The Mahabharata

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Offline nusrat-diu

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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #30 on: June 29, 2011, 06:06:13 PM »
19. The Saranga Birds

 IN the stories narrated in the Puranas, birds and beasts speak like men, and sometimes they give sound advice and even teach spiritual wisdom. But the natural qualities of those creatures are adroitly made to peep through this human veil.

One of the characteristic beauties of the Puranic literature is this happy fusion of nature and imagination. In a delightful passage in the Ramayana, Hanuman, who is described as very wise and learned, is made to frolic with apish joy, when he imagined that the beautiful damsel he saw at Ravana's inner courtyard was Sita.

It is usual to entertain children with stories in which birds and beasts are made to speak. But the stories of the Puranas are meant for elderly people, and in them usually some background is given in explanation of animals having the gift of human speech.

The usual expedient employed is a previous birth when those creatures were human beings. For instance, a deer was a rishi in a previous birth, or a fox a king. The subsequent degradation being due to a curse.

In such cases the deer will act as a deer and yet speak as a rishi, and in the fox the clever nature is shot through with the characteristics of a wise and experienced king. The stories are thereby made interesting vehicles of the great truths they sometimes convey.

Khandavaprastha, that forest full of uneven places and thorns and prickles and cumbered with the crumbling vestiges of a long dead city, was indeed a frightful place when it came into the possession of the Pandavas.

Birds and beasts had made it their abode, and it was infested with thieves and wicked men. Krishna and Arjuna resolved to set fire to the forest and construct a new city in its place.

A saranga bird was living there with its four fledgelings. The male bird was pleasantly roaming about in the forest with another female bird neglecting wife and children. The mother bird looked after its young ones.

As the forest was set on fire as commanded by Krishna and Arjuna and the fire spread in all directions, doing its destructive work, the worried mother bird began to lament:

'The fire is coming nearer and nearer burning everything, and soon it will be here and destroy us. All forest creatures are in despair and the air is full of the agonising crash of falling trees. Poor wingless babies! You will become a prey to the fire. What shall I do? Your father has deserted us, and I am not strong enough to fly away carrying you with me."

To the mother who was wailing thus, the children said:

"Mother, do not torment yourself on our account. Leave us to our fate. If we die here, we shall attain a good birth in some future life. If you give up your life for our sake, our family will become extinct. Fly to a place of safety, take another mate and be happy. You will soon have other children and be able to forget us. Mother, reflect and do what is best for our race."

Despite this earnest entreaty, the mother had no mind to leave her children. She said: "I shall remain here and perish in the flames with you."

This is the background of the story of the birds. A rishi named Mandapala long lived faithful to his vow of perfect brahmacharya but when he sought entry to the higher regions, the gatekeeper said: "There is no place here for a childless man" and turned him back. He was then born as a saranga bird and lived with a female companion named Jarita. She laid four eggs. Then he left Jarita and wandered in the woods with another female companion, Lapita.

The four eggs of Jarita hatched in time and they were the four birds mentioned above. As they were the children of a rishi they could cheer and encourage their mother in the way they did.

The mother bird told her children: "There is a rat-hole by the side of this tree. I shall put you there. You can get into the hole and escape the fire. I shall close the mouth of the hole with earth and the fire will not touch you. When the fire dies down I shall let you out."

The children would not agree. They said: "The rat in the hole will devour us. It is better to perish in the flames than to die ignobly by being eaten up by rats."

The mother bird tried to relieve the fears of the children and said: "I saw an eagle devour the rat. There is now no danger for you inside the hole."

But the children said: "There are sure to be other rats in the hole. Our danger is not ended by the killing of one rat by the eagle. Kindly save your life by flying before the fire reaches us and this tree catches fire. We cannot get into the rat-hole. Why should you sacrifice your life for our sake? How have we merited it, who have done nothing for you? We have only brought you unhappiness since we came into the world. Take another mate and live happily."

The fire which destroyed the whole forest, mercifully left the baby birds unscathed. When the fire had subsided, the mother bird came back and saw with wonder that her children were safe and chirping merrily. She embraced them and was intensely happy.

While the fire was raging, the male bird, anxious for the safety of his young ones, had expressed his fears to his new love-bird Lapita. She had petulantly upbraided him. Hearing his repeated laments "Is it so?" she said: "I know your mind, I know that you desire to go back to Jarita, having had enough of me. Why falsely bring in the fire and the children? You have yourself told me that the children of Jarita would never perish in fire since the Fire god has given you that boon. You may as well tell the truth and go away, if you like, to your beloved Jarita. I shall only be another of the many trusting females betrayed by unworthy males and cast out wandering in the forest. You may go."

The bird Mandapala said: "Your assumption is untrue. I took birth as a bird for obtaining children and I am naturally anxious about them.

I shall just go and see them and then come back to you " Having thus consoled his new mate, be went to the tree where Jarita was seated.

Jarita paid no attention to her consort but remained absorbed in joy at finding her children alive.

Then she turned to her husband and asked in an indifferent tone why he had come. He replied with affection:

"Are my children happy? Who is the eldest among them?"

Then Jarita cut in icily: "Do you greatly care? Go back to her for whom you abandoned me. Be happy with her."

Mandapala philosophised: "A woman will not care for her husband after she has become a mother. Such is the way of the world. Even the blameless Vasishtha was thus ignored by Arundhati."
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
Nusrat Jahan
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #31 on: June 29, 2011, 06:08:03 PM »
20. Jarasandha

THE Pandavas ruled Indraprastha in all glory. Those who surrounded Yudhishthira urged him to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice and assume the title of Emperor. It is evident that imperialism had an irresistible glamour even in those days.

Yudhishthira sought Sri Krishna's advice in this matter. When Krishna learnt that Dharmaputra desired to see him, he set out in a chariot harnessed with swift horses and reached Indraprastha.

Yudhishthira said: "'My people urge me to perform Rajasuya, but as you know, only he who can secure the respect and allegiance of all kings, can perform that sacrifice and win the status of emperor. Advise me, you are not among those whose affection makes them blind and partial. Nor are you one of those who advise to please and whose counsel is pleasant rather than true or wholesome."

Krishna replied: "Quite so and that is why you cannot be emperor while the mighty Jarasandha of Magadha is alive and unconquered. He has conquered many kings and holds them in subjection. All the kshatriyas, including the redoubtable Sisupala himself, are afraid of his prowess and are submissive to him. Have you not heard of the wicked Kamsa, the son of Ugrasena? After he had become the son-in-law and ally of Jarasandha my people and I attacked Jarasandha. After three years of continuous fighting we had to acknowledge defeat and we left Mathura and moved to Dwaraka in the west, and built a new city where we are living in peace and plenty. Even if Duryodhana, Karna and others do not object to your assuming the title of emperor, Jarasandha will certainly oppose it. And the only way to overcome his opposition is to defeat and kill him. You can then not only perform the Rajasuya but also rescue and win the adherence of the kings who languish in his prisons."

At these words of Krishna, Yudhishthira said: "I agree. I am but one of the many kings who rule their kingdoms with fairness and justice and lead happy unambitious lives. It is mere vanity and vainglory to desire to become an emperor. Why should not a king rest satisfied with his own kingdom? So, I shall give up this desire to be an emperor. And really, the title has no temptations for me. It is my brothers who wish it. When you yourself are afraid of Jarasandha what can we hope to do?"

Bhima did not at all like this spirit of cowardly contentment.

Bhima said: "Ambition is the noblest virtue of a king. What is the good of being strong if one does not know his own strength? I cannot reconcile myself to live a life of idle ease and contentment. He who casts off indolence and properly employs political means, can conquer even those stronger than himself. Strength reinforced by stratagem will surely do much. What, indeed, cannot be accomplished by a combination of my physical strength, Krishna's wisdom and Arjuna's dexterity? We can conquer Jarasandha's might, if we three join and set about it without doubts or fears."

Krishna interposed: "Jarasandha should certainly be slain and fully deserves it. He has unjustly cast eighty-six princes in prison. He has planned to immolate a hundred kings and is waiting to lay hold of fourteen more. If Bhima and Arjuna agree, I shall accompany them and together we will slay that king by stratagem and set free the imprisoned princes. I like this suggestion."

Yudhishthira was not pleased with this advice. He said: "This may really mean sacrificing Bhima and Arjuna who are to me as my two eyes, merely to gratify a vain desire to be an emperor. I do not like to send them on this dangerous errand. It seems to me far better to give up the idea altogether."

Arjuna said: "What is the use to us of an existence without heroic deeds, born as we are of an illustrious line? A Kshatriya though endowed with all other good qualities, will not become famous if he does not exert himself. Enthusiasm is the mother of success. We can seize fortune if we do our duties energetically. Even a powerful man may fail if, through lassitude, he does not employ the means he has. Failure is due, in the vast majority of cases, to ignorance of one's own strength. We know we are strong, and we are not afraid of using our strength to the utmost. Why should Yudhishthira suppose that we are incapable of this? When we have become old, it will be time to assume the ochre robe, resort to the forest and pass the rest of our days in penance and austerities. Now, we should lead strenuous lives and do heroic deeds worthy of the traditions of our race."

Krishna was delighted to hear these words and said: "What else can Arjuna, born of Kunti in the Bharata race, advise? Death comes to all, the hero as well as the sluggard. But the noblest duty of a kshatriya is to be true to his race and faith, and overcoming his foes in righteous battle, to win glory."

Finally Yudhishthira assented to the unanimous opinion that their duty lay in slaying Jarasandha.

This conversation has a curiously modern ring about it and shows that powerful men in ancient days used very much the same specious reasoning as now.
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #32 on: June 29, 2011, 06:09:45 PM »
21. The Slaying OF Jarasandha

BRIHADRATHA, the commander of three regiments, reigned in the kingdom of Magadha and attained celebrity as a great hero. He married the twin daughters of the raja of Kasi and vowed to them that he would not show any partiality to either.

Brihadratha was not blessed with a child for a long time. When he became old, he handed over his kingdom to his ministers, went to the forest with his two wives and engaged himself in austerities.

He went to Sage Kausika of the Gautama family, with a sorrowful longing for children in his heart. And when the sage was moved with pity and asked him what he wanted, he answered:

"I am childless and have come to the forest giving up my kingdom. Give me children."

The sage was filled with compassion and, even as he was thinking how to help the king, a mango fruit fell into his lap. He took it and gave it to the king with this blessing: "Take it. Your wish will be fulfilled."

The king cut the fruit into two halves and gave one to each wife. He did so to keep his vow not to show partiality to either. Some time after they had partaken of the fruit, the wives became pregnant.

The delivery took place in due course. But instead of bringing the expected joy, it plunged them into greater grief than before. For they each gave birth to but a half of a child. Each half was a monstrous birth which seemed a revolting lump.

They were indeed two equal and complementary portions of one baby, consisting of one eye, one leg, half a face, one ear and so on. Seized with grief, they commanded their attendants to tie the gruesome pieces in a cloth and cast them away.

