48. VIRATA'S DELUSION
He made large gifts of precious stones and other wealth to the messengers who brought the good news and ordered public rejoicing. "My success over Susarma is nothing," he proclaimed. "The prince's is the real victory. Let special prayers of thanksgiving be offered at all places of worship. Let all the principal streets are decorated with flags and the citizen’s go in procession to strains of triumphal music. Make all arrangements to receive, in a befitting manner, my lion-hearted boy." Virata sent out ministers, soldiers, and maidens to welcome his son, returning in triumph. When the king retired to his private apartments, he asked Sairandhri to bring the dice. He said to Kanka: "I cannot contain my joy. Come, let us play," and sat down to a game with Yudhishthira. They talked while they played and naturally, the king was full of his son's greatness and prowess. "See the glory of my son, Bhuminjaya. He has put the famed Kaurava warriors to flight." "Yes," replied Yudhishthira with a smile. "Your son is indeed fortunate for, without the best of good fortune, how could he have secured Brihannala to drive his chariot?" Virata was angry at this persistent glorification of Brihannala at the expenses of Uttara. "Why do you, again and again babble about the eunuch?" he cried. "While I am talking about my son's victory, you expatiate on the charioteering skill of the eunuch, as if that were of any significance." The king's anger only increased when Kanka remonstrated: "I know what I am talking about. Brihannala is no ordinary person. The chariot she drives can never see defeat, and whoever is in it, is sure of success in any undertaking, no matter how difficult." Now, this perverse flouting could not be borne, and Virata in a passion flung the dice at Yudhishthira's face and followed this up with a blow on Yudhishthira's cheek. Yudhishthira was hurt and blood flowed down his face. Sairandhri who was nearby, wiped the blood with the edge of her garment and squeezed it into a golden cup. "Why all this fuss? What are you collecting the blood into a cup for?" demanded the angry king, who was still in a passion. "A Sanyasin's blood may not be split on the ground, O king," replied Sairandhri. "The rains will fail in your land for as many years as there are drops in the blood that is split on the earth. That was why I collected the blood in this cup. I fear you do not know Kanka's greatness." Meanwhile the gatekeeper announced: "Uttara and Brihannala have arrived. The prince is waiting for an audience with the king." Virata got up excitedly and said: "Ask him in, ask him in." And Yudhishthira whispered to the sentry: "Let Uttara come alone. Brihannala should stay behind."