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Chapter 11
When the Lord left - the Pândavas' Grief

Dharmaraja, who was lost in contemplation, recapitulating the advice, the help, the grace, the love, the sympathy, that they had earned from Lord Krishna, suddenly raised his head and asked, "Arjuna, what did you say? What calamity overtook you on the way? Tell us in full, dear brother", slowly lifting the chin of Arjuna while asking so. Arjuna looked his brother in the face and said, "Brother, all my skill and attainments have departed with Lord Krishna. I am now without any powers, incapable of any achievement, weaker than the weakest, indeed lifeless.

Brother, listen. This most unlucky fellow did not have the chance to be with Lord Vâsudeva when He left for His abode, even though he was in Dvârakâ at that time. I had not earned enough merit to get that chance! I could not have the darshan of our Divine Father before He left. Later, the charioteer of the Lord, Dâruka, gave me the message He had given for me when He departed. In that message, He had written thus with His own Hand".

Saying thus, he took out from the folds of his dress the letter which he considered more precious even than life, for it was from Krishna and written by His own hand. He gave it into the hands of Dharmaraja, who received it reverentially with alacrity and anxiety. He pressed it on his eyes, which were full of tears. He tried to decipher the writing through the curtain of tears, but with no success.

It began, "Arjuna, this is My command; carry it out without demur, to the full. Execute this task with courage and earnestness." After this express injunction, Krishna had elaborated on the task in the following words: "I have accomplished the mission on which I had come. I shall no longer be in this world, with body. I am departing. Seven days from today, Dvârakâ will sink into the sea; the sea will swallow everything except the house I had occupied. Therefore, you have to take the queens and other women who survived, along with the children and babies and the old and decrepit to Indraprastha. I am leaving, placing all responsibility for the women and other Yadava survivors in your hands. Care for them as you care for your own life; arrange for them at Indraprastha and protect them from danger." The postscript said, "Thus, writes Gopala on leaving for His home."

Dharmaraja finished reading. He noticed that Bhîma, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva were shedding copious tears and squatting like rocks, oblivious to everything else. Arjuna said, "Brother, I had no desire to live for a moment more without the Lord in our midst and so I resolved to drown myself in the sea that was to swallow Dvârakâ; I decided to split my own head with this bow and die. But this command forced me to desist; the order from Him who ordains the universe tied me to this earth. I had no time to plan out any line of action, everything had to be done quick."

"So, I got the last rites done for the dead, according to the Sastras; then in great anxiety lest the sea swallow Dvârakâ before the women, children and old people were evacuated, I hurried them to come out and started for Indraprastha, as commanded by Krishna. We left Dvârakâ with no mind to leave it. We managed to reach the borders of Panchanada (Punjab) with hearts heavy on account of the absence of Krishna, but I was urged forward by the need to obey the divine injunction, and to carry, according to that injunction, the burden of those people."

"The sun was setting one day; we dared not cross at that late hour a flooded river that impeded our progress. I decided to encamp on the bank of that river for the night. We collected the jewels and valuables of all the women and kept them in a secure place; the queens alighted from the palanquins and the maids scattered themselves for rest. I approached the river for the evening rites, dragging myself along with the sadness of separation from Krishna. Meanwhile, pitch darkness pervaded the place and soon we heard wild barbarian war cries from the surrounding darkness. I peered into the night and found a horde of forest-dwelling nomads rushing upon us with sticks, spears and daggers. They laid hands on the jewels and valuables; they started dragging away the women and binding them hand and foot."

"I shouted at them and threatened them with dire consequences. 'Why do you fall like moths into fire' I asked them. 'Why be like fish that meet death craving for the angler's worm' I told them. 'Do not meet death in this vain attempt to collect loot', I warned them. 'I imagine you do not know who I am. Have you not heard of the redoubtable bowman, Pându's son Arjuna, who overwhelmed and defeated the three world-conquerors, Drona, Bhîshma and Karna? I shall now despatch the whole lot of you to the kingdom of death, with a twang of this bow, my incomparable Gandîva. Flee before you meet destruction, or else, feed with your lives this hungry bow', I announced."

"Nevertheless, they went about their nefarious task undismayed; their cruel attack did not abate; they fell upon our camp and dared attack even me. I held myself in readiness and fitted divine arrows to efface them all. But alas, a terrible thing happened; I cannot explain how or why! Of the sacred formulae which fill the missile with potency, I could not recall a single one! I forgot the processes of invocation and revocation. I was helpless."

"Before my very eyes, the robber bands dragged away the queens, the maids and others. They were screaming in agony, calling on me by name 'Arjuna, Arjuna, save us, rescue us; do you not hear us? Why are you deaf to our cries? Are you giving us over to these brigands? Had we known that this would be our fate we would have died in the sea like our dear city, Dvârakâ.' I heard it all, in terrible agony; I saw it all. They were screaming and fleeing in all directions, women, children and the aged and the infirm. Like a lion whose teeth have been plucked out and whose claws have been sheared, I could not harm those ruffians. I could not string my bow. I attacked them with the arrows in my clasp. Very soon, even the stock of arrows was exhausted. My heart was burning with anger and shame. I became disgusted with my own pusillanimity. I felt as if I was dead. All my efforts were in vain. The greatly blessed 'inexhaustible' receptacle of arrows had failed me, after Vâsudeva had left."

"My might and skill had gone with Krishna when He went from here. Or else, how did this misfortune occur of my being a helpless witness of this kidnapping of women and children entrusted to my care? I was tortured on one side by the separation from Krishna and on the other by the agony of not carrying out His orders. Like a strong wind that fans the fire, this calamity added fuel to the anguish of my heart. And the queens - those who were living in golden palaces in the height of luxury; When I contemplate their fate in the hands of those fierce savages, my heart is reduced to ashes. O Lord! O Krishna! Is it for this that you rescued us from danger in the past - to inflict on us this drastic punishment?"

When the Lord left

Arjuna wept aloud and beat his head against the wall in despair, so that the room was filled with grief; every one shivered in despair. The hardest rock would have melted in sympathy. From Bhîma's eyes, streams of hot tears flowed. Dharmaraja was overpowered with fear when he saw him weeping so. He went near him and spoke lovingly and tenderly to him in order to console him. Bhîma came to himself after some time; he fell at Dharmaraja's feet and said, "Brother, I do not like to live any more. Give me leave. I shall go into the forest and immolate myself with the name of Krishna on my lips and reach Home. This world, without Krishna, is hell to me". He wiped the hot tears with the cloth in his hand. [See also S'rîmad Bhâgavatam, Canto 11:30-34]

Sahadeva who was silent so long approached Bhîma and said, "Calm yourself, do not get excited. Remember the reply Krishna gave Dhritharashtra that day in the open assembly when He proceeded thither to negotiate peace between us."



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