Vaisampayana continued, “Thus exhorted by Yudhishthira the just, the people in a body set up a loud wail exclaiming,—Alas, O king! And afflicted and overwhelmed with sorrow on remembering the virtues of Pritha’s son, they unwillingly retraced their steps asking leave of the Pandavas.
“The citizens having ceased to follow, the Pandavas ascended their cars, and setting out reached (the site of) the mighty banian tree called Pramana on the banks of the Ganges. And reaching the site of the banian tree about the close of the day, the heroic sons of Pandu purified themselves by touching the sacred water, and passed the night there. And afflicted with woe they spent that night taking water alone as their sole sustenance. Certain Brahmanas belonging to both classes, viz., those that maintained the sacrificial fire and those that maintained it not, who had, with their disciples and relatives, out of affection followed the Pandavas thither also passed the night with them. And surrounded by those utterers of Brahma, the king shone resplendent in their midst. And that evening, at once beautiful and terrible, those Brahmanas having lighted their (sacred) fires, began to chant the Vedas and hold mutual converse. And those foremost of Brahmanas, with swan-sweet voices spent the night, comforting that best of Kurus—the king.”
Vaisampayana said, “When that night passed away and day broke in, those Brahmanas who supported themselves by mendicancy, stood before the Pandavas of exalted deeds, who were about to enter the forest. Then king Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, addressed them, saying, ’Robbed of our prosperity and kingdom, robbed of everything, we are about to enter the deep woods in sorrow, depending for our food on fruits and roots, and the produce of the chase. The forest too is full of dangers, and abounds with reptiles and beasts of prey. It appeareth to me that ye will certainly have to suffer much privation and misery there. The sufferings of the Brahmanas might overpower even the gods. That they would overwhelm me is too certain. Therefore, O Brahmana, go ye back whithersoever ye list!’
“The Brahmanas replied, ’O king, our path is even that on which ye are for setting out! It behoveth thee not, therefore, to forsake us who are thy devoted admirers practising the true religion! The very gods have compassion upon their worshippers,—specially upon Brahmanas of regulated lives!’
“Yudhishthira said, ’Ye regenerate ones, I too am devoted to the Brahmanas! But this destitution that hath overtaken me overwhelmed me with confusion! These my brothers that are to procure fruits and roots and the deer (of the forest) are stupefied with grief arising from their afflictions and on account of the distress of Draupadi and the loss of our kingdom! Alas, as they are distressed, I cannot employ them in painful tasks!’