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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Vyasa, hearing this, said, ‘O Satyavati, thou knowest what virtue is both in respect of this life and the other. O thou of great wisdom, thy affections also are set on virtue. Therefore, at thy command, making virtue my motive, I shall do what thou desirest. Indeed, this practice that is conformable to the true and eternal religion is known to me, I shall give unto my brother children that shall be like unto Mitra and Varuna. Let the ladies then duly observe for one full year the vow I indicate. They shall then be purified. No women shall ever approach me without having observed a rigid vow.’
“Satyavati then said, ‘O sinless one, it must be as thou sayest. Take such steps that the ladies may conceive immediately. In a kingdom where there is no king, the people perish from want of protection; sacrifices and other holy acts are suspended; the clouds send no showers; and the gods disappear. How can a kingdom be protected that hath no king? Therefore, see thou that the ladies conceive. Bhishma will watch over the children as long as they are in their mother’s wombs.
“Vyasa replied, ‘If I am to give unto my brother children so unseasonably, then let the ladies bear my ugliness. That in itself shall, in their case, be the austerest of penances. If the princess of Kosala can bear my strong odour, my ugly and grim visage, my attire and body, she shall then conceive an excellent child.’”
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Having spoken thus unto Satyavati, Vyasa of great energy addressed her and said, ‘Let the princess of Kosala clad in clean attire and checked with ornaments wait for me in her bed-chamber.’ Saying this, the Rishi disappeared, Satyavati then went to her daughter-in-law and seeing her in private spoke to her these words of beneficial and virtuous import, ‘O princess of Kosala, listen to what I say. It is consistent with virtue. The dynasty of the Bharatas hath become extinct from my misfortune. Beholding my affliction and the extinction of his paternal line, the wise Bhishma, impelled also by the desire of perpetuating our race, hath made me a suggestion, which suggestion, however, for its accomplishment is dependent on thee. Accomplish it, O daughter, and restore the lost line of the Bharatas. O thou of fair hips, bring thou forth a child equal in splendour unto the chief of the celestials. He shall bear the onerous burden of this our hereditary kingdom.’
“Satyavati having succeeded with great difficulty in procuring the assent of her virtuous daughter-in-law to her proposal which was not inconsistent with virtue, then fed Brahmanas and Rishis and numberless guests who arrived on die occasion.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Soon after the monthly season of the princess of Kosala had been over, Satyavati, purifying her daughter-in-law with a bath, led her into the sleeping apartment. There seating her upon a luxurious bed, she addressed her, saying, ‘O Princess of Kosala, thy husband hath an elder brother who shall this day enter thy womb as thy child. Wait for him tonight without dropping off to sleep.’ Hearing these words of her mother-in-law, the amiable princess, as she lay on her bed, began to think of Bhishma and the other elders of the Kuru race. Then the Rishi of truthful speech, who had given his promise in respect of Amvika (the eldest of the princesses) in the first instance, entered her chamber while the lamp was burning. The princess, seeing his dark visage, his matted locks of copper hue, blazing eyes, his grim beard, closed her eyes in fear.
The Rishi, from desire of accomplishing his mother’s wishes, however knew her. But the latter, struck with fear, opened not her eyes even once to look at him. And when Vyasa came out, he was met by his mother, who asked him, ‘Shall the princess have an accomplished son?’ Hearing her, he replied, ‘The son of the princess she will bring forth shall be equal in might unto ten thousand elephants. He will be an illustrious royal sage, possessed of great learning and intelligence and energy. The high-souled one shall have in his time a century of sons. But from the fault of his mother he shall be blind ‘At these words of her son, Satyavati said, ‘O thou of ascetic wealth, how can one that is blind become a monarch worthy of the Kurus? How can one that is blind become the protector of his relatives and family, and the glory of his father’s race? It behoveth thee to give another king unto the Kurus.’ Saying, ‘So be it,’ Vyasa went away. And the first princess of Kosala in due time brought forth a blind son.
“Soon after Satyavati, O chastiser of foes, summoned Vyasa, after having secured the assent of her daughter-in-law. Vyasa came according to his promise, and approached, as before, the second wife of his brother. And Ambalika beholding the Rishi, became pale with fear And, O Bharata, beholding her so afflicted and pale with fear, Vyasa addressed her and said, ‘Because thou hast been pale with fear at the sight of my grim visage, therefore, thy child shall be pale in complexion. O thou of handsome face, the name also thy child shall bear will be Pandu (the pale).’ ‘Saying this, the illustrious and best of Rishis came out of her chamber. And as he came out, he was met by his mother who asked him about the would-be-child. The Rishi told her that the child would be of pale complexion and known by the name of Pandu. Satyavati again begged of the Rishi another child, and the Rishi told her in reply, ‘So be it.’ Ambalika, then, when her time came, brought forth a son of pale complexion. Blazing with beauty the child was endued with all auspicious marks. Indeed, it was this child who afterwards became the father of those mighty archers, the Pandavas.
