When it was time for the Pandavas to pass the period of unrecognition(Agyatvaas) during the thirteenth year of exile(in king Virata’s kingdom), they chose their names and disguised identities, with great care, in consultation with prince Yudhishthira.

Prince Yudhishthira chose the name Kanka, a learned man(Brahmana) skilled in dice , Bhima became a cook bearing the name of Vallabha, Arjuna declared himself as one of the neuter sex, named Brihannala, Nakula under the name of Granthika, became the keeper of the horses of king Virata and Sahadeva under the name of Tantripal,became a keeper of kine.And princess Draupadi took the name Sairindhri, skilled in dressing hair.

It was very important for the Pandavas to pass the whole of the thirteenth year unrecognised, because, if they had failed, they would have had to return to an exile of another twelve years.

Prince Yudhishthira had obtained boons from Goddess Durga, when the Pandavas were on their way to the city of Virata. The details of the same are mentioned here.

But, it is learnt that Prince Yudhishthira had also obtained some boons from Yama(also known as Dharmaraja) previously, that the Pandavas would go unrecognised during the thirteenth year phase.

Did prince Yudhishthira obtain boons from Yama?

If so,why did Yama give boons to Yudhishthira?

What are the complete details of this story?


2 Answers 2


Did prince Yudhishthira obtain boons from yama for successful completion of-agyatvas ?

Yes , Yama the Lord of justice granted boons to Yudhisthira ,when he came to test his merits in Dvaita forest , when they were spending their 12 years of exile and the that 12 year period was about to finish and the one year period of unrecognition was about to start.

The whole detail story of Yudhisthira obtaining boons from Yama is present in Mahabharata - Vana Parva - Araneya Parva - Chapters 311-314.

Here i am summarising it in brief in my words -

The Pandavas at the ending portion of their 12 year exile period in the Dvaita Forest were discussing about the upcoming one year span of unrecognition in their ashrama. While a Brahmana came there and told them about a deer which took away his fire-sticks (Arani) stuck in his horns. And requested them to retrieve those sticks for him so that he can continue his Agnihotra.

Upon this the five Pandava brothers went into the forest to find the sticks of that Brahmana . They saw the deer near to them after sometime. They started to launch the arrows towards the deer to caught him. But even after lots of attempts they were unsucessful in binding the deer. They got exausted by this great effort and sat in the shade of a big tree , they were tired and became hungary & thirsty.

Yudhisthira then asked Nakula to see if there is some source of water nearby and Nakula found it out by climbing on a tree. Nakula went to featch the water from the pond by order of Yudhisthira. When he wanted to drink the water of the pond , a Crane (bird) in the human voice warned Nakula not to do so without answering his questions . But since Nakula was very much thristy , he drank the water ignoring the bird and became unconcious (dead) , by doing so. Seeing the long time passed while Nakula was out for fetching water Yudhisthira send Sahadeva to find the wareabouts of Nakula. The same events happned with Sahdeava also. After which Yudhisthira sent Arjuna after the absence Nakula and Sahadeva for long time to find both , and afterwards Bheema to locate all of three after Arjuna also did not return . All these four brothers repeated same thing of ignorinng the birds warning of not to drink the water before answering the question and became dead.

Being concerned about the faith of the four brothers Yudhisthirra himself then went to see the remaning four near the pond , anf there he saw all his brothers lying dead near that. He became extremely sad and started to think about the death of his brothers . But he decided to concentrate and then to find out more about the happning after drinking the water from the pond. The Same voice warned Yudhisthira also and told him that he sent his four brothers to abode of yama because they ignored his warning and if he wants to drink the water he must answer his questions first.

Yudhisthira came near to the voice and saw a yaksha and agreed to answer the questions with best of his ablities . we can read the Yaksha Prashna and the answers given of those by Yudhisthira here in SECTION CCCXI - P-606 to P-611.

why did Yama give boons to Yudhishthira .?

After giving satisfactory answers to Yaksha , Yudhisthira asked him about his identity . Yaksha replied that he is the Yudhisthiras father Dharma Raja (Yama) himself and came to see him. Dharmaraja said that he came here to test his merit and he is pleased to see that Yudhisthira posseses all the qualities (Fame, truth, self-restraint, purity, candour, modesty, steadiness, charity, austerities and Brahmacharya, abstention from injury, impartiality, peace, penances, sanctity, and freedom from malice ) that he himself have and by judging Yudhisthiras merit , he decided to give boons to Yudhisthira.