The attendants did as they were instructed and threw the cloth bundle on a heap of refuse in the street. A cannibal Rakshasi chanced upon that place. She was elated at seeing the two pieces of flesh and, as she gathered them up both at once, accidently the halves came together the right way. And they at once adhered together and changed into a whole living child, perfect in every detail.

The surprised Rakshasi did not wish to kill the child. She took on the guise of a beautiful woman and, going to the king, presented the child to him saying: "This is your child."

The king was immensely delighted and handed it over to his two wives. This child became known as Jarasandha. He grew up in to a man of immense physical strength. But his body had one weakness namely, that being made up by the fusion of two separate parts, it could be split again into two, if sufficient force were used.

This interesting story embodies the important truth that two sundered parts joined together will still remain weak, with a tendency to split. When the conquest and slaying of Jarasandha had been resolved upon, Sri Krishna said: "Hamsa, Hidimbaka, Kamsa, and other allies of Jarasandha are no more. Now that he is isolated, this is the right time to kill him.  It is useless to fight with armies. He must be provoked to a single combat and slain."

According to the code of honor of those days, a kshatriya had to accept the challenge to a duel whether with or without weapons.

The latter sort was a fight to the death with weighted gauntlets or a wrestling to the death in catch-as-catch-can style. This was the kshatriya tradition to which Krishna and the Pandavas had recourse for slaying Jarasandha.

They disguised themselves as men who had taken religious vows, clad in robes of bark-fibre and carrying the holy darbha grass in their hands. Thus they entered the kingdom of Magadha and arrived at the capital of Jarasandha.

Jarasandha was disturbed by portents of ill omen. To ward off the threatened danger, he had propitiatory rites performed by the priests and himself took to fasts and penance.

Krishna, Bhima, and Arjuna entered the palace unarmed. Jarasandha received them with respect as their noble bearing seemed to indicate an illustrious origin. Bhima and Arjuna made no reply to his words of welcome because they wished to avoid having to tell lies.

Krishna spoke on their behalf: "These two are observing a vow of silence for the present as at part of their austerities. They can speak only after midnight." Jarasandha entertained them in the hall of sacrifice and returned to the palace.

It was the practice of Jarasandha to meet noble guests who had taken vows and talk to them at their leisure and convenience, and so he called at midnight to see them.

Their conduct made Jarasandha suspicious, and he also observed that they had on their hands the scars made by the bowstring and had besides the proud bearing of kshatriyas.

When Jarasandha demanded the truth of them they said frankly: "We are your foes and seek instant combat. You can choose one of us at will to fight with you."

After acquainting himself as to who they were, Jarasandha said: "Krishna, you are a cowherd and Arjuna is a mere boy. Bhima is famous for his physical strength. So, I wish to fight with him." Since Bhima was unarmed, Jarasandha chivalrously agreed to fight him without weapons.

Bhima and Jarasandha were so equally matched in strength that they fought with each other continuously for thirteen days without taking rest or refreshments, while Krishna and Arjuna looked on in alternating hope and anxiety.

On the fourteenth day, Jarasandha showed signs of exhaustion, and Krishna prompted Bhima that the time had come to make an end of him.

At once Bhima lifted him and whirling him round and round a hundred times, dashed him to the earth and seizing his legs tore his body asunder into two halves.

And Bhima roared in exultation. The two halves at once joined and Jarasandha, thus made whole, leapt up into vigorous life and again attacked Bhima.

Bhima aghast at the sight, was at a loss what to do, when he saw Krishna pick up a straw, tear it into two, and cast the bits in opposite directions.

Bhima took the hint, and when once again he tore Jarasandha asunder he threw the two portions in opposite directions, so that they could not come together and join. Thus did Jarasandha meet his end.

The captive princes were released and Jarasandha's son was crowned King of Magadha. And Krishna, Bhima and Arjuna returned to Indraprastha.

With Jarasandha gone, the way was now clear for the Rajasuya which the Pandavas performed with great pomp and splendor. Yudhishthira assumed the title of emperor.

The celebrations were marred by only one incident. Towards the close of the festive celebrations, at the time of paying the first honor, Sisupala behaved disrespectfully in the assembly of princes and provoked a fight with Krishna in which he was slain. This story is told in the next chapter.
 
 
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #33 on: June 29, 2011, 06:10:49 PM »
22. The First Honor

THE practice of staging a walkout from an assembly in protest against something is nothing new. We learn from the Mahabharata that walkout was resorted to even in ancient times.

The India of those days consisted of a number of independent states. Though there was one dharma and one culture throughout the land, the autonomy of each state was scrupulosly respected.

Occasionally, some strong and ambitious monarch would seek the assent of his fellow kings to his overlordship, which would sometimes be given without question.

After receiving this assent he would perform a grand Rajasuya sacrifice, which all the acquiescing kings would attend in token of acknowledgement of his supremacy.

In accordance with this custom, the Pandavas invited the other kings after the slaying of Jarasandha and performed the Rajasuya. 

The time came for doing the honors of the occasion. The custom was to render first honor to the guest who was considered most worthy of taking precedence over all others.

The question arose as to who should be honored first. The grandsire was emphatically of the opinion that Sri Krishna, the king of Dwaraka, should be honored first, which was also Yudhishthira's own opinion.

Yudhishthira followed the advice and under his instructions Sahadeva offered to Sri Krishna the honors enjoined by tradition. Sisupala, the king of Chedi, who hated Krishna as wickedness alone can hate goodness, could not tolerate it.

He laughed aloud in derision and said: "How ridiculous and unjust, but I am not surprised. The man who sought advice was born in illegitimacy. (This was an insulting allusion to the sons of Kunti) The man who gave advice was born of one who ever declines from high to low. (This is in reference to the fact that Bhishma was born of Ganga, the river naturally flowing from higher to lower levels.) And he who did the honors was also born illegitimately. And what shall I say of the man honored! He is a fool by birth and a cowherd by breeding. Dumb indeed must be the members of this assembly if they have not a word to say to this! This is no place for worthy men."

Some of the assembled princes applauded Sisupala. Encouraged by their applause he addressed Yudhishthira:

"When there are so many kings gathered here, it is a shame that you paid the first honor to Krishna. Not to render respect where it is rightly due and to render it where it is not merited are both equally grave offences. It is a pity that, for all your imperial pretensions you are ignorant of this."

Getting more and more angry as he spoke, he continued: "Ignoring the many kings and heroes who are here at your own invitation and in malicious despise of them, you have paid royal honors to a cowherd boor, a mere nobody. Vasudeva, the father of Krishna, was but a servant of Ugrasena. He is not even of royal blood. Is this the place and the occasion to show your vulgar partiality for Krishna, the son of Devaki? Is this worthy of the children of Pandu? O sons of Pandu, you are raw, untaught youths, altogether ignorant of the way to conduct a royal assembly. This dotard Bhishma guided you foolishly and thus made fools of you. Krishna, why, Krishna is no ruler at all! O Yudhishthira, why did you dare to do this wretch first honor in this illustrious assemblage of kings? He has not even the merit of age and if you admire grey hair, is not his father alive? You could not have honored him as your preceptor surely, for your preceptor is Drona who is here in this assembly. Is it as an expert in performing sacrifices that you have honored him? It cannot be, for Vyasa, the great master, is present. It would have been better even if you had paid the first honor to Bhishma, for dotard as he be, he has still the merit of being the oldest man of your house. Your family teacher, Kripacharya, is also present in this assembly. How could you then pay the first honor to this cowherd? Ashwatthama, the hero who is expert in all sastras, is here. How did you choose Krishna, forgetting him? Among the princes assembled here, there is Duryodhana. And there is also Karna, the disciple of Parasurama. Leaving him aside, out of childish partiality, you chose Krishna for the first honor Krishna who is neither royal, nor heroic, nor learned, nor holy, nor even hoary, who is nothing but a low cowherd! Thus you have dishonored us all, whom you have invited here. O kings, it is not out of fear that we assented to Yudhishthira's assuming the title of emperor. We personally do not much care whether he is friend or foe. But, having heard much prate of his righteousness, we wanted to see him uphold the flag of dharma. He has now wantonly dishonored us, after all that talk of virtue and dharma. What virtue or dharma was there in his giving priority of honor to this villain Krishna who killed Jarasandha in an unjust manner?  You should henceforth call Yudhishthira an unrighteous person. O Krishna, what impudence on your part to accept the undeserved honor which these misguided Pandavas did you! Did you forget yourself? Or did you forget decent tradition? Or was it just a case of a dog snatching at a remnant of food which nobody cared to claim or guard? Do you not really see that this farce is a ghastly mockery and disgrace to yourself? It is like the mockery of showing beautiful things to a blind man or offering a maiden in marriage to a eunuch. Likewise, these kingly honors are really an affront to you. It is now evident that the would-be emperor Yudhishthira, the senile Bhishma, and this fellow Krishna are all made of the same stuff."

After Sisupala had spoken these harsh words, he rose from his seat and walked out calling upon the other kings to join him in resenting the insult. Many of them followed him.

Yudhishthira ran after them and tried to appease them with sweet words of peace but in vain, for they were too angry to be appeased.

Sisupala's aggressive vanity waxed to fighting pitch, and there ensued a terrible fight between Krishna and Sisupala, in which the latter was slain by his discus.

The Rajasuya was duly celebrated and Yudhishthira recognised emperor.
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #34 on: June 29, 2011, 06:11:34 PM »
23. Sakuni Comes In

AT the close of the Rajasuya, the princes, priests and elders, who had gathered for the purpose, took leave and returned to their places. Vyasa also came to say farewell. Dharmaputra rose and received him with due respect and sat by his side.

The sage said: "O son of Kunti, you have got the title of emperor which you eminently deserve. May the illustrious Kuru race gain even greater glory through you. Give me leave to return to my hermitage."

Yudhishthira touched the feet of his progenitor and guru and said: "O master, you alone can remove my apprehensions. Wise men have predicted from portents the happenings of catastrophic events. Has this prediction been fulfilled by the death of Sisupala or is more to ensue?"

Bhagavan Vyasa replied: "Dear child, much sorrow and suffering is in store for thirteen years to come. The portents indicate the destruction of the Kshatriya race and are not exhausted with the death of Sisupala. It is far from it.  Hundreds of kings will perish, and the old order of things will pass away. This catastrophe will spring out of the enmity between you and your brothers on the one side and your cousins, the Dhritarashtras, on the other. It will culminate in a war resulting in practical annihilation of the Kshatriya race. No one can go against destiny. Be firm and steadfast in righteousness. Be vigilant and rule the kingdom, farewell." And Vyasa blessed Yudhishthira. Vyasa's words filled Yudhishthira with grief and with a great repugnance for worldly ambition and life itself.

He informed his brothers of the prediction of unavoidable racial disaster. Life seemed to him a bitter and weary business and his destiny particularly cruel and unbearable.

Arjuna said: "You are a king and it is not right for you to be agitated. Let us meet destiny with an undaunted front and do our duty."

