Princess Draupadi and the Pandavas were forced to live the life in the disguise of poor-brahmins despite their royal upbringings. They lived on alms as the poor Brahmins would do. In course of their wandering from one place to another they reached the city of Ekachakra.

Early in the morning, five brothers would leave the temporary dwelling place and their mother, Devi Kunti, would wait anxiously till their return. Whenever they didn’t come back in time, she would get worried. Fearing that some or the other evil might have be fallen her sons. Although she knew very well that no king or king’s men all around the Aryavarta would be able to harm her sons, still a mother is just a mother only. No logic overrules mother’s emotional attachments to her children.

The sons of Dhritarashtra had deprived her sons, the great Pandavas, the legal-heir of their kingdom by deceit and they had also done many other wrongs. Dhritarashtra and all his sons’ deeds were at variance with their words. Pandavas have passed the twelve years in the forest in great affliction and thereafter as they did behoove, thus, they were bound to keep their own words. The thirteenth year they were to spend unrecognized, yet should remain alive, kicking with life. By the grace of Lord, her sons did behoove that they would spend the thirteenth year in total concealment and Kunti, mother of the Pandavas proudly proclaimed that forget the rancorous enemies of theirs, Duryodhana, the eldest son of Dhritarashtra, his brothers, and the wicked-minded Karna, no monarch on earth, howsoever mighty they may be, would be able to discover her sons during the thirteenth year of total concealment.

Like the high-spirited gods themselves who have wandered over various places in disguise, for the purpose of overcoming the foes, the demons. And very much like Indra, the king of Devas, for the purpose of overcoming his foes, successfully dwelt in disguise in the asylum of Giriprastha, Pandavas would spend the thirteenth year in total concealment. They were devoted to truth and to their vow for they were the descendants of the great Kuru-race.

Pandavas would return the house with alms. And thereafter, mother would divide the total food brought by them into two equal halves. One half she would earmark for her second son Bhima, aka Vrikodara only, while the other half rest all of them would share. Bhima, however the amount of food they gather, he would easily eat and his hunger is never quite satisfied. Vrikodara, the son of wind-god, in true sense, as his name suggests, appeared wolf-bellied and very much like a wolf he would always appear famished.

Bhima’s insatiable hunger and the scanty food they could manage begging door to door in those days living at Ekachakra city was quite painful for the mother to bear. Her five sons daily grew thin and that obviously distressed her very much. Bhima became acquainted with a local potter out there in that locality for whom he helped and fetched lots of clay. The potter was pleased with him, in return, presented him with a big earthen pot that became an object of merriment to the urchins of that locality where they were putting up. Seeing the big earthen pot his brothers could foresee and looking at mother Yudhishthira, her eldest son, sedately smiled which clearly meant, “Mother, Bhima indirectly wants his share of food should be fair enough to give justice to his new found big earthen pot.”

One morning, when other brothers had already gone out to beg for alms, Bhima stayed behind at the residence because mother’s health wasn’t well that day, and they, the three, heard loud lamentations from the house of the Brahmin landlord. Mother could presume that some great-calamity surely had befallen the poor family. Thus, she went inside the house to learn what it was. The Brahmin landlord and his wife could hardly speak any word because they were weeping and weeping relentlessly.

At last the Brahmin reprimanded his wife, “Oh foolish woman, the inauspicious soul, despite my repeated urging to leave this city for good, but you never agreed. You persistently said that you were born and brought up here and out here in this same city you would continue to stay where your parents, grandparents and relations had once lived and died. But, what now, unfortunate women, that fateful day has finally come. One of our family members will have to sacrifice own life.” Brahmin’s wife insisted that she would sacrifice her life. She justified her logical stand. She said to her husband, “Oh dear, it would be best if I’m handed over to the Demon, Bakasura. Because see blessed indeed is that woman who passes to the other world, while her husband is alive. And I’m sure this, as you too know, is what the scriptures authenticate. So, bid me farewell. Promise me that you would take very good care of my children. I have been happy with you all my life. I have performed many meritorious actions in this lifetime. I have no desires left. You should gladden me with a brave smile, give me your blessings, and send me to the dreadful-Demon.”

