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Purochana: The Mastermind of Lakshagraha

Purochana was an architect and adviser of Duryodhana in the Mahabharata. He was employed by Duryodhana to construct Lakshagraha, the house of lac, in Varnavrata. The Lakshagraha was inconspicuously constructed with inflammable materials, such as lac. Duryodhana and Purochana’s grand plan was to take the Pandavas to Lakshagraha and then burn the palace, killing them. Purochana hosted the Pandavas in the palace. However, the plan backfired, and Purochana died in his own palace.

Purochana Constructs the Lakshagraha

This story is in the Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 129-132

After the Pandavas and Kauravas completed their training under Drona, the Pandavas gained popularity in Hastinapura. Yudhishthira, the eldest Pandava, became the crown prince, and the citizens loved him. They soon started talking amongst themselves, saying that Yudhishthira should become the king. Seeing this, the Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava, became jealous. He couldn’t bear to witness his enemies being praised. He approached his father King Dhritarashtra and said, “Father, all of the citizens want Yudhishthira to become the king. They are ignoring you. Earlier, you were denied the throne and Pandu became the king. Now, if Yudhishthira becomes the king, we and our descendants will never get the throne.”

“Pandu was a great king. He was devoted to dharma, and now so is Yudhishthira. How can we banish them from the kingdom. The citizens and ministers will be outraged!” said Dhritarashtra.

“I have thought about this. We need the people to be on our side. There is only one way to do that: give them money. Then we can send the Pandavas to Varnavrata. After I become king, they can always come back,” Duryodhana then decided.

Dhritarashtra agreed, and thus, the Kauravas began distributing wealth among the citizens. Meanwhile, Dhritarashtra talked about the grand Shiva festival of Varnavrata. Sensing the Pandavas’ curiosity, he prompted them to go to Varnavrata. The Pandavas agreed, and they took off for Varnavrata.

Duryodhana’s Evil Scheme

Meanwhile, Duryodhana had much larger plans than his father. He didn’t just want to banish the Pandavas; he wanted to kill them so that they would never be a threat. Duryodhana called Purochana, his most trusted advisor. Purochana was an aged man who had served Duryodhana for years. Duryodhana trusted him with his life and knew that Purochana would always take his side. Purochana was also a skilled architect.

He said, “Purochana, my father has sent the Pandavas to Varnavarata. I want you to get there today and construct a beautiful palace on the outskirts of the city. But make this palace out of inflammable materials, like hemp, resin, ghee, lac, and wood. Make sure the Pandavas don’t realize that the palace is made of inflammable materials. When the Pandavas arrive, treat them well. Once you gain their trust, set the palace on fire and make sure they die in the fire.”

Duryodhana tells Purochana his evil plan in the palace
Duryodhana describes his evil plan

Purochana agreed and immediately left for Varnavrata. Soon, he had constructed a beautiful palace that looked enjoyable and grand on the outside. But on the inside, it was a literal death trap. It was Lakshagraha, the house of lac.

Purochana Hosts the Pandavas

This story is in the Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 134

Soon, Kunti and the Pandavas arrived at Varnavrata. Purochana and all of the citizens welcomed them. After the Pandavas toured the pleasant city, Purochana led them to a beautiful palace. This was not the Lakshagraha palace; it was a different palace. Purochana hospitably served the Pandavas. He gave them plentiful food and royal beds and clothes.

Purochana stands with hands folded in front of Kunit and the Pandavas, who are sitting on a bench with food

Ten days later, Purochana remembered Lakshagraha. He told the Pandavas, “I am now going to take you to another palace, an even more beautiful one. You will enjoy it!” Thus, Purochana and the Pandavas moved to the Lakshagraha palace.

Purochana’s Plan Backfires

This story is in the Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 136

A year passed, and the Pandavas enjoyed the luxuries of Lakshagraha. During the day, they went hunting in the forests. They always bore smiles on their faces and acted completely normal. Seeing their happiness, Purochana assumed they didn’t suspect anything. He had gained their trust, or at least he thought he had…. It was now time to execute the plan: burn Lakshagraha.

One day, the Pandavas hosted a feast. That night, Purochana went to sleep just like any other night. In the middle of the night, Purochana woke up in the middle of a raging fire. Lakshagraha was burning, and Purochana hadn’t done it. He realized that the Pandavas knew about his plan all along. The Pandavas had set Lakshagraha on fire, and he was now trapped. He helplessly burned in the fire and died.

The Pandavas Escape

Meanwhile, the Pandavas escaped through a tunnel they had constructed. In actuality, Vidura had warned the Pandavas about the plan before they reached Varnavrata. But they had decided to act oblivious. During the year, they had been constructing a secret underground tunnel. Soon, the Pandavas burned the palace and escaped through the tunnel. The helpless Purochana perished in the fire.

Kunti and the Pandavas escape Lakshagraha through the underground tunnel, the palace is burning in the back

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