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(Khandava-daha Parva)

“Vaisampayana said, ‘The Pandavas, after they had taken up their abode at Indraprastha at the command of Dhritarashtra and Bhishma began to bring other kings under their sway. All the subjects (of the kingdom) lived most happily depending upon Yudhishthira the just, like a soul living happily depending upon a body blest with auspicious marks and pious deeds. And, O bull in Bharata’s race, Yudhishthira paid homage unto virtue, pleasure, and profit, in judicious proportion, as if each were a friend dear unto him as his own self. It seemed as if the three pursuits–virtue, pleasure, and profit–became personified on earth, and amongst them the king shone as a fourth. The subjects having obtained Yudhishthira as their king, obtained in their monarch one that was devoted to the study of the Vedas, one that was performer of the great sacrifices, and one that was protector of all good people.

In consequence of Yudhishthira’s influence, the good fortune of all the monarchs of the earth became stationary, and their hearts became devoted to the meditation of the Supreme Spirit, and virtue itself began to grow every way all round. And in the midst of and assisted by his four brothers, the king looked more resplendent (than he would have done if he were alone), like a great sacrifice depending upon and assisted by the four Vedas. Many learned Brahmanas with Dhananjaya at their head, each like unto Vrihaspati, waited upon the monarch, like the celestials waiting upon the Lord of the creation.

From excess of affection, the eyes and hearts of all the people equally took great delight in Yudhishthira who was even as the full moon without a stain. The people took delight in him not only because he was their king but also from sincere affection. The king always did what was agreeable to them. The sweet-speeched Yudhishthira of great intelligence never uttered anything that was improper or untrue or unbearable or disagreeable. The best of monarchs of the Bharata race, endued with great energy, passed his days happily for the welfare of all as his own. His brothers also bringing by their energy other kings under their sway, passed their days in happiness, without a foe to disturb their peace.

“After a few days, Vibhatsu, addressing Krishna, said, ‘The summer days have set in, O Krishna! Therefore, let us go to the banks of the Yamuna. O slayer of Madhu, sporting there in the company of friends, we will, O Janardana, return in the evening’. Thereupon Vasudeva said, ‘O son of Kunti, this is also my wish. Let us, O Partha, sport in the waters as we please, in the company of friends.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then, O Bharata, having consulted thus with each other, Partha and Govinda, with Yudhishthira’s leave, set out, surrounded by friends. Reaching a fine spot (on the banks of the Yamuna) suitable for purposes of pleasure, overgrown with numerous tall trees and covered with several high mansions that made the place look like the celestial city and within which had been collected for Krishna and Partha numerous costly and well-flavoured viands and drinks and other articles of enjoyment and floral wreaths and various perfumes, the party entered without delay the inner apartments adorned with many precious gems of pure rays.

Entering those apartments, everybody, O Bharata, began to sport, according to his pleasure. The women of the party, all of full rotund hips and deep bosoms and handsome eyes, and gait unsteady with wine began to sport there at the command of Krishna and Partha. Some amongst the women sported as they liked in the woods, some in the waters, and some within the mansions, as directed by Partha and Govinda.

Draupadi and Subhadra, exhilarated with wine, began to give away unto the women so sporting, their costly robes and ornaments. And some amongst those women began to dance in joy, and some began to sing; and some amongst them began to laugh and jest, and some to drink excellent wines. Some began to obstruct one another’s progress and some to fight with one another, and to discourse with one another in private.Those mansions and the woods, filled with the charming music of flutes and guitars and kettledrums, became the scene of Prosperity personified.

“When such was the state of things there, Arjuna and Vasudeva went to a certain charming spot (in those woods) not far from the place where the others were. O monarch, the high-souled Krishna, and that subjugators of hostile cities, viz., Arjuna, going thither, sat down upon two very costly seats. Vasudeva and Partha amused themselves there with discoursing upon many past achievements of prowess and other topics. Unto Vasudeva and Dhananjaya happily sitting there like the Aswins in heaven, a certain Brahmana came. The Brahmana that came there looked like a tall Sala tree.

