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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Hearing this, Arjuna said, ‘O Gandharva, whence arose the hostility between Viswamitra and Vasishtha both of whom dwelt in a celestial hermitage? O, tell us all about it.’
“The Gandharva replied, ‘O Partha, the story of Vasishtha is regarded as a Purana (legend) in all the three worlds. Listen to me as I recite it fully. There was, in Kanyakuvja, O bull of Bharata’s race, a great king of worldwide fame named Gadhi, the son of Kusika. The virtuous Gadhi had a son named Viswamitra, that grinder of foes, possessing a large army and many animals and vehicles.
And Viswamitra, accompanied by his ministers, used to roam in quest of deer through the deep woods and over picturesque marascetic penances the propitious lord Vivaswat, by the help of Vasishtha’s (ascetic power). And Samvarana, that bull among men with due rites took Tapati’s hand on that mountain-breast which was resorted to by the celestials and the Gandharvas. The royal sage, with the permission of Vasishtha, desired to sport with his wife on that mountain. And the king caused Vasishtha, to be proclaimed his regent in his capital and kingdom, in the woods and gardens. And bidding farewell unto the monarch, Vasishtha left him and went away. Samvarana, who sported on that mountain like a celestial, sported with his wife in the woods and the under-woods on that mountain for twelve full years. And, O best of the Bharatas, the god of a thousand eyes poured no rain for twelve years on the capital and on the kingdom of that monarch. Then, O chastiser of enemies, when that season of drought broke out, the people of that kingdom, as also the trees and lower animals began to die fast. And during the continuance of that dreadful drought, not even a drop of dew fell from the skies and no corn grew. And the inhabitants in despair, and afflicted with the fear of hunger, left their homes and fled away in all directions. And the famished people of the capital and the country began to abandon their wives and children and grew reckless of one another.
The people being afflicted with hunger, without a morsel of food and reduced to skeletons, the capital looked very much like the city of the king of the dead, full of only ghostly beings. On beholding the capital reduced to such a state, the illustrious and virtuous and best of Rishis, Vasishtha was resolved upon applying a remedy and brought back unto the city that tiger among kings, Samvarana, along with his wife, after the latter had passed so long a period in solitude and seclusion. After the king had entered his capital, things became as before, for, when that tiger among kings came back to his own, the god of a thousand eyes, the slayer of Asuras, poured rain in abundance and caused corn to grow. Revivified by the foremost of virtuous souls the capital and the country became animated with extreme joy. The monarch, with his wife, Tapati, once more performed sacrifices for twelve years, like the lord Indra (god of rain) performing sacrifices with his wife, Sachi.’
“The Gandharva continued, ‘This, O Partha, is the history of Tapati of old, the daughter of Vivaswat. It is for her that thou art (called) Tapatya. King Samvarana begot upon Tapati a son named Kuru, who was the foremost of ascetics. Born in the race of Kuru, thou art, O Arjuna, to be called Tapatya.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘That bull among the Bharatas, Arjuna, hearing these words of the Gandharva, was inspired with feelings of devotion and stood shes (???–JBH), killing deer and wild boars. Once on a time, while out in quest of deer, the king became weak with exertion and thirst. The monarch arrived in that state at the asylum of Vasishtha, and the blessed and illustrious Rishi beholding him arrive, reverenced with his homage that best of men, king Viswamitra. And O Bharata, the Rishi saluted the monarch by offering him water to wash his face and feet with, and Arghya, and wild fruits, and clarified butter. For the illustrious Rishi had a cow yielding anything that was desired of her.
When she was addressed, saying, ‘O give’,–she always yielded the article that was sought. And she yielded various fruits and corn, wild or grown in gardens and fields, and milk, and many excellent nutritive viands full of six different kinds of juice (taste?) and like unto nectar itself, and various other kinds of enjoyable things, O Arjuna, of ambrosial taste for drinking and eating, and for licking and sucking, and also many precious gems and robes of various kinds. With these desirable objects in profusion the monarch was worshipped. And the king with his minister and troops became highly pleased. And the monarch wondered much, beholding that cow with six elevated limbs and the beautiful flanks and hips, and five limbs that were broad, and eyes prominent like those of the frog and beautiful in size, and high udders, and faultless make, and straight and uplifted ears, and handsome horns, and well-developed head and neck.
“And, O prince, the son of Gadhi, gratified with everything and applauding the cow named Nandini, addressed the Rishi, saying, ‘O Brahmana, O great Muni, give me thy Naridini in exchange for ten thousand kine, or my kingdom. Enjoy thou my kingdom (giving me thy cow).’
“Hearing these words of Viswamitra, Vasishtha said, ‘O sinless one, this cow hath been kept by me for the sake of the gods, guests, and the Pitris, as also for my sacrifices. I cannot give Nandini in exchange for even thy kingdom.’ Viswamitra replied, ‘I am a Kshatriya, but thou art a Brahmana devoted to asceticism and study. Is there any energy in Brahmanas who are peaceful and who have their souls under perfect command? When thou givest me not what I desire in exchange even for ten thousand cows, I will not abandon the practice of my order; I will take thy cow even by force!’
“Vasishtha said, ‘Thou art a Kshatriya endued with might of arms. Thou art a powerful monarch. O, do in haste what thou desirest; and stop not to consider its propriety.’
“The Gandharva continued, ‘Thus addressed by Vasishtha, Viswamitra, O Partha, then forcibly seized Nandini, that cow (white) like the swan or the moon, and attempted to take her away, afflicting her with stripes and persecuting her otherwise. The innocent Nandini then began, O Partha, to low piteously, and approaching the illustrious Vasishtha stood before him with uplifted face. Though persecuted very cruelly, she refused to leave the Rishi’s asylum.’
“Beholding her in that plight, Vasishtha said, ‘O amiable one, thou art lowing repeatedly and I am hearing thy cries. But, O Nandini, even Viswamitra is taking thee away by force, what can I do in this matter, as I am a forgiving Brahmana?’
“The Gandharva continued, ‘Then, O bull in Bharata’s race, Nandini, alarmed at the sight of Viswamitra’s troops and terrified by Viswamitra himself, approached the Rishi still closer, and said, ‘O illustrious one, why art thou so indifferent to my poor self afflicted with the stripes of the cruel troops of Viswamitra and crying so piteously as if I were masterless?’ Hearing these words of the crying and persecuted Nandini, the great Rishi lost not his patience nor turned from his vow of forgiveness. He replied, ‘The Kshatriya’s might lies in physical strength, the Brahmana’s in forgiveness. Because I cannot give up forgiveness, go thou, O Nandini, if thou choosest.’ Nandini answered, ‘Castest thou me away, O illustrious one, that thou sayest so? If thou dost not cast me off, I cannot, O Brahmana, be taken away by force.’ Vasishtha said, ‘O blessed one, I do not cast thee off! Stay if thou canst! O, yonder is thy calf, tied with a stout cord, and even now being weakened by it!’