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Mahabharata - Adi Parva
narayanam namas-krtya, naram caiva narottamam
devim sarasvatim vyasam, tato jayam udirayet
"Before reciting this Mahabharata, which is the very means of conquest, one should first offer respectful obeisances unto the Personality of Godhead, Narayana, unto Nara-narayana Rsi, the supermost human being, unto mother Sarasvati, the goddess of learning, and unto Shrila Vyasadeva, the author."
Suta Gosvami, son of Romaharsana, was widely renowned for his knowledge of the sacred histories called Puranas. Once he journeyed to the holy forest of Naimisaranya, where the learned Saunaka, assisted by strict and powerful sages, was conducting a twelve-year sacrifice. Humbly bowing his head, Suta approached the sages seated in the sacrificial arena, greeting them with folded hands, and then inquired about the progress of their austerities. The forest ascetics welcomed him into their midst, eager to hear the fascinating histories he knew so well.
As all the ascetics again sat down together, they offered Suta Gosvami the speaker's seat of honor, and he humbly accepted in deference to their request. Seeing that Suta was comfortable and well-rested, one of the sages, eager to begin their talks, inquired of him:
"Dear Suta, where are you coming from, and how have you been spending your time? O lotus-eyed one, please tell us."
Suta Gosvami replied:
I recently attended the sacrifice of the saintly King Janamejaya, who is a great soul among earthly rulers and a most worthy son of his great father, Pariksit. In that sacrifice King Janamejaya tried to destroy all the serpents in the universe in order to avenge his father's death. During the ceremony, the learned Vaisampayana spoke on various topics he had learned from his teacher, the great Krishna Dvaipayana. Being present, I heard many wonderful and pious stories known together as the Mahabharata.
Thereafter, I traveled about and visited many holy sites and sanctuaries, until at last I reached the sacred land of Samanta-pancaka, where many qualified brahmanas reside. In that very land some time ago, the great war between the Pandavas and Kurus and all the kings of the earth took place.
I then journeyed here to Naimisaranya, desiring to see all of you, whom I consider to be self-realized sages. Indeed, having purified yourselves by this sacrifice, you great souls shine like the sun or fire. You have chanted the proper hymns, ignited the sacred fire, and have thus become fixed in your real identity as spiritual beings. Dear brahmana, you have spent your lives well. On what subject would you now have me speak? Shall I narrate pious histories of antiquity, or shall we discuss universal principles of justice-- or perhaps the lives of great souls, the saintly kings and sages?
The sages replied:
We would like to hear that historical narrative which was first spoken by Shrila Vyasadeva, the greatest of sages. Indeed, when the godly and wise hear this best of chronicles with its variety of topics and its exquisite composition, they instantly honor it. This sacred work known as the Mahabharata fulfills the very noblest aims of literature, for it is invested with subtlety, logic, and Vedic knowledge, enlivening the soul with the wisdom of many scriptures.
We would hear that work which Vaisampayana, on the order of Vyasadeva, joyfully narrated at the sacrifice of King Janamejaya. Vyasadeva himself, whose deeds are marvelous, considers the Mahabharata equal to all the four Vedas. Dear Suta, we wish to hear the glorious Mahabharata, which drives away the fear that flows from sin.
Let me first pay my respectful obeisances unto the source of all that exists, the indestructible reality called by many names and praised in many prayers, the Absolute Truth, who is eternally present, although at times manifest and at times unmanifest. Unto Him I bow down.
Matter and spirit are His potencies, and therefore He is one with the universe. Yet He is transcendental and supreme, the prime creator of all things great and small. Standing above all, His power is never diminished.
My obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, who is celebrated as Vishnu and who is the purest and most desireable being. Full of spiritual bliss, He enlivens each of us with His own happiness. That sinless one is called Hari, for He dispells His devotee's anxiety, and Hrsikesa, for He alone is the master of all the senses. He is the original teacher of all the creatures who move in this world and of those, like the trees, that cannot move.
I shall now narrate the complete epic as taught by Vyasadeva, that great and broadminded sage honored by all. Learned poets recited this chronicle in the past, others declare it even today, and still others will certainly recite it in times to come. This great teaching is firmly established in all the three worlds, and advanced scholars study its broad outline as well as its many details. The learned consider the Mahabharata a veritable pleasure to read, for it is embellished with beautiful language and a variety of charming meters, both divine and human.
To write this history Vyasadeva retired to a sanctified region, high in the Himalayas in a secluded mountain valley, fit for performing religious sacrifices, and he reflected deeply on how best to explain this great history to the people of the present age. Rising early and cleansing his body, and then taking his seat on a simple mat of kusa grass, Vyasadeva remained strictly celibate, peaceful, and pure, and entered into a state of yoga by linking his own consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness. Thus he beheld, within himself, all things.-
Vyasa could see that in the beginning of universal time, when the world was covered with darkness and nothing could be seen, there arose a single cosmic seed, round and potent like an egg, yet vast and indestructible, pregnant with the bodies of all creatures. As authorities have it, this divine instrument was the great principle of creation.
Within that single seed shown the eternal light of the Absolute Truth, primordial, wonderful, inconceivable, and everywhere the same. Housing both matter and spirit, it was the subtle and invisible cause of the universe.
From that same Absolute Truth the grandsire, Brahma, took birth, he who is the master of creatures and guru to the gods; who is known as Sthanu, Manu, Ka, and Paramesthi; [who arose directly from the spiritual body of Lord Maha-visnu.] Lord Siva, Manu, the ten Pracetas, and Daksa with his seven sons, also appeared, followed by the twenty-one Prajapatis. All of these gods are partial manifestations of the immeasureable Personality of Godhead. This is known to all enlightened philosophers.
Various demigods then took birth to assist the cosmic rule: the Visve-devas, the Adityas, the Vasus, and the twin Asvins. Among them, illustrious Vivasvan rules the fiery sun. Acting as the eye of God, he is also celebrated as Atma-vibhavasu, Savita, Rcika, Arka, Bhanu, Asavaha, and Ravi.
Mahya is the youngest son of the sun-god. Mahya's son is Devavrata, and Devavrata's son is Subhraj, who had three well- known sons named Dasajyoti, Satajyoti, and Sahasrajyoti, all of whom produced many children.
The great soul Dasajyoti (whose name means "Ten Lights") had ten thousand children. Satajyoti ("Hundred Lights") had children numbering one hundred thousand, and Sahasra-jyoti ("Thousand Lights") had a thousand times a thousand children.
From these godly beings, the great royal dynasties descended on the earth, dynasties like the Kurus, Yadus, and Bharatas, as well as the great dynasties of Yayati, Iksvaku, and many other saintly kings. Thus by the power of the Sun and his descendants, many civilizations flourished and found a home in this world.
Vyasadeva could thus see the complete history of the cosmos and all its mysterious inner workings, which he explained in the Mahabharata, that others might learn and profit. Vyasadeva understood that in this world souls pass through cycles of piety, prosperity, pleasure-seeking, and salvation. In his authoritative books of knowledge, he therefore explained how human beings could live piously, become prosperous, satisfy their desires, and at the same time make spiritual progress. The special mark of the Mahabharata, therefore, is its clear focus on all important aspects of human endeavor.
After expanding this great knowledge Vyasadeva then prepared a condensed version, because learned scholars in this world would study it both in summary as well as in detail. Some wise brahmanas study the Mahabharata from the opening stanza, while others begin from the story of Astika; still others begin with the story of King Uparicara.
Different thinkers illuminate different aspects of the work, some by expertly analyzing its meaning, others by committing the entire text to memory. But it was Vyasa, celibate and austere, who divided the eternal Veda and then composed this sacred history.
The sage Parasara begot Vyasa in the womb of the maiden Satyavati. Later, on the plea of his mother and his stepbrother Bhisma, the wise Vyasadeva, ever-strict in his vows, begot three sons in the childless widows of his stepbrother Vicitravirya, each of whom was as brilliant as fire. Having fathered the three Kuru princes, Dhrtarastra, Pandu, and Vidura, thoughtful Vyasa went to his own asrama and again dedicated himself to the practice of austerity. After the three Kuru princes matured and eventually went on to their final destinations, the same great sage told their story to all mankind by narrating the Mahabharata.
At the urging of Emperor Janamejaya and thousands of brahmanas, Vyasadeva taught this great history to his disciple Vaisampayana, who sat close by his teacher. Later, sitting in the learned assembly at Janamejaya's sacrifice, the sage Vaisampayana, after repeated requests, spoke the Mahabharata at intervals in the sacrifice.
This great chronicle, spoken by the exalted sage Vyasa, thus records the powerful growth of the Kuru dynasty, the extraordinary chastity of Gandhari, Vidura's wisdom, Kunti's determination, the glory of Shri Krishna, the unswerving fidelity of the Pandavas, and the wicked deeds of the sons of Dhrtarastra. The learned say that Vyasa first recorded the essential story of the Mahabharata, less the minor episodes, in 24,000 verses, summarizing the major events and sections of the history in a single chapter of 150 verses. He then taught the history to his own son Suka and to other qualified disciples.
The sage compiled versions of the Mahabharata for the demigods in six million verses and in three million verses. The forefathers received 1,500,000 verses, the Raksasas and Yaksas 1,400,000, and human society 100,000. Narada Muni revealed it to the demigods, Asita Devala to the forefathers, and Suka, the son of Vyasa, taught it to the Gandharvas and Yaksas.
Full of anger, Duryodhana was like a great tree whose trunk was Karna, its branches Sakuni, its fully ripened fruits and flowers the evil Duhsasana, and its root King Dhrtarastra, who was not a thoughtful man.
The thoroughly just Yudhisthira was like a great tree whose trunk was Arjuna, its branches Bhimasena, its fully ripened fruits and flowers the twin sons of Madri, and its roots were Shri Krishna, knowledge of the Vedas, and saintly brahmanas.
After conquering many lands by his courage and fighting strength, King Pandu dwelled in the forest with his close associates, ever engaged in hunting, until one day he slew a deer couple who were mating. Thereafter he underwent much suffering, spending his life in the forest where he raised his sons from their birth.
Pandu was unable to beget children, thus his two wives gave him five sons by their contact with demigods. On Pandu's order, his first wife Kunti united with Dharma, god of justice; with Vayu, lord of the Wind; and with Indra, ruler of heaven., Arjuna performed a nearly impossible feat and stole her away in the midst of all the greatest warriors of the earth. From that time on Arjuna was honored as the best of bowmen. So brilliant was he on the battlefield that his opponents could not face him, just as they could not stare into the face of the blazing sun.
Many years later, after defeating all the earthly kings who were great and noble, Arjuna enabled his brother Yudhisthira to perform the exalted Rajasuya sacrifice, at which all present were fed sumptuously and gived valuable gifts. The Rajasuya sacrifice of King Yudhisthira was glorious in all respects.
By the good counsel of Lord Krishna and with the strength of Bhima and Arjuna, Yudhisthira arranged to kill Jarasandha, the evil monarch who was slaughtering thousands of innocent rulers. Thus the king performed his sacrifice without fear of harassment. During that great ceremony Lord Krishna took the life of the wicked Sisupala, who was insanely proud of his strength.
Fabulous wealth, jewelry, gems, and gold, valuable herds of cows, elephants, and fine horses, and all manner of opulence came to Duryodhana from all sides. But when Duryodhana saw that the Pandavas acquired the same opulence and riches, his jealousy drove him to deadly rage. And when he saw their unique assembly hall, as splendid as a celestial airship, created by the mystic craftsman Maya, Duryodhana burned in the flames of envy.
In that celestial hall Duryodhana became utterly confused, like an ordinary low-class fool, and slipped and fell in the presence of Lord Krishna and Bhimasena, who openly laughed at him. Soon thereafter Dhrtarastra understood that his son Duryodhana, though enjoying all varieties of wealth, was sick with jealousy and was steadily growing pale and thin.
Dhrtarastra was so attached to his son and so anxious to please him that he gave his permission for the crooked gambling match in which his sons would steal the Pandavas' kingdom. When Shri Krishna heard of it He was greatly angered, but He allowed the deceitful match to take place. As the terrible strife sown by Duryodhana grew between the cousin-brothers, Lord Krishna was not at all pleased, but He did not interfere until, finally, not heeding the pleas of Vidura, Drona, Bhisma, and Krpa, son of Saradvan, the Supreme Lord caused all the burdensome monarchs to destroy each other in the tumultuous war.
Hearing the dreaded news that the Pandavas had defeated his sons in mortal combat, Dhrtarastra could not deny that his eldest son Duryodhana, together with Karna and Sakuni, had provoked the catastrophic war between the cousin-brothers. For a long time Dhrtarastra struggled to understand his great loss, and then at last spoke these words to his intimate secretary, Sanjaya:
"Please, Sanjaya, hear all that I have to say, and do not blame me for all that has happened. You are an intelligent and educated man; the wisest men trust your judgement. Sanjaya, I did not want the war! I did not want to destroy our Kuru dynasty. I knew that there was no difference between my own sons and those of Pandu, but my sons were always so angry and so displeased with me, an old, blind man. Out of weakness and attachment, I tolerated their wicked deeds.
"Duryodhana had no sense of right and wrong, yet whenever he went astray I followed him. When he beheld the opulence of the mighty Pandava king at the Rajasuya sacrifice and then suffered such ridicule during his tour of the new assembly hall, he simply could not tolerate it. He did not have the strength to defeat the Pandavas in battle, nor did he have the initiative and ingenuity to personally acquire opulence as the Pandavas had done. And thus, like a man unworthy to be a warrior, he plotted with the Gandhara king to steal the Pandavas' fortune in an unjust gambling match.
"O Sanjaya, please hear me! All along I understood so many things. Listen to my words, and you will see that I am a reasonable man, that although I am blind, I do have a certain eye of wisdom.
"When I heard that Arjuna had strung the wonderful bow and struck the hidden target, which then fell to the earth, and that he had carried away the lovely Draupadi as all the kings of the earth looked on, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Arjuna had even carried away Lord Krishna's sister, by force, from the city of Dvaraka, and that Krishna and Balarama did not oppose him, but rather went to the Pandavas' city of Indraprastha to celebrate the marriage, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Arjuna with celestial arrows had withstood in battle the king of the demigods, repulsing his angry rain, and had offered the entire Khandava forest as a gift to the god of fire, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Yudhisthira, though utterly defeated, his kingdom stolen by Saubala in a game of dice, was nevertheless faithfully followed into exile by his brothers, who possessed immeasurable strength, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Draupadi, pained and grieving, her throat choked with tears, had been dragged into the Kuru assembly wrapped in a single cloth, and that she who is always protected by Lord Krishna was insulted there as if the lowest of women, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that the Pandavas had all gone to the forest, accepting the pain of exile out of love for their eldest brother, and that even in exile those virtuous souls had performed extraordinary deeds, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Yudhisthira, the king of justice, had departed for the forest and was immediately followed there by thousands of learned brahmanas, all of them humble mendicants and great souls, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that the three-eyed Siva, god of gods, had come disguised as a lowly Kirata hunter, and that Arjuna fought him and so pleased him that he awarded Arjuna his own mighty weapon, the Pasupata, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Arjuna had actually gone to the heavenly planets and there learned from Indra himself the use of unfailing celestial weapons, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Bhima and the other sons of Prtha had gone with Vaisravana to that land where no man could possibly go, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that my own sons, in taking the advice of Karna and going to visit the remote herdsmen, had all been captured by the Gandharvas, only to be set free by Arjuna, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Dharma, the god of justice, had come in the guise of a Yaksa to speak with Yudhisthira, who is known as Dharma-raja, the king of justice, and that Yudhisthira perfectly answered Dharma's most puzzling questions, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that my sons could not recognize the Pandavas, who, with Draupadi, were living in disguise in the kingdom of Virata, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that the sons of Prtha had become so clever --indeed as difficult to grasp as fire --that by so many means they had eluded my sons, who could neither find nor see them, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Bhimasena, defending his dear Draupadi, had slain the greatest of the Kicakas along with his hunred brothers, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that the great soul Arjuna, dwelling in disguise in the kingdom of Virata, had broken in battle the very best of my men, while fighting alone on a single chariot, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that the King of Matsya had offered his virtuous daughter Uttara to Arjuna, who accepted her not for himself but for his son, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Yudhisthira, utterly defeated in a game of dice, penniless, and banished to the forest with nary a friend or ally, suddenly had command of a mighty force of seven full aksauhini armies, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard from the great sage Narada that Krishna and Arjuna were not ordinary human beings at all, but in fact the two great beings known as Nara and Narayana, and when Narada told me, 'Yes, I always see them in the highest planet of the universe,' I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Lord Krishna, the husband of the goddess of fortune, had wholeheartedly taken the side of the Pandava's, that same Shri Krishna who had once crossed the universe in a single step, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Lord Krishna, desiring to make peace for the benefit of the whole world, had approached the Kurus and begged for peace and had gone away without fulfilling His purpose, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Karna and Duryodhana had made up their minds to subdue Lord Krishna, even after He had revealed Himself in so many ways to be the Supreme Soul of the universe, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that the Pandavas' mother Pritha, seeing that Lord Krishna was departing, had stood alone desperately in front of His chariot, begging for His help, and that Lord Krishna had comforted her, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Lord Krishna and Grandfather Bhisma were personally acting as advisors to the Pandavas, and that even the acarya Drona conferred blessings upon them, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Karna had said to Bhisma, 'As long as you are fighting on our side, I shall not fight,' and that he had left the army and gone away, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Lord Krishna, Arjuna, and the invincible Gandiva bow--- all three possessing terrifying strength--- were standing united together, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Arjuna had become overwhelmed by despair and sank down in his chariot, unable to fight, but that Lord Krishna had showed him all the worlds within His own transcendental body, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Bhisma, the tormentor of enemies, was killing ten thousand chariot warriors a day on the battlefield, but that he did not slay a single Pandava, although they were standing there plainly visible before him, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Bhisma himself, ever resigned to God's will, had indicated the means by which he could be killed, and that the Pandavas had understood the clue and happily carried out his execution, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that invincible Bhisma, the greatest hero of all, had been slain on the battlefield by Arjuna, who placed Sikhandi in front as a shield, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that mighty Bhisma, having reduced the race of the Somakas to but a few men, had been brought down by Arjuna's brilliant shafts, and that the eldest warrior had simply lain down upon a bed of arrows, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Bhisma, son of Ganga, was troubled by thirst as he lay on the bed of arrows, and Arjuna understood and immediately pierced the earth with an arrow, bringing forth water for him to drink, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that even the demigods who rule the sun and fire were favorable to the Pandavas and steadily committed to their success, while emboldened beasts of prey stalked and frightened our own soldiers, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Drona, that beautiful fighter, had wielded his weapons in many skillful ways but could not slay the Pandavas, who were the chief of the opposing fighters, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that our allies the Samsaptakas, the most deadly of warriors, who swore to finish the life of Arjuna, had been slain by that very Arjuna, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that our army had formed an impenetrable phalanx, guarded by the great Drona with weapons in hand, but that Abhimanyu, Subhadra's young heroic son, had singlehandedly broken through the formation and fearlessly entered our ranks, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that all our best fighters could not slay Arjuna, but rather had surrounded his son Abhimanyu, who was but a child, and slew him and rejoiced, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that upon killing Abhimanyu my own foolish sons had cried out in joy, and that Arjuna had unleashed his awful wrath on Saindhava, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Arjuna had taken a solemn vow to slay the instigator Saindhava and had made true his word, even in the midst of his enemies, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Arjuna's horses, being exhausted, were untied on the battlefield by his chariot driver, Lord Krishna, and given water, and that when they had recovered Krishna had again yoked them and set out for battle, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that even with his horses unyoked and breathing heavily with fatigue, Arjuna stood firm on his chariot, driving off all the enemy soldiers with his Gandiva bow, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Yuyudhana, the Vrsni hero, had violently harassed the army of Drona and its invincible elephant legions, and then returned safely to where Krishna and Arjuna were standing, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Karna had the powerful Bhima's life in his hands, but that instead of killing him, had merely insulted him with words and struck him with the corner of his bow, and then set him free, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Drona, Krtavarma, Krpa, Karna, Asvatthama, and the courageous king of Madra had all stood by while Saindhava was killed, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Lord Krishna had so bewildered Karna that he hurled his ultimate weapon, the celestial sakti given him by Indra, against the ghastly Ghatotkaca, who was born of a man-eating mother, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that in his fight with Ghatotkaca Karna had released his sakti weapon actually meant to kill Arjuna, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Dhrstadyumna had violated the sacred warrior code and cut down Dronacarya, who was alone in his chariot and resolved upon death, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Madri's son Nakula, locked in single combat with the son of Drona, had matched him in battle in the presence of everyone and had driven circles around him with his chariot, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that upon the death of Drona, his crazed son had released the dreaded nuclear weapon, Narayanastra, but still could not bring an end to the Pandavas, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Karna, that most extraordinary warrior virtually invincible in combat, had been slain by Arjuna in a war between brothers even the gods could not comprehend, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Asvatthama, Krpa, Duhsasana, and Krtavarma together had been unable to overwhelm Yudhisthira, who was standing alone, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that the Madra king, that great hero who always challenged Lord Krishna in battle, had been killed in combat by Yudhisthira, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Saubala, that wicked and powerful mystic who had fomented strife through the false gambling match, had been struck down in battle by Sahadeva, son of Pandu, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Duryodhana, exhausted and all alone, had entered a lake and made his shelter there within its waters, his pride shattered, bereft even of his chariot, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that the sons of Pandu had stood on the shore of that Ganges lake and together with Lord Krishna had rebuked my son, who could not tolerate offense, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that my son Duryodhana, engaged in a deadly fight with clubs, had skillfully demonstrated his repertoire of techniques, only to be struck down by the treacherous plan of Lord Krishna, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Drauni (Asvatthama) and his accomplices had heinously murdered the five young sons of Draupadi in their sleep, even daring to perform such an infamous act, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Asvatthama, pursued by Bhimasena, had angrily launched a missle bearing the most deadly weapon, which he aimed at the young and pregnant Uttara, the last female descendant in the Pandava line, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"When I heard that Arjuna nullified Asvatthama's great weapon with a similar weapon, which he had empowered simply by vibrating the sound svasti! and that he proceeded to slash the jewel from the culprit's head, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
When I heard that Asvatthama was destroying the embryo of Princess Uttara with powerful weapons, and that Vyasadeva and Lord Krishna both cursed him, one after the other, with strong curses, I knew then, Sanjaya, that I had no hope for victory.
"O Sanjaya, my poor wife, Gandhari, is to be pitied, for she has lost her sons and grandsons. And I grieve for all the women who have lost their fathers and brothers.
"Only the sons of Pandu could have done what they did. Vanquishing all who plotted against them, they regained their rightful kingdom. Yet it is so painful, Sanjaya, to hear that only ten warriors have survived, that a mere three of our men and seven on the Pandavas' side are all that remain of two mighty armies, that the battle has exhausted the lives of eighteen full aksauhini divisions.
"O Sanjaya, my mind is reeling and I cannot find my reason. Darkness spreads all around me and confusion overwhelms me."
Having spoken thus, the griefstricken Dhrtarastra cried out many times. Nearly unconscious with pain, his chest heaving with long breaths, he again spoke to Sanjaya.
"I want to give up my life, Sanjaya. I have no reason to live."
When Dhrtarastra, who had once ruled the world, was thus speaking and lamenting so wretchedly, the wise Sanjaya spoke to him words of profound meaning.
"Undoubtedly you have heard from Shri Vyasadeva and the wise Narada about kings of great courage and strength who were born in dynasties endowed with all good qualities. They were kings who fought with celestial weapons and who thus were equal in strength to Lord Indra, kings who conquered the world fairly, following the moral law and offering their acquired riches in holy sacrifices, giving generous gifts to all the people. Such kings earned their fame in this world, but even they came under the deadly grip of time.
"There was the heroic Prthu, a great chariot fighter who alone could battle thousands of warriors, and Srnjaya, who stands out among conquerors. There was Suhotra, Rantideva, and the fiery Kaksivan, Ausija; Bahlika, Damana, Saibya, Saryati, Ajita, and Jita, Visvamitra, destroyer of enemies, and the greatly powerful Ambarisa. There was Marutta, Manu, Iksvaku, Gaya, and of course Bharata. And too there was Rama, son of Dasaratha, Sasabindu, and Bhagiratha. And the pious King Yayati, engaged by the demigods, performed so many opulent sacrifices that the entire earth, with her abundant forests, came to be marked with sacrificial pillars and shrines. Formerly the celestial sage Narada described these same twenty-four kings to Saibya, who was lamenting the loss of his son.
"There were other kings besides these who were the strongest of men- magnificent chariot fighters and great souls fully endowed with all good qualities. There were Puru, Kuru, Yadu, Sura, Visvagasva of great determination, Anena, Yuvanasva, Kakutstha, Vikrami, and Raghu. There were also Vijiti, Vitihotra, Bhava, Sveta, Brhadguru, Usinara, Sataratha, Kanka, Duliduha, and Druma.
"There were Dambhodbhava, Para, Vena, Sagara, Sankrti, Nimi, Ajeya, Parasu, Pundra, Sambhu, the sinless Devavrdha, Devahvaya, Supratima, Supratika, Brhadratha, Mahotsaha, Vinitatma, Sukratu, and Nala, king of the Nisadas.
"There were Satyavrata, Santabhaya, Sumitra, and the lordly Subala; Janujangha, Anaranya, Arka, Priyabhrtya, and Subhavrata; Balabandhu, Niramarda, Ketusrnga, and Brhadbala; Dhrstaketu, Brhatketu, Diptaketu, Niramaya; Aviksit, Prabala, Dhurta, Krtabandhu, and Dhrdhesudhi; Mahapurana, Sambhavya, Pratyanga, Paraha, and Sruti.
"These and many other earthly monarchs, hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of them, are all heard about and discussed in this world. These intelligent and powerful kings, the greatest men of their times, passed away from this world leaving behind vast resources, just as your own sons have done. These kings performed godly acts and possessed courage, detachment, and firm faith in God. They were great men who were honest, pure, and straightforward in their dealings. That is why the best and saintliest poets, sages, and historians have all recorded their deeds. Yet even these exalted monarchs, men of wealth and character, still passed away from this world.
"Your sons were wicked and greedy men who burned with needless anger and constantly embroiled themselves in wicked deeds. You should not lament for them, O descendant of Bharata, for you are an intelligent and educated man, a person of discrimination appreciated by the learned. Surely you know that one's intelligence is never bewildered when it follows the dictates of scripture. As you know, there is reward and punishment in this world, O King, and therefore authorities recommend that we not be obsessive in our attempts to protect our children.
"You should not lament for that which is destined to be. Who is so intelligent that he can stop destiny? Surely no one can overcome the course of events that has already been established by the Creator, for time and destiny are the expression of His will. Indeed, time is the basis of the entire world, because by the power of time all things are born and die. Thus we enjoy or suffer.
"Time devours all material bodies and carries away all living beings. Time is like a fire that consumes all creatures, and time itself extinguishes that fire. In this world time transforms all states of existence, both the auspicious and the inauspicious. Time steals away all creatures and then manifests them again in due course of time. No one can stop time as it moves impartially among all creatures. You are not an ordinary man, Dhrtarastra, and therefore you should not forsake your true wisdom. You must remember that all things past, all things that exist at present, and all things that are yet to come are in the grip of time."
Suta Goswami said:
Sanjaya, son of Gavalgana, spoke thus to King Dhrtarastra, who was grieving for his dead children. Consoling him with learned instructions, Sanjaya brought the king to his true consciousness.
Krishna Dvaipayana, Shrila Vyasadeva, in composing this sacred literature the Mahabharata, has narrated the full history of all these events. A faithful person who devoutly studies even one verse of the Mahabharata is fully purified of all his sins. The Mahabharata tells of virtuous deeds performed by godly sages and self-realized and saintly kings, and it describes mystic Yaksas and celestial serpents. It glorifies the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, who, though eternal, appears as the son of King Vasudeva.
Shri Krishna is truth itself and He is the path that leads to that truth, for He is the supremely pure and the very means of purification. He is the Supreme Absolute Truth, ever-fresh yet unchanging, the everlasting light. He performs transcendental activities, which learned sages then narrate to the whole world.
Cause and effect, spirit and matter, all emanate from the Supreme Godhead alone. He is the origin, and He is the goal, the extent, and sequence of all things. He is birth and death, and He is the life that follows death.
It is to be understood that He is the Supreme Spirit, yet He expands Himself into the material creation of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Thus by His energy the qualities of goodness, passion, and ignorance are manifested. Yet He is beyond the material creation of subtle and gross matter, and it is He alone who is to be celebrated. The best of the self-controlled sages, absorbed in transcendence and meditating on Him with great yogic power, see that same Supreme Soul within their purified hearts as one sees a reflection in a spotless mirror.
A faithful man always endeavoring on the spiritual path, devoted to the discipline that leads to knowledge, can become freed of sin by careful study of this chapter of the Mahabharata. This chapter is a brief introduction to the substance of the entire epic, and therefore one who hears the entire chapter, while sincerely believing its message, will never be disheartened by the troubles of life. One who regularly recites this chapter at sunrise and at sunset is freed at once from all the sins he has committed in all his days and nights.
Just as fresh butter is the best product of raw milk, or as a saintly brahmana is the best of all two-legged creatures, so this introduction to the Mahabharata, which reveals the highest truth, is the essence of the entire work and is pleasing like nectar. Indeed, as the ocean is the greatest among bodies of water, or as the milk-giving cow is the most valuable creature among quadrupeds, so among all historical epics the Mahabharata is the greatest.
One who recites this chapter for the pleasure of brahmanas at the sraddha ceremony greatly benefits his forefathers, who thus receive perpetual offerings of sacred food and drink, freeing them of all kinds of suffering due them because of their past sins.
Learned scholars enhance their knowledge of the Veda by studying the histories and the Puranas. In fact, the Veda personified is critical of those of small learning who directly approach the Vedas without having understood the great histories and Puranas. The Veda thinks, "Lacking proper study, this so-called scholar will pass over my real meaning and thus deceive himself and others."
One who has learned this Krishna-Veda and who speaks it to others will enjoy a prosperous life and undoubtedly become free of reactions to his past sinful deeds, even that of having killed a child in the womb.
Thus I conclude that one who cleanses his body and, with a pure mind, studies this chapter, section by section, actually studies the entire Mahabharata. And thus one who with full faith regularly hears this work of the sages attains a long life, fame, and at last promotion to the heavenly planets.
Once, the godly sages placed the four Vedas on one side of a scale, and on the other side they placed a single text, the Mahabharata. Both in greatness and weight the Bharata was superior. Being therefore greater than the four Vedas--with all their mysteries--this work came to be known henceforth throughout the world as the Mahabharata (for the word maha means "great"). One who thus understands the purport of the name Mahabharata becomes free of all sinful reactions.
It is not wrong to perform austerity; nor is study of the scriptures a bad thing. Following the strictures of the Vedas according to one's nature is not wrong; nor is it wrong to acquire wealth by strong endeavor. But all these endeavors are actually harmful when they lead us away from our real, spiritual nature.
The sages said:
In the beginning of your discourse, you mentioned the holy place known as Samanta-pancaka. We would like to hear the details of that site. What is its actual history?
Suta Goswami replied:
Dear learned brahmanas, if you desire to hear me narrate truly auspicious topics, then, O saintly ones, listen to the story of Samanta-pancaka. In the juncture between the second and third great ages, or the Treta and Dvapara yugas, when evil kings ruled the world, Lord Parasu-rama, as brilliant as fire, appeared in this world and in great anger repeatedly slew the wicked monarchs, until by His own power he had destroyed all the kings of the earth. Rama killed so many monarchs at Samanta-pancaka that their blood alone formed five big lakes.
Still shaking with anger over the sins of the wicked kings who had cruelly murdered his father, Lord Rama then worshiped His departed father and forefathers with devotional offerings in which He showed them the blood of the slain tyrants. This we have heard from authorities. Lord Rama's forefathers, headed by Rcika, then approached Lord Rama, the best of the brahmanas, and convinced Him to forgive the royal order, whereupon the Lord desisted from His violent campaign.
The Lord had created five lakes with the blood of the slain rulers, and the pure land surrounding those bloody lakes came to be widely celebrated as Samanta-pancaka, or "that which surrounds the five," for the learned have stated that a region should be named for its visible features [gradually the lakes filled with clear water]. Then, at the juncture of the third and fourth ages, or the Dvapara and Kali yugas, in that most virtuous and sacred place, free of the deficiencies of ordinary places, a war took place between the Kuru and Pandava armies, and eighteen great aksauhini divisions assembled there to fight.
Thus, learned brahmanas, I have explained to you how that pure and charming land was named. Indeed, noble thinkers, I have explained to you in full how that area became widely renowned throughout the three planetary systems.
The sages said:
O Suta, you have just mentioned a military division known as an aksauhini. We would like to hear a full explanation of its size in terms of chariots, horses, men, and elephants. Undoubtedly you know all these things.
Suta Goswami replied:
Authorites state that a small military unit consisting of one chariot, one elephant, five footsoldiers, and three cavalry soldiers is called a patti.
Three pattis form one sena-mukha.
Three sena-mukhas form one gulma.
Three gulmas constitute one gana.
Three ganas form a vahini.
Three vahinis make up a prtana.
Three prtanas are equal to one camu.
Three camus form an anikini.
And ten anikinis constitute an aksauhini.
O best of brahmanas, learned authorities thus say that within an aksauhini, there are a total of 21,870 chariots, and the full census of elephants is again 21,870. O sinless ones, the aksauhini is know to comprise 109,350 infantry men, and the count for cavalry is given at 65,610.
Authoritative persons, learned in such computations, have stated that this, in total, is an aksauhini, and I have explained it to you in detail, O noble twice-born. With such a count, O saintly ones, there were a little more than eighteen such aksauhinis between the Kuru and Pandava legions. Meeting at Samanta-pancaka, they lost their lives and fortunes. The Kaurava kings thus became an instrument of time, which acts in extraordinary ways.
For ten days that supreme knower of weapons, Bhisma, led the Kuru army. Then for five days, Drona protected the Kuru ranks. Karna, punisher of enemies, led the Kurus for two days. For half a day, Salya became the Kuru chief, and for half a day, Bhima and Duryodhana engaged in a mortal club fight. At the end of that half day, Hardikya, Asvatthama, and Gautama murdered Yudhisthira's unsuspecting army as it slept in the dead of night.
Here at Saunaka's sacrifice I shall recite the full Mahabharata from the very beginning, just as Vyasa's learned disciple recited it at the sacrifice of Janamejaya. Just as those seeking liberation seriously cultivate detachment, so the learned devote themselves to the study of this history.
As among things to be known the self is most important, or as life is most dear among dear things, so this profound history is uniquely attractive among all sacred writings. As all speech, both Vedic and worldly, is made entirely of vowels and consonants, so is this book invested throughout with the finest design and reason, having been richly composed by an enlightened sage. Now please hear a summary of its divisions.
1. A summary of the contents in one hundred parts
2. An additional summary of eighteen principle divisions
5. The story of the brahmana Astika
6. Descent of the first created beings
7. Origins, a wondrous narration prepared by the gods
8. The burning of the house of lac
9. The killing of the demon Hidimba
10. The killing of the demon Baka
11. The Gandharva king Citraratha
12. The godly princess Pancali selects a groom
13. After the rival kings are defeated, she marries according to the warrior code
14. The coming of Vidura
15. Gaining a kingdom
16. Arjuna dwells in the forest
17. The kidnapping of Princess Subhadra
18. Bringing the dowry
19. The burning of the Khandava forest and the meeting with the mystic Maya
20. The assembly hall
21. Council is given
22. The killing of Jarasandha
23. World conquest
24. The Raja-suya sacrifice
25. Offerings for guests
26. The killing of Sisupala
27. The gambling match
28. The sequel to the gambling match
29. Life in the forest
30. The killing of Kirmira
31. Arjuna fights with Lord Siva, who comes disguised as a hunter
32. Traveling to the planet of Indra
33. The wise Kuru king travels to holy places
34. The killing of the demon Jatasura
35. Battle with the Yaksas
36. The story of the python
37. The meeting with the sage Markandeya
38. Talks between the two queens Draupadi and Satyabhama
39. The excursion to see the herds
40. The dream of the deer
41. The Vrihi-draunika story
42. Saindhava steals Draupadi from the forest
43. Stealing the earrings
44. Araneya parva
46. The killing of the Kicakas
47. The Kauravas attempt to steal King Virata's cows
48. The marriage of Abhimanyu with Vairati
49. The great endeavor, full of wonders
50. The coming of Sanjaya
51. Dhrtarastra's sleeplessness caused by anxiety
52. The story of Sanat-sujata, which explains the intimate truths of the soul
53. Endeavoring for peace
54. The Supreme Lord's journey
55. The dispute of the great-spirited Karna
56. The Kuru and Pandava armies set out for battle
57. The warriors and the greater (Ati-ratha) warriors
58. The messenger Uluka arrives and infuriates the Pandavas
59. The story of the princess Amba
60. The amazing installation of Bhisma as commander-in- chief
61. The creation of the region of Jambu
62. The earth and its great islands
63. Lord Krishna speaks the Bhagavad-gita
64. The killing of Bhisma
65. Drona is installed as Kuru commander-in-chief
66. The killing of the Samsaptaka warriors
67. The killing of Abhimanyu
68. Arjuna vows to kill Jayadratha
69. The killing of Jayadratha
70. The killing of Ghatotkaca
71. The hair-raising account of the killing of Dronacarya
72. The release of the dreaded Narayana weapon
73. The last days of Karna
74. The last days of Salya
75. Entering the lake
76. The deadly fight with clubs
77. The sacred river Sarasvati, and the special qualities of sacred places
78. The grisly murder of the sleeping warriors
79. The harrowing tale of the Aisika weapon
80. The offering of water to the departed kin
81. The grief of the women
82. The funeral ceremony for departed kin, and the future lives of the slain Kurus
83. Wise Yudhisthira, king of virtue, consecrated as the world's leader
84. The Raksasa Carvaka, disguised as a brahmana, is cut down
85. Distribution of homes
86. Peace and the duties and ethics of kings
87. Duties and ethics in times of trouble
88. Duties and disciplines for the soul's salvation
90. The wise Bhisma ascends to heaven
91. The Asvamedha sacrifice: a story that destroys all reactions of previous sins
92. The Anugita, which explains spiritual philosophy
93. Living in the asrama
94. Meeting the sons
95. The arrival of the illustrious sage Narada
96. The ghastly incident of the iron club fully described
97. The great departure
98. The ascent to the spiritual planets
99. The supplement known as Hari-vamsa, which describes the childhood activities of Lord Krishna
100. Great and wonderful descriptions of future events
The great soul Vyasadeva narrated these one hundred sections in full, and the son of Romaharsana, Suta Goswami, again described these same contents to the sages at Naimisaranya, dividing them, however, into eighteen divisions, as follows:
1. Adi-parva, The Beginning:
The first section of the Adi-parva, known as Pausya, narrates the glories of Uttanka, and the Pauloma section fully describes the expansion of the Bhrgu dynasty. Next, the Astika section explains the origin of all snakes and of the great Garuda; the churning of the milk ocean; the birth of the celestial steed Uccaihsrava; tales of the great Bharata kings related at Janamejaya's snake sacrifice; and the origin of various kings and sages and of the great sage Vyasa.
The section entitled Descent of the First Created Beings describes the origin of demigods, Daityas, Danavas, and Yaksas. This section also tells the origin of Naga serpents, snakes, Gandharvas, birds, and various other creatures. The story of the Vasus tells how these great souls were forced to take birth from the womb of goddess Ganga in the house of King Santanu and how they regained their position in heaven. All the Vasus invested a portion of their potency in a single Vasu, and that one took birth as Bhisma, who later renounced his father's kingdom, taking the difficult vow of celibacy, which he kept with great determination. Bhisma's younger step-brother Citrangada assumed the Kuru throne under Bhisma's guidance, but when the young monarch was killed, Bhisma installed Citrangada's younger brother Vicitravirya as king and took care of him.
The first book also tells how Shrila Vyasa, to keep his promise to his mother, begot Dhrtarastra, Pandu, and Vidura, who was actually Dharma, lord of justice, forced to take birth as a human being by the curse of the sage Mandavya-of-the-lance. Also described are the births of Pandu's sons, their journey to Varanavata, the wicked plotting of their cousin Duryodhana to kill them, and their effort to escape, based on Vidura's wise counsel, through a secret underground tunnel.
The first book also narrates the meeting of the Pandavas with the demoness Hidimba in the frightful forest; the birth of Ghatotkaca from that forest encounter; the Pandava's activities while living incognito in the house of a brahmana; and the slaying of the monstrous Baka, which amazed the brahmana and all the inhabitants of his city.
Also described in this book are the births of lovely Draupadi and her fiery twin brother, Dhrstadyumna. Hearing about her from a brahmana and encouraged as well by the words of Shrila Vyasa, the Pandavas decided to win Draupadi's hand in marriage. They eagerly sett out for the kingdom of Pancala, which was ruled by Draupadi's father, to compete at her svayamvara ceremony, where she was to choose her husband.
On the way, Arjuna defeated the Gandharva king Angaraparna on the banks of the Ganges. Having formed a lasting friendship with him, and having heard many stories from him, Arjuna then traveled on with all his brothers towards the kingdom of the Pancalas. Narrated in this section are the excellent stories of Tapatya, Vasistha, and Aurva.
In the city of Pancala, Arjuna alone among all the kings of the earth could pierce an exceptionally difficult target with his arrow, thus winning Draupadi's hand. The losing kings, headed by Karna and Salya, were furious, but Bhima and Arjuna defeated them in a great battle. Seeing the unfathomable, superhuman prowess of Bhima and Arjuna, Lord Krishna and His elder brother, Lord Balarama, recognized them as the the sons of Pandu, even though all of the Pandavas were carefully disguised as brahmanas. The great minded brothers, Krishna and Balarama, then went to visit the sons of Pandu at their lodgings in the house of a potter. The amazing story of the five Indras is also told.
King Drupada puzzled over the fact that his daughter Draupadi was to marry all five Pandava brothers, but Lord Siva had blessed her to enjoy an extraordinary marriage.
Dhrtarastra sent Vidura to see the Pandavas, and upon his arrival Vidura also met with Lord Krishna. To prevent a quarrel between the Pandavas and Kurus, the kingdom was divided, and the Pandavas went to live in the city of Khandava-prasta. Thereafter comes the story of Sunda and Upasunda. By the order of Narada Muni the five brothers agreed to spend equal time alone with their lovely wife Draupadi (each brother swore that if he ever intruded when another brother was with Draupadi, the intruding brother would voluntarily accept banishment).
Soon thereafter, when the eldest brother, Yudhisthira, was alone with Draupadi, Arjuna unavoidably entered their room to get a weapon that he needed to help a saintly brahmana. After rescuing the stolen property of the brahmana, Arjuna, determined to honor the Pandavas' mutual pact, left the royal palace and went alone to the forest.
