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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Vaisampayana said, ‘There was a king of the name of Uparichara. That monarch was devoted to virtue. He was very much addicted also to hunting. That king of the Paurava race, called also Vasu, conquered the excellent and delightful kingdom of Chedi under instructions from Indra. Some time after, the king gave up the use of arms and, dwelling in a secluded retreat, practised the most severe austerities. The gods with Indra at their head once approached the monarch during this period, believing that he sought the headship of the gods, by those severe austerities of his. The celestials, becoming objects of his sight, by soft speeches succeeded in winning him away from his ascetic austerities.’
“The gods said, ‘O lord of the earth, thou shouldst take care so that virtue may not sustain a diminution on earth! Protected by thee, virtue itself will in return protect the universe.’ And Indra said, ‘O king, protect virtue on earth attentively and rigidly. Being virtuous, thou shalt, for all time, behold (in after life) many sacred regions. And though I am of Heaven, and thou art of earth, yet art thou my friend and dear to me. And, O king of men, dwell thou in that region on earth which is delightful, and aboundeth in animals, is sacred, full of wealth and corn, is well-protected like heaven, which is of agreeable climate, graced with every object of enjoyment, and blessed with fertility. And, O monarch of Chedi, this thy dominion is full of riches, of gems and precious stones, and containeth, besides, much mineral wealth. The cities and towns of this region are all devoted to virtue; the people are honest and contented; they never lie even in jest. Sons never divide their wealth with their fathers and are ever mindful of the welfare of their parents. Lean cattle are never yoked to the plough or the cart or engaged in carrying merchandise; on the other hand, they are well-fed and fattened. In Chedi the four orders are always engaged in their respective vocations. Let nothing be unknown to thee that happens in the three worlds. I shall give thee a crystal car such as the celestials alone are capable of carrying the car through mid air. Thou alone, of all mortals on earth, riding on that best of cars, shall course through mid-air like a celestial endued with a physical frame. I shall also give thee a triumphal garland of unfading lotuses, with which on, in battle, thou shall not be wounded by weapons. And, O king, this blessed and incomparable garland, widely known on earth as Indra’s garland, shall be thy distinctive badge.
“The slayer of Vritra (Indra) also gave the king, for his gratification, a bamboo pole for protecting the honest and the peaceful. After the expiry of a year, the king planted it in the ground for the purpose of worshipping the giver thereof, viz., Sakra. From that time forth, O monarch, all kings, following Vasu’s example, began to plant a pole for the celebration of Indra’s worship. After erecting the pole they decked it with golden cloth and scents and garlands and various ornaments. And the god Vasava is worshipped in due form with such garlands and ornaments. And the god, for the gratification of the illustrious Vasu, assuming the form of a swan, came himself to accept the worship thus offered. And the god, beholding the auspicious worship thus made by Vasu, that first of monarchs, was delighted, and said unto him, ‘Those men, and kings also, who will worship me and joyously observe this festival of mine like the king of Chedi, shall have glory and victory for their countries and kingdom. Their cities also shall expand and be ever in joy.’
“King Vasu was thus blessed by the gratified Maghavat, the high-souled chief of the gods. Indeed, those men who cause this festivity of Sakra to be observed with gifts of land, of gems and precious stones, become the respected of the world. And king Vasu, the lord of Chedis bestowing boons and performing great sacrifices and observing the festivity of Sakra, was much respected by Indra. And from Chedi he ruled the whole world virtuously. And for the gratification of Indra, Vasu, the lord of the Chedis, observed the festivity of Indra.
“And Vasu had five sons of great energy and immeasurable prowess. And the emperor installed his sons as governors of various provinces.
“And his son Vrihadratha was installed in Magadha and was known by the name of Maharatha. Another son of his was Pratyagraha; and another, Kusamva, who was also called Manivahana. And the two others were Mavella, and Yadu of great prowess and invincible in battle.
