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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Then Kavya, the foremost of Bhrigu’s line, became angry himself. And approaching Vrishaparvan where the latter was seated, began to address him without weighing his words, ‘O king,’ he said, ‘sinful acts do not, like the Earth, bear fruit immediately! But gradually and secretly do they extirpate their doers. Such fruit visiteth either in one’s own self, one’s son, or one’s grandson. Sins must bear their fruit. Like rich food they can never be digested. And because ye slew the Brahmana Kacha, the grandson of Angiras, who was virtuous, acquainted with the precepts of religion, and attentive to his duties, while residing in my abode, even for this act of slaughter–and for the mal-treatment of my daughter too, know, O Vrishaparvan, I shall leave thee and thy relatives! Indeed, O king, for this, I can no longer stay with thee! Dost thou, O Asura chief, think that I am a raving liar? Thou makest light of thy offence without seeking to correct it!’.
“Vrishaparvan then said, ‘O son of Bhrigu, never have I attributed want of virtue, of falsehood, to thee. Indeed, virtue and truth ever dwell in thee. Be kind to me! O Bhargava, if, leaving us, thou really goest hence, we shall then go into the depths of the ocean. Indeed, there is nothing else for us to do.’
“Sukra then replied, ‘Ye Asuras, whether ye go into the depths of the ocean or fly away to all directions. I care little. I am unable to bear my daughter’s grief. My daughter is ever dear to me. My life dependeth on her. Seek ye to please her. As Vrihaspati ever seeketh the good of Indra, so do I always seek thine by my ascetic merits.’
“Vrishaparvan then said, ‘O Bhargava, thou art the absolute master of whatever is possessed by the Asura chiefs in this world-their elephants, kine and horses, and even my humble self!’
“Sukra then answered, ‘If it is true, O great Asura, that I am the lord of all the wealth of the Asuras, then go and gratify Devayani.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘when the great Kavya was so addressed by Vrishaparvan, he then went to Devayani and told her all. Devayani, however, quickly replied, ‘O Bhargava, if thou art truly the lord of the Asura king himself and of all his wealth, then let the king himself come to me and say so in my presence.’ Vrishaparvan then approached Devayani and told her, ‘O Devayani of sweet smiles, whatever thou desirest I am willing to give thee, however difficult it may be to grant the same.’ Devayani answered, ‘I desire Sarmishtha with a thousand maids to wait on me! She must also follow me to where my father may give me away.’
“Vrishaparvan then commanded a maid-servant in attendance on him, saying, ‘Go and quickly bring Sarmishtha hither. Let her also accomplish what Devayani wisheth.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘The maid-servant then repaired to Sarmishtha and told her, ‘O amiable Sarmishtha, rise and follow me. Accomplish the good of thy relatives. Urged by Devayani, the Brahmana (Sukra) is on the point of leaving his disciples (the Asuras). O sinless one, thou must do what Devayani wisheth.’ Sarmishtha replied, ‘I shall cheerfully do what Devayani wisheth. Urged by Devayani Sukra is calling me. Both Sukra and Devayani must not leave the Asuras through my fault.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Commanded by her father, then, Sarmishtha, accompanied by a thousand maidens, soon came, in a palanquin, out of her father’s excellent mansion. And approaching Devayani she said, ‘With my thousand maids, I am thy waiting-maid! And I shall follow thee where thy father may give thee away.’ Devayani replied, ‘I am the daughter of one who chanteth the praises of thy father, and who beggeth and accepteth alms; thou, on the other hand, art the daughter of one who is adored. How canst thou be my waiting-maid?’
“Sarmishtha answered, ‘One must by all means contribute to the happiness of one’s afflicted relatives. Therefore shall I follow thee wherever thy father may give thee away.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘When Sarmishtha thus promised to be Devayani’s waiting-maid the latter, O king, then spoke unto her father thus, ‘O best of all excellent Brahmanas, I am gratified. I shall now enter the Asura capital! I now know that thy science and power of knowledge are not futile!’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘That best of Brahmanas, of great reputation, thus addressed by his daughter, then, entered the Asura capital in the gladness of his heart. And the Danavas worshipped him with great reverence.’”
Vaisampayana said, ‘After some length of time, O best of monarchs, Devayani of the fairest complexion went into the same woods for purposes of pleasure. And accompanied by Sarmishtha with her thousand maids she reached the same spot and began to wander freely. And waited upon by all those companions she felt supremely happy. And sporting with light hearts, they began drinking the honey in flowers, eating various kinds of fruit and biting some. And just at that time, king Yayati, the son of Nahusha, again came there tired and thirsty, in course of his wanderings, in search of deer. And the king saw Devayani and Sarmishtha, and those other maidens also, all decked with celestial ornaments and full of voluptuous languor in consequence of the flower-honey they drank. And Devayani of sweet smiles, unrivalled for beauty and possessed of the fairest complexion amongst them all, was reclining at her ease. And she was waited upon by Sarmishtha who was gently kneading her feet.
