Children

Serpents to the RESCUE

This month’s tale is from the Mahabharata; from a time when both the Kauravas and the Pandavas were young.

After the death of King Pandu, his wife Kunti brought the five Pandavas to Hastinapura. Within a few months, they gained the love and respect of people. The people began to talk of Yudhishtra, the eldest Pandava, as the heir apparent. This made Duryodhana, the son of King Dhritarashtra and the oldest Kaurava prince, angry. Though his father was the first-born, he lost he throne to Pandu because he was visually challenged. So, Duryodhana felt that the throne was rightfully his.

On a losing wicket

Duryodhana’s anger was further fuelled at the manner in which Bhima, the second Pandava, tormented his cousins. Bhima was stronger than all his brothers put together. So, he would wait till the Kauravas had climbed a tree, then shake it till they fell out and then, laugh at them. Or, he would dive into the river when they were swimming and pull them underwater till they were half drowned.

Though the other Pandavas were not bullies like Bhima, they overshot the Kauravas in their lessons on statecraft, warfare, handling of weapons and so on. As a result , Duryodhana’s jealousy knew no bounds. He wanted to kill Bhima as then, not only would he get rid of his tormentor, Yudhishtra too would also lose one of his strengths.

Duryodhana invited his cousins to a picnic on the banks of the Ganga. While the elders ate, drank and chatted, the younger crowd played games, swam, climbed trees and enjoyed themselves. Bhima lost no opportunity to harass his cousins and this strengthened Duryodhana’s resolve to kill him.

He took Bhima away from the crowd and offered him poisoned food. Bhima, who was greedy, ate it and fell unconscious. Duryodhana and his friends tied Bhima with creepers and vines and threw him into the river. They then ran back to the others. When it was time to return home and Bhima could not be found, no one was worried because they did not suspect foul play. They thought he would eventually find his way home. But when he did not arrive, Kunti and Yudhishtra became worried. They couldn’t find him even though they hunted in all his favourite places. Late at night Bhima arrived, hale and hearty, and with quite a tale to tell.

How did he recover from the poison? To,find out, we have to go back to the point when he was tossed into the river. When an unconscious Bhima sank into the waters, he reached the kingdom of the Nagas or serpents who lived in the river. Their king, Vasuki recognised Bhima as the son of Kunti and Pandu. The Nagas neutralised the poison in Bhima’s body and fed him nectar that increased his strength. Having befriended the Nagas, Bhima returned home to his family.

When Kunti and Yudhishtra heard what had happened, they were horrified. On the advice of Vidura, the king’s advisor, they decided not to tell anyone about it. But they would henceforth be cautious and vigilant when dealing with Duryodhana and his friends. This incident also deepened the enmity between the duo. As they grew, they continued to fight with each other till the cousins met at the great battle of Kurukshetra.


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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 7:03:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/serpents-to-the-rescue/article17441428.ece

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