"Janamejaya said, 'Having seen his sons and grandsons with all their friends and followers, what, indeed, did that ruler of men, viz., Dhritarashtra, and king Yudhishthira also, do?'
"Vaisampayana said, 'Beholding that exceedingly wonderful sight, viz., the re-appearance of his children, the royal sage, Dhritarashtra, became divested of his grief and returned (from the banks of the Bhagirathi) to his retreat. The common people and all the great Rishis, dismissed by Dhritarashtra, returned to the places they respectively wished. The high-souled Pandavas, accompanied by their wives, and with a small retinue, went to the retreat of the high-souled monarch. Then Satyavati's son, who was honoured by regenerate Rishis and all other persons, arrived at the retreat, addressed Dhritarashtra, saying,--'O mighty-armed Dhritarashtra. O son of Kuru's race, listen to what I say. Thou hast heard diverse discourses from Rishis of great knowledge and sacred deeds, of wealth of penances and excellence of blood, of conversance with the Vedas and their branches, of piety and years, and of great eloquence. Do not set thy mind again on sorrow. He that is possessed of wisdom is never agitated at ill luck. Thou hast also heard the mysteries of the deities from Narada of celestial form. Thy children have all attained, through observance of Kshatriya practices, to that auspicious goal which is sanctified by weapons. Thou hast seen how they move about at will in great happiness. This Yudhishthira of great intelligence is awaiting thy permission, with all his brothers and wives and kinsmen. Do thou dismiss him. Let him go back to his kingdom and rule it. They have passed more than a month in thus residing in the woods. The station of sovereignty should always be well guarded. O king, O thou of Kuru's race, thy kingdom has many foes.' Thus addressed by Vyasa of incomparable energy, the Kuru king, well-versed in words, summoned Yudhishthira and said unto him,--'O Ajatasatru, blessings on thee! Do thou listen to me, with all thy brothers. Through thy grace, O king, grief no longer stands in my way. I am living as happily, O son, with thee here as if I were in the city called after the elephant. With thee as my protector, O learned one, I am enjoying all agreeable objects. I have obtained from thee all those services which a son renders to his sire. I am highly gratified with thee. I have not the least dissatisfaction with thee, O mighty-armed one. Go now, O son, without tarrying here any longer. Meeting with thee, my penances are being slackened. This my body, endued with penances, I have been able to sustain only in consequence of my meeting with thee. These two mothers of thine, subsisting now upon fallen leaves of trees, and observing vows similar to mine, will not live long. Duryodhana and others, who have become denizens of the other world, have been seen by us, through the puissance of Vyasa's penances and through (the merit of) this my meeting with thee. O sinless one, the purpose of my life has been attained. I now wish to set myself to the practice of the austerest of penances. It behoveth thee to grant me permission. On thee now the obsequial cake, the fame and achievements, and the race of our ancestors, rest. O mighty-armed one, do thou then depart either tomorrow or this very day. Do not tarry, O son. O chief of Bharata's race, thou hast repeatedly heard what the duties are of kings. I do not see what more I can say unto thee. I have no longer any need with thee, O thou of great puissance.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Unto the (old) monarch who said so, king Yudhishthira replied,--'O thou that art conversant with every rule of righteousness, it behoveth thee, not to cast me off in this way. I am guilty of no fault. Let all my brothers and followers depart as they like. With steadfast vows I shall wait upon thee and upon these two mothers of mine.' Unto him Gandhari then said,--'O son, let it not be so. Listen, the race of Kuru is now dependant on thee. The obsequial cake also of my father-in-law depends on thee. Depart then, O son. We have been sufficiently honoured and served by thee. Thou shouldst do what the king says. Indeed, O son, thou shouldst obey the behests of thy sire.'
"Vaisampayana continued,--'Thus addressed by Gandhari, King Yudhishthira, rubbing his eyes which were bathed in tears of affection, said these words of lament. 'The king casts me off, as also Gandhari of great fame. My heart, however, is bound to thee. How shall I, filled as I am with grief, leave thee? I do not, however, at the same time, venture to obstruct thy penances, O righteous lady. There is nothing higher than penances. It is by penances
that one attains to the Supreme. O queen, my heart no longer turns as of old towards kingdom. My mind is wholly set upon penances now. The whole Earth is empty now. O auspicious lady, she does not please me any longer. Our kinsmen have been reduced in number. Our strength is no longer what it was before. The Panchalas have been wholly exterminated. They exist in name only. O auspicious lady, I do not behold any one that may assist as their re-establishment and growth. All of them have been consumed to ashes by Drona on the field of battle. Those that remained were slain by Drona's son at night. The Chedis and the Matsyas, who were our friends, no longer exist. Only the tribes of the Vrishnis are all that remain, Vasudeva having upheld them. Beholding only the Vrishnis I wish to live. My desire of life, however, is due to my wish of acquiring merit and not wealth or enjoyment. Do thou cast auspicious looks upon us all. To obtain thy sight will be difficult for us. The king will commence to practise the most austere and unbearable of penances.' Hearing these words, that lord of battle, the mighty-armed Sahadeva, with eyes bathed in tears, addressed Yudhishthira, saying,--'O chief of Bharata's race, I dare not leave my mother. Do thou return to the capital soon. I shall practise penances, O puissant one. Even here I shall emaciate my body by penances, engaged in serving the feet of the king and of these my mothers.' Unto that mighty-armed hero, Kunti, after an embrace, said--'Depart, O son. Do not say so. Do my bidding. Do all of you go hence. Let peace be yours. Ye sons, let happiness be yours. By your stay here, our penances will be obstructed. Bound by the ties of my affection for thee, I shall fall off from my high penances. Therefore, O son, leave us. Short is the period that we have of life, O thou of great puissance.' By these and diverse other speeches of Kunti, the minds of Sahadeva and king Yudhishthira were composed. Those foremost ones of Kuru's race, having received the permission of their mother as also of the (old) monarch, saluted the latter and began to take his leave.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'Gladdened by auspicious blessings, we shall return to the capital. Indeed, O king, having received thy permission, we shall leave this retreat, freed from every sin.' Thus addressed by the high-souled king Yudhishthira the just, that royal sage, viz., Dhritarashtra, blessed Yudhishthira and gave him permission. The king comforted Bhima, that foremost of all persons endued with great strength. Endued with great energy and great intelligence, Bhima showed his submissiveness to the king. Embracing Arjuna and clasping those foremost of men, viz., the twins also, and blessing them repeatedly, the Kuru king gave them permission to depart. They worshipped the feet of Gandhari and received her blessings also. Their mother Kunti then smelt their heads, and dismissed them. They then circumambulated the king like calves, when prevented from sucking their dams. Indeed, they repeatedly walked round him, looking steadfastly at him. Then all the ladies of the Kaurava household, headed by Draupadi, worshipped their father-in-law
according to the rites laid down in the scriptures, and took his leave. Gandhari and Kunti embraced each of them, and blessing them bade them go. Their mothers-in-law instructed them as to how they should conduct themselves. Obtaining leave, they then departed, with their husbands. Then loud sounds were heard, uttered by the charioteers that said,--'Yoke, yoke,'--as also of camels that grunted aloud and of steeds that neighed briskly. King Yudhishthira, with his wives and troops and all his kinsmen, set out for Hastinapura."'