“Some time after, when the oldest of Vichitravirya’s widows again had her monthly season, she was solicited by Satyavati to approach Vyasa once again. Possessed of beauty like a daughter of a celestial, the princess refused to do her mother-in-law’s bidding, remembering the grim visage and strong odour of the Rishi. She, however, sent unto him, a maid of hers, endued with the beauty of an Apsara and decked with her own ornaments. And when the Vyasa arrived, the maid rose up and saluted him. And she waited upon him respectfully and took her seat near him when asked. And, O king, the great Rishi of rigid vows, was well-pleased with her, and when he rose to go away, he addressed her and said, ‘Amiable one, thou shalt no longer be a slave.
Thy child also shall be greatly fortunate and virtuous, and the foremost of all intelligent men on earth!’ And, O king, the son thus begotten upon her by Krishna-Dwaipayana was afterwards known by the name of Vidura. He was thus the brother of Dhritarashtra and the illustrious Pandu. And Vidura was free from desire and passion and was conversant with the rules of government, and was the god of justice born on earth under the curse of the illustrious Rishi Mandavya. And Krishna-Dwaipayana, when he met his mother as before, informed her as to how he had been deceived by the seniormost of the princesses and how he had begotten a son upon a Sudra woman. And having spoken thus unto his mother the Rishi disappeared from her sight.
“Thus were born, in the field of Vichitravirya, even of Dwaipayana those sons of the splendour of celestial children, those propagators of the Kuru race.’”
“Janamejaya said, ‘What did the god of justice do for which he was cursed? And who was the Brahmana ascetic from whose curse the god had to be born in the Sudra caste?’
“Vaisampayana said, ‘There was a Brahmana known by the name of Mandavya. He was conversant with all duties and was devoted to religion, truth and asceticism. The great ascetic used to sit at the entrance of his hermitage at the foot of a tree, with his arms upraised in the observance of the vow of silence. And as he sat there for years together, one day there came into his asylum a number of robbers laden with spoil. And, O bull in Bharata’s race, those robbers were then being pursued by a superior body as guardians of the peace. The thieves, on entering that asylum, hid their booty there, and in fear concealed themselves thereabout before the guards came. But scarcely had they thus concealed themselves when the constables in pursuit came to the spot. The latter, observing the Rishi sitting under the tree, questioned him, O king, saying, ‘O best of Brahmanas, which way have the thieves taken? Point it out to us so that we may follow it without loss of time.’ Thus questioned by the guardians of peace the ascetic, O king, said not a word, good or otherwise, in reply. The officers of the king, however, on searching that asylum soon discovered the thieves concealed thereabout together with the plunder. Upon this, their suspicion fell upon the Muni, and accordingly they seized him with the thieves and brought him before the king.
The king sentenced him to be executed along with his supposed associates. And the officers, acting in ignorance, carried out the sentence by impaling the celebrated Rishi. And having impaled him, they went to the king with the booty they had recovered. But the virtuous Rishi, though impaled and kept without food, remained in that state for a long time without dying. And the Rishi by his ascetic power not only preserved his life but summoned other Rishi to the scene. And they came there in the night in the forms of birds, and beholding him engaged in ascetic meditation though fixed on that stake, became plunged into grief. And telling that best of Brahmanas who they were, they asked him saying, ‘O Brahmana, we desire to know what hath been thy sin for which thou hast thus been made to suffer the tortures of impalement!’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Thus asked, the tiger among Munis then answered those Rishis of ascetic wealth, ‘Whom shall I blame for this? In fact, none else (than my own self) hath offended against me!’ After this, O monarch, the officers of justice, seeing him alive, informed the king of it. The latter hearing what they said, consulted with his advisers, and came to the place and began to pacify the Rishi. fixed on the stake. And the king said, ‘O thou best of Rishis, I have offended against thee in ignorance. I beseech thee to pardon me for the same. It behoveth thee not to be angry with me.’
Thus addressed by the king, the Muni was pacified. And beholding him free from wrath, the king took him up with the stake and endeavoured to extract it from his body. But not succeeding therein, he cut it off at the point just outside the body. The Muni, with a portion of the stake within his body, walked about, and in that state practised the austerest of penances and conquered numberless regions unattainable by others. And for the circumstances of a part of the stake being within his body, he came to be known in the three worlds by the name of Ani-Mandavya (Mandavya with the stake within). And one day that Brahamana acquainted with the highest truth of religion went unto the abode of the god of justice. And beholding the god there seated on his throne, the Rishi reproached him and said, ‘What, pray, is that sinful act committed by me unconsciously, for which I am bearing this punishment? O, tell me soon, and behold the power of my asceticism.’
