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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Sauti said, ‘While those illustrious Brahmanas were sitting around the dead body of Pramadvara, Ruru, sorely afflicted, retired into a deep wood and wept aloud. And overwhelmed with grief he indulged in much piteous lamentation. And, remembering his beloved Pramadvara, he gave vent to his sorrow in the following words, ‘Alas! The delicate fair one that increaseth my affliction lieth upon the bare ground. What can be more deplorable to us, her friends? If I have been charitable, if I have performed acts of penance, if I have ever revered my superiors, let the merit of these arts restore to life my beloved one! If from my birth I have been controlling my passions, adhered to my vows, let the fair Pramadvara rise from the ground.
“And while Ruru was indulging in these lamentations for the loss of his bride, a messenger from heaven came to him in the forest and addressed him thus, ‘The words thou utterest, O Ruru, in thy affliction are certainly ineffectual. For, O pious man, one belonging to this world whose days have run out can never come back to life. This poor child of a Gandharva and Apsara has had her days run out! Therefore, O child, thou shouldst not consign thy heart to sorrow. The great gods, however, have provided beforehand a means of her restoration to life. And if thou compliest with it, thou mayest receive back thy Pramadvara.’
“And Ruru replied, O messenger of heaven! What is that which the gods have ordained. Tell me in full so that (on hearing) I may comply with it. It behoveth thee to deliver me from grief!’ And the celestial messenger said unto Ruru, ‘Resign half of thy own life to thy bride, and then, O Ruru of the race of Bhrigu, thy Pramadvara shall rise from the ground.’ ‘O best of celestial messengers, I most willingly offer a moiety of my own life in favour of my bride. Then let my beloved one rise up once more in her dress and lovable form.’
“Sauti said, ‘Then the king of Gandharvas (the father of Pramadvara) and the celestial messenger, both of excellent qualities, went to the god Dharma (the Judge of the dead) and addressed him, saying, ‘If it be thy will, O Dharmaraja, let the amiable Pramadvara, the betrothed wife of Ruru, now lying dead, rise up with a moiety of Ruru’s life.’ And Dharmaraja answered, ‘O messenger of the gods, if it be thy wish, let Pramadvara, the betrothed wife of Ruru, rise up endued with a moiety of Ruru’s life.’
“Sauti continued, ‘And when Dharmaraja had said so, that maiden of superior complexion, Pramadvara, endued with a moiety of Ruru’s life, rose as from her slumber. This bestowal by Ruru of a moiety of his own span of life to resuscitate his bride afterwards led, as it would be seen, to a curtailment of Ruru’s life.
“And on an auspicious day their fathers gladly married them with due rites. And the couple passed their days, devoted to each other. And Ruru having obtained such a wife, as is hard to be found, beautiful and bright as the filaments of the lotus, made a vow for the destruction of the serpent-race. And whenever he saw a serpent he became filled with great wrath and always killed it with a weapon.
“One day, O Brahmana, Ruru entered an extensive forest. And there he saw an old serpent of the Dundubha species lying stretched on the ground. And Ruru thereupon lifted up in anger his staff, even like to the staff of Death, for the purpose of killing it. Then the Dundubha, addressing Ruru, said, ‘I have done thee no harm, O Brahmana! Then wherefore wilt thou slay me in anger?’”
So ends the ninth section of the Pauloma Parva of the Adi Parva of the blessed Mahabharata.
Sauti said, ‘And Ruru, on hearing those words, replied, ‘My wife, dear to me as life, was bit by a snake; upon which, I took, O snake, a dreadful vow, viz., that I would kill every snake that I might come across. Therefore shall I smite thee and thou shalt be deprived of life.’
“And the Dundubha replied, ‘O Brahmana, the snakes that bite man are quite different in type. It behoveth thee not to slay Dundubhas who are serpents only in name. Subject like other serpents to the same calamities but not sharing their good fortune, in woe the same but in joy different, the Dundubhas should not be slain by thee under any misconception.’
“Sauti continued, ‘And the Rishi Ruru hearing these words of the serpent, and seeing that it was bewildered with fear, albeit a snake of the Dundubha species, killed it not. And Ruru, the possessor of the six attributes, comforting the snake addressed it, saying, ‘Tell me fully, O snake, who art thou thus metamorphosed?’ And the Dundubha replied, ‘O Ruru! I was formerly a Rishi by name Sahasrapat. And it is by the curse of a Brahmana that I have been transformed into a snake. And Ruru asked, ‘O thou best of snakes, for what wast thou cursed by a Brahmana in wrath? And how long also will thy form continue so?’”
And so ends the tenth section of the Pauloma Parva of the Adi Parva.
“Sauti continued ‘The Dundubha then said, ‘In former times, I had a friend Khagama by name. He was impetuous in his speech and possessed of spiritual power by virtue of his austerities. And one day when he was engaged in the Agni-hotra (Fire-sacrifice), I made a mock snake of blades of grass, and in a frolic attempted to frighten him with it. And anon he fell into a swoon. On recovering his senses, that truth-telling and vow-observing ascetic, burning with wrath, exclaimed, ‘Since thou hast made a powerless mock snake to frighten me, thou shalt be turned even into a venomless serpent thyself by my curse.’ O ascetic, I well knew the power of his penances; therefore with an agitated heart, I addressed him thus, bending low with joined hands, ‘Friend, I did this by way of a joke, to excite thy laughter. It behoveth thee to forgive me and revoke thy curse.’ And seeing me sorely troubled, the ascetic was moved, and he replied, breathing hot and hard.
‘What I have said must come to pass. Listen to what I say and lay it to thy heart. O pious one! when Ruru the pure son of Pramati, will appear, thou shall be delivered from the curse the moment thou seest him. Thou art the very Ruru and the son of Pramati. On regaining my native form, I will tell thee something for thy good.
“And that illustrious man and the best of Brahmanas then left his snake-body, and attained his own form and original brightness. He then addressed the following words to Ruru of incomparable power, ‘O thou first of created beings, verily the highest virtue of man is sparing the life of others. Therefore a Brahmana should never take the life of any creature. A Brahmana should ever be mild. This is the most sacred injunction of the Vedas. A Brahmana should be versed in the Vedas and Vedangas, and should inspire all creatures with belief in God. He should be benevolent to all creatures, truthful, and forgiving, even as it is his paramount duty to retain the Vedas in his memory. The duties of the Kshatriya are not thine.
And so ends the eleventh section of the Pauloma Parva of the Adi Parva.