The Burning of House of Lac (Lakshagriha)

As Bhimasena grew immensely strong and Dhananjaya (Arjuna) became exceptionally skilled, Duryodhana’s envy intensified. Together with Karna and Shakuni, Duryodhana plotted various schemes to kill the Pandavas, but the Pandavas’ vigilance thwarted their plans. Duryodhana’s jealousy deepened as the citizens recognized the Pandavas’ virtues and advocated for Yudhishthira’s coronation. Unable to tolerate Yudhishthira’s admiration, Duryodhana burned with grief and resentment, refusing to accept such praise for his cousins.

Consumed by jealousy and resentment towards the Pandavas, Duryodhana approached his father, Dhritarashtra, to express his concerns. He lamented the citizens’ favoritism towards the Pandavas and their desire to see Yudhishthira as their king. 

Duryodhana feared that if Yudhishthira ascended the throne, it would set a precedent where future Pandavas would inherit the kingdom, leaving him and his descendants excluded from royal succession. 

He urged Dhritarashtra to take immediate action to prevent this outcome, highlighting the potential consequences of their marginalization and dependence on others. Duryodhana emphasized that had Dhritarashtra claimed the throne earlier, their dynasty would have been firmly established, irrespective of the people’s preferences.

Upon hearing Duryodhana’s plea, Dhritarashtra reflected on his son’s words and acknowledged Pandu’s unwavering commitment to righteousness and respect towards his kin. Dhritarashtra expressed reluctance to forcibly exile Yudhishthira, highlighting his virtues and popularity among the citizens. However, Duryodhana proposed a scheme to placate the people by offering them wealth and honor, ensuring their support for their actions. He suggested gently relocating the Pandavas to Varanavata, assuring Dhritarashtra that once he solidified his reign, Kunti and her sons could safely return.

Dhritarashtra expressed his inner turmoil to Duryodhana, acknowledging the evil nature of their plan to banish Kunti’s sons. He feared the disapproval of wise and virtuous men like Bhishma, Drona, and Kripa, who viewed both Pandavas and Kauravas as equals. Duryodhana, however, reassured his father, citing Bhishma’s neutrality and Drona’s allegiance to him due to his son’s support. He argued that Kripa’s loyalty lay with Drona and his sister’s son (Kripi’s son Ashwathhama), thus ensuring their compliance. Despite Dhritarashtra’s concerns about the consequences of their actions, Duryodhana urged him to proceed with the banishment immediately to alleviate his suffering.

King Duryodhana and his brothers strategically won people over by showering them with honor and wealth. Following Dhritarashtra’s instructions, skilled ministers began describing the beauty of Varanavata city, enticing Pandu’s sons with tales of a grand festival. The Pandavas were eager to witness the festivities and expressed their desire to visit Varanavata. Realizing their curiosity, Dhritarashtra encouraged them to go, assuring them of a joyous experience and instructing them to return after enjoying themselves. Yudhisthira, recognizing Dhritarashtra’s underlying wish, agreed to the journey. Seeking blessings from Bhishma, Vidura, Drona, and others, the Pandavas set off for Varanavata, hoping for a prosperous and safe journey.

The evil-hearted Duryodhana was pleased with these unfolding events. Duryodhana then privately summoned Purochana and emphasized their mutual ownership of the world’s riches. He instructs Purochana to protect their interests, as he trusts no one else as much. He asked for assistance in destroying Pandavas, being sent to Varanavata by Dhritarashtra. He urged Purochana to travel to Varanavata to execute their plans swiftly.

The plan was to construct a luxurious house for the Pandavas on the outskirts of Varanavata, equipped with four halls and filled with wealth. Hemp, resin, and other flammable materials were to be used in its construction, mixed with clay, ghee, and oil, to disguise the explosive nature of the structure. Carefully placed items like hemp, cane, ghee, and wood would further conceal suspicion. Purochana, entrusted with the task, assured the Kauravas that he would carry out the plan discreetly, ensuring that no one in Varanavata would suspect foul play. He was always obedient to Duryodhana and left quickly. Purochana did as the prince had asked him to.

The Pandavas bid farewell to their elders, including Bhishma, Dhritarashtra, Drona, Kripa, and Vidura, as they prepared to depart for Varanavata. They honored their vows by paying respects to all the elders and embraced their equals before setting out. Even the children and mothers bid them farewell with sorrow. As they left, citizens and fearless Brahmanas followed them, expressing grief over their unjust banishment. They criticized Dhritarashtra for his partiality and lack of adherence to dharma, questioning the righteousness of banishing the virtuous Pandavas. 

