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Epics for children: Never forget your companions

Thirty-six years after the end of the Mahabharata war, the Pandavas decided to depart to the forest. They installed their grandson Parikshit on the throne of Hastinapur, with Dhritarashtra’s only remaining son, Yuyutsu, as his guardian. Then the five brothers, along with Draupadi left for the forest. The city dwellers were very sad to see them go and accompanied them to the outskirts of the city. There, the residents returned, but a dog continued to follow the Pandavas.

The Pandavas first went east up to Lauhitya, modern-day Brahmaputra. Then they turned south and after hitting the Bay of Bengal, turned south-west and then west to reach Dwarka on the west coast of India. After seeing the submerged city, they turned north. They crossed the Himalayas and kept going north, aiming to reach heaven, which was believed to be in that direction. All this while, the dog was with them. One by one, they began to fall. Draupadi was the first one to fall, followed by Sahadeva, Nakula, Arjuna and finally, Bhima. When each one of these fell, Yudhishthira did not look back and kept on walking ahead.

After a while, Indra arrived in his chariot that made a roaring sound and asked him to ascend. Yudhishthira was overcome with grief and asked for his brothers and Draupadi to be allowed to come with him. Indra replied that they had already reached heaven ahead of him and again urged him to ascend.

Yudhishthira said, ‘This dog has always been devoted to me. Let him come with me.’

Indra said, ‘Dogs cannot go to heaven. Abandon him, now that you are going to heaven.’

When Yudhisthira declined to go without the dog, Indra said, ‘When you have given up your brothers and wife, why are you not ready to abandon the dog?’

Yudhishthira said, ‘In the world of mortals, there is no friendship or enmity with those who are dead. I am incapable of reviving them. That is the reason I abandoned those who are no longer alive. It is my view that surrendering someone who has sought sanctuary, killing a woman, stealing the possessions of a Brahmana and enmity towards a friend—these four are equal to the sin of abandoning someone who is devoted.’

At these words, the dog transformed into Dharma, who revealed that this was a test for him before taking him to heaven, and that Yudhishthira had aced the test. We see around us that, many times, people, on achieving success, forget those who supported them during their struggle. These could be parents, siblings, friends, wife or even children. One who doesn’t ever forget his companions is one truly deserving of heaven like Yudhishthira.

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