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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Vaisampayana said, ‘After the birth of Kunti’s sons and also of the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra the daughter of the king of the Madras privately addressed Pandu, saying, ‘O slayer of foes, I have no complaint even if thou beest unpropitious to me. I have, O sinless one, also no complaint that though by birth I am superior to Kunti yet I am inferior to her in station. I do not grieve, O thou of Kuru’s race, that Gandhari hath obtained a hundred sons. This, however, is my great grief that while Kunti and I are equal, I should be childless, while it should so chance that thou shouldst have offspring by Kunti alone. If the daughter of Kuntibhoja should so provide that I should have offspring, she would then be really doing me a great favour and benefiting thee likewise. She being my rival, I feel a delicacy in soliciting any favour of her. If thou beest, O king, propitiously disposed to me, then ask her to grant my desire.’
“Hearing her, Pandu replied, ‘O Madri, I do revolve this matter often in my own mind, but I have hitherto hesitated to tell thee anything, not knowing how thou wouldst receive it. Now that I know what your wishes are, I shall certainly strive after that end. I think that, asked by me, Kunti will not refuse.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘After this, Pandu addressed Kunti in private, saying, ‘O Kunti, grant me some more offspring for the expansion of my race and for the benefit of the world. O blessed one, provide thou that I myself, my ancestors, and thine also, may always have the funeral cake offered to us. O, do what is beneficial to me, and grant me and the world what, indeed, is the best of benefits. O, do what, indeed, may be difficult for thee, moved by the desire of achieving undying fame. Behold, Indra, even though he hath obtained the sovereignty of the celestials, doth yet, for fame alone, perform sacrifices. O handsome one, Brahmanas, well-acquainted with the Vedas, and having achieved high ascetic merit, do yet, for fame alone, approach their spiritual masters with reverence. So also all royal sages and Brahmanas possessed of ascetic wealth have achieved, for fame only, the most difficult of ascetic feat. Therefore, O blameless one, rescue this Madri as by a raft (by granting her the means of obtaining offspring), and achieve thou imperishable fame by making her a mother of children.’
“Thus addressed by her lord, Kunti readily yielded, and said unto Madri, ‘Think thou, without loss of time, of some celestial, and thou shall certainly obtain from him a child like unto him.’ Reflecting for a few moments. Madri thought of the twin Aswins, who coming unto her with speed begat upon her two sons that were twins named Nakula and Sahadeva, unrivalled on earth for personal beauty. And as soon as they were born, an incorporeal voice said, ‘In energy and beauty these twins shall transcend even the twin Aswins themselves.’ Indeed possessed of great energy and beauty, they illumined the whole region.
“O king, after all the children were born the Rishis dwelling on the mountain of a hundred peaks uttering blessings on them and affectionately performing the first rites of birth, bestowed appellations on them. The eldest of Kunti’s children was called Yudhishthira, the second Bhimasena, and the third Arjuna, and of Madri’s sons, the first-born of the twins was called Nakula and the next Sahadeva. And those foremost sons born at an interval of one year after one another, looked like an embodied period of five years. And king Pandu, beholding his children of celestial beauty and of super-abundant energy, great strength and prowess, and of largeness of soul, rejoiced exceedingly. And the children became great favourites of the Rishis, as also of their wives, dwelling on the mountain of a hundred peaks.
“Some time after, Pandu again requested Kunti on behalf of Madri. Addressed, O king, by her lord in private, Kunti replied, ‘Having given her the formula of invocation only once, she hath, O king, managed to obtain two sons. Have I not been thus deceived by her, I fear, O king, that she will soon surpass me in the number of her children. This, indeed, is the way of all wicked women. Fool that I was, I did not know that by invoking the twin gods I could obtain at one birth twin children. I beseech thee, O king, do not command me any further. Let this be the boon granted (by thee) to me.’
