(Khandava-daha Parva continued)
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Hearing those words of her sons Jarita continued, ‘The little mouse that had come out of this hole was seized by a hawk with his claws and carried away hence. Therefore, ye may fearlessly enter this hole now.’ The young ones replied, ‘We are not by any means certain of that mouse having been taken away by the hawk.
There may be other mice living here. From them we have every fear. Whereas it is doubtful whether fire will at all approach us here. Already we see an adverse wind blowing the flames away. If we enter the hole, death is certain at the hands of the dwellers in the hole. But if we remain where we are, death is uncertain. O mother, a position in which death is uncertain is better than that in which it is certain. It is thy duty, therefore, to escape thyself, for, if thou livest thou mayest obtain other children as good.’
“Their mother then said, ‘Ye children, I myself saw the mighty hawk, that best of birds, swoop down and fly away with the mouse from the hole. And while he was flying away swiftly, I followed him behind and pronounced blessing on him for his having taken away the mouse from the hole. I said unto him. ‘O king of hawks, because thou art flying away with our enemy, the mouse, in thy claws, mayest thou, without a foe, live in heaven with a golden body.’ Afterwards when that hawk devoured the mouse, I came away, obtaining his leave. Therefore, ye children, enter this hole trustfully.
Ye have nothing to fear. The mouse that was its inmate was seized and taken away by the hawk in my sight.’ The young ones again said, ‘O mother, we do not by any means know that the mouse hath been carried away by the hawk. We cannot enter this hole in the ground without being certain of the fact.’ Their mother said, ‘I know to a certainty that the mouse hath been carried away by the hawk. Therefore, ye children, ye have nothing to fear; do what I say.’ The young ones again said, ‘We do not, O mother, say that thou art dispelling our fears with a false story. For whatever is done by a person when his reason hath been disturbed can scarcely be said to be that person’s deliberate act.
Thou hast not been benefited by us, nor dost thou know who we are. Why dost thou, therefore, strive to protect us at so much cost to thyself? Who are we to thee? Thou art young and handsome, and capable of seeking out thy husband. Go unto thy husband. Thou shalt obtain good children again. Let us by entering the fire attain to regions of felicity. If, however, the fire consume us not, thou mayest come back and obtain us again.’
“Vaisampayana said, ‘The parent bird then, thus addressed by her sons, left them in Khandava and hastily went to the spot where there was no fire and there was safety. Then Agni in haste and with fierce flames approached the spot where the sons of Mandapala were. The young birds saw the blazing fire come towards them. Then Jaritari, the eldest of the four, in the hearing of Agni, began to speak.'”
(Khandava-daha Parva continued)
“Jaritari said, ‘The person that is wise remaineth wakeful in view of death. Accordingly, when the hour of death approacheth, he feeleth no pangs. But the person of perplexed soul, who remaineth not awake, when the hour of death comes, feeleth the pangs of death and never attaineth salvation.’
“The second brother Sarisrikka, said, ‘Thou art patient and intelligent. The time is come when our lives are threatened. Without doubt, one only amongst many becometh wise and brave.’
“The third brother, Stamvamitra, said, ‘The eldest brother is called the protector. It is the eldest brother that rescueth (the younger ones) from danger. If the eldest himself faileth to rescue them, what can the younger ones do?’
“The fourth and the youngest brother, Drona said, ‘The cruel god of fire, with seven tongues and seven mouths quickly cometh towards our habitation, blazing forth in splendour and licking up everything in his path.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Having addressed one another thus, the sons of Mandapala then each devotedly addressed an eulogistic hymn to Agni. Listen now, O monarch, to those hymns as I recite them.’
“Jaritari said, ‘Thou art, O fire, the soul of air! Thou art the body of the Earth’s vegetation! O Sukra, water is thy parent as thou art the parent of water! O thou of great energy, thy flames, like the rays of the sun, extend themselves above, below, behind, and on each side.’
“Sarisrikka said, ‘O smoke-bannered god, our mother is not to be seen, and we know not our father! Our feathers have not grown as yet. We have none to protect us save thee. Therefore, O Agni, infants that we are protect us! O Agni, as we are distressed, protect us with that auspicious form thou hast and with those seven flames of thine! We seek protection at thy hands. Thou alone, O Agni, art the giver of heat (in the universe). O lord, there is none else (save thee) that giveth heat to the rays of the sun. O, protect us who are young and who are Rishis. O Havyavaha (carrier of sacrificial butter), be pleased to go hence by some other route.’
“Stamvamitra said, ‘Thou alone, O Agni, art everything! This whole universe is established in thee! Thou sustainest every creature, and thou supportest the universe! Thou art the carrier of the sacrificial butter, and thou art the excellent sacrificial butter itself! The wise know thee to be one (as cause) and many (as effects)! Having created the three worlds, thou, O Havyavaha, again destroyest them when the time cometh, swelling thyself forth! Thou art the productive cause of the whole universe, and thou also art the essence in which the universe dissolveth itself!’
“Drona said, ‘O lord of the universe, growing in strength and remaining within their bodies, thou causest the food that living creatures eat to be digested. Everything therefore, is established in thee. O Sukra, O thou from whose mouth the Vedas have sprung, it is thou who assumests the form of the sun, and sucking up the waters of the earth and every liquid juice that the earth yields, givest them back in time in the form of rain and causest everything to grow! From thee, O Sukra, are these plants and creepers with green foliage! From thee have sprung these tanks and pools, and the great ocean also that is ever blessed! O thou of fierce rays, this our (human) body dependeth on Varuna (the water-god)! We are unable to bear thy heat. Be thou, therefore, our auspicious protector! O, destroy us not! O thou of copper-hued eyes, O thou of red neck, O thou whose path is marked by a black colour, save us by going along any remote route, as indeed, the ocean saveth the house on its banks!’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Thus addressed by Drona–that utterer of Brahma–Agni, well-pleased at what he heard, and remembering also the promise he had made to Mandapala, replied unto him, saying, ‘Thou art a Rishi, O Drona! For what thou hast said is Brahma (Vedic truth). I shall do your pleasure. Fear not! Indeed, Mandapala had spoken to me of you to the effect that I should spare his sons, while consuming the forest. The words he spoke and thy speech also are entitled to great weight to me. Say what I am to do. O best of Brahmanas, I have been greatly pleased with thy hymn. Blest be thou, O Brahmana!’
“Drona said, ‘O Sukra, these cats trouble us every day. O Hutasana; consume them with their friends and relatives.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then Agni did what the Sarngakas; asked him to do, telling them of his intentions. And, O Janamejaya, growing in strength, he began then to consume the forest of Khandava.'”