Yudhishthira replied: "Brothers, may God protect us and give us wisdom. For my part, I take this vow never to speak harshly to my brothers or to my kinsmen for the next thirteen years. I shall avoid all pretext for conflict. I shall never give way to anger, which is the root cause of enmity. It shall be my duty to give no occasion for anger or pretext for hostility. Thus shall we profit by Bhagavan Vyasa's warning." His brothers expressed cordial assent.

The first event of the series which culminated in the devastating slaughter on the blood-sodden field of Kurukshetra and the event which was the evil root of all, was the gambling match into which Yudhishthira was inveigled by Sakuni, who was Duryodhana's evil genius.

Why did the wise and good Yudhishthira suffer himself to be persuaded to this step which he must have known to hold evil possibilities?

The main cause was his fixed resolve to be on amicable terms with his cousins by not opposing their wishes. And a friendly invitation to dice could not be summarily turned down, since the etiquette of those days made it a point of honor to accept a game of equal hazard.

Out of his very anxiety to foster goodwill, he laid open the field for the poisonous seed of hatred and death. Here is an illustration of the futility of human plans, however well meant or wise, without divine aid. Our best wisdom is vain against fate, and if destiny is kind, our very follies turn to our advantage.

While Dharmaputra was care-worn with solicitude to avoid a quarrel at all costs, Duryodhana was burning with jealousy at the thought of the prosperity of the Pandavas that he had witnessed in their capital during the Rajasuya sacrifice.

Duryodhana saw unprecedented wealth, attractive and sight eluding crystal doors and many pieces of exquisite artistry in the court-hall of Yudhishthira, all suggestive of great prosperity.

He also saw how glad the kings of many countries were to become the allies of the Pandavas. This gave him unbearable grief. He was so absorbed in sorrow at the prosperity of the Pandavas that he did not at first hear Sakuni who was by his side, speaking to him.

Sakuni asked: "Why are you sighing? Why are you tormented with sorrow?"

Duryodhana replied: "Yudhishthira, surrounded by his brothers, is like Indra, the king of gods. Before the very eyes of the assembled kings Sisupala was slain and not one of them had the courage to come forward to avenge him. Like the vaisyas who live by trade, they bartered their honor and jewels and riches for Yudhishthira's goodwill. How can I avoid giving way to grief after seeing all this? What is the good of living?"

Sakuni said: "O Duryodhana, the Pandavas are your brothers. It is not right on your part to be jealous of their prosperity. They are but enjoying their legitimate inheritance. By their good fortune they have prospered and flourished without doing any injury to others. Why should you be jealous? How can their strength and happiness diminish your greatness? Your brothers and relations stand by you and obey you. Drona, Ashwatthama and Karna are on your side. Why do you grieve when Bhishma, Kripa, Jayadratha, Somadatta and myself are your supporters? You can conquer even the whole world. Do not give way to grief."

At these words, Duryodhana said: "O Sakuni, it is true that I have so many to support me. Why should we not wage war and drive the Pandavas out of Indraprastha?"

But Sakuni said: "No. That will not be easy, but I know a way to drive Yudhishthira out of Indraprastha without a fight or the shedding of blood."

The eyes of Duryodhana lighted up, but it seemed too good to be true. He asked incredulously: "Uncle, is it possible to overcome the Pandavas without sacrificing any life? What is your plan?"

Sakuni replied: "Yudhishthira is fond of the game of dice and being unskillful is altogether ignorant of its tricks and the opportunity it offers to cleverer people. If we invite him to a game, he would accept, following the tradition of the kshatriyas. I know the tricks of the game and I shall play on your behalf. Yudhishthira will be helpless as a child against me. I shall win his kingdom and wealth for you without shedding a drop of blood."
 
 
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #35 on: June 29, 2011, 06:14:56 PM »
24. The Invitation

DURYODHANA and Sakuni went to Dhritarashtra. Sakuni opened the conversation. He said: "O king, Duryodhana is wan with grief and anxiety. You are paying no attention to his unbearable sorrow. Why this unconcern?"

Dhritarashtra who doted on his son embraced Duryodhana and said: "I do not see why you should be disconsolate. What is here that you already do not enjoy? The whole world is at your feet. When you are surrounded by all kinds of pleasures like the very gods, why should you pine in sorrow? You have learnt the Vedas, archery, and other sciences from the best of masters. As my first born, you have inherited the throne. What is left you to wish for? Tell me."

Duryodhana replied: "Father, like anybody else, rich or poor, I eat and cover my nakedness, but I find life unbearable. What is the use of leading such a life?" 

And then he revealed in detail the envy and hatred that were eating into his vitals and depriving life of its savour. He referred to the prosperity he had seen in the capital of the Pandavas that to him was bitterer than loss of his all would have been.

He burst out: "Contentment with one's lot is not characteristic of a kshatriya. Fear and pity lower the dignity of kings. My wealth and pleasures do not give me any satisfaction since I have witnessed the greater prosperity of Yudhishthira. O king, the Pandavas have grown, while we have shrunk."

Dhritarashtra said: "Beloved child, you are the eldest son of my royal spouse and me and heir to the glory and greatness of our renowned race. Do not cherish any hatred towards the Pandavas. Sorrow and death will be the sole result of hatred of kith and kin, especially when they are blameless. Tell me, why do you hate the guileless Yudhishthira? Is not his prosperity ours too? Our friends are his friends. He has not the least jealousy or hatred towards us. You are equal to him in heroism and ancestry. Why should you be jealous of your brother? No. You should not be jealous." Thus said the old king who, though overfond of his son, did not occasionally hesitate to say what he felt to be just.

Duryodhana did not at all like the advice of his father, and his reply was not very respectful.

He replied: "The man without common sense, but immersed in learning, is like a wooden ladle immersed in savoury food which it neither tastes nor benefits from. You have much learning of statecraft but have no state wisdom at all, as your advice to me clearly shows. The way of the world is one thing and the administration of a state is quite another. Thus has Brihaspati said: 'Forbearance and contentment, though the duties of ordinary men, are not virtues in kings.' The kshatriya's duty is a constant seeking of victory."

Duryodhana spoke thus quoting maxims of politics and citing examples and making the worse appear the better reason.

Then Sakuni intervened and set forth in detail his infallible plan of inviting Yudhishthira to play the game of dice, defeating him utterly and divesting him of his all without recourse to arms.

The wicked Sakuni wound up with saying: "It is enough if you merely send for the son of Kunti to play the game of dice. Leave the rest to me."

Duryodhana added: "Sakuni will win for me the riches of the Pandavas without a fight, if you would only agree to invite Yudhishthira."

Dhritarashtra said: "Your suggestion does not seem proper. Let us ask Vidura about it. He will advise us rightly."

But Duryodhana would not hear of consulting Vidura. He said to his father: "Vidura will only give us the platitudes of ordinary morality, which will not help us to our object. The policy of kings must be very different from the goody maxims of textbooks, and is sterner stuff of which the test is success. Moreover, Vidura does not like me and is partial to the Pandavas. You know this as well as I do."

Dhritarashtra said: "The Pandavas are strong. I do not think it wise to antagonize them. The game of dice will only lead to enmity. The passions resulting from the game will know no bounds. We should not do it."

But Duryodhana was importunate: "Wise statesmanship lies in casting off all fear and protecting oneself by one's own efforts. Should we not force the issue while yet we are more powerful than they are? That will be real foresight. A lost opportunity may never come again, and it is not as though we invented the game of dice to injure the Pandavas. It is an ancient pastime which kshatriyas have always indulged in, and if it will now serve us to win our cause without bloodshed, where is the harm?"

Dhritarashtra replied: "Dear son, I have grown old. Do as you like. But the line that you are taking does not appeal to me. I am sure you will repent later. This is the work of destiny."

In the end, out-argued and through sheer fatigue and hopelessness of dissuading his son, Dhritarashtra assented, and ordered the servants to prepare a hall of games. Yet he could not forbear consulting Vidura in secret about the matter.

Vidura said: "O king, this will undoubtedly bring about the ruin of our race by raising up unquenchable hate."

Dhritarashtra, who could not oppose the demand of his son, said: "If fortune favors us I have no fear regarding this game. If on the contrary, fortune goes against us, how could we help it? For, destiny is all-powerful. Go and invite Yudhishthira on my behalf to come and play dice." Thus commanded, Vidura went to Yudhishthira with an invitation.

The weak-witted Dhritarashtra, over-persuaded, yielded to the desire of his son through his attachment to him in spite of the fact that he knew this was the way that destiny was working itself out.
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #36 on: June 29, 2011, 06:15:58 PM »
25. The Wager

AT THE sight of Vidura, Yudhishthira anxiously inquired: "Why are you so cheerless? Is it well with all our relations in Hastinapura? Are the king and the princes well?"

Vidura acquainted him with his mission: "Everyone in Hastinapura is well. How fares it with you all? I have come to invite you on behalf of King Dhritarashtra to come and see the newly erected hall of games. A beautiful hall has been erected there even like yours. The king would like you to come with your brothers, see everything, have a game of dice and return to your capital."

Yudhishthira seemed to ask counsel of Vidura: "Wagering games create quarrels among kshatriyas. A wise man will avoid them if he can. We are ever abiding by your advice. What would you have us do?"

Vidura replied: "Everyone is aware that the playing of dice is the root of many evils. I did my best to oppose this idea. Still the king has commanded me to invite you and I have come. You may do as you like."

Despite this warning, Yudhishthira went to Hastinapura with his brothers and retinue. It may be asked why the wise Yudhishthira responded to the invitation.

Three reasons may be given. Men rush consciously on their ruin impelled by lust, gambling and drink. Yudhishthira was fond of gambling. The kshatriya tradition made it a matter of etiquette and honor not to refuse an invitation to a game of dice.

There is a third reason too. True to the vow he took at the time Vyasa had warned him of the quarrels that would arise leading to destruction of the race. Yudhishthira would not give any occasion for displeasure or complaint by refusing the invitation of Dhritarashtra.

These causes conspired with his natural inclination to make Yudhishthira accept the invitation and go to Hastinapura. The Pandavas and their retinue stopped in the magnificent palace reserved for them.

Yudhishthira rested on the day of arrival, and after the daily routine of duties, went to the hall of games the next morning.

After the exchange of customary greetings, Sakuni announced to Yudhishthira that the cloth for playing the game had been spread and invited him to it.

Yudhishthira at first said: "O king, gambling is bad. It is not through heroism or merit that one succeeds in a game of chance. Asita, Devala and other wise rishis who were well-versed in worldly affairs have declared that gambling should be avoided since it offers scope for deceit. They have also said that conquest in battle is the proper path for the kshatriyas. You are not unaware of it."

But a part of himself, weakened by addiction to gambling, was at war with his judgment and in his heart of hearts Yudhishthira desired to play.

