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In this YouTube video (1988 TV series Mahabharat, Episode 31 - Escape from Lakshagraha) it is shown that a niṣāda woman and her five children are urged by Purocana, the builder of the infamous lākṣāgṛha (house of lac) in Vāraṇāvata, to spend the night inside the newly constructed house. Not sure why he invites them inside the house? Maybe he wanted to blame them for setting the house on fire?!

But from here (Ganguli's translation) it appears that those people just came there looking for food and entered the mansion on their own.

Desirous of obtaining food, there came, as though impelled by fate, to that feast, in course of her wanderings, a Nishada woman, the mother of five children, accompanied by all her sons. O king, she, and her children, intoxicated with the wine they drank, became incapable. Deprived of consciousness and more dead than alive, she with all her sons lay down in that mansion to sleep.

Then when all the inmates of the house lay down to sleep, there began to blow a violent wind in the night. Bhima then set fire to the house just where Purochana was sleeping. Then the son of Pandu set fire to the door of that house of lac. Then he set fire to the mansion in several parts all around.

Questions:

  1. How does the latest BORI critical edition of the Mahābhārata narrate this event?
  2. If indeed Ganguli's above translated version is the correct narrative, are Pāṇḍavas justified in killing the innocent niṣāda family to save their own?

Also, if anyone happens to know how the recent TV series – Suryaputra Karn, 2015 (Sony) and Mahabharat, 2013 (STAR Plus) depict this scene, please leave a comment under the question or in your answer.

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    I removed one of your points because it was off-topic. If you want to know what a TV serial depicts, ask it on Movies & TV.SE. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 1 '17 at 21:52
  • @KeshavSrinivasan Agree, moved that one to the end. I prefer to keep it here as a side question rather than posting a new one on the other SE site. – sv. Jun 1 '17 at 22:04
  • OK, that's better. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 1 '17 at 22:05
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    where exactly in that translation does it say that either Pandavas or Bhima knew about the family of 6 sleeping there ? it says he set fire to various parts of the house, it is possible he did not notice the intoxicated folks. – ram Jun 1 '17 at 22:40
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    the latest Mahabharat series has lot of additions & interpolations as admitted by the producers themselves. probably better named 'MegaBharat' for its similarity to saas-bahu soap drama tv serials – ram Jun 1 '17 at 22:50
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It's me again.

  1. I have not seen Suryaputra Karn. Starbharat has 6 bodies magically appear.
  2. SOURCE: BORI Critical Mahabharat translated into English by Bibek Debroy (Book 1: Section 8 - Jatugriha-Daha Parva [Burning down the house of lac] Alright, first of all: PLOT HOLE / DEUS EX MACHINA ALERT!!

    Let me put this story into context. The Pandavas, accompanied by Kunti, travel to Varnavat. They visited the town and finally settled in a house. They remained there for ten days. After that, Purochana (Duryodhan's lackey) had a great idea: he proposed that the Pandavas stay at another house where they will be quite comfortable indeed. So the Pandavas went there. Yudhisthir immediately caught scent of the ghee and told Bhim that surely Purochana planned to set it on fire. Now, to those of you who watched Starbharat, you must be saying to yourselves: but Vidur went to Varnavat and then warned them! No. Vidur warned Yudhisthir before the Pandavas set course for Varnavat (he told them to be weary of poison and fire).

    Naturally, Bhim tells Yudhisthir: hey let's get out of here! Yudhisthir refused. He claims that if they leave then Duryodhan will sent assassins after them (uhh, wouldn't they be able to handle them? you know...with Arjun and Bhim. I'll stop myself from further editorializing..).

    And here's your deus ex machina: the very next moment, a tunnel digger (sent by Vidur) arrives. The digger informs the Pandavas that Purochana will set the lac house on fire within two weeks (don't worry, plot hole coming soon!). We have no clue as to how Vidur came upon this information. Another deus ex machina (welcome to BORI MB!). At any rate, Vidur's man dug a tunnel in the middle of the lac house and covered it up with wooden planks. The Pandavas lived in the hole (beginning of the tunnel) during nighttime so as not to be burned in case Purochana started the fire.

    Yeah so about Purochana setting the lac house on fire within a fortnight...now the BORI MB states that the Pandavas lived like that for a year!

    And now I can address the heart of your question

    Yudhisthir said: “The cruel-hearted and evil Purochana thinks us to be trusting and has been deceived well. I think the time has come for our escape. Let us escape, unobserved by anyone, after setting fire to the armoury, burning Purochana to death and leaving six bodies here.”

    Driven by destiny and in search of food, a hunter woman also happened to come to the feast, accompanied by her five sons. All of them drank wine, until, with her sons, she was completely drunk. O ruler of men! She and her sons lost their senses and slept in that house, as if dead. When everyone was asleep and a violent storm started in the night, Bhima started a fire at the spot where Purochana was sleeping.