Hearing these heart-rending words of his wife, the Brahmin tenderly embraced his wife and, he was utterly overcome by her love and overwhelming courage, he wept like a small child. By the time as he could find his self, his normal voice, he replied, “Oh beloved and noble one, what words are these? How can I bear to live without you? It is the first duty of a married man that he protects his wife come what may. I would be a pitiful sinner if I send you to the Demon Bakasura, sacrificing both my love and my duty.”

Upon hearing the lamentations of her parents, Brahmin’s young daughter said, “Listen to me my beloved parents, child though I’m, the best way would be, and it is me alone, that you can spare to the cruel-Demon and by sacrificing just one soul, that is I, you can save all others. Thus, let me be that little boat, which would take you across this unfathomable-river-of-calamity. Think over the situation, a woman without a guardian becomes the sport of the wicked people who would drag her hither and yon. It would be impossible for my mother to protect two fatherless orphans and they will perish miserably very much like fish in a waterless pond. Please take my words in good part.” Hearing these brave words of the poor child, the parents tenderly embraced her and wept inconsolably.

Seeing them all in tears the little boy, stood up with glowing eyes, lispingly he uttered in his own style, “Father, don’t weep. Mother, don’t weep. Sister, don’t weep,” saying these he went to each one of them and sat on their lap by turns. Then he rose up again took a stick of firewood and brandishing the same he uttered in his sweet childish high-pitched voice, “Look, how I’m going to kill the Bakasura with this stick.” The child’s dramatic action and lisping speech made them smile for a moment in the midst of their tears, but soon faded to their great sorrow.

Finding the correct moment for intervention, mother Kunti entered further inside the house and inquired for the cause of their sorrow and whether there was anything she could do to help them. The Brahmin politely said, “Oh Mother, Oh honourable soul, you and your children are my guest, this is a fateful sorrow befallen on our family, which is far beyond your aid, mother. There is a cave near this city of Ekachakra. And there in that cave lives a cruel and fierce Demon named Bakasura.”

The Brahmin further continued, “The demon forcibly seized this entire kingdom several years ago and since then he has held all of us in a sort of cruel thralldom. We the dwellers of Ekachakra live as captives of Bakasura. The kshatriya ruler, his courtiers and courtesans of this kingdom has fled to another city named Vetrakiya and he is unable to protect us, the commoners of this city of Ekachakra.”

Pausing for a few moments he continued, “In the past this Demon used to come out of his cave whenever he liked. And mad with his insatiable hunger, indiscriminately he would kill and eat men, women and children in this city. So, the citizens prayed to Bakasura to come to some sort of agreement in place of his indiscriminate slaughtering. The people of Ekachakra prayed, “Oh Bakasura, kindly stop killing us wantonly at your whim and pleasure. Once a week we, the citizens of Ekachakra promised that we shall bring to you sufficient meat, fish-curry, rice, pan-cakes, vegetables, curds, intoxicating liquors and many other delicacies. All these will be delivered to you in a carriage drawn by two bullocks and driven by one human being taken from each household in turn.  You can very well make a satisfactory meal of all those food items, along with the bullocks and the human too, but Bakasura refrain from your mad excessive indulgence of slaughtering people.’ The satanic-Demon agreed to that proposal. And it is now the turn of our house to send a bullock-cart full of delicacies and one of our members.”

The elderly Brahmin lamented to Kunti, “You see mother I haven’t have so much means that I can purchase a substitute. And you see none of us can bear to live after sending one of us to such a cruel death. Thus, we, the hapless ones, shall go with our whole family to the demon. Let the wicked glutton eat greedily all of us. Mother, I have pained you with all these words. But you see mother you only wished to know.”

