“Shanti” means “peace”. Peace generally follows after a war is over. But the “peace” as is referred here is not what we associated with general amity, armistice, and harmony. At the end of the war, and as described in the previous “Stri Parva (स्त्री पर्व)”, the inner peace of the soul of all people who survived the war is shattered. The war was disastrous. It killed millions. Almost all strong and prosperous kingdoms lay in ruins now. The coffers were empty. At this time, Yudhishthir is inconsolable and has decided to give up the throne and retire to the forest.
Narad told Yudhishthir the secret of Karna’s curse and why he was fated to die. Yudhishthir was still grieved to know that Karna was in fact his elder brother and he was responsible for his death. He reiterates his curse on all women folk that henceforth no woman on earth will be able to keep a secret. The sages such as Vyasa, Narada, Devala, Kanva and others went to meet Yudhishthir, who was distressed due to the loss of his brothers and relatives in the war of Kurukshetra. All those sages pacified the grief-stricken king. His brothers too consoled him and instructed him on the principles of administration, encouraged him to perform sacrifices and advised him to follow his duty.
Even Dhritarashtra joins in to console Yudhishthir. After much similar advice from all sides, Yudhishthir reluctantly agrees to ascend to the throne. But Yudhishthir is still not calm. He often relents into melancholy moods. It was then Krishna suggested Yudhishthir to go to Grandsire Bhishm and get instructed in the subject of “Rajdharma” or “the duties of a King”. A huge section is devoted to the instructions given by Bhishma to King Yudhisthir.
It is said that this parva is a huge interruption in the epic and is described as one of the most unforgettable episodes.
(to be continued)…