“The god of justice, thus questioned, replied, ‘O thou of ascetic wealth, a little insect was once pierced by thee on a blade of grass. Thou bearest now the consequence of the act. O Rishi, as a gift, however small, multiplieth in respect of its religious merits, so a sinful act multiplieth in respect of the woe it bringeth in its train.’ On hearing this, Ani-Mandavya asked, ‘O tell me truly when this act was committed by me. Told in reply by the god of justice that he had committed it, when a child, the Rishi said, ‘That shall not be a sin which may be done by a child up to the twelfth year of his age from birth. The scriptures shall not recognise it as sinful. The punishment thou hast inflicted on me for such a venial offence hath been disproportionate in severity. The killing of a Brahmana involves a sin that is heavier than the killing of any other living being. Thou shall, therefore, O god of justice, have to be born among men even in the Sudra order. And from this day I establish this limit in respect of the consequence of acts that an act shall not be sinful when committed by one below the age of fourteen. But when committed by one above that age, it shall be regarded as sin.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Cursed for this fault by that illustrious Rishi, the god of justice had his birth as Vidura in the Sudra order. And Vidura was well-versed in the doctrines of morality and also politics and worldly profit. And he was entirely free from covetousness and wrath. Possessed of great foresight and undisturbed tranquillity of mind, Vidura was ever devoted to the welfare of the Kurus.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Upon the birth of those three children, Kurujangala, Kurukshetra, and the Kurus grew in prosperity. The earth began to yield abundant harvest, and the crops also were of good flavour. And the clouds began to pour rain in season and trees became full of fruits and flowers. And the draught cattle were all happy and the birds and other animals rejoiced exceedingly. And the flowers became fragrant and the fruits became sweet; the cities and towns became filled with merchants, artisans, traders and artists of every description. And the people became brave, learned, honest and happy. And there were no robbers then, nor anybody who was sinful. And it seemed that the golden age had come upon every part of the kingdom.
And the people devoted to virtuous acts, sacrifices and truth, and regarding one another with love and affection grew in prosperity. And free from pride, wrath and covetousness, they rejoiced in perfectly innocent sports. And the capital of the Kurus, full as the ocean, was a second Amaravati, teeming with hundreds of palaces and mansions, and possessing gates and arches dark as the clouds. And men in great cheerfulness sported constantly on rivers, lakes and tanks, and in fine groves and charming woods. And the southern Kurus, in their virtuous rivalry with their northern kinsmen, walked about in the company of Siddhas and Charanas and Rishis. And all over that delightful country whose prosperity was thus increased by the Kurus, there were no misers and no widowed women. And the wells and lakes were ever full; the groves abounded with trees, and the houses and abodes of Brahmanas were full of wealth and the whole kingdom was full of festivities.
And, O king, virtuously ruled by Bhishma, the kingdom was adorned with hundreds of sacrificial stakes. And the wheel of virtue having been set in motion by Bhishma, and the country became so contented that the subjects of other kingdoms, quitting their homes, came to dwell there and increase its population. And the citizens and the people were filled with hope, upon seeing the youthful acts of their illustrious princes. And, O king, in the house of the Kuru chiefs as also of the principal citizens, ‘give’, ‘eat’ were the only words constantly heard. And Dhritarashtra and Pandu and Vidura of great intelligence were from their birth brought up by Bhishma, as if they were his own sons. And the children, having passed through the usual rites of their order, devoted themselves to vows and study. And they grew up into fine young men skilled in the Vedas and all athletic sports. And they became well-skilled in the practice of bow, in horsemanship, in encounters with mace, sword and shield, in the management of elephants in battle, and in the science of morality. Well-read in history and the Puranas and various branches of learning, and acquainted with the truths of the Vedas and their branches they acquired knowledge, which was versatile and deep.
And Pandu, possessed of great prowess, excelled all men in archery while Dhritarashtra excelled all in personal strength, while in the three worlds there was no one equal to Vidura in devotion to virtue and in the knowledge of the dictates of morality. And beholding the restoration of the extinct line of Santanu, the saying became current in all countries that among mothers of heroes, the daughters of the king of Kasi were the first; that among countries Kurujangala was the first; that among virtuous men, Vidura was the first; that among cities Hastinapura was the first. Pandu became king, for Dhritarashtra, owing to the blindness, and Vidura, for his birth by a Sudra woman, did not obtain the kingdom. One day Bhishma, the foremost of those acquainted with the duties of a statesman and dictates of morality, properly addressing Vidura conversant with the truth of religion and virtue, said as follows.”