In his discussion with Sakuni, we see this inner conflict.  The keen-witted Sakuni spotted this weakness at once and said: "What is wrong with the game? What, in fact, is a battle? What is even a discussion between Vedic scholars? The learned man wins victory over the ignorant. The better man wins in every case. It is just a test of strength or skill, that is all, and there is nothing wrong in it. As for the result, in every field of activity, the expert defeats the beginner, and that is what happens in a game of dice also. But if you are afraid, you need not play. But do not come out with this worn excuse of right and wrong."

Yudhishthira replied: "Well, who is to play with me?"

Duryodhana said: "Mine is the responsibility for finding the stakes in the form of wealth and gems to play the game. My uncle Sakuni will actually cast the dice in my stead."

Yudhishthira had thought himself secure of defeating Duryodhana in play but Sakuni was a different matter, for Sakuni was a recognised expert. So he hesitated and said: "It is not, I think, customary for one man to play on behalf of another."

Sakuni retorted tauntingly: "I see that you are forging another excuse."

Yudhishthira flushed and, casting caution to the winds, replied: "Well, I shall play."

The hall was fully crowded. Drona, Kripa, Bhishma, Vidura, and Dhritarashtra were seated there. They knew that the game would end viciously and sat unhappily witnessing what they could not prevent.

The assembled princes watched the game with great interest and enthusiasm. At first they wagered jewels and later gold, silver and then chariots and horses. Yudhishthira lost continually.

When he lost all these, Yudhishthira staked his servants and lost them also. He pledged his elephants and armies and lost them too. The dice thrown by Sakuni seemed at every time to obey his will.

Cows, sheep, cities, villages and citizens and all other possessions were lost by Yudhishthira. Still, drugged with misfortune, he would not stop.

He lost the ornaments of his brothers and himself as well as the very clothes they wore. Still bad luck dogged him, or rather the trickery of Sakuni was too much for him.

Sakuni asked: "Is there anything else that you can offer as wager?"

Yudhishthira said: "Here is the beautiful sky-complexioned Nakula. He is one of my riches. I place him as a wager."

Sakuni replied: "Is it so? We shall be glad to win your beloved prince." With these words Sakuni cast the dice and the result was what he had foretold.

The assembly trembled.

Yudhishthira said: "Here is my brother Sahadeva. He is famous for his infinite knowledge in all the arts. It is wrong to bet him, still I do so. Let us play."

Sakuni cast the dice with the words: "Here, I have played and I have won."Yudhishthira lost Sahadeva too.

The wicked Sakuni was afraid that Yudhishthira might stop there. So be lashed Yudhishthira with these words: "To you, Bhima and Arjuna, being your full brothers, are no doubt dearer than the sons of Madri. You will not offer them, I know."

Yudhishthira, now thoroughly reckless and stung to the quick by the sneering imputation that he held his step-brothers cheap, replied: "Fool, do you seek to divide us? How can you, living an evil life, understand the righteous life we lead?"

He continued: "I offer as wager the ever-victorious Arjuna who successfully voyages across oceans of battle. Let us play."

Sakuni answered: "I cast the dice" and he played. Yudhishthira lost Arjuna also.

The stubborn madness of unbroken misfortune carried Yudhishthira further and deeper. With tears in his eyes, he said: "O king, Bhima, my brother, is our leader in battle. He strikes terror into the heart of demons and is equal to Indra; he can never suffer the least dishonor and he is peerless throughout the world in physical strength. I offer him as a bet" and he played again and lost Bhima too.

The wicked Sakuni asked: "Is there any thing else you can offer?"

Dharmaputra replied: "Yes. Here is myself. If you win, I shall be your slave."

"Look. I win." Thus saying, Sakuni cast the dice and won. After that Sakuni stood up in the assembly and shouted the names of each of the five Pandavas and loudly proclaimed that they had all become his lawful slaves.

The assembly looked on in stunned silence. Sakuni alone turned toYudhishthira and said: "There is one jewel still in your possession by staking which you can yet free yourself. Can you not continue the game cffering your wife Draupadi as wager?"

Yudhishthira despairingly said: "I pledge her," and he trembled unwittingly.

There was audible distress and agitation in that part of the assembly where the elders sat. Soon great shouts of 'Fie! Fie!' arose from all sides. The more emotional wept. Others perspired, and felt the end of the world was come.

Duryodhana, his brothers and Karna shouted with exultation. In that group Yuyutsu alone bent his head in shame and sorrow and heaved a deep sigh. Sakuni cast the dice and shouted again: "I have won."

At once Duryodhana turned to Vidura and said: "Go and fetch Draupadi, the beloved wife of the Pandavas. She must hence forward sweep and clean our house. Let her come without delay."

Vidura exclaimed: "Are you mad that you rush to certain destruction? You are hanging by a slender thread over a bottomless abyss! Drunk with success, you do not see it, but it will engulf you!"

Having thus reprimanded Duryodhana, Vidura turned to the assembly and said: "Yudhishthira had no right to stake Panchali as by then he had himself already lost his freedom and lost all rights. I see that the ruin of the Kauravas is imminent, and that, regardless of the advice of their friends and well-wishers, the sons of Dhritarashtra are on the path to hell."

Duryodhana was angry at these words of Vidura and told Prathikami, his charioteer: "Vidura is jealous of us and he is afraid of the Pandavas. But you are different. Go forth and bring Draupadi immediately."
 

 
 
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #37 on: June 29, 2011, 06:17:26 PM »
26. Draupadi's Grief

PRATHIKAMI went to Draupadi as ordered by his master. He said to her: "O revered princess, Yudhishthira fell under the spell of the game of dice and has wagered and lost even you. Now you belong to Duryodhana. I have come by Duryodhana's command to take you to serve in his household as maid servant, which will hereafter be your office."

Draupadi, the spouse of the emperor who had performed Rajasuya, was dumbfounded, at this strange message. She asked: "Prathikami, what do you say? Which prince would pledge his wife? Had he nothing else to pawn?"

Prathikami answered: "It is because he had already lost all other possessions and had nothing else left that he played offering you as a stake."

Then he told her the whole story of how Yudhishthira had lost all his wealth and had finally betted her, after having first forfeited his brothers and himself. 

Though the news was such as to break the heart and kill the soul, still, Draupadi soon regained her fortitude and, with anger blazing from her eyes, said: "O charioteer, return. Ask of him who played the game whether in it he first lost himself, or his wife. Ask this question in the open assembly. Bring me his answer and then you can take me." Prathikami went to the assembly and, turning to Yudhishthira, asked of him the question put by Draupadi.

Yudhishthira remained speechless.

Then Duryodhana bade Prathikami bring Panchali herself there to question her husband. Prathikami went again to Draupadi and humbly said: "Princess, the mean-minded Duryodhana desires you to go to the assembly and ask your question yourself."

Draupadi answered: "No. Return to the assembly and put the question and demand an answer."

Prathikami did so.

Enraged, Duryodhana turned to his brother Duhsasana and said: "This man is a fool and is afraid of Bhima. Go and fetch Draupadi even if you have to drag her here."

Thus commanded, the wicked Duhsasana at once sped with joy on his errand. He proceeded to the place where Draupadi was, shouting: "Come, why do you delay? You are now ours. Be not shy, beautiful lady. Make yourself agreeable to us, now that you have been won by us. Come to the assembly" and in his impatience, he bade as though to take her thither by force.

Panchali rose trembling, heart-stricken with sorrow and started to fly for refuge to the inner apartments of Dhritarashtra's queen. Duhsasana darted after her, caught her by the hair and dragged her to the assembly.

It is with a shudder of repugnance that we relate how the sons of Dhritarashtra stooped to commit this vilest of deeds.

As soon as she came to the assembly, Draupadi controlled her anguish and appealed to the elders gathered there:

"How could you consent to my being staked by the king who was himself trapped into the game and cheated by wicked persons, expert in the art? Since he was no longer a free man, how could he stake anything at all?"

Then, stretching out her arms and raising her flowing eyes in agonised supplication she cried in a voice broken with sobs:

"If you have loved and revered the mothers who bore you and gave you suck, if the honor of wife or sister or daughter has been dear to you, if you believe in God and dharma, forsake me not in this horror more cruel than death"'

At this heart-broken cry, as of a poor fawn stricken to death, the elders hung their heads in grief and shame. Bhima could hold himself no longer. His swelling heart found relief in a roar of wrath that shook the very walls, and turning to Yudhishthira he said bitterly:

"Even abandoned professional gamblers would not stake the harlots who live with them, and you, worse than they, have left the daughter of Drupada to the mercy of these ruffians. I cannot bear this injustice. You are the cause of this great crime. Brother Sahadeva, bring fire. I am going to set fire to those hands of his which cast the dice."

Arjuna however remonstrated gently with Bhima: "You have never before spoken thus. The plot devised by our enemies is entangling us also in its meshes and inciting us to wicked action. We should not succumb and play their game. Beware."

With a superhuman effort, Bhima controlled his anger.

Vikarna, the son of Dhritarashtra, could not bear the sight of the agony of Panchali. He rose up and said: "O Kshatriya heroes, why are you silent? I am a mere youth, I know, but your silence compels me to speak. Listen. Yudhishthira was enticed to this game by a deeply plotted invitation and he pledged this lady when he had no right to do so, because she does not belong to Yudhishthira alone. For that reason alone the wager is illegal. Besides, Yudhishthira had already lost his freedom, and being no longer a free man, how could he have a right to offer her as a stake? And there is this further objection. It was Sakuni who suggested her as a pledge, which is against the rules of the game, under which neither player may demand a specific bet. If we consider all these points, we must admit that Panchali has not been legally won by us. This is my opinion."

When the young Vikarna spoke thus courageously, the wisdom given by God to the members of the assembly suddenly illumined their minds. There were great shouts of applause. They shouted: "Dharma has been saved. Dharma has been saved."

At that moment Karna rose up and said:

"O Vikarna, forgetting that there are elders in this assembly, you lay down the law though you are but a stripling. By your ignorance and rashness you are injuring the very family which gave you birth, just as the flame generated by the arani destroys its source, the stick. It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest. At the very beginning, when Yudhishthira was a free man, he forfeited all he possessed and that, of course, included Draupadi. Hence, Draupadi had already come into Sakuni's possession. There is nothing more to be said in the matter. Even the clothes they have on are now Sakuni's property. O Duhsasana, seize the garments of the Pandavas and the robes of Draupadi and hand them over to Sakuni."

As soon as they heard the cruel words of Karna, the Pandavas, feeling that they had to stand the test of dharma to the bitter end, flung off their upper garments to show that they were ready to follow the path of honor and right at any cost.

Seeing this, Duhsasana went to Draupadi and made ready to seize her clothes by force. All earthly aid had failed, and in the anguish of utter helplessness, she implored divine mercy and succour:

"O Lord of the World," she wailed, "God whom I adore and trust, abandon me not in this dire plight. You are my sole refuge. Protect me." And she fainted away.

Then, as the wicked Duhsasana started his shameful work of pulling at Panchali's robes and good men shuddered and averted their eyes, even then, in the mercy of God a miracle occurred. 

