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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Vaisampayana said, ‘After the death of that deer, king Pandu with his wives was deeply afflicted and wept bitterly. And he exclaimed, ‘The wicked, even if born in virtuous families, deluded by their own passions, become overwhelmed with misery as the fruit of their own deeds. I have heard that my father, though begotten by Santanu of virtuous soul, was cut off while still a youth, only because he had become a slave to his lust. In the soil of that lustful king, the illustrious Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana himself, of truthful speech, begot me. A son though I am of such a being, with my wicked heart wedded to vice, I am yet leading a wandering life in the woods in the chase of the deer. Oh, the very gods have forsaken me! I shall seek salvation now. The great impediments to salvation are the desire to beget children, and other concerns of the world. I shall now adopt the Brahmacharya mode of life and follow in the imperishable wake of my father. I shall certainly bring my passions under complete control by severe ascetic penances. Forsaking my wives and other relatives and shaving my head, alone shall I wander over the earth, begging for my subsistence from each of these trees standing here. Forsaking every object of affection and aversion, and covering my body with dust, I shall make the shelter of trees or deserted houses my home. I shall never yield to influence of sorrow or joy, and I shall regard slander and eulogy in the same light. I shall not seek benedictions or bows. I shall be at peace with all, and shall not accept gifts. I shall not mock anybody, nor shall I knit my brows at any one, but shall be ever cheerful and devoted to the good of all creatures.
I shall not harm any of the four orders of life gifted with power of locomotion or otherwise, viz., oviparous and viviparous creatures and worms and vegetables. But on the contrary, preserve an equality of behaviour towards all, as if they were, my own children. Once a day shall I beg of five or ten families at the most, and if I do not succeed in obtaining alms, I shall then go without food. I shall rather stint myself than beg more than once of the same person. If I do not obtain anything after completing my round of seven or ten houses, moved by covetousness, I shall not enlarge my round. Whether I obtain or fail to obtain alms. I shall be equally unmoved like a great ascetic. One lopping off an arm of mine with a hatchet, and one smearing another arm with sandal-paste, shall be regarded by me equally. I shall not wish prosperity to the one or misery to the other. I shall not be pleased with life or displeased with death. I shall neither desire to live nor to die. Washing my heart of all sins, I shall certainly transcend those sacred rites productive of happiness, that men perform in auspicious moments, days, and periods. I shall also abstain from all acts of religion and profit and also those that lead to the gratification of the senses. Freed from all sins and snares of the world, I shall be like the wind subject to none. Following the path of fearlessness and bearing myself in this way I shall at last lay down my life. Destitute of the power of begetting children, firmly adhering to the line of duty I shall not certainly deviate therefrom in order to tread in the vile path of the world that is so full of misery. Whether respected or disrespected in the world that man who from covetousness casteth on others a begging look, certainly behaveth like a dog. (Destitute as I am of the power of procreation, I should not certainly, from desire of offspring, solicit others to give me children).’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘The king, having thus wept in sorrow, with a sigh looked at his two wives Kunti and Madri, and addressing them said, ‘Let the princess of Kosala (my mother), Vidura, the king with our friends, the venerable Satyavati, Bhishma, the priests of our family, illustrious Soma-drinking Brahmanas of rigid vows and all elderly citizens depending on us be informed, after being prepared for it, that Pandu hath retired into the woods to lead a life of asceticism.’ Hearing these words of their lord who had set his heart on a life of asceticism in the woods, both Kunti and Madri addressed him in these proper words, ‘O bull of Bharata’s race, there are many other modes of life which thou canst adopt and in which thou canst undergo the severest penances along with us, thy wedded wives–in which for the salvation of thy body (freedom from re-birth), thou mayest obtain heaven. We also, in the company of our lord, and for his benefit, controlling our passions and bidding adieu to all luxuries, shall subject ourselves to the severest austerities. O king, O thou of great wisdom, if thou abandonest us, we shall then this very day truly depart from this world.’
