Who would not be familiar with dharamputra Yudhishtar, the hero of Mahabharat. Seated on the high seat of ‘dharmadhikari’ in heaven, Yudhishtar happened to commit some mistake to atone and compensate for which he had to take birth as a human being on earth. Though whole of his life was religious and full of penance, he committed the grave mistake of gambling. Perhaps this mistake was the outcome of the mistake committed by him in heaven for which he had to pay as a human being. Apart from this, whole of his life remained flawless and pious. The journey of his life continued in the face of adverse circumstances.

Dharamraj himself tested him three times in a disguised manner to ascertain as to how far he had been established in matters related to religious consciousness. It was only after clearing those three tests that he was able to regain his lost position of ‘dharmadhikari’ in heaven. The present ‘bodh-katha’ is related to his first test.

Twelve years of ‘vanvaas’ were nearing completion and the 13th year of “agyat vanvaas’ was about to begin. Yudhishtar used to begin his daily routine only after performing ‘yajna’ along with brahmins. In order to ignite the fire for ‘yajna’, a special kind of wood called ‘arni’ was used for producing friction. One day, everybody was resting after performing the ‘yajna’ and the ‘arni’ was hanging by a tree. A deer came and started scratching his body against it. The ‘arni’ got entangled in his horns. The deer, getting frightened with this, ran into the jungle with the ‘arni’ still entangled in its horns. When the ‘pandavas’ saw this, they became very restless. Without the ‘arni’, they would not be able to perform any ‘yajna’. Arjun and all of his brothers, with their bows and arrows, ran after the deer but could not catch it. Jumping, hiding and appearing, the deer maintained quite a distance. It was past afternoon. All the brothers were exhausted.

All of them were suffering from the pangs of thirst. Now instead of looking for the deer, they had to search for a source of water. For that Sahdev climbed up a long tree. He looked in all directions and sighted a pond of water at some distance. He climbed down the tree and said, ” All of you stay here. There is a pond of water nearby. I will soon bring water for everyone’.

Sahdev arrived at the pond. The water was very clear. He thought ,’ Let me drink some water first. Then I shall fetch some for my brothers.’. But as soon as he bent down to wash his hands and feet and drink the water, a serious voice was heard.’ O, Sahdev, I am the owner of this pond. First answer my questions, only then you would be able to drink water. Otherwise you would get killed”. But Sahdev, overcome by his ego and thirst, ignored the resounding words. As soon as the water touched his lips, Sahdev fell down like a dead man by the pond.

Yudhishtar and brothers were getting worried as Sahdev had been gone long. Nakul was sent to inquire. On arriving at the pond and finding Sahdev dead there, Nakul became excited and angry.” Who is the evil spirit that has killed my brother. I would not spare him without having revenge’ But there was no enemy in sight anywhere. As he was badly exhausted due to thirst he thought of drinking some water first and looking for the evil spirit afterwards. As soon as he bent down to reach for the water, the same voice was heard.” O Nakul, I am the owner of this pond …if you disobey my commandment, you would also die like your younger brother. But like Sahdev, Nakul also ignored the serious words. Just as water touched his lips, he also fell down by the pond.

After waiting for both of them for a long time, a worried Yudhishtar sent Arjun in the direction of the pond. Seeing both of his brother dead by the pond, Arjun became livid with anger. But there was no enemy in sight. He thought, ” It appears to be the handiwork of some demon with magical powers” he shot his arrows in all directions but still there was silence. Then he thought, “Maybe the water is poisonous’. But then he saw the growth of flowers and shrubbery in the water and fish moving freely in the water indicating that the water was pure and sweet. Arjun then decided to drink some water and look for the enemy afterwards. Just as he bent down to reach for the water, he heard the same voice.

As soon as he heard the voice, he unleashed a rain of his voice-piercing arrows. But again he heard the voice.” These arrows of yours cannot harm me. Without answering my questions, you cannot drink water”. Overcome by his ego, Arjun also ignored the words and met the same fate. As soon as he started drinking the water, he also fell down by the pond.

It had been too long now. Yudhishtar wanted to go himself to look for his brothers, But Bhim, requesting him to stay there, ran in the direction of the pond. Once again the same episode was repeated. Bhim also could not escape the fate his brothers had met. He too had to fall down as a dead man.

