The Noble Prince
The Birth of Karna
The Pandava Princes
The Great Archer
The Charioteer's Son
The Shellac Palace
The Slaying of Bakasura
Draupadi's Swayamvara
The Rajasuya Sacrifice
The Game of Dice
In Exile
The Year in Hiding
The Defence of Matsya
The Exile Ends
Envoys and Missions
Preparing for the War
Kurukshetra and After
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The Shellac Palace

The events at the tournament were only straws in the wind. During this time Duryodhana found himself surrounded by evil advisors, whom he took for his friends because they flattered him. He rejected the wisdom of men like Bhishma and Drona who were frank and did not hesitate to pint out his faults.

But all this while, the Pandavas too were vigilant. Thus they came to know of a plot that was being hatched, a deep and carefully laid one. It was intended to catch, at one stroke, the five of them as well as their widowed mother. And so, one day when Duryodhana came up to them beaming, to tell them of a festival planned at Varanavata, the Pandavas were skeptical but they accepted the invitation.

The Pandavas took leave of Bhishma and other elders and went to Varanavata with their mother Kunti. But long before they left, Duryodhana had already sent his trusted minister Purochana to Varanavata with secret instructions. He was to build a beautiful palace out of shellac, jute, ghee and other inflammable materials for the Pandavas. After they had settled in the palace, Purochana was to set it on fire while they slept.

While the Pandavas were taking leave of their elders, Vidur, chief counselor to Dhritarashtra, gave some veiled advice to Yudhishthira. "He alone escapes danger who can guess the intentions of a clever enemy. The fire which destroys a forest cannot touch a rat which burrows under the earth.'

The people of Varanavata welcomed the Pandava princes. In the meantime an expert miner, who had been sent by Vidur, arrived at Varanavata. He repeated the warning that Vidur had given Yudhishthira while parting. This convinced Yudhishthira that Vidur had sent the miner. Thereafter, working for many days in secret, the miner completed an underground tunnel leading from inside the palace to the forest beyond.

Bearing in mind Vidur's warning, the Pandavas spent their days and nights watching and making plans for their escape. The Pandava princes rode every day through the forest and secretly acquainted themselves with all the paths and tracks.