There are those precious times in our lives when everything seems perfect; there is nothing in wanting. Happiness is absolute and we cherish each moment. We think not of the past or the future. We do not, so much as pause to even wish for this happiness to last – we are, at such times, part of time itself. Such times, alas, often foretell an imminent change in fortune. Nevertheless, it is these times that give meaning to our otherwise anxiety-filled lives.
When King Pandu ascended the throne, he went on a campaign and conquered many a kingdom. This, apart from relieving the burden off the shoulders of Bheeshma, restored the supremacy of the Kuru house over Bharatavarsha, as India was then known. At the end of the conquest, the young king with his two queens, Madri and Kunti, resorted to the forest. They lived a life of immense happiness and endless pleasure.
It so happened that there was a sage living with his wife in the forest. They were so much in love with each other that they, for freedom’s sake, took on the form of deer and played about. King Pandu, an excellent huntsman, came by the pair and shot an arrow at one of them. The deer regained their human forms and the sage, who had been shot, said: Do you not know, oh king, that it is a sin to kill animals that are a-courting? You shall die the moment you seek to satisfy your love-urge!
The sage, having cursed Pandu thus, died and his grief-stricken wife, unable to bear the separation from her beloved, fell dead beside him.
The guilt of having killed two innocent souls weighed heavily on Pandu’s shoulders. He returned to the camp and told his wives of the fateful happening and of the curse incurred by him. Having lost all interest in worldly desires, he chose not to rule any more. He sent his retinue back to inform of his decision to Bheeshma and to the people of the kingdom, and also sent with them all his valuables. Madri and Kunti too, gave up their royal raiment and put on humble clothes.
The three, then, settled to a life of austerities in the forest. Sometime later, the king felt guilty of not being able to beget an heir. Kunti, coming to know his mind, told him of the sacred hymn taught her by sage Durvasa while she was still a maiden. This hymn, when uttered in obeisance to any god, had the power to yield a child endowed with the qualities of that god. Happily, the king consented to have godly children through this means.
Thereafter, Kunti prayed to Lord Dharma, and Yudhishtira was born. Of the Wind god, Pavan, Bhima was born. Arjuna was born of Indra, the king of gods. Having learnt the hymn from Kunti, Madri gave birth to Nakula and Sahadeva, the sons of the Ashwin twins, the physicians of gods.
The princes grew well under the tutelage of the sages of the forest. Though not a princely life, it was happy times for all of them. Again, such times were not to last forever. And, it happened that once, when the king was alone with beautiful Madri, the environs were so beckoning that the king, despite the curse and despite Madri’s earnest entreaty, gave in to his love-urge. He died.
When Kunti returned, Madri related to her the sad happenings and, holding herself solely responsible for the demise of the king, committed Sati, entrusting to Kunti the burden of all five children.