Pandavas protected by Lord Yama himself
The Pandavas were banished from the kingdom of Indraprastha by their cousins headed by Duryodhana. Duryodhana was conducting Tantric sacrifices in order to invoke Kritya, the female ghoul, so that he could summon Kritya to murder the Pandavas, who were in hiding. The Pandavas meanwhile were being protected by Lord Krishna, who arranged to send them under the protection of Death incarnate Lord Yama or Dharamaraja, the Lord of Dharma. The intention was that Kritya would be convinced that since the Lord of Death had already approached the Pandavas, she need not do anything, since it would be in line with Duryodhana’s plan to send the Pandavas to the Lord of Death. It is under these circumstances that Lord Yama takes on the form of a Yaksha, a devil, in order to keep the Pandavas busily engaged. The other reason for this pastime is to hand-over important life-lessons to the beings of the upcoming age of Kaliyuga. The people of this age were to be of much lesser intelligence. So this event of the Yaksha meeting up with the Pandavas can be considered as an important chapter of the book of wisdom.
Four Pandavas fall dead, Kritya is delighted
The Pandavas were tired after a long walk and Nakula could detect a lake nearby, which he located by climbing up a tree and surveying the area. He offered to be the first one to go to the lake and fetch water for his tired brothers and Draupadi, who was accompanying them. Yudhishthira handed over an emptied quiver to Nakula so that he could fetch water for the rest of the family members. Nakula walked his way to the nearby lake, leaving the rest under a tree. As Nakula bent down to quench his thirst, he heard a faceless voice which appeared to come down form the heavens. It thundered “Do not touch the water. This is my property.” Nakula replied “Water is not anybody’s personal property. It belongs to nature. I do not consider you as its owner.” So saying he took a handful of water and drank it. The next moment he dropped dead. Since a long time had passed, Yudhishthira sent Sahadeva to look for Nakula. The same event repeated itself. Sahadeva dropped dead too after consuming the water. Next, the same fate descended on Arjuna and Bhīma too. Finally Yudhishthira himself came by the lake and saw his brother’s dead. But his thirst did not allow him to mourn the death of his brothers. So he bent down to sip some water. This was about the same time that the ghoul called Kritya arrived at the spot in the form of wind. The moment she saw the dead bodies of the four brothers she concluded that all five Pandavas were dead. She happily left the scene.
Why does the Lord not tell me that He protects?
The Pandavas were saved from the deadly ghoul Kritya. However they did not even know that such a ghoul was after their life. Sometimes devotees are aware that the Lord has protected them. But there are innumerable times when we take life for granted and are unaware of the dangers that life presents before us. The Lord saves us from these dangers and yet we are not aware of those perils. Man cannot say that since he never faced problems, he never had any problems. It is the Lord always, whose invisible hands continue to protect and save us from so many invisible snakes and alligators, even without our knowledge, in the ocean of nescience, Maya. Why does the Lord not inform us, at all times, when he is protecting us, saving us, caring for us? The answer to this question is simple and yet profound. The Lord, understands that our egos are as big as mountains. If He were to inform us about His care and protection, he knows that our egos will have a ready answer “Who are you to protect or care for me? I am capable and educated enough. My effort and intelligence has seen me through. Your protection is not needed.” However the Lord is driven by His eternal nature and does not feel the need to establish His love for us, in our hearts. He continues to do it, nonetheless, whether we approve of it or not. When a baby sleeps, it is undisturbed. A fly, a bee or a cockroach is treading nearby, ready to disturb the child’s sleep. But it is the watchful mother who keeps these insects away. Is she interested in telling the child that she has been protecting it from the onslaught of insects? Will it make sense anyway? Similarly all of us are in the slumber of ignorance and yet we are being protected by the Lord from untold dangers as we continue to live oblivious of those dangers. If we are living unconsciously, does it make sense for the Lord to tell us anything regarding His protective shield? An unconscious man, is in many ways worse than a fully inebriated man. In the same way, the Supreme Lord cared for the welfare of the Pandavas.
A talk of Dharma ensues
Yudhishthira prepared to sip the water and suddenly he saw a being in the form of a stork. The stork said “I have sent off your brothers to the abode of death.” To this king Yudhishthira said, ‘Who gave you the right to kill my brothers. What sin have they committed? They have always followed the path of Dharma. Moreover, a bird is incapable of killing my valorous brothers. I am certain that this form of stork that you have taken is not real. Come into your original form. Only then shall I answer you.” The tryst with the stork was to last seven days. The stork changed itself into a devil form, a type of being, known in the Vedic Shastras as Yaksha. The Yaksha said “I am a Yaksha. Now you, Yudhishthira, answer my questions, before going further.” At the end of the seventh day, the Yaksha said that I am Dharamaraja, God of Death. Hence it becomes clear that the conversation happened between son and father. Yudhishthira was Dharma Putra (धर्म-पुत्र), the son of Dharma and the questioner was Dharma Devata (धर्म-देवता), the Lord of Dharma. The conversation happened between the very pillars of Dharma. Hence it can be inferred that other than Dharma there was no other topic of talk for the ensuing seven days.