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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Roused from sleep, those tigers among men, with their mother, beholding the extraordinary beauty of Hidimva, were filled with wonder. And Kunti, gazing at her with wonder at her beauty, addressed her sweetly and gave her every assurance. She asked, ‘O thou of the splendour of a daughter of the celestials, whose art thou and who art thou? O thou of the fairest complexion, on what business hast thou come hither and whence hast thou come? If thou art the deity of these woods or an Apsara, tell me all regarding thyself and also why thou stayest here?’ Thereupon Hidimva replied, ‘This extensive forest that thou seest, of the hue of blue cloud, is the abode of a Rakshasa of the name of Hidimva. O handsome lady, know me as the sister of that chief of the Rakshasa. Revered dame, I had been sent by that brother of mine to kill thee with all thy children. But on arriving here at the command of that cruel brother of mine, I beheld thy mighty son. Then, O blessed lady, I was brought under the control of thy son by the deity of love who pervadeth the nature of every being, and I then (mentally) chose that mighty son of thine as my husband. I tried my best to convey you hence, but I could not (because of thy son’s opposition). Then the cannibal, seeing my delay, came hither to kill all these thy children. But he hath been dragged hence with force by that mighty and intelligent son of thine–my husband. Behold now that couple–man and Rakshasa–both endued with great strength and prowess, engaged in combat, grinding each other and filling the whole region with their shouts.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Hearing those words of hers, Yudhishthira suddenly rose up and Arjuna also and Nakula and Sahadeva of great energy and they beheld Bhima and the Rakshasa already engaged in fight, eager to overcome each other and dragging each other with great force, like two lions endued with great might. The dust raised by their feet in consequence of that encounter looked like the smoke of a forest-conflagration. Covered with that dust their huge bodies resembled two tall cliffs enveloped in mist. Then Arjuna, beholding Bhima rather oppressed in the fight by the Rakshasa, slowly, said with smiles on his lips, ‘Fear not, O Bhima of mighty arms! We (had been asleep and therefore) knew not that thou wast engaged with a terrible Rakshasa and tired in fight. Here do I stand to help thee, let me slay the Rakshasa, and let Nakula and Sahadeva protect our mother.’ Hearing him, Bhima said, ‘Look on this encounter, O brother, like a stranger. Fear not for the result. Having come within the reach of my arms, he shall not escape with life.’ Then Arjuna said, ‘What need, O Bhima, for keeping the Rakshasa alive so long? O oppressor of enemies, we are to go hence, and cannot stay here longer. The east is reddening, the morning twilight is about to set in. The Rakshasa became stronger by break of day, therefore, hasten, O Bhima! Play not (with thy victim), but slay the terrible Rakshasa soon. During the two twilights Rakshasas always put forth their powers of deception. Use all the strength of thy arms.
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘At this speech of Arjuna, Bhima blazing up with anger, summoned the might that Vayu (his father) puts forth at the time of the universal dissolution. And filled with rage, he quickly raised high in the air the Rakshasa’s body, blue as the clouds of heaven, and whirled it a hundred times. Then addressing the cannibal, Bhima said, ‘O Rakshasa, thy intelligence was given thee in vain, and in vain hast thou grown and thriven on unsanctified flesh. Thou deservest, therefore, an unholy death and I shall reduce thee today to nothing. I shall make this forest blessed today, like one without prickly plants. And, O Rakshasa, thou shalt no longer slay human beings for thy food.’ Arjuna at this juncture, said, ‘O Bhima, if thou thinkest it a hard task for thee to overcome this Rakshasa in combat, let me render thee help, else, slay him thyself without loss of time. Or, O Vrikodara, let me alone slay the Rakshasa. Thou art tired, and hast almost finished the affair. Well dost thou deserve rest.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Hearing these words of Arjuna, Bhima was fired with rage and dashing the Rakshasa on the ground with all his might slew him as if he were an animal. The Rakshasa, while dying, sent forth a terrible yell that filled the whole forest, and was deep as the sound of a wet drum. Then the mighty Bhima, holding the body with his hands, bent it double, and breaking it in the middle, greatly gratified his brothers. Beholding Hidimva slain, they became exceedingly glad and lost no time in offering their congratulations to Bhima, that chastiser of all foes. Then Arjuna worshipping the illustrious Bhima of terrible prowess, addressed him again and said, ‘Revered senior, I think there is a town not far off from this forest. Blest be thou, let us go hence soon, so that Duryodhana may not trace us.’
