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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Pandu, then, at the command of Dhritarashtra, offered the wealth he had acquired by the prowess of his arms to Bhishma, their grand-mother Satyavati and their mothers. And he sent portion of his wealth to Vidura also. And the virtuous Pandu gratified his other relatives also with similar presents. Then Satyavati and Bhishma and the Kosala princes were all gratified with the presents Pandu made out of the acquisitions of his prowess. And Ambalika in particular, upon embracing her son of incomparable prowess, became as glad as the queen of heaven upon embracing Jayanta. And with the wealth acquired by that hero Dhritarashtra performed five great sacrifices that were equal unto a hundred great horse-sacrifices, at all of which the offerings to Brahmanas were by hundreds and thousands.
“A little while after, O bull of Bharata’s race, Pandu who had achieved a victory over sloth and lethargy, accompanied by his two wives, Kunti and Madri, retired into the woods. Leaving his excellent palace with its luxurious beds, he became a permanent inhabitant of the woods, devoting the whole of his time to the chase of the deer. And fixing his abode in a delightful and hilly region overgrown with huge sala trees, on the southern slope of the Himavat mountains, he roamed about in perfect freedom. The handsome Pandu with his two wives wandered in those woods like Airavata accompanied by two she-elephants. And the dwellers in those woods, beholding the heroic Bharata prince in the company of his wives, armed with sword, arrows, and bow, clad with his beautiful armour, and skilled in all excellent weapons, regarded him as the very god wandering amongst them.
“And at the command of Dhritarashtra, people were busy in supplying Pandu in his retirement with every object of pleasure and enjoyment.
“Meanwhile the son of the ocean-going Ganga heard that king Devaka had a daughter endued with youth and beauty and begotten upon a Sudra wife. Bringing her from her father’s abode, Bhishma married her to Vidura of great wisdom. And Vidura begot upon her many children like unto himself in accomplishments.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Meanwhile, O Janamejaya, Dhritarashtra begat upon Gandhari a hundred sons, and upon a Vaisya wife another besides those hundred. And Pandu had, by his two wives Kunti and Madri, five sons who were great charioteers and who were all begotten by the celestials for the perpetuation of the Kuru line.’
“Janamejaya said, ‘O best of Brahmanas, how did Gandhari bring forth those hundred sons and in how many years? What were also the periods of life allotted to each? How did Dhritarashtra also beget another son in a Vaisya wife? How did Dhritarashtra behave towards his loving obedient, and virtuous wife Gandhari? How were also begotten the five sons of Pandu, those mighty charioteers, even though Pandu himself laboured under the curse of the great Rishi (he slew)? Tell me all this in detail, for my thirst for hearing everything relating to my own ancestor hath not been slaked.’
“Vaisampayana said, ‘One day Gandhari entertained with respectful attention the great Dwaipayana who came to her abode, exhausted with hunger and fatigue. Gratified with Gandhari’s hospitality, the Rishi gave her the boon she asked for, viz., that she should have a century of sons each equal unto her lord in strength and accomplishments. Some time after Gandhari conceived and she bore the burden in her womb for two long years without being delivered. And she was greatly afflicted at this. It was then that she heard that Kunti had brought forth a son whose splendour was like unto the morning sun. Impatient of the period of gestation which had prolonged so long, and deprived of reason by grief, she struck her womb with great violence without the knowledge of her husband. And thereupon came out of her womb, after two years’ growth, a hard mass of flesh like unto an iron ball. When she was about to throw it away, Dwaipayana, learning everything by his spiritual powers, promptly came there, and that first of ascetics beholding that ball of flesh, addressed the daughter of Suvala thus, ‘What hast thou done?’ Gandhari, without endeavouring to disguise her feelings, addressed the Rishi and said, ‘Having heard that Kunti had brought forth a son like unto Surya in splendour, I struck in grief at my womb. Thou hadst, O Rishi, granted me the boon that I should have a hundred sons, but here is only a ball of flesh for those hundred sons!’ Vyasa then said, ‘Daughter of Suvala, it is even so. But my words can never be futile. I have not spoken an untruth even in jest.
I need not speak of other occasions. Let a hundred pots full of clarified butter be brought instantly, and let them be placed at a concealed spot. In the meantime, let cool water be sprinkled over this ball of flesh.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘That ball of flesh then, sprinkled over with water, became, in time, divided into a hundred and one parts, each about the size of the thumb. These were then put into those pots full of clarified butter that had been placed at a concealed spot and were watched with care. The illustrious Vyasa then said unto the daughter of Suvala that she should open the covers of the pots after full two years. And having said this and made these arrangements, the wise Dwaipayana went to the Himavat mountains for devoting himself to asceticism.
“Then in time, king Duryodhana was born from among those pieces of the ball of flesh that had been deposited in those pots. According to the order of birth, king Yudhishthira was the oldest. The news of Duryodhana’s birth was carried to Bhishma and the wise Vidura. The day that the haughty Duryodhana was born was also the birth-day of Bhima of mighty arms and great prowess.