“And Yayati seeing all this, said, ‘O amiable ones, I would ask you both your names and parentage. It seems that these two thousand maids wait on you two.’ ‘Hearing the monarch, Devayani then answered, ‘Listen to me, O best of men. Know that I am the daughter of Sukra, the spiritual guide of the Asuras. This my companion is my waiting-maid. She attendeth on me wherever I go. She is Sarmishtha, the daughter of the Asura king Vrishaparvan.’
“Yayati then asked, ‘I am curious to know why is this thy companion of fair eye-brows, this maiden of the fairest complexion, the daughter of the Asura chief thy waiting-maid!’ Devayani replied, ‘O best of king, everything resulteth from Fate. Knowing this also to be the result of Fate, wonder not at it. Thy feature and attire are both like a king’s. Thy speech also is fair and correct as that of the Vedas. Tell me thy name, whence thou art and whose son also.’
“The monarch replied, ‘During my vow of Brahmacharya, the whole Vedas entered my ears. I am known as Yayati, a king’s son and myself a king.’ Devayani then enquired, ‘O king, what hast thou come here for? Is it to gather lotuses or to angle or to hunt?’ Yayati said, ‘O amiable one, thirsty from the pursuit of deer, I have come hither in search of water. I am very much fatigued. I await but your commands to leave this spot.’
“Devayani answered, ‘With my two thousand damsels and my waiting-maid Sarmishtha, I wait but your commands. Prosperity to thee. Be thou my friend and lord.’
“Yayati, thereupon, replied, ‘Beautiful one, I do not deserve thee. Thou art the daughter of Sukra far superior to me. Thy father cannot bestow thee even on a great king.’ To this Devayani replied, ‘Brahmanas had before this been united with the Kshatriyas, and Kshatriyas with Brahmanas. Thou art the son of a Rishi and thyself a Rishi. Therefore, O son of Nahusha, marry me.’ Yayati, however, replied, ‘O thou of the handsomest features, the four orders have, indeed, sprung from one body. But their duties and purity are not the same, the Brahmana being truly superior to all.’ Devayani answered, ‘This hand of mine hath never been touched before by any man save thee. Therefore, do I accept thee for my lord. How, indeed, shall any other man touch my hand which had before been touched by thyself who art a Rishi? Yayati then said, ‘The wise know that a Brahmana is more to be avoided than an angry snake of virulent poison, or a blazing fire of spreading flames.’ Devayani then told the monarch, ‘O bull amongst men, why dost thou, indeed, say that Brahmana should be more avoided than an angry snake of virulent poison or a blazing fire of spreading flames?’
The monarch answered, ‘The snake killeth only one. The sharpest weapon slayeth but a single person. The Brahmana, when angry destroyeth whole cities and kingdoms! Therefore, O timid one, do I deem a Brahmana as more to be avoided than either. I cannot hence wed thee, O amiable one, unless thy father bestoweth thee on me. Devayani then said, ‘Thou art, indeed, chosen by me. And, O king, it is understood that thou wilt accept me if my father bestoweth me on thee. Thou needst not fear to accept my poor self bestowed on thee. Thou dost not, indeed, ask for me.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘After this, Devayani quickly sent a maidservant to her father. The maid represented to Sukra everything as it had happened. And as soon as he had heard all, Bhargava came and saw Yayati. And beholding Bhargava come, Yayati worshipped and adored that Brahmana, and stood with joined palms in expectation of his commands.’
“And Devayani then said, ‘This O father, is the son of Nahusha. He took hold of my hand, when I was in distress. I bow to thee. Bestow me upon him. I shall not wed any other person in the world.’ Sukra exclaimed, ‘O thou of splendid courage, thou hast, indeed, been accepted as her lord by this my dear daughter. I bestow her on thee. Therefore, O son of Nahusha, accept her as thy wife.’