Next comes the story of Arjuna's union with the princess Ulupi, whom he met on the path while dwelling in the forest; after that, Arjuna's pilgrimage to many sacred spots and the birth of Babruvahana are described. During that time Arjuna saved five apsaras who have been cursed by an ascetic brahmana to take birth as crocodiles.
Arjuna then met with Lord Krishna at the holy land of Prabhasa-ksetra and went with Him to His capital of Dvaraka, (a fabulous city built on the surface of the ocean). While there Arjuna fell in love with Krishna's lovely young sister, Subhadra, and Subhadra also fell in love with Arjuna. Taking Lord Krishna's permission, Arjuna eloped with her, and Lord Krishna, son of Devaki, brought a dowery for His new brother-in-law. Upon arriving at the Pandava's capital (Khandavaprastha, also known as Indraprastha), Shri Krishna acquired His famous whirling weapon, the Sudarsana disc, and Arjuna acquired his famous Gandiva bow. The Khandava forest was burned to ashes, and Subhadra gave birth to mighty Abhimanyu. Arjuna saved the great mystic Maya from the fiery forest, while a special serpent escaped. The great sage Mandapala begot a son in the womb of the bird Sarngi. All these and many other stories are elaborately explained in the Adi-parva, the first book of the Mahabharata.
The liberated sage Shrila Vyasadeva affirms that this book contains 218 chapters composed of 7,984 verses.
2. Sabha Parva, The Great Assembly:
The second book, Sabha-parva, describes many events. The Pandavas establish their magnificent assembly hall and meet with their servants; the sage Narada, who can see God, describes the assembly hall of the demigods; preparations begin for the great Raja-suya sacrifice, and wicked Jarasandha is killed; all the kings whom Jarasandha had cruelly imprisoned in a mountain cave are released by Shri Krishna; the Pandavas' extraordinary wealth, visible in the Raja-suya sacrifice, frustrates and angers Duryodhana; Bhima laughs when Duryodhana slips on the assembly hall floor, and the enraged Duryodhana plots to ruin the Pandavas in a gambling match; crooked Sakuni defeats Yudhisthira in a dishonest gambling match; when the Pandavas are drowning in the sea of gambling, Draupadi, like a sturdy boat, pulls them out of that ocean; King Duryodhana, seeing that the Pandavas have been saved, calls them to participate in yet another false game of chance.
The great soul Vyasa has elaborately explained all these incidents in the Mahabharata's second book, which contains 72 chapters and 2,511 verses.
3. Aranyaka Parva, Life in the Forest:
The auspicious third book contains the following stories: the faithful citizens follow the wise Yudhisthira to the forest; all the Vrsnis and Pancalas come to see the Pandavas in exile; Saubha is slain; Kirmira is slain; hearing that Sakuni has cheated the Pandavas in a game of dice, Lord Krishna is furious, but Arjuna calms His anger; Draupadi laments before Lord Krishna, and Lord Krishna consoles her with encouraging words; Arjuna goes off in search of weapons; Lord Krishna escorts His sister, Subhadra, and her young son to Dvaraka, and Dhrstadyumna similarly escorts the sons of Draupadi; the Pandavas enter the enchanting Dvaita forest; King Yudhisthira converses with Draupadi; Yudhisthira converses with Bhimasena; Shrila Vyasa comes to see the sons of Pandu and reveals to King Yudhisthira a special science of recollection; Vyasadeva leaves and the Pandavas travel to the Kamyaka forest; Arjuna fights with Lord Siva, who appears in the guise of a hunter; Arjuna ascends to the heavenly planets and meets the leaders of the universe.
The third book also describes the following: King Yudhisthira, grieving over his misfortune, meets the great and enlightened sage Brhadasva and pours out the story of his suffering; in response, Yudhisthira hears the most pious and moving story of King Nala, whose wife Damayanti remained steadily devoted during King Nala's severe tribulations; the sage Lomasa descends from the heavenly planets to the Pandavas, who are living in the forest, and brings them news that Arjuna has reached the heavenly region; -the sage delivers a message from Arjuna; based on this message sent from the higher planets, the Pandavas begin to visit sacred places to purify themselves and acquire the power of righteousness; the great sage Narada goes on pilgrimage to the hermitage of Pulastya; the demon Jata is killed.
Draupadi engages Bhimasena, who goes to Gandha-madana and there violates a lotus pond in order to acquire a Mandara flower. He also fights a great battle there with the bold and mighty Raksasas and Yaksas, who are led by Maniman. Next comes the narration of the sage Agastya, who eats up Vatapi and then has union with Lopamudra to beget a son. Then is told the story of the hawk and the pigeon, wherein Lords Indra, Agni, and Dharma test King Sibi.
The story is told of the young, celibate student Rsyasrnga, and of the son of Jamadagni, Lord Parasu-rama of awesome and fiery strength. In this context the death of Kartavirya and the Haihayas is described, then the story of Sukanya and Cyavana, son of Bhrgu, who at the sacrifice of Saryati awards the twin Asvins the right to drink the Soma beverage when he regains from them his lost youth.
In this section is the story of Jantu, wherein King Somaka sacrifices his son to obtain more sons and thus acquires one hunred sons. Then the story of Astavakra is told. He defeats Bandi in a logical debate and regains his father, who has fallen into the ocean.
Ambidextrous Arjuna acquires divine weapons for his venerable elder brother and then battles with the Nivata-kavacas, who dwell in the City of Gold, Hiranya-pura. Arjuna rejoins his brothers in Gandha-madana and battles with the Gandharvas during an excursion to pasturing lands. The brothers return to Lake Dvaita-vana, Jayad-ratha steals away Draupadi from within the asrama, and Bhima pursues him with speed like that of the wind. Then the meeting with Markandeya and the stories that ensue are told.
Next comes the narration of Draupadi's meeting and conversation with Satyabhama, the tale of the measure of rice, the story of Indradyumna, the histories of Savitri, Auddalaki, and Vainya, and the elaborate telling of the Ramayana, the history of Lord Ramacandra. Then is told of Lord Indra stealing Karna's two earrings, the story of the fire-sticks, the demigod Dharma instructing his son, and the Pandavas obtaining their boon and heading for the West.
These are the topics of the Aranyaka-parva, the third division of the Mahabharata. The great sage Vyasadeva declares that this section contains a total of 269 chapters, comprising 11,664 verses.
4. Vairata Parva, Living in the City of Virata:
Suta Gosvami continued:
Dear sages, the fourth book of the Mahabharata describes at length the events that take place while the Pandavas live in the city of Virata. As the five brothers approach the city of Virata, they spy a large Sami tree growing in a cemetary and decide to hide their weapons within the tree. Thereafter they enter the city, having disguised their identities in various ways.
In this section, Vrkodara (Bhima) kills the wicked Kicaka, Arjuna defeats the Kurus in battle, and the king's valuable herd is saved. The Virata king bestows his daughter Uttara upon Arjuna, who accepts her for his son Abhimanyu, a destroyer of his enemies in combat.
These are the contents of the extensive fourth book. The great soul Vyasadeva states that there are 67 chapters and 2,050 verses in this section.
5. Udyoga Parva, Trying for peace, preparing for war:
During the time that the Pandavas are living in Upaplavya, both Duryodhana and Arjuna approach Lord Krishna, each seeking victory for his side. Both say to Shri Krishna, "My Lord, You should help our side in the coming battle," and with great wisdom, Lord Krishna replies, "Both of you are very important men, so I will do the following. I will assist one side as a non-combattant advisor, and I will give one aksauhini, an entire army, to the other side. Now tell me, which shall I give to whom?"
The dull-witted Duryodhana, crooked as he was by nature, chooses Krishna's armed forces, and Arjuna choses Lord Krishna Himself, even though the Lord will only assist Arjuna, without directly fighting. Mighty Dhrtarastra then sends his secretary Sanjaya to negotiate peace with the sons of Pandu. Hearing that Lord Krishna is leading the Pandavas, Dhrtarastra is filled with anxiety and cannot sleep at night. Vidura then speaks eloquent and beneficial words to the troubled king. Sanatsujata also speaks elevated spiritual knowledge to the king, whose mind is burning, his heart tormented with grief.
The next morning Sanjaya openly declares at Dhrtarastra's court that Lord Krishna is actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that Arjuna, as the Lord's surrendered devotee, is not different from the Lord.
The illustrious Lord Krishna, feeling great compassion for the ill-fated warriors and desiring to settle the conflict between the Kurus and Pandavas, comes to Hastinapura and tries to make peace. Duryodhana rejects Lord Krishna, who is pleading for peace for the benefit of both parties. Understanding that Karna and Duryodhana are scheming with impure intelligence, Lord Krishna demonstrates to the Kuru kings that He is the Lord of all mystic power. The Lord then takes Karna onto His own chariot, gives him proper advice, and explains how the escalating conflict can be resolved. Karna, intoxicated with pride, rejects the Lord's sincere advice. Lord Krishna then leaves Hastinapura and meets the Pandavas at Upaplavya, informing them of all that has transpired. Hearing His words and discussing with Him the best course of action, those punishing heroes realize that war is inevitable and therefore begin to make final preparations. Their analysis is correct, and within a short time chariots, cavalry, and infantry begin to pour out of the imperial capital of Hastinapura. A precise analysis is then given of the Kuru military strength.
On the day before the great war is to begin, Duryodhana has a messenger named Uluka deliver to the Pandavas a harsh and insulting message. A description is then given of the regular and extraordinary chariot fighters taking part in the battle. These many events make up the fifth book of the Mahabharata, which tells of the endeavors for war and peace.
Dear ascetics, whose very wealth is austerity, the pure soul Vyasa, that great-minded sage, states that there are 186 chapters and 6,698 verses in this section.
6. Bhisma Parva, Bhisma leads the Kuru army:
The sixth book contains a rich variety of topics: Sanjaya describes the creation and dimension of the earthly region known as Jambukhanda. The frightful war begins with unusual ferocity, continuing unabated for ten full days. Yudhisthira's army falls into a dangerous state of despondency, and Arjuna falls into illusion and wants to leave the battlefield. But the wise Lord Krishna drives away his grief by logically explaining the path of liberation.
The great bowman Arjuna keeps Sikhandi in front of him as a shield and, striking repeatedly with his sharp arrows, knocks Bhisma down from his chariot. All these events are fully described in this sixth book of Mahabharata, in which Shrila Vyasa, a knower of the Vedas, has counted 117 chapters and 5,884 verses.
7. Drona Parva, Drona leads the army:
The amazing Drona Parva tells of many important events: herein the warriors known as the Samsaptakas succeed in driving Arjuna away from the battlefield. The mighty King Bhagadatta, who is equal to Indra in battle, and his famous war-elephant Supratika are cut down by Arjuna.
In this section many of the world's greatest chariot fighters, headed by Jayadratha, combine to kill heroic Abhimanyu, who has not yet reached his full youth. Seeing his young son unfairly killed by many older warriors, Arjuna furiously destroys seven armies and kills Jayadratha. By King Yudhisthira's regal order, the mighty-armed Bhima and Satyaki search for Arjuna and enter the ranks of the Kuru army, which is impenetrable even to the demigods. Arjuna then kills all who remain of the powerful Samsaptakas. Ninety million Samsaptakas suffer Arjuna's wrath, and he sends all of those exalted warriors to the lord of death.
In the Drona Parva warriors like Alambusa; Srutayu; the mighty Jalasandhi; Saumadatti; Virata; Drupada, the master of chariot warfare; Ghatotkaca, and others are all slain. When Drona himself is struck down in battle, his raging son unleashes the terrible Narayana weapon.
This section also describes the glorious fire weapon of Lord Siva and tells of the arrival of Vyasadeva, who reveals the glories of Lord Krishna and Arjuna. Thus in the powerful seventh book, most of the world's leaders, who are heroes among men, meet their death. The learned philosopher Vyasa, son of Parasara, after meditating on the Drona Parva, lists for this section 170 chapters, comprising 8,909 verses.
8. Karna Parva, Karna takes the army:
Thereafter comes the most amazing Karna Parva, in which in a moment of crisis the skillful king of Madra is deputed to serve as Karna's charioteer. The old history is told herein of the fall of demonic Tripura and the harsh exchange between Karna and Salya as they set out together for battle. The tale of the swan and the crow is recited in an insulting manner, Yudhisthira and Arjuna become angry at each other, and then, in a chariot duel, Arjuna kills the great chariot fighter Karna.
Those who seriously study the Mahabharata recognize these and other powerful events as composing the eighth book, known as the Karna Parva, which is said to include 69 chapters and 4,900 verses.
9. Salya Parva, Salya leads:
Next is the captivating narration known as the Salya Parva. After the greatest warriors have been slain, Salya, king of Madra, takes command of the Kuru forces. A succession of fierce chariot engagements finishes the best warriors who remain among the Kurus. Then Yudhisthira, king of justice, ends the life of King Salya.
Also described is a tumultuous club fight and the death of Sakuni at the hands of Sahadeva. When most of his army is slain and only a few soldiers remain, Duryodhana enters a lake and by controlling its waters is able to remain there for some time. From some hunters Bhima receives information of Duryodhana's location. Speaking insulting words, intelligent Yudhisthira provokes Duryodhana, who never tolerates an insult, to come out of the lake and engage in a club fight with Bhima. As the fight is going on, Lord Krishna's older brother, Lord Balarama, arrives at the scene.
The holiness of the Sarasvati River even among holy places is explained. The club fight continues and Bhima, with his awful and devastating club blows, deliberately breaks the thighs of King Duryodhana.
From its very beginning, the amazing ninth book narrates many significant events. According to authorities, Shrila Vyasa composed this section in 59 chapters and 3,220 verses, which reveal the history of the famous Kuru dynasty.
10. Sauptika Parva, Murder of the sleeping princes:
I shall next describe the frightening events of the tenth book: in the evening, after the Pandavas have retired from the day's fighting, Krtavarma, Krpa, and Drauni (Asvattham) journey on their chariots to see the angry King Duryodhana, who lies covered with blood on the battlefield, his thighs broken. The son of Drona is enraged at the sight, and that great chariot fighter swears to his friends, "I shall not take this armor off my body until I have killed every last Pancala, headed by Dhrstadyumna, and every one of the Pandavas and their ministers!"
Those three powerful men, headed by Drauni, then enter the Pandava camp in the dark of night and cruelly murder the Pancalas, their retinue, and all the sons of Draupadi as they sleep unsuspecting in their camp. Only the five Pandavas, who depend fully on Lord Krishna, are saved, along with Satyaki, the great archer. All the other warriors of the Pandava army are killed in their sleep.
Stunned by the loss of her sons and agonizing over the sudden deaths of her father and brother, Draupadi sits down before her five husbands, resolved to fast until death. Moved by Draupadi's words and determined to please her, Bhima, whose name indicates his frightening power, takes up his club and furiously sets out behind the fleeing Asvatthama, the son of his beloved guru. Frightened by Bhimasena and impelled by destiny, Drauni angrily releases his horrible weapon, bent on ridding the world of the Pandavas.
But Lord Krishna, seeing His beloved devotees in danger, then says, "It shall not be so!" and all of Asvatthamas curses and threats lose their power. Following Lord Krishna's instruction, Arjuna throws a counter-missile, which neutralizes that of the enemy.
Shrila Vyasadeva and others condemn the son of Drona, but so blinded is he by pride that he childishly tries to counter-curse such exalted personalities. The Pandavas then capture the son of Drona, although he is a great chariot fighter, and violently cut the jewel from his head, robbing him of his splendor. They gladly present it to Draupadi as tribute. Funeral rites are then performed for all the slain kings with offerings of sacred water.
Also in this section Prtha reveals the mystery of Karna's secret birth as her child. These incidents make up the tenth book of the Mahabharata, called the Sauptika Parva, in which the great soul Vyasa has enumerated 18 chapters, containing a total of 870 verses. In this section the learned sage has combined two Parvas, the Sauptika and the Aisika.
11. Stri Parva, The Women:
Pity and sympathy are aroused in this section, which tells of the heart-rending lament of the female kin of the fallen warriors. As Dhrtarastra and Gandhari struggle with the death of their sons, they are sometimes forgiving, but at times anger and bitterness overwhelm them. Many women of the royal families see those who will never return---sons, brothers, and fathers, all brave warriors----lying dead on the battlefield. Lord Krishna calms the fury of Gandhari, who is sorely afflicted at the killing of her sons and grandsons.
Then the very wise King Yudhisthira arranges for the bodies of all the slain monarchs to be cremated with full religious rites, following the scriptural injunctions. These are the powerful and most piteous events of the eleventh book of the Mahabharata. This section provokes compassion and tears when read by people of good and noble character. According to the author, the great soul Vyasa, this section contains 27 chapters and 775 verses.
12. Santi Parva, Peace:
The twelfth book of the Mahabharata stimulates our intelligence with its profound discussion of ethical and spiritual principles. King Yudhisthira having taken part in a war that caused the death of many of his elders, brothers, and sons, along with other relatives and intimate friends, is plunged into grief. But his grandfather Bhisma, lying undisturbed on a bed of arrows, fully enlightens his tormented grandson with a unique discourse on the material and spiritual principles of life. Kings and other leaders of nations who truly wish to govern their people well must seriously study these principles.
Enunciated herein are special instructions for emergency situations, with careful reasoning in regards to the specific time and circumstances. By thoroughly understanding these teachings a man acquires complete knowledge of how to act in this world. This section also provides an elaborate and attractive discussion of the principles that lead to spiritual salvation.
The wise and learned are especially fond of this twelfth book of the Mahabharata. Dear sages, whose wealth is austerity, in this book there are 339 chapters and 14,525 verses.
13. Anusasana Parva, Lessons:
In this most elevated book, Yudhisthira, now the undisputed king of the Kuru dynasty, overcomes his despondency by hearing Bhisma's conclusive analysis of spiritual principles, and he is thus restored to his original nature. Bhisma, son of Ganga, thoroughly explains human affairs in terms of material and spiritual needs. He also explains the various results to be achieved by various kinds of charity. The recipients of charity and the ultimate principle that governs all types of charity are then described.
Bhisma further discusses the rules of human conduct, their practical applications, and the highest goal of truth. This very extensive discourse constitutes the Anusasana Parva, which concludes with Bhisma's attainment of the spiritual world. This thirteenth book, with its conclusive knowledge of religious principles, is composed of 146 chapters and 6,700 verses.
14. Asvamedhika Parva, The Great Offering:
The next book, the fourteenth, relates the superb story of Samvarta and Marutta, how the Pandavas secure a treasury of gold needed to perform a sacrifice, and the birth of Pariksit, whom Lord Krishna brings back to life after his body is destroyed by a fiery weapon while he is still in his mother's womb.
When the Pandavas become the most powerful rulers of the earth, they follow the ancient custom of inviting all other rulers to accept their authority or to challenge it through a personal duel. The traditional challenge horse is released to roam freely all over the world, followed by Arjuna. [If a local ruler allowed the horse to pass, he thereby accepted the Pandavas' authority and agreed to pay taxes to the central Kuru government at a standard rate. In return the local ruler and his kingdom would receive full protection from hostile forces and economic subsidies in time of scarcity. A leader who wished to challenge the Pandavas would seize the challenge horse, and a personal duel ensued.] Thus Arjuna accepts the challenges of many proud and angry princes and defeats them in battle, bringing their states under the unified Kuru administration.
Arjuna is put into danger when he fights, unknowingly, with his own son Babruvahana, whom he had begotten with the Princess of Manipur, Citrangada. This section also narrates the story of the great Asvamedha sacrifice, and therein the story of the mongoose is told. The great sage Vyasa, a seer of the truth, has spoken this great and wonderful book, in which there are 133 chapters and 3,320 verses.
15. Asrama-vasa Parva, Life in the Asrama:
Next is the fifteenth book, which relates how Dhrtarastra finally gives up all interest in political affairs and goes with his wife, Gandhari, and step-brother Vidura to spend his last days in an asrama, a saintly hermitage dedicated to spiritual progress. Seeing him about to depart, the saintly Prtha decides to give up living in the opulent kingdom of her son and to follow along. In the last part of her life she wants to fully dedicate herself to serving the self-realized devotees of the Lord, whom she accepts as her spiritual masters.
By the mercy of saintly Vyasa, King Dhrtarastra's sons and grandsons and other heroes and kings who have died and gone to the next world all briefly return to earth, and Dhrtarastra is able to see them. After this astonishing experience, the old king gives up his grief and, understanding his soul to be eternal, achieves spiritual perfection with his faithful wife. Vidura, fixed in his spiritual principles, achieves the goal of life, along with the exalted Sanjaya, the learned and self-controlled son of Gavalgana. Yudhisthira then sees Narada Muni and hears from the sage about the extinction of the Vrsni dynasty.
These are the topics of this most excellent and extraordinary book called the Asrama-vasa Parva. Shrila Vyasa, who is a seer of the truth, has composed this section in 42 chapters and 1,506 verses.
16. Mausala Parva, The Story of the Club:
Next is the shocking story of how the princes of Lord Krishna's Yadu dynasty, all tigers among men, suffer a devastating curse by brahmanas and perish near the shore of the ocean. These same mighty warriors have withstood the attacks of many weapons on the battlefield, but then impelled by destiny they lose themselves in drink after a religious celebration and strike each other down with stalks of cane that turn into thunderbolts in their hands.
Shri Krishna and His brother, Balarama, (playing like ordinary human beings), do not counteract the force of time, which takes away all things. Thus when Arjuna arrives at Lord Krishna's capital, he sees not a single man of the Lord's family alive.
Seeing that the Yadu warriors have come to a violent end, having beaten each other to death in a drunken rage, Arjuna, that best of men, experiences the greatest anguish. Lord Krishna, the heroic Yadu chief, has appeared in this world as his maternal cousin, and therefore Arjuna, respecting Lord Krishna's desire to demonstrate the ideal human life, arranges conventional funeral rites for the material bodies which Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama leave behind as they depart from this world in their eternal spiritual forms. Arjuna performs similar rites for all the slain warriors, especially those of the Vrsni dynasty, who are very close to Shri Krishna.
Arjuna then departs Dvaraka, taking with him the ladies, children, and elderly men of the Yadu dynasty, whom he escorts on the way to the Kuru capital, where the Pandavas will take care of them. But he suffers grievous misfortune on the way and has to witness the defeat of his fabled Gandiva bow. In fact, all the celestial weapons he has used to assist Shri Krishna in His earthly mission no longer favor him. The wives of the Vrsni heroes, whom Arjuna is to protect, are taken away, and he is unable to help them. [Arjuna can then understand that all his legendary power has been granted Him by the Lord, and now that the Supreme Godhead is winding up His activities in this universe, the time has also arrived for the Lord's associates to depart with Him.]
Encouraged by the words of Shrila Vyasa, Arjuna understands the temporary nature of this world, and his heart becomes peaceful through detachment. Arriving in Hastinapura, he convinces his elder brother Yudhisthira that it is time to leave this world, and Yudhisthira, king of virtue, peacefully sets his mind on complete renunciation.
These are the events of the Mausala Parva, the sixteenth book of the Mahabharata. In this section, there are 8 chapters and 300 verses.
17. Maha-prasthanika Parva, The Great Departure:
In the seventeenth book, known as "The Great Departure," the Pandavas, pure devotees of the Lord, renounce their opulent kingdom, and together with their godly wife, Draupadi, attain the supreme perfection of life. Shrila Vyasa, who is a seer of the truth, states that in this section there are 3 chapters and 120 verses.
18. Svarga Parva, Heaven and the Spiritual World:
The eighteenth book describes the ascent to the heavenly planets and beyond to the spiritual sky. This final parva provides information exceeding the range of ordinary human knowledge.
My dear ascetics, whose treasure in life is austerity, there are 5 chapters in this eighteenth book of the Mahabharata, with a total of 200 verses.
I have now given a complete summary of all eighteen parvas. There is also a supplementary work called the Harivamsa, which explains the birth and activities of Lord Krishna, and another book, which explains the future. All of these books constitute the Mahabharata with its various divisions. Eighteen aksauhini armies assembled together, desiring to fight, and a terrible war took place that lasted for eighteen days.
A brahmana who knows the four Vedas, with their various topical divisions and philosophical treatises, the Upanisads, but who does not know the Mahabharata is not considered a truly learned man. Indeed, for one who faithfully hears this narration, ordinary literatures are no longer attractive, just as one who hears the sweet song of the male kokila bird can find no pleasure in the screeching of a crow.
Just as the three planetary systems are created from the five physical elements, so virtually all poetic inspiration finds its first source in this exalted narration. As all creatures, whether born of sperm, eggs, seeds, or sweat, always function within space, similarly the ancient history of this world as found in the Puranas must be understood within the context of this great work called Mahabharata.
As the attractive workings of the mind are the foundation of all sensory activity, so this epic is the foundation of mankind's duties and virtues. As the body cannot be maintained without food, so in this world truly meaningful conversation cannot be sustained without reference to this work. As a servant lives well by working for a noble master, so the best of poets have prospered by drawing upon this narration.
The Mahabharata is immeasurable, pure, and sacred, for it flows from the lips of Dvaipayana Vyasa. Because it destroys one's sins it is most auspicious. Indeed, one who hears this history as it is being recited and understands its message has no need to bathe in the holy waters of Puskara Lake. This most excellent work, great of purpose and meaning, is like a blissful literary ocean, easily traversed if first we hear this chapter with its summary of the entire epic, just as one can cross the vast saltwater ocean with the help of a good boat.
Once in the land of Kuruksetra, Janamejaya, the son of Pariksit, was performing a long sacrifice assisted by his three brothers, who were named Srutasena, Ugrasena, and Bhimasena. As the four brothers engaged in worship, a dog approached the sacrificial arena. Janamejaya's brothers beat the dog and drove it away, lest it contaminate the sacrifice. The dog went howling and crying to its mother, Sarama. Seeing her son crying loudly, Sarama asked him, "Why are you crying? Who has beaten you?"
The dog replied, "I was beaten by King Janamejaya's brothers."
"Certainly you must have committed some offense," said his mother, "and that's why they beat you."
But the dog again said to his mother, "I didn't commit any offense! I didn't lick up the sacrificial butter, or even look at it!"
Hearing this, Sarama, who was griefstricken to see her child so unhappy, went at once to where the king and his brothers were performing a long sacrifice and angrily said to Janamejaya, "This is my son! He didn't commit any offense, so why was he beaten?" No one replied. "Because my son, who did nothing wrong, was severely beaten, I now declare, King Janamejaya, that in the future an unforeseen danger will come into your life."
Thus addressed by the celestial dog, Janamejaya was overcome by confusion and grief. Completing the sacrifice and returning to Hastinapura, he began to search tirelessly for a person who could neutralize the effects of his family's sin.
The son of Pariksit was once hunting in a corner of his kingdom when he came upon a saintly asrama wherein a sage named Srutasrava lived with his beloved son, Somasrava. Janamejaya carefully observed the sage's son and realized that he was qualified to serve as the royal priest.
Approaching the boy's father, the king offered his respectful obeisances and said: "My lord, your son must be allowed to act as my priest."
Thus addressed, the sage replied, "Dear Janamejaya, my son is a great ascetic, highly learned in Vedic wisdom. In fact, he was conceived and grew in the womb of a serpent who once drank my semen, and because he is born of my seed, he is endowed with my own power, which I have acquired by long austerities. He is fully qualified to relieve your family of all its sins---except, of course, sins committed against Lord Siva.
"I must tell you, however, that my son has made one private vow: that if any brahmana requests anything of him in charity, he will give it. If you can tolerate this, you may take him at once."
Thus addressed by the sage, Janamejaya replied, "My lord, so it shall be."
Taking Somasrava as his priest, the king returned to his capital city and told his brothers, "I have chosen this young brahmana to be our royal priest, and he is to be respected as our teacher. Whatever he says must be done without question."
Faithfully hearing his words, the king's brothers did exactly as told. Janamejaya, having thus instructed his brothers, then journeyed to the kingdom of Taksasila and brought it within the Kuru administration.
During this period there lived a sage of the name Ayodadhaumya, who was teaching three disciples: Upamanyu, Aruni, and Veda. The teacher called upon one of his students, Aruni of Pancala, and instructed him "My dear boy, there is a breach in the dike. Go and close it."
So ordered by his teacher, Aruni of Pancala went to the dike but could not close the breach. Anxiously pondering the problem, he finally thought of a solution.
"So be it!" he said to himself. "I will do it!" And he at once climbed onto the dike, lay down in the breach, and held back the water with his own body.
Some time later, the boy's teacher, Ayodadhaumya, asked his other disciples,
"Where is Aruni of Pancala? Where did he go?" The students replied,
"My lord, you told him, 'There is a breach in the dike. Go and close it!"'
Thus addressed by his students, the teacher replied, "All right, then all of us will go there to find him."
When the teacher arrived in the general area of the dike, he called out to his disciple, "O Aruni of Pancala, where are you? Come here, my son!"
Hearing his teacher calling him, Aruni of Pancala at once got up from the dike, ran to his teacher, and stood before him, saying, "Here I am! I couldn't stop the water from coming over the dike, so I closed the breach with my own body. When I heard my master's voice, I came immediately, and the water again burst through the dike. Yet I am here my lord, ready to serve you. Please instruct me."
The teacher replied, "Because you immediately got up when you heard me calling and thus caused the water to burst through the dike, you will be known by the name Uddalaka, 'one who stood up and let the water burst through'."
Having given him this name, the teacher then blessed his disciple, saying, "Because you always obey my instructions, you will achieve great fortune in life. You shall understand all the Vedas and all the Dharma-sastras, the great books of knowledge."
Uddalaka earned his teacher's blessings by faithful service and was allowed to graduate from the school and go where he desired. Ayodadhaumya had another disciple named Upamanyu, whom he ordered as follows: "My dear son Upamanyu, you should take care of the cows."
Accepting his teacher's instruction, Upamanyu herded the cows during the day, and at day's end he returned to his teacher's house, stood before him, and offered respectful obeisances. Seeing that he was corpulent, the teacher said, "My dear son Upamanyu, how do you maintain yourself? You seem quite heavy."
The student replied to his teacher, "I maintain myself by begging alms."
The teacher replied, "You are a student. You are not to utilize such alms without first offering them to me, your teacher."
"So be it," said Upamanyu obediently, and again he went about herding the cows. Returning in the evening to his teacher's house, he stood before him and offered his respectful obeisances. But seeing that he was still rather fat, the teacher said, "My dear Upamanyu, I take all the alms which you beg, and there is nothing left over. How do you maintain yourself now?"
Thus addressed by his teacher, Upamanyu replied, "My lord, I give you all that I beg in my first shift, and then I live on whatever I collect in my second shift. By this method I maintain myself."
The teacher replied, "That is still not the proper way to serve your guru. You should beg once and offer the alms to your teacher. When you beg from the same people twice, you disturb their livelihood in order to get your own. You are much too anxious for food!"
"So be it," said Upamanyu, and he returned to herding the cows. Coming to his teacher's house at the end of day, he stood before him and offered his respectful obeisances. Seeing that he was still quite heavy, his teacher again said to him,
"I take all the alms that you beg, and you do not beg a second time, and still you are too fat. How do you maintain yourself?"
Upamanyu replied to his teacher, "My dear Gurudeva, I maintain myself by drinking the milk of the cows."
The teacher replied to him, "It is not correct for you, as a student, to utilize the milk of the cows without my permission."
"So be it," said Upamanyu, promising that he would be more careful. He herded the cows and then came again to his teacher's house, standing before him and offering his respectful obeisances. The teacher noticed that his disciple was still too heavy and said to him, "You do not keep the alms you beg for yourself, you do not beg a second time, you do not drink the milk from the cows---and still you are too heavy! How do you maintain yourself now?"
Thus addressed by his teacher, Upamanyu replied, "Sir, after the calves drink from their mother's teats, I drink the milky froth which the calves regurgitate."
The teacher replied, "The calves are very kind, and out of kindness toward you they spit out much more than they ought. You maintain yourself by disturbing the sustenance of the calves. Therefore you should not even drink the froth."
"So be it," said Upamanyu, promising to take greater care. And he continued to herd the cows without any concern for eating. Forbidden by his teacher, he would not take a portion of his teacher's alms, nor would he beg for himself, drink the milk of his teacher's cows, or even take the froth left by the calves.
Once as Upamanyu wandered in the forest afflicted with hunger, he ate the leaves of an arka tree. But the leaves were so acrid and acidic that they caused a terrible burning in his eyes that left Upamanyu blind. Having lost his sight, he began to grope about the forest and fell into an open well.
When Upamanyu failed to return, his teacher said to the other students, "I've restricted Upamanyu in so many ways that he must have become angry, and therefore he doesn't return. He's been so long."
Speaking thus, the teacher went to the forest and began to call Upamanyu, "Hello! Upamanyu! Where are you? My son, please come!"
Hearing his teacher calling him, Upamanyu shouted back: "Teacher! Hello! It's me! I've fallen in a well!
The teacher asked him, "How did you fall into the well?"
The student replied, "I ate the leaves of an arka tree which blinded me; thus I fell into a well."
The teacher replied to his student, "Please pray to the twin Asvins. They will give you back your sight, for they are the physicians of the demigods."
Thus addressed by his teacher, Upamanyu began to pray to the two godly Asvins with the following hymns from the Rg Veda:
"O twin Asvins, O ancient ones of wondrous luster who always precede us, shining and unlimited, I praise you with these words. Pure celestial beings of beautiful effulgence, O measureless beings, you range and dwell everywhere within these worlds.
"Dear Nasatya and Dasra, with handsome noses you are like golden birds, victorious friends in time of need. Coming forth at dawn, you swiftly weave on fine looms the bright light of day.
"Dear twin Asvins, to bring good fortune, by your strength you freed the swallowed quail. Such are your excellent deeds that those who stole the cows of dawn bow to your mystic potency.
"Those 360 milking cows gave birth to a single calf and provided it milk, even though placed in different cow pens, and you Asvins took from them an enjoyable offering of hot milk.
"Seven hundred spokes are fastened to one hub, and twenty other spokes rest upon the wheel's rim. Yet this undying wheel turns and turns without a rim. Dear Asvins, such expert mystic power adorns you.
"The turning wheel is one, with twelve spokes fastened to six rim sections, and a single nectar-bearing axle fitted to the hub. The demigods who rule this world are addicted to that nectar. May the two Asvins not despair of us and thus release that nectar.
"The virtuous Asvins broke open the mountain and released the hidden cows. By day their deed was seen and their strength celebrated. Indeed, they have won the nectar of Indra.
"You two Asvins first generate the ten directions, and as they individually separate and expand equally outward, the sages, gods, and human beings of the earth follow the path of those directions.
"You then transform all the hues of the universe, and they in turn invest all things with variegated colors. Even the cosmic lights shine in accord with your arrangements of color. The gods respect it, as do human beings who act upon the earth.
"O Nasatyas, Asvins, it is you whom I praise and the garland of blue lotuses that you wear. O Nasatyas, immortal upholders of truth, by your encouragement truth goes forth, even without the gods.
"O youthful Asvins, may a man whose life is finished live again through these prayers. As a new-born child takes the mother's teat, so by submitting to you, who freed the cows, may we also live."
When Upamanyu had thus glorified the Asvins, they came to him and said, "We are pleased with your sincere prayers, and to solve your problem we've brought you this medicinal cake. Now eat it."
Thus addressed, Upamanyu replied, "You never speak lies, so I'm sure this cake actually has the power to remove my blindness. But I don't dare accept it without offering it first to my guru."
The two Asvins replied, "In the past your teacher prayed to us, just as you did, and being pleased we awarded him a similar cake, which he accepted and ate without offering it to his guru. You also should accept and eat this cake in the exact same way your teacher did."
Thus addressed, Upamanyu again replied to the Asvins, "Dear sirs, I beg your forgiveness, but I would not dare eat this cake without offering it first to my guru."
The two Asvins replied, "You have pleased us by your great dedication to your guru. His teeth are dark like iron, but yours shall be golden. You shall regain your sight and achieve good fortune in life."
Being thus addressed by the Asvins and regaining his sight, Upamanyu went at once to his teacher and respectfully greeted him, explaining all that had happened. The guru was pleased with his student and told him, "Just as the Asvins said, you shall achieve good fortune in life. All the Vedas will be revealed to you."
Thus Upamanyu passed his guru's test.
Ayodadhaumya had another disciple named Veda. One day the teacher instructed his student, "My dear son Veda, you should stay here for some time and serve in my house, and thus you will achieve good fortune."
"So be it," said Veda, who then lived for a long time in the guru-kula, the guru's house, completely devoted to serving his spiritual master. Indeed, like a faithful ox yoked to a heavy load, Veda tolerated the miseries of heat and cold, hunger and thirst, and was never stubborn or discourteous.
After much time had passed, Veda fully satisfied his guru, and by his guru's full satisfaction Veda achieved good fortune and perfect knowledge, having passed his guru's test.
With his teacher's permission, Veda ended his long stay in the gurukula. Returning to his home, he entered the grhastha--asrama by accepting a wife and strictly following the religious principles for married life. Eventually, Veda took on three students of his own, but he was reluctant to order his disciples. He did not tell them say, "This work must be done," or "You must serve your guru," for he knew intimately the hardship of living in the guru-kula, and he did not want to trouble his disciples by engaging them in service.
After some time two kings, Janamejaya and Pausya, knowing Veda to be a qualified brahmana, both selected him as their royal priest to officiate at sacrifices. Thus one day, when Veda was about to depart to perform sacrificial duties for the kings, he requested his disciple Uttanka as follows: "My dear Uttanka, if anything is needed in my house while I'm away, I want you to arrange for it so that nothing is lacking."
Having carefully instructed Uttanka, Veda departed and lived for some time away from home. Eager to serve his guru, Uttanka lived in his teacher's house faithfully executing his instructions.
One day, the women of the community approached Uttanka and told him, "Your teacher's wife is in her fertile season. It is the time for her to beget a child, but her husband is far from home, and naturally she has become quite depressed about this situation. It is your duty, Uttanka, to help her conceive a child. [After all, you were ordered to provide whatever is needed.] You must do this for your guru's wife!"
Thus addressed, Uttanka replied to the women, "Even if you women say so, I will not do the wrong thing. My teacher never said to me, 'You are now authorized to perform sinful activities."'
Some time later Uttanka's teacher returned from his trip, and upon learning what Uttanka had done was very pleased with him. He said to his student, "Uttanka, my son, tell me what I can do for you. You served me so nicely in accord with religious principles, and thus our love for each other has grown even stronger. I give you permission to go, and I bless you to achieve all success in life."
Thus addressed, Uttanka replied, "Please tell me what I can do to please you. As the authorities say, `If a person asks questions against religious principles, and another speaks against those same principles, hostility will arise between them and one of them will die.'
"Although you have given me permission to return home, I want to do something for you. A disciple must make an offering to his guru after completing his studies."
Thus addressed by his student, the teacher replied, "My dear son Uttanka, if that is how you feel, then you may stay a while longer."
Soon after, Uttanka again approached his teacher and said, "Sir, please tell me, what I can offer that will please you?"
The teacher replied, "My dear Uttanka, so many times you approach me to say, 'I must offer something to my guru.' All right, go to my wife and ask her, 'What can I offer you?' Whatever she requests, you may offer that."
Uttanka went to the teacher's wife and said, "Respected lady, my teacher gave me permission to return home, and I wish to pay my debt to him by offering something that will also be pleasing to you. Please order me. What gift shall I offer to my guru?"
The teacher's wife replied, "Go to King Pausya and beg from his queen the two earrings she is wearing. Four days hence there will be a religious ceremony, and I want to wear those earrings when I serve the brahmanas. Make this arrangement so that I look nice on that occasion, and you will achieve all good fortune."
Uttanka at once departed for the kingdom of Pausya. As he went along the path he saw an extremely large man mounted on an extraordinarily large bull. The man then spoke to Uttanka, "Uttanka, you should eat the dung of this bull."
When addressed in this way, Uttanka did not want to comply. But the man spoke to him again, "Just eat it, Uttanka! Don't analyze the situation. Previously your own teacher ate this dung."
Thus addressed, Uttanka said, "So be it!" and ate the dung and urine of the bull. Again he continued on to the land of King Pausya.
When Uttanka arrived he found the king sitting, and therefore he approached him and greeted him respectfully by offering his blessings. He then said, "I come to you seeking a boon."
The king respectfully greeted Uttanka and replied, "My lord, I am King Pausya. What may I do for you?"
Uttanka said, "I have come on behalf of my guru to beg of you the two earrings your queen is now wearing. It would be most kind of you to give them to me."
King Pausya replied, "Please go to my inner quarters and request them of the queen."
Thus addressed, Uttanka entered those quarters but did not see the queen, so again he spoke to Pausya, "It is not right for you to treat me with lies. Your queen is not in the inner quarters, for I do not see her there."
Thus addressed, Pausya replied, "Then you must be in an impure state. Remember if the last time you ate you failed to wash yourself properly. The queen cannot be seen by one who is in an impure state or by one who has not properly cleansed his body after eating. Since she is a chaste wife, she will not grant an audience to an unclean person."
Uttanka thought for a moment and said, "Yes, it is a fact that after eating I quickly washed my mouth and hands as I was walking."
Pausya replied, "Yes, this is precisely the point: a person who is walking cannot properly wash himself."
"Yes, it is so," said Uttanka, and he sat down facing east.
Uttanka thoroughly washed his hands, feet, and mouth, silently sipped water three times, and wiped his face twice, meditating within his heart on purification. After purifying all his bodily apertures with pure water, he entered the women's quarters and saw the queen. Seeing Uttanka enter, the queen stood up and offered him her respectful greetings. "Welcome, my lord. Please tell me what I may do for you?"
Uttanka replied, "I beg you to give me those two earrings for my guru. Kindly give them to me."
Pleased by Uttanka's saintly demeanor and reflecting that such a worthy recipient should not be refused, the queen took off her earings and offered them to him. She then told him, "Taksaka, the king of serpents, is anxious to get these earrings, so please carry them with great care!"
Uttanka replied to the queen, "My lady, rest assured. Taksaka, the king of serpents, is not able to attack me."
Having thus spoken to the queen, he took her permission and returned to King Pausya and said, "My dear King Pausya, I am satisfied now."
King Pausya replied, "My lord, it has been a long time since a truly deserving visitor has come here. You are a qualified guest, and I want to take advantage of your presence and perform a sraddha ceremony to benefit my forefathers. Please stay with us a while."
Uttanka replied, "I can stay for a short while. Right now I should like whatever food has already been prepared and offered to the Lord."
The king agreed and fed him with food that was available. But Uttanka noticed that the food was cold and mixed with hairs, and finding it to be impure he said to the king, "Because you don't see that you are giving me contaminated food, which could seriously harm me, you shall become blind!"
Pausya angrily replied, "Because you vilify pure food you will never have children!"
Pausya then inspected the food and saw that it was impure. Having been prepared by a woman who had let down her hair, it was indeed mixed with hairs and was unclean. The king then begged Uttanka for mercy,
"My Lord!" he cried, "It was in ignorance that we offered you cold food mixed with hairs. Please forgive me, don't make me blind!"
