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 Defence of Matsya

The fears of the people of Matsya were not groundless. While they were mourning the death of their commander-in-chief, enemies who had been waiting and watching for an opportunity, started preparations to attack the defenceless country. Among these enemies were Susharma, the king of Trigarta, and Duryodhana.

But when he heard the news of Kichaka's death, he went over the details in his mind again: A mysterious person, they said, had killed Kichaka-an invisible Gandharva, reported to be one of the five husbands of a beautiful and proud serving-maiden. Duryodhana frowned in suspicion. It all seemed to fit so well. He felt sure that the mysterious killer of Kichaka was none other than Bhima. When he worked out all the details, he announced his intentions to the elders.

King Susharma heartily supported him, and it was arranged that the former should attack Matsya from the south and draw away the main forces of Virata. Duryodhana would then attack the Kingdom from the north and make off with the cattle.

Susharma attacked from the south as arranged. King Virata was distressed and wished that Kichaka was living to lead his forces. Yudhishthira approached the king and said, "O King, do not be afraid. Even though I am a sanyasi, I am an expert in the art of warfare. Please also provide weapons and chariots for your cook Valala, your stable-keeper Damagranthi and your cowherd Tantripala, for I have heard that they are great warriors too."

Virata was only too happy to accept this offer. He marched off to the south with his entire army to oppose the attacking forces. But Yudhishthira told his brothers to fight like common warriors lest they be discovered.

When Virata's army was fighting in the south, Duryodhana with his forces marched in from the north, capturing all the cattle on the way. The leader of the cowherds ran to the city and appealed to prince Uttara Kumar to protect them and recover their cows from the enemy.

When this appeal was made in the presence of all the people and specially the women of the court, prince Uttara Kumar flushed with pride and replied boastfully, "I can certainly recover your cows and rout the enemy single-handed, for I am no less a warrior than Arjuna himself. But I have no charioteer."