Pandu replied, ‘If, indeed, this your resolve springeth from virtue, then with you both I shall follow the imperishable path of my fathers. Abandoning the luxuries of cities and towns, clad in barks of trees, and living on fruits and roots, I shall wander in deep woods, practising the severest penances. Bathing morning and evening, I shall perform the homa. I shall reduce my body by eating very sparingly and shall wear rags and skins and knotted locks on my head. Exposing myself to heat and cold and disregarding hunger and thirst, I shall reduce my body by severe ascetic penances, I shall live in solitude and I shall give myself up to contemplation; I shall eat fruit, ripe or green, that I may find. I shall offer oblations to the Pitris (manes) and the gods with speech, water and the fruits of the wilderness. I shall not see, far less harm, any of the denizens of the woods, or any of my relatives, or any of the residents of cities and towns. Until I lay down this body, I shall thus practise the severe ordinances of the Vanaprastha scriptures, always searching for severer ones that they may contain.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘The Kuru king, having said this unto his wives, gave away to Brahmanas the big jewel in his diadem, his necklace of precious gold, his bracelets, his large ear-rings, his valuable robes and all the ornaments of his wives. Then summoning his attendants, he commended them, saying, ‘Return ye to Hastinapura and proclaim unto all that Pandu with his wives hath gone into the woods, foregoing wealth, desire, happiness, and even sexual appetite.’ Then those followers and attendants, hearing these and other soft words of the king, set up a loud wail, uttering, ‘Oh, we are undone!’ Then with hot tears trickling down their cheeks they left the monarch and returned to Hastinapura with speed carrying that wealth with them (that was to be distributed in charity). Then Dhritarashtra, that first of men, hearing from them everything that had happened in the woods, wept for his brother. He brooded over his affliction continually, little relishing the comfort of beds and seats and dishes.
“Meanwhile, the Kuru prince Pandu (after sending away his attendants) accompanied by his two wives and eating fruits and roots went to the mountains of Nagasata. He next went to Chaitraratha, and then crossed the Kalakuta, and finally, crossing the Himavat, he arrived at Gandhamadana. Protected by Mahabhutas, Siddhas, and great Rishis, Pandu lived, O king, sometimes on level ground and sometimes on mountain slopes. He then journeyed on to the lake of Indradyumna, whence crossing the mountains of Hansakuta, he went to the mountain of hundred peaks (Sata-sringa) and there continued to practise ascetic austerities.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Pandu, possessed of great energy, then devoted himself to asceticism. Within a short time he became the favourite of the whole body of the Siddhas and Charanas residing there. And, O Bharata, devoted to the service of his spiritual masters, free from vanity, with mind under complete control and the passions fully subdued, the prince, becoming competent to enter heaven by his own energy, attained to great (ascetic) prowess. Some of the Rishis would call him brother, some friend, while others cherished him as their son. And, O bull of Bharata’s race, having acquired after a long time great ascetic merit coupled with complete singleness, Pandu became even like a Brahmarshi (though he was a Kshatriya by birth).
“On a certain day of the new moon, the great Rishis of rigid vows assembled together, and desirous of beholding Brahman were on the point of starting on their expedition. Seeing them about to start, Pandu asked those ascetics, saying, ‘Ye first of eloquent men, where shall we go?’ The Rishis answered, ‘There will be a great gathering today, in the abode of Brahman, of celestials, Rishis and Pitris. Desirous of beholding the Self-create we shall go there today.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Hearing this, Pandu rose up suddenly, desirous of visiting heaven along with the great Rishis. Accompanied by his two wives, when he was on the point of following the Rishis in the northerly direction from the mountain of hundred peaks, those ascetics addressed him saying, ‘In our northward march, while gradually ascending the king of mountains, we have seen on its delightful breast many regions inaccessible to ordinary mortals; retreats also of the gods, and Gandharvas and Apsaras, with palatial mansions by hundreds clustering thick around and resounding with the sweet notes of celestial music, the gardens of Kuvera laid out on even and uneven grounds, banks of mighty rivers, and deep caverns. There are many regions also on those heights that are covered with perpetual snow and are utterly destitute of vegetable and animal existence. In some places the downpour of rain is so heavy that they are perfectly inaccessible and incapable of being utilised for habitation. Not to speak of other animals, even winged creatures cannot cross them. The only thing that can go there is air, and the only beings, Siddhas and great Rishis. How shall these princesses ascend those heights of the king of mountains? Unaccustomed to pain, shall they not droop in affliction? Therefore, come not with us, O bull of Bharata’s race!’
