Swargarohan Parva (स्वर्गारोहण पर्व) is the eighteenth and last Parva of Mahabharat. “Swarga” means “Heaven” and “arohan” means “ascension” or “to ascend“; when these two words are joined together (Swargarohan), it means “ascend to Heaven”.
This is a brief parva. The previous parva (Mahaprasthanik Parva – महाप्रस्थानिक पर्व) narrates the story of renunciation of throne of kingdom of Hastinapur by Yudhishthir and his journey with his wife and brothers all over the country before final journey to Heaven. But in the end only Yudhishthir accompanied by a dog are alive as Draupadi, Sahadev, Nakul, Arjun and Bheem fell down one by one and died on their way for the weight of their sin.
Yudhishthir and the dog have reached the summit point when Lord Indra’s in his chariot driven by Matali descend to the earth. Indra invites Yudhishthir to get on his chariot so that they can ride to Heaven. Yudhishthir replies that his brothers and wife have all fallen wayside and he would not be able to enjoy Heaven alone. To this, Indra replies that they have attained mukti and he will meet them soon. So Yudhishthir calls to the dog and asks him to get on. But Indra objects to this and says that the dog is a vile and impure animal and has no place in Heaven. But Yudhishthir was adamant and says that either both go or none go.
Having remained steadfast on his dharma to the last minute, the dog was pleased and said, “Dear Yudhishthir, I am Lord Dharma, your father. You have shown yourself to be a staunch supporter of Dharma in conditions better or worse. You have passed my test. I am pleased with you. Please ascend to the chariot and go to Heaven.” Yudhishthir bows to his father and then ascends to the Heaven with Indra.
Having arrived at the Heavens, Yudhishthir saw Duryodhan endued with prosperity and seated on an excellent seat. Duryodhan blazed with effulgence like the sun and wore all those signs of glory which belong to heroes. And he was in the company of many deities of blazing effulgence and of Sadhyas of righteous deeds. Yudhishthir, beholding Duryodhan and the rest of the Kauravas and his prosperity, became suddenly filled with rage and turned back from the sight.
He loudly addressed his companions, saying, “I do not desire to share regions of felicity with Duryodhan who was stained by cupidity and possessed of little foresight. It was for him that friends, and kinsmen, over the whole Earth were slaughtered by us whom he had afflicted greatly in the deep forest. It was for him that the virtuous princess of Panchala, Draupadi of faultless features, our wife, was dragged into the midst of the assembly before all our seniors. Ye Gods, I have no desire to even behold Suyodhan (another name of ‘Duryodhan’). I wish to go there where my brothers are.”
Narada, smiling, told him,”It should not be so, O king of kings. While residing in Heaven, all enmities cease. O mighty-armed Yudhishthir, do not say so about king Duryodhan. Hear my words. Here is king Duryodhan. He is worshipped with the Gods by those righteous men and those foremost of kings who are now denizens of Heaven. By causing his body to be poured as a libation on the fire of battle, he has obtained the end that consists in attainment of the region for heroes. You and your brothers, who were veritable Gods on Earth, were always persecuted by this one. Yet through his observance of Kshatriya practices he has attained to this region. This lord of Earth was not terrified in a situation fraught with terror. O son, thou shouldst not bear in mind the woes inflicted on thee on account of the match at dice. It behoveth thee not to remember the afflictions of Draupadi. It behoveth thee not to remember the other woes which were yours in consequence of the acts of your kinsmen the woes, viz, that were due to battle or to other situations. Do thou meet Duryodhan now according to the ordinances of polite intercourse. This is Heaven, O lord of men.”
But Yudhishthir was not consoled and said that while he will relinquish all avarice and enmity to his cousins, he would like to find his brothers and his dear wife. So a messenger accompanied Yudhishthir on his search for his brothers. Gradually they left behind Amaravati (city of Indra). The sky became darker and darker. The land become more desolate with each step. There was dirt, debris, foul stench and evil sights everywhere. Polluted with the stench of sinners, and miry with flesh and blood, it abounded with gadflies and stinging bees and gnats and was endangered by the inroads of grizzly bears. Rotting corpses lay here and there. Overspread with bones and hair, it was noisome with worms and insects. It was skirted all along with a blazing fire. It was infested by crows and other birds and vultures, all having beaks of iron, as also by evil spirits with long mouths pointed like needles. And it abounded with inaccessible fastnesses like the Vindhya mountains. Human corpses were scattered over it, smeared with fat and blood, with arms and thighs cut off, or with entrails torn out and legs severed. Along that path so disagreeable with the stench of corpses and awful with other incidents, the righteous-souled king proceeded, filled with diverse thoughts. He beheld a river full of boiling water and, therefore, difficult to cross, as also a forest of trees whose leaves were sharp swords and razors. There were plains full of fine white sand exceedingly heated, and rocks and stones made of iron.
Finally Yudhishthir was fed up and asked the celestial messenger how long they would have to go. The messenger replied that he was asked to take him as far as he desired and then return back. Yudhishthir expressed that he wished to get away from the current place and started back. Just then he heard a voice,
“O just king, O greatest amongst men, O kind Yudhishthir, please do not go. Your presence brings great relief in this desolate place. It has brought a gentle breeze bearing a very sweet scent. Great hath been our relief at this. O foremost of kings, beholding thee, O first of men, great hath been our happiness. O son of Pritha, let that happiness last longer through thy stay here, for a few moments more. Do thou remain here, O Bharata, for even a short while. As long as thou art here, O thou of Kurus race, torments cease to afflict us.”
These and many similar words, uttered in piteous voices by persons in pain, the king heard in that region, wafted to his ears from every side. Yudhishthir compassionate nature was moved by these words and he cried, “Who are you all? Why also do you stay here?“.
Thus addressed, they answered him from all sides, saying, I am Karna! I am Bheemsen! I am Arjun! I am Nakul! I am Sahdev! I am Draupadi! I am Dhrishtadyumna! We are the sons of Draupadi!
Yudhishthir asked himself, “What perverse destiny is this? What are those sinful acts which were committed by those high-souled beings, Karna and the sons of Draupadi, and the slender-waisted princess of Panchala, so that their residence has been assigned in this region of foetid smell and great woe? I am not aware of any transgression that can be attributed to these persons of righteous deeds. What is that act by doing which Dhritarashtra’s son, king Suyodhan, with all his sinful followers, has become invested with such prosperity? Endued with prosperity like that of the great Indra himself, he is highly adored. What is that act through the consequence of which these high-souled ones have fallen into Hell?”
Muttering many such things to himself, he replied to the messenger, “Please return to Amaravati. Tell all the Gods that I shall not go back to where they are, but shall stay even here, since, in consequence of my companionship, these afflicted brothers of mine have become comforted.” The messenger withdrew.
But not more than a moment had passed, when Indra and Lord Dharma appeared. Dharma said, “Dear Son, this is the third time that I have tested you and I am exceedingly glad that you never choose to deviate from the path of Dharma. O king, O thou of great wisdom, with thee, O son, by thy devotion to me, by thy truthfulness of speech, and forgiveness, and self-restraint, you have shown that you are indeed the greatest amongst men. Your brothers and kinsmen are no longer here and have been transported to Amaravati. They were here for their brief crimes during their life time. You were shown a glimpse of hell because of the one untruth that you told in your life. Kill your grief and come back with us.”
And so, Yudhishthir came back to heavens and beheld Krishna in his full element, his brothers, relatives, distant fiends and everyone else in the heavens.
This ends the last and final parva of Mahabharata and completes the great epic.