“These, O monarch, were the sons of that royal sage of mighty energy. And the five sons of Vasu planted kingdoms and towns after their own names and founded separate dynasties that lasted for long ages.
“And when king Vasu took his seat in that crystal car, with the gift of Indra, and coursed through the sky, he was approached by Gandharvas and Apsaras (the celestial singers and dancers). And as he coursed through the upper regions, he was called Uparichara. And by his capital flowed a river called Suktimati. And that river was once attacked by a life-endued mountain called Kolahala maddened by lust. And Vasu, beholding the foul attempt, struck the mountain with his foot. And by the indentation caused by Vasu’s stamp, the river came out (of the embraces of Kolahala). But the mountain begat on the river two children that were twins. And the river, grateful to Vasu for his having set her free from Kolahala’s embraces, gave them both to Vasu. And the son was made the generalissimo to his forces by Vasu, that best of royal sages and giver of wealth and punisher of enemies. And the daughter called Girika, was wedded by Vasu.
‘And Girika, the wife of Vasu, after her menstrual course, purifying herself by a bath, represented her state unto her lord. But that very day the Pitris of Vasu came unto that best of monarchs and foremost of wise men, and asked him to slay deer (for their Sraddha). And the king, thinking that the command of the Pitris should not be disobeyed, went a-hunting thinking of Girika alone who was gifted with great beauty and like unto another Sri herself. And the season being the spring, the woods within which the king was roaming, had become delightful like unto the gardens of the king of the Gandharvas himself. There were Asokas and Champakas and Chutas and Atimuktas in abundance: and there were Punnagas and Karnikaras and Vakulas and Divya Patalas and Patalas and Narikelas and Chandanas and Arjunas and similar other beautiful and sacred trees resplendent with fragrant flowers and sweet fruits. And the whole forest was maddened by the sweet notes of the kokila and echoed with the hum of maddened bees.
And the king became possessed with desire, and he saw not his wife before him. Maddened by desire he was roaming hither and thither, when he saw a beautiful Asoka decked with dense foliage, its branches covered with flowers. And the king sat at his ease in the shade of that tree. And excited by the fragrance of the season and the charming odours of the flowers around, and excited also by the delicious breeze, the king could not keep his mind away from the thought of the beautiful Girika. And beholding that a swift hawk was resting very near to him, the king, acquainted with the subtle truths of Dharma and Artha, went unto him and said, ‘Amiable one, carry thou this seed (semen) for my wife Girika and give it unto her. Her season hath arrived.’
“The hawk, swift of speed, took it from the king and rapidly coursed through the air. While thus passing, the hawk was seen by another of his species. Thinking that the first one was carrying meat, the second one flew at him. The two fought with each other in the sky with their beaks. While they were fighting, the seed fell into the waters of the Yamuna. And in those waters dwelt an Apsara of the higher rank, known by the name of Adrika, transformed by a Brahmana’s curse into a fish.
As soon as Vasu’s seed fell into the water from the claws of the hawk, Adrika rapidly approached and swallowed it at once. That fish was, some time after, caught by the fishermen. And it was the tenth month of the fish’s having swallowed the seed. From the stomach of that fish came out a male and a female child of human form. The fishermen wondered much, and wending unto king Uparichara (for they were his subjects) told him all. They said, ‘O king, these two beings of human shape have been found in the body of a fish!’ The male child amongst the two was taken by Uparichara. That child afterwards became the virtuous and truthful monarch Matsya.
“After the birth of the twins, the Apsara herself became freed from her curse. For she had been told before by the illustrious one (who had cursed her) that she would, while living in her piscatorial form, give birth to two children of human shape and then would be freed from the curse. Then, according to these words, having given birth to the two children, and been killed by the fishermen, she left her fish-form and assumed her own celestial shape. The Apsara then rose up on the path trodden by the Siddhas, the Rishis and the Charanas.