By that time Bhima and Draupadi too entered inside the house. Hearing all these Bhima immediately said, “Oh elderly Brahmin, I bow to you, this isn’t a fateful sorrow befallen on your family, but the time has come the people of this city would get rid of this demon once for all.  Oh landlord, you have given us shelter and you people are so kind to us. Have faith on me, I’m going to take the bullock-cart full of delicacies and meet Bakasura because his end has come. Don’t panic. Oh elderly souls, look at my mother she wouldn’t hesitate, she will permit me to go.”

Mother Kunti said, “Oh Good man, the benevolent elderly soul, you do not lose hope. See, God is great. I have five sons. One of them will take the food to the Demon.”

Devi Kunti further assured him, “Oh elderly Brahmin, do not be afraid. My son is endowed with superhuman powers, which are derived from the mantras and he will certainly kill this demon. I have seen him killing many other such devilish-demons in the past too. But please do keep this a secret, for, if you reveal this secret, his powers will come to nought. Therefore, it is my ardent request to you. Please do keep this a total secret.”

Elderly Brahmin and his wife kept on looking at the brave mother. Probably they haven’t seen such a mother before in their entire lifetime, a mother who wouldn’t hesitate to send one of her sons to a dreadful demon who may kill her son.

With deep breath mother pondered for a couple of seconds. Bhima looked at her because her facial gestures revealed her apprehensions to him. Mother’s fear was that, if this incident by any chance got known publicly abroad, Duryodhana’s men would definitely see the hand of the Pandavas in it, and they would easily find out our whereabouts. Bhima surreptitiously smiled like a wicked-child-before-attempting-into-a-new-venture, noticing that Draupadi wondered. Bhima’s childlike smile that remained hidden around his Adonis lips persuaded her to believe his unspoken message, “Don’t you worry Mother, let me enjoy this grand-feast first and kill this unholy demon, help these poor people of Ekachakra and thereafter even if Duryodhana’s men see the hand of the Pandavas in this act, we would find some other suitable-place to successfully get along this period of concealment. Oh my dear mother, as it happened in the past every-time, this time too Duryodhana and his men would run after us in vain.”

Draupadi kept on looking at mother-kunti and at Bhimasena by turns with utter dismay.

As mother convincingly conveyed the arrangement to their Brahmin landlord and his wife, Bhima was filled with unbounded joy and enthusiasm. Mother-kunti instructed them to start preparing all the delicacies those are to be carried loaded on a carriage drawn by two bullocks. By the time four other brothers of Bhima returned to the residence with the alms they gathered all through the day moving from door to door. They washed their hands and feet to get freshen up. Soon, the eldest son, Yudhishthira noticed the face of Bhimasena radiant with joy. For quite some time such an expression wasn’t seen by the other brothers.

Soon mother briefed her eldest son about the cause of their landlord’s sorrow. Before she could convey him the details, Draupadi came forward, and vehemently started reporting to him, “Bhimasena was resolved on a very hazardous task of taking the cart-load-of-delicacies to that devilish demon living in a cave near this city of Ekachakra. And to my utter surprise mother allowed him to take that task knowing that Bhimasena’s life is seriously at stake.”

Yudhishthira kept quiet for a few moments, looked at his mother sedately and then convinced Draupadi consoling her that he had seen his brother Bhima killing many other such demons in the past too but at this juncture the only apprehension was that this very act of ‘Slaying of Bakasura’ incident by any chance shouldn’t got known publicly abroad. Arjuna solaced his elder brother, “Oh brother, don’t you bother to worry, let Bhimasena accept this fortuitous opportunity to enjoy the forthcoming grand-feast. Oh brother, after a pretty long span he is going to get such an opportunity. Aren’t you sure that he is definitely going to kill this unholy-demon, and thereby we can help these poor people of Ekachakra. Let Duryodhana’s men get this news and presume the hand of the Pandavas in this act of slaying.

Oh dear brother, we would surely find some or the other place to spend the rest of the period totally unrecognized by all others in whole Aryavarta. And this time too Duryodhana and his men would fail to catch us.”

