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Lakshagraha or Lakshagriha (Sanskrit: लाक्षागृहम्) (The House of Lacquer) is a chapter or parva from the Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana.
This house was built under the orders of Duryodhana and his evil uncle and mentor Shakuni in a plot to kill the Pandavas along with their mother Kunti. The architect Purochana was employed in the building of Lakshagraha in the forest of Varnavrat. The house was meant to be a death trap, since lacquer is highly flammable. The plot itself was such that nobody would suspect foul play and the eventual death of the Pandavas would pass off as an accident. In the Mahabharata this incident is considered as a major turning point, since the Pandavas were considered dead by their cousins, the Kauravas which gave them ample opportunity to prepare themselves for an upcoming and unavoidable war.
Before the Battle of Kurukshetra, Duryodhana's plan was the peaceful annihilation of his cousins the Pandava princes, by setting fire to the house he had ordered to be built for them. The architect Purochana, who was also one of his ministers, was ordered to build the house, and for it to be made using lacquer, which is highly flammable. This was duly built at Varanavat, and when finished the Kauravas invited their cousins to visit a fair held there and also to live in the house for some time. Before the start of the journey, Vidura tactfully in presence of the Kaurava's, warned the Pandavas about the imminent danger in Mleccha language. These advise warnings from Vidura to Yudhishthira are specifically described in the Mahabharata Adi Parva.114 in a form of well versed poems.
- "A weapon not made of steel or any other material element can be more than sharp to kill an enemy, and he who knows this is never killed."
- "Fire cannot extinguish the soul but can annihilate the material body. But one who protects the soul lives".
- "The conflagration that devastates a forest cannot hurt a rat which shelters itself in a hole or a porcupine which burrows in the earth. The wise man knows his bearings by looking at the stars."
As narrated in the Mahabharata (Mbh.1.147), the Pandavas reached Varanavat on the eighth day of the month of Phalguna when the star Rohini was in the ascendant. As noted by historians, Varanavat was a large town, (for a town in 3000 BCE time periods) containing more than 1000 (perhaps 5000) inhabitants. The use of vehicles by the inhabitants also indicated a level ground rather than a mountainous terrain. The passage also indicated that the palace for the Pandavas was not ready when they reached the town, and took ten more days to complete. The Pandavas stayed in a temporary house arranged by Purochana and entered the palace once it was complete.
Escape from Lakshagraha
Vidura sent to Pandavas a miner who created for them a Subterranean Passage with its one mouth in the centre of the palace-house and the other mouth close to river Ganges. As per the Mahabharata, the Pandavas lived for a full year in the house while the tunnel was being dug in secrecy and was completed in less than 6 months. The person who had come to build the tunnel completed his job of building the tunnel, concealed the entrance, informed the Pandavas of the same, and left. From the first day, Bhima and Purochana were conspiring to kill each other. Purochana was waiting to set the Palace of Wax on fire after everybody slept. But since Bhima used to be awake all night, Purochana never got a chance to do so.
The lakshagraha was to be burnt on an Amavasya night. When that night finally reached, Purochana, not knowing that the Pandavas were simply sleeping assumed them to be dead. To celebrate this Purochana began drinking and within hours was drunk. Utilizing this opportunity the Pandavas set fire to the palace and escaped through the tunnel. An innocent Nishada woman and her five sons, who came for a feast there with Purochana perished. Meanwhile, on the other side, a boat-man sent by Vidura saw the Pandavas as they emerged from the tunnel close to the banks of river Ganges and ferried the Pandavas and their mother to safety. News about the fire reached Hastinapura and Duryodhana, who did not know that his plan had gone awry, assumed that the Pandavas were dead and secretly rejoiced. Only Vidura knew that the Pandavas were safe and he shared that information with Bheeshma alone.
Coordinates: Google Maps
Lakshgraha of Varanavat, is located in modern-day Barnava village, Bagpat district near Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, India. The site is situated on an approximately 100 ft high mound, spread across 29 acres near the banks of river Hindon. The confluence of river Hindon and Krishna (Kali River, Kali Nadi) is about 800m to the South. There is a tunnel present at the place running from the mound to the bank of the river Hindon, further ascertaining the claim. The site is under the purview of Archaeological Survey of India.
The Barnawa village is 35 km from Meerut district and state roadways buses ply to the village. Baraut City is the nearest railway station. The Hastinapur is about 71 km from Barnawa and takes 1hr 30mins to reach there.
There are some other claims for potential Lashkgraha. Handia in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, India is one of them. The site, as on date, is a huge mound which covers an area of 29 Bigha. It is located on the northern bank of River Ganges, and is about 4 km away from NH2 highway.