Duryodhana openly approached his father, begging him to banish his cousins to the town of Benaras and during their absence to confer on himself the sovereignty of the kingdom. It was then, under secret instructions from Dhritarashtra the king, that certain members of the court began to praise the beauties of the city of Benaras, in which, they said, the yearly festival of Lord Shiva was already beginning. The Pandava princes, with others, showed some interest and curiosity as to the beauties of Benaras and then Dhritarashtra told them to visit the place once.
Very soon, the grey-haired Kunti set out with her five sons from Hastinapur. Purochanna, the friend and minister of Duryodhana, had, however, left for Benaras earlier to make preparations at that place to receive the princes. He was especially instructed to construct a house for them of highly inflammable materials and fitted with all the costliest furniture and equipments as close to the public arsenal as possible. There Purochanna would live as warden of the city, and watch for a suitable opportunity of setting fire to it, as if by accident. The palace was in fact, made of Lac.
As the Pandavas set forth from Hastinapur, Vidura, accompanied them at the beginning of their journey and was also the last to leave them, and while they parted he told to Yudhisthir in low tones to be alert every time and also told that weapons were not always made of steel and one could escape even from fire by making several outlets to one's house, and a deep hole would be a wonderful refuge. Yudhishthira understood the symbolic speeches of his uncle and they parted.
The Pandavas were gladly welcomed by the people of Benaras, headed by Purochanna, and were rested for a time in a house outside the city. On the tenth day of their visit to the city, Purochanna described to them a fair mansion that he had erected for them within the city and Yudhishthira went forth with his mother and brothers to take up his quarters in it. On reaching the house he inspected it closely, and, indeed, the smell of Lac, Tar, and oil was strongly perceptible in the new building.
Soon, there came a man who introduced himself as an emissary from Vidura, their uncle, and skilled in mining. It was his opinion that the house in which they were living would be burnt on some moonless night. He thus proposed to dig for them a wide subterranean passage without delay. Pandavas accepted him with great joy, and he at once, began a careful excavation in the chamber of Yudhishthira, covering up its entrance with planks so as to be level with the rest of the floor. And the princes spent their days hunting and ranging the forests in the neighbourhood and at night slept always within closed doors, with their arms beside their pillows.
After the Pandavas stayed in their new abode for a year, it appeared to Yudhishthira that Purochanna was completely off his guard. He thus considered that the time was favourable for them to escape. Thus, on a certain evening, Kunti gave a great feast, and hundreds of men and women came to it. And in the dead of the night, when all had gone to sleep, a great wind began to blow and Bhima at that time came out quietly and set fire to that part of the house which adjoined Purochanna's quarters in the arsenal. Then he set fire to several other parts, and leaving it all to blaze up of itself, he, along with his mother and brothers, entered the subterranean passage to make their escape. When drowsiness and fear impeded the motion of the Pandavas, the gigantic Bhima lifted his mother to his shoulder, and then, taking two brothers under each arm, he pushed forward along the secret passage, and all of them escaped the house of Lac and came out after a while into the darkness of the forest.
(Last Updated on : 18-03-2010)
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