Uttanka replied, "I do not speak in vain. You will go blind, but you shall quickly regain your sight. Now I should also be spared from your curse."
Pausya replied, "I cannot take back my curse. My anger is still not appeased. Do you not know the famous proverb: `The heart of a brahmana is as soft as newly churned butter, though his speech is like a sharp-edged razor. But the opposite is true for a ksatriya warrior. His speech is as soft and pleasing as newly churned butter, but his heart is like the sharp edge of a razor'? That is a fact. Because my heart is sharp, I cannot adjust my curse. Now please leave my kingdom!"
Uttanka replied, "It was you who gave me impure food, and still I was willing to forgive you and adjust my curse. When you cursed me, you said, `Because you vilify pure food, you will never have children,' but the food was in fact impure, so your curse will therefore not affect me. I think we have settled this matter."
Saying this, Uttanka took the two earrings and departed. On the road he saw a naked mendicant approaching him, but at times he could see the mendicant and at times he could not. Placing the two earrings on the ground, Uttanka was about to drink some water when the mendicant rushed up, grabbed the earrings, and fled. Uttanka chased him and grabbed him, but the apparent mendicant relinquished his disguise and revealed his true form as Taksaka, king of the serpents. The snake ruler sped through a large hole in the earth and reached the land of the mighty Naga serpents, where he entered his own house.
Uttanka pursued him through that very hole and reached the serpent realm, which seemed as though it were boundless, for it boasted hundreds of palaces and mansions, handsomely crowned with pinnacles and turrets and built in various styles. There were many recreational facilities, both large and small, and the serpent land was full of workplaces and sanctuaries. [Beholding what seemed to be a well-developed civilization, Uttanka decided to appeal to the Nagas through eloquent prayer in the hopes that they would quickly return the earrings.]
Thus he approached them and spoke these verses:
"The serpents, whose king is Airavata, shine forth in battle and pour down weapons, just as wind-driven clouds, ablaze with lightning, pour down their waters.
"Handsome, many-colored, and of checkered coils, those born of Airavata have shone like the sun in the heavens.
"On the northern bank of the Ganges are many paths of the lordly Nagas. Who but their leader Airavata could hope to move so freely in the fiery blaze of the neighboring sun?
"When the serpent king named Dhrtarastra goes out walking, 28,008 serpents accompany him.
"To all whose elder brother is Airavata, to those privileged to go near him as well as those who stay off at a distance, I offer obeisances.
"To retrieve the two earrings, I pray to Taksaka, son of Kadru, to him who dwelt at Kuruksetra and in the Khandava forest.
"Taksaka and Asvasena always live together, and they dwell in Kuruksetra along the banks of the Iksumati River.
"And Taksaka's youngest brother, known as Srutasena, lived in sacred Mahaddyuman, aspiring to lead the Nagas."
After Uttanka had thus prayed to the Nagas but still did not get back the two earrings, he looked about him and wondered what he should do. He then beheld two women weaving a cloth they had mounted on a loom. In that loom were black and white threads. He also saw six boys turning a wheel that had twelve spokes, and he saw a handsome man mounted on a horse. Uttanka then prayed to all of them with the following verses composed of Vedic hymns:
"Ever rolling round the pole star is the wheel of time, with its 360 spokes fixed in the center. Six boys keep it turning in divisions of 24.
"The cosmos is formed like a loom upon which two young girls endlessly weave their black and white threads, tirelessly turning the cycles that bring forth all creatures and worlds.
"To the master of the thunderbolt, guardian of the planets, slayer of Vrtra, destroyer of Namuci, the great soul who dresses himself in two dark garments, he who distinguishes truth from illusion, and who obtained for his mount the primordial steed who is born of the sea and empowered by Fire, to him I bow always, to the master of the cosmos, lord of the three worlds, who shatters the enemy's ramparts. My obeisances unto Indra!"
When Uttanka finished his prayers, the man on the horse said to him, "You have pleased me by this prayer. How may I please you?"
Uttanka replied, "May the Naga serpents come under my control."
"Blow into this horse through his vital air," said the man, and as Uttanka blew into the horse every opening in its body poured out smoking flames that threatened to engulf the entire serpent kingdom. Frightened, bewildered, and humbled, Taksaka quickly grabbed the two earrings and emerged from his house and said to Uttanka, "Please sir, take these earrings."
Uttanka took them back, but then he remembered, "Today is the special day when my teacher's wife wanted her gift. But I've come such a great distance, how can I possibly return in time?"
Even as he was pondering, the man said to him, "Uttanka, mount this horse. He'll transport you in a moment to your teacher's house."
Uttanka accepted the offer, and, mounting the horse, he returned to his teacher's home. His guru's wife had already taken her bath in preparation for the day's ceremony, and as she sat combing her hair she thought, "Uttanka has not yet returned," and made up her mind to curse him. Just then Uttanka entered and greeted his teacher's wife and presented her the two earrings. She said to him, "Uttanka, you've come here just in time. Welcome, my child. I was set to curse you, but your good fortune is now assured and you will achieve great success in life."
Uttanka then respectfully greeted his teacher, who said to him, "My dear Uttanka, welcome. What took you so long?"
Uttanka replied, "Sir, Taksaka, the Naga king, disturbed my work, and I had to go to the land of the Nagas. There I saw two women weaving a cloth upon a loom that held black and white threads. What was that? I also saw six boys turning a twelve-spoked wheel. What could that have been? And I saw a man---who was he? What was that unusually large horse? Also, as I was traveling to the kingdom of Pausya I saw on the road a large bull and a man riding on its back. The man very politely said to me, `Uttanka, eat this bull's dung. After all, your teacher ate it.'
"Because of that I accepted the bull dung. I would like to hear what all this means."
Thus addressed, he teacher replied, "Those two women are Destiny and Fate, and the white and black threads are the days and nights. The six boys who turn the wheel are the six short-lived seasons, and the wheel itself is the cycle of a year, whose twelve months are the wheel's spokes. The handsome man is Parjanya, god of rain, and the horse is Agni, god of fire.
"The bull you beheld while journeying to King Pausya's realm was the celestial elephant Airavata, and the man riding him was Lord Indra. The so-called dung you ate was actually nectar of the gods. You remained faithful, and by thus eating godly nectar you could not be defeated in the serpent realm. Indra is my friend, and by his mercy you recovered the earrings and returned safely.
"Now, my dear student, you may go with my blessings. You shall attain good fortune."
Uttanka thus received his teacher's permission to graduate; but he was still angry at Taksaka, and desiring to repay the offense he had suffered he departed for Hastinapura. Uttanka, a most competent brahmana, soon reached Hastinapura and went to meet King Janamejaya, who had just returned from complete victory in Taksasila.
Uttanka saw the undefeated Kuru monarch surrounded on all sides by his ministers, and as he approached him Uttanka first offered traditional blessings for the king's continued victory over his foes, and then at just the right moment he spoke these words in a pleasing and articulate voice: "O best of kings, although there is an urgent duty to be done, out of childish innocence you, the finest of monarchs, are content to do something else."
Being thus addressed the king bestowed full honor upon his guest and replied as follows: "By properly caring for all creatures, I fulfill my duties as a ruler. But please tell me if there is yet something to be done. O best of brahmanas, I am eager to hear your words."
Thus addressed by that noble ruler of men, the noble sage, the best of pious men, then told the mighty monarch exactly what needed to be done.
"O king of kings," said Uttanka, "it was Taksaka who killed your father, and you must now repay that wicked serpent. In my view the time has come to perform a duty that is sanctioned by Vedic principles. You must show your love and gratitude toward your father, who was a great soul. That evil-minded serpent bit your father, who had never offended him, and your father, the king, was felled like a tree struck by a thunderbolt. Taksaka is the lowest of serpents and is puffed--up with pride over his so-called strength. That sinful one dared to do what should never have been done when he bit your father, striking down a king who had upheld the noblest traditions of his saintly family, a king beyond all compare. Moreover, when Kasyapa tried to save your father from death, that sinful Taksaka turned him away.
"Maharaja, you must burn that sinner in the blazing fire of sacrifice! Let there be a snake sacrifice, and you shall be the one to perform it! O king, in this way you shall properly honor your father, and I shall attain something I very much desire. O sinless king, O ruler of the earth, when I was busily engaged in serving my guru, that wicked one, without reason, placed obstacles in my path."
Hearing these words, a terrible anger toward Taksaka welled up within the king. As the offering of pure butter brings the fire of sacrifice to a blaze, so did the words of Uttanka inflame the fire of rage within the heart of Janamejaya. Anguished over his father's death, even in the presence of Uttanka the king asked his wise and elderly minsters about his father's passage to the spiritual abode. Indeed, when he heard from Uttanka about his father's death, that best of kings was overwhelmed with a bitter and searing grief.
AP 04 (5,6)
The son of Romaharsana, who was famous for having mastered the sacred histories called Puranas, approached the sages as they were assisting their leader Saunaka in his twelve--year sacrifice at Naimisaranya. Suta had worked hard to learn the Puranic histories, which he knew so well. Respectfully folding his hands, he said to the sages, "What do you desire to hear? On what shall I speak?"
The sages replied, "Son of Romaharsana, we shall inquire about the highest truth. We are eager to hear topics that connect us with the Supreme, but let us wait for the exalted Saunaka, who is presently tending the sacrificial fire. He is fully conversant with spiritual topics, as well as topics relating to demigods, demons, human beings, snakes, and Gandharvas. Saunaka is the leader of our community at this sacrifice. He is a learned and expert brahmana, firm in his vows, wise, and a qualified teacher of Vedic scriptures such as the Aranyakas. He is honest, serene, austere, and fixed in regulated spiritual practice and is thus the most highly respected among all of us. Let us therefore first consider his preference in regards to our topic. When our teacher takes his honored seat, you may speak on whatever topic that most excellent brahmana requests."
Suta Goswami replied:
"So be it. When that illustrious guru takes his seat and inquires from me, I shall speak on variegated and sacred topics."
Saunaka, the best of brahmanas, finished all his duties in their proper order and propitiated the demigods with the chanting of hymns and the forefathers with the offering of food. He forthwith approached the successful and enlightened sages, who with Suta Goswami in front were sitting on the sacrificial grounds. Seeing that the priests and assembly members, all of them strict in their vows, were properly seated, Saunaka, the leader of that saintly group, then took his seat and spoke to Suta Goswami.
Dear son, your father studied all the sacred histories. O son of Romaharsana, have you also studied them all? These ancient histories tell spiritual tales of the first generations of wise men and as such have been recounted since ancient times. We heard them in the past from your father. Among all these histories, I would first like to hear about the dynasty of Bhrgu, the original brahmana. Please relate this story, for we are eager to hear from you.
Suta Goswami said:
O best of brahmanas, those histories that great sages like Vaisampayana carefully studied and recited in the past were also thoroughly studied by my father and indeed by myself. Hear, then, of that illustrious dynasty of Bhrgu, you who are a dear descendent of the same Bhrgu. Even the gods, led by Indra, pay tribute to that dynasty, as do Agni and the lords of the wind. I shall describe to you, great seer, the colorful history of the Bhrgu dynasty, as it is found in the ancient histories, O brahmana.
The first descendent of Bhrgu was his own beloved son Cyavana. Cyavana's son and heir was the virtuous sage Pramati. Pramati then begot Ruru in the womb of his wife Ghrtaci, and from Ruru, who is your own great grandfather, the most virtuous Sunaka, master of the Vedas, took birth from the womb of Pramadvara. Sunaka was a learned and famous ascetic, the best of the enlightened sages. He was fully virtuous and always spoke the truth, for he was devout in his worship and self-controlled.
O son of a suta, how did Bhrgu's son, the great soul Cyavana, acquire his name, so well known everywhere? Kindly explain this to me.
Suta Goswami said:
Bhrgu had a greatly beloved wife, Puloma, in whom he conceived a son endowed with Bhrgu's own potency. O descendent of Bhrgu, as the child grew normally in the womb of Puloma, that respectable and religious wife who always treated others fairly, Bhrgu, great among the upholders of virtue, left her at home and went out to perform a royal consecration. While he was away, a demonic Raksasa also named Puloma came to his asrama. When he entered the asrama and beheld the faultless wife of Bhrgu, the Raksasa was overwhelmed by lust and lost his mind.
Upon seeing the Raksasa arrive, the lovely Puloma welcomed him with typical forest fare like fruits and roots and other such eatables. But simply by looking at her, the Raksasa Puloma was excited and his heart was fully tormented by lust. O brahmana, he yearned to kidnap that faultless woman.
Noticing the sacrificial fire ablaze on the sacred ground, the demon asked the blazing fire, "Tell me, Agni, whose wife is this? I ask you on your honor, O Fire, for you are the emblem of truth. Speak the truth to one who so inquires. I believe this lady of lovely complexion to be the very woman I once chose as my wife. But her father gave her away to Bhrgu, who improperly accepted her. If this shapely woman, who stands alone here, is indeed Bhrgu's wife, then you must declare it openly, for I wish to steal her from this asrama. My heart has always burned with rage because Bhrgu took that lovely-waisted woman who was first meant to be my wife."
The Raksasa was not sure if the woman was actually Bhrgu's wife, and so again and again he entreated the blazing sacrificial fire, asking him the same question.
"O Agni, you ever exist within all creatures as a witness to their piety and sin. O wise one, speak words of truth. Bhrgu falsely took away my intended wife, and if this is that same woman, then tell me so. You must declare the truth. As soon as I hear from you that she is truly Bhrgu's wife, I shall take her from this asrama before your very eyes, my dear sacred Fire. Now speak the truth!"
Afraid to speak a lie, and fearing too of Bhrgu's curse, Fire began to speak, slowly and carefully, revealing the identity of Bhrgu's wife.
[Although the demonic Raksasa insisted that Agni speak the truth, he himself cared nothing for Vedic principles and considered his own selfish will to be the highest law.]
Suta Goswami said:
Upon hearing Agni's statement the demon assumed the form of a huge boar and seized Bhrgu's wife with the speed of the mind and the strength of the wind. But as soon as he grabbed Puloma, her child rolled furiously out of her womb and thus became known as Cyavana, "the one who came forth." Simply seeing this powerful child rush forth from his mother's womb, the Raksasa burst into flames. Releasing Bhrgu's wife, he fell to the ground and burned to ashes.
Shocked and aggrieved by this incident, the shapely Puloma quickly picked up Bhrgu's beloved child and ran. Lord Brahma himself, the grandfather of all the worlds, witnessed Bhrgu's faultless wife crying out, her eyes filled with tears, and he began to comfort that chaste young lady, whose teardrops, as they issued forth, formed a great river that followed her path. Seeing the river flowing along after her, Lord Brahma named it "Bride's Brook," in the place where it ran towards the future asrama of her son Cyavana.
Thus Cyavana, the powerful son of Bhrgu, was born. Upon seeing his son Cyavana and his furious wife, Bhrgu too became angry and asked his faithful Puloma, "When that Raksasa decided to steal you, who told him your name? O sweet-smiling one, the demon surely did not know that you were my wife. Tell me the truth. Who revealed your identity? My anger is such that I wish to curse him this very moment! Who is that person who does not fear my curse? Who committed this offense?"
My lord, it was Agni who surrendered me to the Raksasa. As I cried out like a kurari bird, the Raksasa led me away. I was saved only by this son of yours. By his power, the demon let go of me as he burned to ashes and fell dead on the earth.
Suta Goswami said:
Hearing this from Puloma, a terrible wrath took hold of Bhrgu Muni, and he cursed Agni, the god of fire, declaring, "You, Fire, shall eat all things!"
\'00AP 07 (08)
Suta Goswami continued:
Cursed by Bhrgu, Agni too grew angry, and spoke these words: "Brahmana! Why have you committed such a reckless act against me, when I strove to follow the law and spoke the truth impartially? When questioned, I spoke the facts. What, then, is my crime? A witness who knowingly speaks lies when questioned ruins seven generations of his family, past and future. And one who knows the truth in a matter of duty, and even knowing does not speak, is tainted by that very sin (of duplicity) without a doubt.
"I also have the power to curse you, but I am bound to honor brahmanas. Although you already know it, I shall clearly explain the situation. Please listen carefully.
"By my mystic potency I divide myself into many flames, and thus I am present in various forms of religious sacrifices, such as the Agni-hotra, Satra, Makha, and in other rituals and ceremonies. Thus even the demigods and forefathers are satisfied by offerings of clarified butter consumed within my flames, following the Vedic rites.
"All the hosts of demigods and forefathers are venerable authorities in this world. Thus religious offerings on the new moon and full moon days are meant for both the gods and the forefathers, for they are generally worshiped as one, but are worshiped separately on the moon days. And even the demigods and forefathers always make offerings through me, hence I am considered to be the mouth of the thirty principle demigods and the forefathers.
"The forefathers are offered sacrifice on the new moon day, and the demigods on the full moon day, and through my mouth they consume offerings of clarified butter. How, then, can my mouth eat all things, clean and unclean?"
Reflecting on the matter, Agni withdrew himself from all the obligatory religious sacrifices and rituals, including the Agni-hotra. There was thus no chanting of the sacred Om, Vasat, Svadha, and Svaha mantrasup6 \chftn rootnote rs20 rs18up6 \chftn mantra: a transcendental sound or Vedic hymn. And thus without Agni all creatures became very aggrieved. The sages, who grew very disturbed, then went to the demigods and spoke: "Now that fire is lost, religious processes have collapsed, and thus the three worlds, blameless in this matter, are falling to ruin. Do what needs to be done while we still have time." The sages and gods then approached Lord Brahma and delivered the news of the curse on Agni and his withdrawal from religious ceremonies.
"O exalted one," they said, "Bhrgu has cursed Agni without reason. How can Agni, the mouth of the demigods, be cursed to eat all things? It is Agni who eats the first portion of that which the whole world offers in sacrifice."
Hearing their speech, Brahma, the creator, called Agni and spoke to him these gentle and immortal words, meant for the welfare of the world: "You are the fountain of all planets and You are their end. You sustain the three worlds and set the sacred rites in motion. O lord of the world, please act so that religious ceremonies are not cut off. Being a universal controller and the consumer of sacrificial offerings, why should you now be so confused? You represent purity in this world, and you pervade all creatures. You shall not eat all things with all your bodies. In your manifestation as a gross material ingredient, O blazing lord, your flames will burn all things. But as the sun purifies all things by the touch of its rays, similarly all that you burn by your flames shall become pure.
"O Fire of awesome potency, with that same potency, please make the sage's curse come true, O mighty one. Accept and consume the demigods' portion and your own when properly offered through your mouth in sacrifice."
"So be it!" replied Agni to the grandsire, and he departed to execute the instruction of the supreme demigod.
The gods and sages happily departed, and all the sages began to perform the essential religious processes, just as they had before. The gods in heaven and all the earthly communities rejoiced. And Agni, his impurity cleansed, experienced the greatest happiness. Such is the very ancient history that arose from the cursing of Agni, the destruction of the demon Puloma, and the birth of the sage Cyavana.
Suta Goswami said:
Cyavana, the son of Bhrgu, begot in the womb of Sukanya the great soul Pramati of fiery power. Pramati in turn begot Ruru in the womb of Ghrtaci, and Ruru begot Sanuka upon his wife Pramadvara. Dear brahmana, I shall describe in detail the activities of the greatly powerful Ruru. Please hear the story to its conclusion.
Once there was a noble sage of tremendous austerity and wisdom who was always dedicated to the welfare of all creatures. His name was Sthulakesa, or "one of coarse hair." At that time, O learned sage, the Gandharva king Visvavasu was known to have had intercourse with the celestial Menaka, who abandoned the infant born to her in due course of time. Leaving her infant daughter on a riverbank near the asrama of Sthulakesa, Menaka departed.
That great and mighty sage saw the infant girl shining with the beauty of a young goddess as she lay helpless and uncared for on the deserted riverbank. Seeing the child in such a condition, that best of brahmanas Sthulakesa was filled with compassion and took the child home and cared for her at his asrama until she grew into a shapely and beautiful young woman. Recognizing her to be the most enchanting of women, endowed with full beauty and character, the great sage named his daughter Pramadvara, "the finest of charming ladies."
The religious Ruru beheld Pramadvara at Sthulakesa's asrama and fell completely in love with her. Together with his friends, he encouraged his father to request the girl's hand, and thus Pramati went to see the famous Sthulakesa. The sage awarded his daughter Pramadvara to Ruru and immediately set the wedding date for the time when the moon passes through the constellation known as as Uttara-phalguni, a date known to confer happiness upon lovers.
A few days before the wedding, the young bride of lovely complexion, while playing with her girlfriends, did not see a sleeping snake stretched out before her. Thus impelled by time and destined to die, she trampled it with her foot, and the serpent, likewise driven by deadly time, plunged its venom-smeared fangs deep into the body of that most careless girl. No sooner bitten, she fell to the ground unconscious and lifeless. She who had possessed such a beautiful form was now unattractive to look upon. But as she lay on the earth, lost in dreamless sleep, the tender-waisted virgin, felled by a serpent's venom, again became most beautiful.
Her own father and other ascetics saw her there, fallen and unmoving on the earth yet somehow bright like a lotus. Then all the important brahmanas, deeply compassionate, quickly assembled there. Svastyatreya, Mahajanu, Kusika, Sankhamekhala, Bharadvaja, Kaunakutsa, Arstisena, Gautama, Pramati with his son, and other forest dwellers all arrived on the spot. Seeing the lifeless young girl, felled by a serpent's poison, they cried out in heartfelt grief, and Ruru fled in anguish.
AP 09 (10,11,12)
Suta Goswami continued:
As the brahmanas sat there together, Ruru went deep into the forest and cried out in pain. Griefstricken and wailing piteously again and again, Ruru remembered his beloved Pramadvara and spoke these mournful words: "That delicate girl who lies on the earth arouses such grief in me and in all her relatives! What pain is there beyond this? If I have given charity in my life and practiced austerities, or indeed if ever I properly worshiped my elders and teachers, then by all the merit I possess let my beloved come back to life. From my very birth I have controlled myself and remained faithful to my vows, so in return for all that, may my lovely Pramadvara rise up once more on this very day."
A messenger of the gods then spoke:
O Ruru, the words you speak out of sorrow are in vain, O virtuous one, for a mortal whose lifetime has passed can have no extension of that life. The life of that poor girl, born of a Gandharva and an Apsara, is now gone. Therefore, my dear son, do not in any way abandon your mind to grief.
Nevertheless, the gods, who are great souls, have already arranged a solution to this problem, and if you accept it you will regain Pramadvara.
What solution have the gods arranged? Tell me in truth, O sky-traveler, and I shall do as you say. You must help me!
The messenger of the gods said:
O Ruru, scion of Bhrgu, offer half of your own life to that girl, and your bride Pramadvara shall again rise up.
O most excellent sky-traveller, I do hereby offer half my life to this chaste girl, so finely dressed in the garments of love. Now please let my dear one arise! Suta Goswami said:
Thereupon the Gandharva king and the celestial messenger, both most noble souls, approached the Lord of Justice and spoke to him these words: "O Lord of Justice, if you so approve, may Ruru's fair and noble wife Pramadvara, though dead, arise again with half of Ruru's duration of life."
The Lord of Justice said:
Messenger of the gods, if you so desire then may Pramadvara, the wife of Ruru, awaken endowed with half the duration of his life.
Suta Goswami said:
As soon as the Lord of Justice had thus spoken, the lovely and chaste young Pramadvara arose as if from sleep, endowed with half of Ruru's life. In fact, through his austerities, the very powerful Ruru had accumulated an excessive duration of life, and thus it was pre-ordained (by the cosmic rulers) that in the future his life would be diminished by half for his wife's sake.
On the eagerly awaited day the fathers of the bride and groom happily performed the marriage and rejoiced, each wishing the other well. After so much anguish, Ruru, obtained a wife who was as delicate as the filaments of a lotus. Remembering his pain, he vowed with firm determination to annihilate the snakes for their crooked ways. Any snake he saw filled him with cold fury, and picking up a weapon, he would always kill any snake that came within his range.
Once the learned brahmana Ruru, having come to a great forest, saw lying before him an aged lizard. Raising a stick like the staff of Death, the furious brahmana struck the lizard, but the lizard cried out, "I've done you no wrong today, ascetic! Why then are you so enraged? Why angrily strike me, you whose wealth is austerity?"
My wife, whom I hold as dear to me as my own life, was once bitten by a snake, and thereafter I uttered this terrible vow: "I swear that I shall kill any snake I see!" Therefore I am going to kill you now. You shall give up your life!
The lizard replied:
O brahmana, snakes that bite human beings are a different species altogether. You should not attack lizards, thinking them to be serpents. Lizards and snakes share the same troubles, but their purposes are different. They share identical sorrows, but their pleasures are different. You should therefore recognize the principles of justice and refrain from attacking lizards.
Suta Goswami said:
When Ruru heard these words, he thought the lizard to be a sage in disguise and became quite wary of striking it. In a most conciliatory manner, the exalted Ruru said to the lizard, "O reptile, kindly tell me who you really are dressed in this lizard's body."
The lizard said:
Formerly, Ruru, I was a sage named Sahasrapat, but because of a brahmana's curse I was forced to accept the body of a lizard.
O excellent reptile, why was that brahmana so angry that he cursed you? And for how long must you retain this body?
The lizard said:
Once, dear friend, I had a brahmana friend named Khagama, who was accustomed to speaking sharply, being full of strength from his austerities. One day, while we were both still in our youth, I playfully fashioned a snake out of straw, and as Khagama sat absorbed in a fire sacrifice I frightened him with it, and he fainted away on the spot. My friend was a true ascetic who ever spoke the truth, being terribly strict in his vows, and thus when he regained consciousness his anger nearly burned me to ashes.
"Because you made this impotent snake just to frighten me," he raged, "so by my anger become yourself an impotent snake!"
O ascetic, my heart was in utter turmoil, for I knew well the power of his austerities. In great confusion I stood before him, devastated, my hands folded in submission.
"My friend," I cried, "whatever I did to you was just to have a laugh; it was only a joke. O brahmana, you must forgive me! I beg you to take back your curse!"
Seeing that my mind was lost in fear, he sighed deeply again and again, and in much anxiety said to me, "That which I have already spoken can never prove false. It shall come to pass regardless. But hear from me, you who are strict in your vows, that which I now speak. May these words remain in your heart, for you are a fellow ascetic whose only wealth is austerity.
"There shall arise from Pramati a righteous son named Ruru. Upon seeing him, you shall be quickly freed of this curse."
You are that very Ruru, the righteous son of Pramati, and in fact (even as I speak) I have now regained my original form. I will tell you then, for your own happiness, that non-aggression is the highest moral law for all living beings. A brahmana, therefore, should never injure any living thing.
My friend, the scriptures declare emphatically that a brahmana is born in this world to be always kind to others, to learn the Veda and its supplements, and to lead all creatures to freedom from fear. The duty of a warrior is not at all prescribed for you, because a warrior must wield the rod of punishment, spell dread for the wicked, and physically protect all creatures. Hear from me, O virtuous Ruru, about the actual work of a ksatriya. In the past King Janamejaya was attempting to kill all the snakes in a sacrifice until finally the terrified serpents were saved by none other than a brahmana, who was powerfully austere and in full command of the Vedas and their supplements. The name of that sage was Astika, O excellent brahmana.
O best of the twice-born, how did King Janamejaya kill the snakes, and for what reason were they killed? Tell me also for what reason the brahmana Astika saved the serpents. I want to hear the whole story.
The sage said:
You shall hear all of the great story of Astika, O Ruru, from the brahmanas who narrate it.
Suta Goswami said:
Thus speaking, the sage vanished. Anxious to find the sage, Ruru ran all about the forest searching, until at last he fell exhausted upon the earth and slept. When he awoke, he returned home and narrated the incident to his father and asked for an explanation. Ruru's father, when thus requested, explained the entire story.
Please tell me why that tiger among kings, Maharaja Janamejaya, tried to kill all the snakes in a snake sacrifice. And why did that excellent chanter of mantras, Astika, the best of the twice-born, liberate the snakes from the sacrificial fire? Whose son was that king who performed the snake sacrifice? And please tell me whose son was Astika, the best of the twice-born?
Suta Goswami said:
O best of speakers, hear from me the great story of Astika, in which all your questions will be fully answered.
I want to hear in detail this fascinating story of Astika, the illustrious brahmana of old.
Suta Goswami said:
The elders who dwell here in Naimisaranya relate this ancient history narrated by Shrila Vyasa. My own father, Romaharsana Suta, a learned disciple of Vyasa, formerly narrated this story at the request of the brahmanas. Because you have similarly requested me, Saunaka, I will narrate the story of Astika exactly as I heard it.
Astika's father was a powerful sage, equal in strength to the praja-patis, the progenitors who rule mankind. He was celibate, strictly controlling his senses, and he always engaged in performing severe austerities. Known as Jaratkaru, he elevated his seminal power and nourished his brain, thus becoming a great sage. This eminent religious scholar, unflinching in his vows, was a descendant of the family of Yayavara.
Once while walking about he saw his own forefathers hanging upside down over a great hole. Seeing them in such a condition, Jaratkaru asked, "Who are you, dear sirs, and why are you hanging face down over this hole? You are held by a mere clump of grass, which is being eaten away on all sides by an elusive rat who always stays in the hole."
The forefathers said:
We are the Yayavaras, sages strict in our vows. By the destruction of our family line, O brahmana, we are now forced to enter into the earth. Our last living descendant is known as Jaratkaru, but we are so unfortunate that our unlucky descendent cares only for the ascetic life. That foolish one does not want to take a wife and beget good children, preferring rather to allow our family line to perish.up6 \chftn rootnote rs20 rs18up6 \chftn Good children are necessary to continue the family line to ensure that pinda or santified food will be offered to those forefathers who, due to sinful activities, are residing in ghostly bodies or in hell. By offering them food and water which has been first offered to Vishnu, they are released from their suffering condition. If there are no children to make this offering then the forefathers must suffer fully the reactions to their activities. Therefore we are hanging over this hole. Because of such a guardian of our family tradition we must hang here helpless like common criminals. Who are you, noble sir, and why do you worry about us as if you were our own kin? We want to know, dear brahmana, who are you who stands here before us? Why should you be so kind to wretched persons like us?
You are indeed my own forebears---my fathers and grandfathers. Tell me what I may do for you now, for I myself am Jaratkaru!
The forefathers said:
For your own sake and for ours as well, strive with great effort, dear boy, to preserve our family line. That, O lord, is your actual duty. In this world, O son, neither by the fruits of virtue nor by heaps of austerities can one attain the rewards earned by the parents of good children. Dear child, by our order, put all your effort into finding a wife and make up your mind to continue our family. That for us is the highest benefit.
Although my mind has always been fixed on never taking a wife, for your welfare I will marry. I shall do so, however, only if I find a wife under certain conditions, and not otherwise. I shall accept with proper rites a virgin girl bearing my same name and only one who is happily given by her family in charity. I doubt that anyone would entrust a wife to one as poor as I am. But if someone will do it, I shall accept the offering of alms. My dear forefathers, I shall continuously endeavor to find a wife according to this stipulation, and not otherwise. Surely a child born from such a marriage will deliver all of you. Attaining then the eternal abode, may my forefathers rejoice!
Suta Goswami said:
That brahmana, strict in his vows, then wandered about the earth searching for a wife with whom to share a home. But he could not find a suitable woman. Once, entering a forest and recalling the words of his forefathers, he slowly cried out three times, "I am begging a wife in charity!"
At that time, the serpent Vasuki offered his sister to Jaratkaru, but he did not accept her, naturally assuming that she had a different name. "I can only take a wife who has my same name and who is offered freely," thought the great soul Jaratkaru, his mind fixed. The very wise ascetic then said to Vasuki, "Tell me the truth, O serpent, what is your sister's name?"
My dear Jaratkaru, Jaratkaru is also the name of my young sister, whom we have been keeping for you. O best of the twice-born, please accept her!
Suta Goswami said:
O best of Vedic scholars, the snakes had been cursed earlier by their mother, who had declared, "Driven by the wind, the sacred fire shall burn you all at Janamejaya's sacrifice."
To appease that same curse the greatest of the serpents presented his sister to the ascetic sage, who faithfully kept his vows. And thus Jaratkaru married her according to the authorized rites. A son of the name Astika was born of the woman and her exalted husband. That great-souled child was to become both an ascetic and a great master of the Vedic scriptures. Fair-minded and equal to all, he drove away his parents' fear.
We hear from authorities that long, long after the race of snakes had been cursed by their own mother, the descendant of Pandu, King Janamejaya, commenced a great offering known as the Sacrifice of Snakes. But when the sacrifice meant to annihilate all serpents was proceeding, the widely celebrated Astika freed the snakes from their curse. He saved the Nagas, his maternal uncles, and many other snakes who were related to him through his mother, and he also rescued his father's relatives by continuing their family line. By his austerities, his religious vows, and his profound Vedic studies, he became free of his many obligations. He satisfied the demigods with sacrifices of diverse remuneration, the sages by his celibacy and study, and his forefathers with progeny. Having removed the heavy burden carried by his forefathers, Jaratkaru, resolute of vow, thereafter accompanied them to the heavenly planets. Having thus obtained Astika as his son and having accumulated unequalled religious merit, the thoughtful Jaratkaru went to the heavenly abode after a very long life. Thus have I duly recounted the story of Astika. O tiger of the Bhrgus, what is to be narrated next?
O Suta, please recite again in detail this story of the intelligent saint Astika for we yearn to hear it. You recite these histories so nicely and with such graceful sounds and language that we are all very pleased, my son, with your presentation. You are a gentle man and speak just like your father. Indeed, your sire spoke in a way that always satisfied our desire to hear. So now, please speak as your father did!
Suta Goswami continued:
O long-lived Saunaka, I shall tell you the story of Astika exactly as my father recited it in my presence.
Long ago, in the godly millennium, Prajapati Daksa had two brilliant and sinless daughters, amazing sisters who were gifted with great beauty. Named Kadru and Vinata, they both became wives of the primordial sage Kasyapa, a husband who was equal in glory to the Prajapati. Being pleased with his religious wive, Kasyapa, with much happines, offered them both a boon. Hearing of Kasyapa's joyful intention to let them choose an extraordinary boon, the two excellent women felt an incomparable joy.
Kadru chose to create one thousand serpent sons, all of equal strength, and Vinata hankered to have two sons who would exceed all of Kadru's sons in stamina, strength, valor, and spiritual influence. Her husband awarded her only one and a half of these desired sons, knowing that she could not have more. Vinata then said to Kasyapa, "Let me have at least one superior son."
Vinata felt that her purpose was satisfied and that somehow both sons would be of superior strength. Kadru too felt her purpose fulfilled, since she would have one thousand sons of equal prowess. Both wives were delighted with their boons. Then Kasyapa, that mighty ascetic, urging them to carry their embryos with utmost care, retired to the forest.
After a long time Kadru produced one thousand eggs, O leader of brahmanas, and Vinata produced two eggs. Their delighted assistants placed the two sisters' eggs in moist vessels, where they remained for five hunred years. When the years had passed, the sons of Kadru hatched from their eggs, but from Vinata's two eggs her two sons were not to be seen. That austere and godly woman, anxious to have children, was ashamed. Thus Vinata broke open one egg and saw therein her son. Authorities say that the upper half of the child's body was fully developed, but the lower half was not yet well formed.
Furious that his natural growth had been thus interrupted, the son cursed his mother, Vinata: "You were so greedy for a son, mother, that you have caused me to be deformed and weak. Therefore you shall lose your freedom and for five hunred years remain the maidservant of the very woman you sought to rival. Your other son will free you from servitude---that is, mother, if you don't break his egg and ruin his body and limbs, as you did mine. If you truly desire to get a son of unique prowess, then you must patiently await his birth, which will come after another five hunred years."
Having thus cursed his mother, Vinata, the son flew into outer space, where he is always seen, O brahmana, as Aruna, the reddish light of dawn. In due course of time the mighty Garuda, consumer of snakes, took birth. As soon as he appeared, O tiger of the Bhrgus, he left Vinata and flew up into the sky, famished, ready to take his meal of eatables as ordained by the creator.
AP 15 (16)
Suta Goswami continued:
O sage rich in austerity, at this time the two sisters saw coming towards them the stallion Uccaihsrava, whom all the gods joyfully honor, the supreme jewel among horses, born from the churning of nectar. That ageless celestial steed, who bore all the auspicious marks, was beautiful and immensely powerful, indeed the finest of horses and the best of the swift.
How and where did the demigods churn this nectar from which the king of horses, of such unusual strength and luster, took birth? Please tell us!
Suta Goswami replied:
There is a glowing mountain called Meru, which is bathed in its own radiance. Fine beyond all other mountains, it subdues the sun's own light with its dazzling golden peaks. Indeed, it is like a wondrous golden ornament. Popular with gods and Gandharvas, it is immeasurable and can be approached only by those who are abundantly righteous. Awesome beasts of prey frequent that great mountain, and heavenly herbs illumine it. Standing tall, it spreads up and over the vault of heaven. Unattainable by most, lying beyond even their imagination, this mountain, rich in rivers and forests, resounds with the songs of the most charming varieties of birds.
Scaling its bright and gem-studded peak, which rises almost forever upward, all the mighty demigods once met atop the Meru Mount. The inhabitants of heaven came together and, seated in council, began to discuss how they might obtain the celestial nectar. To evoke blessings on their cause they rigidly observed religious rules and austerities. As the gods thus meditated and discussed the matter in every conceivable way, the Supreme Lord Narayana spoke to Lord Brahma: "The demigods and demons together must churn the waters of the ocean basin, for only when the great ocean is churned will the immortal nectar come forth. Churn the ocean, O gods, and you will certainly obtain every healing herb and all manner of jewels, and in the end you shall have nectar."
Suta Goswami said:
Having decided to use the Mandara Mountain as a churning rod, the gods thereupon went to that excellent mountain, which was adorned with soaring peaks and crowds of towering clouds. Lush with tangled creepers, vibrating with the songs of many types of birds, and alive with many species of tusked and toothy beasts, Mandara mountain was a popular resort for the Kinnaras, Apsaras, and even the gods themselves. It stretches up to a height of eleven thousand yojanas, or eighty-eight thousand miles, and its foundations extend just as many miles below the earth. The demigods wanted to take that mountain to use as a churning rod, but together they could not lift it. So they approached the seated Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma and said to them, "May you two Lords kindly fix your good minds on our ultimate welfare, and for our sake let an effort be made to lift Mandara Mountain!"
"So be it!" said Lord Vishnu, and Lord Brahma agreed, O Bhargava. Encouraged by Lord Brahma and ordered by Lord Narayana, the mighty Ananta then rose up to assume the great task. O brahmana, by His own strength the mighty Ananta lifted up that lord of mountains with all its forests and forest creatures. The gods then accompanied Lord Ananta to the ocean and said to the mighty sea, "We shall churn your waters to obtain immortal nectar."
The lord of waters replied, "If you save me a portion of the nectar I shall be able to tolerate the heavy pounding of the twisting churning rod, Mount Mandara."
The gods and demons together then said to the tortoise king, Akupara, "the unlimited," "You, sir, should kindly serve as the resting place for Mount Mandara."
The tortoise agreed and freely offered his back. Lord Indra then pressed down the mountain's peak with a tool, and fashioning Mount Mandara into a churning rod and using the celestial serpent Vasuki as a churning rope, the gods began to churn the vast waters of the sea. The Daityas and Danavas were also anxious to drink the nectar, O brahmana, and thus they too began to churn. The great demons held one end of Vasuki, the king of serpents, and, joining together, the demigods stood at the tail.
Lord Ananta, a plenary expansion of the Personality of Godhead, stood by Lord Narayana, who is also a plenary manifestation of the Supreme Godhead. Again and again Lord Ananta lifted the serpent's head and threw it down. Being forcefully pulled up and down by the demigods as well, Vasuki repeatedly belched fire and smoke. The billows of smoke turned into clouds and poured rain and lightning upon the demigods, who were already weak from the heat of their labors. From the highest peak on the mountain, showers of flowers rained down and scattered garlands everywhere, on gods and demons alike.
Then, as the gods and demons churned the ocean with Mount Mandara, a deep sound arose from within the sea like the mighty rumbling of thunder in the clouds. All manner of sealife were crushed by the great mountain, and by the hundreds they gave up their bodies in the nectar-filled sea. Yet, by the strength of that mountain, which had been touched and lifted by the Supreme Lord Ananta, varieties of sea creatures (otherwise condemned to dwell in lower species of life) were freed of their dull acquatic bodies. As the mountain continued to whirl, huge trees, stocked with birds, crashed into one another and tumbled down from its peaks. The friction from the falling trees generated a fire, whose swift tongues of flame swarmed Mandara Mountain like electric bolts of lightning surrounding bluish rainclouds.
The fire burned even the mighty elephants and lions, who fled its flames. All kinds of creatures gave up their mortal bodies in that blaze. As the fire burned all around, the best of the demigods, Lord Indra, extinguished it with rain showers. Thereupon, varieties of herbal juices and resins from mighty trees flowed from Mount Mandara into the ocean. Indeed from the milk of these juices, endowed with the virility of nectar, and from the flowing of molten gold, the gods would attain immortal status. But now the water of the ocean mixed with the finest of juices and turned into milk, and from that milk came butter.
The demigods then spoke to Lord Brahma, the boon-giver, who was sitting before them, "We are utterly exhausted, and still the divine nectar does not come out of the sea. Except for God, Narayana, all of us, including the Daityas and the strongest Nagas, have no more strength. We have been churning the ocean for so very long."
Brahma then spoke these words to Lord Narayana, "My dear Lord Vishnu, please grant them strength, for You are their only shelter."
Lord Vishnu replied:
I do hereby grant strength to all who have seriously undertaken this task. Let everyone shake the waters! Let everyone whirl the Mandara Mountain round!
Suta Goswami said:
Hearing the words of Lord Narayana, everyone's strength was renewed, and, joining together, they powerfully churned the milk of the great ocean. Thereupon the cool-rayed moon, shining with a sublime effulgence, rose up from the ocean like a second sun with hundreds and thousands of rays.
Next the Goddess of Fortune, clad in white garments, arose from the clarified butter of the milk ocean, and then the goddess Liquor, and then a swift white steed. And the divine Kaustubha gem, gorgeous and radiant, was born from the nectar, meant for the chest of Lord Narayana. The Goddess of Fortune, the goddess of Liquor, the moon, and the white horse, who was as fast as the mind, all went on the path of the sun, to where the gods stood.
Then the handsome Lord Dhanvantari rose up from the ocean carrying a white Kamandalu pot, which held the immortal nectar. Seeing this great wonder, loud shouts arose from the demons.
"It's mine! It's mine!" they cried, clamoring for the nectar, but Lord Narayana engaged His mystic potency and assumed a stunningly beautiful feminine form and boldly went amid the demons. The Lord's enchanting feminine incarnation, Mohini-murti, bewildered the minds of the demons, and thus all the Daityas and Danavas became so attached to Her that without hestiation they presented Her the nectar.