In vain Duhsasana toiled to strip off her garments, for as he pulled off each, ever fresh garments were seen to clothe her body, and soon a great heap of resplendent clothes was piled up before the assembly till Duhsasana desisted and sat down in sheer fatigue.

The assembly trembled at this marvel and good men praised God and wept. Bhima with quivering lips, loudly uttered this terrible oath: "May I never go to the blest abode of my ancestors if I do not rend the breast and drink the heart's blood of this sinful Duhsasana, this shame of the Bharata race."

Suddenly, the howling of jackals could be heard. Donkeys and carnivorous birds began to send forth weird dissonant cries from all sides, portending calamities to come.

Dhritarashtra who realised that this incident would be the cause of the destruction of his race, for once acted with wisdom and courage. He called Draupadi to his side and attempted to soothe her with words of gentleness and affection.

Then he turned to Yudhishthira and said: "You are so blameless that you can have no enemies. Forgive in your magnanimity the evil done by Duryodhana and dismiss all memory of it from your mind. Take back your kingdom and riches and everything else and be free and prosperous. Return to Indraprastha." And the Pandavas left that accursed hall, bewildered and stunned, and seeing a miracle in this sudden release from calamity. But it was too good to endure.

After Yudhishthira and his brothers had departed, there was a long and angry discussion in the palace of the Kauravas. Incited by Duhsasana, Sakuni and others, Duryodhana upbraided his father with having frustrated their well-laid plans on the very threshold of success.

He quoted Brihaspati's aphorism that no device could be considered wrong which had as its object the destruction of formidable enemies.

He spoke in detail on the prowess of the Pandavas and expressed his conviction that the only hope of overcoming the Pandavas lay in guile and taking advantage of their pride and sense of honor.

No self-respecting kshatriya could decline an invitation to a game of dice. Duryodhana secured his doting father's reluctant and ominous approval to a plan to entice Yudhishthira once again to a game of dice.

A messenger was accordingly dispatched after Yudhisthira who had taken his departure for Indraprastha. He came up with Yudhishthira before the latter had reached his destination and invited him on behalf of king Dhritarashtra to come back.

On hearing this invitation, Yudhishthira said: "Good and evil come from destiny and cannot be avoided. If we must play again we must, that is all. A challenge to dice cannot in honor be refused. I must accept it." Truly, as Sri Vyasa says: "There never was and never can be an antelope of gold! Yet, Rama went in vain pursuit of what seemed one. Surely, when calamities are imminent, the judgment is first destroyed."

Dharmaputra returned to Hastinapura and set again for a game with Sakuni, though everyone in the assembly tried to dissuade him.

He seemed a mere pawn moved by Kali to relieve the burden of the world. 

The stake played for was that the defeated party should go with his brothers into exile to the forest and remain there for twelve years and spend the thirteenth year incognito. If they were recognised in the thirteenth year, they should go again into exile for twelve years.

Needless to say, Yudhishthira met with defeat on this occasion also, and the Pandavas took the vows of those who are to go to the forest.

All the members of the assembly bent down their heads in shame.
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #38 on: June 29, 2011, 06:18:28 PM »
27. Dhritarashtra's Anxiety

WHEN the Pandavas set out for the forest, there arose a great clamor of lamentation from people who thronged the streets and climbed the roofs and towers and trees to see them go.

The princes, who, of yore, rode in jewelled chariots or on lordly elephants to strains of auspicious music, now walked away from their birthright on weary feet, accompanied by weeping crowds. On all sides cries arose of: "Fie and Alas! Does not God see this from His heaven?"

The blind Dhritarashtra sent for Vidura and asked him to describe the departure of the Pandavas into exile. Vidura replied: "Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, went with his face covered with a cloth. Bhima went behind with his eyes lowered on his arms. Arjuna proceeded scattering sand on his path. Nakula and Sahadeva besmeared their bodies with dust and closely followed Yudhishthira. Draupadi accompanied Dharmaputra, her dishevelled hair covering her face and her eyes streaming with tears. Dhaumya, the priest, went along with them singing the Sama hymns, addressed to Yama, the Lord of Death."

When he heard these words, Dhritarashtra was filled with ever-greater fear and anxiety than before. He asked: "What do the citizens say?"

Vidura answered: "O great king, I shall tell you in their own words what the citizens of all castes and creeds say: 'Our leaders have left us. Fie on the elders of the Kuru race who have suffered such things to happen! The covetous Dhritarashtra and his sons have driven away the sons of Pandu to the forest.' While the citizens blame us thus, the heavens are vexed with cloudless lightning, and the distressed earth quakes, and there are other evil portents."

While Dhritarashtra and Vidura were conversing thus, the sage Narada suddenly appeared before them. Narada declared: "Fourteen years from this day the Kauravas will become extinct as the result of the crime committed by Duryodhana" and vanished from sight.

Duryodhana and his companions were filled with fear and approached Drona with a prayer never to abandon them, whatever happened.

Drona answered gravely: "I believe with the wise that the Pandavas are of divine birth and unconquerable. Yet my duty is to fight for the sons of Dhritarashtra who rely on me and whose salt I eat. I shall strive for them, heart and soul. But destiny is all-powerful. The Pandavas will surely return from exile, burning with anger. I should know what anger is, for I dethroned and dishonored Drupada on account of my anger towards him. Implacably revengeful, he has performed a sacrifice so that he might be blessed with a son who would kill me. It is said Dhrishtadyumna is that son. As destiny would have it, he is the brother-in-law and fast friend of the Pandavas. And things are moving as foreordained. Your actions tend in the same direction and your days are numbered. Lose no time in doing good while you may; perform great sacrifice, enjoy sinless pleasures, give alms to the needy. Nemesis will overtake you in the fourteenth year. Duryodhana, make peace withYudhishthira this is my counsel to you. But, of course, you will do what you like."

Duryodhana was not at all pleased with these words of Drona.

Sanjaya asked Dhritarashtra: "O king, why are you worried?"

The blind king replied: "How can I know peace after having injured the Pandavas?"

Sanjaya said: "What you say is quite true. The victim of adverse fate will first become perverted, utterly losing his sense of right and wrong. Time, the all destroyer, does not take a club and break the head of a man but by destroying his judgment, makes him act madly to his own ruin. Your sons have grossly insulted Panchali and put themselves on the path of destruction."

Dhritarashtra said: "I did not follow the wise path of dharma and statesmanship but suffered myself to be misled by my foolish son and, as you say, we are fast hastening towards the abyss."

Vidura used to advise Dhritarashtra earnestly. He would often tell him: "Your son has committed a great wrong. Dharmaputra has been cheated. Was it not your duty to turn your children to the path of virtue and pull them away from vice? You should order even now that the Pandavas get back the kingdom granted to them by you. Recall Yudhishthira from the forest and make peace with him. You should even restrain Duryodhana by force if he will not listen to reason."

At first Dhritarashtra would listen in sad silence when Vidura spoke thus, for he knew Vidura to be a wiser man than himself who wished him well. But gradually his patience wore thin with repeated homilies.

One day, Dhritarashtra could stand it no longer. "O Vidura," he burst out, "you are always speaking for the Pandavas and against my sons. You do not seek our good. Duryodhana was born of my loins. How can I give him up? What is the use of advising such an unnatural course? I have lost my faith in you and do not need you anymore. You are free to go to the Pandavas if you like." Then, turning his back on Vidura, he retired to the inner apartments.

Vidura sorrowfully felt that the destruction of the Kuru race was certain and, taking Dhritarashtra at his word, drove in a chariot with fleet horses to the forest where the Pandavas lived.

Dhritarashtra was filled with anxious remorse. He reflected thin himself: "What have I done? I have only strengthened Duryodhana, while driving the wise Vidura to the Pandavas."

But later he called for Sanjaya and asked him to bear a repentant message to Vidura imploring him to forgive the thoughtless words of an unhappy father and to return.

Sanjaya hurried to the hermitage where the Pandavas were staying and found them clad in deer-skin and surrounded by sages.

He also saw Vidura there and conveyed Dhritarashtra's message adding  that the blind king would die broken-hearted if he did not return.

The soft-hearted Vidura, who was dharma incarnate, was greatly moved and returned to Hastinapura.

Dhritarashtra embraced Vidura and the difference between them was washed away in tears of mutual affection.

One day, the sage Maitreya came to the court of Dhritarashtra and was welcomed with great respect.

Dhritarashtra craved his blessing and asked him: "Revered sir, you have certainly met my beloved children, the Pandavas, in Kurujangala. Are they well? Will mutual affection abide in our family without any diminution?"

Maitreya said: "I accidentally met Yudhishthira in the Kamyaka forest. The sages of the place had come to see him. I learnt of the events that took place in Hastinapura, and I marvelled that such things should have been permitted while Bhishma and yourself were alive."

Later, Maitreya saw Duryodhana who was also in the court  and advised him, for his own good, not to injure but to make peace with the Pandavas who were not only mighty themselves but related to Krishna and Drupada.

The obstinate and foolish Duryodhana merely laughed, slapping his thighs in derision and, tearing the ground with his feet and without granting an answer, turned away.

Maitreya grew angry and looking at Duryodhana said: "Are you so arrogant and do you slap your thighs in derision of one who wishes you well? Your thighs will be broken by a Bhima's mace and you will die on the battlefield." At this Dhritarashtra jumped up, fell at the feet of the sage and begged forgiveness.

Maitreya said: "My curse will not work if your son makes peace with the Pandavas. Otherwise it will have effect," and strode indignantly out of the assembly.
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #39 on: June 29, 2011, 06:19:20 PM »
28. Krishna's Vow

As SOON as the news of the slaying of Sisupala by Krishna reached his friend Salva, he became very angry and besieged Dwaraka with a mighty force.

Krishna having not yet returned to Dwaraka, old Ugrasena was in charge of the defence of the city. The sieges described in the Mahabharata seem very much like those in wars of the present day.

Dwaraka was a strongly garrisoned fortress built on an island and well provided with means of defence. Ample barracks had been provided and there was an abundant supply of food and weapons and the garrison included many illustrious warriors.

Ugrasena imposed a stringent ban upon drinking and amusements generally for the period of the siege. All the bridges were demolished and ships were forbidd enentry into ports in the realm.

Iron spikes were planted in the moats around the fortress and the city walls kept in good repair. 

All entrances to the city were guarded with barbed wire and permits and passwords strictly controlled ingress and egress. Thus no arrangements were neglected that could further strengthen the city which nature had already made impregnable.

The pay of the soldiers was increased. Volunteers for service were rigidly tested before being accepted as soldiers.

The siege was so rigorously pushed that the garrison suffered great privations. Krishna, when he returned, was struck to the heart at the sufferings of his beloved city and he compelled Salva immediately to raise the siege, by attacking and defeating him.

It was only afterwards that Krishna learnt for the first time of the events at Hastinapura, the game of dice and the exile of the Pandavas. At once be set out for the forest where the Pandavas were living.