अहं ते जनकस तात धर्मॊ मृदु पराक्रम |
तवां दिदृक्षुर अनुप्राप्तॊ विद्धि मां भरतर्षभ || 6||
यशॊ सत्यं दमः शौचम आर्जवं हरीर अचापलम |
दानं तपॊ बरह्मचर्यम इत्य एतास तनवॊ मम ||7||
अहिंसा समता शान्तिस तपॊ शौचम अमत्सरः |
दवाराण्य एतानि मे विद्धि परियॊ हय असि सदा मम ||8||
दिष्ट्या पञ्चसु रक्तॊ ऽसि दिष्ट्या ते षट्पदी जिता |
दवे पूर्वे मध्यमे दवे च दवे चान्ते साम्परायिके ||9||

At this the Yaksha replied,-'O child, I am even thy father, the Lord of justice, possessed of great prowess! Know, bull of the Bharata race, that I came hither desirous of beholding thee! Fame, truth, self-restraint, purity, candour, modesty, steadiness, charity, austerities and Brahmacharya, these are my body! And abstention from injury, impartiality, peace, penances, sanctity, and freedom from malice are the doors (through which I am accessible). Thou art always dear to me! By good luck thou art devoted to the five; 1 and by good luck also thou hast conquered the six. 2 Of the six, two appear in the first part of life; two in the middle part thereof; and the remaining two at the end, in order to make men repair to the next world. I am, good betide thee, the lord of justice! I came hither to test thy merit. I am well-pleased to witness thy harmlessness; and, O sinless one, I will confer boons on thee.

Yudhisthira asked a boon of "nobody can recognise us " from Dharmaraja and he granted the boon.

वर्षाणि दवादशारण्ये तरयॊदशम उपस्थितम |
तत्र नॊ नाभिजानीयुर वसतॊ मनुजाः कव चित ||15||

P. 612 -Vaisampayana continued,--"Thereupon that worshipful one said,--'I give thee this boon! Good betide thee! O thou that are like unto an immortal, ask thou a fresh boon! Yudhishthira said,--'We have spent these twelve years in the forest; and the thirteenth year is come. May no one recognise us, as we spend this year somewhere.

ददानीत्य एव भगवान उत्तरं परत्यपद्यत |
भूयॊ चाश्वासयाम आस कौन्तेयं सत्यविक्रमम ||16||
यद्य अपि सवेन रूपेण चरिष्यथ महीम इमा |
न वॊ विज्ञास्यते कश चित तरिषु लॊकेषु भारत ||17||
वर्षं तरयॊदशं चेदं मत्प्रसादात कुरूर्वहाः|
विराटनगरे गूढा अविज्ञाताश चरिष्यथ ||18||

P.612 -Vaisampayana continued,-'Thereat that worshipful one replied,--'I give this boon unto thee!' And then reassuring Kunti's son having truth for prowess, he also said, 'Even if, O Bharata, ye range this (entire) earth in your proper forms none in the three worlds shall recognise you. Ye perpetuators of the Kuru race, through my grace, ye will spend this thirteenth year, secretly and unrecognised, in Virata's kingdom! And every one of you will be able at will to assume any form he likes!

Mahabharata - Vana Parva - Araneya Parva -SECTION CCCXII


A Brahmana approached Yudhishthira in Dwaitavana forest, and requested for his help in retrieving his fire sticks and churning-staff required for conducting the Agnihotra,which were carried away by a fleeting deer:-

And approaching without loss of time Ajatasatru seated in that forest with his brothers, the Brahmana, in great distress, spake these words, 'As a deer was butting about, it happened, O king, that my fire-sticks and churning staff which had been placed against a large tree stuck fast to its antlers. O king, that powerful deer of exceeding fleetness hath speedily gone out of the hermitage with long bounds, taking those articles away. Tracking that powerful deer, O king, by its foot-prints, do ye, ye sons of Pandu, bring back those articles of mine, so that my Agnihotra may not be stopped!'

Yudhishthira and his brothers tried to capture the deer, but in vain:-

And putting on their corselets and equipped with their bows, those bulls among men, intent upon serving the Brahmana, swiftly sallied out in the wake of the deer. And descrying the deer at no great distance, those mighty warriors discharged at it barbed arrows and javelins and darts, but the sons of Pandu could not pierce it by any means. And as they struggled to pursue and slay it, that powerful deer became suddenly invisible.

