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The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa
That powerful prime fire (Swaha) is always missed by the gods, because when he sees Niyata approaching him he hides himself in the sea from fear of contamination. Searching for him in every direction, the gods could not (once) find him out and on beholding Atharvan the fire said to him, ‘O valiant being, do thou carry the oblations for the gods! I am disabled from want of strength. Attaining the state of the red-eyed fire, do thou condescend to do me this favour!’ Having thus advised Atharvan, the fire went away to some other place. But his place of concealment was divulged by the finny tribe. Upon them the fire pronounced this curse in anger, ‘You shall be the food of all creatures in various ways.’ And then that carrier of oblations spoke unto Atharvan (as before). Though entreated by the gods, he did not agree to continue carrying their oblations. He then became insensible and instantly gave up the ghost. And leaving his material body, he entered into the bowels of the earth. Coming into contact with the earth, he created the different metals. Force and scent arose from his pus; the Deodar pine from his bones; glass from his phlegm; the Marakata jewel from his bile; and the black iron from his liver. And all the world has been embellished with these three substances (wood, stone and iron).
The clouds were made from his nails, and corals from his veins. And, O king, various other metals were produced from his body. Thus leaving his material body, he remained absorbed in (spiritual) meditation. He was roused by the penance of Bhrigu and Angiras. The powerful fire thus gratified with penance, blazed forth intensely. But on beholding the Rishi (Atharvan), he again sought his watery refuse. At this extinction of the fire, the whole world was frightened, and sought the protection of Atharvan, and the gods and others began to worship him. Atharvan rummaged the whole sea in the presence of all those beings eager with expectation, and finding out the fire, himself began the work of creation. Thus in olden times the fire was destroyed and called back to life by the adorable Atharvan. But now he invariably carries the oblations of all creatures. Living in the sea and travelling about various countries, he produced the various fires mentioned in the Vedas.
The river Indus, the five rivers (of the Punjab), the Sone, the Devika, the Saraswati, the Ganga, the Satakumbha, the Sarayu, the Gandaki, the Charmanwati, the Mahi, the Medha, the Medhatithi, the three rivers Tamravati, the Vetravati, and the Kausiki; the Tamasa, the Narmada, the Godavari, the Vena, the Upavena, the Bhima, the Vadawa, the Bharati, the Suprayoga, the Kaveri, the Murmura, the Tungavenna, the Krishnavenna and the Kapila, these rivers, O Bharata, are said to be the mothers of the fires! The fire called Adbhuta had a wife of the name of Priya, and Vibhu was the eldest of his sons by her. There are as many different kinds of Soma sacrifices as the number of fires mentioned before. All this race of fires, first-born of the spirit of Brahma, sprang also from the race of Atri. Atri in his own mind conceived these sons, desirous of extending the creation. By this act, the fires came out of his own Brahmic frame. I have thus narrated to thee the history of the origin of these fires. They are great, resplendent, and unrivalled in power, and they are the destroyers of darkness. Know that the powers of those fires are the same as those of the Adbhuta fire as related in the Vedas. For all these fires are one and same. This adorable being, the first born fire, must be considered as one. For like the Jyotishtoma sacrifice he came out of Angiras body in various forms. I have thus described to thee the history of the great race of Agni (fires) who when duly worshipped with the various hymns, carry the oblations of all creatures to the gods.
“Markandeya continued, ‘O sinless scion of Kuru’s race, I have described to thee the various branches of the race of Agni. Listen now to the story of the birth of the intelligent Kartikeya. I shall tell thee of that wonderful and famous and highly energetic son of the Adbhuta fire begotten of the wives of the Brahmarshis. In ancient times the gods and Asuras were very active in destroying one another. And the terrible Asuras always succeeded in defeating the gods. And Purandara (Indra) beholding the great slaughter of his armies by them and anxious to find out a leader for the celestial host, thought within himself, ‘I must find out a mighty person who observing the ranks of the celestial army shattered by the Danavas will be able to reorganize it with vigour.’
He then repaired to the Manasa mountains and was there deeply absorbed in thought of nature, when he heard the heart-rending cries of a woman to the effect, ‘May some one come quick and rescue me, and either indicate a husband for me, or be my husband himself.’ Purandara said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, lady!’ And having said these words, he saw Kesin (an Asura) adorned with a crown and mace in hand standing even like a hill of metals at a distance and holding that lady by the hand. Vasava addressed then that Asura saying, ‘Why art thou bent on behaving insolently to this lady? Know that I am the god who wields the thunderbolt. Refrain thou from doing any violence to this lady.’ To him Kesin replied, ‘Do thou, O Sakra, leave her alone. I desire to possess her. Thinkest thou, O slayer of Paka, that thou shalt be able to return home with thy life?’ With these words Kesin hurled his mace for slaying Indra. Vasava cut it up in its course with his thunderbolt. Then Kesin, furious with rage, hurled a huge mass of rock at him. Beholding that, he of a hundred sacrifices rent it asunder with his thunderbolt, and it fell down upon the ground. And Kesin himself was wounded by that falling mass of rock. Thus sorely afflicted, he fled leaving the lady behind. And when the Asura was gone, Indra said to that lady, ‘Who and whose wife art thou, O lady with a beautiful face, and what has brought thee here?’”