“As soon as Duryodhana was born, he began to cry and bray like an ass. And hearing that sound, the asses, vultures, jackals and crows uttered their respective cries responsively. Violent winds began to blow, and there were fires in various directions. Then king Dhritarashtra in great fear, summoning Bhishma and Vidura and other well-wishers and all the Kurus, and numberless Brahmanas, addressed them and said, ‘The oldest of those princes, Yudhishthira, is the perpetuator of our line. By virtue of his birth he hath acquired the kingdom. We have nothing to say to this. But shall this my son born after him become king? Tell me truly what is lawful and right under these circumstances.’ As soon as these words were spoken, O Bharata, jackals and other carnivorous animals began to howl ominously And marking those frightful omens all around, the assembled Brahmanas and the wise Vidura replied, ‘O king, O bull among men, when these frightful omens are noticeable at the birth of thy eldest son, it is evident that he shall be the exterminator of thy race. The prosperity of all dependeth on his abandonment. Calamity there must be in keeping him. O king, if thou abandonest him, there remain yet thy nine and ninety sons. If thou desirest the good of thy race, abandon him, O Bharata! O king, do good to the world and thy own race by casting off this one child of thine.
It hath been said that an individual should be cast off for the sake of the family; that a family should be cast off for the sake of a village; that a village may be abandoned for the sake of the whole country; and that the earth itself may be abandoned for the sake of the soul.’ When Vidura and those Brahmanas had stated so, king Dhritarashtra out of affection for his son had not the heart to follow that advice. Then, O king, within a month, were born a full hundred sons unto Dhritarashtra and a daughter also in excess of this hundred. And during the time when Gandhari was in a state of advanced pregnancy, there was a maid servant of the Vaisya class who used to attend on Dhritarashtra. During that year, O king, was begotten upon her by the illustrious Dhritarashtra a son endued with great intelligence who was afterwards named Yuvutsu. And because he was begotten by a Kshatriya upon a Vaisya woman, he came to be called Karna.
“Thus were born unto the wise Dhritarashtra a hundred sons who were all heroes and mighty chariot-fighters, and a daughter over and above the hundred, and another son Yuyutsu of great energy and prowess begotten upon a Vaisya woman.’”
“Janamejaya said, ‘O sinless one, thou hast narrated to me from the beginning all about the birth of Dhritarashtra’s hundred sons owing to the boon granted by the Rishi. But thou hast not told me as yet any particulars about the birth of the daughter. Thou hast merely said that over and above the hundred sons, there was another son named Yuyutsu begotten upon a Vaisya woman, and a daughter. The great Rishi Vyasa of immeasurable energy said unto the daughter of the king of Gandhara that she would become the mother of a hundred sons. Illustrious one, how is that thou sayest Gandhari had a daughter over and above her hundred sons? If the ball of flesh was distributed by the great Rishi only into a hundred parts, and if Gandhari did not conceive on any other occasion, how was then Duhsala born. Tell me this, O Rishi! my curiosity hath been great.”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘O descendant of the Pandavas, thy question is just, and I will tell thee how it happened. The illustrious and great Rishi himself, by sprinkling water over that ball of flesh, began to divide it into parts. And as it was being divided into parts, the nurse began to take them up and put them one by one into those pots filled with clarified butter. While this process was going on, the beautiful and chaste Gandhari of rigid vows, realising the affection that one feeleth for a daughter, began to think within herself, ‘There is no doubt that I shall have a hundred sons, the Muni having said so. It can never be otherwise. But I should be very happy if a daughter were born of me over and above these hundred sons and junior to them all.
My husband then may attain to those worlds that the possession of a daughter’s sons conferreth. Then again, the affection the women feel for their sons-in-law is great. If, therefore, I obtain a daughter over and above my hundred sons, then, surrounded by sons and daughter’s sons, I may feel supremely blest. If I have ever practised ascetic austerities, if I have ever given anything in charity, if I have ever performed the homa (through Brahamanas), if I have ever gratified my superiors by respectful attentions, then (as the fruit of those acts) let a daughter be born unto me.’ All this while that illustrious and best of Rishis, Krishna-Dwaipayana himself was dividing the ball of flesh; and counting a full hundred of the parts, he said unto the daughter of Suvala, ‘Here are thy hundred sons. I did not speak aught unto thee that was false. Here, however, is one part in excess of the hundred, intended for giving thee a daughter’s son. This part shall develop into an amiable and fortunate daughter, as thou hast desired’ Then that great ascetic brought another pot full of clarified butter, and put the part intended for a daughter into it.
“Thus have I, O Bharata, narrated unto thee all about the birth of Duhsala. Tell me, O sinless one, what more I am now to narrate.’”
“Janamejaya said, ‘Please recite the names of Dhritarashtra’s sons according to the order of their birth.’