Suta Goswami said:
-[Then, realizing they had been tricked,] the allied Daityas and Danavas grabbed their finest shields and different kinds of weapons and rushed the demigods. But the almighty Godhead, Vishnu, having removed the nectar from the best of the Danavas, successfully held it with the help of Nara (the Lord's eternal friend and devotee), and the hosts of demigods, having obtained the immortal nectar from the hands of the Lord, drank it in the midst of a bewildering uproar.
Yet as the demigods drank the nectar they had longed for, the Danava Rahu, disguised as a demigod, also began gulping it down. When the nectar reached the Danava's throat, the Sun and Moon, anxious to save the demigods, sounded the alarm. Even as Rahu imbibed the nectar, therefore, the blessed Lord, who wields the disc weapon, forcefully sliced off his decorated head with that whirling disc. The great head of the Danava, severed by the disc, fell to the ground like a granite mountain peak, shaking the earth's surface. Since that time, there has existed a persistent enmity between Rahu's head, which subsequently became a planet in the sky, and the Sun and Moon. Thus even to the present day, during lunar and solar eclipses, the planet Rahu is attempting to swallow his two longstanding rivals.
Lord Hari Himself then relinquished His unique feminine form and in His original spiritual body caused the Danavas to shake and tremble with His many awesome weapons. Near the ocean's shore a great battle, more frightening than any other, then ensued between the gods and the demons. Broad-bladed missles and razor-barbed darts fell in cascades by the thousands and found their marks. So also did razor-tipped javelins, swords, knives, and variegated tools of destruction. Slashed by the Lord's disc and wounded by swords, spears, and clubs, the Asuras fell to the ground, vomiting blood profusely. In that ferocious fight, trident--severed heads fell continuously on the battlefield like streams of molten gold. The stalwart demons, their limbs smeared with blood, lay crushed on the battlefield like mountain peaks oozing the dyes and pigments of minerals. Cries of distress arose everywhere as the foes cut each other to pieces with slashing weapons beneath a reddened sun. As they slayed one another on the battlefield with bronze and iron bludgeons, and at close quarters with fists, the uproar ascended to the heavens.
"Cut them! Pierce him! Rush them! Bring them down! Charge now!" were the terrifying sounds heard all around. Just as the battle reached its deadliest and most tumultuous intensity, Lords Nara and Narayana charged into the fray.
Lord Vishnu, Narayana, seeing his blessed devotee Nara wield his celestial bow, at once invoked His own disc, which devastates the demons. No sooner did He remember His weapon, than there came from the sky a second sun, the great light of the disc, the razor-rimmed Sudarsana, tormenting the foe, awesome, invincible, and supreme. It entered the Lord's infallible hand, the flaming disc of terrifying effulgence, and with His arms, like the trunks of elephants, the Lord released it. It hovered eerily in the air, shining greatly, then suddenly rushed with heart-stopping speed into the thickest ranks of the enemy and shattered them to oblivion.
Sudarsana Cakra shone like death's own special blaze. Again and again it fiercely fell upon the foe and ripped to shreds by the thousands the demonic offspring of Diti and Danu. For in this battle it sprang from the hand of the Supreme Personality Himself.
All around it burned and licked like fire and forcibly cut down the demonic legions. Hurtling through sky and earth like a luminous spectre, the Cakra drank the blood of battle.
Still the demons would not relent, and with their awesome strength they took to the skies, wherein they shone like white clouds, and punished the gods by hurling mountains upon them. Like masses of clouds great forested mountains came hurtling down from the sky, breeding panic and terror as they collided tumultuously, spraying their severed peaks and ridges.
With huge mountains crashing down all over her surface, the earth with all her forests shook and trembled as both sides stormed each other unceasingly on the raging field of battle.
Then with mighty arrows tipped in the finest gold, Nara began to shatter the plummeting mountain peaks, darkening the skies with his deadly feathered shafts. A great fear spread among the demonic armies. And hearing the furious Sudarsana disc storming the sky, the battered leaders of the Asuras entered within the earth or dived deeply into the salty sea. The demigods, having won the coveted nectar and defeated their enemies, returned Mount Mandara with all honor to its own land. And the water-bearing clouds, thundering pleasantly in sky and space and all around, sailed away as they had come.
The demigods then carefully hid the nectar and celebrated their victory with the greatest of joy. Thereafter, Lord Indra and the other demigods entrusted the nectar to Lord Vishnu, for it was won by His strength and He alone could protect it.
AP 18 (19,20,21,22)
Suta Gosvami said:
I have now fully explained to you how by churning, nectar was derived and an illustrious horse of unequaled prowess took birth. Observing the horse, Kadru said to Vinata, "My dear sister, tell me at once--- what color is the horse Uccaih-srava?"
Why, the king of horses is certainly white! What do you think, my fair sister? Say what color you think he is, and we shall set a wager upon it.
I think that horse has a black tail, my sweetly smiling sister. Let's bet on it, O passionate woman, and then we shall see for ourselves. And the loser will become the menial servant of the winner.
Suta Goswami said:
Thus agreeing on the terms of the wager--- that the loser would be the servant of the winner--- they returned to their home remarking, "Tomorrow we shall go and see!"
However Kadru, thinking to engage her thousand sons in a corrupt scheme, issued this order to them: "Take the form of horsehairs, as shiny black as pigment, and quickly enter the horse's tail, so that I will not be forced to become a maidservant." But her sons, the race of snakes, did not obey her command, and therefore she cursed them: "When the wise and saintly King Janamejaya, born in the Pandu line, performs a snake sacrifice, the fire of that sacrifice will burn you all!"
So cruel was the curse uttered by Kadru, beyond even what fate had ordained, that Brahma himself took note of it. But the great grandsire and the hosts of demigods as well, desiring the best for all creatures, allowed her word to stand, for they observed how numerous indeed were the snakes. With their penetrating and virulent poison, the serpents were always inclined to bite others and possessed great strength. Seeing that snakes were so highly poisonous, and simultaneously wishing to help all creatures, Lord Brahma then bestowed upon the great soul Kasyapa the knowledge of counteracting snake poison.
Suta Goswami said:
When night had turned to dawn and the rising sun had ushered in the new day, the two sisters Kadru and Vinata, having wagered their personal freedom, went in a very nervous and irritable mood to see the horse Uccaihsrava, who was standing not far away. As they came toward him, they beheld the vast sea teeming with sharks and timingilas (enormous acquatics that swallow whales), and thick with many thousands of beings of every form and shape. Crowded with giant turtles and fierce crocodiles, the sea is a dangerous place, yet it is a reservoir of jewels and a charming abode for the demigod Varuna and the Nagas. It is the master of the rivers, the dwelling place of the underground fire, and a prison for the demons. Frightening to all creatures is the foaming sea, the treasurehouse of the waters.
Celestial, glistening, the source of nectar for the gods, those sacred and wondrous waters of the sea are immeasureable and inconceivable. And yet the sea can be ghastly with its deep and swirling currents, which seem to shriek with the awesome, fierce cries of those who move within its waves. Thus the sea holds all beings in awe.
Whipped by the winds that assault its shore, the sea is aroused and shakes. As its handlike waves toss and turn, the sea appears everywhere to be dancing. Controlled by the waxing and waning moon, the sea waves rise up and cannot be approached. The greatest source of jewels, the sea gave birth to the Lord's own conch, Pancajanya.
When the Supreme Personality, Govinda, He of immeasurable prowess, assumed the form of a great boar and lifted the lost earth from within the sea, He left its waters shaking and turbid. Yet even after a hunred years of austerity the illumined sage Atri could not approach the lowest and final depths of the inexhaustible sea.
At the beginning of the millennium, when Lord Vishnu of immeasurable prowess enters His transcendental mystic slumber, He lies down on the sea. That sacred ocean, the lord of the rivers, stretches immeasureably to uncharted shores and offers oblations of water to the fire that flames from the mouth of the Ocean-mare.
Kadru and Vinata gazed at the great foaming sea, to which thousands of great rivers came constantly flowing in a flood of rivaling currents. It was deep and crowded with sharks and whale-swallowing timingilas, roaring with the terrible cries of its water-going denizens. That vast reflector of the sky was unending, a boundless and awesome storehouse of all the world's waters. Having thus seen the ocean crowded with fish, sharks, and waves, deep and wide as the sky and glowing with the flames of its submarine fires, the sisters, Kadru and Vinata then quickly flew across it.
Suta Goswami continued:
Moving swiftly, Kadru crossed over the sea with her sister Vinata and quickly alighted near the celestial horse. Seeing the many black hairs in the horse's tail, Kadru at once placed Vinata, whose face was downcast with grief, in a state of menial servitude. Poor Vinata was tormented by misery, for having lost the wager she was now bound to the life of a lowly servant.
Meanwhile, Vinata's second son, Garuda, whose time had come, broke his shell without his mother's help, and thus the mighty one took birth. Shining forth like a blazing mass of fire, that terrifying bird suddenly grew to an enormous size and took to the sky. Upon seeing him, demigods and all the creatures took shelter of the god of fire, who (in the person of Garuda) sat before them in his cosmic form. Prostrating themselves, they said, "Dear Fire, do not grow so fierce! Would you burn us all to ashes? Your great, blazing mass is coming close!"
My dear demigods, subduers of the demons, it is not as you think. What you are seeing is the powerful Garuda, who is equal to me in fiery strength.
Suta Goswami said:
Thus addressed by Fire, the demigods and sages went up to Garuda and praised him with eloquent words.
"You are an exalted sage, the lord of birds! As powerful and fiery as the sun, you are our greatest means of deliverance.
"You possess waves of power, yet you are fair and just and never mean or weak. Because your strength is irresistible, you are always successful. The world has heard all about your fiery power, for your past and future glory is not at all meager.
"How extraordinary you are, illuminating all the world and its creatures by your effulgent rays as if you were the sun. Indeed, you surpass the radiant sun. You are as strong as death, surpassing all that is fixed and fleeting in this world. As the sun when angered can scorch all creatures, so can you burn all beings, like the sacred fire consuming the offering of butter. Your ascent is fearful, like the fire of annihilation, and you can stop the cycle of cosmic ages.
"O lord of birds, we have come for shelter to you, who are so greatly powerful and can dispel darkness, who touch the clouds with his great strength. We come before you, O courageous, sky-going Garuda, who soar both near and far, who are magnanimous and unconquerable."
Thus praised by the demigods and hosts of sages, the fair-winged Garuda withdrew his frightening potency within himself.
Suta Goswami continued:
Then Garuda, the bird of great stamina and strength, who traveled wherever he desired, crossed to the far side of the great ocean and approached his mother. Having lost her wager and become a menial servant, Vinata was tormented with grief.
Then once upon a time, Kadru called for Vinata, who was bowed in servitude, and said to her in the presence of her son, "My dear sister, the Nagas live on a most gorgeous and secluded island called Ramaniyaka, which lies on an ocean bay. O Vinata, take me there!"
Vinata then carried her sister Kadru, who was mother of the snakes; and Garuda, at his mother's request, carried all the snakes. The flying son of Vinata began to fly up towards the fiery sun, and the serpents, overwhelmed by the sun's burning rays, all fainted. Seeing her children in a dangerous condition, Kadru at once prayed to Lord Indra, "My obeisances to you, O lord of the demigods! My obeisances to you, O destroyer of armies! I bow to you, the slayer of Namuci, O thousand-eyed one, husband of Saci. Let your waters swell and carry to safety the serpents who are now tormented by the fiery sun. You alone can save us from all danger, O best of the immortals!
"You devastate the cities of your foes, and you possess the power to release abundant waters. You alone are the cloud, the wind, and the flash of lightning in the sky. You toss and scatter the hosts of clouds, for the clouds are resting on you.
"You are the awesome thunderbolt, which you wield as your matchless weapon. You are the roaring rain cloud, the creator and destroyer of planets, he whom no one else can conquer. You are the light of all creatures, for you control the sun and fire. You are the great and wonderful being! You are the king and the best of immortals! You represent Lord Vishnu in this world, you of a thousand eyes, and you are the god unto whom I take shelter.
"O divine one, you are everything to us, the owner of nectar and lord of the moon, he who is adored and worshiped by the mightiest. Thus you are the lunar day, the hour, the bright and dark fortnight of the lunar month, the instant, and the twinkling of an eye. You are the very smallest measurements of time, as well as the years, seasons, months, days and nights.
"You are the excellent and abundant earth with its forests and hills. You are the sun-filled sky, dispelling darkness, and you are the great sea, that host of fish, with its huge waves, its sharks, and its whales and timingalas, who are swallowers of whales.
"Great is your fame! Honored by the wise and praised by illustrious sages, you joyfully drink the sacrificial Soma and the oblations duly offered you for the world's benefit. For their good the learned brahmanas ever worship you, for with your matchless flood of might you are recommended in the Vedic hymns. Because of you the twice-born men, sworn to holy sacrifice, study all the Vedas and their supplements."
Suta Goswami said:
Thus praised by Kadru, Lord Indra, who is carried by bay horses, then covered the entire sky with masses of blue clouds ablaze with lightning; and they poured down huge quantities of water and thundered constantly in the sky as if roaring at one another. Rain fell as never before, and the sky filled up with the most extraordinary clouds which roared with the greatest of sounds. Space itself seemed to be dancing in the frightening waves of water and wind, as the heavens thundered with the sound of the clouds.
As Indra poured down rain, the snakes became jubilant, for the very earth was being filled on all sides with water.
AP 23 (24)
Suta Goswami said:
Carried by Garuda, the serpents quickly reached a land surrounded by ocean water and vibrant with the songs of birds. Lush with variegated forests of fruit-and flower-bearing trees, that land was well developed with charming houses and colorfully adorned with lotus-filled lakes of the most refreshing water. Celestial scents wafted about the land, carried on bracing breezes of the cleanest air. Stirred by the wind, fragrant sandalwood trees painted the sky with showers of blossoms, and as the sweet flowers were strewn about in the air they fell like rain upon all the snakes who had amassed there.
That sacred island was dear to the Gandharvas, who entertain the gods with their music and songs, and also to the Apsaras, who are courtesans to the gods. Alive with the songs of many birds, the charming land gladdened the heart and gave great joy to the sons of Kadru.
Entering the lovely woods, the serpents sported with great pleasure and then said to the mighty Garuda, the best of birds, "Soaring here and there, sky-goer, you see many charming places. Therefore take us to yet another island that is most charming and full of fresh water."
Garuda thought over the matter and then said to his mother, Vinata, "For what reason, mother, must I do what the serpents order me?"
Vinata replied, "O best of birds, I made a wager with my sister, but her serpent sons cheated me with their trickery and I became the maidservant to that uncivilized woman."
Suta Goswami said:
After his mother explained the reason for their joint servitude, Garuda, saddened by her unhappiness, spoke these words to the serpents: "What must I obtain or learn, what feat must I perform, to free myself from my bondage to you? All of you, speak the truth, serpents!"
Hearing these words the serpents said, "Bring nectar by your own strength, O sky-goer, and you shall then be free of our service."
Suta Goswami said:
Thus addressed by the serpents, Garuda said to his mother, "I am going to garner nectar, and thus I want to know what foods are proper for me to eat."
On a secluded ocean shore is the chief residence of the Nisadas, who are wild and degraded tribes that live by harassing and plundering innocent people. There you will find many thousands of them. You may eat them for your food and then bring back the nectar. But you are never to harm a brahmana! Don't ever, in any circumstance, even consider such an act! A brahmana is never to be killed by any creature, for brahmanas are as pure as fire and just as deadly. Indeed, a brahmana when angered is like the sun or poison or a deadly weapon. When food is served, a brahmana eats before all other creatures. He is the most important member of society, for he is the father and spiritual guide to the people.
Garuda questioned further:
Please tell me, mother, that I may understand clearly, by what auspicious signs do I recognize a brahmana?
If you swallow someone and he tears at your throat like a barbed hook and burns like a red--hot charcoal, then, my son, you should understand him to be an exalted brahmana.
Suta Goswami said:
Although she knew of her son's matchless strength, Vinata, out of affection, blessed him with these words: "Let the wind guard your wings! Let the moon guard your back, dear son! Let fire guard your head! Let the sun guard you all around! My child, I am ever devoted to your peace and well-being. Travel a safe path, dear son, so that you may be successful in your endeavor!"
Upon hearing his mother's words, the powerful Garuda lifted his wings and flew up into the sky. He headed hungrily for the wicked Nisadas, coming upon them like the great force of time, which ends all worldly things. Gathering together all the Nisadas, Garuda stirred great clouds of dust up into the sky and dried up the water in the ocean bay, shaking the nearby hills. The king of birds greatly expanded his face and blocked all escape by the Nisadas, those voracious fish-eaters, who quickly fled the mouth of that great snake-eating bird. But so wide was his mouth that the Nisadas, confused by the dust and wind, rushed into it by the thousands, like birds in a gale-shaken forest flying desperately into the sky. The mighty and ever--moving bird, the tormentor of his foes and ruler of the sky, then hungrily closed his mouth and destroyed the Nisadas.
Suta Goswami continued:
A brahmana and his wife had also entered Garuda's mouth and the saintly one began to burn Garuda's throat like a flaming coal. So space-traveling Garuda said to the brahmana, "O best of brahmanas, please come out quickly! I am opening my mouth for you. I can never kill a brahmana, even if he has fallen from his vows and is engaged in sin."
As Garuda urged him in this way, the brahmana replied, "My wife is a Nisada woman, but she must be allowed to come out with me."
Take your Nisada lady with you and come out as fast as you can! Quickly, save yourself lest the fire of my belly digest you!
Suta Goswami said:
The learned brahmana and his Nisada wife promptly came out, and after gratefully blessing Garuda with ever-increasing fortune, he departed for his chosen land. When the brahmana and his wife were out of his mouth, that lord of birds streched his wings and flew into the sky at the speed of mind.
Garuda next encountered his father, who asked him if he was faring well, whereupon he explained to his father the following:
"The serpents have sent me to fetch nectar and I am determined to do it in order to free my mother from her bondage. Indeed, I shall fetch the nectar this very day. Mother instructed me to eat the Nisadas, but after eating thousands of them I still am not satisfied. Therefore, my lord, please point out another type of food I may eat, so that I shall have sufficient strength to bring the nectar."
There once lived an exalted sage named Vibhavasu, who was extremely ill-tempered, and his younger brother Supratika, who was a great ascetic. Supratika did not like that the two brothers held their wealth in common, and he constantly recommended dividing it, until Vibhavasu said to his brother Supratika, "There are many who out of foolishness ever wish to divide their property, but once wealth is divided people become enchanted by their riches and fail to respect one another. When wealth is divided, each man cares only for his own riches, and people thus become separated by holding separate wealth. Then foes in the guise of friends, understanding the situation, begin to create conflict and divide the community against itself.
"Realizing that people are now divided, still others take advantage and prey upon the community. Thus a divided people soon come to utter ruination.
"Therefore, dear brother, the wise do not encourage the division of wealth among those who strictly follow their holy teachers and scriptures and who sincerely wish each other well. Yet still you would have personal wealth, even at the cost of dividing our family! You are so stubborn, Supratika, that you cannot be restrained. I therefore curse you to become an elephant."
Thus cursed, Supratika said to his brother Vibhavasu, "And you shall become a sea-going tortoise!"
Thus the two brothers Supratika and Vibhavasu, their minds bewildered by greed, cursed one another and were forced to become an elephant and tortoise. Their wicked anger caused them to take birth as animals, and proud of their new size and strength they continued their mutual enmity. Here in this very lake, in fact, those two huge--bodied foes go on continuously with their old feud. One of them is that large and handsome elephant now coming towards us. As soon as he gives his mighty roar, the gigantic tortoise lying within the water rises up and causes the entire lake to tremble. Seeing him thus, the powerful elephant curls his trunk, and with all the combined force and fury of his tusks, trunk, tail, and feet he falls upon the tortoise. As the elephant thrashes about in the lake, which is filled with many fish, the mighty tortoise raises his head and charges to do battle with the elephant.
The elephant is about fourty-eight miles high and twice as long, and the tortoise is about twenty-four miles high and eighty miles in circumference. These two have gone completely mad from their constant fighting, each struggling to conquer the other. You should immediately consume them both and free them from this useless plight, and then carry out your own mission.
Suta Goswami said:
Thus hearing his father's words, that space-roaming bird of terrifying strength clamped down on the elephant with one claw and the tortoise with the other, and holding them fast rose up high into the sky. Flying to the sacred land of Alamba, he started to alight on its celestial trees, but the strong winds from his wings made those very trees tremble, and in fear they cried out to him, "Please don't break us!"
Seeing the branches shake on those trees, whose roots and shoots could fulfill all desires, Garuda the sky-goer then approached some gigantic trees of most handsome colors and shapes, trees with jeweled branches that bore gold and silver fruits. Among those shining trees that stood surrounded by the waters of the sea, one very grand and elderly banyan tree said to Garuda, the best of birds, who flew towards him at the speed of the mind, "See here my great branch that stretches for eight hunred miles. You should sit on that branch and then eat the elephant and the tortoise."
But as the powerful leader of birds alighted upon the tree, which hosted thousands of birds on its mountainous form, even that great tree began to tremble, and its mighty branch, covered with so many leaves, broke under Garuda's extraordinary weight.
Suta Goswami said:
As soon as Garuda touched that very strong branch of the tree with his two feet, it snapped, but Garuda held on to it, and as he smilingly looked upon that huge broken branch he observed the celestial Valakhilyas hanging from it face-down. Fearful of harming them, that ruler of birds then swooped down and grabbed the branch in his mouth. Anxious to set them down safely, Garuda flew about the skies as gently as possible, but whenever he tried to land in that mountainous region he would break the mountains to pieces. Thus out of compassion for the Valakhilyas, Garuda flew to many lands, still holding the elephant and the tortoise, but he found no place to alight.
Garuda finally approached the best of mountains, the unperishing peak known as Gandha-madana. There he saw his father, Kasyapa, engaged in austerities. Kasyapa saw his sky-going son, who shone with divine beauty; who was filled with fiery and heroic strength, moving as swiftly as the mind and with the power of the wind; who appeared like a great mountain peak, rearing his head like the staff of Brahma; who was inconceivable, unapproachable, and frightening to all creatures; who wielded mystic potency in his person, as relentless as blazing fire; who could not be threatened or conquered by the gods or demons; who was a cleaver of mountain peaks; who could dry up the rivers and make the worlds tremble by his glance, which was as frightening as the face of death.
Witnessing the arrival of his son, and understanding his intentions, the exalted Kasyapa spoke these words: "Son, don't do anything rash, lest you suddenly find yourself in trouble. Don't enrage the Valakhilyas, who live by absorbing light, lest they burn you."
Kasyapa, for his son's sake, appeased the Valakhilyas, who achieved perfection through austerity, pointing out to them the cause of his son's behavior.
"O ascetics, whose wealth is austerity, Garuda's actions are ultimately meant for the good of all creatures. So won't you please allow him to carry out his mission?"
At these words of glorious Kasyapa, the sages gave up the branch and departed together for the pure Himalayan range in search of austerities. When they had gone, the son of Vinata, his full mouth stretched by the branch, said to his father, Kasyapa, "My lord, where can I leave this branch? Tell me, my lord, of a land where there are no brahmanas."
Thereupon, Kasyapa told his son of an uninhabitated mountain, whose valleys and caves are completely blocked off by snow, where other livings beings cannot go, even in their minds. Garuda first entered that great mountainous region with his mind and then speedily flew there with the branch, elephant, and tortoise. Even a long, thin strap cut from a hunred hides could not bind round the mighty branch Garuda carried as he flew.
In a short time, Garuda, the best of those who fly, had come a distance of 800,000 miles. As if in a single moment, he had reached the mountain described by his father, and from the sky he released the great branch and it fell with a loud sound.
Struck by the winds from Garuda's wings, that king of mountains shook; its trees came tumbling down, releasing showers of flowers. Lofty mountain peaks, rich with jewels, gold, and minerals, crumbled in all directions, making the great mountain sparkle. Many trees whose branches were bedecked with golden flowers were struck by the falling branch and shook and flashed like rainclouds flashing with lightning. Resplendent as gold, brilliantly mixed with the minerals of the mountain, those trees shone forth as if stained with the reddish rays of the rising sun.
Then standing on that mountain peak, the best of sky-goers, Garuda, ate both the elephant and the tortoise, and flew up from the very top of the mountain at the speed of the mind. At that moment, ill omens appeared, signaling danger for the demigods. Indra's cherished thunderbolt weapon was disturbed and flashed with pain. Meteors, smoking and flaming, plummeted from the skies in broad daylight. All the personal weapons of the Vasus, Rudras, Adityas, Sadhyas, Maruts, and all other gods began to attack one another. This had never happened before, even in the great wars between the gods and the demons. Cyclonic winds whipped the world, and meteors fell everywhere.
The cloudless sky roared menacingly, and Indra, god of gods, could only rain down blood. The garlands of the gods withered, and their fiery power was extinguished. Ill-boding angry clouds thickly showered blood, and swirling dust damaged the upraised crowns of the heavenly rulers.
Even Lord Indra, who performed a hunred great sacrifices, was disturbed and frightened upon seeing these dangerous omens, and along with the other gods he went and spoke to the heavenly priest, Brhaspati.
"My lord," he said, "why have these great and ghastly omens suddenly arisen. I do not see an emeny who could overcome us in battle."
O best of the gods, it is by your fault and carelessness--you who performed one hunred sacrifices---and by the austerities of the Valakhilyas, that a wonderful being has taken birth. He is the son of Kasyapa Muni and Vinata, a mighty sky-going creature who can take any shape at will, and who has now come to take away the heavenly Soma juice. That winged being is the best of the strong, and he is capable of stealing the Soma juice. Indeed, I think anything is possible for him. He can accomplish the impossible.
Suta Goswami said:
Hearing these words, Lord Indra then declared to the guardians of the celestial nectar, "A bold and powerful bird is trying to steal the Soma! I'm clearly warning you so that he doesn't take it by force. Brhaspati has told me that our foe possesses incomparable strength."
Hearing this command, the demigods were amazed, and in a determined effort they stood at their posts, surrounding the prized nectar. Indra himself stood with them, wielding his thunderbolt. Wearing invaluable golden armor variously embellished with jewels, the skillful gods raised up by the thousands their finely-honed razor-edged weapons. They siezed all of their glaring, flaming weapons which sizzled and smoked with power. They raised whirling discs, and bludgeons, tridents, battle axes, and all manner of burning spears, and flawless swords, along with fighting clubs of awesome look. Every weapon was handsomely fitted to its owner's body.
Holding all these glowing weapons, the shining hosts of gods, adorned with celestial jewels, stood fearlessly with pure, brave hearts. Fixed in their resolve to guard the nectar, unique in their strength, courage, and power, those celestial beings, who had shattered the cities of the godless, stood with bodies shining like kindled fire.
Thus the demigods made their stand on that grand battlefield that spread beyond the horizon, crowding it with their hundreds and thousands of devastating clubs, so that it shone brightly in the pleasant rays of the sun.
O son of Romaharsana, what was Indra's fault, and how was he so careless that by the austerities of the Valakhilyas, Garuda, king of birds, took birth as the son of sage Kasyapa? How did Garuda become so invincible that no living being can slay him? How does that great airborne creature take any shape he wills? How does his power grow at his mere wish? If the answers to these questions are to be found in the ancient Puranic histories, I would like to hear them.
Suta Goswami said:
The topic on which you question me is indeed found in the Puranas. Please attend, O brahmana, as I summarize the entire story.
Once the progenitor Kasyapaup6 \chftn rootnote rs20 rs18up6 \chftn Kasyapa is the father of Indra and other demigods., desiring a son, was engaged in offering a sacrifice, and the sages, demigods, and Gandharvas were assisting him. Kasyapa employed Lord Indra in bringing wood for the sacred fire, and the sages known as the Valakhilyas were also engaged, as were other demigods.
The powerful Indra lifted a load befitting his might and thus without difficulty brought what appeared to be a mountain of firewood. He then saw on the road a group of sages, each of whom was as small as the curved joint at the base of a thumb. Together they were carrying one small leaf and stem, but because of having fasted, the tiny ascetics had almost sunk into their own limbs, and thus weakened, they struggled in the water that filled a cow's hoofprint.
Intoxicated with his own power and filled with pride, the mighty Indra laughed at them and then insulted them by quickly stepping over their heads. A terrible anger arose within the sages, and at once they gave full expression to their fury, undertaking a mighty effort that would bring fear to proud Indra. The accomplished ascetics chanted with precision a variety of mantras, offering them into the sacrificial fire. Hear from me what those learned ones wished to achieve:
"Let there be another Indra," vowed the sages with determination, "a new ruler for all the gods, endowed with all the strength he desires, one who can go where he wishes, bringing fear to the celestial king. Swift as the mind, bearing one hunred times the valor and strength of Indra, may that dreaded being arise today by the fruit of our austerity!"
When he learned of this solemn oath, the king of the gods, performer of a hunred sacrifices, was much disturbed and went at once to Kasyapa, of rigid vows. After hearing from the celestial king, the progenitor Kasyapa approached the Valakhilyas forthwith and asked them if their sacrifice was succeeding.
The honest Valakhilyas replied to him, "Succeed it must!"
The progenitor Kasyapa, hoping to pacify them, said, "It is by the order of Brahma that this current Indra occupies his post. Yet all of you ascetics are endeavoring to create another Indra. O pious ones, you should not render false the word of Brahma; yet, your own determined plan should likewise not prove false. Let there thus arise among the race of birds a great being of exceeding strength and glory, an Indra of the winged creatures, and let there be mercy toward the king of the gods, who begs for it."
Thus requested by Kasyapa, the Valakhilyas, rich with austerities, honored that best of sages, and said to him: "O progenitor, our endeavor to produce another Indra was also meant to bring you a son. Therefore, please take command of this powerful sacrifice and do as you think proper."
At that very time, Daksa's lovely daughter Vinata, of high reputation and kindly nature, longed to have a son and she performed austerities with great devotion and observed the fast called Pumsavana (in which a wife who seeks progeny takes a vow to subsist temporarily on whole milk alone). She then cleansed her body and in a purified state approached her husband.
Kasyapa told her, "O goddess, you shall achieve your desire, for you will be the mother of two heroic sons who will rule the three worlds. It is by the austerities of the Valakhilyas as well as my own desire that you will have two exalted sons who will be honored by all people."
The great Kasyapa, son of Marici, then spoke to her again: "Bear these twin embryos with great care, for they are meant for glory. One of your sons shall make himself chief (Indra) of all winged creatures. As he soars through the heavens, growing in power by his very will, your heroic son will be revered by all the world."
The progenitor Kasyapa then said to Lord Indra, "These two birds shall assist you as your brothers. No wrong will come to you by contact with them. O destroyer of hostile cities, let your worries be dispelled; you alone shall be Indra. But never again can you thus insult sages learned in the Absolute, or deride them out of pride, for when they are angered their wrath is fierce and their words burn like poison."
Hearing these words, Indra was relieved of his anxiety and returned to his celestial home, and Vinata, her wish fulfilled, became joyous and gave birth to two sons, Aruna and Garuda. Of the two, Aruna was crippled and became the dawn that heralds the sun. Garuda, however, was annointed as the chief ruler, the Indra himself, of all winged creatures. O child of the Bhrgu race, hear now of his most extraordinary deeds.
Thereafter, O best of the twice-born, in the midst of all this excitement, the king of birds, Garuda, came swiftly upon the demigods. As the demigods spied his approach and noted his surpassing strength, they became utterly shaken and began to clasp one another and take hold of all their weapons. Among them stood Visvakarma, mighty beyond imagining and as brilliant as lightning or fire, who with his most unusual strength protected the heavenly nectar. He fought a matchless battle against that lord of birds, but after fighting for a short time he was laid low, wounded by the wings, beak, and talons of Garuda.
By the winds from his wings the great bird stirred up huge dust clouds that darkened the worlds and covered the gods. Covered with dust, blinded and bewildered, the demigods could not see the attacking bird, and in that tumult, the guardians of the nectar were separated from one another. Thus did Garuda throw the very heavens into disorder, and he tore at the gods with his wings, beak, and talons.
Then Lord Indra, with his thousands of eyes, quickly commanded the Wind, "Dispel this shower of dust, O Maruta! Be that your task!"
The mighty wind at once drove away the dust, and the darkness now removed, the gods pressed in hard upon Garuda. Yet even as the legions of gods were attacking the great bird, he let loose a powerful roar, like the thundering of clouds, and struck fear into the hearts of all creatures. The king of birds, slayer of great foes, flew high into the sky and hovered above the gods, bristling with powerful might. Clad in armor, the celestial denizens proceded to shower every variety of weapon upon him, attacking Garuda on all sides with spears, iron bludgeons, tridents, clubs, and flaming, razor-sharp discs that sped like the sun. But the king of birds was not to be shaken, and he fought back with wild vengeance. The fierce and fiery son of Vinata roared in the sky and hurled the gods all around with the power of his wings and breast.
Harassed and thrown here and there by Garuda, the gods took to flight, wounded by his nails and beak, spilling their blood profusely. Thus routed by the Indra of birds, the Sadhyas and Gandharvas fled to the East, and the Vasus and Rudras to the South. The Adityas ran to the West and the Asvinis to the North, and as they all ran they repeatedly gazed back upon the great and powerful being with whom they were locked in battle.
The sky-ranging Garuda then did full battle with the brave Asva-kranda, with the winged Renuka, with the heroic Sura, then with Tapana, Uluka, and Svasana, with the winged Nimesa; and then with Praruja and Praliha. Vainateyaup6 \chftn rootnote rs20 up6 \chftn Garuda, the son of Vinata ripped apart his foes with his wings, talons, and pointed beak, raging like the mighty Siva at the moment when the millenium comes to an end and everything is annihilated. Great in potency and in spirit, the celestial guards were nonetheless severely wounded by their mighty foe and poured out their blood like bursting clouds.
The best of all who fly, having brought these great warriors to the ends of their lives, stepped over them to pursue the nectar, but he then saw fire all around, with a fearful wind whipping the sharp, cutting blaze. The great fire covered the skies and appeared to burn the very heavens with its flames.
The great soul Garuda instantly made for himself ninety times ninety mouths and with these mouths very swiftly drank up many rivers and then speedily moved upon the fire. Propelled by powerful wings, this tormentor of foes extinguished the blazing conflagration with the river waters and then reduced his body to an extremely small size. For with the fire now extinguished, Garuda wished to enter the storehouse of the celestial nectar.
Suta Goswami said:
As river waters push their way into the sea, so Garuda, whose golden body glowed with the radiance of the sun and moon, forcibly entered the well-guarded sanctuary where the nectar was housed. Therein he beheld an ever-whirling iron wheel, rimmed all around with razor-sharp blades. Fiery as the sun, and unspeakably dangerous, the horrible device had been well built by the gods to slice to pieces any who would steal the nectar.
But the great bird saw a way through the wheel, and shrinking his body he spun in time with the deadly wheel and suddenly dashed through its spokes. Yet behind the wheel lurked two extraordinary serpents of exceeding strength, shining like a blazing fire, with fiery faces, fiery eyes, and tongues like bolts of lightning. Indeed, they could spew mortal poison with their very eyes. Always staring furiously with ranging, unblinking eyes, they were so deadly that if even one of them merely beheld an intruder, the luckless person would be instantly burned to ashes.
Garuda gazed upon the two guardians of nectar and before they could see him, covered their eyes with dust. Unseen, he rushed hard upon the snakes, driving and battering them from all sides. The son of Vinata trampled them under his talons and immediately tore them to pieces then rushed in where the nectar lay. The mighty and heroic son of Vinata carefully lifted the nectar and then, wrecking the razor-edged wheel, he took to the sky in great haste. Without drinking a drop of nectar, the heroic bird carried it quickly away and flew untiringly through the heavens, withholding the sunlight with his great wings.
As he cruised through the skies, Garuda suddenly came upon the imperishable Lord Vishnu, who was pleased with him for his unique accomplishment and selfless act. [Garuda did not desire the nectar for hmself.] The Lord thus said to the great bird, "I shall give you whatever you desire"
The high-flying bird chose his benediction and said, "May I ever remain above you."
[Garuda did not fully understand the identity of Lord Vishnu, and therefore he asked to stay above the Lord, though he did appreciate the Lord's immense power,] and thus he again spoke to Lord Narayana these words: "May I be ageless and immortal even without taking the nectar."
These boons were granted, and after accepting them Garuda addressed Lord Vishnu: "I now offer a benediction to You. Even though you are the Lord, please select a boon."
Lord Krishna selected the mighty Garuda himself as His personal carrier. The Lord then placed the image of Garuda upon His chariot flag, so that Garuda could indeed remain above Him. The Lord thus fulfilled His promise.
Garuda thereafter continued on his course, and Lord Indra, considering him an enemy of the gods for having forcibly stolen the celestial nectar, struck him with a devastating thunderbolt. Soundly struck by the thunderbolt of Indra, Garuda, the best of airborne beings, shouted out fiercely and then smiled and addressed Lord Indra in a gentle tone.
"O Indra, since your thunderbolt was produced from the bones of a great sageup6 \chftn rootnote rs20 rs18up6 \chftn \plain \plain r228 Refer to Shrimad Bhagavatam 6th canto. (sage Dadichi), I shall pay homage to that sage, to the thunderbolt, and to you. Thus I cast off a single feather, the limits of which you shall not be able to perceive. Nor can I ever feel pain from the blows of your thunderbolt."
And all creatures declared, "Let this bird be known as Suparna, he of beautiful feathers!" for they were amazed to behold the most handsome feather cast off by Garuda.
Beholding such a wonder, even the mighty Indra, who has thousands of eyes, thought to himself, "This bird is a magnificent being!" and said to Garuda, "I wish to comprehend the limits of your great and unparalleled strength, O best of birds, and I desire your eternal friendship."
Shri Garuda said:
My dear Lord Indra, let there be friendship between us as you desire. Regarding the extent of my power, know that my prowess is great and irresistible. Yet the saintly do not approve of the desire to glorify one's own strenth and to advertise one's own good qualities. I shall reply to your question only because I have accepted you as my friend; otherwise I would never speak my own praises without reason. I will simply say that all this world, with its mountains, forests, and seas, and including you, Indra--- everything could hang from but a single quill of one of my feathers. Or you may understand my great strength in this way: if all the worlds were joined together, along with their moving and unmoving beings, I could carry them all without feeling any fatigue.
Suta Goswami said:
O Saunaka, wearing his royal helmet, Indra, the lord of the gods, dedicated to the welfare of all creatures and himself the most opulent among of all beautiful and illustrious personalities, then addressed the heroic Garuda, who had thus spoken to him.
"May we always be the best of friends. Now, since you have no actual need of this nectar, it should be given to me, for those to whom you would deliver it would do us harm."
I brought the nectar for good reason, but I shall not give it to anyone to drink. O thousand-eyed one, when I put the nectar down, you should immediately come and steal it away."
I am satisfied by these words you have spoken, O Garuda. Please take from me whatever boon you desire."
Suta Goswami said:
Thus addressed, Garuda began to remember the sons of Kadru, and he recalled especially the trickery by which they had turned his innocent mother into a slave. And so he replied, "Although I am the lord of all, yet I shall beg from you this boon, that the mighty serpents become my food!"
"So be it!" said Indra, destroyer of the Danavas, and he thus began to follow Garuda, repeatedly telling him, "When you put down the nectar I shall take it."
Garuda, celebrated as Suparna, quickly reached the place where his mother awaited him and with great jubilation said to all the serpents, "I have brought this nectar, and I shall place it for you on a covering of Kusa- grass. O serpents, after you have bathed and performed all the auspicious rituals, you may then drink it.
"From today on my mother shall be free of servitude, for I have fulfilled the promise you asked of me."
"So be it!" replied the serpents to Garuda, and as they left to take their baths Lord Indra at once grabbed the nectar and returned with it to his celestial kingdom.
In the meantime, the serpents took their bath and chanted the necessary sacred hymns. Completing all the auspicious rites, they eagerly returned to that spot to claim the nectar. Realizing that the entire stock of nectar had been stolen by counter-deception, they at once licked the Darbha grass where the nectar had stood. By that act, the tongues of snakes were thenceforth forked, and by the touch of celestial nectar Darbha grass became pure and sacred.
The fair-winged Suparna experienced supreme happiness and celebrated with his mother in that sublime forest. Offered the highest worship by all creatures of the sky, authorized to feed on snakes, and enjoying most noble fame, Garuda brought joy back to the life of his mother, Vinata.
The glories of the great soul Garuda are so great that any person who regularly hears this story of the lord of the birds, recited in an assembly of spiritually educated people, undoubtedly attains to the heavenly abode, having earned the merit and fruit of true piety.
Shri Saunaka said:
O son of Romaharsana, you have explained why the serpents were cursed by their mother and why Vinata was cursed by her son. You also related how the sage Kasyapa gave a boon to his two wives, Kadru and Vinata, and you revealed the names of the two great birds who took birth as the sons of Vinata. But you have not given us the names of the serpents, O Suta, and we are eager to hear at least the names of the most important amoung them.
Shri Suta Goswami said:
O learned ascetic, I have not told you the names of all the serpents because they are so numerous. But listen now as I name the most important of them.
The first born is Sesa, and after him Vasuki, Airavata, and Taksaka. Then come Karkotaka and Dhananjaya. Then there are Kaliya, Mani-naga, and Apurana; Pinjaraka, Elapatra, and Vamana; Nila, Anila, Kalmasa, Sabala, Aryaka, Adika, and Sala-potaka; Sumano-mukha, Dadhi-mukha, and Vimala-pindaka; then Apta, Kotanaka, Sanka, Vali-sikha, Nisthyunaka, Hema-guha, Nahusa, and Pingala; Bahya-karna, Hasti-pada, Mudgara-pindaka, Kambala, and Asvatara; and then Kaliyaka, Vrtta, Samvartaka, and the two snakes known as Padma; Sankha-naka and Spandaka, Ksemaka, Pindaraka, Kara-vira, Puspa-damstra, Elaka, Bilva-panduka, Musakada, Sankha-siras, Purna-damstra; and Haridraka, Aparajita, Jyotika, and Shri-vaha; Kauravya and Dhrta-rastra; Puskara and Salyaka; Virajas, Subahu, and the powerful Sali-pinda; Hasti-bhadra, Pitharaka, Kumuda, Kumudaksa, Tittiri, and Halika; then Karkara and Akarkara; Mukhara, Kona-vasana, Kunjara, Kurara, Prabha-kara, and Kundodara and Mahodara.
O best of the twice-born, the most prominent snakes have now been described. The names of the other serpents will not be announced here because they are so numerous. Their children and the descendants of their children are innumerable, and for this reason I shall not recount them, O most excellent among the twice-born. Indeed, my dear ascetic, it is not possible to count the many thousands, the millions, indeed the tens of millions of serpents in this world.
Shri Saunaka said:
My dear Suta, from birth the serpents were powerful and difficult to subdue. Upon realizing the gravity of their mother's curse, what did they proceed to do?
Shri Suta Goswami said:
Among those serpents was the widely renowned Lord Sesa, an incarnation of Godhead, who immediately left His mother Kadru and took to very severe austerities. So strict were His disciplinary vows that He ate nothing but air.
Lord Sesa first went to the Gandha-madana mountain and there practiced austerities, journeying thence to the holy places known as Badari and Gokarna. Finally, on the slopes of the Himalayas, He came to the lotus forest known as Puskararanya. In all these holy regions and sanctuaries He devoted himself exclusively to the spiritual path, keeping His senses constantly under control.
Once as Lord Sesa was practicing his awesome austerities, with His flesh, skin, and muscle now emaciated, and covered with long, matted locks and torn clothing, the universal Grandfather, Lord Brahma, happened to spot Him. Even as He performed his penances, devoted to the highest truth, the Grandfather said to Him, "O Sesa, what is this You are doing? You should rather do something that will benefit all creatures. O sinless one, tell me, if you like, what is in your heart that is troubling you for so long, for by the fire of your fierce austerity, you are troubling the creatures of this world."
My lord, all My brothers, the serpents, are so dull-minded! Grant that I shall never again have to live with them, for I find them intolerable. They are forever envious of one another, as if enemies. Therefore I perform my austerities in seclusion, that I shall not have to see them.
O Grandfather, they can never accept Vinata and her son, even though Garuda is our own brother. They utterly despise Garuda, that great soul endowed with such mighty strength by the blessing of his father, Kasyapa. Naturally the powerful Garuda has no affection for them. Therefore, by dedicating Myself completely to austerity I shall be free of this body (from such bad association)--- but how shall I avoid contact with serpents in My future lives?
Lord Brahma said:
My dear Sesa, I know all about the conduct of Your brothers, and I also know their great fear because of their mother's offensive curse. Yet You need not grieve for Your brothers, for in the past a solution to this problem was arranged.
My dear Sesa, take a boon from me--- that which You desire most--- for I am so pleased with You that I wish to bestow upon You a benediction this very day. O best of the serpents, Your keen intelligence is blessed to be always absorbed in virtue, and therefore I further bless You that Your unwavering mind will be increasingly fixed on such virtue.
Lord Sesa said:
O Grandfather, this is the blessings I desire today, that My thoughts may ever take pleasure in goodness, tranquility, and austerity.
Lord Brahma said:
O Sesa, pleased by Your discipline and serenity, I now request You to carry out my command, which is meant for the welfare of all creatures. Sesa, You must bear this earth, with all its mountains, forests, seas, mineral reservoirs, and cities. Arise! Hold the world in place so that life be not disturbed!
Lord Sesa said:
As the boon-granting god, lord of creatures, master of the earth and universe has spoken, so shall I act. I shall indeed sustain the earth and keep it unwavering. O lord of all creatures, you may deliver the world upon My head.
Lord Brahma said:
O very best of serpents, Go now beneath the earth, for she herself will grant You passage. Sesa, by thus sustaining the world You will give me great happiness.
Shri Suta Goswami said:
And so in obedience to Brahma's command, the earth opened wide, giving passage to Lord Sesa, the first-born and greatest of all serpents. There He stands, holding the earth and all its circling seas upon His head.
Lord Brahma said:
O finest of serpents, O Lord of virtue, You alone are the celebrated Sesa. You alone, with your limitless coils, take the entire burden of this world, and thus sustain it, as do I myself or Indra, the slayer of Bala.
Shri Suta Goswami said:
The great snake Ananta Sesa thus resides beneath the earth, and by His unlimited might He alone sustains the world in obedience to the order of Brahma. Lord Brahma, the best of the demigods and grandfather of this universe, then granted Ananta friendship with Suparna, the son of Vinata.
Shri Suta Goswami said:
Hearing his mother pronounce a curse on each of her serpent sons, the exalted serpent Vasuki at once began to reflect, "How can this curse be avoided?" He discussed all aspects of the matter with those brothers, headed by Airavata, who were dedicated to virtue.
Shriman Vasuki said:
We are all quite aware of the curse that has now been directed against us, and by discussing it together we shall try to find a way to save ourselves from it. There is a process of counteracting every curse--- but, my fellow serpents, when a curse is uttered by one's own mother there may be no way to nullify it. The same holds true when a curse is pronounced (and allowed) in the presence of Lord Brahma, the untiring and immeasurable creator, who is dedicated to truth.
Therefore, my sinless brothers, when I heard our own mother curse us in the presence of the lord, my heart began to tremble. For even as she declared our utter ruin, the inexhaustible lord did not forbid or restrain her.
We are therefore gathered here in council for the very salvation of the serpent race. Let not the time run out! By our discussion, we must find a way to save ourselves, as did the gods in ancient times when Agni was lost, having concealed himself in a cave. We must find a way to stop the sacrifice of Janamejaya, which is meant to destroy the serpents. Either the sacrifice must not occur or, if it does, it must fail in its purpose.
Shri Suta Goswami said:
The sons of Kadru who had gathered there gave their assent, and being masters of political strategy they at once began to formulate a practical plan. Some suggested, "Assuming the appearence of learned brahmanas, we snakes will beg a boon from Janamejaya, and when he agrees to grant it we shall say, 'May you not perform this sacrifice!"'
But other serpents, thinking themselves wise, replied, "Being learned, all of us shall become the king's most respected advisors. He will naturally request our conclusive judgment in all affairs, and thus we shall advise him in such a way that the sacrifice will be stopped. Holding us in high regard, the learned king will question us about the value of such a sacrifice, and we shall reply that clearly there is none. With logic and reason we shall establish the priniciple that such a ritual would involve the king in many dangers and evils, both in this life and in the next, and that there should thus be no sacrifice.
"Or else, having identified the leading priest at the ceremony, he who knows the intricacies of a snake sacrifice and is bent on helping the king, a serpent will strike and kill this priest. When the priest conducting the sacrifice is killed, there can be no sacrifice. The king will have other priests who know how to perform a snake sacrifice, but we shall bite every one of them. In this way we shall surely accomplish our purpose."
Hearing this, other snakes who were sworn to virtue then advised, "Your plan is unwise. Murdering brahmanas is not at all intelligent. In times of calamity, justice and virtue are the basis for achieving the highest peace; activity based on injustice casts the whole world into grief."
Other snakes said, "Then let us take the form of clouds, flashing with lightning, and by releasing torrents of rain extinguish the sacrificial fire, even as it blazes."
There were other prominent serpents who suggested, "Let us go to the sacrificial arena under cover of night and as soon as the priests are inattentive, immediately steal the sacrificial ladle, thus impeding the ceremony. Or during the sacrifice hundreds and thousands of snakes can bite everyone present and create panic. Or perhaps the serpents should contaminate all of the sanctified food with their own stool and urine."
Then other snakes insisted, "We ourselves should become the king's priests for the sacrifice, and we can then impede the ceremony by demanding payment for our services. Having come under our control, the king will do as we desire."
Others said, "When the king is sporting in the water, we should carry him to our palace and bind him. Thus the sacrifice will not take place."
Other serpents, eager to help their race, offered this counsel, "We should immediately sieze the king and bite him. Then our work will be done. When the king is dead, all our problems will be cut off at their root."
This last definitive strategy was heartily approved by all the snakes, and they said to their leader, Vasuki, "O king, if you approve this plan, let us immediately make the necessary arrangements."
Having spoken thus, they respectfully fixed their gaze on Vasuki, ruler of the serpents. Carefully considering the matter, Vasuki said to the assembled snakes, "O serpents, I can not approve your plan, and I do not think it should be executed. Even though all assembled snakes have come to this conclusion, it does not appeal to me. And yet something must be done to save you, a fact that causes me great anxiety. For whatever we do, good or evil, now depends on me."
Shri Suta Goswami said:
After patiently hearing the statements of all the serpents, who expressed their different views, and hearing Vasuki's response, Elapatra spoke these words:
"Do not waste your time thinking that there will be no sacrifice, or that we can eliminate King Janamejaya, who is the cause of our great fear. Have you forgotten that he is a direct descendent of the Pandavas, and that he fights with the strength of his forefathers?
"My dear King Vasuki, we should rather recall that excellent wisdom which states that a man who is assailed by divine providence has no other recourse but to take shelter of that very same divine providence. It is by the will of providence that danger threatens us, and thus we shall only find our refuge in that same divine will. O best of the serpents, please hear my words.
"When the curse was being cast, I was frightened, and I crawled onto the lap of our mother. From there, my lord, I heard the gods speaking to themselves, for they were stunned and aggrieved by our mother's curse upon us. Approaching Lord Brahma on our behalf, they said `Fiery are these lordly snakes, and fiery too is their mother!'
The gods then said to Lord Brahma:
Grandfather, what manner of woman, after obtaining such dear sons, would curse them like this? None but the cruel Kadru, O lord of lords, and in your very presence!
Morever you have now agreed to what she said, Grandfather, and we are anxious to know for what reason you did not restrain her from such cursing.
Lord Brahma said:
There are many snakes of frightening strength, who are cruel and filled with poison. Because I desire the welfare of all creatures, I did not stop Kadru from uttering her curse. Those serpents who are mordacious, vile, sinful, and ever poisononous will be destroyed, but not those who practice the rule of virtue --- the virtuous snakes will be saved. Now please learn from me how such virtuous serpents will be saved from calamity when the fated time arrives.
There will appear a wise and noble sage named Jarat-karu in the family of the Yayavaras. He will be as potent as fire and in full control of his senses. A great ascetic by the name Astika will take birth as the son of Jarat-karu, and that boy will stop the sacrifice of snakes. Thereby will all the virtuous serpents be saved.
The gods replied:
O lord, in union with what woman will that excellent sage, the great and powerful ascetic of the name Jarat-karu, beget his exalted son?
Lord Brahma said:
That potent jewel of the twice-born, Jarat-karu, will beget his powerful son in a virgin girl of the same name.
"This is a proper solution!" said the gods to the Grandfather, and having thus spoken, they went on their way and Lord Brahma too took his leave. O Vasuki, I see now that your sister is named Jarat-karu, and so to avoid this danger, you must give her in charity to that sage of strict vows when he comes to request her hand. I have heard from authorities that this arrangement will be our salvation.
Shrila Suta Goswami said:
O best of the twice-born, hearing the words of Elapatra all the serpents were filled with joy and they honored him by crying out, "sadhu! sadhu!"
Thenceforth Vasuki, his heart filled with joy, carefully protected his sister Jarat-karu. Shortly threafter all the gods and demons churned Varuna's great ocean, and the mighty serpent Vasuki became the churning rope. Having thus accomplished their work, the gods, along with Vasuki, went to see the Grandsire, Lord Brahma, and said to him, "Dear lord, Vasuki fears his mother's curse and therefore he suffers greatly. He is very worried about his brother serpents, for the curse against them is like a thorn in his heart. O lord, please remove this painful thorn. This lord of the snakes, Vasuki, is always kind to us and always ready to help the gods. O lord of lords, show him your mercy and calm the fever in his mind."
Lord Brahma said:
My dear gods, it was I alone who previously entered the mind of the serpent Elapatra and inspired him to speak encouraging words to his fellow serpents. When the appointed time comes, this lord of serpents, Vasuki, must act to fulfill those words of Elapatra. For as Elapatra has declared, all the sinful serpents shall perish, but not those who are righteous.
The sage Jarat-karu is born, and he is dedicated to the most severe austerities. In due time, Vasuki must offer his sister, who is also named Jarat-karu, to the sage. O gods, the salvation of the serpents shall come as the serpent Elapatra predicted, and not otherwise.
Shrila Suta Goswami said:
Hearing the words of the Grandfather, Vasuki, lord of the snakes, assigned numerous qualified serpents to constantly observe the sage Jarat-karu, commanding them, "As soon as the great sage Jarat-karu desires to select a wife, you are to come at once and inform me, for this will be our salvation."
Shri Saunaka said:
O son of Romaharsana, I would like to hear about the sage Jarat-karu, that great soul of whom you speak. He is celebrated in this world by the name Jarat-karu, but how did he get that name and what exactly does it signify? Kindly explain.
Shri Suta Goswami replied:
Jara is said to mean "weakening" or "destruction", and karu comes from the word daruna, meaning "frightening" or "terrible." The learned sage gradually emaciated his body with fierce austerities, until it became a fright to see, and thus, O brahmana, he became known as Jarat-karu. And Vasuki's sister received the same name for the very same reason.
Upon hearing this, the devoted Saunaka could not help laughing and complimented Ugra-srava (Suta) for his clever explanation, saying, "Yes, that sounds right!"
Shri Suta Goswami continued:
For a very long time that learned sage, strict in his vows, devoted himself to austerities and did not hanker for a wife. Fixed in austerity, learned in the holy texts, free of fatigue and fear, Jarat-karu remained perfectly celibate and raised his seminal fluid to the brain, thus nourishing his spiritual intellect. In this way, the great soul wandered all over the earth, never hankering to have a wife, for the very thought could not enter his mind.
Then, when another time had come, there lived a celebrated king named Pariksit, who carried the glory of the Kuru dynasty. Like his great-grandfather Pandu, this mighty-armed king was the greatest bowman in the world and enjoyed going on the hunt, as did Pandu in the days of yore.
Once that lord of the earth wandered about the forest, piercing deer, boars, hyena, buffalo, and other kinds of wild creatures. At a particular moment, he pierced a deer with a polished shaft and taking his bow on his back, followed the wounded animal into the deep woods. Holding his bow, he followed the stag all over the forest, and thus he resembled the mighty Lord Siva, who shot a sacrificial deer and followed it throughout the heavens. Never before had a deer shot by the king escaped with its life into the forest; this incident was surely an act of providence to bring the king back to heaven.
The deer led the king far away into the deep forest, until, extremely fatigued and afflicted by thirst, he approached a forest sage who sat in a cow pasture, living off the abundant milk foam left by the calves who drank their mother's milk. The king, pained by hunger and exhausted, ran desperately up to the sage, who was strict in his vows, and holding up his bow, inquired from the saintly one, "Good brahmana, I am the King, Pariksit, the son of Abhimanyu. I shot a deer, but then it escaped me. Have you seen it?"
The sage was fixed in a religious vow of silence and did not speak a single word in reply. Angered by this, the king raised up a dead snake with the tip of his bow, draped it on the shoulder of the sage, and stared at the holy man. But the sage would not speak a word, whether good or bad. Having released his anger, and seeing the condition of the sage, the king's mind became aggrieved. He then returned to his city, and the brahmana remained there in that very state.
The sage had a son who, although young, possessed terrible strength, which he had developed by great austerities. The boy's name was Srngi. Although strict in his vows, he had a terrible temper that made him merciless. Srngi had been regularly engaged in worshiping the principal god, Lord Brahma, who is kind to all creatures, until finally after receiving Brahma's permission, young Srngi returned to his home. He was a haughty and ill-tempered boy whose anger could be as deadly as poison. One day, O brahmana, when he was playing and joking with his friend Krsa, also a sage's son, Krsa said to him, "You are certainly powerful and a great ascetic, but don't be proud, Srngi, because you father now wears a corpse around his shoulders. Do not say a single word when you are sporting with people of our calibre, who are perfect and self-realized sons of sages. To what avail are your so-called manliness and your proud words when you will soon behold your own father wearing a corpse?"
Shri Suta Goswami said:
When the powerful Srngi thus heard that his venerable father was bearing a dead snake, his heart filled with anger and he burned in his rage. Glaring at Krsa, and giving up all kind and graceful speech, he demanded, "How is my father now wearing a dead snake?"
"Dear friend, King Pariksit was chasing deer in the forest, and just now he hung a dead snake on your father's shoulder."
"What did my father do to displease that wicked king? Tell me the truth, Krsa, and beware of the power of my austerities."
"King Pariksit, the son of Abhimanyu, was hunting, and after piercing a deer with a feathered arrow he pursued it alone into the forest. As he wandered in that deep forest, the king could not find the deer, but he did see your father and inquired of him, but your father made no reply. The king, disturbed by hunger, thirst, and fatigue, inquired again and again from your father about the deer and asked him for water, but your father remained as silent and still as a stone pillar. He was practicing a vow of silence and would not reply. So the king, with the end of his bow, placed a dead snake on his shoulder. O Srngi, the king has gone back to his own city of Hastinapura, and your father, dedicated to his religious vows, remains even now in that same condition."
Suta Goswami said:
Hearing these words, the sage's son stood motionless with unblinking eyes that turned bright red with rage. The maddened child seemed to scorch the world with his anger. Overwhelmed with anger, he then touched water and furiously cursed the king with all his strength.
That sinner of a king has dared to hang a dead snake on the shoulders of my dear, elderly father, who was struggling to perform his religious penances. Therefore on the seventh night hence, Taksaka, mightiest of serpents, impelled by the strength of my words and by the fullness of his own fury, will engage his fiery prowess and deadly poison against this sinful king, a despiser of brahmanas, who has brought infamy upon the Kuru dynasty. By my curse, Taksaka will deliver the king to the lord of death!"
Suta Goswami said:
Thus cursing the king, the angry Srngi returned to his father, who sat in a cow pasture wearing the dead snake. Beholding the dead serpent upon his father's shoulder he was again overwhelmed with anger, and tears of grief rolled down his cheeks. He said to him. "My dear father, when I heard that the evil monarch Pariksit had offended you, I became so angry that I invoked a terrible curse upon him. That worst of the Kurus has earned it! In seven days the best of serpents, Taksaka, will drag him to the most horrible abode of the lord of death!"
O brahmana, the sorry father then replied to his enraged son, "My dear son, this does not please me. This is not the religious rule for ascetics, for the king is the best of men, and we are dwelling in his kingdom. He has always protected us according to the rules of justice. I do not condone his offense, but, my son, ascetics like us must nevertheless forgive a saintly king under all circumstances. If these laws of God are abused, they in turn will cause great injury without a doubt!
"If the king does not protect us, anguish shall be our lot. My son, without the king it would be impossible for us to practice our religious life peacefully. When the kings protect us in accordance with the sacred law, we are free to cultivate virtue; and by the rule of virtue a portion of our piety thus belongs to the guardian king. And King Pariksit especially, who is just like his great-grandfather, has protected us well, precisely as a king should protect every creature born in his realm.
"He undoubtedly did not know that I was practicing a sacred vow and could not attend him. He must have been sorely afflicted by hunger and fatigue. Therefore, out of immaturity and impulsiveness you have performed an evil deed. No matter what the circumstance, it was wrong for us to curse the king. He did not deserve it."
O Father, if I have acted rashly, or even if I have committed a wicked deed, and whether I have pleased or displeased you, nevertheless that which I have already uttered cannot be changed. O Father! I must tell you that it will come to pass, for I am incapable of false speach, even when joking, much less while uttering a curse.
The sage Samika said:
I know of your terrible prowess, my son, that your words must come to pass. You have never uttered a false word, and your tragic curse upon the king cannot fail to act. It is always a father's duty, however, to correct even a grown son, so that the son acquires good character and a lasting reputation. What then of a mere child such as you, who has prospered by austerities and now acts like the lord of the world? Anger multiplies to excess in the hearts of great and powerful persons. You have distinguished yourself in the practice of religious principles, but observing that you are my son, and a mere boy, and that you have acted so rashly and impulsively, I see that it is my duty to correct you. You must become peaceful. Maintain yourself by collecting the simple eatables of the forest and give up your anger and thus you will never reject your religious principles.
Anger plunders the hard-earned spiritual progress of those who endeavor for perfection, and those bereft of spiritual progress will never achieve their goal in life. When endeavoring spiritualists are able to forgive, their own equanimity will award them their desired perfection. This world can be enjoyed by the those who forgive, and the next world as well is only for those who forgive. Therefore, practice always a life of forgiveness, with your senses fully controlled. By such forgiveness you will some day achieve the spiritual planets, which lie beyond the world of Brahma and beyond the impersonal absolute.
Despite this tragedy, my son, I must remain calm. I shall immediately do all I can by sending the following message to the king: O king, my young and immature son, seeing your offense to me, was unable to tolerate it, and now he has cursed you.
Shrila Suta Goswami said:
That ascetic sage of noble vows gave the message to a disciple, and, his heart breaking with compassion, sent him to King Pariksit. He carefully instructed the disciple, a well-behaved and serious young man named Gaura-mukha, to inquire about the king's welfare and about the news of state affairs in general.
Gaura-mukha went quickly to that ruler of men, who had benefitted the Kuru dynasty in so many ways. His arrival duly announced by the doorkeepers, he entered the king's palace. The brahmana Gaura-mukha was thereupon properly honored by the king, and after he was well-rested from his journey he accurately related to the monarch, in the presence of the royal ministers, the full and frightening message of the sage Samika, omitting nothing.
"Dear king," he said, "There is a most virtuous and self-controlled sage named Samika, who is peaceful and greatly austere and who lives in your kingdom. O tiger among men, O glory of the Bharatas, with the tip of your bow you wrapped a dead snake around the sage's shoulders. He himself was tolerant of your deed, but his son could not abide it. O king, without the knowledge of his father, he has cursed you! On the seventh night hence Taksaka will certainly cause your death. None can mitigate the curse, and therefore the compassionate sage again and again urges you to care for your soul. The sage was unable to restrain his enraged son, and therefore, O king, he who earnestly desires your welfare has sent me to you."
Hearing these terrible words, the beloved king of the Kuru dynasty began to grieve. He was himself highly advanced in spiritual knowledge and thus he grieved not for his own passing away, but for his offense against the sage. Understanding that the accomplished sage had been absorbed in meditation under a religious vow of silence, the king's lament grew all the greater. When he understood the sage Samika's sincere compassion upon him, his grief and remorse grew still more, and his heart was filled with sorrow for the sin he had committed upon the holy ascetic. Noble as a god, King Pariksit lamented only his sin against the sage and nothing more. He sent Gaura-mukha back with this message: "May the holy Samika again grant me his mercy."
As soon as Gaura-mukha had left, the king consulted with his ministers, his mind disturbed by his offense. The king knew how to take good counsel, and together with his ministers, he came to a decision. He arranged for a well-protected platform with but a single support. He also arranged for his security by bringing proper medicine and those who knew how to treat the diseased condition of the soul, and he placed all around him brahmanas who had perfected the chanting of Vedic mantras. Situated on that platform, he performed all the duties of a saintly king, along with his ministers. The king was protected on all sides because he knew the principles of religion.
On the seventh day, O best of the twice-born, the learned Kasyapa came there to protect the life of the king with his medical skill. Having heard that on this seventh day the most powerful of serpents, Taksaka, would send the greatest of kings to the abode of the lord of death, he thought, "When the king is bitten by that powerful snake I shall counteract the feverish effects of the poison. Thus I shall gain both material and spiritual benefit."
As Taksaka, the leader of serpents, moved toward the king he saw Kasyapa traveling with great determination in the same direction. Transforming himself into an elderly brahmana, Taksaka, chief of the serpents, said to the exalted sage Kasyapa, "Where are you going so quickly, and what is it that you are so anxious to do?"
On this very day Taksaka, the greatest of serpents, will consume with his poison the heroic king of the Kuru dynasty. Dear and gentle brahmana, as soon as that leader of the race of snakes bites the mighty Kuru king with his fiery poison, I shall immediately counteract the effect. It is for this that I am going so quickly.
I am that very Taksaka, O brahmana, and I shall indeed bite the ruler of the earth! Turn back! You have no power to cure a man bitten by me.
I shall in fact cure the king! As soon as you bite him, I shall counteract your poison; I have made my calculations on the strength of my vast knowledge.
If you you have any power to cure someone bitten by me, Kasyapa, then revive a tree that I shall bite. Before your very eyes, O best of brahmanas, I shall burn this banyan tree with my poison. Try your best to save it. Show me the power of your mantras!
Carry out your threat, O ruler of snakes, and bite the tree. But once you have bitten it, O serpent, I shall bring it back to life.
Shrila Suta Goswami said:
Even as the ruler of snakes was thus addressed by the great soul Kasyapa, the powerful serpent approached the large banyan tree and bit it. Once bitten by Taksaka and filled with his poison, the entire tree immediately burst into flames. Having burned the tree, the snake again spoke to Kasyapa, "O best of brahmanas, now try to bring this tree back to life!"
Although the tree was reduced to mere ashes by the mighty serpent's power, Kasyapa nevertheless collected all those ashes and then spoke these words: "O snake ruler, behold the power of my science when it acts upon this noble tree. Before your eyes, serpent, I shall bring this tree back to full life."
The exalted and learned Kasyapa, the best of the twice-born, then brought back to life a tree that had been turned into a heap of ashes. First he created a sapling, then gave it two leaves, adding twigs and branches, and at last manifested the full-grown tree, precisely as it was before. Seeing the great soul Kasyapa restore life to the tree, Taksaka said, "O brahmana, what you have done is truly amazing. Most learned one, it appears that you can nullify my poison and that of other powerful serpents. O ascetic, for what purpose are you going to the king? What do you hope to gain? Whatever reward you hope to obtain from this powerful monarch, I myself shall give you, even if it be something very difficult and rare to achieve."
"This king is afflicted by a brahmana's curse, and his life is at an end. If you try to save him, O learned sage, your success will be doubtful, and your brilliant reputation, which is spread all over the three worlds, will vanish like a sun which has lost its warm rays."
O serpent, I go thence to obtain wealth, but if you yourself give it to me, then I shall return home as you desire.
As much wealth as you seek from the king I shall give you now and more. Desist and turn back, noble brahmana.
Shrila Suta Goswami said:
When the very powerful and wise Kasyapa heard these words of Taksaka, he began to reflect deeply on the fate of the king. With his divine knowledge the mighty sage could understand that the life of the king, born in the line of Pandu, had actually come to an end. Kasyapa, the noble seer, collected from Taksaka all the wealth he desired and departed. When by this arrangement the great soul Kasyapa turned back, Taksaka quickly continued on toward the city of Hastinapura.
On the way Taksaka heard that the great monarch was surrounded by persons expert in counteracting poison through mantras and medicines. [Even though the king was detached from his fate, his people were determined to save him.] Taksaka began to think, "I will have to trick the king through some kind of magical process. What would be the best means?"
Thereupon Taksaka dispatched to the king a group of serpents disguised as ascetics with an offering of fruits, leaves, and water.
All of you must now carefully perform this duty. Go to the king and make him accept this gift of fruit, leaves, and water.
Suta Goswami said:
Instructed by Taksaka, the snakes acted accordingly, bringing the king a gift of darbha grass, water, and fruits. The noble monarch accepted it all, and having received them with all the formalities due the sages he sent them on their way. When the serpents disguised as ascetics had departed, the monarch of men spoke to his ministers and well-wishing friends, "You should eat, by my side, all these sweet fruits the ascetics have brought." Then the king, with his ministers, desired to take the fruits. The ruler held up a fruit on which was a tiny copper-colored insect, whose body was short with blackish eyes, O Saunaka. Taking this fruit in his hands, that best of kings then said to his ministers, "The sun is setting, so there is no danger for me today from poison. But a young sage cursed me to die today, so let his words be true! May this insect be transformed into Taksaka and bite me so that he will not have uttered a lie."
The ministers, moved by the will of God, agreed with the king, and having spoken thus, the monarch then quickly placed the insect on his neck and laughed. The saintly king had lost his external consciousness, and being prepared to ascend to his next life he desired to give up his mortal frame. As he continued to laugh, Taksaka came out of the fruit, which had been given to the king, and wrapped himself around the great ruler.
Note to Chapter 39:
The highly revered scripture Shrimad Bhagavatam describes the king's last moments as follows (12.6.1-10 ):
King Pariksit spent his last days hearing about God from Sukadeva Goswami, the self-realized and peaceful son of Vyasa, and now the king humbly approached his holy teacher and bowed his head upon the sage's feet. The king had lived his entire life under the protection of Lord Vishnu, and now at the end he folded his hands in supplication and spoke the following:
"I have now achieved my purpose in life. Indeed I am truly blessed because you have so mercifully taught me about the Supreme Lord, who is without beginning or end. Yet I am not surprised that a great soul in love with God has shown his mercy to a foolish king suffering the terrible miseries of this world.
"My lord, I now have no fear of Taksaka or anyone else, or of death itself, for my mind is now absorbed in God, whom you have revealed to me, and He has soothed my heart and taken away my fear.
"O holy one, now that my time is drawing near, grant me permission to give up my speech unto the Lord and to absorb my mind, free of all desire, in Him alone. Thus I shall give up my life."
Suta Goswami said:
Thus requested, the glorious son of Shri Vyasa gave his permission to King Pariksit. And after the king and all the sages had honored him, Sukadeva departed from that place. The saintly King Pariksit then sat down on the bank of the Ganges upon a seat of darbha grass with the tips of its stalks facing east and turned himself toward the north. Free of attachment and doubt, he sat as firmly as a tree and fixed his mind on the Supreme Soul, and his life air ceased to move. Sitting there like a great yogi, his consciousness was no longer in this world.
Suta Goswami said:
When the ministers saw their monarch enwrapped by the serpent, their faces turned white and they cried out in utter distress. Hearing the sound of the king's departure, they scattered about. Overcome with grief, they saw the lord of serpents, the extraordinary serpent Taksaka, his duty done, streaking bright as a lotus through the sky, as if to part the hair of heaven. The house burst into flames from the fire of the serpent's poison, and as the king's men fled in fear it crumbled and fell as if struck by lightning.
When the great soul King Pariksit had thus departed from this world, the royal priest, who was a self-realized brahmana, joined with the ministers and performed all the funeral ceremonies meant to bestow blessings upon the king in his next life. The residents of the royal capital then met together, and everyone agreed that the king's son must succeed his father to the throne. Thus Janamejaya, the young hero of the Kuru dynasty, whom all declared to be invincible, was appointed to lead the great Kuru empire.
Though still a young man Janamejaya was noble by nature, and acting in concert with royal ministers and priests he proved to be an excellent ruler of men. This first-born son of Pariksit administered the kingdom exactly as his heroic great-grandfather Pandu had done. The ministers, observing that the king cut down like fire those who would pose a threat to the country, now felt him worthy to accept a royal bride, and so they approached the king of Kasi, Suvarna-varma, to request his daughter, Vapustama, as a wife for the Kuru leader. The Kasi king agreed to give his daughter Vapustama to the Kuru hero after carefully studying his character and virtues, and Janamejaya joyfully accepted her, and never again did he think of other women.
Thus with a happy heart this powerful king, the best of rulers, sported with his wife amid lakes and blossoming woods, just as in ancient times Pururava enjoyed life upon obtaining the celestial Urvasi. Likewise Vapustama, having obtained such a handsome ruler as her husband, loved him deeply, and in their free moments gave him much delight, for she was the joy and beauty of the king's palace.
Suta Goswami said:
At that time the great and wise ascetic Jarat-karu wandered all over the world, and wherever he happened to be at sunset that place became his home for the night. With unusual strength he undertook religious duties that are most difficult for ordinary persons, fasting from food and consuming only air. Thus traveling about, bathing in sacred lakes and rivers, the sage caused his body to wither day by day, until one day he happened to behold his forefathers hanging upside down in a hole. They were suspended over a abysmal pit by a clump of fibres that had been reduced to a single thread by a mouse who lived in the hole and daily nibbled away at the vanishing rope. Those poor souls were weak from lack of food and yearned to be saved from that miserable hole. Jarat-karu, who appeared equally wretched, approached them and said, "Who are you, good sirs, hanging here by a mere clump of grass whose fibres are being eaten away by the mouse who lives in the hole? There is but a single shoot left growing from this clump, and that too the mouse is steadily removing with his sharp teeth. There is little remaining. He will surely cut his way through before a long time, and all of you will fall head first into this hole.
"I am very unhappy to see you here upside down, victims of a terrible misfortune! Tell me at once what I can do to help you. If I can deliver you from this calamity by donating a quarter of my austerities, or even a third or a half, then I will do so. Or even if all my austerities are required to free you from this plight, then so be it. I will happily do it!"
Jarat-karu's forefathers replied:
O best of brahmanas, you thrive in your celibate life and thus you wish to deliver us from this calamity. But our problem cannot be eased by austerities, dear friend, for we also enjoy the fruits of past austerities. That is not the problem, nor is it the solution. O best of holy teachers, we are about to fall into a filthy hell because our family line has been interrupted.
Dear well wisher, we are hanging over this hole, and thus our wits are not about us. Although you must surely be famous in the world for your strength and kindness, we do not know who you are. You must be a very fortunate and successful person indeed, so mercifully approaching us and grieving over our pitiable condition. Listen, good sir, to who we really are.
O great one, we are the sages known as the Yayavaras, strict in our vows yet fallen from the worlds of the pious by the destruction of our family line. Our penances and piety have been in vain, for there is no thread, no offspring, to continue our family line. Actually, we still have one thread remaining, but for all practical purposes he may as well not exist. So diminished is our good fortune that our only surviving relative is an unfortunate fellow known as Jarat-karu. He is a master of all the Vedic literature, but he is so avid to perform his austerities that we have been left to fall into this most miserable calamity: he has no wife, no son, nor does he have a single living relative. Because of this alone we hang here over this hole, almost out of our minds, deprived of anyone to care for us.
Now that you have seen us here, kindly help us and tell him for us, "Your wretched forefathers are hanging upside-down over an abyss. O strong-willed man, kindly take a wife and beget children. You are rich in austerities, yet you are the only remaining link of our family, the only one!"
O brahmana, the cluster of grass from which you see us hanging is in fact our family line, which was once numerous and strong, and the plant fibers you see here are our descendants who continued the family line but were devoured, dear friend, by time. The half-eaten fiber that you now witness, O brahmana, is the sole reason we are hanging here, for it is our only living descendant, and he will only practice austerities.
The mouse that you see, brahmana, is the great force of time, slowly wearing away that fool Jarat-karu, who is so absorbed in his severe austerities. So foolish is that boy, and so greedy is he to acquire the fruits of austerity, that he proudly carries on, mindless of how he affects us. O holy man, his penances will certainly not save us, for we have been cut at the roots, and cast into utter ruination. Time has plundered our keen intellect. Look at us! We are headed for hell like ordinary miscreants!
When we have fallen there along with our own grandfathers and forefathers, he too, likewise cut down by time, will go straight to hell, for the opinion of the wise, friend, is that no austerity, no sacrifice, or any other glorious means of purification equals the piety and holiness of preserving a God-conscious family.
Dear friend, you must tell the ascetic Jarat-karu what you have seen here today. O brahmana, tell him everything; speak to him in such a way that he will accept a lawful wife and beget children. Oh, for God's sake, please help us!
Suta Goswami said:
Hearing all this, Jarat-karu lost himself in anguish and replied to his forefathers in a voice choked with tears of grief.
"I alone am that sinner Jarat-karu, your immature and misguided son. You should punish me for my misdeeds."
The forefathers replied:
O son, by God's grace alone did you happen to arrive at this place. O brahmana, why have you not taken a wife?
Dear forefathers, my life's goal, which has always been in my heart, is to practice celibacy and thus bring this body into the next world as well without ever passing semen. Yet as I see all of you hanging here like so many bats, my mind recoils from celibate life. Dear forefathers, I shall act for your happiness, and as is your wish I shall doubtlessly enter family life --- but only if I find a virgin girl with the same name as mine. There will be a certain woman who will present herself to me as a religious offering, and I shall accept her on the condition that I not bear the cost of her maintenance. O forefathers, I shall enter into family life only if permitted to do so under these conditions. Otherwise, the truth is that I shall not.
Suta Goswami said:
Having thus spoken to his forefathers, the muni Jarat-karut continued traveling about the earth. But he was old, dear Saunaka, and did not obtain a wife. He at last grew hopeless, though still driven by the plight of his forfathers, until finally one day he entered a forest and cried out in utter despair, "Whatever creatures there are, whether walking about or rooted in the earth or invisible to my eyes, may you all hear my words! I was engaged in severe austerities when my poor suffering forefathers commanded me to get married. Out of kindness to them. I am trying to marry, and thus I wander all over the world, hoping to obtain the gift of a suitable girl. Know that I am poor and wretched yet bound to obey my forefathers. If any creature within the sound of my voice has such a daughter, please offer her to me, for I have been everywhere.
"The girl meant to be my wife has the same name as me, and will be given freely as a religious offering. Moreover, I will not bear the cost of her maintenance. I beg all of you, bestow upon me such a girl!"
Just then, the serpents who were closely watching Jarat-karu carefully noted his behavior and reported it to Vasuki. Hearing the news, the serpent lord summoned his sister, who was bedecked with fine dress and ornaments, and went with her to the sage. O brahmana, when Vasuki, the king of snakes, arrived in the forest, he at once presented his sister as a religious offering to the great soul Jarat-karu. However the sage did not accept her, for he was thinking, "She must not have the same name as me, and besides, we have not even discussed her maintenance."
Jarat-karu simply stood there meditating on his free life as an ascetic, his mind divided over whether or not to accept her as a bride. Then, O son of Bhrgu, he asked for her name and said, "Vasuki, I will not be responsible for maintaining this girl!"
Suta Goswami said:
Vasuki then spoke these words to the sage Jarat-karu: "This girl is my sister, and her name, like yours, is Jarat-karu. Like you, she is dedicated to the practice of austerities. O best of the twice-born, I shall take the responsibility to maintain your wife, so please accept her. You are an ascetic whose wealth is austerity, and therefore I shall make every effort to see that her needs are taken care of and that she is well protected."
When Vasuki promised, "I shall support my sister," Jarat-karu agreed to go to the serpent's home. There that virtuous soul, most learned in mantras, senior by austerity, and great in his vows, took the hand of Vasuki's sister in accord with religious rules and with the chanting of sacred hymns. Then to the praises of great sages, Jarat-karu took his wife to the brilliant residential quarters serpent lord had carefully designated for him. A bed was prepared with valuable coverings, and he dwelled in those quarters in the constant company of his wife.
[That saintly man had never wanted to marry, but had done so to save his forefathers. It was not easy for him to act like a husband.] Thus he established this rule with his wife: "You are never to do anything that displeases me, or correct or criticize me at any time. If you do anything that displeases me, I shall renounce you and give up my residence in your house. Please take seriously these words I speak to you."
Hearing this, the sister of the serpent lord was seized by a terrible anxiety. [Her entire race depended on her, and her mission was clear: somehow she must satisfy her husband and beget by him a child who would stop King Janamejaya's dreaded sacrifice. Thus the harsh terms of marriage left her shaken.] But despite her intense grief, she said to him, "So be it!"
Just as she had promised, this most respectable woman, so anxious to please her husband, served the unhappy man with a devotion and skill as rare as the sight of a white crow. When her fertile season arrived, the sister of Vasuki purified her body and with perfect etiquette stood before her husband, the great sage. She thus obtained from him a child who even in her womb glowed with the luster of fire. Conceived by the most advanced of ascetics, the embryo shone with the effulgence of the fire god and grew exactly like the waxing moon in the bright fortnight.
Some days after conception, the great ascetic Jarat-karu placed his head in the lap of his wife and slept. He seemed unhappy and tired, and as the learned one slept the sun began to set over the hill. Seeing that the day was ending, Vasuki's sister worried about her husband, for he had sacred duties to perform at sunset, and the thoughtful lady feared that if he did not awaken he would transgress his religious principles.
"What is my first duty," she thought, "to awake my husband or not? This saintly man is always melancholy; how can I avoid offending him? Let me consider which is worse for a religious man, anger or neglect of his religious duties? Actually, to neglect religious duties would be the worse of the two."
Thus she made up her mind: "If I wake him, he will surely become angry, but if I do not wake him, he will sleep through the juncture of day and night and neglect the sacred duties that must be performed at twilight."
Thus settling the matter in her mind, the serpent princess Jarat-karu, whose voice was beautiful, spoke these sweet words to the sleeping sage, whose fierce austerities made him glow like fire.
"You must arise, most fortunate one, for the sun is setting. My lord, so strict of vow, dip your hands in water and perform the evening worship. At this charming yet perilous moment you must ignite the sacred flames of sacrifice, for the sandhya, the juncture of day and night, is vanishing into the western horizon."
Thus addressed, the advanced ascetic Jarat-karu spoke to his wife with trembling lips, "You have insulted me, O serpent woman! No longer will I live in your presence. I shall go just as I came. O shapely lady, I know in my heart that the mighty sun does not dare set at the appointed time while I am sleeping. No one likes to live with a person who insults him; what to speak of one as strict about the rules as I am!"
Hearing these words of her husband, the devoted sister of Vasuki, Jarat-karu, felt her heart breaking, and there within their residential quarters she replied as follows: "I awoke you not out of contempt, learned brahmana, but rather that you not violate your religious duties."
Thus addressed, the powerful ascetic Jarat-karu was filled with anger, and anxious to leave his serpent wife, he said,
"With my god-given voice, I have never spoken a lie, and I tell you now that I shall leave, O serpent lady. Our agreement was that nothing would be done to displease me, and both of us accepted it. You are a good woman, and I have lived happily with you.
"O shy and innocent lady, when I am gone tell your brother that 'my husband has left.' Do not grieve for me, once I have departed."
Addressed thus, the lovely and shapely Jarat-karu was overcome by anxiety and grief, and she tried to reply to her husband, but her voice choked up with sobs and her mouth went dry. That slender princess simply stood there with hands folded, her eyes filled with tears, struggling to regain her composure. Finally with a trembling heart she spoke.
"It is not right for you who know the principles of virtue to abandon me, who have done you no wrong! I have loved you and acted always for your good. A religious man should not leave a religious wife.
"O best of brahmanas, I married you for a noble purpose. What will Vasuki say to his foolish sister, if I fail to fulfill that purpose? O saintly one, my relatives were cursed by their mother, and the child they are all hoping for has not yet appeared. If only I could have your child, my relatives would be saved. O brahmana, my sacred union with you must not go in vain.
"My lord, because I seek the good of my people, I beg your compassion! O saintly one, you have placed your seed within me, but our child is not yet born. How can you, such a great soul suddenly decide to reject your sinless wife and go away?"
Being so addressed, the ascetic philosopher Jarat-karu spoke to his wife in fair and fitting words.
"O blessed woman, there is a child in your womb who is as brilliant as the god of fire. This son of yours son will be the most saintly of sages, and he will master the Vedas and all their supplementary branches."
Having spoken thus, the law-abiding Jarat-karu departed, for the great sage had firmly decided to resume his practice of severe austerities. [It had never been his desire to marry, but he had accepted a wife to please his forefathers, and in so doing he had also redeemed the race of pious serpents. His forefathers and the serpents were delighted by the marriage, but Jarat-karu had never wanted it. Even so he dutifully conceived a child who would save both his forefathers and the race of serpents.]
