The Mahabharata is a collection of hundred Parvas (or ‘sections’) that tell the story of a long-standing family feud between two sets of cousins – the Kauravas and the Pandavas – for control of the Kuru throne in Hastinapur.
The climactic event of the story is an eighteen-day war that happens between the two factions on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
It is commonly understood that the Pandavas are the protagonists of this tale and the Kauravas the antagonists – though many retellings have appeared over the years that flip this structure.
In this post, we will summarize the Viduragamana Parva.
(For a full summary of the Mahabharata with all hundred Parvas, see Mahabharata Summary: All 100 Parvas Explained.)
News Reaches Dhritarashtra
When news reaches Hastinapur that Draupadi has been won and wed by the Pandavas, Duryodhana gets dejected. ‘Alas,’ he says. ‘No matter what I do, fate only favours my enemies!’
Vidura approaches Dhritarashtra and tells him, ‘The Kurus have prospered!’
And Dhritarashtra, mistakenly thinking that Vidura’s words mean that Draupadi had married Duryodhana, asks in glee: ‘What good luck, Vidura? What is it that you’re referring to?’
Vidura then replies that the Pandavas have now married Draupadi and have gained the Panchalas and Yadavas as immediate friends.
Dhritarashtra pretends to be happy for the Pandavas, but as soon as Vidura leaves, he confides in Duryodhana and Karna that he is in fact deeply troubled by the rise of the sons of Pandu.
When asked by Dhritarashtra about what ideas he had been cultivating, Duryodhana makes a long list of tactics that they may employ against the Pandavas.
Here it is:
- We could use our most skilful spies (says Duryodhana) to sow discord between the sons of Kunti and the sons of Madri.
- We could bribe Drupada with wealth and other temptations to withdraw support of the Pandavas.
- We could instruct our spies to convince the Pandavas in various ways to settle in Panchala itself, so that thoughts of returning to Hastinapur might never occur to them. This can be done, for instance, by extolling the conveniences of life in Panchala versus the hassles of life in Hastinapur.
- Let us incite Krishnaa against the Pandavas, and at the same time make the brothers jealous of each other using Krishnaa as the pawn.
- We could kill Bhimasena, who is their pillar of strength. Without him, Arjuna is only as strong as the fourth part of Karna.
- We may tempt them by means of beautiful girls so as to rouse Draupadi’s fiery temper against her husbands.
- We could use our spies to slay them with deception. We may have failed once before with the house of wax, but if we plan better with more secrecy this time, we might succeed.
Duryodhana then asks Karna what he thinks of these plans.
Karna, by contrast, recommends a full-blown violent attack on the Panchalas and Pandavas.
‘You had the Pandavas living with you in court, O Duryodhana,’ says Karna, ‘and you failed to strike them. They were mere fledglings in your house, partaking of your food and your hospitality.
‘And even then you were unable to subjugate them. Now, when they are at a distance and spreading their wings, what chance does your trickery have?
‘The Pandavas are united as one. You cannot sow dissension between them. It is impossible to poison Draupadi’s mind against her husbands too – whether you propose to do it with spies or otherwise.
‘The king of Panchala is not greedy. He is a virtuous man. Even if we offer our entire kingdom to him, he will not forsake the Pandavas.
‘As for Krishna, he is a close kinsman of the sons of Pandu. He has attended their wedding. He has already given them his support. By what contrivance can you breed enmity between cousins?
‘So listen to my words, Duryodhana, and understand that the only way to defeat the Pandavas is to attack them right now – when they are expecting it least.’
Dhritarashtra likes what Karna says, and he calls a council of his ministers to discuss what must be done.
Bhishma, when he hears of the proposal, is quick to reject it. ‘It is our great fortune that Kunti and the Pandavas are alive, O King,’ he says. ‘Let us invite them home and give them half the kingdom.
‘Just as Duryodhana thinks of this kingdom as his inheritance, so do the Pandavas because they are sons of Pandu who was once king. As for me, both the Kauravas and the Pandavas are equally dear to me.
‘The Pandavas are virtuous and united. They are wrongly being denied an equal share of the kingdom. If you wish the Kuru race to glorify itself, do the right thing. Invite them back home.’
After Bhishma has his say, Drona gets up to support the grandsire.
Drona Offers Support
‘I am in full agreement with Bhishma, O King,’ says Drona. ‘Let a share of the kingdom be given to the Pandavas. This is eternal virtue. Send a messenger to Panchala right now and invite the sons of Pandu back home.
‘Let this messenger carry gifts for the new bridegroom and bride. And let him speak to the Pandavas about your increase in power and dignity that will result from an alliance with them.
‘Let the Kauravas welcome their cousins with open arms and smiling faces. Let Duhsasana and Vikarna go out in a handsome train to receive them.
‘Let the Pandavas be installed on their paternal throne. This will result in the good of the Kuru race.’
Vidura Speaks of Power
While Karna scoffs at the advice given by Bhishma and Drona, Vidura himself rises and points out that the Pandavas are by no means pushovers.
‘Dhananjaya and Bhimasena are powerful warriors, O King,’ says Vidura. ‘Indeed, we have heard from people who were present how heroic they were at Draupadi’s swayamvara.
‘Now they have the support of Krishna of the Vrishnis, who will no doubt counsel them. They have the strength of Drupada’s army behind them. Even if we were to attack them, it is not foregone that we will win.
‘With Balarama and Krishna and Drupada as allies, can we hope to defeat them without being injured ourselves? And all of this for what? Why not invite them home and keep them close, give them what is rightfully theirs?’
After hearing all of these speeches, Dhritarashtra reluctantly agrees to send Vidura as messenger to Panchala.
The Pandavas Return
Vidura presents himself at Drupada’s court as an emissary of Dhritarashtra and tells everyone that the Kurus are exceedingly anxious to see the Pandavas again.
‘The sons of Pandu have remained absent from their home too long, Your Majesty,’ he says to Drupada. ‘All the Kuru elders are eager to meet them again. And they cannot wait to welcome Draupadi into their home.’
The Pandavas accept Dhritarashtra’s invitation, and accompany Vidura back home to Hastinapur. Krishna and Balarama go with them.
Once they are back, Dhritarashtra gives them the region in the Kuru kingdom known as Khandavaprastha. This is known to be a largely infertile patch of land. But Yudhishthir accepts it without murmur.
The Pandavas build their own city in Khandavaprastha, and in time it comes to be known as Indraprastha.
Yudhishthir becomes king of Khandavaprastha. Soon after his anointment, Krishna and Balarama leave for Dwaraka.
The Viduragamana Parva ends on this note, with Yudhishthir claiming his right as king to half the kingdom of the Kurus.