“Then all those mighty car-warriors, those tigers among men, saying, ‘So be it,’ proceeded along with their mother, followed by Hidimva, the Rakshasa woman.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Bhima, beholding Hidimva following them, addressed her, saying, ‘Rakshasas revenge themselves on their enemies by adopting deceptions that are incapable of being penetrated. Therefore, O Hidimva, go thou the way on which thy brother hath gone.’ Then Yudhishthira beholding Bhima in rage, said, ‘O Bhima, O tiger among men, however enraged, do not slay a woman. O Pandava, the observance of virtue is a higher duty than the protection of life. Hidimva, who had come with the object of slaying us, thou hast already slain. This woman is the sister of that Rakshasa, what can she do to us even if she were angry?’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then Hidimva reverentially saluting Kunti and her son Yudhishthira also, said, with joined palms, ‘O revered lady, thou knowest the pangs that women are made to feel at the hands of the deity of love. Blessed dame, these pangs, of which Bhimasena hath been the cause, are torturing me. I had hitherto borne these insufferable pangs, waiting for the time (when thy son could assuage them). That time is now come, when I expected I would be made happy. Casting off my friends and relations and the usage of my race, I have, O blessed lady, chosen this son of thine, this tiger among men, as my husband. I tell thee truly, O illustrious lady, that if I am cast off by that hero or by thee either, I will no longer bear this life of mine. Therefore, O thou of the fairest complexion, it behoveth thee to show me mercy, thinking me either as very silly or thy obedient slave. O illustrious dame, unite me with this thy son, my husband. Endued as he is with the form of a celestial, let me go taking him with me wherever I like. Trust me, O blessed lady, I will again bring him back unto you all. When you think of me I will come to you immediately and convey you whithersoever ye may command. I will rescue you from all dangers and carry you across inaccessible and uneven regions.
I will carry you on my back whenever ye desire to proceed with swiftness. O, be gracious unto me and make Bhima accept me. It hath been said that in a season of distress one should protect one’s life by any means. He, that seeketh to discharge that duty should not scruple about the means. He, that in a season of distress keepeth his virtue, is the foremost of virtuous men. Indeed, distress is the greatest danger to virtue and virtuous men. It is virtue that protecteth life; therefore is virtue called the giver of life. Hence the means by which virtue or the observance of a duty is secured can never be censurable.’
“Hearing these words of Hidimva, Yudhishthira said. ‘It is even so, O Hidimva, as thou sayest. There is no doubt of it. But, O thou of slender waist, thou must act even as thou hast said. Bhima will, after he hath washed himself and said his prayers and performed the usual propitiatory rites, pay his attentions to thee till the sun sets. Sport thou with him as thou likest during the day, O thou that art endued with the speed of the mind! But thou must bring back Bhimasena hither every day at nightfall.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then Bhima, expressing his assent to all that Yudhishthira said, addressed Hidimva, saying, ‘Listen to me, O Rakshasa woman! Truly do I make this engagement with thee that I will stay with thee, O thou of slender waist, until thou obtainest a son.’ Then Hidimva, saying, ‘So be it,’ took Bhima upon her body and sped through the sides. On mountain peaks of picturesque scenery and regions sacred to the gods, abounding with dappled herds and echoing with the melodies of feathered tribes, herself assuming the handsomest form decked with every ornament and pouring forth at times mellifluous strains. Hidimva sported with the Pandava and studied to make him happy. So also, in inaccessible regions of forests, and on mountain-breasts overgrown with blossoming trees on lakes resplendent with lotuses and lilies, islands of rivers and their pebbly banks, on sylvan streams with beautiful banks and mountain-currents, in picturesque woods with blossoming trees and creepers in Himalayan bowers, and various caves, on crystal pools smiling with lotuses, on sea-shores shining with gold and pearls, in beautiful towns and fine gardens, in woods sacred to the gods and on hill-sides, in the regions of Guhyakas and ascetics, on the banks of Manasarovara abounding with fruits and flowers of every season Hidimva, assuming the handsomest form, sported with Bhima and studied to make him happy. Endued with the speed of the mind, she sported with Bhima in all these regions, till in time, she conceived and brought forth a mighty son begotten upon her by the Pandava. Of terrible eyes and large mouth and straight arrowy ears, the child was terrible to behold. Of lips brown as copper and sharp teeth and loud roar, of mighty arms and great strength and excessive prowess, this child became a mighty bowman. Of long nose, broad chest, frightfully swelling calves, celerity of motion and excessive strength, he had nothing human in his countenance, though born of man. And he excelled (in strength and prowess) all Pisachas and kindred tribes as well as all Rakshasas.