At last, Yudhishtra also reached the pond. He was stunned to see all of his four brothers lying dead by the pond. There was no sign of any poison in the pond’s water, neither there was any sign of a battle. There were no wounds on the bodies. He was perplexed as to what might have happened. ‘How did it happen that my brothers whom even the gods can not defeat were lying dead. Is there some demonic power hidden in the water? Let me test the water.” But just as he was to touch water with his lips, he heard the same unseen voice. “O, Yudhishtar, I am the owner of this pond. You would not be able to drink water from this pond without answering my questions etc”. Yudhishtar stopped midway and said, “Whoever you are, kindly come before me. I will answer your questions to the best of my ability” Then that unseen power came into view in front of Yudhishtar in the form of a ‘yaksha’. The ‘yaksha’ put hundreds of questions and Yudhishtar ably gave all answers that were within the parameters of religion. For detail of these questions, eager readers would have to consult the Mahabharta. If these are discussed in detail here, it would make a new volume.

Satisfied and delighted with Yudhishtar’s answers, the ‘yaksha’ made himself visible in his real form and said, ” I am Dharamraj. I had come here to put you through a test. By your answers, I am satisfied that you are quite familiar with the deeper secrets of religion. All of your brothers, because of their ego and foolishness, are lying in this condition. But pleased as I am with your steadfastness in religion, I grant you a wish that I would make alive any one of your brothers. Name any one whom you want to see alive again.

Yudhishtar named Nakul. Dharamraj again spoke, ” Think it out again. Only one of your brothers can be alive again. Surely there is going to be war with the ‘kaurvas’ at the end of your ‘vanvaas’. If you would have Mahabali Bhim, you can be victorious. Why do you not want to see Arjuna alive again? By his support, you can easily defeat the ‘kaurvas’. Getting Nakul alive again only means that you would have to spend the rest of your life moving here and there in jungles and go through a lot of pain.”

Yudhishtar replied politely,” I have named Nakul only after thinking over it thoroughly. This decision is within the parameters of religion. My father had two queens-Kunti and Madri. When Madri was going to perform the Sati ritual along with my father, she had secured a promise from mother Kunti that she would also take care of her children, Nakul and Sahdev. I, Mother Kunti’s heir, am alive. I want that my second mother Madri’s heir should also be living. That is why I named Nakul. If I were selfish and foolish due to attachment, then I would have named Arjun or Bhim. Even if I have to wander around in the jungles, I would prefer to see alive my dear younger brother Nakul.”

Dharamraj became extermely happy with the detached and selfless decision of Yudhishtar. So as a blessing, he made all the four dead brothers alive again. Not only this, he gave invaluable guidance too for spending the ‘agyatvaas’.

By satisfying the Dharamraj with his serious answers, Yudhishtar had passed the first phase of the test. But to determine how much religion-bound Yudhishtar was on a practical plane, Dharamraj had cleverly talked of making alive only one brother. It was the question of the second phase of the test. Yudhishtar came out with flying colours in this test also. It was the first test. But it was only after clearing two more tests after this that Yudhishtar was finally able to get seated on the throne of Dharamdhikari. If possible, these two tests would be discussed in the near future.

In fact, religion is not the name of any belief such as Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian etc. These traditions were started by great people only to give teachings of true religion.

The straightforward meaning of religion is that we strive for increasing mutual love among all human beings without any attachment and selfishness.

If we can cannot discharge out duties towards our brother, parents and children within our own family without attachment and selfishness, the it means that there is no religion in us, only non-religion is flourishing.

Because of attachment, we cannot stop children and relatives from wrong doing, not to talk of punishing them, then we are only encouraging non-religion (adharma).

How many teachers are there who do not plan to get their unworthy pupils get through the examination with the help of unfair means?

How many judges do we have who do not commit the cleverness of hiding the faults of their guilty children?

How many parents do we have who instead of getting serious about the mistakes of their children continue to laugh?

How many people do we have, who because of their ego, selfishness or attachment do not even favour their near and dear ones?

How many gentlemen do we have who, in a controversial situation, do not favour their near and dear ones, who find their near and dear ones at fault? Yudhishtar, by not distinguishing between his own brothers and step brothers, passed the first test of religion even while in doing so there was the danger of facing sorrow at every step.

How many people are there who, in adverse circumstances and painful examinations, do not make any distinction between their own and others? Those who are like this have surely passed the first test of religion.