“Yayati then said, ‘I solicit the boon, O Brahmana, that by so doing, the sin of begetting a half-breed might not touch me.’ Sukra, however, assured him by saying, ‘I shall absolve thee from the sin. Ask thou the boon that thou desirest. Fear not to wed her. I grant thee absolution. Maintain virtuously thy wife–the slender-waisted Devayani. Transports of happiness be thine in her company. This other maiden, Vrishaparvan’s daughter, Sarmishtha should ever be regarded by thee. But thou shall not summon her to thy bed.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Thus addressed by Sukra, Yayati then walked round the Brahmana. And the king then went through the auspicious ceremony of marriage according to the rites of the scriptures. And having received from Sukra this rich treasure of the excellent Devayani with Sarmishtha and those two thousand maidens, and duly honoured also by Sukra himself and the Asuras, the best of monarchs, then, commanded by the high-souled Bhargava, returned to his capital with a joyous heart.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Yayati then, on returning to his capital which was like unto the city of Indra, entered his inner apartments and established there his bride Devayani. And the monarch, directed by Devayani, established Vrishaparvan’s daughter Sarmishtha in a mansion especially erected near the artificial woods of Asokas in his gardens. And the king surrounded Vrishaparvan’s daughter Sarmishtha with a thousand maids and honoured her by making every arrangement for her food and garments. But it was with Devayani that the royal son of Nahusha sported like a celestial for many years in joy and bliss. And when her season came, the fair Devayani conceived. And she brought forth as her first child a fine boy.
And when a thousand years had passed away, Vrishaparvan’s daughter Sarmishtha having attained to puberty saw that her season had come. She became anxious and said to herself, ‘My season hath arrived. But I have not yet chosen a husband. O, what hath happened, what should I do? How am I to obtain the fruition of my wishes? Devayani hath become mother. My youth is doomed to pass away in vain. Shall I choose him also for my husband whom Devayani hath chosen? This is, indeed, my resolve: that monarch should give me a son. Will not the virtuous one grant me a private interview?’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘While Sarmishtha was thus busy with her thoughts, the king wandering listlessly came to that very wood of Asokas, and beholding Sarmishtha before him, stood there in silence. Then Sarmishtha of sweet smiles seeing the monarch before her with nobody to witness what might pass, approached him and said with joined palms, ‘O son of Nahusha, no one can behold the ladies that dwell in the inner apartments of Soma, of Indra, of Vishnu, of Yama, of Varuna, and of thee! Thou knowest, O king, that I am both handsome and well-born. I solicit thee, O king! My season hath arrived. See that it goeth not in vain.’
“Yayati answered, ‘Well do I know that honour of birth is thine, born as thou art in the proud race of the Danavas. Thou art also gifted with beauty. I do not, indeed, see even the speck of a fault in thy feature. But Usanas commanded me, while I was united with Devayani, that never should Vrishaparvan’s daughter he summoned to my bed.’
“Sarmishtha then said, ‘It hath been said, O king, that it is not sinful to lie on the occasion of a joke, in respect of women sought to be enjoyed, on occasions of marriage, in peril of immediate death and of the loss of one’s whole fortune. Lying is excusable on these five occasions. O king, it is not true that he is fallen who speaks not the truth when asked. Both Devayani and myself have been called hither as companions to serve the same purpose. When, therefore, thou hadst said that you wouldst confine thyself to one only amongst as, that was a lie thou hadst spoken.’ Yayati replied, ‘A king should ever be a model in the eyes of his people. That monarch certainly meets with destruction who speaks an untruth. As for myself, I dare not speak an untruth even if the greatest loss threatens me!’ Sarmishtha answered, ‘O monarch, one may look upon her friend’s husband as her own. One’s friend’s marriage is the same as one’s own.
Thou hast been chosen by my friend as her husband. Thou art as much my husband, therefore.’ Yayati then said, ‘It is, indeed my vow always to grant what one asketh. As thou askest me, tell me then what I am to do.’ Sarmishtha then said, ‘Absolve me, O king, from sin. Protect my virtue. Becoming a mother by thee, let me practise the highest virtue in this world. It is said, O king, that a wife, a slave, and a son can never earn wealth for themselves. What they earn always belongeth to him who owneth them. I am, indeed, the slave of Devayani. Thou art Devayani’s master and lord. Thou art, therefore, O king, my master and lord as much as Devayani’s! I solicit thee! O, fulfil my wishes!’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Thus addressed by Sarmishtha, the monarch was persuaded into the truth of all she spoke. He therefore, honoured Sarmishtha by protecting her virtue. And they passed some time together. And taking affectionate farewell of each other, they then parted, each returning to whence he or she had come.
“And it came to pass that Sarmishtha of sweet smiles and fair eyebrows conceived in consequence of that connection of hers with that best of monarchs. And, O king, that lotus-eyed lady then in due course of time brought forth a son of the splendour of a celestial child and of eyes like-lotus-petals.’”