  3. Depends on what YOU think. Many people like to view MB through a relativist lens. They present the perspective of "morally gray" characters. Now, I'm going to assume that you're asking for my opinion. It is quite clear that Yudhisthir planned the cold blooded murder of seven people: Purochana, a woman, and five adult-sized men. The Nishada woman and her children were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I clipped a bit of the quotation as it wasn't relevant to your question but...before they set the house on fire, Kunti hosts a group of Brahmanas and invited women from the Varnavat town to an evening of food and drink (of the alcoholic variety). This is where Kunti gets roped into the murder plot. Kunti was actively seeking out a woman to intoxicate so they could leave a burned female body at the scene of the fire.

    I'd love to have a debate on this one. I think that Yudhisthir, Kunti and Bhim are guilty of murder. It's quite clear to me. Now, you may argue on the Kunti point. But...may I remind you as to how Kunti met her demise? Ah! Poetic justice at its finest!

Regards, Your local Mahabharata passerby.

PS I would have cited the text more frequently but I felt like I would simply be posting the entire chapter. I feel that may be in breach of copyright laws, and unfair use since the author does expect people to pay for the works. I can only hope that my summary provided you with a rich context. I added a fun sort of spin on it since MB! Until next time...

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    What do you mean by "It's me again"? – Pandya Nov 23 '18 at 1:59
  • @Pandya Why does this answer have a citation banner? It addresses the central part of the question with the right source. – sv. Jan 11 at 23:37
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    @sv. Someone said moderators are adding banners adding explanations and asked me where is the problem. Do you understand why I raised the meta question now? No comments are being added either by a user who flagged or mod who is adding comments. Can you say why this answer has a citation banner? How shall I improve the answer more? The answer I got do not mention that. – Sarvabhouma Jan 12 at 4:20
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    @Pandya This user has created unregistered accounts in the past and posted answers as a guest. – Sarvabhouma Jan 12 at 4:21
  • @Sarvabhouma Someone said banner is mainly for OP but not for others but where is OP in this case? Most new users don't come back and fix their answers if it had a citation banner or a comment asking for sources. Many answers were deleted for this reason. I do agree mods need to leave comments before posting citation banners. In most cases it's obvious but this is an exception hence my comment asking why this answer needs a banner. – sv. Jan 12 at 19:23
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BORI Critical Edition Of Mahabharata Quoted this clearly that Kunti Along with Pandava burnt Innocent Nishada

Yudhishthira, Kunti’s virtuous son, spoke to Bhimasena, Arjuna and the twins. “The cruel hearted and evil Purochana thinks us to be trusting and has been deceived well. I think the time has come for our escape. Let us escape, unobserved by anyone, after setting fire to the armoury, burning Purochana to death and leaving six bodies here.” ‘O king! On the occasion of giving alms, Kunti fed a large number of Brahmanas in the night. A number of women also came. O descendant of the Bharata lineage! They enjoyed themselves and ate and drank as much as they wished. When it was night, with Madhavi’s permission, they returned home. Driven by destiny and in search of food, a hunter woman also happened to come to the feast, accompanied by her five sons. All of them drank wine, until, with her sons, she was completely drunk. O ruler of men! She and her sons lost their senses and slept in that house, as if dead. When everyone was asleep and a violent storm started in the night, Bhima started a fire at the spot where Purochana was sleeping. The intense heat and great roar of the fire soon became manifest and awoke a large number of the citizens. The citizens said, “Under Duryodhana’s instructions, the evil-minded one built this house for his own destruction. Curse on Dhritarashtra, whose intelligence isn’t impartial. He has burnt to death Pandu’s pure sons(Are they??) as if they are his enemies.

This lines from most authentic Mahabharata clearly shows that. Yudhishthira planned a murder. Kunti had invited Brahmana's and womens that day, so it can be concluded that Kunti is looking for targets.

One More thing, Burning own house can be a propoganda and may be for gaining the lot of sympathy(as now a days political leaders doing the same) from peoples and may be Pandava's planning to small coup against a King. BORI clearly say that when the house was burnt people are accusing Duryodhana and also saying that this act of evil cannot be done without consent of King Dhritrastra. It was a rather political game to spread hoax about evil nature of Duryodhana and even against Dhritarashtra (Thats My Opinion, You can have another views)

The citizens said, “Under Duryodhana’s instructions, the evil-minded one built this house for his own destruction. Curse on Dhritarashtra, whose intelligence isn’t impartial. He has burnt to death Pandu’s pure sons, as if they are his enemies. As fate would have it, that evil-hearted and evil-minded one has burnt those innocent and unsuspecting ones, supreme among men, and has himself been burnt.” Thus did the citizens of Varanavata mourn, as they stood around the house throughout that entire night

  • Thanks for your answer. What does the image have to do with the question/your answer? And what's with the links to mahabharatastories.in? Are you the blog owner? – sv. Jan 11 at 23:39
  • i have translated the sanskrit BORI shloka's that provided by them and image is of Ancient Duryodhana temple of Uttarakhand. and yes that blog belongs to one of my friend – Devdatt Dhakane Jan 12 at 10:56
  • Ok. But how is that Duryodhana temple relevant here? Can you directly link to the article you are translating? I think you are quoting from Bibek Debroy's English translation. – sv. Jan 12 at 19:12
  • ok i have removed it – Devdatt Dhakane Jan 12 at 19:14

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