Some citizens, moved by their plight, decided to leave the city and accompany the Pandavas. Acknowledging their support, Yudhishthira urged them to return home and assured them of their obedience to Dhritarashtra’s commands. The citizens blessed the Pandavas and returned to the city while they continued their journey to Varanavata.

Vidura, well-versed in principles of dharma, cryptically warned Yudhishthira about potential dangers before their departure to Varanavata. Using metaphorical language, he advised Yudhishthira to be vigilant and knowledgeable to avoid harm, emphasizing the importance of self-control and awareness. After bidding farewell, Vidura returned home. 

Later, Kunti approached Yudhishthira, seeking clarification about his conversation with Vidura. Yudhishthira explained Vidura’s cryptic warning about dangers like poison and fire and affirmed his understanding of the message. On the eighth day of the month of Phalguna, they departed for Varanavata, observing the city and its inhabitants.

Upon hearing of the Pandavas’ arrival, the citizens of Varanavata joyfully gathered in large numbers, eager to welcome them. They arrived in various conveyances, bearing auspicious gifts prescribed by the scriptures. As the Pandavas approached, the citizens respectfully encircled them and greeted them with the blessed word “Jaya.” As he stood amidst the crowd, Dharmaraja Yudhishthira, esteemed among men, appeared majestic, akin to a god surrounded by celestial beings.

The Pandavas, warmly welcomed by the citizens of Varanavata, reciprocated the gesture with reverence as they entered the city, adorned for the festival. Beginning their visit, they first visited the homes of the Brahmanas, diligently performing their duties, followed by the residences of city officials and chariot owners. They continued to the houses of the Vaishyas and even those of the Shudras, receiving homage from all. Led by Purochana, they proceeded to their designated residence.

Purochana provided the Pandavas with lavish amenities, including food, drinks, beds, and seats, and they were honored by the town’s citizens. 

After staying there for ten nights, Purochana suggested they move to another house. 

Yudhishthira realizes the house is constructed with highly flammable materials such as straw, bark, and cane, coated with ghee. He discerns Purochana’s malicious intent to deceive them into staying in the house, intending to burn them alive after gaining their trust. Yudhishthira revealed Purochana’s deceit and the potential danger to Bhima. Bhima suggested to leave the suspicious house and return to their previous residence.

Yudhishthira acknowledges that Vidura’s earlier warning about the danger posed by the house was accurate. He confirms that the house is hazardous, as it was constructed under Duryodhana’s influence to trap them. Bhimasena suggests returning to their previous residence if Yudhishthira believes the current house to be flammable.

Yudhishthira suggests a cautious approach, advising the Pandavas to act as if they suspect nothing while secretly planning their escape. He acknowledges the dangers of Purochana’s treachery and Duryodhana’s potential retaliation if they flee. Yudhishthira proposes digging a hidden tunnel to escape and suggests living covertly to avoid suspicion from Purochana and the city’s inhabitants.

A skilled digger sent by Vidura to assist the Pandavas approached them secretly. He offered his expertise in digging and expressed Vidura’s trust in him to act in their favor. The digger revealed that Purochana planned to set fire to their house on the fourteenth night of the dark fortnight. He warned the Pandavas of Duryodhana’s plot to burn them alive along with their mother, referencing a previous conversation between Vidura and Yudhishthira in a foreign language as proof of his authenticity.

Yudhishthira acknowledged the digger as a trusted friend of Vidura and pleaded for his assistance in protecting them from Purochana’s plot to burn down the house. He expressed gratitude for the digger’s loyalty to Vidura and emphasized the urgency of escaping the danger orchestrated by Duryodhana. Yudhishthira highlighted Vidura’s prior warning about the impending threat and urged the digger to help them evade Purochana’s scheme without alerting him. The digger pledged his support to the Pandavas’ cause.

With meticulous care, the digger dug a deep tunnel beneath the ground, strategically positioning it in the center of the house with a narrow opening level with the ground, concealed by wooden planks to avoid detection by Purochana. The Pandavas, fearing Purochana’s intentions, remained vigilant, residing in the tunnel at night with their weapons at hand, while feigning contentment during the day and engaging in hunting expeditions to maintain appearances. Despite their unease, they managed to deceive Purochana and the city’s inhabitants, with only Vidura’s trusted friend, the digger, privy to their clandestine activities.