“The fish-smelling daughter of the Apsara in her piscatorial form was then given by the king unto the fishermen, saying, ‘Let this one be thy daughter.’ That girl was known by the name of Satyavati. And gifted with great beauty and possessed of every virtue, she of agreeable smiles, owing to contact with fishermen, was for some time of the fishy smell. Wishing to serve her (foster) father she plied a boat on the waters of the Yamuna.
“While engaged in this vocation, Satyavati was seen one day by the great Rishi Parasara, in course of his wanderings. As she was gifted with great beauty, an object of desire even with an anchorite, and of graceful smiles, the wise sage, as soon as he beheld her, desired to have her. And that bull amongst Munis addressed the daughter of Vasu of celestial beauty and tapering thighs, saying, ‘Accept my embraces, O blessed one!’ Satyavati replied, ‘O holy one, behold the Rishis standing on either bank of the river. Seen by them, how can I grant thy wish?’
“Thus addressed by her, the ascetic thereupon created a fog (which existed not before and) which enveloped the whole region in darkness. And the maiden, beholding the fog that was created by the great Rishi wondered much. And the helpless one became suffused with the blushes of bashfulness. And she said, ‘O holy one, note that I am a maiden under the control of my father. O sinless one, by accepting your embraces my virginity will be sullied.
O best of Brahmanas, my virginity being sullied, how shall I, O Rishi, be able to return home? Indeed, I shall not then be able to bear life. Reflecting upon all this, O illustrious one, do that which should be done.’ That best of Rishis, gratified with all she said, replied, “Thou shall remain a virgin even if thou grantest my wish. And, O timid one, O beauteous lady, solicit the boon that thou desirest. O thou of fair smiles, my grace hath never before proved fruitless.’ Thus addressed, the maiden asked for the boon that her body might emit a sweet scent (instead of the fish-odour that it had). And the illustrious Rishi thereupon granted that wish of her heart.
“Having obtained her boon, she became highly pleased, and her season immediately came. And she accepted the embraces of that Rishi of wonderful deeds. And she thenceforth became known among men by the name of Gandhavati (the sweet-scented one). And men could perceive her scent from the distance of a yojana. And for this she was known by another name which was Yojanagandha (one who scatters her scent for a yojana all around). And the illustrious Parasara, after this, went to his own asylum.
“And Satyavati gratified with having obtained the excellent boon in consequence of which she became sweet-scented and her virginity remained unsullied conceived through Parasara’s embraces. And she brought forth the very day, on an island in the Yamuna, the child begot upon her by Parasara and gifted with great energy. And the child, with the permission of his mother, set his mind on asceticism. And he went away saying, ‘As soon as thou rememberest me when occasion comes, I shall appear unto thee.’
“And it was thus that Vyasa was born of Satyavati through Parasara. And because he was born in an island, he was called Dwaipayana (Dwaipa or islandborn). And the learned Dwaipayana, beholding that virtue is destined to become lame by one leg each yuga (she having four legs in all) and that the period of life and the strength of men followed the yugas, and moved by the desire of obtaining the favour of Brahman and the Brahmanas, arranged the Vedas. And for this he came to be called Vyasa (the arranger or compiler). The boon-giving great one then taught Sumanta, Jaimini, Paila, his son Suka, and Vaisampayana, the Vedas having the Mahabharata for their fifth. And the compilation of the Bharata was published by him through them separately.
“Then Bhishma, of great energy and fame and of immeasurable splendour, and sprung from the component parts of the Vasus, was born in the womb of Ganga through king Santanu. And there was a Rishi of the name of Animandavya of great fame. And he was conversant with the interpretations of the Vedas, was illustrious, gifted with great energy, and of great reputation. And, accused of theft, though innocent, the old Rishi was impaled. He thereupon summoned Dharma and told him these words, ‘In my childhood I had pierced a little fly on a blade of grass, O Dharma! I recollect that one sin: but I cannot call to mind any other.