“Pandu replied, ‘Ye fortunate ones, it is said that for the sonless there is no admittance into heaven. I am sonless! I In
“The Rishis said, ‘O king of virtuous soul, there is progeny in store for thee, that is sinless and blest with good fortune and like unto the gods. We behold it all with our prophetic eyes. Therefore, O tiger among men, accomplish by your own acts that which destiny pointeth at. Men of intelligence, acting with deliberation, always obtain good fruits; it behoveth thee, therefore, O king, to exert thyself. The fruits thou wouldst obtain are distinctly visible. Thou wouldst really obtain accomplished and agreeable progeny.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Hearing these words of the ascetics, Pandu, remembering the loss of his procreative powers owing to the curse of the deer, began to reflect deeply. And calling his wedded wife the excellent Kunti, unto him, he told her in private, ‘Strive thou to raise offspring at this time of distress. The wise expounders of the eternal religion declare that a son, O Kunti, is the cause of virtuous fame in the three worlds. It is said that sacrifices, charitable gifts, ascetic penances, and vows observed most carefully, do not confer religious merit on a sonless man. O thou of sweet smiles, knowing all this, I am certain that as I am sonless, I shall not obtain regions of true felicity. O timid one, wretch that I was and addicted to cruel deeds, as a consequence of the polluted life I led, my power of procreation hath been destroyed by the curse of the deer. The religious institutes mention six kinds of sons that are heirs and kinsmen, and six other kinds that are not heirs but kinsmen. I shall speak of them presently. O Pritha, listen to me. They are: 1st, the son begotten by one’s own self upon his wedded wife; 2nd, the son begotten upon one’s wife by an accomplished person from motives of kindness; 3rd, the son begotten upon one’s wife by a person for pecuniary consideration; 4th, the son begotten upon the wife after the husband’s death; 5th, the maiden-born son; 6th, the son born of an unchaste wife; 7th, the son given; 8th, the son bought for a consideration; 9th, the son self-given; 10th, the son received with a pregnant bride; 11th, the brother’s son; and 12th, the son begotten upon a wife of lower caste. On failure of offspring of a prior class, the mother should desire to have offspring of the next class. In times of distress, men solicit offspring from accomplished younger brothers. The self-born Manu hath said that men failing to have legitimate offspring of their own may have offspring begotten upon their wives by others, for sons confer the highest religious merit.
Therefore, O Kunti, being destitute myself of the power of procreation, I command thee to raise good offspring through some person who is either equal or superior to me. O Kunti, listen to the history of the daughter of Saradandayana who was appointed by her lord to raise offspring. That warrior-dame, when her monthly season arrived, bathed duly and in the night went out and waited on a spot where four roads met. She did not wait long when a Brahmana crowned with ascetic success came there. The daughter of Saradandayana solicited him for offspring. After pouring libations of clarified butter on the fire (in the performance of the sacrifice known by the name of Punsavana) she brought forth three sons that were mighty car-warriors and of whom Durjaya was the eldest, begotten upon her by that Brahmana. O thou of good fortune, do thou follow that warrior-dame’s example at my command, and speedily raise offspring out of the seed of some Brahmana of high ascetic merit.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Thus addressed, Kunti replied unto her heroic lord, king Pandu, that bull amongst the Kurus, saying, ‘O virtuous one, it behoveth thee not to say so unto me. I am, O thou lotus-eyed one, thy wedded wife, devoted to thee. O, Bharata of mighty arms, thyself shalt, in righteousness, beget upon me children endued with great energy. Then I shall ascend to heaven with thee; O prince of Kuru’s race, receive me in thy embrace for begetting children. I shall not certainly, even in imagination, accept any other man except thee in my embraces. What other man is there in this world superior to thee? O virtuous one, listen to this Pauranic narrative that hath been, O thou of large eyes, heard by me, and that I shall presently narrate.