And, O monarch, though a little child, he grew up a youth the very hour he was born. The mighty hero soon acquired high proficiency in the use of all weapons. The Rakshasa women bring forth the very day they conceive, and capable of assuming any forms at will, they always change their forms. And the bald-headed child, that mighty bowman, soon after his birth, bowing down to his mother, touched her feet and the feet also of his father. His parents then bestowed upon him a name. His mother having remarked that his head was (bald) like unto a Ghata (water-pot), both his parents thereupon called him Ghatotkacha (the pot-headed). And Ghatotkacha who was exceedingly devoted to the Pandavas, became a great favourite with them, indeed almost one of them.
“Then Hidimva, knowing that the period of her stay (with her husband) had come to an end, saluted the Pandavas and making a new appointment with them went away whithersoever she liked. And Ghatotkacha also–that foremost of Rakshasas–promising unto his father that he would come when wanted on business, saluted them and went away northward. Indeed, it was the illustrious Indra who created (by lending a portion of himself) the mighty car-warrior Ghatotkacha as a fit antagonist of Karna of unrivalled energy, in consequence of the dart he had given unto Karna (and which was sure to kill the person against whom it would be hurled).’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Those mighty car-warriors, the heroic Pandavas, then went, O king, from forest to forest killing deer and many animals (for their food). And in the course of their wanderings they saw the countries of the Matsyas, the Trigartas, the Panchalas and then of the Kichakas, and also many beautiful woods and lakes therein. And they all had matted locks on their heads and were attired in barks of trees and the skins of animals. Indeed, with Kunti in their company those illustrious heroes were attired in the garbs of ascetics. And those mighty car-warriors sometimes proceeded in haste, carrying their mother on their backs; and sometimes they proceeded in disguise, and sometimes again with great celerity. And they used to study the Rik and the other Vedas and also all the Vedangas as well as the sciences of morals and politics. And the Pandavas, conversant with the science of morals, met, in course of their wanderings their grandfather (Vyasa). And saluting the illustrious Krishna-Dwaipayana, those chastisers of enemies, with their mother, stood before him with joined hands.’
“Vyasa then said, ‘Ye bulls of Bharata’s race, I knew beforehand of this affliction of yours consisting in your deceitful exile by the son of Dhritarashtra. Knowing this, I have come to you, desirous of doing you some great good. Do not grieve for what hath befallen you. Know that all this is for your happiness. Undoubtedly, the sons of Dhritarashtra and you are all equal in my eye. But men are always partial to those who are in misfortune or of tender years. It is therefore, that my affection for you is greater now. And in consequence of that affection, I desire to do you good. Listen to me! Not far off before you is a delightful town where no danger can overtake you. Live ye there in disguise, waiting for my return.’
‘Vaisampayana continued, ‘Vyasa, the son of Satyavati, thus comforting the Pandavas, led them into the town of Ekachakra. And the master also comforted Kunti, saying, ‘Live, O daughter! This son of thine, Yudhishthira, ever devoted to truth, this illustrious bull among men, having by his justice conquered the whole world, will rule over all the other monarchs of the earth. There is little doubt that, having by means of Bhima’s and Arjuna’s prowess conquered the whole earth with her belt of seas, he will enjoy the sovereignty thereof. Thy sons as well as those of Madri–mighty car-warriors all–will cheerfully sport as pleaseth them in their dominions. These tigers among men will also perform various sacrifices, such as the Rajasuya and the horse-sacrifice, in which the presents unto the Brahmanas are very large. And these thy sons will rule their ancestral kingdom, maintaining their friends and relatives in luxury and affluence and happiness.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘With these words Vyasa introduced them into the dwelling of a Brahmana. And the island-born Rishi, addressing the eldest of the Pandavas, said, ‘Wait here for me! I will come back to you! By adapting yourselves to the country and the occasion you will succeed in becoming very happy.’
“Then, O king, the Pandavas with joined hands said unto the Rishi, ‘So be it.’ And the illustrious master, the Rishi Vyasa, then went away to the region whence he had come.’”
“Janamejaya asked, ‘O first of Brahmanas, what did the Pandavas, those mighty car-warriors, the sons of Kunti, do after arriving at Ekachakra?’
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Those mighty car-warriors, the sons of Kunti, on arriving at Ekachakra, lived for a short time in the abode of a Brahmana. Leading an eleemosynary life, they behold (in course of their wanderings) various delightful forests and earthly regions, and many rivers and lakes, and they became great favourites of the inhabitants of that town in consequence of their own accomplishments. At nightfall they placed before Kunti all they gathered in their mendicant tours, and Kunti used to divide the whole amongst them, each taking what was allotted to him. And those heroic chastisers of foes, with their mother, together took one moiety of the whole, while the mighty Bhima alone took the other moiety. In this way, O bull of Bharata’s race, the illustrious Pandavas lived there for some time.