After observing the Pandavas residing unsuspectingly for an entire year, Purochana felt immense satisfaction. Sensing this opportunity, Yudhishthira, Kunti’s righteous son, discussed their plan for escape with Bhima, Arjuna, and the twins. They decided to set fire to the armory, causing Purochana’s death, and leave behind six bodies to deceive any onlookers, thus facilitating their escape without being noticed.

During an almsgiving event hosted by Kunti, a large number of Brahmanas and women were fed and entertained at night. Among the attendees was a hunter woman and her five sons who, after drinking excessively, fell asleep in the house. Taking advantage of a violent storm, Bhima set fire to the spot where Purochana was sleeping. 

The fire caused a commotion, awakening many citizens who lamented the fate of the Pandavas, blaming Duryodhana for orchestrating their demise. Throughout the night, the citizens mourned around the burning house, grieving the loss of the innocent Pandavas.

In their grief, the Pandavas, accompanied by their mother, swiftly escaped through the tunnel unnoticed. However, they couldn’t move as quickly as desired due to fear and exhaustion. Displaying remarkable strength, Bhima carried his mother on his shoulder, the twins on his hips, and his other brothers on his arms. With tremendous force, he cleared obstacles and pounded the ground as they fled with the speed and intensity of a raging storm.

The following day, citizens rushed to the scene after the fire subsided and discovered that the house, constructed with lac, had been burned down, resulting in the death of the advisor, Purochana. They concluded that Duryodhana orchestrated this act to eliminate the Pandavas, likely with Dhritarashtra’s knowledge. Finding no trace of the Pandavas in the ashes, they also found the bodies of a hunter woman and her sons. The digger has already concealed the tunnel’s existence and discreetly covered the opening with debris while cleaning up the site.

The citizens informed Dhritarashtra about the tragic incident, reporting that the Pandavas and their advisor, Purochana, had perished in the fire. Dhritarashtra, deeply saddened by the loss, mourned the death of Pandu’s sons, considering it a profound loss akin to Pandu’s demise. He urged immediate arrangements for funeral rites, emphasizing the need to honor the deceased warriors and Princess Kunti. Dhritarashtra instructed to spare no expense in performing ceremonies to benefit Kunti and the Pandavas. Despite the collective grief among the Kouravas, Vidura remained composed, possessing more excellent knowledge about the situation.

Having fled from Varanavata, the Pandavas journeyed southward through the night, guided by the stars. Exhausted and disoriented in a dense forest, Yudhishthira expressed their dire situation to Bhimasena. Concerned about their safety and unsure if Purochana indeed perished, Yudhishthira pleaded with Bhima to carry them once more, acknowledging his strength and agility as their only hope for escape. Responding to Yudhishthira’s plea, Bhima lifted Kunti and his brothers, leading them forward with his formidable strength.

Bhima’s remarkable strength and speed created a whirlwind-like storm as he journeyed, effortlessly clearing obstacles and carrying his family through the wilderness. Bhima’s powerful strides tore down trees and shrubs while his arms served as boats to navigate streams. Fearing detection, they disguised themselves as they traveled, with Bhima carrying Kunti over challenging terrain. As evening approached, they reached a forbidding forest devoid of sustenance, where exhaustion and thirst overwhelmed them. In their distress, Bhima discovered a comforting refuge under a magnificent fig tree offering much-needed shade.

Seeing his family’s exhaustion, Bhima instructed them to rest under a fig tree while he searched for water. He followed the sound of water-dwelling cranes and found a large lake, where he drank, bathed, and soaked his upper garment to carry water back for his family. Returning swiftly, he reached his mother, who was waiting about two measures of distance away.

Upon seeing his mother and brothers sleeping on the ground, Bhima was filled with sorrow and lamented their plight. He reflected on Kunti’s noble lineage and how she deserved to sleep in luxurious palaces, considering her esteemed background and the greatness of her sons born from gods. Seeing them in such humble circumstances pained him deeply.

Bhima reflects on the painful sight of his noble family, including his mother Kunti, sleeping on the ground despite their royal lineage. He compares their plight to that of a sacred tree in a village, isolated yet revered, and laments their banishment by Dhritarashtra and his sons. Despite seeing a nearby city, he stays awake to watch over his family while they rest, determined to protect them in their vulnerable state.


Debroy, Bibek, translator. The Mahabharata. Critical Edition by Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, Penguin Random House India, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-143-42523-6

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