“There was, in ancient times, a king in the race of Puru, known by the name of Vyushitaswa. He was devoted to truth and virtue. Of virtuous soul and mighty arms, on one occasion, while he was performing a sacrifice the gods with Indra and the great Rishis came to him, and Indra was so intoxicated with the Soma juice he drank and the Brahmanas with the large presents they received, that both the gods and the great Rishis began themselves to perform everything appertaining to that sacrifice of the illustrious royal sage. And thereupon Vyushitaswa began to shine above all men like the Sun appearing in double splendour after the season of frost is over. And the powerful Vyushitaswa, who was endued with the strength of ten elephants very soon performed the horse-sacrifice, overthrowing, O best of monarchs, all the kings of the East, the North, the West and the South, and exacted tributes from them all. There is an anecdote, O best of the Kurus, that is sung by all reciters of the Puranas, in connection with that first of all men, the illustrious Vyushitaswa.–Having conquered the whole Earth up to the coast of the sea, Vyushitaswa protected every class of his subjects as a father does his own begotten sons.–Performing many great sacrifices he gave away much wealth to the Brahmanas. After collecting unlimited jewels and precious stones he made arrangements for performing still greater ones. And he performed also the Agnishtoma, and other special Vedic sacrifices, extracting great quantities of Soma juice. And, O king, Vyushitaswa had for his dear wife, Bhadra, the daughter of Kakshivat, unrivalled for beauty on earth. And it hath been heard by us that the couple loved each other deeply.
King Vyushitaswa was seldom separated from his wife. Sexual excess, however, brought on an attack of phthisis and the king died within a few days, sinking like the Sun in his glory. Then Bhadra, his beautiful queen, was plunged into woe, and as she was sonless, O tiger among men, she wept in great affliction. Listen to me, O king, as I narrate to you all that Bhadra said with bitter tears trickling down her cheeks. ‘O virtuous one’, she said, ‘Women serve no purpose when their husbands are dead. She who liveth after her husband is dead, draggeth on a miserable existence that can hardly be called life. O bull of the Kshatriya order, death is a blessing to women without husbands. I wish to follow the way thou hast gone. Be kind and take me with thee. In thy absence, I am unable to bear life even for a moment. Be kind to me, O king and take me hence pretty soon.
O tiger among men, I shall follow thee over the even and uneven ground. Thou hast gone away, O lord, never to return. I shall follow thee, O king, as thy own shadow. O tiger among men, I will obey thee (as thy slave) and will ever do what is agreeable to thee and what is for thy good. O thou of eyes like lotus-petals, without thee, from this day, mental agonies will overwhelm me and eat into my heart. A wretch that I am, some loving couple had doubtless been separated by me in a former life, for which, in this life, I am made to suffer the pangs of separation from thee. O king, that wretched woman who liveth even for a moment separated from her lord, liveth in woe and suffereth the pangs of hell even here. Some loving couple had doubtless been separated by me in a former life, for which sinful act I am suffering this torture arising from my separation from thee. O king, from this day I will lay myself down on a bed of Kusa grass and abstain from every luxury, hoping to behold thee once more. O tiger among men, show thyself to me. O king, O lord, command once more thy wretched and bitterly weeping wife plunged in woe.’