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XXI. The Durvasa Episode

Vyasa hastened to explain Durvasa's queer laughter. "Durvasa, however, accepted the prayer of Duryodhana! He started towards the forest, saying 'Right! I shall do so.' In this prayer, there was a deep sinister purpose. It was this: One morning at sunrise, when the Pandavas were worshipping the sun, He took pity on their condition and out of His immeasurable grace bestowed on them a vessel whose contents would remain undiminished, however much they are used up. It was called A-kshaya pathra. Droupadi as the dutiful wife, used to take her food only after the five brothers had taken theirs. Until she finished her meal, the vessel would be full of food, however many may partake of it. When she had finished and cleaned the vessel it could give no more. Thus once every day, the vessel was pouring plenty, until she had eaten her meal. Prior to that, she could feed thousands, even millions, from out of that vessel. But, once she has taken her food out of it, it lost that power for the day. That is to say, there must be some part or particle of food in it so that it could be multiplied a millionfold and used. That was its peculiar glory. Duryodhana requested Durvasa to approach the Pandavas and demand hospitality, after Droupadi had taken her food for he had this special handicap in mind."

"When the short-tempered sage would seek food and the Pandavas were unable to satisfy him and his huge retinue, he was certain to invoke a terrible curse in the throes of hunger; that would destroy the brothers for ever. The knotty problem of living with them would be solved and the Kauravas could rule the entire realm in peace. That was the evil intent of Duryodhana. But, the Pandavas looked for support, not to something or someone outside them, but to the Lord within them. What can the curse of a sage, however mighty do to such? When the all-protecting Lord is on their side, how can the wiles of evil-minded men harm them? Their conspiracies had to fail ignominiously. The wicked Kauravas did not realise that when they planned in one direction, the Lord planned in another."

"Durvasa appeared before the Pandavas with his ten thousand disciples, just when Droupadi was resting, after her food and after cleaning the sacred vessel, and conversing with her lords. Dharmaraja saw the sage coming towards the leaf-thatched hut where they spent their days. He rose quickly, welcomed him enthusiastically, washed his feet, offered flowers in worship, and fell prostrate before him. He declared, 'I have realised my highest ambition in life; this is indeed a day of supreme luck'. He shed tears of joy and stood with folded hands. His brothers and Droupadi stood by his side, after their prostrations, with heads bent in reverential homage."

"Durvasa, who was visibly tired by the exhaustion of the long journey, spoke with evident exasperation, 'We are going to the river for bath and noon rituals; have food ready for me and my ten thousand followers when we return.' They moved on fast to the river, after their announcement."