“Thus, O king, were born unto Pandu five sons who were begotten by celestials and were endued with great strength, and who all lived to achieve great fame and expand the Kuru race. Each bearing every auspicious mark on his person, handsome like Soma, proud as the lion, well-skilled in the use of the bow, and of leonine tread, breast, heart, eyes, neck and prowess, those foremost of men, resembling the celestials themselves in might, began to grow up. And beholding them and their virtues growing with years, the great Rishis dwelling on that snowcapped sacred mountain were filled with wonder. And the five Pandavas and the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra–that propagator of the Kuru race–grew up rapidly like a cluster of lotuses in a lake.’”
“Vaisampayana said, “Beholding his five handsome sons growing up before him in that great forest on the charming mountain slope, Pandu felt the last might of his arms revive once more. One day in the season of spring which maddens every creature the king accompanied by his wife (Madri), began to rove in the woods where every tree had put forth new blossoms. He beheld all around Palasas and Tilakas and Mangoes and Champakas and Parihadrakas and Karnikaras, Asokas and Kesaras and Atimuktas and Kuruvakas with swarms of maddened bees sweetly humming about. And there were flowers of blossoming Parijatas with the Kokilas pouring forth their melodies from under every twig echoing with the sweet hums of the black bees.
And he beheld also various other kinds of trees bent down with the weight of their flowers and fruits. And there were also many fine pools of water overgrown with hundreds of fragrant lotuses. Beholding all these, Pandu felt the soft influence of desire. Roving like a celestial with a light heart amidst such scenery, Pandu was alone with his wife Madri in semi-transparent attire. And beholding the youthful Madri thus attired, the king’s desire flamed up like a forest-fire. And ill-able to suppress his desire thus kindled at the sight of his wife of eyes like lotus-petals, he was completely overpowered. The king then seized her against her will, but Madri trembling in fear resisted him to the best of her might. Consumed by desire, he forgot everything about his misfortune. And, O thou of Kuru’s race unrestrained by the fear of (the Rishi’s) curse and impelled by fate, the monarch, overpowered by passion, forcibly sought the embraces of Madri, as if he wished to put an end to his own life. His reason, thus beguiled by the great Destroyer himself by intoxicating his senses, was itself lost with his life. And the Kuru king Pandu, of virtuous soul, thus succumbed to the inevitable influence of Time, while united in intercourse with his wife.
“Then Madri, clasping the body of her senseless lord, began to weep aloud. And Kunti with her sons and the twins of Madri, hearing those cries of grief, came to the spot where the king lay in that state. Then, O king, Madri addressing Kunti in a piteous voice, said, ‘Come hither alone, O Kunti, and let the children stay there.’ Hearing these words, Kunti, bidding the children stay, ran with speed, exclaiming, ‘Woe to me!’ And beholding both Pandu and Madri lying prostrate on the ground she went in grief and affliction, saying, ‘Of passions under complete control, this hero, O Madri, had all along been watched by me with care. How did he then forgetting the Rishi’s curse, approach thee with enkindled desire? O Madri, this foremost of men should have been protected by thee. Why didst thou tempt him into solitude? Always melancholy at the thought of the Rishi’s curse, how came he to be merry with thee in solitude? O princess of Valhika, more fortunate than myself, thou art really to be envied, for thou hast seen the face of our lord suffused with gladness and joy.’
“Madri then replied, saying, ‘Revered sister, with tears in my eyes, I resisted the king, but he could not control himself, bent on, as it were making the Rishi’s curse true.’
“Kunti then said, ‘I am the older of his wedded wives; the chief religious merit must be mine. Therefore, O Madri, prevent me not from achieving that which must be achieved. I must follow our lord to the region of the dead. Rise up, O Madri, and yield me his body. Rear thou these children.’ Madri replied, saying, ‘I do clasp our lord yet, and have not allowed him to depart; therefore, I shall follow him. My appetite hath not been appeased. Thou art my older sister, O let me have thy sanction. This foremost one of the Bharata princes had approached me, desiring to have intercourse. His appetite unsatiated, shall I not follow him in the region of Yama to gratify him? O revered one, if I survive thee, it is certain I shall not be able to rear thy children as if they were mine. Will not sin touch me on that account? But, thou, O Kunti, shall be able to bring my sons up as if they were thine. The king, in seeking me wishfully, hath gone to the region of spirits; therefore, my body should be burnt with his. O revered sister, withhold not thy sanction to this which is agreeable to me. Thou wilt certainly bring up the children carefully. That indeed, would be very agreeable to me. I have no other direction to give!’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Having said this, the daughter of the king of Madras, the wedded wife of Pandu, ascended the funeral pyre of her lord, that bull among men.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘The godlike Rishis, wise in counsels, beholding the death of Pandu, consulted with one another, and said, ‘The virtuous and renowned king Pandu, abandoning both sovereignty, and kingdom came hither for practising ascetic austerities and resigned himself to the ascetics dwelling on this mountain. He hath hence ascended to heaven, leaving his wife and infant sons as a trust in our hands. Our duty now is to repair to his kingdom with these his offspring, and his wife.’
