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VIII. Dhritharashtra Transformed

Dhritharashtra and Gandhari reached the forest, along with Vidura. Vidura searched for a site where they could practise austerities. He also advised them on the best means of seeking self-realisation. They spent the days in holy company and holy thoughts.

Meanwhile in Hastinapura, as soon as the sun rose, Dharmaraja woke up, finished his ablutions and performed the ritual worship of the "Household Fire". He gave away in charity the usual daily gifts to the needy. He then proceeded on foot towards the palace of Dhritharashtra, his paternal uncle, as was his wont, for he never began his daily round of duties without taking on his head the dust of his feet. The king and queen were not found in their chambers. So, he waited for some little time expecting them to return thereto, searching for them all around, even while he was waiting anxiously for their return. He noticed however that the beds were not slept upon, the pillows did not bear marks of use, the pieces of furniture were undisturbed. He doubted for a moment that the rooms might have been reset by someone after use, but, no. Some fear got hold of him that they must have left; so, he hurried towards the room of Vidura, to discover that he too had fled; his bed was unused.

The attendants reported that the sage did not return to his room from the king and queen or to whom he had gone. As soon as he heard this, Dharmaraja had a shock. He went back to the palace and searched every room with great care and his worst fears were confirmed. His hands and feet shivered in despair; his tongue became dry; words failed to emerge from his mouth. He fell on the floor, as if life had ebbed out. Recovering, he blabbered indistinctly. He called on Vidura, more than once, and the officers around him became afraid of his future. Everyone rushed to the presence, asking, "What happened?" sensing some calamity. They stood in a circle, awaiting orders from the master.