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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Vaisampayana said,” As the mighty Bhima proceeded, the whole forest with its trees and their branches seemed to tremble, in consequence of their clash with his breast. The motion of his thighs raised a wind like unto that which blows during the months of Jyaishtha and Ashadha (May and June). And the mighty Bhima proceeded, making a path for himself, but treading down the trees and creepers before him. In fact, he broke (by the pressure of his body) the large trees and plants, with their flowers and fruits, standing on his way. Even so passeth through the woods breaking down mighty trees, the leader of a herd of elephants, of the age of sixty years, angry and endued with excess of energy, during the season of rut when the liquid juice trickle down the three parts of his body. Indeed, so great was the force with which Bhima endued with the speed of Garuda or of Marut (the god of wind), proceeded that the Pandavas seemed to faint in consequence. Frequently swimming across streams difficult of being crossed, the Pandavas disguised themselves on their way from fear of the sons of Dhritarashtra. And Bhima carried on his shoulder his illustrious mother of delicate sensibilities along the uneven banks of rivers. Towards the evening, O bull of Bharata’s race, Bhima (bearing his brothers and mother on his back) reached a terrible forest where fruits and roots and water were scarce and which resounded with the terrible cries of birds and beasts. The twilight deepened the cries of birds and beasts became fiercer, darkness shrouded everything from the view and untimely winds began to blow that broke and laid low many a tree large and small and many creepers with dry leaves and fruits. The Kaurava princes, afflicted with fatigue and thirst, and heavy with sleep, were unable to proceed further.
They then all sat down in that forest without food and drink. Then Kunti, smitten with thirst, said unto her sons, ‘I am the mother of the five Pandavas and am now in their midst. Yet I am burning with thirst!’ Kunti repeatedly said this unto her sons. Hearing these words, Bhima’s heart, from affection for his mother, was warmed by compassion and he resolved to go (along as before). Then Bhima, proceeding through that terrible and extensive forest without a living soul, saw a beautiful banian tree with widespreading branches. Setting down there his brothers and mother, O bull of Bharata’s race; he said unto them, ‘Rest you here, while I go in quest of water. I hear the sweet cries of aquatic fowls. I think there must be a large pool here.’ Commanded, O Bharata, by his elder brother who said unto him, ‘Go’, Bhima proceeded in the direction whence the cries of those aquatic fowls were coming. And, O bull of Bharata’s race, he soon came upon a lake and bathed and slaked his thirst. And affectionate unto his brothers, he brought for them, O Bharata, water by soaking his upper garments.
Hastily retracing his way over those four miles he came unto where his mother was and beholding her he was afflicted with sorrow and began to sigh like a snake. Distressed with grief at seeing his mother and brothers asleep on the bare ground, Vrikodara began to weep, ‘Oh, wretch that I am, who behold my brothers asleep on the bare ground, what can befall me more painful than this? Alas, they who formerly at Varanavata could not sleep on the softest and costliest beds are now asleep on the bare ground! Oh, what more painful sight shall I ever behold than that of Kunti–the sister of Vasudeva, that grinder of hostile hosts–the daughter of Kuntiraja,–herself decked with every auspicious mark, the daughter-in-law of Vichitravirya,–the wife of the illustrious Pandu,–the mother of us (five brothers),–resplendent as the filaments of the lotus and delicate and tender and fit to sleep on the costliest bed–thus asleep, as she should never be, on the bare ground! Oh, she who hath brought forth these sons by Dharma and Indra and Maruta–she who hath ever slept within palaces–now sleepeth, fatigued, on the bare ground! What more painful sight shall ever be beheld by me than that of these tigers among men (my brothers) asleep on the ground! Oh, the virtuous Yudhishthira, who deserveth the sovereignty of the three worlds, sleepeth, fatigued, like an ordinary man, on the bare ground! This Arjuna of the darkish hue of blue clouds, and unequalled amongst men sleepeth on the ground like an ordinary person! Oh, what can be more painful than this? Oh the twins, who in beauty are like the twin Aswins amongst the celestials, are asleep like ordinary mortals on the bare ground! He who hath no jealous evil-minded relatives, liveth in happiness in this world like a single tree in a village.