“Janamejaya said, ‘O utterer of Brahma, thou hast recited (everything about) the extraordinary birth among men, of the sons of Dhritarashtra in consequence of the Rishi’s grace. Thou hast also said what their names are, according to the order of their birth. O Brahmana, I have heard all these from thee. But tell me now all about the Pandavas. While reciting the incarnations on earth of the celestial, the Asuras, and the beings of other classes, thou saidst that the Pandavas were all illustrious and endued with the prowess of gods, and that they were incarnate portion of the celestials themselves. I desire, therefore, to hear all about those beings of extraordinary achievements beginning from the moment of their birth. O Vaisampayana, recite thou their achievements.’
“Vaisampayana said, ‘O king, one day Pandu, while roaming about in the woods (on the southern slopes of the Himavat) that teemed with deer and wild animals of fierce disposition, saw a large deer, that seemed to be the leader of a herd, serving his mate. Beholding the animals, the monarch pierced them both with five of his sharp and swift arrows winged with golden feathers. O monarch, that was no deer that Pandu struck at, but a Rishi’s son of great ascetic merit who was enjoying his mate in the form of a deer. Pierced by Pandu, while engaged in the act of intercourse, he fell down to the ground, uttering cries that were of a man and began to weep bitterly.
“The deer then addressed Pandu and said, ‘O king, even men that are slaves to lust and wrath, and void of reason, and ever sinful, never commit such a cruel act as this. Individual judgment prevaileth not against the ordinance, the ordinance prevaileth against individual judgment. The wise never sanction anything discountenanced by the ordinance. Thou art born, O Bharata, in a race that hath ever been virtuous. How is it, therefore, that even thou, suffering thyself to be overpowered by passion and wrath losest thy reason?’ Hearing this, Pandu replied, ‘O deer, kings behave in the matter of slaying animals of thy species exactly as they do in the matter of slaying foes. It behoveth thee not, therefore, to reprove me thus from ignorance. Animals of thy species are slain by open or covert means. This, indeed, is the practice of kings. Then why dost thou reprove me? Formerly, the Rishi Agastya, while engaged in the performance of a grand sacrifice, chased the deer, and devoted every deer in the forest unto the gods in general. Thou hast been slain, pursuant to the usage sanctioned by such precedent. Wherefore reprovest us then? For his especial sacrifices Agastya performed the homa with fat of the deer.’
“The deer then said, ‘O king, men do not let fly their arrows at their enemies when the latter are unprepared. But there is a time for doing it (viz., after declaration of hostilities). Slaughter at such a time is not censurable.’
“Pandu replied, ‘It is well-known that men slay deer by various effective means without regarding whether the animals are careful or careless. Therefore, O deer, why dost thou reprove me?’
“The deer then said, ‘O, king, I did not blame thee for thy having killed a deer, or for the injury thou hast done to me. But, instead of acting so cruelly, thou shouldst have waited till the completion of my act of intercourse. What man of wisdom and virtue is there that can kill a deer while engaged in such an act? The time of sexual intercourse is agreeable to every creature and productive of good to all. O king, with this my mate I was engaged in the gratification of my sexual desire. But that effort of mine hath been rendered futile by thee. O king of the Kurus, as thou art born in the race of the Pauravas ever noted for white (virtuous) deeds, such an act hath scarcely been worthy of thee. O Bharata, this act must be regarded as extremely cruel, deserving of universal execration, infamous, and sinful, and certainly leading to hell. Thou art acquainted with the pleasures of sexual intercourse. Thou art acquainted also with the teaching of morality and dictates of duty.
Like unto a celestial as thou art, it behoveth thee not to do such an act as leadeth to hell. O best of kings, thy duty is to chastise all who act cruelly, who are engaged in sinful practices and who have thrown to the winds religion, profit, and pleasure as explained in the scriptures. What hast thou done, O best of men, in killing me who have given thee no offence? I am, O king, a Muni who liveth on fruits and roots, though disguised as a deer. I was living in the woods in peace with all. Yet thou hast killed me, O king, for which I will curse thee certainly. As thou hast been cruel unto a couple of opposite sexes, death shall certainly overtake thee as soon as thou feelest the influence of sexual desire. I am a Muni of the name of Kindama, possessed of ascetic merit. I was engaged in sexual intercourse with this deer, because my feelings of modesty did not permit me to indulge in such an act in human society. In the form of a deer I rove in the deep woods in the company of other deer. Thou hast slain me without knowing that I am a Brahmana, the sin of having slain a Brahmana shall not, therefore, be thine. But senseless man, as you have killed me, disguised as a deer, at such a time, thy fate shall certainly be even like mine. When, approaching thy wife lustfully, thou wilt unite with her even as I had done with mine, in that very state shalt thou have to go to the world of the spirits. And that wife of thine with whom thou mayst be united in intercourse at the time of thy death shall also follow thee with affection and reverence to the domains of the king of the dead. Thou hast brought me grief when I was happy. So shall grief come to thee when thou art in happiness.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Saying this, that deer, afflicted with grief gave up the ghost; and Pandu also was plunged in woe at the sight.’”