take up severe penance. Six months go by. One day while they were walking in the forest they were caught in a forest fire. Sanjaya escapes but the other three are burnt alive.
This news upsets all and emotions run high. Yudhisthira is inconsolable, 'While we are all alive, how could a great man who was doing severe penance die like an orphan? To think that a son of Vichitravirya, father of hundred sons, as strong as ten thousand elephants, who ruled as a maharaja had to finally die in a forest fire; it speaks about bad times for humans. Earlier, divine women would fan him, now vultures flying around fan him with hot air. A person who would sleep while balladiers sang in his praise, is now surrounded by crows and vultures.'
'I do not grieve so much for Gandhaari, she lost one hundred sons, and as long as she lived, she took care of her husband and has reached patilokha. But when I think of Kunti, I feel terrible. She had children living and instead of enjoying the riches, she went to live in the forest. What is the use of our kingdom. our valor and our khsatriya dharma? Just to think that our mother died in a forest fire makes my mind dull. What was the use of Arjuna pleasing agni in kandavavana? Agni proved to be ungrateful. When the fire surrounded her, our mother already fragile, must have been shivering with fear and would have cried for us to save her.'
Later, due ceremonies are performed for the dead and plenty of gifts are distirbuted. Yudisthira, having lost so many relatives, continues to rule the kingdom without any entusiasm.
This desire to know, how those who have passed beyond are doing, is universal. We as children were sure good people were all in heaven and that bad people went to hell! It was simple. Anyway Vyasa's visual proof to the living relatives that all those who died in war are in heaven, seems to assuage grief to some extent. Though it does not really solve the problems of the living.
This belief that all those who died in a war will go to heaven, will make peace process more difficult. In any case in Mahabharata lord Krishna wanted war to decimate the kshatriya clans. Here is some interesting research on the influence of beliefs in heaven and hell.
Why criminals believe in heaven:
People who trust in redemption more likely to break the law than those who think there's a hell.
Crime rates are higher in countries where more people believe in heaven than in hell, researchers have found. The finding emerged from a study into 26 years of data involving more than 140,000 people from almost 70 nations. The results suggest that people are more
likely to feel they can get away with criminal behaviour if they don't
believe they could be punished in the afterlife.
Academics discovered that offences
such as murders, robberies and rapes were more common in societies where
punishment forms an important part of people's religious beliefs.
means a country where more people think there is a heaven than a hell,
for example, is likely to see more offences than a nation where beliefs
are more equally shared.
.....'The key finding is that, controlling
for each other, a nation's rate of belief in hell predicts lower crime
rates, but the nation's rate of belief in heaven predicts higher crime
rates,and these are strong effects.
I think it's an important clue about the differential effects of supernatural punishment and supernatural benevolence.'