And after losing sight of the deer, the Pandavas were fatigued and disappointed and afflicted with hunger and thirst.Since all the Pandava brothers were fatigued and thirsty, Yudhishthira asked Nakula to search for water

Then king Yudhishthira addressed Nakula saying, 'Do thou, O son of Madri, climb this tree and look around the ten points of the horizon. Do thou see whether there is water near us or such trees as grow on watery grounds! O child, these thy brothers are all fatigued and thirsty.Thereupon saying, 'So be it,' Nakula speedily climbed up a tree, and having looked around, said unto his eldest brother, 'O king, I see many a tree that groweth by the water-side, and I hear also the cries of cranes. Therefore, without doubt, water must be somewhere here.

Then Nakula was sent to the nearby crystal lake to get water for all the Pandavas.When Nakula did not return after a long time,Sahdeva was sent by prince Yudhishthira to enquire about Nakula's welfare.And after that, it was the turn of Arjuna and Bhima.In this manner four of the Pandava brothers approached the crystal lake, one after the other.The brothers(except Yudhishthira), died one after the other, as they decided to drink water from the crystal lake, inhabited by cranes, without first answering the question asked by an invisible Yaksha, who was present there.Yudhishtra got very worried when his four brothers failed to return, and he then approached that crystal lake.

Yudhishthira, however did not drink the water and instead performed his ablutions in the lake.

Who, therefore, save Yama himself who in due time bringeth about the end of all things, could have baffled them thus.' And having concluded this for certain, he began to perform his ablutions in that lake.

Subsequently, Yudhishthira answered all the questions asked by the invisible Yaksha and the Yaksha disclosed his true identity(Dharmraja Yama) and asked Yudhishthira to ask for the life of any one of his brothers:-

Therefore, let one only amongst thy brothers, whom thou mayst wish, get up with life!

Yudhishthira then asked for Nakulas's life.The Yaksha then asked a series of questions to ascertain why Yudhishthira selected Nakula over his other brothers.The Yaksha was very pleased with all the answers given by Yudhishthira and revived all four Pandava brothers.

The Yaksha said,--'Since abstention from injury is regarded by thee as higher than both profit and pleasure, therefore, let all thy brothers live, O bull of Bharata race!

Thereafter,Yudhishthira wanted to know the true identity of the Yaksha and said:-

I ask thee that art incapable of being vanquished and that standest on one leg in the tank, what god art thou, for I cannot take thee for a Yaksha! Art thou the foremost of the Vasus, or of the Rudras, or of the chief of the Maruts? Or art thou the lord himself of the celestials, wielder of the thunder-bolt! Each of these my brothers is capable of fighting as hundred thousand warriors, and I see not the warrior that can slay them

At this the Yaksha replied:-

O child, I am even thy father, the Lord of justice, possessed of great prowess! Know, bull of the Bharata race, that I came hither desirous of beholding thee!. I am well-pleased to witness thy harmlessness; and, O sinless one, I will confer boons on thee. Do thou, O foremost of kings, ask of me boons. I shall surely confer them, O sinless one!

Prince Yudhishthira asked three more boons from Yama,on being asked to do so,by him:-

1.First boon:-

Therefore, the first boon that I shall ask, is, may that Brahmana's adorations to Agni be not interrupted!' The Yaksha said,--'O Kunti's son endued with splendour, it was I who for examining thee, was carrying away, in the guise of a deer, that Brahmana's fire-sticks! Thereupon that worshipful one said,--'I give thee this boon!

2.The second boon:-

Yudhishthira said,--'We have spent these twelve years in the forest; and the thirteenth year is come. May no one recognise us, as we spend this year somewhere.'Vaisampayana continued,-'Thereat that worshipful one replied,--'I give this boon unto thee!'

3.The third boon:-

Thereat Yudhishthira said,--'It is enough that I have beheld thee with my senses, eternal God of gods as thou art! O father, whatever boon thou wilt confer on me I shall surely accept gladly! May I, O lord, always conquer covetousness and folly and anger, and may my mind be ever devoted to charity, truth, and ascetic austerities! The Lord of justice said,--'Even by nature, O Pandava, hast thou been endued with these qualities, for thou art the Lord of justice himself! Do thou again attain what thou asked for!"

Reference:-The Mahabharata Book 3: Vana Parva, Aranya Parva

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