When the great Paandavas left for Aranyavaasam, many Viprottamas followed them. Requesting them to go back, Dharmaraaja said “I have lost my Raajyam in Jyuudam. In the forests you will have to live on fruits. The difficulties of living in the forests are great. So please go back”. Then the Braahmanas replied “Mahaaraaja! Please dont worry about our poshana. We want your kshemam only. We will tell you many good stories and entertain you”.
Yudhishthira agreed, but was worried that being a Gruhastha, he was not able to even do poshana of his aashritas. Thinking like this, he approached his Purohita (Puratah hitam karoti — one who does hitam, before anybody else), Dhaumya, and said “Mahaatma! Atithi seva, satkaaram is sajjana’s prathama-kartavyam. We are ourselves in difficulties, so how to do Atithi seva?”. Dhaumya then told Dharmaraaja how to do Suurya-upaasana. He said “O Dharmanandana! Shrimannaarayana, in the form of Suurya-bhagavaan, does poshana of this shrushti. You everyday do Suryopaasana, by doing Paaraayana of Surya-ashtottara-shata-naamaavali. I am sure then Surya-bhagavaan will help you”.
With Kathora-niyamams, Dharmaraaja did Suryopaasana. Suurya-bhagavaan became prasanna and appeared before Yudhishthira. Yudhishthira had great aanandam, did stotram and said “O Bhaaskara! You are the netram of this jagat and the aatma of all the living creatures. This jagat is having prakaasham because of You only. Without any Svaartham, You are doing poshana of this prapancham. I am krutagnya to have Your divya-darshanam”.
Suurya-bhagavaan said “Dharmaraaja! I am pleased with your aaraadhana. I will make sure you all will never have kshut-baadha all these 12 years”. Saying this, He gave him the Akshaya-paatra. Due to Daiva-prabhaavam, akshaya aahaaram comes from the divya-paatra. Using the Akshaya-paatra, Draupadii devi used to serve the Atithi-abhyaagatas first, then following Pativrataa-dharmam used to serve Paandavas and then eat aahaaram provided by the Akshaya-paatra. The divya-paatra everyday used to provide whatever they wanted till Draupadii devi has her aahaaram.
Morals in the story:
1.Once a person has sat-sankalpam and does Daiva-praarthana, as suggested by elders, God Himself will show the way. Yudhishthira, with the sankalpam of doing Atithi-seva, did Suryopaasana as directed by Shri Dhaumya. With this he was able to provide aahaaram to the Viprottamas.
2.Atithi-seva of Dharmaraaja and Pativrata-dharmam of Draupadi are shown in the story. Panditas say that a Pativrata has greater power than even the Tri-muurtis!
Akshaya Patra Stotra
Suryoryamaa Bhagastvashtaa Pushaarkah Savitaah Ravih. Garbhastimaanajah Kaalo Mrityurdhaataa Prabhaakarah. Prithivyaapashcha Tejashcha Kham Vaayushcha Paraayannam. Somo Brihaspati Shukro Budhogaanrak Ev Cha. Indro Vivasvaan Deeptaanshu Shuchih Shourih Shaneishcharah. Brahmaa Vishnnushcha Rudrashcha Skando Vei Varunno Yam. Veidyuto Jaatthrashchaagnireindh-nastejasaam Patih. Dharmdhwajo Vedakartaa Vedaango Vedvaahanah. Kritam Tretaa Dwaaparshcha Kali Sarvamalaa Shrayah. Kalaa Kaashtthaa Muhurataarshcha Shapaa Yaamastathaa Shannah. Sanvatsarkaro Shvatthah Kaalchakro Vibhaavasuh. Purushah Shaashvato Yogi Vyaktaavyakt Sanaatanah. Kaalaadhyakshah Prajaadhyaksho Vishvakarmaa Tamonudah. Varunnah Saagaro Shashacha Jeemooto Jeevano Rihaa. Bhootaashrayo Bhootpatih Sarvalokanamaskritah. Srashtaa Sanvartako Vahnih Sarvasyaadirlolupah. Anantah Kapilo Bhaanu Kaadamah Sarvatomukhah. Jayo Vishaalo Varadah Sarvadhaatu-nishechitaa. Manah Suparnno Bhootaadih Sheeghragah Praandhaarakah. Dhanvantari-dhoomketur-aadidevo Diteh Sutah. Dwaadash-aatm-aarvindaakshah Pitaa Maataa Pitaamahah. Swargdwaaram Prajaadwaaram Mokshdwaaram Trivishtipam. Dehkartaa Prashaantaatmaa Vishvaatmaa Vishvatomukhah Charaacharaatmaa Sookshnaatmaa Mantreyah Karoonnaanvitah. Etad Vei Keertaneeyasya Sooryasyaamit-tejasah. Naamaasht-shatakam Chedam Prokt-metat Swayambhuvaa. Sur-gannaa-pitri-yaksh-sevitam Hnaasur-nishaachar Siddhvanditam. Varak Nak Hutaashanprabham Prannipatitosmi Hitaay Bhaaskaram. Suryodaye Yah Susamaahitah Patthet. Sa Putradaaraan Dhanratna-sanchayaan. Labhet Jaatismarataam Narah Sadaa Ghritim Cha Megho Cha Sa Vindate Pumaan. Imam Stavam Dev-varasya Yo Narah Prakeertayechhu-chisumanaah Samaahitah. Vimuchyate Shok-davaagni-saagaraa Labhechch Kaamaan Manasaa Yathepsitaan.