Ashramavasika Parva 1 - The stay at the hermitage
Yudhishtira treated Dhritarashtra with respect and looked after him well. The blind former king of Hastinapura was given all comforts and his advice taken before Yudhishtira took any important decision. Dhritarashtra and Gandhari blessed Yudhishtira and the Pandavas for taking good care of them. But Dhritarashtra had anger towards Bheema for killing all his sons.
Similarly, Bheema had intolerance towards Dhritarashtra. Bheema would speak harsh words about how he killed Duryodhana. These words saddened Dhritarashtra. After fifteen years of staying in the palace, Dhritarashtra decided to leave for the forests to perform austerities. He summoned Yudhishtira and conveyed this to him.
Yudhishtira was sad and requested Dhritrashtra not to go. Vyasa advised Yudhishtira to allow his uncle to go to the forests. Dhritarashtra then advised Yudhishtira on governance. After this, he met the citizens and sought their permission to leave for the forests.
A Brahmana named Samba then assured the king that the destruction that took place was not because of him or Duryodhana but because of destiny. He praised the noble conduct of Yudhishtira and his adherence to dharma.
Dhritarashtra then asked the king for donations to be given to perform funeral rites for his dead sons and for Bheeshma, Bahlika, and others. Bheema opposed this, reminding Yudhishtira of the vile deeds of the Kauravas. Yudhishtira did not agree with his view and offered riches to Dhritarashtra.
Dhritarashtra then performed the last rites for Bheeshma, Drona, Bahlika, Somadatta, Duryodhana, and his sons. He gave away riches and offered food to all those who came. Having completed the rites for ten days, Dhritarashtra was free from his debts and departed to the forests.
While Dhritarashtra and Gandhari left, Kunti decided to join them. Despite being requested by the Pandavas, she proceeded to the forests. Vidura accompanied them, as did Sanjaya. Dhritarashtra and the others stayed on the banks of the Bhagirathi. They then stayed at Vyasa’s hermitage and performed severe austerities.
The Pandavas were sad at their mother’s departure and wanted to see her again. They decided to go to the forests to see Kunti, Gandhari, and Dhritarashtra. They left with a large entourage including cooks and common citizens. All the womenfolk accompanied them.
The Pandavas had a tearful reunion with their mother. They also took the blessings of Gandhari and Dhritarashtra. They learnt that Vidura was engaging in such severe austerities that he had become emaciated. Yudhishtira went to meet him. After seeing Yudhishtira, Vidura gave up his life, and his soul merged into Yudhishtira’s body. The soul of Dharma’s incarnation on earth merged with that of Dharma’s son.
The Pandavas, along with their wives, daughter-in-law, and the wives of the Kauravas, spent a month at the hermitage. One day Vyasa told them that he understood their grief over losing their loved ones in the war. He decided to use his powers to bring back all those who had died in the war so their family members could see them for one last time.
… to be continued