The tree that standeth single in a village with its leaves and fruits, from absence of other of the same species, becometh sacred and is worshipped and venerated by all. They again that have many relatives who, however, are all heroic and virtuous, live happily in the world without sorrow of any kind. Themselves powerful and growing in prosperity and always gladdening their friends and relatives, they live, depending on each other, like tall trees growing in the same forest. We, however, have been forced in exile by the wicked Dhritarashtra and his sons having escaped with difficulty, from sheer good fortune, a fiery death. Having escaped from that fire, we are now resting in the shade of this tree. Having already suffered so much, where now are we to go? Ye sons of Dhritarashtra of little foresight, ye wicked fellows, enjoy your temporary success. The gods are certainly auspicious to you. But ye wicked wretches, ye are alive yet, only because Yudhishthira doth not command me to take your lives. Else this very day, filled with wrath, I would send thee, (O Duryodhana), to the regions of Yama (Pluto) with thy children and friends and brothers, and Karna, and (Sakuni) the son of Suvala! But what can I do, for, ye sinful wretches, the virtuous king Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandavas, is not yet angry with you?’
“Having said this, Bhima of mighty arms, fired with wrath, began to squeeze his palms, sighing deeply in affliction. Excited again with wrath like an extinguished fire blazing up all on a sudden, Vrikodara once more beheld his brothers sleeping on the ground like ordinary persons sleeping in trustfulness. And Bhima said unto himself, ‘I think there is some town not far off from this forest. These all are asleep, so I will sit awake. And this will slake their thirst after they rise refreshed from sleep.’ Saying this, Bhima sat there awake, keeping watch over his sleeping mother and brothers.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Not far from the place where the Pandavas were asleep, a Rakshasa by name Hidimva dwelt on the Sala tree. Possessed of great energy and prowess, he was a cruel cannibal of visage that was grim in consequence of his sharp and long teeth. He was now hungry and longing for human flesh. Of long shanks and a large belly, his locks and beard were both red in hue.
His shoulders were broad like the neck of a tree; his ears were like unto arrows, and his features were frightful. Of red eyes and grim visage, the monster beheld, while casting his glances around, the sons of Pandu sleeping in those woods. He was then hungry and longing for human flesh. Shaking his dry and grizzly locks and scratching them with his fingers pointed upwards, the large-mouthed cannibal repeatedly looked at the sleeping sons of Pandu yawning wistfully at times. Of huge body and great strength, of complexion like the colour of a mass of clouds, of teeth long and sharp-pointed and face emitting a sort of lustre, he was ever pleased with human flesh. And scenting the odour of man, he addressed his sister, saying, ‘O sister, it is after a long time that such agreeable food hath approached me! My mouth waters at the anticipated relish of such food. My eight teeth, so sharp-pointed and incapable of being resisted by any substance, I shall, today, after a long time, put into the most delicious flesh. Attacking the human throat and even opening the veins, I shall (today) drink a plentiful quantity of human blood, hot and fresh and frothy. Go and ascertain who these are, lying asleep in these woods. The strong scent of man pleaseth my nostrils. Slaughtering all these men, bring them unto me. They sleep within my territory. Thou needest have no fear from them. Do my bidding soon, for we shall then together eat their flesh, tearing off their bodies at pleasure. And after feasting to our fill on human flesh we shall then dance together to various measures!’
“Thus addressed by Hidimva in those woods, Hidimva, the female cannibal, at the command of her brother, went, O bull of Bharata’s race, to the spot where the Pandavas were. And on going there, she beheld the Pandavas asleep with their mother and the invincible Bhimasena sitting awake. And beholding Bhimasena unrivalled on earth for beauty and like unto a vigorous Sala tree, the Rakshasa woman immediately fell in love with him, and she said to herself, ‘This person of hue like heated gold and of mighty arms, of broad shoulders as the lion, and so resplendent, of neck marked with three lines like a conch-shell and eyes like lotus-petals, is worthy of being my husband. I shall not obey the cruel mandate of my brother. A woman’s love for her husband is stronger than her affection for her brother. If I slay him, my brother’s gratification as well as mine will only be momentary.
