Ajnathavasa Parva is the forty fifth upa parva included in the fourth maha parva, named as virata parva in the epic Mahabharata. The original epic was composed by Vyasa in Sanskrit. Vyshampayana had narrated the historical events that had happened in the Ajnathavasa or unrecognized life to Janamejaya on his queries.

When twelve years of exile was completed in the forest, Yudhishtira decided to bid farewell to Dhaumya Rishi and saluted him with reverence. Dhaumya Rishi then started to Panchala kingdom, after advising and blessing the five Pandava brothers and Draupadi. Dhaumya Rishi had advised the Pandavas about the life and works to be done in the palace of Virata. He advised how to live politely in a palace, be obedient and pleasing everybody including servants also.

A lithograph of Pandavas in the Virata king's court, by Raja Ravi Varma
A lithograph of Virata’s court by Raja Ravi Varma

After morning rituals, they had sat together and decided to spend the time in Ajnathavasa. Yudhishtira sought the suggestion of Arjuna for the selection of the place to live unrecognized for one year. Arjuna recited the name of the nine kingdoms surrounded to Kuru kingdome and the country Virata was one of it. As per the suggestions of Yama received after Yakshaprashna, Yudhishtira found the place Virata as better suited for Ajnathavasa.

Yudhishtira announced, he would work as a personal secretary to the King of Virata with a name as Kanka. After hearing the story of Nala and Damayanthi, Yudhishtira had mastered Aksha vidya by which one could master the dice game. Since he had got the Aksha vidya , he had become an expert in dice game and King Virata was fond of dice game, so as to use a chance to satisfy him. 

Arjuna told he would assume as a lady dance teacher with a name as Brihannala.

Bhima told he would work as a cook with a name Ballava. 

Nakula told he would be looking after horses with a name Granthika. Sahadeva told he would be looking after cows with a name Tantipala.

Then Draupadi told she would be working to assist the queen as a beautician with a name, Sairandri.

After the routine fire ritual in the morning and saluting Dhaumya and other Rishis, the Pandava family had left to Viratanagara.

After reaching Viratanagara, the Pandavas had put together their weapons and kept on a shami tree found near the burial ground. They hung a dead bat near it on the branch to keep the tree as unnoticed from the human sight. 

On entering the palace, Yudhishtira introduced himself as Kanka and got the job as a personal secretary to the king Virata. He had spoken of dice games. Then he told, he would put a condition before starting any dice games as after anybody got defeated he should not quarrel later and if he loses any money, he should not ask it back. In later days, Yudhishtira used to play games with king Virata and got cash, gems and jewels. Yudhishtira used to distribute the cash to his brothers secretly. 

On entering the palace, Bhima introduced himself as Ballava and got the job as a cook in the kitchen of the Palace of king Virata. He got the desired post and started to cook as per the instructions of the king Virata. The name of the kingdom was Matsya Desha and naturally the king used to eat tasty fish and Bhima used to purchase good quality fish by the cash received from Kanka secretly. He could wrestle with elephants and lions also to entertain the king’s family members. Some people also called him as Vallabha as his local pet name. 

Draupadi had entered the palace. Due to her attractive appearance, the queen and her maiden servants thought it would be an angel that had come into their palace and accordingly they enquired about her. 

नास्मि देवी न गन्धर्वी नासुरी न च राक्षसी ।
सैरन्ध्री तु भुजिष्यास्मि सत्यमेतद्ब्रवीमि ते ॥

Meaning: I am not an angel, not a Gandharvi, neither an Asuri nor a Rakshasi, my name is Sairandhri, I am telling the truth.

Then Droupadi narrated her experience as she had been working as a beautician for Sathyabhama, the wife of Krishna. She introduced herself as Sairandri before the queen Sudheshna and got the job as her assistant to work as a beautician.

On entering the palace, Sahadeva introduced himself as Arishtanemi and got the job in the cow herds to look after them as veterinary scientist. He told he got a name as Thanthipala when he was serving at Indrapsastha for Yudhishtira. There were lakhs of cattle that flourished under his supervision as he assured to get the job.  

On entering the palace, Arjuna disguised as a lady teacher of dance introduced self as Brihannala in the palace and got the job as a dancing teacher to the princess Uttara, the daughter of the king Virata.

Arjuna was also providing good entertainment as a part of cultural programmers in the Virata court and teaching the daughter of Sudheshna, princess Uttara.

बीभत्सुरपि गीतेन सुनृत्तेन च पाण्डवः ।
विराटं तोषयामास सर्वास्चांतःपुरःस्त्रियः ॥

Meaning: Arjuna, the disguised pandava, was making the king and all others happy by the best dance and singing in the ladies rooms of the Virata palace. 

On entering the palace, Nakula introduced himself as Granthika before the king of Virata and got the job as Suta to look after the horse regiment.

In Viratanagara, Yudhishtira and other Pandava brothers started their life without recognition of their real identities as fit for ajnathavasa.

One day, there was a festival of wrestlers in Viratanagara. Many wrestlers had assembled in the Viratanagara. There came a strong man also. King Virata desired to kill him as he thought he would be threatening his country. Jimutha, the wrestler was defeated by Bhima in the Palace. Bhima was thinking that he could not fight openly before the general public due to ajnathavasa. Later the physical services of Bhima were used to tame the unruly elephants and cruel lions also by Virata.  

Without the knowledge of anybody, Pandava brothers used to help one another. 

अयं निजः परो वेति गणना लघुचेतसाम् ।
उदार चरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् ॥

Meaning: This person is my own, another one is a foreigner, such considerations in heart is accepted by narrow minded people only, but by the broad minded people works are done in such a way as the entire world is one family.

The Pandavs had decided to complete the Ajnathavasa under the king Virata.

On reading this story, children would gain more memory power.

Next post, Mahabharat: Kichakavadha would be more interesting.

Mahabharat: Gograhana  would be presented separately in another article.

It is humbly prayed for the blessings of God Krishna upon us. 

Readers may share this story with children, friends and family.

Share this article: