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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Kunti continued, ‘It was thus, O Pandu, that the beautiful Bhadra wept over the death of her lord. And the weeping Bhadra clasped in her arms the corpse in anguish of heart. Then she was addressed by an incorporeal voice in these words, “Rise up, O Bhadra, and leave this place. O thou of sweet smiles, I grant thee this boon. I will beget offspring upon thee. Lie thou down with me on thy own bed, after the catamenial bath, on the night of the eighth or the fourteenth day of the moon.’ Thus addressed by the incorporeal voice, the chaste Bhadra did, as she was directed, for obtaining offspring. And, O bull of the Bharatas, the corpse of her husband begat upon her seven children viz., three Salwas and four Madras. O bull of the Bharatas, do thou also beget offspring upon me, like the illustrious Vyushitaswa, by the exercise of that ascetic power which thou possessest.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Thus addressed by his loving wife, king Pandu, well-acquainted with all rules of morality, replied in these words of virtuous import, ‘O Kunti, what thou hast said is quite true. Vyushitaswa of old did even as thou hast said. Indeed he was equal unto the celestials themselves. But I shall now tell thee about the practices of old indicated by illustrious Rishis, fully acquainted with every rule of morality. O thou of handsome face and sweet smiles, women formerly were not immured within houses and dependent on husbands and other relatives. They used to go about freely, enjoying themselves as best as they liked. O thou of excellent qualities, they did not then adhere to their husbands faithfully, and yet, O handsome one, they were not regarded sinful, for that was the sanctioned usage of the times. That very usage is followed to this day by birds and beasts without any (exhibition of) jealousy. That practice, sanctioned by precedent, is applauded by great Rishis. O thou of taper thighs, the practice is yet regarded with respect amongst the Northern Kurus. Indeed, that usage, so lenient to women, hath the sanction of antiquity. The present practice, however (of women’s being confined to one husband for life) hath been established but lately. I shall tell thee in detail who established it and why.
“It hath been heard by us that there was a great Rishi of the name of Uddalaka, who had a son named Swetaketu who also was an ascetic of merit. O thou of eyes like lotus-petals, the present virtuous practice hath been established by that Swetaketu from anger. Hear thou the reason. One day, in the presence of Swetaketu’s father a Brahmana came and catching Swetaketu’s mother by the hand, told her, ‘Let us go.’ Beholding his mother seized by the hand and taken away apparently by force, the son was greatly moved by wrath. Seeing his son indignant, Uddalaka addressed him and said, ‘Be not angry. O son! This is the practice sanctioned by antiquity. The women of all orders in this world are free, O son; men in this matter, as regards their respective orders, act as kine.’ The Rishi’s son, Swetaketu, however, disapproved of the usage and established in the world the present practice as regards men and women. It hath been heard by us, O thou of great virtue, that the existing practice dates from that period among human beings but not among beings of other classes. Accordingly, since the establishment of the present usage, it is sinful for women not to adhere to their husbands. Women transgressing the limits assigned by the Rishi became guilty of slaying the embryo. And, men, too, viol ting a chaste and loving wife who hath from her maidenhood observed the vow of purity, became guilty of the same sin. The woman also who, being commanded by her husband to raise offspring, refuses to do his bidding, becometh equally sinful.
“Thus, O timid one, was the existing usage established of old by Swetaketu, the son of Uddalaka, in defiance of antiquity. O thou of taper thighs, it hath also been heard by us that Madayanti, the wife of Saudasa, commanded by her husband to raise offspring went unto Rishi Vasishtha. And on going in unto him, the handsome Madayanti obtained a son named Asmaka. She did this, moved by the desire of doing good to her husband. O thou of lotus-eyes, thou knowest, O timid girl, how we ourselves, for the perpetuation of the Kuru race, were begotten by Krishna-Dwaipayana. O faultless one, beholding all these precedents it behoveth thee to do my bidding, which is not inconsistent with virtue, O princess, who is devoted to her husband, it hath also been said by those acquainted with the rules of morality that a wife, when her monthly season cometh, must ever seek her husband, though at other times she deserveth liberty. The wise have declared this to be the ancient practice. But, be the act sinful or sinless, those acquainted with the Vedas have declared that it is the duty of wives to do what their husbands bid them do. Especially, O thou of faultless features, I, who am deprived of the power of procreation, having yet become desirous of beholding offspring, deserve the more to be obeyed by thee. O amiable one, joining my palms furnished with rosy fingers, and making of them a cup as of lotus leaves, I place them on my head to propitiate thee. O thou of lair looks, it behoveth thee to raise offspring, at my command, through some Brahmana possessed of high ascetic merit. For then, owing to thee, O thou of fair hips, I may go the way that is reserved for those that are blessed with children.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Thus addressed by Pandu, that subjugator of hostile cities, the handsome Kunti, ever attentive to what was agreeable and beneficial to her lord, then replied unto him, saying, ‘In my girlhood, O lord, I was in my father’s house engaged in attending upon all guests. I used to wait respectfully upon Brahmanas of rigid vows and great ascetic merit. One day I gratified with my attentions that Brahmana whom people call Durvasa, of mind under full control and possessing knowledge of all the mysteries of religion. Pleased with my services, that Brahmana gave me a boon in the form of a mantra (formula of invocation) for calling into my presence any one of the celestials I liked. And the Rishi, addressing me, said, ‘Anyone among the celestials whom thou callest by this shall, O girl, approach thee and be obedient to thy will, whether he liketh it or not. And, O princess, thou shall also have offspring through his grace.’ O Bharata, that Brahmana told me this when I lived in my father’s house. The words uttered by the Brahmana can never be false. The time also hath come when they may yield fruit. Commanded by thee, O royal sage, I can by that mantra summon any of the celestials, so that we may have good children. O foremost of all truthful men, tell me which of the celestials I shall summon. Know that, as regards this matter, I await your commands.’
“Hearing this, Pandu replied, ‘O handsome one, strive duly this very day to gratify our wishes. Fortunate one, summon thou the god of justice. He is the most virtuous of the celestials. The god of justice and virtue will never be able to pollute us with sin. The world also, O beautiful princess, will then think that what we do can never be unholy. The son also that we shall obtain from him shall in virtue be certainly the foremost among the Kurus. Begotten by the god of justice and morality, he would never set his heart upon anything that is sinful or unholy. Therefore, O thou of sweet smiles, steadily keeping virtue before thy eyes, and duly observing holy vows, summon thou the god of justice and virtue by the help of thy solicitations and incantations.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then Kunti, that best of women, thus addressed by her lord, said, ‘So be it.’ And bowing down to him and reverently circumambulating his person, she resolved to do his bidding.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘O Janamejaya, when Gandhari’s conception had been a full year old, it was then that Kunti summoned the eternal god of justice to obtain offspring from him. And she offered without loss of time, sacrifices unto the god and began to duly repeat the formula that Durvasa had imparted to her some time before. Then the god, overpowered by her incantations, arrived at the spot where Kunti was seated in his car resplendent as the Sun. Smiling, he asked, ‘O Kunti, what am I to give thee?’ And Kunti too smiling in her turn, replied, ‘Thou must even give me offspring.’ Then the handsome Kunti was united (in intercourse) with the god of justice in his spiritual form and obtained from him a son devoted to the good of all creatures. And she brought his excellent child, who lived to acquire a great fame, at the eighth Muhurta called Abhijit, of the hour of noon of that very auspicious day of the seventh month (Kartika), viz., the fifth of the lighted fortnight, when the star Jyeshtha in conjunction with the moon was ascendant. And as soon as the child was born, an incorporeal voice (from the skies) said, ‘This child shall be the best of men, the foremost of those that are virtuous. Endued with great prowess and truthful in speech, he shall certainly be the ruler of the earth. And this first child of Pandu shall be known by the name of Yudhishthira. Possessed of prowess and honesty of disposition, he shall be a famous king, known throughout the three worlds.’
