The Ramayana and Mahabharata, by Romesh C. Dutt, , at sacred-texts.com
THE real Epic ends with the war and with the funerals of the deceased warriors, as we have stated before, and Yudhishthir's Horse-Sacrifice is rather a crowning ornament than a part of the solid edifice. What follows the sacrifice is in no sense a part of the real Epic; it consists merely of concluding personal narratives of the heroes who have figured in the poem.
Dhrita-rashtra retires into a forest with his queen Gandhari, and Pritha, the mother of the Pandav brothers, accompanies them. In the solitude of the forest the old Dhrita-rashtra sees as in a vision the spirits of all the slain warriors, his sons and grandsons and kins men, clad and armed as they were in battle. The spirits disappear in the morning at the bidding of Vyasa, who had called them up. At last Dhrita-rashtra and Gandhari and Pritha are burnt to death in a forest conflagration, death by fire being considered holy.
Krishna at Dwarka meets with strange and tragic adventures. The Vrishnis and the Andhakas become irreligious and addicted to drinking, and fall a prey to internal dissensions. Valadeva and Krishna die shortly after, and the city of the Yadavas is swallowed up by the ocean.
Then follow the two concluding Books of the Epic, the Great Journey and the Ascent to Heaven, so beautifully rendered into English by Sir Edwin Arnold. On hearing of the death of their friend Krishna, the Pandav brothers place Prakshit, the grandson of Arjun, on the throne, and retire to the Himalayas. Draupadi drops down dead on the way, then Sahadeva, then Nakula, then Arjun, and then Bhima. Yudhishthir alone proceeds to heaven in person in a celestial car.
There Yudhishthir undergoes some trial, bathes in the celestial Ganges, and rises with a celestial body. He then meets Krishna, now in his heavenly form, blazing in splendour and glory. He meets his brothers whom he had lost on earth, but who are now Immortals in the sky, clad in heavenly forms. INDRA himself appears before Yudhishthir, and introduces him to others who were dear to him on earth, and are dear to him in heaven. Thus speaks INDRA to Yudhishthir:
"This is She the fair Immortal! Her no human mother bore,
Sprung from altar as Draupadi human shape for thee she wore,
By the Wielder of the Trident she was waked to form and life,
Born in royal Drupad's mansion, righteous man, to be thy wife,
These are bright aérial beings, went for thee to lower earth,
Borne by Drupad's stainless daughter as thy children took their birth!
This is monarch Dhrita-rashtra who doth o'er Gandharvas reign,
This is peerless archer Karna, erst on earth by Arjun slain,
Like the Sun in ruddy splendour, for the Sun inspired his birth,
As the son of chariot-driver he was known upon the earth!
Midst the Sadhyas and the Maruts, 'midst Immortals pure and bright,
Seek thy friends the faithful Vrishnis matchless in their warlike might.
Seek and find the brave Satyaki who upheld thy cause so well,
Seek the Bhojas and Andhakas who in Kuru-kshetra fell!
This is gallant Abhimanyu whom the fair Subhadra bore,
Still unconquered in the battle, slain by fraud in yonder shore,
Abhimanyu son of Arjun, wielding Arjun's peerless might,
With the Lord of Night he ranges, beauteous as the Lord of Night!
This, Yudhishthir, is thy father, by thy mother joined in heaven,
Oft he comes into my mansions in his flowery chariot driven.
This is Bhishma stainless warrior, by the Vasus is his place,
By the god of heavenly wisdom teacher Drona sits in grace!
These and other mighty warriors in the earthly battle slain,
By their valour and their virtue walk the bright ethereal plain,
They have cast their mortal bodies, crossed the radiant gate of heaven,
For to win celestial mansions unto mortals it is given,
Let them strive by kindly action, gentle speech, endurance long,
Brighter life and holier future into sons of men belong!"