Reading Guide. In the end, the epic focuses on Yudhishthira and the final test he must face.
Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [500 words]
Then Yudhishthira was transported to the city of eternal bliss, and there he beheld Duryodhana seated upon a throne. All the Kauravas were in heaven also, but the rajah could not find his brethren or fair Draupadi.
Said Indra, "Here thou shalt dwell, O Yudhishthira, in eternal bliss. Forget all earthly ties and attain to perfection; thy brethren have fallen short, therefore they sank by the way."
Yudhishthira said, "I cannot remain here with the Kauravas who have done me great wrong. Where my brethren are, there would I be also with our wife Draupadi."
Then a celestial being conducted Yudhishthira to the abode of his brethren and the Princess of Panchala. He entered the forest of the nether regions, where the leaves were like to sharp weapons and the path was covered with knives. Darkness hung heavily, and the way was miry with blood and strewn with foul and mutilated corpses. Shapes of horror flitted round about like to shadows; fierce birds of prey feasted upon human flesh. The damned were burning in everlasting fires, and the air reeked with foul odors. A boiling river went past, and Yudhishthira saw the place of torture with thorns, and the desert of fiery sand: he gazed mutely upon each horror that was unfolded before his eyes.
Fain would Yudhishthira have turned back, but he heard in the darkness the voices of his brethren and Draupadi bidding him to stay a little while to comfort them while they suffered torment.
Then Yudhishthira said to the celestial being, "Depart now from me, for I must remain here to assuage the sufferings of my brethren and Draupadi."
As he spake the gods appeared, and the scene of horror vanished from before the eyes of Yudhishthira, for it was an illusion conjured up to test his constancy.
Then Yudhishthira was led to the heavenly Ganges, and having bathed in its sacred waters, he cast off his mortal body and became a celestial. Then, rejoicing, he entered Swarga, the celestial city of Indra, and was welcomed by Krishna in all his divine glory, and by his brethren and by Draupadi, and all whom he had loved upon earth.
Indra spoke and said, "This is the beautiful and immortal one, who sprang from the altar to be thy wife, and these bright beings are her five children. Here is Dhritarashtra, who is now the king of the gandharvas; there is Karna, son of Surya, the peerless archer who was slain by Arjuna. Here cometh towards thee Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna; he is now the star-bright companion of the lord of night. Here are Pandu, thy sire, and Kunti, thy mother, now united in heaven. Behold also, Yudhishthira, the wise Bhishma, whose place is with the Vasus round my throne: Drona sits with Dharma, god of wisdom. Here are all the peerless warriors who fell in battle and have won heaven by their valor and their constancy. So may all mortals rise to eternal bliss, casting off their mortal bodies and entering by the shining door of the celestial city, by doing kindly deeds, by uttering gentle words, and by enduring all suffering with patience. The holy life is prepared for all the sons of men."
before ascending to heaven.