The ascetics set out that very moment, taking with them those children and Kunti and the two dead bodies. And though unused to toil all her life, the affectionate Kunti now regarded as very short the really long journey she had to perform. Having arrived at Kurujangala within a short time, the illustrious Kunti presented herself at the principal gate. The ascetics then charged the porters to inform the king of their arrival. The men carried the message in a trice to the court. And the citizens of Hastinapura, hearing of the arrival of thousands of Charanas and Munis, were filled with wonder. And it was soon after sunrise that they began to come out in numbers with their wives and children to behold those ascetics. Seated in all kinds of cars and conveyances by thousands, vast numbers of Kshatriyas with their wives, and Brahmanas with theirs came out. And the concourse of Vaisyas and Sudras too was as large on the occasion. The vast assemblage was very peaceful, for every heart then was inclined to piety. And there also came out Bhishma, the son of Santanu, and Somadatta or Valhika and the royal sage (Dhritarashtra) endued with the vision of knowledge and Vidura himself and the venerable Satyavati and the illustrious princess of Kosala and Gandhari accompanied by the other ladies of the royal household. And the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra, decked with various ornaments, also came out.
Then Bhishma, setting that vast concourse perfectly still, duly worshipped, O king, those ascetics by offering them water to wash their feet with and the customary Arghya. And having done this, he spoke unto them about the sovereignty and the kingdom. Then the oldest of the ascetics with matted locks on head and loins covered with animal skin, stood up, and with the concurrence of the other Rishis, spoke as follows, ‘You all know that that possessor of the sovereignty of the Kurus who was called king Pandu, had, after abandoning the pleasures of the world, repaired hence to dwell on the mountain of a hundred peaks. He adopted the Brahmacharya mode of life, but for some inscrutable purpose the gods have in view, this his eldest son, Yudhishthira, was born there, begotten by Dharma himself. Then that illustrious king obtained from Vayu this other son–the foremost of all mighty men–called Bhima. This other son, begotten upon Kunti by Indra, is Dhananjaya whose achievements will humble all bowmen in the world. Look here again at these tigers among men, mighty in the use of the bow, the twin children begotten upon Madri by the twin Aswins. Leading in righteousness the life of a Vanaprastha in the woods, illustrious Pandu hath thus revived the almost extinct line of his grandfather. The birth, growth, and Vedic studies of these children of Pandu, will, no doubt, give you great pleasure. Steadily adhering to the path of the virtuous and the wise, and leaving behind him these children, Pandu departed hence seventeen days ago. His wife Madri, beholding him placed in the funeral pyre and about to be consumed, herself ascended the same pyre, and sacrificing her life thus, hath gone with her lord to the region reserved for chaste wives. Accomplish now whatever rites should be performed for their benefit. These are (the unburnt portions of) their bodies. Here also are their children–these oppressors of foes–with their mother. Let these be now received with due honours. After the completion of the first rites in honour of the dead, let the virtuous Pandu, who had all along been the supporter of the dignity of the Kurus, have the first annual Sraddha (sapindakarana) performed with a view to installing him formally among the Pitris.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘The ascetics with Guhyakas, having said this unto the Kurus, instantly disappeared in the very sight of the people. And beholding the Rishis and the Siddhas thus vanish in their sight like vapoury forms appearing and disappearing in the skies, the citizens filled with wonder returned to their homes.’”