Yudhishthira calmly announced, “Was it not a sort of rash and thoughtless planning. Relying on Bhima’s strength should we simply sleep without any care or any fear.” And he reminded his mother, “Mother was it not through the strength and expertise of Bhima that we could escape from the horrible and lethal wax palace? And again are we not risking the life of Bhima who is our present protection and he is also our future hope.

Nodding her head Draupadi agreed immediately.

Mother replied with complete trust, “My dear sons, we have lived happily for a considerable span in this ancestral house of this elderly Brahmin of Ekachakra. Our scriptures also say that man’s highest virtue is to repay the benefit he has enjoyed by doing some good in his turn. And we all know the heroism of Bhima, we know that he has no fears and he would surely kill this wicked-demon.

The next morning was too cloudy. The cart was loaded with many different kinds of delicacies. Sahadeva the youngest brother of the Pandavas brought the pair of bullocks and thereafter the bullocks were tied with the cart. He patted on their humps tenderly. He whispered some words in their ears. With a heavy heart they bid goodbye to Bhima. But Bhima remained very joyful and gay all the way through these.

After a while it started raining cats and dogs. Devi-Kunti stepped into the balustrade of that pretty old house and looked down. The mother within her got terribly anxious. Not a single person found out there on the streets.

Owing to her frail health and the sleeplessness of the last night, uncontrollably she dozed for some time on her bed.

Quite some time later she woke up.

It was getting late enough to be worried. She once again stepped into the balustrade and looked down. Except for a drenched street dog that was lying down miserably near the gate, there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Rain water had puddled under at several places. A breeze ruffled the mango tree in the courtyard and a few twigs fell down and broke. Thunder rumbled in the distance.

Did she hear a soft knock at the door? She turned back….

There stood her eldest son Yudhishthira. She was very anxious to know about Bhima’s delay. Son informed her very calmly…

Oh mother, reaching out there, near the cave of the demon, Bhima started eating some of the delicious food items, the ones he liked the most. As you know Bhima, oh mother, he won’t waste time when delicious foods are kept in front of him. The demon got thoroughly irritated. And then, a fierce battle was fought between Bhima and Bakasura. Bakasura rushed towards Bhima thumping his chest with loud roaring. Bhima uprooted big trees and used the trunks of those as lathis, potential weapons, to hit the demon. Lightning and thundering from the clouds and the roaring and groaning of the Demon altogether created hell lot of weird noise. The people of Ekachakra never experienced such catastrophic noise. At the end Bhima slew Bakasura.

Mother, Pandu-putra Bhima kept his promise to repay the benefits we have enjoyed in this house of the elderly Brahmin. Now we need to leave this city with all our bag and baggage as early as possible. Come on let’s make a move.

As you know very well, mother, we did behoove the same. We, the Pandavas, would spend the thirteenth year in total concealment. Yes of course in total concealment. Don’t you worry mother. The almighty is always with us. We’ll do so. None of Aryavarta can find us.

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Chandrayee Bhattacharyya(Pathak)
বাড়ি বাঁকুড়া জেলার মন্দির-নগরী বিষ্ণুপুর শহরে, জন্ম সেখানেই। বাবার চাকরিসূত্রে গুজরাতে আসা। আর তার জন্যই স্কুল কলেজের পড়াশুনা গুজরাতের কাঠিয়াবাড় প্রান্ত থেকে। বর্তমানে ফার্মাকোলজি নিয়ে পোস্ট গ্রাজুয়েশন করে বরোডা সিটির একটি এম এন সি তে কর্মরত। মাতৃভাষা বাংলার সাথে শিশু অবস্থা থেকে কখনই যোগাযোগ বিচ্ছিন্ন হয়নি। নিজের পড়াশুনোর মাধ্যমে ইংরেজি, হিন্দি এবং গুজরাতি শেখার সাথে সাথেই বাংলা বইও পড়তে ভালো লেগেছে বরাবরই।
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