Before Indraprastha became the capital of the Pandavas’ kingdom, it was the ancient capital of the Kuru clan, of which the Pandavas and Kauravas are a part. Much like Dwarka, Indraprastha was a reflection of its rulers – pristine, striking, regal and just.
It all began when the Pandavas escaped an attempt on their life by their cousin Duryodhana. They went into hiding for a while, but emerged a while later, much to Duryodhana’s dismay. His father, Dhritarashtra, was keen to make amends and offered the Pandavas a cursed barren land called Khandavprastha. It had been abandoned for many years and did not look like a place fit to become a capital city. But the Pandavas, with the help of Krishna, took up the challenge and transformed it into a paradise that they ruled over for many years.
Krishna called upon Vishwakarma, who also built the city of Dwarka, to reimagine Khandavprastha and transform it into a city fit for the Pandavas. He did as he was told and built a grand palace, wide roads, lush green gardens and water features. The brothers then renamed the city Indraprastha.
The oldest Pandava brother, Yudhishthira, ruled over Indraprastha like it was heaven on earth. In a short time, it became even more prosperous than Hastinapur, which made Duryodhana very envious. This envy turned into anger when the Pandavas invited the Kauravas to Indraprastha for a visit, and Duryodhana embarrassed himself by falling into a water fountain. The success of Indraprastha definitely fuelled Duryodhana’s hatred towards his cousins and pushed him even more to seek revenge. He expressed his desire to take over this magnificent city, which is when his trusted aide Shakuni devised a plan to rob the Pandavas of everything they own in a game of dice.
Indraprastha was a utopia and was an ideal example of how cities should really function. The story of how the city was built is a lesson on how we can make a bad situation better. The Pandavas inherited a barren piece of land and turned it into something that their worst enemy wanted to eventually possess. In other words, we don’t always get a fair deal in life. But turning the unfairness into an opportunity is what counts in the end.