Along with Krishna went many, including men of the Bhoja and Vrishni tribes, Dhrishtaketu, the king of the Chedi country, and the Kekayas who were all devoted to the Pandavas.

They were filled with righteous indignation when they heard of Duryodhana's perfidy and cried out that surely the earth would drink the blood of such wicked people.

Draupadi approached Sri Krishna and, in a voice drowned in tears and broken with sobs, told the story of her wrongs. She said: "I was dragged to the assembly when I had but a single garment on my body. The sons of Dhritarashtra insulted me most outrageously and gloated over my agony. They thought that I had become their slave and accosted me and treated me as one. Even Bhishma and Dhritarashtra forgot my birth and breeding and my relationship to them. O Janardhana, even my husbands did not protect me from the jeers and the ribald insults of those foul ruffians. Bhima's bodily strength and Arjuna's Gandiva bow were alike of no avail. Under such supreme provocation even weaklings would have found strength and courage to strike the vile insulter dead. The Pandavas are renowned heroes and yet Duryodhana lives! I, the daughter-in-law of the emperor Pandu, was dragged by my hair. I, the wife of five heroes, was dishonored. O Madhusudana, even you had deserted me." She stood trembling, utterly unable to continue, for the grief convulsed her.

Krishna was deeply moved and he consoled the weeping Draupadi. He said: "Those who tormented you will be stricken to death in the bloody quagmire of a lost battle. Wipe your eyes. I solemnly promise that your grievous wrongs shall be amply avenged. I shall help the Pandavas in every way. You will become an empress. The heavens may fall, the Himalayas may split in twain, the earth may crumble or the boundless sea may dry up, but, I tell you verily, my words shall stand. I swear this," and Krishna took a solemn vow before Draupadi. 

This vow, it will be seen, was in perfect accord with the purpose of the Lord's avatars, as declared in scriptures:

"For protecting the righteous, for destroying the wicked and for firmly upholding the law, I am born on earth age after age."

Dhrishtadyumna also consoled his sister and told her how nemesis would overtake the Kauravas.

He said: "I will kill Drona, Sikhandin will cause Bhishma's fall. Bhima will take the lives of the wicked Duryodhana and his brothers. Arjuna will slay Karna, the charioteer's son."

Sri Krishna said: "When this calamity befell you, I was in Dwaraka. Had I been in Hastinapur, I would never have allowed this fraudulent game of dice to take place. Uninvited, I would have gone there and stirred up Drona, Kripa and the other elders to a sense of duty. I would, at all costs, have prevented this destructive play of dice. When Sakuni was cheating you, I was fighting King Salva who had besieged my city. It was only after I had defeated him that I came to know of the game of dice and the subsequent sordid story. It grieves me that I am not able to remove your sorrows immediately but you know, some water must be lost before a broken dam is restored."

Then Krishna took leave and returned to Dwaraka with Subhadra, the wife of Arjuna, and their child, Abhimanyu.

Dhrishtadyumna went back to Panchala taking with him the sons of Draupadi.
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #40 on: June 29, 2011, 06:20:14 PM »
29. Pasupata

IN the beginning of their stay in the forest, Bhima and Draupadi used, on occasions, to argue with Yudhishthira.

They would plead that only righteous anger befitted a kshatriya and that patience and forbearance under slights and insults were not worthy of him.

They would quote weighty authorities and argue vehemently in support of their contention. Yudhishthira would firmly reply that they should abide by the promise they had made and that forbearance was the highest virtue of all.

Bhima was burning with impatience to attack and kill Duryodhana immediately and win back the kingdom. He thought it unworthy of warriors to continue to dwell tamely in the forest.

Bhima said to Yudhishthira: "You speak like those who repeat Vedic mantras and are satisfied with the sound of the words though ignorant of their meaning.  Your intellect has become confused. You are born as a kshatriya and yet you do not think or behave like one. You have become a brahmana by temperament. You know, the scriptures enjoin on a kshatriya sternness and enterprise. We should not let the wicked sons of Dhritarashtra have their way. Vain is the birth of a kshatriya who does not conquer his deceitful enemies. This is my opinion, and to me, if we go to hell by killing a deceitful foe, such hell is heaven. Your forbearance burns us worse than fire. It scorches Arjuna and myself day and night, making us sleepless. Those miscreants have seized our kingdom by fraud and are enjoying it, while you lie torpid like a gorged python. You say that we should abide by our promise. How can the world-renowned Arjuna live incognito? Can the Himalayas be hidden under a handful of grass? How can the lion-hearted Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva live in hiding? Can the famous Draupadi walk about unrecognized by others? Even if we do these impossible things, the son of Dhritarashtra will find out through his spies. Hence, this promise of ours is impossible of performance and has been put on us merely to thrust us out again for another thirteen years. The sastras too support me when I say that a filched promise is no promise. A handful of grass thrown to a tired bull ought to be enough as expiation for breaking such a promise. You should resolve to kill our enemies immediately. There is no higher duty for a kshatriya."

Bhima was never tired of pressing his view. Draupadi also would refer to the dishonor she had suffered at the hands of Duryodhana, Karna and Duhsasana and would quote authorities from the scriptures that would give Yudhishthira anxiety to think.

He would sometimes answer with common maxims of politics and refer to the relative strength of the parties.  He would say: "Our enemy has such adherents as Bhurisravas, Bhishma, Drona, Karna and Aswatthama. Duryodhana and his brothers are expert in warfare. Many feudatory princes, as well as mighty monarchs, are now on their side. Bhishma and Drona, indeed, have no respect for Duryodhana's character, but will not give him up and are prepared to sacrifice their lives on his side in the battlefield. Karna is a brave and skilful fighter, well versed in the use of all the weapons. The course of war is unpredictable and success is uncertain. There is no use in being hasty." Thus Yudhishthira managed with difficulty to restrain the impatience of the younger Pandavas.

Later, as advised by Vyasa, Arjuna went to the Himalayas to practise austerities for the purpose of getting new weapons from the devas. Arjuna took leave of his brothers and went to Panchali to bid her farewell.

She said: "O Dhananjaya, may you prosper in your mission. May God give you all that Kuntidevi hoped and wished for when you were born. The happiness, life, honor and prosperity of us all depend on you. Return after acquiring new weapons." Thus Panchali sent him forth with auspicious words. 

It is noteworthy that though the voice was Draupadi the wife's, yet the benediction was Kunti the mother's for the words were: "May God give all that Kuntidevi wished and hoped for when you were born."

Arjuna passed through dense forests and reached the mountain of Indrakila, where he met an old brahmana. The ascetic smiled and spoke affectionately to Arjuna:

"Child, you are clad in armor and carry weapons. Who are you? Weapons are of no use here. What do you seek in this garb of a kshatriya in this abode of ascetics and saints who have conquered anger and passion?" That was Indra, the king of gods, who came to have the pleasure of meeting his son.

Arjuna bowed to his father and said: "I seek arms. Bless me with weapons." Indra replied: "O Dhananjaya, what is the use of weapons? Ask for pleasures or seek to go to higher worlds for enjoyment."

Arjuna answered: "O king of gods, I do not seek pleasures of higher worlds. I have come here after leaving Panchali and my brothers in the forest. I seek but weapons."

The thousand-eyed said: "If you be blessed by the vision of god Siva, the three-eyed god, and obtain his grace, you will receive divine weapons. Do penance unto Siva."

Thus saying Indra disappeared. Then, Arjuna went to the Himalayas and did penance to obtain the grace of Siva. 

Siva under the guise of a hunter and accompanied by his divine spouse Umadevi, entered the forest in pursuit of game.

The chase grew fast and furious, and presently a wild boar started charging Arjuna, who shot an arrow into it with his Gandiva bow at the same moment that the hunter Siva transfixed it with a shaft from his Pinaka bow.

Arjuna shouted in loud voice: "Who are you? Why are you ranging in this forest with your wife? How dare you shoot at the game I had aimed at?"

The hunter replied as though in contempt: "This forest, full of game, belongs to us, who live in it. You do not look tough enough to be a forester. Your limbs and bearing bespeak a soft luxurious life. It is rather for me to ask what you are doing here." He also added that it was his shaft that had killed the boar, and that if Arjuna thought differently be was welcome to fight about it.

Nothing could please Arjuna better. He jumped up and showered snake-like arrows at Siva. To his amazement, they seemed to have no effect on the hunter and fell back hurtless like storm-driven rain from a mountain peak.

When he had no more arrows, he started to strike Siva with his bow. But the hunter seemed not to heed it and wrenched with ease the bow out of Arjuna's hand and burst into laughter.

Arjuna, who had been disarmed with humiliating ease by one who seemed an ordinary hunter of the forest, was struck with amazement, almost amounting to doubt. But undaunted, he drew his sword and continued the combat.

The sword was split into pieces on the hunter's adamantine frame. There was now nothing to do but to grapple with the formidable unknown. But here again he was outmatched.

The hunter caught him in an iron clasp so close that Arjuna was quite helpless.  Worsted and overmastered, Arjuna humbly sought divine aid and meditated on Siva. As he did so, a light broke on his troubled mind, and at once he knew who the hunter really was.

He fell at the feet of the Lord and, in a broken voice of repentance and adoration he prayed for forgiveness. "I forgive you," said Siva smilingly and gave him back his Gandiva bow, as well as the other weapons, of which he had been deprived. He also bestowed on Arjuna the marvellous Pasupata weapon.

Arjuna's body, battered in the unequal combat, was made whole and perfect by the divine touch of the three-eyed god and became a hundred fold stronger and more brilliant than before.

"Go to heaven and render dutiful respect to your father Indra," said Siva and vanished from view like the setting sun.

Arjuna was overcome with joy and exclaimed: "Have I really seen the Lord face to face and have I been blessed with his divine touch? What more do I need?"

At that moment, Matali, the charioteer of Indra, came there with his chariot and took Arjuna to the kingdom of the gods.
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #41 on: June 29, 2011, 06:21:16 PM »
30. Affliction is Nothing New

BALARAMA and Krishna came with their retinue to the abode of the Pandavas in the forest. Deeply distressed by what he saw, Balarama said to Krishna:

"O Krishna, it would seem that virtue and wickedness bear contrary fruit in this life. For see, the wicked Duryodhana is ruling his kingdom clad in silk and gold, while the virtuous Yudhishthira lives in the forest wearing the bark of trees. Seeing such unmerited prosperity and undeserved privation, men have lost their faith in God. The praise of virtue in the sastras seems mere mummery when we see the actual results of good and evil in this world. How will Dhritarashtra justify his conduct and defend himself when he is face to face with the god of death? Even the mountains and the earth weep at the sight of the blameless Pandavas dwelling in the forests with the blessed Draupadi, born from the sacrificial fire."

