Pandavas (Yudhishtira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva) passed their days in joy and happiness at Khandavaprastha with Krishna, their cousin, well wisher and guide. And Yudhishthira. endued with great energy and ever adhering to truth, having obtained the sovereignty, virtuously ruled the land, assisted by his brothers. One day the great sage, Narada, in course of his wanderings, visited the Pandavas. Panchali paid respect to the sage along with the Pandavas and stood with folded hands.
After Panchali had left, Narada addressed the Pandavas that they were all married to Panchali and they needed to establish a rule amongst so that so disunion took place among the brothers. He then told them of the two Asura brothers, Sunda and Upasunda who were very united and who lost their lives because of the celestial dancer, Tilottama. The Pandavas wanted to know more of this. Narada then told the story.
In olden days, the strong and mighty asura Nikumbha had two sons called Sunda and Upasunda. Both of them were mighty Asuras endued with great energy and ever engaged in achieving the same tasks and ends. They shared with each other, their happiness and sorrows. They sat on the mountains of Vindhya prayed there. After severe penance, Lord Brahma appeared and asked them to get what they wanted. The brothers wanted to have the knowledge of all weapons and also wanted to master the art of illusion. They also wanted a boon that they should fear no one except each other.
Sunda and Upasunda then cut off their matted locks that had grown in their heads. They went home, cleaned and dressed themselves and settled down. Sunda and Upasunda wanted to rule over all and set out to do so. The brothers set out with a huge army well decked and armed. Due to Brahma’s boons, they conquered Swarga, the Nagas of Patala and the Mlechchhas who lived on the coast. Then they started killing all Brahamans they saw offering prayers to Gods. The Asura warriors now called themselves Gods and wanted to be worshipped. The frightened sages fled and Sunda and Upasunda started destroying the temples built for various Gods.
When the Gods saw this they were saddened. Brahma felt guilty as He had given the boons to the brothers. He requested Vishwakarma to create a woman, whose beauty was capable of captivating any heart. Vishmakarma collected all that he needed and set to work. It was time taking. He formed a model and modelled it all things beautiful. There was not even a minute part of her body which by its wealth of beauty could not attract the gaze of beholders. She was named Tilottama – every part of her being supreme. He made it move and trained it to speak, sing and dance. This beautiful damsel then set forth to destroy Sunda and Upasunda.
The Asura brothers having conquered all they could think of, were happy. They roamed the earth, happy in each other’s company. One day they saw a beautiful woman dressed in a single piece of red silk cloth coming towards them. She was plucking flowers. The asuras were smitten by her beauty and each wanted her. Sunda said she would be his and asked Upasunda to stay away, while he had the damsel. Upasunda said the same to Sunda. Maddened by their desire the brothers started quarreling with each, they fighting with each and later killed each other. The damsel, Tilottama, then went away, her purpose accomplished.
When Arjuna had won Panchali and taken her home, he had just said from the door to his mother , Kunti – See what I got home. The Pandavas were then in exile. They used to beg for food, dressed as Brahmanas. Kunti had thought they had some alms and she, unknowingly had said whatever it was, was to be shared between the brothers.
So Panchali had married all the five brothers.
The Pandavas did not want any discord to come in between themselves. They established a rule and promised to keep that. In the presence of Narada, they said that when one of them was with Panchali in her chambers and if knowingly, any other brother saw that, he would have to go the forest for twelve year exile. The rule established, the Pandavas carried on with their lives in Khandavaprastha.
One day a brahmana was robbed of his cattle. Khandavaprastha being near the brahaman’s home, he came and approached the Pandavas and wanted help. Arjuna heard the Brahmana and he decided to help him. The only problem now was, his weapons were in the room where Yudhishtira and Panchali were together. Arjuna decide that it was more important to help the brahman than to worry about the exile. He entered the chamber and talked with Yudhishthira. Coming out with his weapons he asked the brahmana to show where the robber was hiding. It was not one robber but many. Arjuna defeated the robbers and they returned the cattle and fled. Arjuna went back and Yudhishtira to permit him to leave for his exile. Yudhishtira said Arjuna had gone into the room to perform his duty and had been compelled to do so. There was no sin there, Arjuna could stay back. Arjuna said that duty was duty and so was a promise. It needed to be kept. Taking off his royal robes, Arjuna prepared himself and left his home, to spend twelve years in the forest.