Imagine never lying. NEVER. Never inflating your salary. Never deflating your weight. Never calling home from a pub to say you are working late. Yudhishthir did just that. Except for one - just one friggin' - time in his entire life, he never lied.
Of course, people completely lose sight of that because he lost his entire kingdom, brothers and wife in a game of dice - which he did not cheat in. But the moot point seems to be that he didn't stop either! He went all the way, ignoring all advice. And when Bheem wanted to pummel everybody present for - well - being present, he calmed him by saying "Shaant, Gada-dhari Bheem, shaant". So now you know where my knowledge of the epics are derived from!
BTW, he lost twice.
The first time was the famous episode - which ended with losing his entire kingdom, riches, brothers and wife. For good measure, Draupadi was almost stripped in full view of the court. But the elders managed to convince Dhritarashtra to give it all back to maintain peace, which was done.
Having done this, Duryodhan and Co. felt all their machinations have been in vain and convinced Dhritarashtra to call Yudi back for one final game. The loser would go on an exile for 12 years, followed by one year of incognito exile. If anybody identified them as the Paandavs during that final one year, they would have repeat the 12-year exile! Knowing fully well that he is going to be had (and really bad!), Mr Elder Bro came back and duly lost the game. All because his code of honour did not permit him to refuse an elder.
Despite all this monumentally stupid things, Yudhishthir's biggest strength - as the son of the Dharma - was the fairness in all his dealings and also his knowledge.
When the five brothers and Draupadi renounced the world and left for their mahaprasthaan, a dog followed them.
During the long walk to the heavens (!), each of the lead characters passed away as all of them had one fatal flaw which prevented their entry into the heavens in their mortal body. For every fall, Bheem asked Yudhishthir the reason and the eldest Paandav dispassionately listed them down.
Draupadi fell first. "She loved Arjun more than her other husbands."
Sahadev was next. "His good looks made him excessively vain."
Nakul after that. "He was so proud of his intelligence that he was dismissive of other people's knowledge."
Arjun. "He repeatedly claimed to be able to wipe off all his enemies in a day, which he was not capable of."
Bheem was the last to fall. "You were uncontrollably fond of food and did not think of others."
As everyone knows, the canine companion stuck on till the very end and Yudhishthir refused to enter heaven without him. The doggy manifested himself as Dharma himself and Yudi gained tonnes of brownie points for his honourable behaviour.
But frankly, this was nothing but common sense. When you see your ultra-virtuous family members popping it on the way to heaven and the doggy carrying on, you should logically conclude that it is no ordinary dog.
However, Yudi's crowning glory - in my book at least - came towards the fag end of their exile.
The tired brothers reached a resting place within the forest and were very thirsty. Sahadev went in search of water. He soon reached a beautiful lake of sparkling water. He was about to drink from it and take back some for his brothers when a stork called out to him. The stork warned that if Sahadev drank the water without answering his questions, he would die. Sahadev smirked at this claim, took a gulp of water and dropped dead. Nakul followed and met with the same fate. Ditto for Arjun and Bheem.
Note 1: The brothers always attempted stuff in reverse chronological order. See mahaprasthaan above.
Note 2: If the later brothers thought the stork was bluffing despite seeing dead bodies around the lake, they couldn't have been the brightest lights in the harbour.
Anyway, now our man - Yudi - arrives and realises this is no ordinary stork (doggy logic, see above). So, what follows is a wonderful Q&A between the stork and Yudhishthir as the eldest Paandav answered all the questions with a little bit of style and a lot of earthy common sense. Some excerpts...
Q: Why is a Brahmin respected? What is his strength? Why are they human? What is their failing?
A: He is respected for his knowledge of the Vedas. His strength is from his tapasya. Their death makes them human. Their failing is criticism of others.
Q: Why is a Kshatriya respected? What is his strength? Why are they human? What is their failing?
A: He is respected for his mastery over weapons. His strength is from his yagna. Their fear makes them human. Their failing is desertion of the weak.
Q: What is heavier than the earth?
A: Mother is heavier than the earth.
Q: What is higher than the heavens?
A: Father is higher than the heavens.
Q: What is faster than the wind?
A: The mind is faster than the wind.
Q: What's more numerous than grass?
A: Worries are more numerous than grass.
Q: Who sleeps with eyes open?
A: Fish sleeps with eyes open.
Q: Who remains static even after birth?
A: An egg is static after birth.
Q: Who grows by his own force?
A: A river grows by his own force.
Q: What's strange?
A: People are dying all around us. Despite that, we want to live till eternity. This is strange.
Q: What's news?
A: Using Sun as fire, day and night as fuel and seasons as ladle, Time cooks the entire living world... this is news!
Q: Who is happy?
A: Someone who manages to feed himself every evening without having to stay away from home or having to borrow is happy.
At the end of this gruelling session, the stork told Yudi that he was pleased enough to revive one of his four brothers.
Yudi asked for Nakul.
Yaake, Nakul drink????, asked the stork. Why not the valiant Arjun or the mighty Bheem?
Yudi replied that the Paandavs have two mothers - Kunti and Madri, whom they treated equally in all respects. His being alive meant that Kunti had one son left and Nakul's revival would mean even Madri would have one son left.
Taaliyaan... exclaimed the stork, promptly turned into Dharma and revived all the four brothers.
Now Yudi was nothing if he was not one to use up his brownie points. He remembered that the twelve years of exile was almost up and they needed to spend one more year incognito and Duryodhan would do everything in his power to find them in this one year. So, he asked Dharam Papa for a boon... and as per the boon, nobody would recognise the five brothers and Draupadi in the thirteenth year!
So, what happened in the thirteenth year? That's a story for another day.
I have just imported Rajshekhar Basu's translation of the Mahabharat from Calcutta. Bought on 19 August 1989, I have read this book countless times. It has to be the most lucid translation of the Epic - complete with a wonderful introduction by the translator, who has to be one of the most talented authors in Bengali.