The Pandavas have married Draupadi as their common law wife. They have received half of the Hastinapur kingdom as their share and Yudhishthir is crowned the king. Indraprastha is their capital. All is well and pleasing. It was during one of these days that the celestial sage Narad visited the Pandavas capital and the court of Yudhishthir. The Pandavas welcomed Narad with all reverence and then received him in their inner private chamber. Then Yudhishthir sent a word via his servant to request Draupadi to come and pay her respects to the revered sage.
Draupadi came, washed Narad’s feet, performed his arati and accorded the highest respect to the sage. Narad was pleased and allowed Draupadi to retire. While Draupadi was retiring, Narad could not but help notice the way all the five Pandavas were looking at her. After Draupadi had retired, the illustrious Rishi, addressing in private all the Pandavas with Yudhishthir at their head, said,
“The renowned princess of Panchala is the wedded wife of you all. Establish a rule amongst yourselves so that disunion may not arise amongst you. There were, in former days, celebrated throughout the three worlds, two brothers named Sunda and Upasunda living together and incapable of being slain by anybody unless each slew the other. They ruled the same kingdom, lived in the same house, slept on the same bed, sat on the same seat, and ate from the same dish. And yet they killed each for the sake of Tilottama. Therefore, O Yudhishthir, preserve your friendship for one another and do that which may not produce disunion amongst you.”
Upon hearing this Yudhishthir was curious to know the story behind Sunda and Upsunda. Narad narrated thus:
In olden days, there was a mighty Daitya named Nikumbha, endued with great energy and strength. Unto this Nikumbha, were born two sons called Sunda and Upasunda. Both of them were mighty Asuras endued with great energy and terrible prowess. The brothers were both fierce and possessed of wicked hearts. And those Daityas were both of the same resolution, and ever engaged in achieving the same tasks and ends. They were ever sharers with each other in happiness as well as in woe. Each speaking and doing what was agreeable to the other, the brothers never were unless they were together, and never went anywhere unless together.
Of exactly the same disposition and habits, they seemed to be one individual divided into two parts.
Endued with great energy and ever of the same resolution in everything they undertook, the brothers gradually grew up. Always entertaining the same purpose, desirous of subjugating the three worlds, the brothers, after due initiation, went to the mountains of Vindhya. There they undertook severe ascetic penances. Exhausted with hunger and thirst, with matted locks on their heads and attired in barks of trees, they acquired sufficient ascetic merit at length. Besmearing themselves with dirt from head to foot, living upon air alone, standing on their toes, they threw pieces of the flesh of their bodies into the fire. Their arms upraised, and eye fixed, long was the period for which they observed their vows.
During the course of their ascetic penances, a wonderful incident occurred there. For the mountains of Vindhya, heated for a long course of years by the power of their ascetic austerities, began to emit vapour from every part of their bodies. And beholding the severity of their austerities, the celestials became alarmed. The Gods began to cause numerous obstructions to impede the progress of their asceticism. The celestials repeatedly tempted the brothers by means of every precious possession and the most beautiful girls. But the brothers did not break their vows.
Then the celestials once more manifested, before the illustrious brothers, their powers of illusion. For it seemed their sisters, mothers, wives, and other relatives, with disordered hair and ornaments and robes, were running towards them in terror, pursued and struck by a Rakshasa with a lance in hand. And it seemed that the women implored the help of the brothers crying, “O save us!”.
But all this went for nothing, for firmly wedded thereto, the brothers did not still break their vows. And when it was found that all this produced not the slightest impression on any of the two, both the women and the Rakshasa vanished from sight. At last the Grandsire himself, Lord Brahma, the Supreme Lord, ever seeking the welfare of all, came unto those great Asuras and asked them to solicit the boon they desired. Then the brothers Sunda and Upasunda, both of great prowess, beholding the Grandsire, rose from their seats and waited with joined palms. And the brothers both said in unison unto the God,
“O Grandsire, if thou hast been pleased with these our ascetic austerities, and art, O lord, propitious unto us, then let us have knowledge of all weapons and of all powers of illusion. Let us be endued with great strength, and let us be able to assume any form at will. And last of all, let us also be immortal.”
Hearing these words of theirs, Brahma said,
“Except the immortality you ask for, you shall be given all that you desire. Solicit you some form of death by which you may still be equal unto the immortals. And since you have undergone these severe ascetic austerities from desire of sovereignty alone I cannot confer on you the boon of immortality. You have performed your ascetic penances even for the subjugation of the three worlds. It is for this, O mighty Daityas, that I cannot grant you what you desire.”
Hearing these words of Brahma, Sunda and Upasunda said,
“O Grandsire, let us have no fear then from any created thing, mobile or immobile, in the three worlds, except only from each other!”
The Grandsire then said, “I grant you what you have asked for, even this your desire”. And granting them this boon, the Grandsire made them desist from their asceticism, and returned to his own region. Then the brothers, those mighty Daityas, having received those several boons became incapable of being slain by anybody in the universe. They then returned to their own abode. All their friends and relatives, beholding those Daityas of great intelligence, crowned with success in the matter of the boons they had obtained, became exceedingly glad. There were festivities all around that lasted a year around.