Satyaki, who was seated near, said: "O Balarama, this is no time for lamenting. Should we wait till Yudhishthira asks us to do our duty for the Pandavas? While you and Krishna and all other relations are living, why should the Pandavas waste their precious years in the forest? Let us collect our forces and attack Duryodhana. With the army of the Vrishnis, we are surely strong enough to destroy the Kauravas. Why, where is the need to foil Karna's vaunted archery and cut off his head. Let us kill Duryodhana and his adherents in the battlefield and hand over the kingdom to Abhimanyu if the Pandavas wish to keep their word and stay in the forest. This is good for them and befits us as men of valor."

Vasudeva, who was listening carefully to this speech, said: "What you say is true. But the Pandavas would not like to receive from the hands of others what they have not won by their own efforts. Draupadi for one, born of a heroic race as she is, would not hear of it. Yudhishthira will never give up the path of righteousness for love or fear. When the stipulated period of exile is over the kings of Panchala, Kekaya and Chedi and ourselves will unite our forces to help the Pandavas to conquer their enemies."

Yudhishthira was delighted at these words of Krishna. "Sri Krishna knows my mind," said he. "Truth is greater than power or prosperity and has to be guarded at all costs and not the kingdom. When he wants us to fight, he shall find us ready. The heroes of the Vrishni race may now return with the certainty that we shall meet again when the time is ripe." With these words Yudhishthira gave them leave to return.

Arjuna was still away in the Himalayas and Bhima's anxiety and impatience became well nigh insupportable. He said to Yudhishthira:

"You know that our life depends on Arjuna. He has been away very long, and we have had no tidings of him. If he should be lost to us, then neither the king of Panchala, nor Satyaki nor even Sri Krishna can save us, and I for one cannot survive that loss. All this we owe to that mad game of dice, our sorrows and sufferings, as well as the growing strength of our foes. To be dwelling in the forest is not the duty enjoined on a kshatriya. We should immediately recall Arjuna and wage war with the sons of Dhritarashtra, with the help of Sri Krishna. I shall be satisfied only when the wicked Sakuni, Karna and Duryodhana are slain. After this clear duty is done, you may, if you like, return to the forest and live a life of asceticism. It is not a sin to kill by stratagem an enemy who has resorted to stratagem. I have heard that the Atharva Veda has incantations, which can compress time and reduce its span. If we could, by such means, squeeze thirteen years into thirteen days, we would be perfectly justified in doing so, and you will permit me on the fourteenth day to kill Duryodhana."

Hearing these words of Bhima, Dharmaputra affectionately embraced him and sought to restrain his impetuosity. "Beloved brother, as soon as the period of thirteen years is over, Arjuna, the hero, with the Gandiva bow, and yourself will fight and kill Duryodhana. Be patient till then. Duryodhana and his followers, who are sunk in sin, cannot escape. Be assured of it." While the sorrow-stricken brothers were thus engaged in debate, the great sage Brihadaswa came to the hermitage of the Pandavas and was received with the customary honors.

After a while, Yudhishthira said to him: "Revered sage, our deceitful enemies, drew us into this game of dice and cheated us of our kingdom and riches, and drove my heroic brothers, as well as Panchali and myself, to the forest. Arjuna, who left us a long time ago to get divine weapons, has not returned as yet and we miss him sorely. Will he return with divine arms? And when will he be back? Surely never was there in this world a man who suffered so much sorrow as myself."

The great sage replied: "Do not let your mind dwell on sorrow. Arjuna will return with divine weapons and you will conquer your enemies in the fitness of time. You say that there is no one in this world that is as unfortunate as you. Now, that is not true, though everyone, tried by adversity, is inclined to claim pre-eminence in sorrow, because things felt are more than things heard or seen. Have you heard of king Nala of Nishadha? He suffered more sorrows than yourself even in the forest. He was deceived by Pushkara at a game of dice. He lost his wealth and kingdom and had to go in exile to the forest. Less fortunate than you, he had not with him his brothers or brahmanas. The influence of Kali, the spirit of the dark age, deprived him of his discrimination and good sense. And not knowing what he was doing, he deserted his wife who had accompanied him, and wandered about in the forest, solitary and almost mad. Now, compare your state with his. You have the company of your heroic brothers and devoted wife and are supported by a few learned brahmanas in your adversity. Your mind is sound and steady. Self-pity is natural, but you are really not so badly off."

The sage then narrated the life of Nala which constitutes twenty-eight chapters of the great epic. The sage concluded with these words:

"O Pandava, Nala was tried by sorrows more agonising than yours, yet he triumphed over them all and his life ended happily. You have the alleviations of unclouded intellect and the society of your nearest and dearest. You spend much of your time in exalted contemplation of dharma and in holy converse with brahmanas who are learned in the Vedas and Vedantas. Bear your trials and tribulations with fortitude, for they are the lot of man and not peculiar to you."

Thus did the sage Brihadaswa console Yudhishthira.
 
 
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #42 on: June 29, 2011, 06:22:00 PM »
31. Agastya

THE brahmanas, who had been with Yudhishthira in Indraprastha, had followed him to the forest. It was difficult to maintain such a large establishment.

Some time after Arjuna had gone on his quest of Pasupata, a brahmana sage named Lomasa came to the abode of the Pandavas.

He advised Yudhishthira to minimize his retinue before going on pilgrimage as it would be difficult to move freely from place to place with a large following.

Yudhishthira, who had long felt that difficulty, announced to his followers that such of them, as were unaccustomed to hardship and to hard and scanty fare and those who had followed merely in token of loyalty, might return to Dhritarashtra or, if they preferred it, go to Drupada, the King of Panchala.

Later, with a greatly reduced retinue, the Pandavas started on a pilgrimage to holy places, acquainting themselves with the stories and traditions relating to each. The story of Agastya was one such.

Agastya, it is said, once saw some ancestral spirits dangling head down and asked them who they were and how they had come to be in that unpleasant plight.

They replied: "Dear child, we are your ancestors. If you discharge not your debt to us by marrying and begetting progeny, there will be no one after you to offer us oblations. We have, therefore, resorted to this austerity, in order to persuade you to save us from this peril."

When Agastya heard this, he decided to marry.

The king of the country of Vidarbha was childless and, so, careworn. He repaired to Agastya to get his blessing. In granting him the boon, Agastya announced that the king would be the father of a beautiful girl, who, he stipulated should be given in marriage to him.

Soon the queen gave birth to a girl who was named Lopamudra. She grew with years into a maiden of such rare beauty and charm that she became celebrated in the kshatriya world. But no prince dared to woo her for fear of Agastya.

Later, the sage Agastya came to Vidarbha and demanded the hand of the king's daughter. The king was reluctant to give the delicately nurtured princess in marriage to a sage leading the primitive life of a forester but he also feared the anger of the sage if he said nay, and was plunged in sorrow.

Lopamudra, greatly concerned, discovered the cause of her parent's unhappiness and expressed her readiness, nay her desire, to marry the sage.

The king was relieved, and the marriage of Agastya and Lopamudra was celebrated in due course. When the princess set out to accompany the sage, he bade her give up her costly garments and valuable jewels.

Unquestioningly Lopamudra distributed her priceless jewels and garments amongst her companions and attendants, and covering herself in deerskin and garments of bark, she joyfully accompanied the sage.

During the time Lopamudra and Agastya spent in tapas and meditation at Gangadwara, a strong and abiding love sprang up between them. For conjugal life, Lopamudra's modesty shrank from the lack of privacy in a forest hermitage. And one day, with blushing and humbleness she expressed her mind to her husband.

She said: "My desire is that I may have the royal bedding, the beautiful robes and the valuable jewels I had when I was in my father's place and that you too may have splendid garments and ornaments. And then we shall enjoy life to our heart's content."

Agastya smilingly replied: "I have neither the wealth nor the facilities to provide what you want. Are we not beggars living in the forest?"

But Lopamudra knew her lord's yogic power, and said: "Lord, you are all-powerful by the strength of your austerities. You can get the wealth of the whole world in a moment if you but will."

Agastya said that no doubt that was so, but, if he spent his austerities in gaining things of such little moment as riches, they would soon dwindle to nothing.

She replied: "I do not wish that. What I desire is that you should earn in the ordinary way sufficient wealth for us to live in ease and comfort."

Agastya consented and set out as an ordinary brahmana to beg of various kings. Agastya went to a king who was reputed to be very wealthy. The sage told the king: "I have come in quest of wealth. Give me what I seek, without causing any loss or injury to others."

The king presented a true picture of the income and expenditure of the State and told him he was free to take what he deemed fit. The sage found from the accounts that there was no balance left.

The expenditure of a State turns out always to be at least equal to its income. This seems to have been the case in ancient times also.

Seeing this, Agastya said: "To accept any gift from this king, will be a hardship to the citizens. So, I shall seek elsewhere," and the sage was about to leave. The king said that he would also accompany him and both of them went to another State where also they found the same state of affairs.

Vyasa thus lays down and illustrates the maxim that a king should not tax his subjects more than necessary for rightful public expenditure and that if one accepts as gift anything from the public revenues, one adds to the burden of the subjects to that extent.

Agastya thought he had better go to the wicked asura Ilvala and try his luck.  Ilvala and his brother Vatapi cherished an implacable hatred towards brahmanas. They had curious plan for killing them. Ilvala would, with effective hospitality, invite a brahmana to a feast.

By the power of his magic he would transform his brother Vatapi into a goat and he would kill this pseudo-goat for food and serve its meat to the guest. In those days, the brahmanas used to eat meat. The feast over, Ilvala would invoke his brother Vatapi to come out, for he had the art of bringing back to life those whom he had killed.

And Vatapi, who as food had entered the vitals of the unlucky brahmana, would spring up sound and whole and rend his way out with fiendish laughter, of course killing the guest in doing so.

In this manner, many brahmanas had died. Ilvala was very happy when he learnt that Agastya was in the neighborhood, since he felt that here was a good brahmana delivered into his hands.

So, he welcomed him and prepared the usual feast. The sage ate heartily of Vatapi transformed into a goat, and it only remained for Ilvala to call out Vatapi for the rending scene. And, as usual, Ilvala repeated the magic formula and shouted: "Vatapi come out!"

Agastya smiled and, gently rubbing his stomach, said: "O Vatapi, be digested in my stomach for the peace and good of the world." Ilvala shouted again and again in frantic fear: "O Vatapi, come forth."

There was no response and the sage explained the reason. Vatapi had been digested. The trick had been tried once too often.

The asura bowed to Agastya and surrendered to him the riches he sought. Thus was the sage able to satisfy Lopamudra's desire. Agastya asked her what she would prefer whether ten ordinarily good sons or one super-good son with the strength of ten.

Lopamudra replied she would like to have one exceptionally virtuous and learned son. The story goes that she was blessed with such a gifted son.

Once the Vindhyas became jealous of the Meru Mountain and tried to grow in stature, obstructing the sun, the moon and the planets. Unable to prevent this danger, the gods sought aid from Agastya. The sage went to the Vindhya Mountain and said:

"Best of mountains, stop you’re growing till I cross you on my way to the south and return north again. After my return, you can grow, as you like. Wait till then." Since the Vindhya Mountain respected Agastya, it bowed to his request.

