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XIV. The Exit of the Pandavas

It was a pitiable sight. Parikshith, the little boy with the crown on his head, plaintively approached his grandfather and others, and holding their feet fast, he prayed that he too might accompany them to the forests; he would gladly eat roots and fruits, engage himself in sacred ceremonials, and be happy. "Please entrust the kingdom to some virtuous minister and allow me to come with you so that I might serve you and make my life worth while", he appealed. Those around him in the hall were moved to tears by his agony at being left behind. Rocks would have melted in sympathy, had they listened to his anguish.

Dharmaraja managed heroically to suppress his emotions; he lifted the boy and placed him on his lap; he poured consolation and courage into his ear. "Dear child! Don't become so weak-minded. You are a child born in the dynasty of Bharatha; can a sheep be born in a dynasty of lions? Your father, mother and grandfathers are full of courage, bold champions of truth who made their names famous in the world. So, it is not fit that you should weep thus. Henceforward, these Brahmins are your grandfathers, your parents. Take their advice and rule this land accordingly. Live up to the grandeur and glory of your name. Stop grieving over us."

But, the boy was lovingly adamant, in spite of all the persuasive advice of the elders. He lamented, "Grandpa! I am too young to convince you with my pleading. I know it. But, listen; I lost my father even before I was born. You brought me up with the care and affection that my father would have showered upon me, had he lived. And now, when I love to sing and play and roam about with my companions, you hoist on my head this great empire. Can this be right? Is it justice? Instead of leaving me alone steeped in sorrow, you could leave after severing my head with your sword. Alas! What harm have I done to you that you should punish me thus? Could you not have scotched me in my mother's womb, on the day my father died? Was my lifeless body resuscitated in order that you may inflict this assignment on me?" Parikshith continued to condemn himself for his fate, in this strain, for long.

Arjuna could not stand it any longer. He covered the boy's mouth with his palm; he caressed the child with sweet affection; he pressed his lips on his head. "Child ! It is a disgrace to the Kshatriya clan that you should behave like a coward. We too lost our father; we too grew up under the fostering care of ascetics and monks; at last, we were able to win the affection of our uncle and, after overcoming many a formidable handicap, we established our sovereignty over this kingdom. He who guarded us, guided us and directed our steps throughout will certainly be your guardian and guide. Don't lose heart; follow the advice which these Brahmins and ministers will render, for some years. Later, you will be able to solve the problems of empire yourself", he said.