But if I slay him not, I can enjoy, with him for ever and ever.’ Thus saying, the Rakshasa woman, capable of assuming form at will, assumed an excellent human form and began to advance with slow steps towards Bhima of mighty arms. Decked with celestial ornaments she advanced with smiles on her lips and a modest gait, and addressing Bhima said, ‘O bull among men, whence hast thou come here and who art thou? Who, besides, are these persons of celestial beauty sleeping here? Who also, O sinless one, is this lady of transcendent beauty sleeping so trustfully in these woods as if she were lying in her own chamber? Dost thou not know that this forest is the abode of a Rakshasa. Truly do I say, here liveth the wicked Rakshasa called Hidimva. Ye beings of celestial beauty, I have been sent hither even by that Rakshasa–my brother–with the cruel intent of killing you for his food. But I tell thee truly that beholding thee resplendent as a celestial, I would have none else for my husband save thee! Thou who art acquainted with all duties, knowing this, do unto me what is proper. My heart as well as my body hath been pierced by (the shafts of) Kama (Cupid). O, as I am desirous of obtaining thee, make me thine. O thou of mighty arms, I will rescue thee from the Rakshasa who eateth human flesh. O sinless one, be thou my husband. We shall then live on the breasts of mountains inaccessible to ordinary mortals. I can range the air and I do so at pleasure. Thou mayest enjoy great felicity with me in those regions.’
“Hearing these words of hers, Bhima replied, ‘O Rakshasa woman, who can, like a Muni having all his passions under control, abandon his sleeping mother and elder and younger brothers? What man like me would go to gratify his lust, leaving his sleeping mother and brothers as food for a Rakshasa?’
“The Rakshasa woman replied, ‘O, awaken all these, I shall do unto you all that is agreeable to thee! I shall certainly rescue you all from my cannibal brother?’
“Bhima then said, ‘O Rakshasa woman, I will not, from fear of thy wicked brother, awaken my brothers and mother sleeping comfortably in the woods. O timid one, Rakshasas are never able to bear the prowess of my arms. And, O thou of handsome eyes, neither men, nor Gandharvas, nor Yakshas are able to bear my might. O amiable one, thou mayst stay or go as thou likest, or mayst even send thy cannibal brother, O thou of delicate shape. I care not.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Hidimva, the chief of the Rakshasas, seeing that his sister returned not soon enough, alighted from the tree, proceeded quickly to the spot where the Pandavas were. Of red eyes and strong arms and the arms and the hair of his head standing erect, of large open mouth and body like unto a mass of dark clouds, teeth long and sharp-pointed, he was terrible to behold. And Hidimva, beholding her brother of frightful visage alight from the tree, became very much alarmed, and addressing Bhima said, ‘The wicked cannibal is coming hither in wrath. I entreat thee, do with thy brothers, as I bid thee. O thou of great courage, as I am endued with the powers of a Rakshasa, I am capable of going whithersoever I like. Mount ye on my hips, I will carry you all through the skies. And, O chastiser of foes, awaken these and thy mother sleeping in comfort. Taking them all on my body, I will convey you through the skies.’
“Bhima then said, ‘O thou of fair hips, fear not anything. I am sure that as long as I am here, there is no Rakshasa capable of injuring any of these, O thou of slender waist. I will slay this (cannibal) before thy very eyes. This worst of Rakshasas, O timid one, is no worthy antagonist of mine, nor can all the Rakshasas together bear the strength of my arms. Behold these strong arms of mine, each like unto the trunk of an elephant. Behold also these thighs of mine like unto iron maces, and this broad and adamantine chest. O beautiful one, thou shall today behold my prowess like unto that of Indra. O thou of fair hips, hate me not, thinking that I am a man.’
