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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Janamejaya said, ‘O Brahmana, I have, indeed, heard from thee this account of the incarnation, according to their portions, of the gods, the Danavas, the Rakshasas, and also of the Gandharvas and the Apsaras. I however, again desire to hear of the dynasty of the Kurus from the very beginning. Therefore, O Brahmana, speak of this in the presence of all these regenerate Rishis.’
“Vaisampayana said, ‘O exalted one of Bharata’s race, the founder of the Paurava line was Dushmanta gifted with great energy. And he was the protector of the earth bounded by the four seas. And that king had full sway over four quarters of this world. And he was the lord also of various regions in the midst of the sea. And that great oppressor of all foes had sway over the countries even of the Mlechchhas.
“And during his rule there were no men of mixed castes, no tillers of the soil (for the land, of itself, yielded produce), no workers of mines (for the surface of the earth yielded in abundance), and no sinful men. All were virtuous, and did everything from virtuous motives, O tiger among men. There was no fear of thieves, O dear one, no fear of famine, no fear off disease. And all four orders took pleasure in doing their respective duties and never performed religious acts for obtaining fruition of desires. And his subjects, depending upon him, never entertained any fear. And Parjanya (Indra) poured showers at the proper time, and the produce of the fields was always pulpy and juicy. And the earth was full of all kinds of wealth and all kinds of animals.
And the Brahmanas were always engaged in their duties and they were always truthful. And the youthful monarch was endued with wonderful prowess and a physical frame hard as the thunderbolt, so that he could, taking up the mountain Mandara with its forests and bushes, support it on his arms. And he was well-skilled in four kinds of encounters with the mace (hurling it at foes at a distance, striking at those that are near, whirling it in the midst of many, and driving the foe before). And he was skilled also in the use of all kinds of weapons and in riding elephants and horses. And in strength he was like unto Vishnu, in splendour like unto the maker of day, in gravity like unto the ocean, and in patience, like unto the earth. And the monarch was loved by all his subjects, and he ruled his contented people virtuously.’”
“Janamejaya said, ‘I desire to hear from thee about the birth and life of the high-souled Bharata and of the origin of Sakuntala. And, O holy one, I also desire to hear all about Dushmanta–that lion among men–and how the hero obtained Sakuntala. It behoveth thee, O knower of truth and the first of all intelligent men, to tell me everything.’
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Once on a time (king Dushmanta) of mighty arms, accompanied by a large force, went into the forest. And he took with him hundreds of horses and elephants. And the force that accompanied the monarch was of four kinds (foot-soldiers, car-warriors, cavalry, and elephants)–heroes armed with swords and darts and bearing in their hands maces and stout clubs. And surrounded by hundreds of warriors with lances and spears in their hands, the monarch set out on his journey. And with the leonine roars of the warriors and the notes of conchs and sound of drums, with the rattle of the car-wheels and shrieks of huge elephants, all mingling with the neighing of horses and the clash of weapons of the variously armed attendants in diverse dresses, there arose a deafening tumult while the king was on his march. And ladies gifted with great beauty beheld from the terraces of goodly mansions that heroic monarch, the achiever of his own fame.
And the ladies saw that he was like unto Sakra, the slayer of his enemies, capable of repulsing the elephants of foes–And they believed that he was the wielder of the thunderbolt himself. And they said, ‘This is that tiger among men who in battle is equal unto the Vasus in prowess, and in consequence of the might of whose arms no foes are left.’ And saying this, the ladies from affection gratified the monarch by showering flowers on his head. And followed by foremost of Brahmanas uttering blessings all the way, the king in great gladness of heart went towards the forest, eager for slaying the deer. And many Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras, followed the monarch who was like unto the king of the celestials seated on the back of a proud elephant. The citizens and other classes followed the monarch for some distance.
And they at last refrained from going farther at the command of the king. And the king, then, ascending his chariot of winged speed, filled the whole earth and even the heavens, with the rattle of his chariot wheels. And, as he went, he saw around him a forest like unto Nandana itself (the celestial garden). And it was full of Vilwa, Arka, Khadira (catechu), Kapittha (wood-apple) and Dhava trees. And he saw that the soil was uneven and scattered over with blocks of stone loosened from the neighbouring cliffs. And he saw that it was without water and without human beings and lay extended for many Yojanas around. And it was full of deer, and lions, and other terrible beasts of prey.