“One day, while those bulls of the Bharata race were out on their tour of mendicancy, it so happened that Bhima was (at home) with (his mother) Pritha. That day, O Bharata, Kunti heard a loud and heart-rending wail of sorrow coming from within the apartments of the Brahmana. Hearing the inmates of the Brahmana’s house wailing and indulging in piteous lamentations, Kunti, O king, from compassion and the goodness of her heart, could not bear it with indifference. Afflicted with sorrow, the amiable Pritha, addressing Bhima, said these words full of compassion. ‘Our woes assuaged, we are, O son, living happily in the house of this Brahmana, respected by him and unknown to Dhritarashtra’s son. O son, I always think of the good I should do to this Brahmana, like what they do that live happily in others’ abodes! O child, he is a true man upon whom favours are never lost. He payeth back to others more than what he receiveth at their hands. There is no doubt, some affliction hath overtaken this Brahmana. If we could be of any help to him, we should then be requiting his services.’
“Hearing these words of his mother, Bhima said, ‘Ascertain, O mother the nature of the Brahmana’s distress and whence also it hath arisen. Learning all about it, relieve it I will however difficult may the task prove.’
“Vaisampayana continued ‘While mother and son were thus talking with each other, they heard again, O king, another wail of sorrow proceeding from the Brahmana and his wife. Then Kunti quickly entered the inner apartments of that illustrious Brahmana, like unto a cow running towards her tethered calf. She beheld the Brahmana with his wife, son and daughter, sitting with a woeful face, and she heard the Brahmana say, ‘Oh, fie on this earthly life which is hollow as the reed and so fruitless after all which is based on sorrow and hath no freedom, and which hath misery for its lot! Life is sorrow and disease; life is truly a record of misery! The soul is one: but it hath to pursue virtue, wealth and pleasure. And because these are pursued at one and the same time, there frequently occurs a disagreement that is the source of much misery. Some say that salvation is the highest object of our desire. But I believe it can never be attained. The acquisition of wealth is hell; the pursuit of wealth is attended with misery; there is more misery after one has acquired it, for one loves one’s possessions, and if any mishap befalls them, the possessor becomes afflicted with woe. I do not see by what means I can escape from this danger, nor how I can fly hence, with my wife to some region free from danger. Remember, O wife, that I endeavoured to migrate to some other place where we would be happy, but thou didst not then listen to me. Though frequently solicited by me, thou, O simple woman, said to me, ‘I have been born here, and here have I grown old; this is my ancestral homestead.’ Thy venerable father, O wife, and thy mother also, have, a long time ago, ascended to heaven. Thy relations also had all been dead. Oh why then didst thou yet like to live here? Led by affection for thy relatives thou didst not then hear what I said.
But the time is now come when thou art to witness the death of a relative. Oh, how sad is that spectacle for me! Or perhaps the time is come for my own death, for I shall never be able to abandon cruelly one of my own as long as I myself am alive. Thou art my helpmate in all good deeds, self-denying and always affectionate unto me as a mother. The gods have given thee to me as a true friend and thou art ever my prime stay. Thou hast, by my parents, been made the participator in my domestic concerns. Thou art of pure lineage and good disposition, the mother of children, devoted to me, and so innocent; having chosen and wedded thee with due rites, I cannot abandon thee, my wife, so constant in thy vows, to save my life. How shall I myself be able to sacrifice my son a child of tender years and yet without the hirsute appendages (of manhood)? How shall I sacrifice my daughter whom I have begotten myself, who hath been placed, as a pledge, in my hands by the Creator himself for bestowal on a husband and through whom I hope to enjoy, along with my ancestors, the regions attainable by those only that have daughters’ sons? Some people think that the father’s affection for a son is greater; others, that his affection for a daughter is greater, mine, however, is equal.
How can I be prepared to give up the innocent daughter upon whom rest the regions of bliss obtainable by me in after life and my own lineage and perpetual happiness? If, again, I sacrifice myself and go to the other world, I should scarcely know any peace, for, indeed, it is evident that, left by me these would not be able to support life. The sacrifice of any of these would be cruel and censurable. On the other hand, if I sacrifice myself, these, without me, will certainly perish. The distress into which I have fallen is great; nor do I know the means of escape. Alas, what course shall I take today with my near ones. It is well that I should die with all these, for I can live no longer.’”