Week 11: Buck's Mahabharata (pp. 1-91)

Assignments - Reading Guide A - Reading Guide B - Mahabharata Resources


Reading Guide: B

Your Reading B for this week is Buck's Mahabharata, pp. 49-91. You might want to read over the previous reading guide to remind yourself of what has happened so far.


p. 51. The house at Varanavata. The blind king Dhritarashtra sends the Pandavas and Kunti away to Varanavata for the festival of Śiva. His sons Duryodhana and Duhśasana employ the minister Purochana to build a fire-trap for the Pandavas there. Vidura warns Yudhishthira about the danger, and they prepare a tunnel that will allow them to escape from the house, leaving six corpses behind in their place. Bhima sets fire to the house, killing Purochana and they flee through the tunnel to the river where a boatman waits to take them away. They wander in disguise as brahmans.

p. 58. The rakshasa king Vaka. The Pandavas and Kunti take up residence in the village of Ekachakra. The family that they are staying with draws the lot for providing a human sacrifice to the rakshasa king Vaka (Baka) who demands yearly tribute from the village. Kunti decides that they can send Bhima out to fight the demon. Even though he has no weapons, Bhima is able to defeat the demon with his bare hands.

p. 64. The children of Drupada. Vyasa arrives and explains that he is going to take the Pandavas to the swayamvara of Draupadi, the daughter of King Drupada of Panchala. Drupada had been in despair after the humiliation of being captured by Drona and giving up half his kingdom, so he begged the god Śiva for a son who could defeat Drona. Siva appeared to Drupada in a dream and told him to pour two cups of butter into the fire, one for a son, one for a daughter. This is how Dhrishtadyumna and Draupadi were born. The Pandavas attend Draupadi's swayamvara, still disguised as brahmans. Drupada has set an archery test that only Arjuna can pass. Arjuna wins Draupadi, although everyone is surprised since he appears just to be a wandering brahman. Krishna and his brother Balarama are present at the swayamvara and they offer their congratulation to the Pandavas for Arjuna's victory. Krishna, an avatar of the god Vishnu, tells Arjuna that he remembers their past lives together, but Arjuna does not remember. Dhrishtadyumna comes to take the Pandavas with Kunti and Draupadi to Drupada's palace. Draupadi marries all five of the Pandava brothers.

p. 75. Indraprastha. Much to Duryodhana's disgust, Dhritarashtra rejoices when he learns the Pandavas are still alive and he gives them the region of Khandava to rule. The Pandavas build the city of Indraprastha near the Khandava forest. Meanwhile, Arjuna goes to visit Krishna at Dwaravati (Dwaraka). Krishna's brother Balarama recalls how when he was drunk, he wanted to take a bath in the Yamuna river so he used his plow to force the rivers of the Yamuna river to come to him. (This story is alluded to in Buck; you can read more about Balarama in the Encyclopedia.) Arjuna falls in love with Krishna's sister Subhadra and with Krishna's encouragement he takes her to be his wife.

p. 80. The burning of Khandava forest. The fire god Agni comes to Krishna and Arjuna in the former of a woodsman with gold skin dressed in black rags, his mouth smeared with butter. Agni wants to eat the Khandava forest and needs their help. Each time Agni tries to burn Khandava forest, Indra protects it with rain. Arjuna and Krishna agree to ward off Indra while Agni burns Khandava forest. Agni gives Arjuna the bow Gandiva as a reward, and he gives Krishna his iron chakra. As Agni burns the forest, Arjuna disperses Indra's rainclouds and Krishna shatters his thunderbolt. The other gods - Varuna, Yama, Skanda, Vaiśravana (Kubera), and Surya - come to watch. The asura named Maya, the architect of the gods, flees from out of the forest and seeks Arjuna's protection from Agni. As a reward for his rescue, Maya builds a great palace for the Pandavas.

p. 88. Duryodhana comes to Indraprastha. Duryodhana and Śakuni pay a visit to Indraprastha. Duryodhana is fooled by the illusions of the palace and is mocked by the Pandavas, especially Bhima. Yudhishthira accepts Duryodhana and Sakuni's challenge to a game of dice. Arjuna warns Sakuni that nothing good could come of this dice game. Foreseeing disaster, Vyasa takes his mother Satyavati, along with Ambika, Ambalika, and the mother of Vidura, away to the forest so that they will not have to witness the war that is to come.


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