68 THE ARYANS IN INDIA. Arjuna, one of the five Pandavas, bent the mighty bow which had defied the strength of all the rival chiefs, and so obtained the fair princess, Draupadf, who became the common wife of the five brethren. Their uncle, the good Dhrita-rashtra, recalled them to his capital, and gave them one half of the family territory, reserving the other half for his own sons. The Pandava brethren hived off to a new settlement, Indra-prastha, afterwards Delhi ; clearing the jungle, and driving out the Nagas or forest-races. For a time peace reigned. But the Kauravas tempted Yudhishthira, ' firm in fight/ the eldest of the Pandavas, to a gambling match, at which he lost his kingdom, his brothers, himself, and last of all his wife. Their father, however, forced his sons to restore their wicked gains ■ to their cousins. But Yudhishthira was again seduced by the Kauravas to stake his kingdom at dice, again lost it, and had to retire with his wife and brethren into exile for twelve years. Their banishment ended, the five Pandavas returned at the head of an army to win back their kingdom. Many battles followed, gods and divine heroes joined in the struggle, until at last all the hundred Kauravas were slain, and of the friends and kindred of the Pandavas only the five brethren remained. Their uncle, Dhrita- rashtra, made over to them the whole kingdom. For a long time the Pandavas ruled gloriously, celebrating the asva-medha, or 'great horse sacrifice,' in token of their holding imperial sway. But their uncle, old and blind, ever taunted them with the slaughter of his hundred sons, until at last he crept away, with his few surviving ministers, his aged wife, and his sister-in- law, the mother of the Pandavas, to a hermitage, where the worn-out band perished in a forest fire. The five brethren, smitten by remorse, gave up their kingdom ; and, taking their wife, Draupadf, and a faithful dog, they departed to the Himalayas to seek the heaven of Indra on Mount Meru. One by one the sorrowful pilgrims died upon the road, until only the eldest brother, Yudhishthira, and the dog reached the gate of heaven. Indra invited him to enter, but he refused if his lost wife and brethren were not also admitted. The prayer was granted ; but he still declined unless his faithful dog might come
Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/72
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.