15. Krsna leads the way by blowing his conch Pancajanya. Only an assertively good person with a strong intellect can lead passively good people who function with the mind. Krsna is referred to as Hrisikesa, lord of the senses. Atman is the enabling power and Krsna is Atman personified.
Dhanajaya, winner of wealth, is another name of Arjuna. He had won many battles and earned great wealth for his kingdom. He blew the conch Devadatta which was Indra’s gift to him.
Bhima was the second of the Pandava brothers. He was the son of Kunti by Vayu, but like the other brothers, acknowledged as son of Pandu. He was called Vrkodara or wolf-bellied because of his ravenous appetite.
His legendary prowess was such that of all wielders of the mace, there was none equal to Bhima, and none as skilful a rider of elephants. He was reputed to be equal to ten thousand elephants.
At the end of their exile at the court of Virata, he disguised himself and acted as a palace cook.
He was a pivotal figure in the great battle of Kuruksetra, killing six out of the eleven Kaurava aksauhinis. Six aksauhinis add up to the astronomical figure of around 1,705,860 men and 787,320 animals, which is testimony to his prowess. In the battle, his charioteer was Krsna’s son himself. The Kauravas were afraid to face his might and sent elephants to fight him. Bhima’s weapon of choice was the mace. He defeated the mighty Dronacarya by breaking his chariot eight times. He forced the powerful Karna to withdraw from battle in four pitched battles. He killed the elephant Asvatthama, which enabled the Pandavas to mislead Dronacarya into thinking that his son Asvatthama was dead. At the end of the battle, he also fatally wounded Duryodhana in a duel. Bhima refrained from killing any elders in the Kaurava side out of respect for their virtue. The only elderly person he killed was the king of Bahlika (Bhishma’s maternal uncle) – because he asked Bhima to kill him to release him from the sin of fighting for the Kauravas.
He accompanied his brothers and Draupadi on their final journey to Vaikuntha, heaven. He was the last to die on the journey, leaving Yudhisthira alone to complete the journey.
16. Sanjaya specifies that Yudhisthira was the son of Kunti as Pandu, his father and Dhrtarastra’s brother, had five sons. Yudhisthira, Arjuna and Bhima were from his first wife Kunti, while Nakula and Sahadeva were from his second wife Madri.
Yudhisthira is referred to as King even though he was not the present ruler as he wanted Dhrtarastra to understand that as the eldest Pandava he was the rightful king and that Duryodhana had usurped the kingdom. He was also subtly suggesting that Yudhisthira would eventually become king and that they were fighting a futile battle. Righteousness always prevails in the end.
Yudhisthira’s father Pandu was unable to father children due to a curse given by a Brahmana who was accidentally shot by him. As additional penance for the killing, Pandu also abdicated the crown to his blind brother Dhrtarastra.
Yudhisthira was conceived in an unusual way. His mother, Queen Kunti, had in her youth been granted the power to invoke the Devas by the sage Durvasa. Each god, when invoked, would place a child in her lap. Urged by Pandu to use her boon, Kunti gave birth to Yudhisthira by invoking the Lord of Righteousness, Dharma. Being Pandu’s eldest son, Yudhisthira was the rightful heir to the throne.
Yudhisthira’s four younger brothers were Bhima, (born by invoking Vayu); Arjuna, (born by invoking Indra); and the twins Nakula and Sahadeva, born to Madri (by invoking the Asvini Gods).
Yudhisthira was known as Dharmaraja for being the upholder of dharma and never deviating from the truth.
Yudhisthira was trained in religion, science, administration and military arts by the Kuru preceptors Kripa and Drona. He was a master of the spear, and a maharatha capable of combating 10,000 opponents at a time. Yudhisthira was also known as Ajatashatru (one whose enemy is not born).
Yudhisthira’s true prowess was shown in his unflinching adherence to satya (truth) and dharma (righteousness), which were more precious to him than any royal ambitions, material pursuits or family relations. To symbolize his purity his feet and chariot did not touch the ground.
When the Pandavas came of age, King Dhrtarastra sought to avoid conflict with his sons, the Kauravas, by giving Yudhisthira half the Kuru kingdom, the lands which were arid and scantily populated, known as Khandavaprastha.
But with the help of Yudhisthira’s cousin Krsna, a new city, Indraprastha, was constructed by the Deva architect Viswakarman. Yudhisthira was crowned king of Khandavaprastha and Indraprastha. As he governed with absolute righteousness, with strict adherence to duty and service to his people, his kingdom became prosperous, and people from all over were attracted to it.
Duryodhana’s maternal uncle, Shakuni, challenged Yudhisthira to a game of dice. Shakuni cheated and Yudhisthira lost his kingdom, wealth, brothers and finally his wife too. Vidura, Bhishma and Drona protested, so Dhrtarastra returned all these losses. However, Shakuni challenged Yudhisthira one more time, and Yudhisthira lost again. This time, he, along with his brothers and wife were condemned to thirteen years in exile, of which the last year would be in disguise, before they could reclaim their kingdom.
Yudhisthira was criticized by Draupadi and Bhima for gambling and falling prey to Shakuni’s evil designs. Yudhisthira reproached himself for weakness of mind, but argued he was obliged to stand by the ksatriya code of honour and accept every challenge.
When the period of exile was over, Duryodhana and Shakuni refused to return Yudhisthira’s kingdom. Yudhisthira made numerous diplomatic efforts to retrieve his kingdom peacefully but failed. To go to war would mean fighting and killing his own relatives, an idea that appalled Yudhisthira. But Krsna, Yudhisthira’s most trusted advisor, pointed out that Yudhisthira’s claim was righteous, and Duryodhana was evil.
During the battle, when Yudhisthira spoke a half-lie that Asvathhama was dead, his feet and chariot descended to the ground. At the end of the war, Yudhisthira and the Pandava army emerged victorious, but Yudhisthira’s children, the sons of Draupadi, and many Pandava heroes like Dhristadyumna, Abhimanyu, Virata, Drupada, Ghatotkacha were dead. Thousands of warriors on both sides were killed.
After the war Yudhisthira was crowned king of both Indraprastha and Hastinapura. Out of respect he retained Dhrtarastra as king of Hastinapura despite his misdeeds and the evil of his dead sons.
Upon the onset of the Kali Yuga and the death of Krsna, Yudhisthira and his brothers retired, leaving the throne to their only descendant, Arjuna’s grandson Pariksita. Giving up all their belongings and ties, the Pandavas made their final pilgrimage to the Himalayas.
While climbing the peaks, one by one Draupadi and each Pandava brother fell to their death. But Yudhisthira reached the mountain peak because he was unblemished by sin or untruth.
On the mountain peak, Indra, King of Gods, arrived to take Yudhisthira to heaven in his Golden Chariot. As Yudhisthira was about to step into the Chariot, the Deva told him to leave behind his companion dog, an unholy creature not worthy of heaven. Yudhisthira refused to go to heaven without the dog. At that moment the dog changed into the God Dharma, his father, who was testing him.
Yudhisthira had a conch that sounded victory as he was always victorious. Nakula blew the Sughosa, sweet-sounding conch. Sahadeva blew the Manipuspaka or jewel- flowered conch.