Agastya did not return north at all, but settled in the south and so the Vindhyas remain arrested in growth to this day. Such is the story as narrated in the Mahabharata.
 
 
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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #43 on: June 29, 2011, 06:22:45 PM »
32. Rishyasringa

IT is an error to think that it is easy for a person to lead a life of chastity if he is brought up in complete ignorance of sensual pleasures. Virtue guarded only by ignorance is very insecure as illustrated by the following story. It is told in the Ramayana also, but not in the same detail.

Vibhandaka who was resplendent like Brahma, the Creator, lived with his son Rishyasringa in a forest. The latter had not come across any mortal, man or woman, except his father.

The country of Anga was once afflicted with a dire famine. Crops had withered for want of rain and men perished for lack of food. All living things were in distress. Romapada, the king of the country, approached the brahmanas to advise him of some means of saving the kingdom from famine.

The brahmanas replied: "Best of kings, there is a young sage called Rishyasringa who lives a life of perfect chastity. Invite him to our kingdom. He has won the power, by his austerities, of bringing rain and plenty wherever he goes."

The king discussed with his courtiers the means by which Rishyasringa could be brought from the hermitage of the sage Vibhandaka. In accordance with their advice, he called together the most charming courtesans of the city and entrusted them with the mission of bringing Rishyasringa to Anga.

The damsels were in a quandary. On the one hand, they feared to disobey the king. On the other, they also feared the sage's wrath. Finally, they made up their minds to go, relying on Providence to help them, in achieving the good work of rescuing the stricken land from famine.

They were suitably equipped for their enterprise before being sent to the hermitage.  The leader of this band of courtesans made a beautiful garden of a big boat, with artificial trees and creepers, with an imitation ashrama in the center.

She had the boat moored in the river near Vibhandaka's hermitage, and the courtesans visited the hermitage with quaking hearts. Luckily for them, the sage was not at home. Feeling that this was the opportune moment, one of the beautiful damsels went to the sage's son.

She thus addressed Rishyasringa: "Great sage, are you well? Have you sufficient roots and fruits? Are the penances of the rishis of the forest proceeding satisfactorily? Is your father's glory constantly growing? Is your own study of the Vedas progressing?" This was how rishis used to accost one another in those days.

The youthful anchorite had never before seen such a beautiful human form or heard such a sweet voice.

The instinctive yearning for society, especially of the opposite sex, though he had never seen a woman before, began to work on his mind from the moment he beheld that graceful form.

He thought that she was a young sage like himself, and felt a strange irrepressible joy surging up in his soul. He answered, fixing eyes on his interlocutor:

"You seem to be a bright brahmacharin. Who are you? I bow to you. Where is your hermitage? What are the austerities you are practising?" and he rendered her the customary offerings.

She said to him: "At a distance of three yojanas from here is my ashrama. I have brought fruits for you. I am not fit to receive your prostration, but I shall return your greetings and salutation in the way customary with us." She embraced him warmly, fed him with the sweets she had brought, decorated him with perfumed garlands, and served him with drinks.

She embraced him again, saying that that was their way of salutation to honored guests. He thought it a very agreeable way.

Shortly after, fearing the return of the sage Vibhandaka, the courtesan took her leave of Rishyasringa saying it was time for her to perform the agnihotra sacrifice and gently slipped out of the hermitage.

When Vibhandaka returned to the hermitage, he was shocked to see the place so untidy with sweet meats scattered all over, for the hermitage had not been cleansed. The shrubs and creepers looked draggled and untidy.

His son's face had not its usual lustre but seemed clouded and disturbed as by a storm of passion. The usual simple duties of the hermitage had been neglected.

Vibhandaka was troubled and asked his son: "Dear boy, why have you not yet gathered the sacred firewood? Who has broken these nice plants and shrubs? Has the cow been milked? Has anyone been here to serve you? Who gave you this strange garland? Why do you appear worried?"

The simple and ingenuous Rishyasringa replied: "A brahmacharin of wonderful form was here. I cannot describe his brightness and beauty or the sweetness of his voice. My inner being has been filled with indescribable happiness and affection by listening to his voice and looking at his eyes. When he embraced me, which it seems is his customary greeting, I experienced a joy which I have never felt before, no, not even when eating the sweetest fruits," and then he described to his father the form, beauty and the doings of his fair visitor.

Rishyasringa added wistfully: "My body seems to burn with desire for the company of that brahmacharin and I should like to go and find him and bring him here somehow. How can I give you any idea about his devotion and brightness? My heart pants to see him."

When Rishyasringa had thus brokenly expressed yearnings and disturbances to which he had hitherto been a stranger, Vibhandaka knew what had occurred. He said: "Child, this was no brahmacharin that you saw, but a malignant demon who sought, as demons do, to beguile us and hinder our penances and austerities. They take recourse to many kinds of tricks and stratagems for the purpose. Do not let them come near you."

After that Vibhandaka searched in vain for three days in the forest to find out the wretches who had done this injury, and returned baffled it his purpose.

On another occasion, when Vibhandaka had gone out of the hermitage to bring roots and fruits, the courtesan again came softly to the place where Rishyasringa was seated. As soon as he saw her at a distance, Rishyasringa jumped up and ran to greet her gushingly, as pent up water surges out of a reservoir that has sprung a leak.

Even without waiting for prompting this time, Rishyasringa went near her and after the customary salutation said:  "O shining brahmacharin, before my father returns let us go to your hermitage."

This was just what she had hoped and worked for. And together they entered the boat, which had been made to look like a hermitage. As soon as the young sage had entered, the boat was freed from its moorings and floated easily down with its welcome freight to the kingdom of Anga.

As might be expected, the young sage had a pleasant and interesting journey and when he reached Anga, he certainly knew more about the world and its ways than he had done in the forest.

The coming of Rishyasringa delighted Romapada infinitely and he took his welcome guest to the luxuriously provided inner apartments specially prepared for him.

As foretold by the brahmanas, rain began to pour the instant Rishyasringa set his foot in the country. The rivers and the lakes were full and the people rejoiced. Romapada gave his daughter Shanta in marriage to Rishyasringa.

Though all ended as he had planned, the king was uneasy in his mind, for he was afraid that Vibhandaka might come in search of his son and pronounce a curse on him.

So, he sought to mollify Vibhandaka by lining the route he would take with cattle and kind and by instructing the cowherds in charge to say that they were Rishyasringa's servants and had come to welcome and honor their master's father and place themselves at his service.

Not finding his son anywhere in the hermitage, the enraged Vibhandaka thought that this might be the work of the king of Anga.

He crossed intervening rivers and villages and marched to the capital of the king as if to burn him in his anger. But as at each stage of the journey he saw magnificent cattle which belonged to his son and was respectfully welcomed by his son's servants, his angry mood passed gradually as he approached the capital.

When he came to the capital, he was received with great honor and taken to the king's palace where he saw his son sitting in state like the king of the gods in heaven. He saw by his side his wife, the princess Shanta, whose great beauty soothed and pleased him.

Vibhandaka blessed the king. He laid this injunction on his son: "Do all that will please this king. After the birth of a son, come and join me in the forest." Rishyasringa did as his father bade him.

Lomasa concluded the story with these words addressed to Yudhishthira: "Like Damayanti and Nala, Sita and Rama, Arundhati and Vasishtha, Lopamudra and Agastya, and Draupadi and yourself, Shanta and Rishyasringa repaired to the forest in the fullness of time and spent their lives in mutual love and the worship of God. This is the hermitage where Rishyasringa. lived. Bathe in these waters and be purified." The Pandavas bathed there and performed their devotions.
 
 
Nusrat Jahan
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Daffodil International University

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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #44 on: June 29, 2011, 06:23:37 PM »
33. Fruitless Penance

IN the course of their wanderings, the Pandavas reached the hermitage of Raibhya on the banks of the Ganga.

Lomasa told them the story of the place: "This is the ghat where Bharata, the son of Dasaratha, bathed. These waters cleansed Indra of the sin of killing Vritra unfairly. Here also Sanatkumara became one with God. Aditi, the mother of the gods, offered oblations on this mountain and prayed to be blessed with a son. O Yudhishthira, ascend this holy mountain and the misfortunes, which have cast a cloud on your life, will vanish. Anger and passion will be washed off if you bathe in the running waters of this river."

Then Lomasa expatiated in greater detail on the sanctity of the place.

He began the story thus: "Yavakrida, the son of a sage, met with destruction in this very place."

He continued: "There lived in their hermitages two eminent brahmanas, named Bharadwaja and Raibhya, who were dear friends. Raibhya and his two sons, Paravasu and Arvavasu, learnt the Vedas and became famed scholars. Bharadwaja devoted himself wholly to the worship of God. He had a son named Yavakrida who saw with jealousy and hatred that the brahmanas did not respect his ascetic father as they did the learned Raibhya. Yavakrida practised hard penance to gain the grace of Indra. He tortured his body with austerities and thus awakened the compassion of Indra, who appeared and asked him why he so mortified his flesh." 

Yavakrida replied: "I wish to be more learned in the Vedas than any has ever been before. I wish to be a great scholar. I am performing these austerities to realise that desire. It takes a long time and involves much hardship to learn the Vedas from a teacher. I am practising austerities to acquire that knowledge directly. Bless me."

Indra smiled and said: "O brahmana, you are on the wrong path. Return home, seek a proper preceptor and learn the Vedas from him. Austerity is not the way to learning. The path is study and study alone." With these words Indra vanished. But the son of Bharadwaja would not give up.

He pursued his course of austerities with even greater rigor, to the horror and the distress of the gods. Indra again manifested himself before Yavakrida and warned him again:

"You have taken the wrong path to acquire knowledge. You can acquire knowledge only by study. Your father learnt the Vedas by patient study and so can you. Go and study the Vedas. Desist from this vain mortification of the body."

Yavakrida did not heed even this second warning of Indra and announced defiantly that if his prayer were not granted, he would cut off his limbs one by one and offer them as oblations to the fire. No, he would never give up.

He continued his penance. One morning, during his austerities, when he went to bathe in the Ganga, be saw a gaunt old brahmana on the bank, laboriously throwing handfuls of sand into the water.

Yavakrida asked: "Old man, what are you doing?" The old man replied: "I am going to build a dam across this river. When, with handful after handful, I have built a dam of sand here, people can cross the river with ease. See how very difficult it is at present to cross it. Useful work, isn't it?"

Yavakrida laughed and said: "What a fool you must be to think you can build a dam across this mighty river with your silly handfuls of sand! Arise and take to some more useful work."

The old man said: "Is my project more foolish than yours of mastering the Vedas not by study but by austerities?" Yavakrida now knew that the old man was Indra. More humble this time, Yavakrida earnestly begged Indra to grant him learning as a personal boon.

Indra blessed, and comforted Yavakrida with the following words:

"Well, I grant you the boon you seek. Go and study the Vedas; you will become learned."
 

 
 
Nusrat Jahan
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Daffodil International University