Pandavas receive the gift of Akshaya Patra

Posted on July 18, 2010

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When Pandavas marched towards the forest to serve the next thirteen years in exile, a lot of Brahmanas followed them. The entourage stopped at the banks of River Ganges to spend the night. The next morning, Yudhishtira pleaded the brahmanas to return, citing the dangers and difficulties involved with forest lifestyle. He also added that his brothers who would normally procure food in the forest were distressed by Draupadi’s grief and the loss of their kingdom. For this reason, Yudhishtira said that he could not employ his brothers in painful tasks.

The brahmanas refused to return and told Yudhishtira that they would not be a burden for the Pandavas. They added that they would source food on their own. Hearing this, Yudhistira fell into despair, saying “How can I let you procure food on your own, who are accompanying me because of your love and affection towards me. My fallen condition has made me hold myself contempt”. Saying this, he started crying.

Pandavas & Draupadi with Akshaya Patra (Source: Amba Theertha, near Kalasa, Karnataka)

A wise brahmana by the name Saunaka consoled Yudhishtira and told him not to grieve. Saunaka said the following of grief:

  • A physical affliction such as a disease may be allayed by the application of medicine, while mental ailments are cured by controlling the mind.  For this reason, sensible physicians first seek to allay the mental sufferings of their patients by agreeable conversation. With the mind attaining ease, the body regains composure.
  • Affection is the root of all mental sorrow.  From affection springs all purposes and the love of worldly goods. Just as a small portion of fire thrust into a tree’s cavity consumes the whole tree up to its roots, so does affection, even in small  amounts destroys virtue. So one should not place his affections on either friends or the wealth he has earned.
  • Wealth is the bane of many who behold happiness in it, for they never get to realize true happiness.
  • The acquisition, possession and expenditure of wealth is sought with infinite misery that one one should not mind its loss.
  • Contentment is the highest form of happiness; therefore, the wise regard contentment as the highest object of pursuit.

Thus addressed by Saunaka, Yudhishtira regained his composure. He approached his priest Dhaumya and asked, “The brahamanas wish to follow me into the forest but I do not have any means of sustaining them. Tell me what should I do”. Dhaumya thought for a moment and said, “In the days of old, all living beings that had been created were sorely afflicted with hunger.  Surya, taking compassion upon them, drew up water by his rays. The moon converted those vapours into clouds and showered rains which created plants that sprouted. Thus the Sun is said to be the father of all creatures. You should meditate upon Him for your rescue”. Saying this, Dhaumya also taught Yudhishtira the  108 names of the Sun.

Subsequently Yudhishtira meditated on Surya and sang hymns praising Him. Gladdened by his act, Surya appeared before Yudhishtira and gave him a vessel. He said, “This vessel will feed an inexhaustible supply of food each day, until Draupadi partakes her portion of the food. The vessel will feed you for 12 years henceforth.”

The Pandavas became exceedingly glad as this provided them with sustenance for themselves and the accompanying brahmanas. Soon, accompanied by the Brahmanas, the Pandavas set out into the woods of the Kamyaka forest.

(Source: Mbh Vana Parva, Chapters 2,3)

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