“Stri” means a “woman“. It describes the lament of the widows who visit the war field Kurukshetra. Upon seeing their dead ones, the wailing and deep anguish is very aptly described in this book. A small synopsis as written here cannot describe the pain and grief that must have been felt by all the widows. This parva is one of the woeful of all the parvas.
WAR IS NO SOLUTION. THIS PARVA APTLY DESCRIBES WHAT EVIL, VIOLENCE AND WAR LEADS TO IN THE END. NO ONE IS WITHOUT GRIEF, NOT EXCLUDING THE PANDAVAS WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN CELEBRATING AT THEIR VICTORY.
(Note: Indeed if you read the unabridged book, many parts become unreadable; such is the agony expressed in this parva. Indeed, it is simply too depressing!!)
With the conclusion of the war on the eighteenth day, there was nothing for Sanjaya to report to the blind king. The boon granted to him by Vyasa, to be able to see and hear the happenings in the battle field, became ineffective. Vyasa called on Dhritarashtra to console him for his loss. The sage was aware that Gandhari, due to her austerities, had the power to curse the Pandavas and bring disaster to them. He therefore advised her to get over her grief and think of the Pandavas as her own children.
Dhritarashtra assembled all the royal ladies and together they proceeded to the battlefield. He was received by Yudhishthira and his brothers with respect. The king expressed his desire to embrace each one of the five brothers. He first embraced Yudhishthira. Next on line was Bhima. Krishna knew that the king was harbouring intense hatred for Bhima since he it was that killed all his hundred sons. Being the well-wisher of the Pandavas, he drew away Bhima and instead, pushed an iron image of Bhima towards Dhritarashtra. The blind man, in his embrace, crushed the image and let the mangled remains fall on the earth. He then asked if Bhima was killed.
Krishna told Dhritarashtra, “Bhima is alive and well. What you crushed is only an image of Bhima. It is not proper that you should hate the Pandavas for what happened. But for your encouraging your wicked son, there would have been no war and the near total destruction of the Kshatriyas could have been avoided. The Pandavas still consider you as their father, and you should consider them as your sons.”
Dhritarashtra overcame his hatred for the Pandavas and embraced them one by one, this time with affection.
Gandhari comes forward. Despite Vyasa’s advise the queen had not got over her anger at the destroyers of her near and dear ones. Her eyes were hooded, but through the lower portion of her blindfold, her glance fell on Yudhishthira’s toe as the prince bowed to her. The toenail was instantly burnt. Such was her wrath. She called Bhima heartless for having drunk her son’s blood. Bhima denied that he actually drank Duscasana’s blood, but only smeared it on his mouth.
Krishna advised Gandhari to bury her hatred and receive the Pandavas with love. Gandhari’s attitude towards the Pandavas changed and she blessed them. Her anger at Krishna was however not abated. She wails loud. She tells Krishna to take a look around at all the weeping women, her 100 daughter’s in law, her daughter Duhshala, Abhimanyu’s young bride Uttaraa, Draupadi who lost five sons, etc.
Gandhari said, “Krishna, you were in the middle of this great war. You could have prevented the massacre of my hundred sons and the killing of the innumerable Kshatriya princes. Instead, you encouraged the Pandavas and even helped them to adopt unfair means in the war. Bear this in mind. Just as these Kshatriyas slew one another, thirty-six years from now (twice the number of years the war lasted), so would your Yadava race perish, killing one another. As for you, you would meet with an inglorious end in the wilderness. This is my curse on you.”
Krishna replied, “Your curse will certainly take its course since you are endowed with great virtue. Indeed the Yadava race will be wiped out due to infighting, since none outside could kill them.”
Dhritarashtra asked Yudhishthira, “You are an ocean of knowledge. Could you tell me how many Kshatriyas lost their lives in the war, and how many survived?”
Yudhishthira told the king, “The number of those who perished is one billion six hundred sixty million and twenty thousand. Those who survived were twenty four thousand one hundred and sixty five.”
The funeral rites were arranged for all those slain in the battle. When all the rites are complete, Kunti comes forward and tells Yudhishthir that there is one more last rite to be done. It was then that Kunti revealed to the Pandava brothers that Karna was the firstborn son of hers. The righteous Yudhishthir was already devastated by the loss of all his dear ones. The truth about Karna’s birth added to the agony of Yudhishthira who wanted to renounce his newly won kingdom and take to the woods. Vyasa advised him against it, reminding him of his duties as king.
At this point Yudhishthir cursed all women folk that henceforth they shall not be able to keep secrets.
(to be continued)…