“No, no! I will not lie. The one good thing that has come from the agonising suffering of our 13-year exile is the learning and understanding of dharma. I cannot unlearn that, Krishna.”
Krishna smiled at Yudhisthira’s unusual vehemence. “Yes, you have used the period of exile wisely. Your epithet of Dharmaraja, the King of Righteousness, is well-deserved. Still, this war has to be won if your lessons are to be useful for your beloved subjects. So, you have to do what I ask you.”
“No! How can I beguile Dronacharya? He may be the commander of the rival Kaurava army. But he is my guru. I will not misuse his deep love for his son, Ashwattama, to be the cause of his death.”
Krishna smiled. “Do you recall the day Arjuna won Draupadi’s hand?”
The eldest Pandava’s face turned ashen as he realised immediately where Krishna was going with this.
“Weren’t you smitten by her even before Arjuna took part in the swayamvar? The thought of her being your brother’s wife was too much to bear, wasn’t it?”
Yudhisthra couldn’t look at Krishna who continued, “You devised a plan. You knew your mother’s habit of asking her five sons to share everything, regardless of how it came to be possessed. So, you chose your words cleverly as all of you and Arjuna’s newly-wedded wife walked into your home that day, right?”
“Yes, Krishna. I twisted the truth that day because I fell in love with Draupadi the minute I laid my eyes on her. I loved her so much that I was willing to share her with my brothers rather than not have her.”
“My mother’s back was towards us. So I said, ‘look what we have brought home, mother.’ Expectedly, she asked us to share it (or her) equally.”
“You could’ve have simply said ‘Arjuna has brought home his wife!’” completed Krishna.
“Yes. But I’m not ashamed of what I did. My love for Draupadi trumps that lie. Yet, today I accept she and Arjuna deserved to know the truth before being pushed into a difficult arrangement.”
“Yudhisthira, the dharma lessons you learned so well have absolved you of almost all your past mistakes, except that one lie. What you do tomorrow will ensure that the Kuru legacy is taken forward by Arjuna’s sons. That is the price of your twisted truth.”
Yudhisthira agreed to do Krishna’s bidding. On the 15th day of the Mahabharatha war, Ashwattama, an elephant in the Kaurava army was killed. A rumour that Drona’s son died spread through the Kaurava camp. The rumour reached Dronacharya’s ears who refused to believe it until Yudhisthira, the Dharmaraja confirmed the news.
Yudhishthra said, “Yes! Ashwathama (the elephant) is dead!” The elephant remained unsaid. Drona lost his will to fight and was easily beheaded by Dhrishtadyumna, a Pandava-favouring warrior.
Krishna comforted the inconsolable Yudhishthira. “The only absolute truth is that from which we emerge and into which we merge back after our purpose is served!”
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