To save themselves from the Lākṣāgṛha (house of lac), did Pāṇḍavas kill an innocent niṣāda woman and her five children?


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 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...

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