Suta Goswami said:
O thriving ascetic, as soon as her husband departed, Jarat-karu quickly went to her brother and told him exactly what had happened. The leader of snakes, hearing the most discouraging news, said to his grieving sister, himself the most miserable of all, "You surely know, dear sister, the reason for which I bestowed you on that man and the duty that was to be done. If a son is born to you he will save the serpent race. Lord Brahma told me in the presence of the gods that your powerful son would surely save us from the snake sacrifice. Good woman, are you indeed with child from that best of sages? I pray that your marriage with that learned man was not fruitless. Admittedly it is not proper for me to ask you about such affairs, but the extreme gravity of the matter forces me to question you in this way.
"Knowing how irritable your husband is, due to his excessive austerities, I shall not pursue him because he would be apt to curse me at any moment. Good woman, tell me all that your husband did and thus remove the terrible thorn that has lain so long in my heart."
At these words, Jarat-karu replied to the suffering Vasuki, and her words gave new hope to the serpent lord.
"When I questioned my husband about a child, the exalted ascetic pointed to my womb and said, 'It is,' and then departed. I do not recall, O king, that he ever spoke falsely, even in jest, so how could he tell a lie at a time when he was leaving his wife forever? Indeed, he said to me, 'You should not worry about the success of your mission, serpent woman; your son will indeed take birth, and he shall be as resplendent as the blazing sun.'
"O brother, having thus spoken, my husband left for the forest to perform austerities. Now may this terrible suffering in your heart be gone!"
Hearing this, Vasuki, ruler of the snakes, accepted his sister's words with the greatest of joy, declaring "So be it!" That finest of serpents then honored his pregnant sister with an appropriate offering of encouraging and respectful words, wealth, and other gifts.
O best of brahmanas, the greatly powerful embryo, shining like the sun, grew steadily in her womb like the waxing moon in the heavens. In due time, O learned one, the sister of the snakes gave birth to a male infant who shone like a celestial child, and who was destined to vanquish the fears of his mother's and father's houses.
The child was reared there in the palace of the serpent king, and he learned the Vedas and their branches from Bhargava, the son of Cyavana. Even as a boy he carefully followed his vows, for he was richly endowed with spiritual wisdom and goodness. The world came to know him by the name of Astika, because his father, upon leaving for the forest, had said of him "Asti!," "He is!".
The child, of immeasureable intelligence, was raised with utmost care in the house of the serpent king. As he continued to mature, he delighted the serpent race, who found in him all the glory and grace of the gold-giving, trident-wielding Siva, the lord of the gods.
The sage Saunaka said:
Please tell me again in detail all that King Janamejaya said to his ministers when he questioned them about his father's journey to the divine kingdom.
Shrila Suta Goswami said:
O brahmana, when the ministers were questioned by the king, they all explained to him about the demise of his father, Maharaja Pariksit. Hear now as I describe to you that conversation.
King Janamejaya said:
Gentlemen, you know how my father lived his life and how that very famous king, in the course of time, met his death. By directly hearing from you all about my father's life, by learning what his deeds were, I shall walk the way of righteousness and I shall never meet with evil.
Shrila Suta Goswami said:
O brahmana, thus questioned by the great-spirited king, those learned ministers, who knew fully the religious law, replied to the monarch in these words.
"Your father was a religious man, a great soul who cared for all of God's creatures. Listen now to the deeds he performed in this world and how he went to his final destination.
"Your father organized human society into its natural divisions of varna and asrama, and all people worked according to their individual nature and ability. The king knew well the divine law, and he protected the citizens with justice, for he himself was justice personified. He guarded the earth goddess with unparalleled courage, and not a soul hated such a beautiful king, nor did he hate anyone. He was equal and fair to all creatures and ruled like the fatherly gods who are patrons of mankind.
"Teachers, warriors, merchants, and workers cheerfully performed their respective duties, O King, because they were so expertly engaged by that king. He cared for the widowed, the unprotected, the poor, and the maimed; and for all creatures his handsome countenance shone like a second moon.
"He studied the military science under the illustrious Saradvata and was steady in his prowess, a speaker of truth, a brilliant monarch who nourished and satisfied his people. Your very famous father, Janamejaya, was well loved by Lord Krishna Himself, and so he was loved by all the world. When all the descendents of the Kuru dynasty were slain, mighty Pariksit took birth as the son of Abhimanyu and Uttara.
"The king was endowed with all the noble qualities and dealt expertly with the practical and spiritual demands of kingship. He was self-controlled, self-realized, brilliant of mind, and a humble servant of the elderly and senior.
"He was careful to avoid the six vices and possessed brilliant powers of discrimination. Your father was the greatest scholar of political science and ethics, and he cared for all the creatures of his realm for sixty years. Then a snake brought the king to his destined and unavoidable end, and you, O best of men, have inherited this kingdom of the Kuru clan, to reign for one thousand years!"
King Janamejaya said:
In our family never was there a king who did not do good to the people, nor a single ruler not loved by his subjects, and this was especially due to the exalted conduct of our forefathers and their utter devotion to duty. But how did my father meet his death? What were the circumstances? Please explain this to me as it is, for I wish to hear the truth.
Suta Goswami said:
All the ministers loved King Janamejaya, as they had loved his father, and they were devoted to the young king's welfare. Being thus urged to speak by their monarch, they replied as follows:
"O king, just as the glorious Pandu was the greatest of bowmen in battle and thus protected the world, so was his great-grandson, your father, the greatest archer of his day. [Since the world depended on such as them to uphold justice, both Pandu and your father would often go to the forest to hunt and thus maintain their skills in sharp readiness.] We remember well how your father would delegate to us all the affairs of state and then spend his time in the woods, perfecting his extraordinary talent with a bow.
"Once as he wandered in the forest, he pierced a deer with a feathered shaft and then quickly followed the deer as it fled into the deep forest. Moving on foot, bound with a heavy sword and carrying a bow and quiver, your father could not find the lost deer in the dense woods. He was already sixty years of age and became exhausted and famished in the great forest when he saw nearby a learned sage. The leader of kings questioned the sage, who sat silently in deep meditation. Though the king repeatedly spoke to him, the muni did not speak a single word. Afflicted by hunger and fatigue, the king suddenly grew angry at the peaceful sage, who sat as silent and still as a tree. The king did not realize that the holy sage was meditating and had taken a vow of silence. Overcome with anger, your father insulted him. O best of the Bharatas, with the end of his bow he lifted up a dead snake from the ground and placed it on the shoulder of that pure-hearted sage. The wise man did not speak to him, neither approving nor condemning the king's act, but simply remained there, bearing the snake on his shoulder, and did not become angry at the king.
The ministers said:
O best of kings, the exhausted king was afflicted with hunger, and having placed a snake on the sage's shoulder he returned to his own city. The sage had a famous son named Srngi, who had taken birth from a cow. Though still a young boy, Srngi was very powerful and possessed fearsome strength and a terrible temper. With his father's permission he had gone to play, when he heard from a friend that his father had been insulted by your father. O Janamejaya, tiger among men, Srngi heard that although his father had done no wrong, your father had wrapped a dead snake around his shoulders.
This sage was pure and self-controlled, a most dedicated ascetic who regularly performed extraordinary deeds. Indeed, he was a most learned man, his soul illumined by austerity. He was the master of all his senses, free of selfish desire, pure in word and deed. Thus your father had insulted a respectable senior, one free of envy and small-mindedness, and worthy to give shelter to all creatures. Alas, your father did not know that the sage was fixed in meditation under a vow of silence.
Hearing of this incident, the sage's mighty son was filled with fury and cursed your father. Though but a child in years, the boy was mature in his asceticism, having practiced for many lifetimes, and blazing with power and rage, the boy quickly touched water and then directed these words at your father: "On the seventh night hence, the angry Taksaka, leader of the Nagas, will bring down that sinful man who flung down a dead snake upon my sinless spiritual master. Behold the power of my asceticism!"
Speaking thus, Srngi went to his father, and seeing him in that same condition told him of the curse. The tiger among sages then sent word to your father, as follows: "O lord of the earth, you have been cursed by my son, so please do what you must, O king, for Taksaka shall bring you down with his fiery venom." O Janamejaya, hearing these terrible words your father was extremely concerned to end his life properly, and he prepared himself for the serpent king Taksaka.
When the seventh day had arrived, a devoted sage named Kasyapa desired to approach the king, but the serpent lord spied Kasyapa as he hurried along, and disguised as a fellow brahmana, Taksaka said to him, "Sir, where are you going in such a hurry, and what is the task you wish to accomplish?"
The snake Taksaka is about to bite King Pariksit, the best of the Kurus, and I hasten to that very place. I am hurrying there because as soon as the snake bites the king I shall immediately neutralize the venom. The snake will not overcome the king with me there to help him.
It is I who shall bite the king, but why do you wish to bring him back to life? Tell me what you want, and I shall give it to you immediately! Then go back to your home.
The ministers said:
Thus addressed by the serpent king, the sage replied, "I desire wealth, therefore I go to the king."
Taksaka spoke to the mighty sage with sweet words, saying, "As much wealth as you would beg from the king, O sinless one, you may take even more from me and return at once to your home."
When the serpent had thus spoken, Kasyapa, exalted among human creatures, took from Taksaka all the wealth he desired and turned back from his mission. Having thus stopped the learned brahmana, Taksaka then took on yet another disguise and approached your righteous father, the best of monarchs, who sat peacefully, fully prepared for his destiny. Taksaka burned the greatest of monarchs with the fire of his poison, and thereafter you, Janamejaya, were installed on the royal throne for the glory and victory of the Kuru clan.
O virtuous king, we have have described to you all these tragic events exactly as we saw and heard. We have invented nothing. O glorious ruler, having heard of the destruction of a king and the humiliation of this wise Uttanka, you should now take proper measures.
King Janamejaya said:
First I want to hear about the conversation that took place between the lord of snakes and the brahmana Kasyapa. Since they met on a deserted forest path, who could have seen or heard them and reported the information to all of you?
The ministers replied:
Hear, O king, how and from whom we came to know that the best of brahmanas and the most powerful of serpents actually met on a forest path. O earthly ruler, a certain man happened to be in that forest collecting firewood and had climbed up into a tall tree looking for dead and dry branches. Both the snake and the sage were unaware that the man was up in the tree, and he was burned to ashes along with the tree. O best of kings, the man was then brought back to life, along with the lordly tree, by the power of the twice-born brahmana. O noble ruler, the man then returned to the city and recounted all that had happened between Taksaka and the brahmana. We have now explained to you exactly what happened, just as we heard it. Having heard this, you who are a tiger among kings should now do as you wish.
Suta Goswami said:
Hearing the words of his ministers, King Janamejaya felt a searing pain in his heart, and overcome with anguish he pounded his fist into his hand. A long, burning breath issued from his handsome mouth and tears poured from his lotus eyes. The ruler of the world, lost in grief, then said, "Gentlemen, hearing from you how my father left this world and journeyed to the kingdom above, my mind is now fixed in unbreakable determination. Please hear of my decision. The wicked Taksaka cruelly attacked my father, and now he must pay for his deed.
"If Taksaka had simply carried out the words of Srngi and bitten the king, my father would still be alive. And if the king had lived, by the mercy of Kasyapa and the good counsel of the ministers, what would that snake have lost? Kasyapa was invincible and desired to save my father's life, yet out of sheer ignorance this snake turned back that exalted brahmana. Taksaka is evil, and great is his sin, for he dared to offer gifts to a brahmana, that my father might die. I shall now please the sage Uttanka, and I shall greatly please my own tortured soul. And I shall surely satisfy all of you, for now I shall avenge the murder of my father!"
Suta Goswami said:
Having made his statement and gained the approval of his ministers, the very handsome son of Pariksit, a tiger of the Bharata race, then swore that he would conduct a snake sacrifice. Calling for his priest and others learned in the science of sacrifice, the eloquent monarch, anxious to accomplish his mission, then spoke these words:
"Gentlemen, the wicked Taksaka slew my beloved father. Now kindly tell me how I may avenge that sin. Do you know the process by which I can personally send Taksaka and his associates into the blazing fire of sacrifice? As he once burned my father with the fire of his poison, so now in the same way I wish to burn that sinner to ashes."
The sacrificial priests replied:
O king, there is a great sacrifice that was created by the gods as if to fulfill your very purpose. O ruler of men, it is described in the ancient Puranas as the Snake Sacrifice, and experts agree that only you, as emperor, are in a position to sponsor such a sacrifice. If that be your desire, we possess the necessary technology to carry it out."
Shrila Suta Goswami said:
O noble sage, when thus addressed by his ministers, the saintly king envisioned the serpent Taksaka falling into the blazing mouth of the sacrificial fire, and thus he said to the brahmanas who were expert in chanting potent hymns, "Please procure the necessary articles, for I shall carry out the sacrifice!"
O best of the twice-born, priests then arranged for a careful survey of the king's land according to scriptural codes in order to find the most effective ground for sacrifice. The priests were distinguished scholars and self-realized souls, and under their guidance the sacrificial arena was properly constructed and with the greatest of opulence, bedecked with abundant jewels and grains, and attended by learned communities of respectable men.
After the sacrificial area was properly measured and built in the most desireable way, the priests next blessed the king for the accomplishment of the Snake Sacrifice. Before this, however, a great portent arose which signaled that an obstacle would occur in the performance of the Snake Sacrifices. As the sacrificial ground was being prepared, a master builder of vast wisdom, thoroughly schooled in the art of construction, spoke these words: "Considering the time and place in which the land survey was begun, this ceremony will not be completed and a brahmana will be the cause." Thus spoke the twice-born scholar, who was learned in the ancient science.
Hearing these words before his consecration into the ceremony, the king said to the royal gatekeeper, "Let no one who is unknown to me enter this area."
The procedure of the Snake Sacrifice then began, precisely according to rule, and each of the sacrificial priests carefully attended to his duties. Gravely garbed in black robes, their eyes reddened from smoke, they poured the potent ghee into the blazing fire of sacrifice, chanting the deadly and irrevocable mantras. As they proceeded to offer the race of snakes into the fiery mouth of sacrifice, the minds of all the chest-crawling serpents trembled with terror as snakes came flying and dropped into the sacrificial flames, writhing in wretched pain and crying out to one another. Quivering, gasping and hissing, coiling wildly around one another with their heads and tails, they plunged into the wondrous fire.
White snakes, black snakes, blue snakes, old snakes, and young snakes, shrieking in terror, fell into the mighty blaze. O best of the twice-born, thus did hundreds of thousands, millions, and tens of millions of helpless serpents meet their destruction. Some were as tiny as mice, others as thick as elephant trunks, and still others, having giant bodies and terrible strength, were as furious as maddened bull elephants. But all serpents, the mighty as well as the insignificant, with their varieties of hues, their horrible venom, and their awesome deadly power, fell into the unyielding fire, broken and ruined by the club of a mother's curse.
Shri Saunaka said:
In the snake sacrifice of the learned Pandava king, Janamejaya, who were the great sages who acted as the sacrificial priests? Who were the assembly members in that terrifying snake sacrifice, which caused such extreme fear and grief to the serpents? Dear Suta, kindly explain all this in detail, for those powerful men, who knew all the technology of sacrifice, should themselves be known to us.
Suta Goswami replied:
Yes, I shall tell you at once the names of the priests and council members who served the king on that occasion. The Hota priest at the sacrifice was the brahmana Canda-bhargava, born in the Cyavana dynasty and known to have excelled among Vedic scholars. The senior and learned brahmana named Kautsarya Jaimini served as the Udgata priest; Sarngarava as the Brahma priest; and Bodha-pingala the Adhvarya priest.
Vyasadeva was present as an assembly member, as were his son and disciples. Other assembly members were Uddalaka, Samathaka, Sveta-ketu, and Pancama. Similarly present in the assembly were great sages such as Asita, Devala, Narada, Parvata, Atreya, the twice-born Kunda-jathara, and Kuti-ghata.
There was also Vatsya, and Sruta-srava the elder, distinguished for his austerity, scholarship, and conduct; and Kahoda, Deva-sarma, Maudgalya, and Sama-saubhara. These and many other brahmanas, strict of vow, were present as assembly members at the sacrifice led by Pariksit's son, Janamejaya.
As the priests offered oblations at this great ritualistic sacrifice of snakes, horrible serpents who were frightening to all creatures fell into the irresistible flames. Streams of boiling fat and blood began to flow about, spreading the stark odor of death, as serpents incessantly burned in the tumultuous fire. There was the constant sound of shrieking snakes hovering in the air, and cooking horribly in the insatiable fire.
However, Taksaka, lord of the snakes, upon hearing that King Janmejaya had been initiated into a snake sacrifice, had immediately gone to the abode of Lord Indra. Knowing that he had sinned, and thoroughly frightened, the mighty serpent explained to Lord Indra all that had happened. Indra was very pleased with his humble submission and said, "O Taksaka, lord of the Nagas, there is absolutely no danger for you from this snake sacrifice. In the past I secured the blessings of Lord Brahma for your sake, and therefore you need not fear. Let your terrible anxiety be gone."
Being thus reassured by Indra, the mighty snake rejoiced and dwelt happily in the abode of the lord. But the great serpent Vasuki was most unhappy, and he grieved deeply for the snakes who continued to plunge into the fire, for so few of his associates were left alive. A terrible depression overtook the powerful serpent, and with a trembling heart he spoke these words to his sister:
"O blessed woman, my limbs are burning and I have no sense of where I am. I am sinking away in utter confusion and my mind is spinning. My vision is lost and my heart is bursting. Today I shall fall helplessly into that blazing fire. The sacrifice of Pariksit's son will go on until every one of us is dead. It is now clear that I am going to the abode of the Lord of death. Sister, the time has now come for which I once gave you to the sage Jarat-karu. Oh save us, and save all our family! O glorious lady of the serpents, our own grandfather Lord Brahma said in the past that your son Astika would put an end to this relentless sacrifice. Therefore, dear sister, tell your beloved child, who is so highly regarded by the elders as the greatest knower of the Vedas, that he must now save me and my dependants!"
Shri Suta Goswami said:
Thereupon the Snake woman Jarat-karu called for her son, and remembering the instruction of the snake king Vasuki, she told him, "Son, my brother gave me to your father with a mission, and its time has now come. You must do the needful!"
For what purpose did uncle give you to my father? Explain it to me truthfully, and upon hearing of that grave mission I shall properly execute it.
Shri Suta Goswami said:
Jarat-karu, sister to the serpent lord, yearned to help her relatives, and therefore with great determination she explained the situation to her son.
The goddess Kadru is understood to be the mother of all the serpents, without exception, but she grew furious with her sons and cursed them. Listen and you will know why.
"My dear children," she said, "even though my very freedom is at stake, you refuse to enter the tail of the king of horses, Uccaihsrava, and falsify it so I might win a wager with my sister Vinata. Therefore I curse you, that in the sacrifice of Janamejaya, a celestial fire, whipped and driven by the god of wind, will consume you, and your bodies will dissolve back into the earth, water, fire, air, and ether from which they came. From there you will go to the land of the dead."
As she thus cursed her serpent sons, the grandfather of the universe, Lord Brahma, approved her words and said, "So be it!"
My dear son, Vasuki heard the statement of Lord Brahma, and when the churning of the ocean had been accomplished, my brother approached the demigods for shelter. The gods had fulfilled their own purpose, having won the heavenly nectar, and thus they were all kindly disposed toward my brother. Placing him at the front of their entourage, they all went to see Lord Brahma.
All the gods, along with Vasuki, beseeched the Grandsire for mercy. "May this curse not act!" they pleaded. Vasuki, king of the snakes, agonized by the fate of his relatives, begged the Grandfather, "O my lord, may this cruel curse spoken by our mother not act upon us!"
Lord Brahma replied:
Saintly Jarat-karu will obtain a wife who will also be named Jarat-karu, and they will beget a brahmana son who will free the snakes from the curse.
My dear godly son, hearing these words, Vasuki, lord of snakes, then presented me to your illustrious father, and before the fated time of calamity had come he begot you within my womb. Now the time has certainly arrived, and you must therefore save us from this danger. You must especially save my brother from that terrible fire. I was given to your wise father to set the serpents free, and our marriage must not be in vain. Do you agree, my son?
Suta Goswami said:
Thus adressed, Astika agreed to his mother's request. He then spoke to the grief-stricken Vasuki, as if to bring him back to life.
"O Vasuki, O greatest of serpents, I shall deliver you from the curse. Most noble one, I tell you this in truth. Be settled in mind, dear uncle, for you have nothing to fear. You have always been kind to others, and I shall act in such a way that all good fortune will be yours. I have never spoken a lie, not even in jest, and I would hardly do so in a most serious matter such as this! My dear maternal uncle, I shall go today to that noble King Janamejaya, who has undergone religious initiation, and satisfy him with words that offer real blessings, so that the king's sacrifice will stop.
"O wise and noble serpent king, have full trust in me, and your faith will never go in vain."
O Astika, I am trembling and my heart is about to shatter. I have no sense of where I am, for I am tortured by that all-powerful curse.
O serpent lord, there is absolutely no reason for you to feel such anxiety. I shall vanquish all danger from that blazing fire of sacrifice. That horrible conflagration is like the very fire of annihilation, with its all-powerful flames, yet I shall destroy it. Believe me, you have nothing to fear!"
Shri Suta Goswami said:
Having removed the terrible anxiety that raged like a fever in Vasuki's mind, and having placed that burden on his own shoulders, Astika, best of the twice-born, then went with great haste to the flourishing sacrifice of Janamejaya, determined to save the serpent race from utter extinction. Arriving there Astika saw the fabulous sacrificial arena, filled with exalted assembly members who shone like the rays of the sun. In fact, the great sacrificial enterprise of Janamejaya was endowed with the best of personalities and the richest of paraphernalia.
As the pure brahmana Astika attempted to gain entry, he was stopped by the gatekeepers. He then generously praised the sacrifice, begging to be granted entrance.
Shri Astika said:
At the confluence of the sacred rivers Ganga and Yamuna, in the holy city of Prayaga, the lord of the moon performed a sacrifice. Likewise, in that place the lord of the waters worshiped his Maker, as did the great progenitor. But your sacrifice, O best of the Bharata race, is as good as theirs. O son of Pariksit, may your sacrifice bring all good fortune to my loved ones.
Lord Indra performed a hunred sacrifices, but now a single sacrifice has equaled them, for your sacrifice, O best of the Bharata race, is as good as Indra's hunred. O son of Pariksit, may your sacrifice bring all good fortune to my loved ones.
Lord Yama performed sacrifices, as did Harimedha and the pious king Rantideva. But your sacrifice, O best of the Bharata race, is equal to theirs. O son of Pariksit, may your sacrifice bring all good fortune to my loved ones.
Kings like Gaya, Sasabindu, and Vaisravana all performed sacrifice. But yours, O best of the Bharata race, is as good as theirs. O son of Pariksit, may your sacrifice bring all good fortune to my loved ones.
Nrga, Ajamidha, and Rama Himself are known to have performed sacrifices. And your sacrifice, O best of the Bharata race, is just like theirs. O son of Pariksit, may your sacrifice bring all good fortune to my loved ones.
Even in heaven one hears of the sacrifice performed by the son of a god, King Yudhisthira, the scion of Ajamidha. And yet your sacrifice, O best of the Bharata race, is like unto his. O son of Pariksit, may your sacrifice bring all good fortune to my loved ones.
The greatest of sages, Shri Vyasa, the son of Satyavati, conducted a sacrifice wherein he personally performed the sacred functions. Even still, your sacrifice, O best of the Bharata race, is equal to his. O son of Pariksit, may your sacrifice bring all good fortune to my loved ones.
Effulgent as fire or the sun, these priests sit around the sacrifice like the saints who attended Indra's own rites. For them, there is no knowledge yet to be known, and charity offered to them shall never go in vain.
I am convinced that there is no priest in all the worlds equal to Shrila Vyasa, who sits at this ceremony. Why, his disciples traverse the entire world, each expert in his own priestly duties.
The mighty fire of such wondrous light, that great soul of golden seed, who in consuming all, leaves but a dark trail of ash and smoke, whose ignited flames whirl round to the right, that godly fire, the enjoyer of oblations, now consumes the offerings of your sacrifice.
In this world of lost souls there is no monarch equal to you, none who cares for his people as you do. I am ever satisfied by your determination. You are the monarch and the king of virtue, the lord of death for the wicked!
In this world you are like Indra himself, who stands with thunderbolt in hand, because you deliver the innocent creatures of the earth. O leader of men, we understand your glorious position, for in this world none but you can lead a sacrifice such as this.
You are as sturdy and competent as the great rulers of yore, kings like Khatvanga, Nabhaga, and Dilipa, and your prowess is equal to that of Yayati and Mandhata. Your potency is like the potency of the sun, and in strict adherence to your vows you shine like the mighty Bhisma.
You carry yourself with the gravity of Valmiki, and you control your anger like a second Vasista. I consider you equal to Indra in your ability to rule, for your splendor shines like that of almighty Narayana.
In ascertaining justice and spiritual truth you are like Yama, the cosmic lord of justice, and all good qualities come to you as to Lord Krishna Himself. You are the abode of beauty and plenty, for all potent religious rites have their resting place in you.
You are equal in strength to Dambhodbhava, and you expertly wield both hand weapons and missiles with the skill of Rama Himself. With the splendor of Aurva and Trita and the menancing countenance of Bhagiratha, you can hardly even be gazed upon by your rivals.
Shri Suta Goswami said:
Thus praised by young Astika, the king, the assembly members, the priests, the fire-god--- indeed everyone became wholly satisfied. King Janamejaya observed the reactions of all those present and then spoke as follows.
King Janamejaya said:
Though young this boy speaks like a learned elder. Therefore, I accept him as a learned elder and not as a mere child. I wish to grant him a boon, and I ask the brahmanas gathered here to extend me that privilege.
The members of the saintly assembly replied:
A brahmana, though a child, always deserves the respect of kings, especially when he is learned. Therefore you should grant this young sage all that he may desire, so that by his blessings Taksaka will come quickly into our fire.
Shri Suta Goswami said:
The generous king was just about to tell Astika, "You may select a boon and I shall grant it," when suddenly the Hota priest, who was not pleased with the progress of the ceremony, spoke out and said, "We are duly performing the sacrifice, but Taksaka still has not come."
King Janamejaya replied to the priest:
Taksaka is our mortal enemy, and all of you must endeavor with your combined might to bring my sacrifice to completion, so that Taksaka is swiftly thrown into the fire.
The priests replied:
O king, the sacred books clearly inform us, and the sacred fire confirms, that the snake ruler Taksaka is hiding in terror at the palace of Lord Indra.
Shrila Suta Goswami said:
The great soul and Puranic scholar, Lohitaksa, already knew all these things, and now, being questioned by the king, he confirmed what the brahmanas had said.
"Having carefully studied the Puranas, I tell you, O king, that Indra has given a boon to that snake. `Dwell here with me,' Indra has said to him. `Stay close to me, well concealed, and those flames will never burn you.' "
Hearing this, the annointed king burned with grief, yet finding no relief and knowing that the time was at hand to consumate the rite, he encouraged the Hota priest. The diligent priest then worshiped the holy fire with mantras, and thereupon Indra himself came.
"Yes, let Indra come!" said the king. "And together with the serpent king, Taksaka, let him quickly plunge into the blazing fire!"
The Hota priest then intoned the words, jambhasya hanta! making Lord Indra himself, the slayer of Jambha, an offering unto the fire; and then mighty Indra -- he who had promised all security to the serpent -- came toward the sacrificial fire.
Befitting an exalted univeral ruler, Indra had come in a heavenly airship, surrounded and praised by all the gods and followed by a train of menacing clouds. He led an entourage of powerful Vidyadharas and gorgeous pleasure maidens. But Taksaka, trembling with fear and unable to calm his panic-stricken mind, hid himself in Indra's outer garment. The furious Janamejaya, desiring the death of Taksaka, spoke these words to his expert priests: "O twice-born men, if the serpent Taksaka is indeed concealed under the custody of Indra, throw him and Indra together into this fire-- now!"
The priests replied:
O king, the serpent Taksaka is quickly coming under your control. Listen, and you will hear the piercing sound of the snake as he screams in terror. For Indra, who wields the thunder bolt, has released him. The snake has fallen from Indra's lap, for our mantras have broken his strength and pulled his body away. Now with his mind faint and ruined he comes through the sky toward us, helplessly twisting-- the so-called lord of snakes-- gasping hot and acrid breaths.
O lord, O leader of kings, your sacrifice is proceeding properly. Therefore you should now grant a boon to that excellent brahmana.
Janamejaya agreed and said:
Though you appear a young boy your glory is great, and we shall offer you a suitable gift. Choose now that which you firmly desire within your heart, and I shall grant unto you that very thing, even if it is normally not to be given.
Shri Suta Goswami said:
And so, at the very moment in which Taksaka, the lord of snakes, was to fall into the sacrificial fire, Astika gave this command: "O Janamejaya, if you grant me a wish, then I wish that this sacrifice of yours cease. Let no more snakes fall into the fire!"
O brahmana, when the king, son of Pariksit, was thus addressed, he was not at all pleased and spoke these words to Astika, "Gold, silver, cows and bulls-- anything else that pleases you, O lord, all that would I grant you as a boon-- but please, brahmana, my sacrifice must not stop!"
Gold, silver, cows and bulls, I do not ask of you O king. Let this sacrifice of yours stop! That alone will benefit my mother's kin.
O son of Bhrgu, hearing Astika's words, King Janamejaya, son of Pariksit, appealed again and again to the eloquent brahmana: "O best of the twice-born, I wish the best for you, but please choose another boon."
Yet the young sage refused to ask for anything else. The members of the sacrificial assembly were all learned Vedic scholars, and they all therefore joined together and said unto the king, "May the brahmana have his wish!"
Shri Saunaka said:
O son of Romaharsana, I would like to hear all the names of those serpents who fell into the offering fire of the snake sacrifice.
Shri Suta Goswami replied:
O best of Vedic scholars, many thousands, millions, and tens of millions of snakes fell in that fire. There were so many that they cannot even be counted. We do know however from the Smrti scriptures the names of the most important of those snakes who were offered to the sacrificial fire. Please hear from me as I name them.
First hear about the serpents in the dynasty of Vasuki. The chief ones were blue, red, and white, possessing huge and loathsome bodies full of deadly venom. There names were Kotika, Manasa, Purna, Saha, Paila, Halisaka, Picchila, Konapa, Cakra, Konavega, Prakalana, Hiranyavaha, Sarana, Kaksaka, and Kaladantaka. These serpents, born of the race of Vasuki, entered the fire.
Now hear from me as I name the serpents born in the family of Taksaka: There was Pucchandaka, Mandalaka, Pindabhetta, Rabhenaka, Ucchikha, Surasa, Dranga, Balaheda, Virohana, Silisalakara, Muka, Sukumara, Pravepana, Mudgara, Sasaroma, Sumana, and Vegavahana. These serpents, born of the race of Taksaka, entered the fire.
Paravata, Pariyatra, Pandara, Harina, Krsa, Vihanga, Sarabha, Moda, Pramoda, and Samhatangada, all from the family of Airavata, entered into the fire. Now, O best of the twiceborn, hear of the snakes from the Kauravya dynasty. These were Aindila, Kundala, Munda, Veniskandha, Kumaraka, Bahuka, Srngavega, Dhurtaka, Pata, and Patara.
Now hear, as I recite their names, exactly which snakes from the family of Dhrtarastra perished therein. These serpents, O brahmana, were swift as the wind and terribly poisonous. They were Sankukarna, Pingalaka, Kutharamukha, Mecaka, Purnangada, Purnamukha, Prahasa, Sakuni, Hari, Amahatha, Komathaka, Svasana, Manava, Vata, Bhairava, Mundavedanga, Pisanga, Udraparaga, Rsabha, Vegavan Pindaraka, Mahahanu, Raktanga, Sarvasaranga, Samrddha, Pata, and Raksasa, Varahaka, Varanaka, Sumitra, Citravedika, Parasara, Tarunaka, Maniskandha, and Aruni.
Thus I have described, O brahmana, the most important serpents, those who brought fame to their race. But there were so many who died in that sacrifice that I cannot name them all. Nor is it possible to enumerate all of their sons and grandsons, and all the later generations who fell into the blazing fire.
Some of those serpents had seven heads, and some had two heads, while still others had five. Those ghastly creatures, with poison like the fire of annihilation, were sacrificed by the hundreds of thousands. They had great bodies, great power, and when they raised themselves up they stood like the peaks of mountains. Indeed, some of them stretched to a length of eight miles, and others extended to a full sixteen miles. They could assume any form at will and go wherever they desired, and their terrible poison was like a blazing fire. But they burned to death in that great sacrifice, ruined by a mother's curse that was sanctioned by the Creator.
Shri Suta Goswami said:
We have heard from authorities that even as King Janamejaya, son of Pariksit, was encouraging the sage Astika with boons and benedictions, the young sage did something extraordinary. The snake Taksaka had fallen from Indra's hand, but he remained hovering in the sky, and seeing this, King Janamejaya was filled with anxiety. The learned priests continued to offer abundant oblations into the blazing fire, following the regular procedure, but still the terrified Taksaka would not fall into the fire.
Shri Saunaka said:
O Suta, can it be that those wise brahmanas did not clearly recall the sacred hymns and for that reason Taksaka did not fall into the fire?
Shri Suta Goswami said:
Actually, as that most powerful snake, stunned and somewhat dazed, slipped from the hand of Indra, Astika turned to him and three times uttered the words, "Stay there!" The snake, his heart trembling, stayed in midair like a man frozen in fear in the midst of a circle of bulls. Then at the strong urging of the council members, the monarch decreed: "Let it be as Astika desires. This sacrifice must now come to an end! The snakes shall be saved from harm. Astika must be satisfied, and may the prophetic words of the master builder come true."
As the king thus granted Astika his boon, joyous applause and roars of approval spread in all directions, for the deadly ritual overseen by Janamejaya, son of Pariksit, had now come to an end. King Janamejaya himself, that worthy descendant of Bharata, was pleased with this turn of events. [All the kings in his lineage were staunch devotees of the Supreme Lord, and he rightly understood that the sudden end of his sacrifice was an arrangement of Providence.]
Following Vedic custom, the king awarded significant wealth to all the hundreds and thousands of priests and assembly members, and he further bestowed fine gifts upon all everyone who had gathered for the sacrifice. That mighty king presented magnificent gifts to the builder and bard Lohitaksa, who had predicted at the outset that the sacrifice would be stopped by a brahmana.
Having thus displayed genuine nobility, Janamejaya, strictly following the prescribed procedures, took the ritualistic avabhrtha bath, officially signaling the end of the sacrifice. The king's mind was thus at peace, and Astika too was satisfied, for he had performed his duty. The king greatly honored him and bid him farewell as he departed for his home. As the sage took his leave, the king graciously said to him, "You must come again and act as a council member in our great asvamedha
Suta Goswami said:
That best of brahmanas, having freed the snakes from the sacrifice designed to annihilate them, spent his days practicing virtue, and in due course of time he went to his destined end, leaving behind him worthy children and grandchildren. Thus have I narrated to you the actual story of Astika. It is a most righteous story because it causes goodness to flourish in the world. One who thus recites or listens from the beginning this glorious tale of the learned Astika will have nothing to fear from serpents.
Shri Saunaka said:
O son of Romaharsana, you have thoroughly recited for me a glorious history, from the beginning of the Bhrgu dynasty, and therefore, my son, you have pleased me very much. And so I shall inquire from you again, dear son of a scholar, regarding that excellent history composed by the great Vyasa. Kindly continue that recitaion.
O Suta, we wish to hear from you all these stories and subject matters that were regularly discussed among the exalted council members during the intervals of that most lengthy snake sacrifice. Being an accomplished scholar, you are certainly expert in this field as well.
Shri Suta Goswami replied:
During intervals in the sacrifice, the brahmanas recited stories from the Vedas. The great Vyasa, however, always recited the story of Mahabharata.
Shri Saunaka said:
The Mahabharata has forever established the fame of the five sons of Pandu. King Janamejaya inquired about them, and Krishna-dvaipayana Vyasa then regularly recited their story during the intervals of the sacrifice. Now I would like to hear, in the same systematic way, the glorious story of the Mahabharata.
Shrila Vyasa was a great sage and his own activities were glorious. O son of a sage, O best of the saintly, relate to us now that magnificent history that arose from the oceanic mind of that powerful seer.
Shri Suta Goswami replied:
Yes, I shall recite to you from its beginning the great and transcendent history known as Mahabharata, exactly as it was conceived by Krishna-dvaipayana Vyasa. O brahmana of excellent mind, I am enthusiatic to tell this history. May you delight in its narration!
Shri Suta Goswami continued:
Hearing that Janamejaya had been initiated into the snake sacrifice, the learned seer Krishna-dvaipayana Vyasa approached the king. Vyasa, grandfather of the Pandavas, was begotten by the maiden Kali and sage Parasara, son of Sakti, on an island in the holy Yamuna River.
At birth, the celebrated Vyasa at once brought his body to maturity by his own will and then thoroughly studied the Vedas, with their supplements and historical works. No one could surpass him in his austerity, Vedic study, vows, fasting, and procreation, nor in the power of his anger. The greatest of all Vedic scholars, he divided the one Veda into four. He was a self-realized sage, pure and truthful, a poet and a seer of past, present, and future. Renowned for his extraordinary piety, he begot Pandu, Dhrtarastra, and Vidura in order to preserve the dynasty of Santanu.
Accompanied by his disciples, he who knew all the Vedic literature entered the snake sacrifice of saintly King Janamejaya and there beheld the monarch sitting amidst his council members, like Indra surrounded by the gods. In this elaborate rite, many annointed kings and expert godlike priests sat around the king.
Janamejaya noted the sage's arrival, and he quickly stood up with all his associates and lovingly received him. With the instant consent of the assembly, the king offered the sage a magnificent golden seat, just as Indra offers to the priest of heaven, Brhaspati.
When the munificent Vyasa took his seat, the first of kings, following the scriptural law, worshiped the sage whom all godly seers revere, offering him scented water to bathe his feet, water to rinse his mouth, thoughtful gifts that engladden a guest, and a fine cow. All these presents were properly presented to the venerable forefather Vyasa, who richly deserved the honor.
Accepting the prize cow and the symbolic gestures of honor, from Janamejaya, heir to Pandu's throne, Shrila Vyasa was visibly satisfied. King Janamejaya was also satisfied at heart, for he made every effort to worship his grandfather's grandfather, and sitting near the holy one, the king inquired all about his health and happiness. The divine sage then looked upon the king and saw that he too was well. Honored by all the council members, Vyasa honored them in turn.
Thereupon, Janamejaya folded his hands in reverence and seriously inquired from his illustrious forefather, who had been so well received by the council members;
"My lord, you were an eyewitness to the activities of the Pandavas and Kurus. O brahmana, I would so much like to hear about them from you. How did a conflict arise among those indefatigable men? How did the conflict lead to such a terrible war, which finished the life of so many creatures? My lord, you are learned in these matters, so tell me everything, just as it happened. Those men, whose minds were overwhelmed by some higher destiny, were all my own forefathers."
Hearing these words, Vyasa then ordered his disciple Vaisampayana, who was sitting nearby, "Please explain to him, as you have heard it from me, exactly how a conflict arose between the Kurus and the Pandavas."
Understanding the order of his teacher, the eminent brahmana then fully explained the ancient history to the monarch, his council members, and all the assembled kings. He told how strife arose between the Kurus and Pandavas and how it brought destruction to a kingdom.\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00\'00
Shri Vaisampayana said:
Let me first offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual maser, Shrila Vyasadeva, fixing my mind and intelligence in devotion to his lotus feet. Let me then offer my complete reverence to all the brahmanas assembled here with us and to all the learned and wise people gathered at this site.
The noble sage Vyasa is renowned throughout the universe for his wisdom and immeasurable strength, and all that I speak is authorized by him. My dear king, you are qualified to hear, and I myself, having now obtained an opportunity to recite my spiritual master's history of the Bharata race, feel my heart trembling and swelling with joy.
Hear, O king, how a conflict arose among the Kurus and Pandavas over a game of dice, played with an entire kingdom at stake, and how the Pandavas were then sent to live in the forest. Hear of the great war that caused such untold destruction on the earth. O best of the Bharatas, you have inquired about these events, and I shall explain them in full.
When their father passed away, the heroic young sons of Pandu left their forest dwelling and returned to their ancestral home in the imperial capital, where they soon became experts in Dhanurveda, the military science. But their cousins the Kurus, seeing the Pandavas' extraordinary beauty, courage, and stamina, and their popularity with every citizen, burned with a jealous rage. They could not bear seeing their cousins' wealth and fame. Thus the cruel Duryodhana and Karna, along with Saubala (Sakuni), worked in many ways to bring down the Pandavas and banish them from their royal home.
Duryodhana, the sinful son of Dhrtarastra, administered poison to Bhima, but Pandu's heroic son, with the stomach of a wolf, digested the poison along with his food. Then again, when Bhima was soundly asleep at Pramana-koti, Duryodhana tied him up, threw him into the waters of the Ganges, and returned to his city. When Bhima awoke, O king, he burst his bonds and sprang out of the river without the slightest pain or trouble.
Another time when Bhima was asleep, Duryodhana had poisonous black snakes bite him in every limb of his body, but Bhima, slayer of foes, did not die. In all these wicked acts, the very wise Vidura was ever alert to save the Pandavas from harm and to undo the Kuru schemes. Just as Lord Indra, from his heavenly abode, always bestows happiness on the good people of earth, so Vidura always brought happiness to the five Pandavas. The Kuru princes tried by so many open and covert means to annihilate the Pandavas, but the Supreme Lord protected the sons of Pandu, for in the future they would carry out His will.
Consulting with such advisers as Vrsa and Duhsasana and unobstructed by his father, Dhrtarastra, Duryodhana ordered the construction of an inflammable house of lac and arranged for the apparently trusting Pandavas to dwell there. Then he tried to burn it down with fire, but Vidura warned the powerful Pandavas of the danger and dispatched a trusted engineer to dig a tunnel under the lacquer house. Thus the Pandavas were saved from the burning mansion and fled in mortal fear. Entering a deep and deadly forest, they encountered the monstrous Raksaka named Hidimba, but Bhima with his terrible prowess angrily killed him.
Remaining close together, the heroic sons of Pandu then traveled with their mother to the town of Ekacakra, where they disguised themselves as brahmanas, living for some time in the house of a saintly brahmana; then to save that brahmana's life Bhima slew the mighty demon Baka. After this the Pandavas journeyed with a group of devoted brahmanas to the kingdom of Pancala, and there they won the hand of the princess Draupadi and dwelled for one year in her father's kingdom. Having lived in hiding, their identity was now discovered and so the mighty sons of Pandu returned to the Kuru capital of Hastinapura.
Upon their arrival, King Dhrtarastra and Grandfather Bhisma told them, "We are very anxious for this fighting to stop among you cousin brothers, and therefore we want you to make your home in the region of Khandava-prastha. Please give up your anger toward the Kurus and go live in Khandava-prastha, which is well settled, with a large, well-organized system of roads."