His complexion was like unto molten gold; his beard was bright yellow tinged with green; and the height and the thickness of the body were in just proportion. Of matted locks and dressed in rags, he resembled the morning sun in splendour. Of eyes like lotus-petals and of a tawny hue, he seemed to be blazing with effulgence. Beholding that foremost of Brahmanas blazing with splendour approach towards them both Arjuna and Vasudeva, hastily rising from their seats, stood, waiting (for his commands).'”

(Khandava-daha Parva continued)

“Vaisampayana said, ‘Then that Brahmana addressed Arjuna and Vasudeva of the Satwata race, saying, ‘Ye who are now staying so near unto Khandava are the two foremost of heroes on earth. I am a voracious Brahmana that always eateth much. O thou of the Vrishni race, and O Partha, I solicit you to gratify me by giving me sufficient food.’ Thus addressed by the Brahmana, Krishna and the son of Pandu answered him, saying, ‘O, tell us what kind of food will gratify thee so that we may endeavour to give it thee.’ The illustrious Brahmana, thus replied to, said unto those heroes who were enquiring after the kind of food he sought, ‘I do not desire to eat ordinary food. Know that I am Agni! Give me that food which suiteth me.

This forest of Khandava is always protected by Indra. And as it is protected by the illustrious one, I always fail to consume it. In that forest dwelleth, with his followers and family, a Naga, called Takshaka, who is the friend of Indra. It is for him that the wielder of the thunderbolt protecteth this forest. Many other creatures also are thus protected here for the sake of Takshaka. Desiring to consume the forest I succeed not in my attempts in consequence of Indra’s prowess.

Beholding me blazing forth, he always poureth upon me water from the clouds. Therefore, I succeed not in consuming the forest of Khandava, although I desire very much to do so. I have now come to you–you who are both skilled in weapons! If you help me I will surely consume this forest: for even this is the food that is desired by me! As ye are conversant with excellent weapons, I pray you to prevent those showers from descending and any of the creatures from escaping, when I begin to consume this forest!’

“Janamejaya said, ‘Why did the illustrious Agni desire to consume the forest of Khandava that was filled with various living creatures and protected by the chief of the celestials? When Agni consumed in wrath the forest of Khandava, it is evident there was a grave cause. I desire, O Brahmana, to hear all this in detail from thee. Tell me, O sage, how the Khandava forest was consumed in days of yore.’
“Vaisampayana said, ‘O chief of men, I will narrate to you the story of the conflagration of Khandava as told by Rishis in the Purana. It hath been heard, O king, in the Purana that there was a celebrated king of the name of Swetaki who was endued with strength and prowess and who was equal unto Indra himself.

No one on earth has equalled him in sacrifices, charity, and intelligence. Swetaki performed the five great sacrifices and many others, at all of which the presents unto Brahmanas were large. The heart of that monarch, O king, was always set upon sacrifices, religious rites, and gifts of all kinds. And king Swetaki of great intelligence, assisted by his Ritwiks performed sacrifices for many long years, till those sacrificial priests with eyes afflicted by the continued smoke and becoming very weak, left that monarch, wishing never more to assist at his sacrifices.

The king, however, repeatedly asked those Ritwiks to come to him. But they came not to his sacrifice in consequence of the painful state of their eyes. The king, therefore, invited at the command of his own Ritwiks, others like unto them, and completed the sacrifice that he had begun. After some days had elapsed, king Swetaki desired to perform another sacrifice which should extend for a hundred years. But the illustrious monarch obtained not any priest to assist him in it. The celebrated king then, with his friends and relatives, casting off all sloth, repeatedly courted his priests with great persistence, by bowing down unto them, by conciliatory speeches, and by gifts of wealth. All of them, however, refused to accomplish the purpose which that king of immeasurable energy had in view. Then that royal sage, getting angry, addressed those Brahmanas sitting in their asylums, and said, ‘If, ye Brahmanas, I were a fallen person, or, if, I were wanting in homage and service to you, I should then deserve to be abandoned without scruple by you and by other Brahmanas at the same time. But as I am neither degraded nor wanting in homage to you, it behoveth you not to obstruct the performance by me of my sacrifice or to abandon me thus, ye foremost of Brahmanas, without adequate reason. I seek, ye Brahmanas, your protection! It behoveth you to be propitious unto me.

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