Your Reading A for this week is Narayan's Mahabharata, pp. 85-131. You might want to read over the previous reading guide to remind yourself of what has happened so far.
p. 85. Duryodhana and the gandharvas. Through his spies Dhritarashtra knows what the Pandavas are doing and about the weapons Arjuna has acquired. Urged by Śakuni, Duryodhana decides to make a royal camp near the Pandavas in order to shame and humiliate them. The gods, however, send a gandharva who provokes Duryodhana and in the battle the gandharvas take Duryodhana captive. The Pandavas free Duryodhana from captivity. Duryodhana's plan to humiliate the Pandavas has backfired completely.
p. 88. The voice in the lake. While they are living in the forest, the Pandavas are approached by a brahmin who is desperate because a mysterious giant deer has stolen his staff and the kindling he uses to make the sacrificial fire. The Pandavas chase after the deer, but cannot catch it. Tired and thirsty, they look for water. Nakula finds a lake but a voice tells him that, before drinking, he must answer some questions. Nakula ignores the voice, drinks, and dies. One after another, Sahadeva, Arjuna and Bhima meet the same fate. Yudhishthira comes and finds his brothers dead at the lake. He too hears the voice, and he answers the questions. (You can read the complete list of questions and answers if you want!) This was a test by his father, Yama, the god of death and of Dharma. The brothers are revived, and they are given the gift of unrecognizability for their thirteenth year of exile.
p. 93. In the court of King Virata. After twelve years of exile in the forest, they spend the thirteenth year in disguise at the court of King Virata. Yudhishthira, in disguise, is the king's companion and plays dice with him. Bhima is disguised as a cook, Nakula as a stable boy and Sahadeva as a cowherd. Arjuna takes the name Brihannala and disguises himself as a eunuch, living in the women's quarters. Draupadi is Sairandhri, the hairdresser of Virata's queen. The Pandavas hang their weapons in a tree in a burial ground when they go to Virata's court, and they are not recognized. Draupadi is raped by Kichaka, one of Virata's generals and the brother of the queen. Draupadi begs Bhima to avenge her so he waits in Draupadi's place and when Kichaka comes to her again, Bhima squeezes him to death. The King and Queen are deeply alarmed by these events and want to send Draupadi away. Draupadi must beg for permission to remain at the court for the last days of their term of exile.
p. 99 The cattle raid. The story of Kichaka makes Duryodhana suspicious. Suśarman, one of Duryodhana's allies, is glad to hear of Kichaka's death and proposes that they attack Virata and steal his cattle. Suśarman takes King Virata prisoner, but Bhima rescues him and captures Suśarman. Meanwhile, Prince Uttara, the son of Virata, hears the news of the cattle raid. He takes Brihannala as his charioteer. Uttara is terrified as they approach the enemy and he tries to run away. Brihannala tells Uttara to drive the chariot and he will fight. Brihannala and Uttara retrieve the weapons from the burial ground, and Brihannala reveals his identity to Uttara. They ride into battle and Arjuna fires arrows that fall at Drona's feet and brush his ears as a salute. Losing his fight with Arjuna, Karna has to withdraw. Arjuna tells Uttara not to reveal the Pandavas' identity and King Virata rejoices in his son's victory. In a moment of anger, Virata throws dice at Yudhishthira and draws blood. Virata is then amazed to discover the Pandavas' real identity. He apologizes to Yudhishthira and gives his daughter Uttarâ to Arjuna's son Abhimanyu in marriage.
p. 114. Preparations for war. Krishna and Balarama attend the wedding of Uttarâ and Abhimanyu (Abhimanyu is the son of Arjuna and Subhadra, Krishna's sister). Krishna proposes that a messenger be sent to Duryodhana to ask that half the kingdom be given to the Pandavas. Satyaki, Krishna's charioteer, urges that they prepare for war with Duryodhana. Both the Pandavas and Duryodhana begin recruiting allies for the coming war. Duryodhana and Arjuna later visit Krishna to request his support. Krishna says that to one of them will go his million soldiers, while he, Krishna, will be the ally to the other. Arjuna chooses Krishna, and Duryodhana is delighted to have Krishna's million soldiers at his command. Śalya, the father of Madri, is compelled by a mistaken promise to serve as Duryodhana's general, but he makes another promise to Yudhishthira: at a future battle, when he will be Karna's charioteer, Śalya will discourage Karna at the crucial moment.
p. 122. Dissension at Hastinapura. The Pandavas make another bid for peace. Yudhishthira tells Sanjaya to take this message back to Hastinapura: all he asks is that they be given five villages, one for each of the brothers, and the war can be avoided. Sanjaya urges Dhritarashtra to stop supporting Duryodhana. Vidura pleads with Dhritarashtra to make Yudhishthira his heir and banish his own sons from Hastinapura. Dhritarashtra wants to agree, but when he is near Duryodhana he cannot resist his will. Even the great rishi Sanatsujata is not able to persuade Dhritarashtra to make the peace. Dhritarashtra despairs when he hears about the mighty Pandava army, but Duryodhana insists that he will defeat the Pandavas because his armies are even greater. Karna announces that he has obtained the Brahmastra weapon from Paraśurama. Bhishma then tells Karna that he is boastful and conceited, which enrages Karna, who swears that he will not join in the battle so long as Bhishma is still on the field. Gandhari denounces the war and the actions of her son Duryodhana. Vyasa tells Dhritarashtra that the war will be their doom.
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