“Pandu, having obtained that virtuous son, again addressed his wife and said. ‘The wise have declared that a Kshatriya must be endued with physical strength, otherwise he is no Kshatriya.’ Therefore, ask thou for an offspring of superior strength. Thus commanded by her lord, Kunti then invoked Vayu. And the mighty god of wind, thus invoked, came unto her, riding upon a deer, and said, ‘What, O Kunti, am I to give thee? Tell me what is in thy heart” Smiling in modesty, she said to him, ‘Give me, O best of celestials, a child endued with great strength and largeness of limbs and capable of humbling the pride of every body.’ The god of wind thereupon begat upon her the child afterwards known as Bhima of mighty arms and fierce prowess. And upon the birth of that child endued with extraordinary strength, an incorporeal voice, O Bharata, as before, said, ‘This child shall be the foremost of all endued with strength.’ I must tell you, O Bharata, of another wonderful event that occurred alter the birth of Vrikodara (Bhima). While he fell from the lap of his mother upon the mountain breast, the violence of the fall broke into fragments the stone upon which he fell without his infant body being injured in the least. And he fell from his mother’s lap because Kunti, frightened by a tiger, had risen up suddenly, unconscious of the child that lay asleep on her lap. And as she had risen, the infant, of body hard as the thunderbolt, falling down upon the mountain breast, broke into a hundred fragments the rocky mass upon which he fell. And beholding this, Pandu wondered much. And it so happened that that very day on which Vrikodara was born, was also, O best of Bharatas, the birthday of Duryodhana who afterwards became the ruler of the whole earth.’
“After the birth of Vrikodara, Pandu again began to think, ‘How am I to obtain a very superior son who shall achieve world-wide fame? Every, thing in the world dependeth on destiny and exertion. But destiny can never be successful except by timely exertion. We have heard it said that Indra is the chief of the gods. Indeed, he is endued with immeasurable might and energy and prowess and glory. Gratifying him with my asceticism, I shall obtain from him a son of great strength. Indeed, the son he giveth me must be superior to all and capable of vanquishing in battle all men and creatures other than men. I shall, therefore, practise the severest austerities, with heart, deed and speech.’
“After this, the Kuru king Pandu, taking counsel with the great Rishis commanded Kunti to observe an auspicious vow for one full year, while he himself commenced, O Bharata, to stand upon one leg from morning to evening, and practise other severe austerities with mind rapt in meditation, for gratifying the lord of the celestials.
“It was after a long time that Indra (gratified with such devotion) approached Pandu and, addressing him, said, ‘I shall give thee, O king, a son who will be celebrated all over the three worlds and who will promote the welfare of Brahmanas, kine and all honest men. The son I shall give thee will be the smiter of the wicked and the delight of friends and relatives. Foremost of all men, he will be an irresistible slayer of all foes.’ Thus addressed by Vasava (the king of the celestials), the virtuous king of the Kuru race, well-recollecting those words, said unto Kunti, ‘O fortunate one, thy vow hath become successful. The lord of the celestials hath been gratified, and is willing to give thee a son such as thou desirest, of superhuman achievements and great fame. He will be the oppressor of all enemies and possessed of great wisdom. Endued with a great soul, in splendour equal unto the Sun, invincible in battles, and of great achievements, he will also be extremely handsome. O thou of fair hips and sweet smiles, the lord of the celestials hath become gracious to thee. Invoking him, bring thou forth a child who will be
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘The celebrated Kunti, thus addressed by her lord, invoked Sakra (the king of the gods) who thereupon came unto her and begat him that was afterwards called Arjuna. And as soon as this child was born, an incorporeal voice, loud and deep as that of the clouds and filling the whole welkin, distinctly said, addressing Kunti in the hearing of every creature dwelling in that asylum, ‘This child of thine, O Kunti, will be equal unto Kartavirya in energy and Siva in prowess. Invincible like Sakra himself he will spread thy fame far and wide. As Vishnu (the youngest of Aditi’s sons) had enhanced Aditi’s joy, so shall this child enhance thy joy. Subjugating the Madras, the Kurus along with the Somakas, and the people of Chedi, Kasi and Karusha, he will maintain the prosperity of the Kurus. (Surfeited with libations at the sacrifice of king Swetaketu), Agni will derive great gratification from the fat of all creatures dwelling in the Khandava woods (to be burnt down) by the might of this one’s arms. This mighty hero, vanquishing all the effeminate monarchs of the earth, will, with his brothers perform three great sacrifices. In prowess, O Kunti, he will be even as Jamadagnya or Vishnu. The foremost of all men endued with prowess, he will achieve great fame. He will gratify in battle (by his heroism) Sankara, the god of gods (Mahadeva), and will receive from him the great weapon named Pasupata. This thy son of mighty arms will also slay, at the command of Indra, those Daityas called the Nivatakavachas who are the enemies of the gods. He will also acquire all kinds of celestial weapons, and this bull among men will also retrieve the fortunes of his race.’
