The Mahabharata war was over and Raja Yudishthira came one day to Sri Krishna and said to him, “Lord, we fought this great war, and in this war we must have committed many sins. We want to go to different places of pilgrimage and rid ourselves of the burdens of our sins. Will you not come along with us?”
Sri Krishna smiled. In front of him was a gourd. He gave the gourd to Yudhishthira and said to him, I am not coming but take my gourd with you and every time you take a dip in the sacred rivers, immerse this gourd also in the waters. When you return, bring the gourd back to me.”
Taking Lord Krishna’s gourd with them, the Pandavas set out on their pilgrimage, taking a dip in the sacred waters of every holy place. On their return, they went to Sri Krishna to seek His blessings. They bowed down to Him, saying, “Lord, we have visited several places of pilgrimage, and taken many baths in the sacred waters. We think we have been purified of our sin.”
“And what about the gourd that I gave you?” asked Sri Krishna.
The gourd was placed before Sri Krishna who asked them to cut it into pieces. To each one of the Pandava brothers, and each one of those present in the assembly, he gave a piece and asked them to eat it. The gourd was as bitter as ever and everyone commented on it.
Then Sri Krishna turned to the Pandavas and said, “This gourd, too, has had a many dips in the sacred waters as each one of you. But it is still as bitter as ever. How then could you be cleansed of your sins, simply by taking dips in the sacred waters?”
True wisdom dawned on the Pandavas.