Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid
The Pandavas were defeated at the game of dice held at the court of Hastinapura. As per the terms agreed prior to the start of the game, they had to spend 12 years in exile in a forest and the 13th year incognito (without being discovered). If they were discovered, they had to spend another 12 years in exile. Hence, it was important not be discovered in the 13th year.
How was it possible for the Pandavas to hide? Their fame had spread far and wide and they would be recognized instantly. The one advantage that they had was that they had stayed for twelve years in the forest and their outward appearance had changed a lot unknown to the outside world. They were all royal scions whose learning constituted disguise. Plus, they already had the experience of having concealed themselves as Brahmins when escaping the wax palace. They also knew Duryodhana’s mind! Although he hated the Pandavas as a whole, he hated Bhima, Draupadi and Arjuna most in that order. It was important for these three to hide as best as possible; it was toughest for them to hide.
Nakula and Sahadeva looked after the cows and horses of Virata, the King of Matsya and were well hidden. Yudhishtra was a scholar and he disguised himself well in the open. No one would expect him to play dice again and hence he took on the role of advisor and dice mate to Virata himself. Arjuna was helped by Urvashi’s curse – he could turn into a eunuch for a year when he chose. The great warrior turned into a eunuch and hid within princess Uttara’s chambers as her teacher for a whole year. He taught her all the arts that he learnt from Chitrangada in Indraloka. A man with ladies’ gait, attire and mannerisms wasn’t someone who people took seriously those days. Men wouldn’t come near Arjuna aka Brihannala.
Bhima’s frame was huge and it was difficult for him to be in the open. He chose to go into the kitchens and lived amongst the cooks. Thereby, he got enough food as well as a good hiding place! For all her pride, not even Duryodhana expected Draupadi to serve as a maid to Virata’s queen.
The kitchens, princess’s chambers and maid’s chambers – these were the places where they could hide easily and pass a year. Even spies or an invading army couldn’t go inside the ladies’ chambers very easily or without opposing a good fight put up by the others outside. And the kitchens, no one would think of going in there! That too was considered a menial job, and a person of Bhima’s stature wasn’t expected to be there.
Until they heard the twang of the Gandiva and until he single handedly drove away the Kaurava Army, no one recognized Arjuna. He took Prince Uttara to the forest, took their weapons which they had hidden bundled like a corpse on a treetop, guided Uttara to be his charioteer and showed him how a war is done. Prince Uttara who got scared on seeing the Kaurava ranks battled bravely and dies on the first day of the Kurukshetra war. The recent popular flick – Viswaroopam – is inspired by the Virata Parvam of The Mahabharata (according to Kamal himself). Kamal lives as a dance master, teaching girls and displaying feminine mannerisms – people don’t doubt such a person. Until he single handedly destroys many of his foes at lightning speed and precision, not even his wife knew of his other side. Hiding as a lady or inside ladies’ chambers is the best thing for a man who wants to live incognito.