“And king Dushmanta, that tiger among men, assisted by his followers and the warriors in his train, agitated that forest, killing numerous animals. And Dushmanta, piercing them with his arrows, felled numerous tigers that were within shooting range. And the king wounded many that were too distant, and killed many that were too near with his heavy sword. And that foremost of all wielders of darts killed many by hurling his darts at them. And well-conversant with the art of whirling the mace, the king of immeasurable prowess fearlessly wandered over the forest. And the king roamed about, killing the denizens of the wilderness sometimes with his sword and sometimes by fast-descending blows of his mace and heavy club.
“And when the forest was so disturbed by the king possessed of wonderful energy and by the warriors in his train delighting in warlike sports, the lions began to desert it in numbers. And herds of animals deprived of their leaders, from fear and anxiety began to utter loud cries as they fled in all directions.
And fatigued with running, they began to fall down on all sides, unable to slake their thirst, having reached river-beds that were perfectly dry. And many so falling were eaten up by the hungry warriors. While others were eaten up after having been duly quartered and roasted in fires lit up by them. And many strong elephants, maddened with the wounds they received and alarmed beyond measure, fled with trunks raised on high. And those wild elephants, betraying the usual symptoms of alarm by urinating and ejecting the contents of their stomachs and vomiting blood in large quantities, trampled, as they ran, many warriors to death. And that forest which had been full of animals, was by the king with his bands of followers and with sharp weapons soon made bereft of lions and tigers and other monarchs of the wilderness.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Then the king with his followers, having killed thousands of animals, entered another forest with a view to hunting. And attended by a single follower and fatigued with hunger and thirst, he came upon a large desert on the frontiers of the forest.
And having crossed this herbless plain, the king came upon another forest full of the retreats of ascetics, beautiful to look at, delightful to the heart and of cool agreeable breezes. And it was full of trees covered with blossoms, the soil overgrown with the softest and greenest grass, extending for many miles around, and echoing with the sweet notes of winged warblers. And it resounded with the notes of the male Kokila and of the shrill cicala. And it was full of magnificent trees with outstretched branches forming a shady canopy overhead. And the bees hovered over flowery creepers all around. And there were beautiful bowers in every place. And there was no tree without fruits, none that had prickles on it, none that had no bees swarming around it. And the whole forest resounded with the melody of winged choristers. And it was decked with the flowers of every season. And there were refreshing shades of blossoming trees.
“Such was the delicious and excellent forest that the great bowman entered. And trees with branches beautified with clusters began to wave gently at the soft breeze and rain their flowers over the monarch’s head. And the trees, clad in their flowery attires of all colours, with sweet-throated warblers perched on them, stood there in rows with heads touching the very heavens. And around their branches hanging down with the weight of flowers the bees tempted by the honey hummed in sweet chorus. And the king, endued with great energy, beholding innumerable spots covered with bowers of creepers decked with clusters of flowers, from excess of gladness, became very much charmed.
And the forest was exceedingly beautiful in consequence of those trees ranged around with flowery branches twining with each other and looking like so many rainbows for gaudiness and variety of colour. And it was the resort of bands of Siddhas, of the Charanas, of tribes of Gandharvas, and Apsaras, of monkeys and Kinnaras drunk with delight. Delicious cool, and fragrant breezes, conveying the fragrance from fresh flowers, blew in all directions as if they had come there to sport with the trees. And the king saw that charming forest gifted with such beauties. And it was situated in a delta of the river, and the cluster of high trees standing together lent the place the look of a gaudy pole erected to Indra’s honour.
“And in that forest which was the resort of ever cheerful birds, the monarch saw a delightful and charming retreat of ascetics. And there were many trees around it. And the sacred fire was burning within it. And the king worshipped that unrivalled retreat. And he saw seated in it numerous Yotis, Valakhilyas and other Munis.
And it was adorned with many chambers containing sacrificial fire. And the flowers dropping from the trees had formed a thick carpet spread over the ground. And the spot looked exceedingly beautiful with those tall trees of large trunks. And by it flowed, O king, the sacred and transparent Malini with every species of water-fowl playing on its bosom. And that stream infused gladness into the hearts of the ascetics who resorted to it for purposes of ablutions. And the king beheld on its banks many innocent animals of the deer species and was exceedingly delighted with all that he saw.