The Pandavas accepted the order of their two elders, and taking all their jewels and wealth they journeyed with all their well-wishing friends to the city of Khandava-prastha and resided there for many years, dominating other kings by their strength of arms. O king, the sons of Pandu were wholly dedicated to justice; they were honest and true to their word. They were never overcome by lust or greed and were ever vigilant in their duties. Forgiving those who sought their shelter, they punished those who would harm them.
The mighty Bhimasena conquered the kingdoms to the East, and the heroic Arjuna conquered the North. Nakula took the West, and Sahadeva, the slayer of his enemies, conquered the South. Thus the Pandavas spread their circle of influence over the entire planet. These five brothers shone like the sun, for they derived their power from their dedication to truth. And together with the shining sun in the sky, the earth was now radiant with the light of six suns.
For a particular reason, Yudhisthira, king of virtue, thereafter sent his brother Arjuna to the forest, where he lived for one full year plus one month. Then the fierce warrior, the third-born of Pandu, went to see Lord Krishna in Dvaraka and there won the hand of the Lord's younger sister, Subhadra, the lotus-eyed beauty of lovely speech. As Saci unites with Lord Indra or as the goddess of fortune unites with Lord Shri Krishna, so did Subhadra happily unite with Arjuna, the son of Pandu.
In the Khandava forest, O excellent king, Arjuna, together with Lord Krishna, satisfied the lord of fire. No deed was too difficult for Arjuna as long as he was with Lord Krishna, just as Lord Vishnu, endowed with His limitless determination, always kills His enemies. Thus the god of fire gave Arjuna the extraordinary bow named Gandiva and two inexhaustible quivers of arrows, along with a chariot marked with the symbol of Hanuman.
As the Khandava forest was being offered to Agni, the god of fire, Arjuna saved the great asura wizard Maya from the blaze, and in gratitude Maya constructed for the Pandavas a celestial assembly hall studded with all types of jewels. In that fabulous building the foolish Duryodhana became greedy and, with the help of Saubala, cheated Yudhisthira in a game of dice. As the fradulent victor in the gambling match, he banished the Pandavas to the forest wilds for successive periods of seven and five years, with the stipulation that for one additional year they would have to live somewhere within a kingdom without being discovered. Thus they were banished for a total of thirteen years.
In the fourteenth year, the Pandavas returned and asked that their kingdom and wealth be returned to them. But they were denied, O king, and there was war, a war in which the Pandavas destroyed all their enemies and killed King Duryodhana, regaining their rightful kingdom, which had been so greatly disturbed by the conflict.
Thus in the past, among great and tireless men, there was conflict, the loss of a kingdom, and ultimate victory, O victorious king.
King Janamejaya said:
O best of brahmanas, you have briefly summarized the whole story of the Mahabharata and the extraordinary deeds of the Kuru warriors. O sinless saint, as you recite this fascinating story there arises within me an intense curiosity to hear it in greater detail. Please lord, tell the story again, but in full, for my thirst to hear of the great deeds of my forefathers is not yet sated.
O knower of justice, all mankind praises the Pandavas, and so it was certainly not for some trifling reason that they slew respectable seniors who normally are never to be killed. But why did the innocent and powerful Pandavas, those tigers among men, tolerate for so long the terrible harassment of their wicked foes? O best of brahmanas, how could the mighty-armed Bhima, with the strength of ten thousand elephants, control his rage when put to such much trouble? How is it that Draupadi, the chaste devotee of Lord Krishna, when harassed by wicked men, did not burn them to ashes with her terrible glance, even though she was certainly able to do so?
How could Bhima, Arjuna, and the two sons of Madri follow their eldest brother, Yudhisthira, a tiger among men, when they saw that he was being cheated by their wicked cousins in a crooked gambling match? Yudhisthira knew well the principles of justice, and he above all others followed those principles, for he was the son of Dharma. How, then, could he tolerate such extreme and unwarranted suffering? How is it that Arjuna, the son of Pandu, standing alone with Lord Krishna as his charioteer, sent so many entire armies to the land of the dead? O ascetic whose wealth is austerity, kindly explain all this to me exactly as it happened. Relate to me all the deeds done by those supreme warriors as they wandered about the earth.
Shri Vaisampayana said:
I shall tell you what I have heard from my spiritual master, that great rsi honored throughout the worlds, the great soul of limitless might: Shrila Vyasa. This most potent son of Satyavati has narrated 100,000 verses describing the holy deeds of the sons of Pandu. Learned persons who teach this history and those who hear it will both come to the spiritual platform and attain qualitative oneness with God. This ancient history is equal to the Vedas, for it is pure and transcendental. Indeed, it is the best of histories that are worthy to hear, and it is therefore highly praised by sages.
This most pious history shows the path of economic and moral development and trains the reader to function with complete and steady intelligence. A learned person who teaches this Krishna-veda to those who are openminded, generous, truthful, and not dogmatically atheistic will surely fulfill his purpose in life. Simply by hearing this history, even a very cruel man can most assuredly overcome all his sins, even that of killing an embryo in the womb.
Victory is the very name of this history, and it is to be heard by one who seeks victory. For by the power of this literature, a king can become victorious throughout the entire world and gain victory over his enemies. The Mahabharata should be heard repeatedly by a young king and his queen, because this great and auspicious history is the best sacrament for begetting a son.
It is the most sacred among worldly books of wisdom and stands at the forefront of religious scriptures. It leads to spiritual liberation, for it is a work composed by Shrila Vyasa, a sage of boundless intellect. For those who recite it, now and in the future, their children will be obedient and their helpers eager to please them. A person who regularly hears this history will quickly be released from reactions to all sins commited with body, mind, or words. Those who, without envy, hear of the great lives of the Bharata kings will never be frightened by disease, and they will certainly not have to worry about their lives after death.
Krishna-dvaipayana Vyasa sought to help people attain holiness in their lives, and so he composed a work that bestows wealth, fame, long life, and promotion to heaven, and at the same time leads people to pure existence. In so doing he has glorified throughout the world the exalted sons of Pandu and other warriors who possessed abundant wealth and power.
Just as the lord of the ocean and the Himalayan range are both renowned as reservoirs of jewels, so is the Mahabharata celebrated as a storehouse of riches. A learned person who on holy days recites this work to brahmanas is cleansed of all sin and conquers the heavenly abode. Ultimately he journeys to the spiritual world itself. If one recites even one quarter couplet of this work to brahmanas during the Sraddha ceremony for departed ancestors, his performance of Sraddha will provide everlasting benefit to his forefathers.
All sins unknowingly performed each day vanish simply upon hearing the narration of Mahabharata. It tells of the great (maha) lives of the Bharata kings, and so it is known as Mahabharata, and one who simply understands this meaning of the words Maha-bharata is freed of all sin.
The philosopher Krishna-dvaipayana Vyasa worked continuously for three years to compose this extraordinary history. O leader of the Bharatas, whatever is found here on the subjects of religion, economics, satisfaction of bodily needs, and salvation may also be found in other works; but that which is not to be found here in the Maha-bharata will not be found elsewhere.
Once there was a virtuous king named Vasu, who never failed to keep his vows. King Vasu traveled beyond the earth to the upper regions of the universe, and thus he became celebrated as Upari-cara, "one who goes to the heights." By the order of Indra, the king agreed to rule the charming kingdom of Cedi.
Once King Vasu put aside his weapons and began to live in an asrama, devoted to the practice of austerities, until Indra himself, wielder of the thunderbolt, came to see the king. Indra was worried and thought, "By his fiery penance this King Vasu is almost strong enough to seize my own position."
Indra approached the king and with kind words convinced him to stop his austerities.
You are a king of the earth (and not a brahmana). The religious principles should not be confused. Follow your religious principles, which are meant for kings, and those same sacred principles will sustain the entire world.
Always engaged in the devotional service of the Lord, you should carefully maintain those religious principles that will lead you to the higher planets. You will attain the pure, eternal planets of the pious simply by engaging in your prescribed duty as an act of service to God.
[Although your regimen was not authorized, you did perform great penances, and since you are now voluntarily obeying, me your faith and penances will not go unrewarded.]
Although you live on earth and I in heaven, I now accept you as my friend, and I grant you an extraordinary kingdom that is the very bosom of this earth. It is a rich land, filled with virtuous citizens and useful animals. The climate is mild and steady, and there is abundant wealth in grains. Easy to defend, that sublime kingdom abounds with all the enjoyable things to be found on earth. That country is better than all other earthly kingdoms and is richly endowed with all sorts of wealth and jewels. I speak of the fabled kingdom of Cedi, which lacks nothing in natural resources. Dwell in the kingdom of Cedi, O king, for you are meant to protect that land.
The inhabitants of Cedi are thoroughly honest and satisfied with their lives. They are peaceful men and women who are happy to follow the laws of God. In the land of Cedi, O king, a false word is never spoken, not even in jest, and certainly not otherwise. The children of Cedi do not squander their fathers' wealth; rather they gladly serve their wise elders.
In Cedi, cows are never yoked to the plow, and even the lean cows give rich and abundant milk. All the citizens are devoted to their own duties. Such is the land of Cedi, O respectful king.
Finally, I grant you a most extraordinary boon so that nothing in this universe remain unknown to you. I grant you now a divine crystal airship, meant for the pleasure of the gods. This extraordinary vehicle will soon approach you, and you alone among mortal men will board that airship. Like one of the gods, you will thus travel to the upper regions of the universe.
And I give you the Vaijayanti Victory Garland of unfading lotus flowers. This celestial garland will sustain you in battle, and by its power, weapons will never pierce you. In fact, O king, this garland will be your emblem in this world, for you have achieved the greatest and richest of symbols, the celestial garland of Indra.
Finally, Lord Indra gave the pious King Vasu a bamboo staff with two extraordinary powers: it bestowed whatever the king desired, and it fully protected all honest people. Having given all of this, Lord Indra departed.
Following Indra's instruction, King Vasu assumed the throne of Cedi, and after he had ruled for one year, the monarch arranged for the wonderful bamboo staff to be stood upright on the earth, whereupon it became the focus of a great celebration honoring King Indra, the ruler of heaven. From that time on the most important rulers of earth followed King Vasu's example and performed the same celebration. Adorning the sacred staff with various banners, fragrant scents, garlands, jewels, and wreaths, they continued to honor Lord Indra just as King Vasu had done.
King Vasu was a great soul, and he honored King Indra with such affection that the lord of heaven felt jovial and affectionate toward the earthly ruler. Seeing the splendid ceremony in his honor, Indra spoke to Vasu as follows: "O King of Cedi! From this time on, all earthly kings who perform this ceremony and joyfully honor me exactly as you have done will certainly gain opulence and victory for themselves and their citizens. Their cities will flourish and happiness will reign among their people."
Thus did mighty Indra happily confer great honor upon King Vasu. And those men, O king,who ever arrange this festival of Indra, with gifts of land and other good works, become purified by the Indra rite, as much as by fulfulling wishes with gifts, and performing grand sacrificial rites. Indra fully honored Vasu, king of Cedi, and stationed in Cedi, the king protected this earth through virtue and law. And loved by Indra, Vasu performed the grand Indra festivities.
The king then begat five sons of fierce prowess and incomparable strength, and these fine sons established themselves in their own kingdoms and capital cities, all of which came to bear their names, and each of the five sons established a long-lived dynasty. Their father, King Vasu, traveled about the heavens in the celestial airship given to him by Lord Indra, and as he traveled, handsome Gandharvas and lovely Apsaras would approach him and fulfill his desires. Thus the fame of King Vasu, the Upward Mover, spread far and wide.
Near the capital city of King Vasu there flowed a charming river called Suktimati, which was full of pearls and other wealth. One day a mountain endowed with consciousness and named Kolahala, the "Uproarious One," decided to enjoy the lovely goddess of that river, and he lustily blocked her waters, embracing the river goddess.
When the powerful King Vasu understood that Kolahala was raping the unwilling goddess, he rushed to the spot and gave Kolahala a mighty kick, cracking him open and releasing the blocked-up river and its goddess. But the river goddess, Suktimati, was already pregnant from Kolahala's embrace, and she soon gave birth to a male and a female child.
Grateful to the king for her deliverance, the river goddess delivered to him her newborn babies, and the very saintly King Vasu agreed to take care of them. The generous king eventually established the male child as a powerful general of his armies, and the female child, born of a goddess, quickly grew into a lovely and gentle maiden named Girika, the "mountain-born," and King Vasu loved her and made her his wife.
The time of begetting had arrived, and the lovely young Queen Girika, longed for her husband's embrace. For twelve days she had subsisted on whole milk and faithfully performed religious rites meant to calm the senses and purify the mind. [Girika knew that if a woman's mind is filled with good and noble thoughts at the moment of conception, she will beget an excellent child.]
The queen bathed her youthful body and dressed with new garments. With a bright face and chaste mind, she approached her husband and eagerly told him that the moment for conception was nigh.
[King Vasu intensely longed to lie down with his wife and therefore immediately prepared for the sacred act.] But on that very day, before the king could lie with his wife his venerable forefathers came to him and ordered him to the forest for his family's sake, to procure sacrificial animals for the holy rites.
King Vasu could not disregard the order of his forefathers, and though ardently desiring union with his young wife, he sadly left at once for the forest. But as he moved along the path, he could only remember his lovely Girika, for she was endowed with extraordinary beauty like that of the Goddess of Fortune herself. Wandering about the enchanting forest, King Vasu felt semen spill out of his body, and he immediately collected it in the leaf of a tree.
[King Vasu was born in the exalted Kuru dynasty, and in such a family marriages were arranged with painstaking care so that great women would combine with great men, and their noble children would preserve the indomitable House of Kuru, which was sworn to protect the innocent. Centuries of careful, devoted breeding were now preserved in the seed of King Vasu, and that seed could not be wasted, not on this special day when lovely Girika so much yearned for his child.]
"I must not waste this powerful seed," he thought, "for lovely Girika's season has come, and she must not be frustrated."
Again and again King Vasu pondered what he should do. Then he decided to send his semen to Girika, even if he couldn't personally be with her. King Vasu had a deep understanding of religious affairs and was expert in practical action. Consecrating his seed with mantra, he saw a swift hawk resting nearby. King Vasu was able to make the hawk understand the following: "O kind hawk, please help me. Carry this semen to my house and deliver it to my wife, Girika, for her season has come today."
The hawk was capable of great speed, and taking the leaf package in his talons he rose into the air and rushed off toward the king's palace. As he flew at tremendous speed, another hawk spied him and mistakenly thought the semen in the leaf to be the meat of a fallen prey. Hoping to steal the prey, therefore, the rival hawk rushed forward in attack, and the two hawks fought fiercely in the sky, tearing at each other with their sharp beaks. But while they fought, the king's semen fell from out of the sky into the waters of the Yamuna River. Within these waters of the Yamuna was a romantic young goddess named Adrika, whom a brahmana had cursed because of her misdeeds. Adrika was a celestial Apsara maiden, but by the brahmana's curse she had fallen to earth from the higher planets and was forced to take birth as a fish within the Yamuna River.
Thus when King Vasu's semen fell into the river, the cursed goddess Adrika, swimming about as a fish, quickly approached it and swallowed it.
Ten months later some fishermen caught the accursed fish who was pregnant with the king's semen and about to give birth. Killing the fish and cutting her open, the fishermen extracted from her belly a female and a male child, both quite human. Thoroughly astonished, they rushed to tell King Vasu.
"O king," they said, "these two human children came out of a fish's belly."
King Vasu accepted the male child, who later became a most religious monarch named Matsya, ever devoted to truth. And the goddess, her fish body cut to pieces by the fishermen, was instantly freed from the brahmana's curse, for previously the exalted brahmana had told her, "Good maiden, after giving birth to two human children, you will be freed from this curse." Thus having begotten the human twins and being cut up by the fisherman, she relinquished her life as a fish and regained her celestial body. Following the path of the perfected seers and the mystic Caranas, she returned to her position among the finest celestial courtesans.
Unfortunately, the female child born of the fish gave off a strong fishy odor, and so the king gave her back to the fishermen and told them: "This girl will be yours. You may raise her."
The girl grew into a beautiful young lady of fine character, glorified with all good qualities, and she became known as Satyavati, "the truthful one." But because of her close connection with the killers of fish, that lovely girl with her innocent smile continued to be plagued for some time with scent of fish.
To serve her foster father, beautiful Satyavati would ply his boat across the waters of the Yamuna River, taking passengers from one side to the other, until one day the sage Parasara, desiring to cross the river, approached that young maiden, who was so extraordinarily lovely that even the perfected beings of higher planets would long for her company. Upon seeing the beautiful sight of the maiden, the wise Parasara desired to beget a child in her, for the exalted sage had a sacred duty to perform, and he knew her to be the daughter of the religious king Vasu.
[Satyavati was still very young, and nothing had prepared her for such an abrupt request as this.]
"My lord," she said, "there are sages sitting on both sides of this sacred river. How could I unite with you out here with all of them watching us?"
Hearing this earnest plea, the mighty Parasara with his godly power at once created a dense fog that shrouded the entire area in darkness. Satyavati was astonished to see that Parasara was able to cover the entire region in fog. Yet with all the wits of a king's daughter, the maiden spoke with simple shyness to the sage.
"My lord, you must know that I am a virgin girl living under the protection of my father. If I have contact with you now, my virginity will be spoiled. I know that you're a sinless man, in fact the best of the brahmanas, and I believe in your mission. But I humbly ask you this: if my virginity is spoiled, how can I possibly go home and face my father? How could I dare return to him under these conditions?" Satyavati glanced anxiously at the sage.
"My lord," she said, "please consider my situation and do what is fair and proper."
That most excellent sage Parasara was quite pleased by Satyavati's honest statement, and he told her,
"Simply do as I desire. Have intercourse with me, and I shall bless you to again become a virgin, even after our child is born."
[Upon hearing that he would truly restore her virginity, she could think of no further objection.]
"My dear Satyavati," he said, "you are very kind and innocent, and I want to give you a boon. Choose whatever you want, and I shall grant it. Your smile is so lovely and pure. Tell me what you desire and you shall have it, for never in the past have my blessings ever failed."
r228uldb [Satyavati longed to be free forever of the awful fish scent, which stained her otherwise perfect beauty.]
Hearing the words of the sage, she revealed her desire that her lovely body possess a charming fragrance, and the powerful sage immediately granted her wish. Satyavati was delighted, for at once her body was adorned with a most enchanting fragrance. With perfect feminine charm, she retired with the sage to an island in the Yamuna River, and there joined with holy Parasara, who could perform such wonderful deeds. By Parasara's blessings, Satyavati became celebrated on earth for her lovely aroma, for men could perceive her delightful scent at a distance of eight miles.
The godly Parasara returned to his own residence. Satyavati was filled with joy, for she had received an incomparable boon, and by the potency of Parasara, she gave birth at once to a powerful son. [The child did not grow day by day like an ordinary boy, but rather upon taking birth he came at once to youthful maturity.] Standing respectfully before his mother, he fixed his mind on austerity. [For it is by austerity that the sages achieve spiritual power to guide and inspire humanity.]
[Parasara's son could not go back to his mother's home, for no one knew of Satyavati's connection with Parasara. Satyavati had in fact again become a virgin girl] She left her capable son on that island in the sacred Yamuna River, and because the boy was born and left on the Yamuna island, he became known as Dvaipayana, "the island-born."
Before his mother departed, the faithful son told her, "Mother, whenever there is need, simply remember me and I shall immediately appear before you."
Thus Dvaipayana took birth from the womb of Satyavati, fathered by Parasara.
[Dvaipayana knew that the earth cycles through four great ages, as it turns through its seasons. In the Age of Truth all mankind gladly follows the laws of God, and people are long-living and powerful].
But in the next three ages, the religiosity, longevity, and strength of mortal beings diminish by one fourth in each age, by the influence of the age. He desired (for the people of the current fallen age) the blessings of the Supreme Lord and of the saintly brahmanas who worship Him.
Therefore he divided the holy Veda into four parts so that all people could understand and follow the Book of Knowledge and attain a blessed life. Then the merciful Dvaipayana, the greatest of all holy teachers, revealed the history known as the Mahabharata, and it became the fifth division of the Vedas.
Thereafter Dvaipayana was celebrated throughout the world as Vyasa, "the compiler and arranger of the Veda." That noble and munificent sage taught this knowledge to his disciples Sumantu, Jaimini, and Paila, to his own son Suka, and to me, Vaisampayana. It is through this unbroken chain that the great history called Mahabharata came to be known in this world.
The Heroes of Mahabharata AP 57/c
[When Vyasa told the story of Mahabharata, he revealed the lives of many great souls.] There was Bhisma, of incomparable splendor, who took birth as the son of King Santanu from the womb of goddess Ganga. Bhisma was not an ordinary human being, but as one of the godly Vasus, he came to earth and spread his undying fame.
There was Vidura, dragged down to the earth by the curse of a mystic sage. Once, the famous sage Ani-man-davya, a Puranic scholar, was falsely accused of theft and condemned in court to be pierced by a lance. The great sage called upon the lord of death, Yamaraja, and demanded an explanation.
[Yamaraja is called Dharma because he punishes the sinful according to the laws of God.] But the sage angrily accused Yamaraja of improperly punishing him. "When I was a small child," he told Yamaraja, "I once pierced a little bird with a straw. I remember committing that sin, but I do not recall any other sin in my life. Why have my penances, which are thousands of times greater, not neutralized this one childish sin? Of all killing, the most sinful is the killing of a simple brahmana dedicated to the spiritual path, and yet you ordained that I be killed. Therefore it is you, the lord of death, who are sinful. Because of your own sin you will take birth in the womb of a sudrani, a woman of the lowest class."
By that curse Dharma himself took birth in the womb of a sudra woman and assumed the form of Vidura, a wise and virtuous man of impeccable behavior.
Sanjaya, the royal secretary with the intelligence of a mature philosopher, was born to Gavalgana. Karna, the military master, took birth by the sun-god himself in the womb of the virgin princess Kunti. None would call him an ordinary man, for he was born with celestial armor and dazzling earrings that illumined his handsome face.
Then to show mercy on all the worlds, the Supreme Lord Vishnu, whom all the world worships, appeared as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. Though not always visible to our conditioned eyes, He is the almighty God without beginning or end, the maker of the cosmos, and the inperishable Absolute Truth. He transforms His own potency into the ingredients of this world, yet He is never affected by material qualities. The wise know him as the inexhaustible Soul, the transcendental source of all that be, and the ultimate basis of the material world. He is the supreme enjoyer, the universal doer, the indestructible eternal being who spreads goodness throughout the worlds. He is the infinite and unchanging God, the essential being who is celebrated as Narayana, the everlasting and unaging creator, supreme and untiring, the grandfather of all creatures. So that the principles of virtue might flourish on the earth, He appeared in the dynasty of Andhaka and Vrsni.
Two heroes named Satyaki and Krtavarma, born of Satyaka and Hrdika, took birth as faithful followers of the Supreme Lord and were endowed with enormous power. Both possessed extraordinary knowledge in the use of missles, and both were consummate masters of all kinds of weapons.
[Other extraordinary births also occured.] When the great sage Bharadvaja happened to pass semen, he kept it in a pot, and by the power of his fierce austerities the famous military professor Drona took birth from that seed.
The sage Gautama dropped his semen in a clump of bushes, and that seed also grew. Thus the powerful Krpa and his twin sister, Krpi, took birth. Krpi became the wife of Drona, and they begot as their son that excellent wielder of weapons Asvatthama.
When the embittered King Drupada vowed to kill Drona, the monarch performed a fierce sacrifice, and up from the sacrificial flames arose Prince Dhrstadyumna, wielding a bow and blazing like fire, born to destroy the invincible Drona. Then from the same sacrificial altar Dhrstadyumna's powerful sister Draupadi took birth. Radiant and pure, her body displayed the highest degree of feminine beauty.
Strong kings also appeared on this earth, like Nagnajita, the disciple of Prahlada, and Subala, King of Gandhara, whose shrewd son Sakuni, called Saubala after his father, incurred the wrath of the gods and thus became the wicked enemy of religion. Subala also begot a daughter named Gandhari, who like her brother was learned in worldly affairs.
The great sage Vyasa begot Dhrtarastra and the powerful Pandu in the wives of his departed brother, Vicitravirya. Pandu's five sons, born of his two wives, were all equal to the gods, but the noblest of them all was Yudhisthira. Plagued by a brahmana's curse, King Pandu could not beget children, so Dharma, the god of justice, begot Pandu's eldest son, Yudhisthira; Marut, lord of the wind, begot Bhima; Lord Indra begot handsome Arjuna, the most skillful wielder of weapons; and the twin Asvins, the celestial physicians, begot the most handsome of the Pandavas, Nakula and Sahadeva, who were always eager to serve their elder brothers.
The learned Dhrtarastra begot a hundred sons, headed by Duryodhana, and also Yuyutsu by a woman of a lower station. Arjuna begot Abhimanyu in the womb of Subhadra, the sister of Lord Krishna, and this child became a worthy grandson of the great soul Pandu.
The five Pandavas each begot a beautiful son in the womb of their common wife, Draupadi, and all five boys became masters of the military science. Yudhisthira begot Prativindhya; mighty Bhima begot Sutasoma; from Arjuna came Srutakirti; from Nakula, Satanika; and the fierce fighter Srutasena was born from Sahadeva. While staying in the forest, Bhima also begot Ghatotkaca in his wife Hidimba.
Sikhandi took birth as a daughter of King Drupada, but later became a male when the Yaksa named Sthuna transformed her into a man in order to satisfy her desire for battle.
In the conflict which consumed the House of Kuru, many hundreds and thousands of kings came to the field of battle intent on fighting, and their innumerable names could not be fully recounted in many thousands of years. I have mentioned here the principle rulers, those who dominate this history.
King Janamejaya said:
O brahmana, I wish to hear the entire story of those brilliant warriors you have just mentioned, and also of other outstanding kings you have not yet described. O most fortunate one, please fully explain why and how these Maha-rathas appeared on the earth like gods incarnate.
My dear king, we have heard that this topic is so confidential that it is known only to the gods, and of course to the godly people in whom they confide. But I shall explain it to you, after first offering my obeisances unto the Creator of this world.
[Long ago, the kings of the world, maddened by pride, viciously rebelled against their holy teachers and cruelly murdered the leading sage, Jamadagni. The Supreme Lord incarnated as Parasurama, the son of the murdered sage, and furiously cut down the wicked kings who had killed His father. Again and again the wicked descendants of these kings, originally headed by Karta-viryarjuna, tried to regain their power] but Lord Parasurama cut them to pieces twenty-one times, until He rid the earth of all its kings.
Having accomplished His mission, Lord Parasurama then gave up his weapons and retired to the mountainous country known as Mahendra, where He passed his days performing penance for the violence He had committed against the cruel kings.
[In the aftermath of Parasurama's victory yet another problem arose on the earth. Many young women of the royal ksatriya families desired husbands and children, but there were no princes or kings on the face of the earth to marry them. Moreover, with the death of all the earth's monarchs there were no trained leaders to manage human affairs and protect innocent creatures.] The eligible women of the royal families then approached the brahmanas, the saintly teachers of mankind, and asked them for children. The brahmanas, strict in their religious vows, had union with those women of the leading families, but only in the proper season. And never were they impelled by ordinary lust. In devotion to God they begot powerful children who would uphold the sacred principles.
By contact with the brahmanas, thousands of ksatriya ladies became pregnant as they desired and thereafter gave birth to male and female children of pure and powerful lineage. Once more a great dynasty of rulers arose on the earth, but unlike their cruel forefathers these young monarchs strictly followed the principles of religion, and with the blessings of the brahmanas they enjoyed long durations of life.
At that time the four human communities lived in peace under the guidance of the learned brahmanas. Men approached their wives in the proper season and never because of lust. All the earth's creatures conceived in the proper season, and thus hundreds and thousands of variegated life forms flourished on the earth, conceived in obedience to the laws of God.
The rejuvenated monarchies ruled the ocean-bounded earth with all its mountains, forests, and valleys, and all mankind, headed by the brahmans, experienced the greatest joy. Leaders cast off their lust and greed and carefully protected the citizens, punishing them fairly, and only when necessary. With the rulers thus devoted to dharma, the mighty Indra nourished the earth with pleasant rains that fell at the suitable times and places. Childhood death was unknown, and boys who had not reached physical maturity did not intimately know of young women. Thus this fertile earth, encircled by its seas, was filled with long-lived living beings.
The faithful rulers ignited the fires of sacrifice and worshiped the Supreme Godhead and His saintly servants. At such joyful sacrificial rites all the citizens carried away abundant charity to their heart's delight.
Brahmanas faithfully studied the books of knowledge: the Vedas, Upanisads, and supplementary works. These gentle scholars would not sell their wisdom for profit, but gave it freely to the pure and pious, refusing to recite it for any price before those who were insincere or mean in their habits. The vaisya farmers plowed the earth with ox and brought forth abundant food. No ox was idle, and ailing oxen were brought back to strength. Men did not milk cows whose calves still drank their milk, and men sold their products fairly without false claims or measurements.
All mankind looked to dharma, the divine law, and with devotion to dharma they faithfully performed their duties. Indeed, teachers, rulers, tradersmen, and workers were all content to perform their God-given tasks (which arose from the natural propensity of each citizen). So strong was the people's enthusiasm for virtue that virtue did not decline as often occurs among successful people.
Women bore their babes, trees gave their flowers and fruits, and cows bore their calves all in the proper season. So prosperous and sublime was this world that every man and woman claimed that the great Age of Truth had come again, just as it had flourished millions of years before. And the earth was filled with variegated living beings.
But then, O best of monarchs, just as humankind was flourishing, powerful and demonic creatures began to take birth from the wives of earthly kings.
Once the godly Adityas, who administer the universe, fought their wicked cousins the Daityas and vanquished them. Bereft of their power and positions, the Daityas began to take birth on this planet, having carefully calculated that they could easily become the gods of the earth, bringing it under their demonic rule. And thus it happened, O mighty one, that the Asuras began to appear among different creatures and communities.
[Conducting their calculated invasion of the earth with brilliant precision, the Daityas disguised themselves in many ways.] Some of these demonic creatures even took birth as bulls, cows, asses, camels, buffalos, elephants, deer, and other four-legged creatures.
As these demonic creatures continued to take birth on the earth, the earth herself could not bear the weight of their presence. Having fallen from their positions in the higher planets, the sons of Diti and Danu thus appeared in this world as monarchs, endowed with great strength, and in many other forms. They were bold and haughty, and they virtually surrounded the water-bounded earth, ready to crush those who would oppose them.
They harassed the teachers, rulers, merchants, and workers of the earth, and all other creatures. Moving about by the hundreds and thousands, they began to slay the earth's creatures, and they brought terror to the world. Unconcerned with the godly culture of the brahmanas, they threatened the sages who sat peacefully in their forest asramas, for the so-called kings were maddened by the strength of their bodies.
Thus so much afflicted was the earth by the mighty Daityas who were haughty with their strength and armies, that she approached Lord Brahma. O king, not even the wind or the celestial serpents or the mighty mountains could hold up the earth, as she was being so forcefully trampled by the demonic Danavas. Thereupon the earth goddess herself, tortured by her burden and haunted by fear, went for shelter to the grandfather of all created beings, the primal demigod Brahma.
She saw the untiring maker of this world surrounded by exalted souls like the godly Adityas, saintly brahmanas, great sages, celestial Gandharva musicians, and heavenly pleasure maidens known as the Apsaras. As they all sang with great delight the praises of Lord Brahma, Mother Earth approached him and also sang his glories.
Begging for shelter, goddess Bhumi told Brahma her troubles in front of all the leaders of the planets of the universe. But Lord Brahma already knew her needs, for he is born directly from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Indeed, he is the Lord's chief representative in the created cosmos, and as the creator of the universe, how could he not be conscious, O Bharata, of the mental workings of all the gods and demons and of all people?
Mighty Lord Brahma, lord of the earth, master and origin of all created beings, the progenitor who is known as Sambhu, then spoke to Mother Earth as follows: "O bountiful earth goddess, I know why you have come to my presence, and so serious is your problem that to solve it I shall engage all of the celestial denizens."
Having thus spoken to the earth, O king, and giving her permission to leave, Lord Brahma himself, the maker of creatures, then instructed all of the demigods.
[As the Lord's representative, Brahma transmitted to them the personal message of the Supreme Lord:] "In order to remove the burden of the earth, each of you is to take birth on the earth through your empowered expansions to stop the spread of the demonic forces."
Lord Brahma then summoned the hosts of Gandharvas and Apsaras and gave them his authoritative instructions: "All of you must take birth among the humankind in whatever family you desire, by expanding your personal potency."
Hearing this statement from Lord Brahma, who is the guru of the godly beings, the demigods headed by Indra accepted his words as accurate and meaningful. Eager to act on his instructions, and to go everywhere on the earth through their empowered portions, they approached the Supreme Lord Narayana, destroyer of the hostile, on His spiritual planet, Vaikuntha.
The Supreme Lord holds a disc and club in his hands, He wears yellow silken garments, and His glowing complexion is swarthy. His navel is as lovely as a lotus, He slays the enemies of the godly, and His glistening eyes are wide and gorgeous.
In order to cleanse the earth of its disease, Lord Indra then prayed to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, "O my Lord, please expand Yourself and descend!"
And the Lord accepted his prayer.
After conversing with the Supreme Personality of Godhead Narayana, the demigods headed by Lord Indra agreed to descend to the earth by expanding a portion of themselves. Indra instructed all the denizens of heaven and departed from the abode of Lord Narayana.
The celestial denizens thereupon began to successively descend from heaven to earth to destroy their wicked foes and save all the worlds. O tiger among kings, the residents of heaven thus took their birth accordingly in the dynasties of godly sages and kings and began to slay the wicked Danavas, man-eating Raksasas, cruel spirits, magical snakes, and various others creatures who devoured men alive.
O best of the Bharatas, so powerful were these descended gods, even in their childhood, that they could not be killed either by the evil Danavas and Raksasas or by other cruel invaders.
King Janamejaya said:
I wish to hear now the truth about the origin of the gods and demons, the Gandharavas and Apsaras, as well as all types of human beings and the Yaksas and Raksasas. Indeed, I would like to hear you explain the origin of all living beings, from the very beginning, for you are a knower of all things.
First offering my obeisances unto the self-born creator of our universe, I shall gladly explain to you in full how the demigods and all other creatures and planets appear and disappear by the will of the Lord.
It is well known that from the mind of Brahma six great sages take birth. Known as Brahma's "mental sons," their names are Marici, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, and Kratu. Marici's son is Kasyapa, who begot many varieties of creatures in his thirteen celestial wives, who were all daughters of Daksa.
The names of these thirteen ladies are Aditi, Diti, Danu, Kala, Anayu, Simhika, Muni, Krodha, Prava, Arista, Vinata, Kapila, and Kadru, who was surely the daughter of Daksa. From these women arose a powerful and unending descent of sons and grandsons, etc.
Aditi is the first wife, and she gave birth to the twelve godly Adityas, who rule the cosmos. O king, I shall now tell you their names. The twelve Adityas are Dhata, Mitra, Aryama, Indra, Varuna, Amsa, Bhaga, Vivasvan, Pusa, Savita, Tvasta, and Vishnu. Although Lord Vishnu appears as the youngest and smallest son of Aditi, He is actually the greatest of all, being the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
[Aditi had a sister named Diti, but unfortunately the sons of Diti were not godly. Rather they were the most wicked of creatures.] Diti had one famous son named Hiranya-kasipu (who threatened the entire universe until Lord Vishnu appeared and killed him), and he begot five sons. The eldest was Prahlada (surprisingly a great saint and pure devotee of the Lord). Then came Samhrada, Anuhrada, and finally Sibi and Baskala.
Prahlada had three well-known sons named Virocana, Kumbha, and Nikumbha. Virocana's son was the uniquely powerful Bali, and Bali's celebrated son was the great demon named Bana.
Diti's sister Danu had forty famous sons, her first- born being King Vipracitti of widespread fame. Also known to be sons of Danu are Sambara, Namuci, Puloma, Asiloma, Kesi, Durjaya, Ayahsira, Asvasira, the mighty Ayahsanku, Gaganamurdha, Vegavan, Ketuman, Svar-bhanu, Asva, Asvapati, Vrsaparva, Ajaka, Asvagriva, Suksma, the powerful Tuhunda, Isrpa, Ekacakra, Virupaksa, Hara, Ahara, Nicandra, Nikumbha, Kupatha, Kapatha, Sarabha, Salabha, Surya, and Candra. All these sons of Danu and their descendants are known as the Danavas. (he demigods Surya and Candra [the sun and moon], who were born among the gods, are different personalities.)
O king, there are an additional ten sons of Danu who are celebrated for their great strength and stamina. In fact they are considered to be the best of the Danavas, and their names are Ekaksa, Mrtapa, the heroic Pralamba, Naraka, Vatapi, Satrutapana, the mighty demon Satha, Gavistha, Danayu, and Dirghajihva, or the "long-tongued." O Bharata, the sons and grandsons of these Danavas are practically innumerable.
Danu's sister Simhika gave birth to a son named Rahu, who always harasses the sun and moon. She had other sons named Sucandra, Candrahanta, and Candravimardana.
Simhika's sister Krura had innumerable sons and grandsons, who, being demonic by nature, cruelly cut down their enemies. The very name Krura means "cruel," and all the descendants of Krodha were known as the Krodha-vasas, or the slaves of fury.
Krodha's sister Anayu had four sons who were prominent among the demonic Asuras. These four sons were Viksara, Bala, Vira, and the great asura Vrtra.
Anayu's sister Kala, or the"lady of time," gave birth to prominent sons who were as deadly as time itself. They became highly celebrated in the world for their unusual strength, and among all the demons they were specially known to punish their enemies. These sons of Kala were renowned as Vinasana, Krodha, Krodhahanta, and Krodhasatru,
Sukra, son of the primeval sage Bhrgu, became the head priest of all the Asuras. Sukra had four sons, who also became sacrificial priests of the demons: Tvastavara, Atri, and two others who were expert in chanting mantras. These four sons of Sukra were as brilliant as the sun, and they taught their students about the world of Brahma, the creator.
Thus have I explained the origin of those bold and powerful demonic beings known as the Asuras, and I have also explained the origin of the Suras, the godly beings. This factual account comes from the ancient histories called the Puranas. These Suras and Asuras had so many descendants that it is simply not possible, O king, to name all of them, for they are virtually unlimited.
[I will conclude by briefly mentioning the children of the other wives of Kasyapa, all of whom gave birth to extraordinary progeny. These powerful women were all granddaughters of the creator, Brahma, and they helped create the variegated population of the universe.]
Vinata gave birth to Garuda and Aruna, as well as Tarksya, Aristanemi, Aruni, and Varuni. Counted among the mighty children of Kadru are Sesa, Ananta, Vasuki, Taksaka the serpent, Kurma, and Kulika.
[Muni begot sixteen godly beings endowed with musical and artistic ability beyond human experience, and their names are:] Bhimasena, Ugrasena, Suparna, Varuna, Gopati, Dhrtarastra, Suryavarca, Patravan, Arkaparna, the well-known Prayuta, Bhima, the illustrious ruler Citraratha who knew all things, and Salisira. Pradyumna, O king, is the fourteenth, Kali the fifteenth, and the sixteenth is Narada. These are the sixteen godly Gandharvasrs20up6 \chftn rootnote rs20 up6 \chftn deva-gandharvah born to the celestial lady named Muni.
I shall now describe other creatures, O Bharata. Prava gave birth to these daughters: Anavadya, Anuvasa, Anuna, Aruna, Priya, Anupa, Subhaga, and Bhasi. Like her sister Muni, Prava also gave birth to godly Gandharvas, and their names were Siddha, Purna, Barhi, the illustrious Purnasa, Brahmacari, Ratiguna, Suparna, Visvavasu, Bhanu, and Sucandra.
The very fortunate goddess Prava is also known to have given birth to a distinctly pious race of celestial pleasure maidens known as Apsaras, by her contact with a heavenly sage. These Apsaras were known as Alambusa, Misrakesi, Vidyutparna, Tulanagha, Aruna, Raksita, the very charming Rambha, Asita, Subahu, Suvrata, Subhuja, and Supriya. Atibahu, the well known Haha and Ahuhu, and Tumburu have been recorded as four very prominent Gandharvas.
According to the authoritative Puranas, Kapila is the progenitrix of the brahmanas, cows, Gandharavas, and Apsaras, and also of celestial nectar.
Thus I have explained to you the origin of all created beings, including a description of the Gandharavas, Apsaras, serpents, birds, and heavenly beings such as the Rudras and Maruts. I have explained the origin of the wealth-giving cows and of the brahmanas who are ever engaged in pious work.
Those who are not envious should always hear and teach this universal history, for it will increase our piety, prosperity, and duration of life, and we shall be happy by hearing it. Indeed, one who, in the company of learned brahmanas, systematically studies this narration of the universal lineage will obtain fine children, wealth, and fame, and after death he will go to a brilliant destination.
Shri Vaisampayana said:
It is well known that six great sages took birth from the mind of Lord Brahma and became his sons. Lord Siva too, within his very powerful mind, conceived eleven celebrated sons named Mrgavyadha, Sarva, the famous Nirrti, Ajaikapat, Ahibudhnya, the great warrior Pinaki, Dahana, Isvara, the illustrious Kapali, Sthanu, and the most powerful Bhava. These eleven are known as the Rudras.
The six sons of Brahma are known to be Marici, Angira, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha, and Kratu, all great and powerful sages. Of these, Angira had three sons, Brhaspati, Uttathya, and Samvarta, who are known throughout the universe. All three steadily upheld their religious vows.
O ruler of men, it is heard from authorities that Atri had many sons and that they were all great, self-realized sages, at peace with themselves and learned in the Vedic science.
From Pulastya came Raksasas, monkeys, and Kinnaras. From Pulaha, the deer, lions, tigers, and Kimpurusas originated. From Kratu came sons equal to their father, wholly devoted to a disciplined search for spiritual truth. They became companions of the Sun and were celebrated throughout the three worlds.
O protector of the earth, the exalted seer Daksa took birth from the right thumb of Brahma. Thus he who was destined to beget many children became the child of the creator. The wife of the great soul Daksa took birth from Brahma's left thumb, and the thoughtful husband begot in her fifty lotus-eyed daughters, all of whom had flawless limbs. Having lost his sons to the spiritual path, Daksa the progenitor made his young daughters the object of his affection. He offered ten of these girls in sacred mariage to the demigod Dharma, twenty-seven to Indu, lord of the heavenly moon, and he married thirteen daughters to Kasyapa, O king, with all the divine rites.
Hear from me now as I name the ten young ladies who became the wives of Dharma, who are known to be Kirti, Laksmi, Dhrti, Medha, Pusti, Sraddha, Kriya, Buddhi, Lajja, and Mati. They are the doors to dharma, or virtue, as ordained by the self-existent creator, for their names indicate, respectively, glory, fortune, determination, intelligence, nutrition, faith, endeavor, reason, modesty, and awareness.