‘Kunti heard these extraordinary words, while lying in the room. And hearing those words uttered so loudly, the ascetics dwelling on the mountain of a hundred peaks, and the celestials with Indra sitting in their cars, became exceedingly glad. The sounds of the (invisible) drum filled the entire welkin. There were shouts of joy, and the whole region was covered with flowers showered down by invisible agents. The various tribes of celestials assembled together, began to offer their respectful adorations to the son of Pritha. The sons of Kadru (Nagas), the son of Vinata, the Gandharvas, the lords of the creation, and the seven great Rishis, viz., Bharadwaja, Kasyapa, Gautama, Viswamitra, Jamadagni, Vasishtha, and the illustrious Atri who illumined the world of old when the Sun was lost, all came there. And Marichi, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Daksha the lord of creation, the Gandharvas, and Apsaras, came there also. The various tribes of Apsaras, decked with celestial garlands and every ornament, and attired in fine robes, came there and danced in joy, chanting the praises of Vibhatsu (Arjuna). All around, the great Rishis began to utter propitiatory formulas. And Tumvuru accompanied by the Gandharvas began to sing in charming notes. And Bhimasena and Ugrasena, Urnayus and Anagha. Gopati and Dhritarashtra and Suryavarchas the eighth, Yugapa and Trinapa, Karshni, Nandi, and Chitraratha, Salisirah the thirteenth, Parjanya the fourteenth, Kali the fifteenth, and Narada the sixteenth in this list, Vrihatta, Vrihaka, Karala of great soul, Brahmacharin, Vahuguna, Suvarna of great fame, Viswavasu, Bhumanyu, Suchandra, Sam and the celebrated tribes of Haha and Huhu gifted with wonderful melody of voice,–these celestial Gandharvas, O king, all went there. Many illustrious Apsaras also of large eyes, decked with every ornament came there to dance and sing.
And Anuchana and Anavadya, Gunamukhya and Gunavara, Adrika and Soma, Misrakesi and Alambusha, Marichi and Suchika, Vidyutparna and Tilottama and Ambika, Lakshmana, Kshema Devi, Rambha, Manorama, Asita, Suvahu, Supriya, Suvapuh, Pundarika, Sugandha, Surasa, Pramathini, Kamya and Saradwati, all danced there together. And Menaka, Sahajanya, Karnika, Punjikasthala, Ritusthala, Ghritachi, Viswachi, Purvachiti, the celebrated Umlocha, Pramlocha the tenth and Urvasi the eleventh,–these large-eyed dancing girls of heaven,–came there and sang in chorus. And Dharti and Aryaman and Mitra and Varuna, Bhaga and Indra, Vivaswat, Pushan, Tvastri and Parjanya or Vishnu, these twelve Adityas came there to glorify Pandu’s son. And, O king, Mrigavyadha, Sarpa, the celebrated Niriti, Ajaikapada, Ahivradhna, Pinakin, Dahana, Iswara, Kapalin, Sthanu and the illustrious Bhaga–these eleven Rudras,–also came there. And the twin Aswins, the eight Vasus, the mighty Maruts, the Viswedevas, and the Sadhyas, also came there. And Karkotaka, Vasuki, Kachchhapa, Kunda and the great Naga Takshaka,–these mighty and wrathful snakes possessed of high ascetic merit also came there.
And Tarkshya, Arishtanemi, Garuda, Asitadvaja,–these and many other Nagas, came there, so also Aruna and Aruni of Vinata’s race also came there. And only great Rishis crowned with ascetic success and not others saw those celestials and other beings seated in their cars or waiting on the mountain peaks. Those best of Munis beholding that wonderful sight, became amazed, and their love and affection for the children of Pandu was in consequence enhanced.
“The celebrated Pandu, tempted by the desire of having more children wished to speak again unto his wedded wife (for invoking some other god). But Kunti addressed him, saying, ‘The wise do not sanction a fourth delivery even in a season of distress. The woman having intercourse with four different men is called a Swairini (heanton), while she having intercourse with five becometh a harlot. Therefore, O learned one, as thou art well-acquainted with the scripture on this subject, why dost thou, beguiled by desire of offspring, tell me so in seeming forgetfulness of the ordinance?’”