“And the monarch, the course of whose chariot no foe could obstruct, then entered that asylum which was like unto the region of the celestials, being exceedingly beautiful all over. And the king saw that it stood on the margin of the sacred stream which was like the mother of all the living creatures residing in its vicinage. And on its bank sported the Chakravaka, and waves of milkwhite foam. And there stood also the habitations of Kinnaras. And monkeys and bears too disported themselves in numbers. And there lived also holy ascetics engaged in studies and meditation. And there could be seen also elephants and tigers and snakes.
And it was on the banks of that stream that the excellent asylum of the illustrious Kasyapa stood, offering a home to numerous Rishis of great ascetic merit. And beholding that river, and also the asylum washed by that river which was studded with many islands and which possessed banks of so much beauty,–an asylum like unto that of Nara and Narayana laved by the water of the Ganga–the king resolved to enter into that sacred abode. And that bull among men, desirous of beholding the great Rishi of ascetic wealth, the illustrious Kanwa of the race of Kasyapa, one who possessed every virtue and who, for his splendour, could be gazed at with difficulty, approached that forest resounding with the notes of maddened peacocks and like unto the gardens of the great Gandharva, Chitraratha, himself. And halting his army consisting of flags, cavalry, infantry, and elephants at the entrance of the forest, the monarch spoke as follows, ‘I shall go to behold the mighty ascetic of Kasyapa’s race, one who is without darkness. Stay ye here until my return!’
“And the king having entered that forest which was like unto Indra’s garden, soon forgot his hunger and thirst. And he was pleased beyond measure. And the monarch, laying aside all signs of royalty, entered that excellent asylum with but his minister and his priest, desirous of beholding that Rishi who was an indestructible mass of ascetic merit. And the king saw that the asylum was like unto the region of Brahman. Here were bees sweetly humming and there were winged warblers of various species pouring forth their melodies. At particular places that tiger among men heard the chanting of Rik hymns by first-rate Brahmanas according to the just rules of intonation. Other places again were graced with Brahmanas acquainted with ordinances of sacrifice, of the Angas and of the hymns of the Yajurveda.
Other places again were filled with the harmonious strains of Saman hymns sung by vow-observing Rishis. At other places the asylum was decked with Brahmanas learned in the Atharvan Veda. At other places again Brahmanas learned in the Atharvan Veda and those capable of chanting the sacrificial hymns of the Saman were reciting the Samhitas according to the just rules of voice. And at other places again, other Brahmanas well-acquainted with the science of orthoepy were reciting mantras of other kinds. In fact, that sacred retreat resounding with these holy notes was like unto a second region of Brahman himself. And there were many Brahmanas skilled in the art of making sacrificial platforms and in the rules of Krama in sacrifices, conversant with logic and the mental sciences, and possessing a complete knowledge of the Vedas.
There were those also who were fully acquainted with the meanings of all kinds of expressions; those that were conversant with all special rites, those also that were followers of Moksha-Dharma; those again that were well-skilled in establishing propositions; rejecting superfluous causes, and drawing right conclusions. There were those having a knowledge of the science of words (grammar), of prosody, of Nirukta; those again that were conversant with astrology and learned in the properties of matter and the fruits of sacrificial rites, possessing a knowledge of causes and effects, capable of understanding the cries of birds and monkeys, well-read in large treatises, and skilled in various sciences. And the king, as he proceeded, heard their voices. And the retreat resounded also with voice of men capable of charming human hearts.
And the slayer of hostile heroes also saw around him learned Brahmanas of rigid vows engaged in Japa (the repeated muttering of the names of gods) and Homa (burnt-offering). And the king wondered much on beholding the beautiful carpets which those Brahmanas offered to him respectfully. And that best of monarchs, at the sight of the rites with which those Brahmanas worshipped the gods and the great Rishis, thought within himself that he was in the region of Brahman. And the more the king saw that auspicious and sacred asylum of Kasyapa protected by that Rishi’s ascetic virtues and possessing all the requisites of a holy retreat, the more he desired to see it. In fact, he was not satisfied with his short survey. And the slayer of heroes at last, accompanied by his minister and his priest, entered that charming and sacred retreat of Kasyapa inhabited all around by Rishis of ascetic wealth and exalted vows.’”