It is widely known in this world that Soma, the Moon, has twenty-seven wives, who brilliantly keep their vows. Engaged in coordinating the passage of time, the wives of Soma are governesses of the lunar mansions and regulate the livelihood of all the world's creatures.
Lord Brahma, the thoughtful creator, had Prajapati the progenitor as his son, and Prajapati had eight sons, known as the Vasus. I shall tell you about them in detail: they are Dhara, Dhruva, Soma, Aha, Anila, Anala, Pratyusa, and Prabhasa. Dhumra is the mother of Dhara and Dhruva, who was learned in the spiritual science. Soma, lord of the moon, was born to Manasvini; Anila, lord of the wind, was born to Svasa; Aha was the son of Rata; Anala, the deity of fire, was born from Sandili; Pratyusa and Prabhasa were both born from the womb of Prabhata.
The sons of Dhara were Dravina and Huta-havyavaha, and the Lord of time, who drives on this world, appeared as the son of Dhruva. Soma's son was the radiant Varca, who begot in Manohara three sons, named Sisira, Prana, and Ramana. Jyoti is known to be the son of Aha, and so are Srama, Santa, and Muni. Agni's son is the handsome Kumara, who made his abode in a thicket of reeds. Agni's other sons are Sakha, Visakha, and Naigamesa, who is the youngest. Since Kumara was reared by Krttika, he is also known as Kartikeya.
The wife of the wind was Siva, and by the wind she bore two sons named Purojava and Avijnata-gati. It is known by authorities that Pratyusa fathered a saintly son named Devala, and Devala begot two forebearing sons, both of them thoughtful and wise.
The sister of Brhaspati was an excellent woman who achieved perfection in mystic yoga and then wandered about the entire universe as a brahmacarini, observing a vow of celibacy. She finally became the wife of Prabhasa, the eighth Vasu, and they begot the exalted Visvakarma, the forefather of artisans, the creator of thousands of arts and crafts, and the architect of the gods. As the greatest of craftsmen, he fashioned all types of ornaments and even celestial airships for the gods. Human beings still earn their livelihoods from the skills introduced by that great soul. Thus wise workers always honor the undying Visvakarma.
Splitting Brahma's right breast, Dharma lord of virtue appeared in a human like form meant to give joy to the world. His three prominent sons, Peace, Desire, and Joy, are attractive to all people, and they sustain the world by their power. Desire's wife was Affection, and the wife of Peace was Attainment; Delight became the wife of Joy, and all creatures have depended on these great personalities. Marici's son is Kasyapa, and Kasyapa begot both the Suras and Asuras. Thus, O tiger of kings, Kasyapa is the origin of the world's creatures. Savita's wife is the exalted Tvastri, who assumed the form of a mare and gave birth in the heavenly sky to the twin Asvins.
O monarch, Aditi had twelve sons headed by Lord Indra. The youngest was Lord Vishnu, in whom all the worlds reside.
These are the thirty-three principle demigods, and I shall now relate to you their lineage, their associates, their diverse communities, and their families.
Know that the Rudras, Sadhyas, Maruts, and Vasus are each an individual community of gods, and so are the descendants of Bhrgu and the Visva-devas. The mighty Garuda, son of Vinata, his brother Aruna, and the lordly Brhaspati are all counted among the Adityas. All the herbs and quadrapeds, along with the twin Asvins, are counted among the Guhyakas. O king, the divisions of demigods are thus recited in sequence, and a person who so recites them is liberated from all sins.
Piercing the heart of Brahma, the blessed sage Bhrgu came out. The son of Bhrgu is the learned scholar Sukra, a sage's son who became the presiding deity of a planet. Engaged directly by Lord Brahma, he orbits the universe and watches over rain and drought, danger and safety, for the maintanence of all the world's creatures. A master teacher and practitioner of the yoga system, wise and fixed in his vows of celibacy and possessed of superb intelligence, he became the guru of both the demons and the gods. When Bhrgu's son was thus engaged by the creator for the sustenance of the world, Bhrgu then begot another faultless son named Cyavana, who was brilliant in austerity, thoroughly religious, and deeply thoughtful. It is this son, O Bharata, who angrily fell from the womb to save his mother.
Arusi was the daughter of Manu, and she became the wife of the thoughtful Cyavana. Breaking open her thigh, Aurva took birth as her son, and he was an exceptional ascetic of great power, endowed with fine qualities even as a child.
Aurva's son was Rcika, and his son was Jamadagni. The great soul Jamadagni had four sons. Parasurama, although the youngest, was not the least in His qualities, for He was expert in all weapons and missles, and with His supreme controlling power He brought doom to all the warriors on the earth.
Aurva had a hundred sons who came after Jamadagni. They had thousands of sons and thus widely expanded the line of Bhrgu. Brahma had two other sons who still exert a visible influence on this world. Known as Dhata and Vidhata, they are situated with Manu. The sister of these two is the beautiful Goddess of Fortune, Laksmi, who dwells in a lotus flower. Her mind-born sons are celestial horses that roam the heavens.
Begotten by Sukra, the goddess Jyestha became the wife of Varuna, and know that she gave birth to a son Bala and a spirituous beverage that delights the Suras.
When the the world's creatures, in their lust for food, began to eat one another, there arose irreligion, which is the ruination of all beings. Irreligion took Nirrti, Calamity, as his wife, and thus the Raksasas, man-eating demons, are also called Nairrtas. Calamity had three loathsome sons known as Fear, Terror, and Death, who ends all creatures.
The goddess Tamra gave birth to five children, who are known throughout the universe as Kaki, Syeni, Bhasi, Dhrtarastri, and Suki. Kaki gave birth to the owls, and Syeni to the hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey. Bhasi begot the vultures and other scavenger birds, O king, and the lovely Dhrtarastri begot the swans, geese, and cakra-vakas.
O knower of justice, thoughtful Suki, endowed with sublime qualities and glorified with all good attributes, gave birth to the colorful parrots. Also, from within herself she gave birth to nine angry daughters named Mrgi, Mrgamanda, Hari, Bhadramana, Matangi, Sarduli, Sveta, Surabhi, and the famous Surasa, endowed with all good qualities. All of the deer took birth as offspring of Mrgi, O son of the greatest king, and from Mrgamanda came the bears, marsh deer, and yaks.
Bhadramana bore as her son the mighty elephant Airavata, who became the elephant of the gods, and the offspring of Hari were varieties of agile monkeys. Sarduli gave birth to the lions and tigers, O Bharata, as well to all the panthers, leopards, and other spotted cats.
O king, the offspring of Matangi are the elephants, and Sveta gave birth to Sveta, known to be the swift and mighty elephant who stands in a quarter of the sky. Similarly, O king, Surabhi gave birth to two daughters: Rohini and the highly regarded Gandharvi. The cows then took birth from within Rohini, and the horses became sons of Gandharvi. Surasa bore the serpents, and Kadru brought forth the snakes, while Anala gave birth to the seven kinds of trees that bear round fruits. Suki was the daughter of Anala, and Surasa was the daughter of Kadru.
Syeni was the wife of Aruna, and she gave birth to two heroic and mighty sons named Sampati and Jatayu. Two illustrious sons were also born to Vinata: Garuda and Aruna.
O lord of men, I have now explained to you in detail the origin of all the great divisions of creatures. O best of the wise, a person who seriously listens to this narration is purified of sin, obtains complete knowledge, and discovers the highest goal of life.
King Janamejaya said:
My lord, I would like to hear systematically and in truth about the birth and activities of demigods, Danavas, Yaksas, Raksasas, and other great-spirited beings who incarnated on the earth in the midst of mankind.
Shri Vaisampayana said:
The denizens of higher worlds did in fact appear among human beings, O lord of men, and among them I shall first fully explain the descent of the Danavas.
The Danava leader known as Vipracitti incarnated on the earth as King Jarasandha. O king, Diti's son, known as Hiranyakasipu, took birth in human society as King Sisupala. Samhrada, the younger brother of Prahlada Maharaja, took birth as Salya, the illustrious leader of the Bahlikas. The mighty Anuhrada, Prahlada Maharaja's youngest brother, took birth as the lordly King Dhrstaketu. O king, the celebrated descendant of Diti, Sibi, appeared on the earth as King Druma. The prominent Asura named Baskala became Bhagadatta, a lord among men.
O king, there were five mighty Asuras named Ayahsira, Asvasira, Ayahsanku, Gaganamurdha, and Vegavan; these took birth as most exalted kings, becoming the great rulers of Kekaya.
Another well known and powerful Asura, Ketuman, incarnated on the earth as King Amitauja. The great and handsome Asura who was celebrated as Svarbhanu took birth on the earth as the fierce monarch Ugrasena. The great and handsome Asura who was celebrated as Asva became the courageous and invincible King Asoka. His younger brother named Asvapati, a descendent of Diti, became King Hardikya, a ruler of men.
The great and hansome Asura who was celebrated as Vrsaparva became the earthly King Dirghaprajna. O king, the younger brother of Vrsaparva, Ajaka, became celebrated on earth as King Malla. The mighty Asura named Asvagriva became the earthly King Rocamana. Celebrated Suksma, of intelligence and fame, achieved fame on the earth as the ruler Brhanta.
The prominent Asura named Tuhunda incarnated on earth as the famous King Senabindu. The strongest of the Asuras, named Isrpa, was widely known on earth as King Papajit. The great Asura called Ekacakra became celebrated in this world as Prativindhya, and the great Asura and wonderful fighter named Virupaksa, in the line of Diti, became well known on earth as King Citravarma.
The illustrious Danava named Hara, who could sweep away his enemies, took birth as Suvastu, a leader of men. The powerful Ahara, who could destroy whole armies of his enemies, became glorified on the earth as King Bahlika. The leading Asura named Nicandra, whose face was as handsome as the moon, became the opulent king named Munjakesa. The intelligent Nikumbha, undefeated in battle, took birth on earth as illustrious King Devadhipa.
The great Asura son of Diti, Sarabha, lived among the humankind as the saintly King Paurava. He who was Salabha the Second among the Asuras became Prahrada, the Bahlika king. Candra, senior in the line of Diti and handsome as the moon, became an important and saintly king named Rsika. Know that the prominent Asura who was widely known as Mrtapa subsequently became King Pascimanupaka, O best of kings. The great Asura known as the mighty Gavistha came to earth as King Drumasena.
The great and opulent Asura known as Mayura became celebrated as the earthly ruler Visva. His younger brother Suparna became Kalakirti, a ruler of the world. The eminent Asura Candrahanta became the saintly monarch Sunaka, a leader of men. The great Asura Candra-vinasana became the saintly monarch Janaki, a leader of men.
O son of the Kurus, the Danava leader called Dirghajihva became an earthly ruler known as Kasiraja, and Graha, Simhi's son, who harassed both the sun and the moon, appeared again as Kratha, a ruler of mankind. The mighty Asura named Viksara, eldest of Anayu's four sons, became King Vasumitra, and the second son after Viksara, O king, was a great Asura who became the well-known king of Pamsu.
The illustrious Asura named Balavira became a ruler of men named Paundramatsyaka. O king, the great Asura celebrated as Vrtra became the saintly King Maniman. His younger brother, the Asura Krodhahanta, became famous on earth as King Danda. Another highly praised Asura named Krodhavardhana appeared in this world as King Dandadhara. Of Kalaka's sons, eight took birth as earthly kings and ruled with the courage of tigers, O tiger of a king.
The oldest of the eight Kaleyas was a grand Asura who took birth as the opulent ruler of Magadha, King Jayatsena. The second son, equal to Lord Indra, became the opulent King Aprajita. O king, the third was a grand Asura with mighty arms, and he took birth on earth as a Nisada ruler with frightening prowess. The fourth son of this clan became celebrated as Sreniman, eminent among saintly kings. The fifth was a great and distinguished Asura who became famous as Mahauja, a warrior who was punishing in combat. The sixth was a great and learned Asura who gained prominence as Abhiru, eminent among all saintly kings. The seventh from that group became King Samudrasena, famous everywhere on the water-bounded earth as an expert in morality and practical action. O king, the eighth of the Kaleyas was the virtuous Brhat, who, though fiery in battle, worked for the welfare of all beings.
I have already described to you a group known as the Krodhavasas and they also took birth on the earth as heroic kings. Their names were Nandika, Karnavesta, Siddhartha, Kitaka, Suvira, Subahu, Mahavira, Bahlika, Krodha, Vicitya, Surasa, opulent King Nila, King Viradhama, and King Bhumipala, O Kuru prince. There were still others: Dantavaktra, Durjaya, and Rukmi, a tiger of a king, and another king named Janamejaya; Asadha, Vayuvega, and Bhuriteja, Ekalavya; Sumitra, Vatadhana, and Gomukha; the kings of Karusaka, Ksemadhurti, Srutayu, Uddhava, and Brhatsena; Ksema Ugratirtha, Kuhara, the king of Kalinga, Matiman, and, O ruler of men, the famous Isvara. Maharaja, it was thus from the host of Krodhavasas that this crowd of illustrious and mighty monarchs took birth on the earth.
He who was born in this world as King Devaka, equal in splendor to the king of gods, formerly was the chief ruler of the Gandharvas. O Bharata, know that from a portion of Brhaspati, the illustrious sage and priest of the gods Drona was born as the son of Bharadvaja without having entered a woman's womb. O tiger amoung kings, Drona was the best of archers and the greatest teacher of all kinds of weapons. He enjoyed wide fame and wielded extraordinary power. This exalted individual took birth among men, and Vedic scholars recognize his proficiency in the Dhanur Veda, the military science, and in the original Veda as well. Indeed, his feats were like those of Indra, and he caused his family to flourish.
Then, O Bharata, from portions of Lord Siva, and the lord of death, and personified lust and anger-- all mixed into one-- the lotus-eyed son of Drona took birth in this world. Known as Asvatthama, he was a hero and was painful to his enemies.
Because of the curse of Vasista, as well as a command from Indra, the eight Vasus took birth from the womb of Ganga as royal sons of King Santanu. The youngest of them was the wise and eloquent Bhisma, who brought security to the House of Kuru. A knower of the Veda, he could destroy an entire enemy and its allies. So powerful was Bhisma, that best of enlightened men, that he even fought with Lord Parasurama, the incarnation of Godhead who appeared in this world as a descendent of Bhrgu.
O king, know that from the host of Rudras a superhuman sage by the name of Krpa took birth in this world. Know too that all the faults of the Dvapara Age became personified in King Sakuni, who appeared in this world as a Maha-ratha, a warrior of the highest caliber who could torment his foes in battle.
Satyaki, who was true to his word, who uplifted the Vrsni clan, and who punished his foes in battle, came from the host of wind-gods, known as the Maruts, and the saintly King Drupada, a master of weapons, O king, came from the same godly host and took birth in the world of men. Know, O king, that the incomparable King Krtavarma, distinguished among the warrior class, also came from the lords of the wind. And from that same host of wind-gods, another fierce warrior took birth-- the saintly king Virata, who blazed like fire in the kingdom of his enemies.
Arista's son, famous as Hamsa, expanded the Kuru dynasty when he took birth as Gandharvapati. O king, the long-armed and mighty Dhrtarastra appeared as the son of the learned sage Krishna-dvaipayana, and although he possessed the eye of knowledge, by his mother's error he was born blind. His younger brother was the widely known Pandu, a pure-hearted and truthful king of great strength and stamina. The most exalted son of sage Atri-- indeed the best of sons-- took birth in this world as saintly Vidura, the wisest of men.
From a portion of Kali, who degrades all humankind, evil-minded Duryodhana took birth, full of evil schemes and destined to create infamy for the House of Kuru. Envious of the entire world, this personification of strife, this very lowest of men, laid all the world to waste when he ignited a raging inferno of war that consumed countless creatures.
All the brothers of Duryodhana had been sons of Pulastya, and they now took birth as human beings. They numbered one hundred and were headed by Duhsasana. All were wont to perform acts of cruelty-- men such as Durmukha and Duhsaha, and others who will not be mentioned here, O best of the Bharatas. As sons of Pulastya they became the constant companions of Duryodhana.
On the other hand, O king, know that King Yudhisthira took birth in this world as a portion of Justice, Bhimasena as a portion of the Wind, and Arjuna as a portion of the king of gods. Portions of the twin Asvins appeared as Nakula and Sahadeva, who possessed an incomparable beauty that attracted the entire world.
He who was formerly Suvarca, the heroic son of the Moon, became Arjuna's most celebrated son, Abhimanyu. And know that the Maha-ratha Dhrstadyumna, a warrior of the highest category, was a portion of Fire, and that Sikhandi, O king, who was both male and female, was born from the race of Raksasas. O best of the Bharatas, you should also know that the five sons of Draupadi came from the celestial group called the Visvedevas. Morever, you may know that Karna, the Maha-ratha warrior born with armor built into his body, was a unique portion of the day-making god of the sun.
However, He who is the God of all gods, the eternal Lord Narayana, also descended to earth, appearing among human beings as a powerful prince named Vasudeva. The divine Sesa appeared as the almighty Baladeva. Know too, O king, that Sanat-kumara appeared as the mighty Pradyumna. Many other celestial denizens also took birth in the family of Vasudeva through their empowered expansions and caused that holy family to flourish.
I have already described the community of celestial maidens called Apsaras. By the order of Indra, a pure segment of these was born on earth, and those sixteen thousand pure-hearted goddesses became the wives of Lord Narayana. For the sake of loving service, a special portion of the Goddess of Fortune took birth from a sacrificial altar and appeared on the surface of the earth as a faultless virgin in the family of King Drupada. She was neither too short nor very tall, and her body bore the exquisite fragrance of a blue lotus. Her eyes were wide and soft like lotus petals, her thighs were handsomely shaped, and her hair was long and dark. Her entire body was endowed with auspicious and charming signs, as lovely as the invaluable Vaidurya gem, and in private moments and places she captured the mind of the five best men in the world, the sons of Pandu.
Two goddessess, the personifications of Success and Determination, took birth as the mothers of those five men and were known as Kunti and Madri. Another goddess, who was the personified Thoughtfulness, took birth as Gandhari, the daughter of King Subala.
O king, I have now described to you the descent to this world of empowered portions of the gods, demons, Gandharvas, Apsaras, and of the Raksasas, who rose up on this earth as monarchs mad for war. To counter them great souls also rose up on earth and took their birth in the noble dynasty of the Yadus.
This narration of the empowered incarnations should be heard without envy, for the sincere listener will achieve fortune, fame, good children, and victory. One who hears of the empowered incarnation of gods, Gandharvas, and Raksasas, and thus fully understands how living beings appear and dissapear in this world, is said to possess true wisdom and never falls down under the weight of worldly pains.
King Janamejaya said:
O brahmana, I have now heard from you a full description of how the gods, demons, and Raksasas, along with the Gandharvas and Apsaras, descended to this earth. Now O learned one, in the presence of all the saintly sages I wish to hear from you about the Kuru dynasty, from its very beginning.
Shri Vaisampayana said:
A hero named Duhsanta helped to establish the old Paurava dynasty, and his domain, noble Bharata, extended to the four ends of the earth. Holding sway over the four quarters of the earth, this lord of men gained unquestioned victory on all the ocean-bounded lands. A devastator of enemies, Duhsanta enjoyed sovereignty over all nations, whether settled by uncultured Mlecchas, forest dwellers, or civilized followers of varnasrama, for he ruled all land between the jewel-bearing seas.
So rich and giving was the earth when Duhsanta ruled, that people did not have to labor to plow the earth or dig mines; not a single sinful man existed when Duhsanta was king; men begot children with noble aims, and not out of lust. When he was king, O tiger among men, people enjoyed rendering service, they delighted in virtue, and thus their goodness and prosperity increased. My son, no fear of thieves existed, nor was there even the slightest fear of hunger or crippling disease when he was lord of the country. Teachers, rulers, merchants, farmers, and workers all took pleasure in their own duties, for they understood that their labor was a sacrifice unto God. They did not covet the things of their neighbor. All the citizens found factual shelter in the king and thus lived without the slightest fear. Rain poured down in its due season, food grains were plentiful, and the world was wealthy with jewels and gems. All resources were present in profusion.
Duhsanta was an extraordinarly powerful warrior; his youthful body seemed built of thunderbolts. With his two arms he could drag the Mandara Mountain with its forests and groves. In archery and in club- and sword-fighting, whether on the back of an elephant or horse, he was fully accomplished. In strength he was like a second Vishnu, in splendor like the sun, as unshakeable as the ocean, and as tolerant as the earth. The people rejoiced in his rule, for he brought peace and happiness to both the cities and the country. He thus lived in a learned society where people considered spiritual principles and virtue to be their highest priority.
Shri Vaisampayana continued:
Once this mighty-armed king went to the dense forest accompanied by an imposing formation of troops and military vehicles and surrounded by hundreds of cavalry and elephants. Hundreds of warriors bearing swords and lances, with clubs and maces in their hands, and others brandishing javelins and spears, covered him at all times. These fighting men roared like lions, and as their sound mixed with the stirring blasts of the conchshells, the deep rumbling of drums, the warning rattle of chariot wheels, the trumpeting of battle elephants, the proud whinnying of war-horses, the excited talk of the men, and the sounds of warriors slapping their bulging arms, a joyful tumult arose as the monarch went splendidly forward.
On the roof gardens of fine palaces, ladies of the capital watched the heroic king whose deeds had brought him glory. Being fascinated by all the genuine beauty and splendor of their king, who was equal to Indra, who slew any man who harmed the citizens, and who stopped even mighty elephants in their tracks, the crowds of aristocratic ladies thought him to be a second thunderbolt-wielding Indra, and thus they remarked to one another, "This monarch is like a tiger among men, for his prowess in battle is amazing. Those who dare wish us ill will meet the strength of his arms and will cease to exist."
Speaking thus, the women praised the king with love and released showers of flowers upon his head. As leading brahmanas on all sides joyously praised his righteous rule with their poetic hymns, Duhsanta departed for the forest to hunt wild game. For long distances the people of the town and country followed him, until at last the king bid them farewell, whereupon they returned to their homes. As Lord Vishnu rides atop Garuda, the ruler of the abundant earth surged forward upon his chariot filling both heaven and earth with its threatening sound.
Riding along, the wise Duhsanta beheld a forest that resembled the Nandana woods of heaven, for it was filled with lovely Arka and Bilva bushes and Khadira trees, and crowded with excellent fruit trees like Kapittha and Dhava. It was a vast forest with occasional high mountain plateaus that spread for many tens of miles, on rolling, rocky soil. Though without a trace of man or water, the forest was filled with deer and many fearful forest creatures.
With his servant, soldiers, and mounts, Duhsanta, a tigerlike man, brought devastation to that forest, slaying varieties of fearsome beasts. He brought down many packs of tigers who came within reach of his arrows, breaking them apart with his shafts. This bull among men pierced some from afar with arrows, and he cut down with a single sword those deadly beasts who rushed near him. He brought down some wild bull antelopes with his lance, for he was the strongest of men. He knew the science of whirling a club in combat, and he moved about the forest with immeasurable courage. With javelins, swords, clubs, maces, and spears he roamed here and there, killing wild forest beasts and birds of prey. With his fighting men so fond of battle, the wonderfully powerful king wrought havoc in that great and wild forest and the big beasts abandoned it.
Herds of animals, their flocks dispersed, their leaders slain, cried out again and again in desperation. Already emaciated for lack of water, they went to the dry rivers, their hearts overcome by exertion, and fell down in a faint. Afflicted with hunger and thirst, exausted and fallen on the earth, they were immediately eaten by the starving warriors. Some ate the animals raw while others took the time to cook and cut the meat.
Several mighty and maddened elephants, wounded by weapons, curled up their trunks and quickly fled in fear. Passing urine and stool and streaming blood, these savage and noble elephants trampled many warriors as they fled. Covered by the rain of arrows, which poured down from that cloud of military might, the forest was conspicuously filled with harmless buffalo, for the king had cut down the great and dangerous beasts.
Shri Vaisampayana continued:
Thereupon, having slain thousands of great beasts, the king, with his numerous mounts, entered another forest in search of big game. Hunger and thirst were a problem now, and upon reaching the end of the forest, he came to a wide desert. But this king alone, with his extraordinary stamina and dedicated army, crossed that barren land and came to another large forest that was filled with excellent hermitages, a forest so lovely that it filled the king's mind with jubilation and his eyes with joy and affection. Cool breezes wafted all about, and flowering trees grew in lush profusion. There were rich green meadows and the melodious songs of soaring birds. All around that large forest land were elderly trees, whose spreading branches offered refreshing shade. Flowering creepers hummed with busy six-footed bees; a surpassing beauty permeated the land.
In this forest there was not a single tree that did not give fruit or flower, nor was there a tree with thorns, nor one that did not swarm with joyous bumblebees. There were blossoming flowers of all seasons on the trees, and the meadowland was exceedingly green and lush. Birds filled the sky with song, and fruits adorned every nook and corner of the woods. The great archer could not but enter such a supremely enchanting forest.
As if to welcome him, the wind shook the flower-bearing trees, which poured down a rainbow shower of fragrant blossoms again and again. Garbed in garments of many-colored flowers, vibrant with the sweet melodies of the soaring birds, the glorious trees happily reached out to the sky. Amid their shoots, bent low with the weight of flowering blooms, birds cried out their sweet cries, and bees hummed softly.
The mighty king contemplated the delicate art of the forest, the numerous areas adorned with outpourings of flowers, interlaced with creepers that curled into natural cottages that delighted the mind. Seeing all this the monarch became light-hearted and jubilant.
Bright as Indra's banner, the forest shone with flower-burdened trees whose colorful branches clasped around one another. Comfortably cool and fragrant, the wind blew about the forest, approaching the trees as if to enjoy their embrace, and wafting away their flowery pollen. This enchanting woodland was endowed with so many agreeable qualities, and the king gazed upon it all. Growing on the rich soil of a river valley, the luscious groves stood tall and bright like banners floating on high masts.
Looking upon that forest with its jubilant birds, the king noticed an excellent and most pleasant hermitage that immediately captured his mind. Filled with a rich assortment of trees and bright with the blazing of sacrificial fires, the hermitage was peopled by celestial Valakhilya sages and communities of saintly scholars. Carpets of flowers spread all about, and to host the flames of sacrifice, there were many large temples graciously set on the broad river banks of the Malini River, whose water was pure and full of pleasure and whose colorful canopy of song-birds added charm to the forest wherein ascetics lived. In the sublime ambience of that hermitage, vicious beasts of prey and gentle deer lived together in peace. When he saw all this, the king's heart knew great happiness.
As the handsome warrior king drew near the hermitage, it shone like the spiritual world, so thoroughly charming was that abode of saints. He beheld a river of the purest water firmly embracing the hermitage, flowing like the life-giving mother of all living things. She bore flowers and bubbles down her wavey currents, and Cakravaka birds sported on her sandy banks. She gave life to the Kinnaras who resided there, and to the monkeys and bears that knew her waters.
Sacred mantras sounded over her currents, and her brilliant sandy shores were a sporting ground for bull elephants, tigers, and lordly snakes. Seeing the stature of the hermitage, and of the river that enclosed it, that ruler of men decided to enter. As the holy abode of Nara and Narayana is beautified by the sacred Ganges, so was that hermitage bejeweled by the Malini River with her lovely isles and banks. The king entered the great forest retreat, which was alive with the cries of maddened peacocks.
Having come to a hermitage that resembled the celestial gardens of Citraratha, King Duhsanta, ruler of the earth, realized that it was the home of a most exalted saint named Kanva. The king was eager to see the great ascetic Kanva, of the line of Kasyapa, knowing that he possessed all good qualities and an indescribeable effulgence.
Placing his chariot and horses and infantry guard at the entrance to the forest retreat, the king said to his men, "I shall go see the peaceful sage Kanva, whose wealth is austerity. Stay here until I return, [for it is not proper to approach a holy man with soldiers and weapons]."
Simply by approaching the wooded retreat, which seemed like a celestial garden, the king forgot his hunger and thirst and experienced instead a deep satisfaction and joy. Putting aside all the visible traces of kingship, the monarch went forward to the sublime hermitage with only a counselor and priest to accompany him, eager to behold the saint whose accumlated austerities were inexhaustible.
As he observed the hermitage, like unto a second world of Brahma, with the sweet humming of bees and the songs of variegated flocks of birds, the king then heard the most learned brahmanas precisely chanting the Rg Veda in the midst of sacrificial performances. The hermitage was further glorified by learned scholars who knew the entire science of sacrifice and who executed it with the utmost sequential precision. These sages were staunch and rigidly regulated in their habits, and their knowledge was immeasureable. The very best scholars of the Atharva Veda, who were fully certified by the sacrificial experts, chanted the Samhita hymns with exact meter, sequence, and inflection.
Other brahmanas beautifully chanted the hymns of spiritual purification, and with such vibrant, auspicious sounds in the air, the handsome hermitage indeed resembled the world of the creator. Here were scholars who specialized in methodologies of sanctifying sacrifices, others who had mastered the sequences and phonetics of the science of sound, others who possessed a full and logical comprehension of the categorical analysis of the universe, and others who were doctors of all the Vedas.
There were also scholars who had mastered conjunction and compounding as well as the contextual significance of language; others had advanced knowledge of the societal division of labor; and others practiced the religious principles of spiritual liberation. There were scholars who were inclined to precise argumentation, who had learned to establish a thesis, discard unsound challenges to this thesis, and then reach a perfect conclusion of knowledge of the Absolute Truth. The best of worldly scholars were also present, and the hermitage resounded all around with the sounds of learning and knowledge.
Everywhere he turned, the great warrior saw learned and self-controled sages who were strict in their vows, devoted to the chanting of mantras and dediciated to the performance of sacrifice, each sage perfect in his field. Seeing the beautiful varieties of seats and chairs, lovingly crafted with flowers, the king of the earth was astonished. As he watched the learned brahamanas worship in the temples dedicated to the Supreme Lord and His powerful representatives, the best of rulers felt that he was standing on the planet of Brahma the creator. As he studied this brilliant asrama, which was protected from all sorts of evil by the austerities of Kanva and endowed with all the beauty and wealth of the ascetic life, he was still not satiated and wanted to see more. Accompanied still by his counselor and priest, the great warrior then entered the temple of Kanva, which was surrounded on all sides by saints and ascetics who had taken mighty vows. This special sanctum was secluded, pure, and extremely enchanting.
Shri Vaisampayana continued:
Thereafter the mighty-armed King Duhsanta left his few advisers behind and went on alone. But upon reaching the secluded temple, he did not see the saint Kanva. Finding the asrama empty, he cried out, "Is anyone here?" and his voice thundered through the woods.
Hearing the king, a gorgeous maiden, as lovely as the Goddess of Fortune, came out of the asrama wearing the dress of a female ascetic. Seeing King Duhsanta, the black-eyed maiden immediately said, "Welcome to our asrama," and received him with honor. She honored him with a proper seat, water to wash his feet, and other gracious paraphernalia. O king, she then inquired about the monarch's health and well-being. After properly honoring the king and sincerely inquiring about his health, she smiled shyly and said, "Please tell me how we can serve you."
Having been properly received by that maiden of sweet words and gentle voice, and observing now that each of her limbs was perfectly shaped, the king said unto her, "I have come here to worship the exalted saint Kanva. Good woman, where has the great one gone? Please tell me, O lovely lady."
The great one is my father, and he has left the asrama to gather fruits. Kindly wait a moment, for he will be back soon and then you will see him.
Shri Vaisampayana said:
Not finding the sage present and being thus greeted instead by the tender virgin Sakuntala, King Duhsanta could not help but notice that she was a beautiful young lady with raised hips and a fascinating smile. Her youthful body, purified by austerity and self-control, was radiant and gorgeous. Thus the king said to her, "O lovely maiden, who are you, and who is taking care of you? Why have you come to this forest? You are so lovely and kind. Tell me where you have come from, my fair one. Good woman, just by seeing you, my heart has been stolen. I would like to know more about you; so please speak to me, lovely lady."
Thus addressed by the king in that spiritual dwelling, the young virgin smiled and spoke in a gentle voice, "I am considered to be the daughter of the illustrious sage Kanva, who is an advanced and determined ascetic, famous for his knowledge of religious principles."
King Duhsanta said:
The blessed saint Kanva Muni practices strict celibacy, and thus the entire world worships him. Dharma himself might deviate from his religious path, but not that sage of rigid vows. How then could you possibly be his daughter, lovely maiden? I am very skeptical about your statement, so please remove my doubt.
O king, please listen and I will tell you how I came to know the story of my birth and how I became the daughter of this great celibate sage. A saintly brahmana once visited this asrama and, like you, was surprised to hear that I was Kanva's daugher. He asked Kanva about my birth. Please hear, O king, for I will now repeat what the illustrious Kanva said to him:
"Once in the past the powerful ascetic Visvamitra was performing severe austerities that greatly disturbed Lord Indra, who reflected, `By his austerities this Visvamitra has become surcharged with so much power that he may push me from my ruling position and take my place.' Indra thus became frightened and called the heavenly pleasure maiden, `Menaka,' and said to her, `Dear Menaka, you have so many divine qualities that you are the best of the Apsaras. O kind woman, please help me! Listen to what I am about to tell you.
"The great ascetic Visvamitra, who shines like the sun, constantly practices the most frightening austerities, and thus he makes my heart shake. Dear Menaka, O thin-waisted girl, Visvamitra has caused a predicament that you must solve. He is so strict and unyielding in his austerities that he is virtually invincible. Yet he must not cause me to fall from my position! Approach him and incite him with desire for you. Break his austerities! Do me this great favor.
"O shapely one, with your beauty and youth, with the sweet movements of your body, and with your fascinating smile and speech, you must attract Visvamitra and stop him from performing his austerities.
Lovely Menaka replied:
As a great personality you know very well that he too is a personality of tremendous power, and because he is constantly engaged in the most difficult austerities he has a terrible temper. When even you are so worried about his power and austerity, and his bad temper, how can I not worry? That great soul is so powerful that he even stole the beloved children of the almighty sage Vasista. Just see the strength and tenacity of Visvamitra! He was born first as a warrior but became a brahmana by force. To keep himself clean, he created a huge river, the Kausiki, which is difficult to cross, and which people now consider to be one of the most sacred rivers in the world. Formerly when that great soul was experiencing difficult times, the saintly and religious King Matanga, who had become a hunter, maintained Visvamitra's wife. When Visvamitra's time of scarcity was over and he again went to his own asrama, he changed the name of his river to the Para. Being grateful to Matanga, Visvamitra then engaged him in such a powerful sacrifice that even you, O lord of the gods, had to come in fear and drink the Soma at that rite.up6 \chftn rootnote rs20up6 \chftn Matanga, also known as Trisanka, aspired to ascend to heaven in his mortal body. He first requested the sage Vasistha to perform a great sacrifice for him, and when Vasistha refused, Trisanka next appealed to Vasistha's one hundred sonsr228rs20 , who not only refused him but cursed him to become a hunter. Visvamitra took up Trisanka's cause, performed the sacrifice, and invited all the demigods who refused to come. Angered by their refusal, Visvamitra personally transported Trisanka to heaven by his own power. When the demigods again threw him down head-first, Visvamitra checked his fall and kept him suspened in the sky, where Trisanka formed the Southern Cross constellation.
Angry with the demigods, he simply created his own constellations with a wealth of stars, headed by the all-important Sravana.
I am very much afraid of a person who can perform such deeds. O mighty Indra, tell me how I should conduct myself so that Visvamitra does not become furious and burn me to ashes. With his power he can set fire to the planets; he can shake the entire earth by stamping his foot, and if he wished, he could squeeze mighty Mount Meru into a little ball and set it spinning.
How can a young woman like me simply go up and touch a sage who has conquered his senses and whose austerities have practically turned him into a blazing fire? How can one like me dare touch a man whose mouth is like a raging fire and whose tongue is like fatal time? O best of the gods, the pupils of his eyes loom as large as the sun and moon. The lord of death, the god of the moon, the great sages and Sadhyas, the Visvedevas, the Valakhilyas-- all creatures are frightened by his power. How, then, can a young womenup6 \chftn rootnote rs20 rs18up6 \chftn in my position not be frightened?
Yet, O lord of the gods, now that you have so ordered me, how can I not approach that sage? But please, O king of the Devas, think about my safety! For your own sake see that I am protected as I go to carry out my mission.
O lord, it will be excellent if the wind-god scatters my dress and exposes me as I frolic in front of the sage. Morever, by your mercy, let Manmatha, the agitating god of love, personally assist me. So too, as I begin to seduce the sage, a wonderfully fragrant wind should blow over us.
Indra agreed to all that Menaka requested, and as soon as he had made the proper arrangements she went to the hermitage of Visvamitra.
Shri Sakuntala continued Kanva's story:
Thus addressed by the Apsara maiden, Lord Indra gave appropriate instructions to the ever-moving Wind, and Menaka immediately departed with him. Upon her arrival, the shapely Menaka, still apprehensive, beheld the sage who had burned up his sins by austerities, and even as she looked on, Visvamitra was executing even more austerities.
She offered him respectful greetings and then began to play within his vision. As planned, the Wind blew away her dress, which was as bright as the shining moon. As the wind revealed her celestial complexion, she quickly fell to the ground and clung to her dress, smiling bashfully. As she anxiously grabbed at her cloth, Menaka appeared bewildered, unable to cover herself, and the best of sages clearly saw the indescribeable beauty of her youthful form.
Beholding the quality of her body, the exalted brahmana yearned to unite with her and thus fell under the control of sex desire. He then invited her to join him, and she, of flawless form, gladly accepted. For a long time, the two of them played together in the woods and enjoyed the pleasure of sex as they wished. Their long affair went by as if it were but a single day.
Upon a lovely Himalayan plateau, near the river Malini, the sage begot in Menaka a daughter named Sakuntala. As soon as the child was born, Menaka abandoned her on the bank of the Malini. Her duty done, she quickly returned to Indra's opulent planet. Seeing the infant lying helpless in a lonely forest filled with lions and tigers, a group of birds carefully protected her on all sides. The birds were determined that meat-craving beasts not harm the child, and so they stayed there and carefully guarded Menaka's daughter.
I, Kanva, went to that riverbank to cleanse myself and saw the infant girl lying there, protected only by the birds in that beautiful, lonely forest. Taking her with me, I brought her up as my own daughter.
According to religious principles, there are three kinds of fathers: first, the one who begets the child; second, the one who saves the child's life; and third, the one who feeds and maintains the child. Because this girl was so well protected by the birds (who are known as Sakunta), I gave her the name Sakuntala.
Thus, O gentle sage, you should know that Sakuntala is actually my daughter, and in her own innocent mind Sakuntala has accepted me as her father.
That is how Kanva explained my birth to a great sage who had asked him about it. O ruler of men, you should thus know me to be Kanva's daughter. I fully accept Kanva as my father, for I have never known my other father.
I have now explained to you the story of my birth, O king, exactly as I heard it from my father.
King Duhsanta said:
Judging from your words, fine lady, it is very clear that you are actually a king's daughter. Become my wife, O maiden of lovely hips. Just tell me what I can do for you. On this very day I shall bring you garlands of gold, the finest garments, earrings, and anklets, and glowing gems from many different countries. O most beautiful woman, I shall bring you lockets and bracelets and precious skins. Just be my wife, lovely girl, and this very day let my entire kingdom be yours.
My dear shy one, the Gandharva marriage, which takes place out of love, without consulting the parents, is considered the best form of wedlock for men and women of the royal class. Therefore, O beautiful one, with lovely thighs as soft and round as a banana tree, come to me by the Gandharva rite.
Shri Sakuntala said:
Dear king, my father has just now gone from the hermitage to gather some fruit. Please, wait a short time, and he will personally bestow me upon you.
O innocent girl of shapely form, I want you to accept me. Know that I stand here only for you, for my mind has already gone to you. One must be a true friend to oneself, for everyone must achieve his own goal in life. Therefore, by the laws of God, you should give yourself to me now.
After all, religious codes recognize eight kinds of marriage, which, in brief, are the Brahma, the Daiva, the Arsa, the Prajapatya, the Asura, the Gandharva, the Raksasa, and finally the Paisaca. Manu, Brahma's son, has described the relative virtues of these different forms of marriage, and he states that the first four are recommended for brahmanas. You should also know that the first six are considered proper for those in the royal order, O faultless one. For kings, even the Raksasa marriage is approved, and the Asura marriage is authorized for Vaisyas and Sudras. Of the five, three are proper and two improper.
The Paisaca and Asura marriages are never to be practiced by those in the royal order. It is by following these rules that we know our duty and the proper means of practicing virtue.
Please don't worry. I assure you that for kings the Gandharva and Raksasa marriages are perfectly in accord with religious principles. Either separately or in combination, both forms of marriage may be performed. There is thus no doubt about it. O lovely lady, I desire you and you also desire me. Now, by your own choice, please be my wife by the Gandharva marriage.
Shri Sakuntala said:
If this is actually the path of virtue (since we are both of the royal order), and if I am truly my own master when it comes to offering myself to a man, then, O best of the Purus, hear my proposal. My lord, promise me in truth that you will grant what I now beg of you in this secluded place. If I marry you, the son who is born to me will be your successor as king. Pledge to me in truth, great king, that my son will be the crown prince. If it will be thus, Duhsanta, then I will unite with you at once.
Shri Vaisampayana said:
Without even considering the issue, the king replied to her, "Of course I will do it! And I shall take you to my own city, sweet-smiling one, for you deserve to be a king's wife. O shapely woman, I tell you this is the truth."
Having thus spoken to Sakuntala, who walked with faultless grace, the saintly king took her by the hand and according to the sacred law he lay down with her, and then comforted her and departed alone, for there was no proper conveyance to carry a delicate woman such a long way to the king's city. But he said to her again and again, "My sweet-smiling one, for you alone I shall send an escort of infantry, horses, chariots, and elephants. With such a royal entourage I shall bring you to my home."
O Janamejaya, promising her in this way the king departed, but in his mind he worried about the girl's powerful father, Kanva. The sage had not returned and the monarch purposely did not wait for him.
"When that exalted ascetic hears the news, what will he do?" worried the king. Continuously turning the matter over in his mind, Duhsanta retraced his journey and entered his own city.
But a minute after Duhsanta had left the hermitage Kanva returned. Sakuntala, feeling shy and embarrassed, did not go to greet him. But by means of his great austerities Kanva had divine knowledge, and he knew all that she had done. Through spiritual vision he saw that the marriage had actually taken place in accord with religious principles, just as Duhsanta had stated, and therefore the great sage was pleased with his daughter. He said to her, "What you of royal descent have done today, uniting with a man without my blessing, is not against the law of God. It is said that for the royal order the Gandharva marriage is the best, wherein a man and woman who love each other unite in a secluded place without ritual or mantra. My dear Sakuntala, you have accepted a deeply religious man as your husband. Duhsanta is a great soul and the finest of men, and he loves you. I know that a great and mighty soul will take birth in this world as your son, and he will rule all the water-bounded earth. When that great soul sets out to establish justice in the world, his circle of influence will extend everywhere unimpeded, for his circle will be the world."