“Hidimva replied saying, ‘O tiger among men, O thou of the beauty of a celestial, I do not certainly hold thee in contempt. But I have seen the prowess that Rakshasas exert upon men.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then, O Bharata, the wrathful Rakshasa eating human flesh heard these words of Bhima who had been talking in that way. And Hidimva beheld his sister disguised in human form, her head decked with garlands of flowers and her face like the full moon and her eyebrows and nose and eyes and ringlets all of the handsomest description, and her nails and complexion of the most delicate hue, and herself wearing every kind of ornament and attired in fine transparent robes. The cannibal, beholding her in that charming human form, suspected that she was desirous of carnal intercourse and became indignant. And, O best of the Kurus, becoming angry with his sister, the Rakshasa dilated his eyes and addressing her said, ‘What senseless creature wishes to throw obstacles in my path now that I am so hungry? Hast thou become so senseless, O Hidimva, that thou fearest not my wrath? Fie on thee, thou unchaste woman! Thou art even now desirous of carnal intercourse and solicitous of doing me an injury. Thou art ready to sacrifice the good name and honour of all the Rakshasas, thy ancestors! Those with whose aid thou wouldst do me this great injury, I will, even now, slay along with thee.’ Addressing his sister thus, Hidimva, with eyes red with anger and teeth pressing against teeth, ran at her to kill her then and there. But beholding him rush at his sister, Bhima, that foremost of smiter, endued with great energy, rebuked him and said, Stop–Stop!”
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘And Bhima, beholding the Rakshasa angry with his sister, smiled (in derision), and said, addressing him, ‘O Hidimva, what need is there for thee to awaken these persons sleeping so comfortably? O wicked cannibal, approach me first without loss of time. Smite me first,–it behoveth thee not to kill a woman, especially when she hath been sinned against instead of sinning. This girl is scarcely responsible for her act in desiring intercourse with me. She hath, in this, been moved by the deity of desire that pervadeth every living form. Thou wicked wretch and the most infamous of Rakshasas, thy sister came here at thy command. Beholding my person, she desireth me. In that the timid girl doth no injury to thee. It is the deity of desire that hath offended. It behoveth thee not to injure her for this offence. O wicked wretch, thou shalt not slay a woman when I am here. Come with me, O cannibal, and fight with myself singly. Singly shall I send thee today to the abode of Yama (Pluto). O Rakshasa, let thy head today, pressed by my might, be pounded to pieces, as though pressed by the tread of a mighty elephant. When thou art slain by me on the field of battle, let herons and hawks and jackals tear in glee thy limbs today on the ground. In a moment I shall today make this forest destitute of Rakshasas,–this forest that had so long been ruled by thee, devourer of human beings! Thy sister, O Rakshasa, shall today behold thyself, huge though thou art like a mountain, like a huge elephant repeatedly dragged by a lion, O worst of Rakshasas, thyself slain by me, men ranging these woods will henceforth do so safely and without fear.’
“Hearing these words, Hidimva said, ‘What need is there, O man, for this thy vaunt and this thy boast? Accomplish all this first, and then mayst thou vaunt indeed. Therefore, delay thou not. Thou knowest thyself to be strong and endued with prowess, so thou shalt rightly estimate thy strength today in thy encounter with me. Until that, I will not slay these (thy brothers). Let them sleep comfortably. But I will, as thou art a fool and the utterer of evil speeches, slay thee first. After drinking thy blood, I will slay these also, and then last of all, this (sister of mine) that hath done me an injury.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Saying this, the cannibal, extending his arms ran in wrath towards Bhimasena, that chastiser of foes. Then Bhima of terrible prowess quickly seized, as though in sport, with great force, the extended arms of the Rakshasa who had rushed at him. Then seizing the struggling Rakshasa with violence, Bhima dragged him from that spot full thirty-two cubits like a lion dragging a little animal. Then the Rakshasa, thus made to feel the weight of Bhima’s strength, became very angry and clasping the Pandava, sent forth a terrible yell. The mighty Bhima then dragged with force the Rakshasa to a greater distance, lest his yells should awaken his brothers sleeping in comfort. Clasping and dragging each other with great force, both Hidimva and Bhimasena put forth their prowess. Fighting like two full-grown elephants mad with rage, they then began to break down the trees and tear the creepers that grew around. And at those sounds, those tigers among men (the sleeping Pandavas) woke up with their mother, and saw Hidimva sitting before them.’”