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How King Parikshit received the Age of Kali.
After the retirement of the Pandavas, Maharaja Parikshit began ruling the earth under the instruction of the brahmanas. The Emperor married Iravati, the daughter of King Uttara, who was the son of Virata. Although she was Parikshit’s cousin-sister, the marriage was allowed because she was not of the same gotra (family). Iravati gave birth to four sons- Janamejaya, Srutasena, Ugrasena and Bhimasena II. Under the direction of his spiritual master, Kripacharya, Maharaja Parikshit performed three horse sacrifices on the banks of the Ganga, and at that time, even the common people were able to see the demigods that attended.
While Maharaja Parikshit ruled from his capital, Hastinapura, the symptoms of Kali-yuga began infiltrating his kingdom. Upon understanding that some of his subjects had taken up meat-eating, illicit sex, gambling and intoxication, which are the root-causes of all kinds of quarrel, the King did not consider it to be very palatable. Still, as a kshatriya, he became enlivened at the prospect of getting an opportunity to fight with the miscreants. After mounting upon his chariot, which was marked with the flag of a lion and which was drawn by black horses, Maharaja Parikshit left Hastinapura, surrounded by his army, for the purpose of conquering the world. Of course, his grandfather, Maharaja Yudhisthira, had already formally declared Maharaja Parikshit the emperor of the world. Still, it was necessary for him to practically establish his supremacy and exact taxes.
Maharaja Parikshit gradually subjugated all of the kings within the nine varshas of Jambudvipa. Wherever he travelled, Maharaja Parikshit was welcomed with speeches that were full of the glories of his illustrious forefathers and Lord Krishna, and with great pleasure he would amply reward the reciters. Indeed, by hearing of how Lord Krishna had obliged his grandfathers by becoming their chariot driver, messenger, friend, spiritual master and servant, considering Himself to be younger in years, Maharaja Parikshit became overwhelmed with feelings of devotion to the lotus feet of the Lord.
Meanwhile, while wandering about in the form of a bull, Dharma, the personality of religion, came upon Bhumi, the goddess of the earth, who was in the form of a cow. With tears in her eyes, and her bodily luster faded, she appeared to be like a mother that had lost her child.
Upon seeing her in this pitiable condition, Dharma inquired, “O good lady, what is the cause of your grief? Are you suffering from some disease or are you thinking of some relative who is away in a distant place? Are you lamenting for me because I have lost three of my legs, or are you in anxiety because, henceforward, the meat-eaters will exploit you? Are you aggrieved that the demigods no longer receive sacrificial offerings and thus other dependent living beings are suffering from drought and famine? Are you feeling compassion for the poor women and children that have been left forlorn by unscrupulous men? Or, are you unhappy to see how the goddess of learning is being mishandled by so-called brahmanas that are addicted to all kinds of sinful habits?”
“Are you sorry to see how the genuine brahmanas are forced to take shelter of kings that no longer have respect for brahminical culture? Such administrative heads have come under the influence of Kali, and thus, the state affairs are all in disorder. Are you unhappy because of this, or because the general populace no longer follows the regulative principles that govern eating, sleeping, and mating, and thus perform such acts unrestrictedly?”
“ O, Mother Earth, the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna, had incarnated just to relieve your burden. Now, being bereft of His presence, are you remembering His transcendental pastimes and thus feeling the pangs of separation? I think that the powerful influence of time must have forcibly taken away all of your good fortune, and for this reason you are now lamenting.”
Mother Earth, in the form of a cow, replied, “O Dharma, you were also maintained on your four legs by the mercy of Lord Krishna, the reservoir of all good qualities, so that happiness spread throughout the universe. Lord Krishna has now concluded His performance of transcendental pastimes upon the earth, and in His absence, the age of Kali has spread its influence everywhere. It is because of this that I am very aggrieved.”
“I had become the most fortunate planet within the universe due to being decorated by the signs of the flag, thunderbolt, elephant-driving rod, and lotus flower that adorn the lotus feet of the Lord. But, just when I was feeling myself to be so fortunate, the Lord suddenly left me. Lord Krishna conquered the gravity of His wives like Satyabhama by means of His sweet smiles of love, pleasing glances and hearty appeals. When He traversed my surface, I became immersed in the dust from His lotus feet and thus my hair stood up with transcendental pleasure. Who could tolerate the pangs of separation from that Supreme Personality of Godhead?”
While Prithivi, the earth, and Dharma, the personality of religion, were thus conversing, Maharaja Parikshit arrived at the banks of the River Sarasvati. There, he saw that a shudra, wearing the dress of a king, was engaged in beating the cow and bull with his club, as if they had no protector. The bull was as white as a lotus flower. As he stood upon one leg, the bull was so terrified that his entire body trembled and he was passing urine. The cow was bereft of her calf, and due to being beaten upon the legs, she was very weak and distressed. With tears in her eyes, she was hankering for some grass in the field.
With a deep, thunderous voice, Maharaja Parikshit immediately challenged the offender: “Who are you? By your dress you appear to be posing as a godly king, and yet you dare to oppose religious principles by attempting to kill helpless creatures within my kingdom. You rogue, are you trying to beat an innocent cow in a secluded place because Lord Krishna and Arjuna are now out of sight? For this offense, you deserve to be killed by me.”
Maharaja Parikshit then addressed the bull: “Who are you? Are you simply a bull, as white as a lotus flower, who has lost three legs and is thus somehow moving on only one? Or, are you a demigod who is causing us grief by having assumed this pitiable form? This is the first time, in a kingdom that is protected by the Kuru dynasty, that you have been seen to be aggrieved, with tears in your eyes.”
“O son of Surabhi, you can now give up your fear, for as long as I am the ruler of the earth, there will be no chance for this shudra to exploit you. When miscreants terrify the innocent creatures within his kingdom, a king’s good name, duration of life, and chance for a good next birth, are all spoiled. Therefore, the prime duty of a king is to relieve the sufferings of his subjects. For this reason, I will kill this most wretched man who has dared to attack you.”
Hoping to get a statement of accusation against the personality of Kali, Maharaja Parikshit questioned the bull, “Who has cut off your three legs? Please tell me who has done this heinous act that is ruining the good reputation of our dynasty. Whoever causes offenseless beings to suffer must fear me, for I am prepared to punish any such person, even though he may be a denizen of heaven.”
Dharma replied, “Your words are just befitting a descendent in the line of the Pandavas. O best among the human beings, it is very difficult for me to ascertain the miscreant who has caused our suffering, for I have become bewildered by the various opinions of theoretical philosophers.”
Being a devotee, Dharma knew that without the sanction of the Supreme Lord, no one could inflict suffering upon anyone. Although Dharma knew very well that Kali was the direct cause of his suffering, he considered him to be merely instrumental, because all kinds of suffering are in actuality caused by the fructification of past sinful acts.
Being thus unwilling to directly accuse Kali, Dharma continued by saying, “Some philosophers declare one’s own self to be the cause of suffering while others say that it is superhuman power that is responsible. Still others claim that one’s acts are the cause, and gross materialists explain that all suffering is ultimately caused by nature. Therefore, O King, you must judge for yourself with the help of your good intelligence, and thus ascertain the real culprit.”
Dharma did not name Kali as the cause of his suffering, nor did he indicate the Supreme Lord, for he knew that the Lord is not directly responsible for the conditioned souls’ happiness and distress. Suffering is inflicted upon the conditioned souls by His deputed maya-shakti, or material nature, and it is meted out in accordance with one’s past fruitive activities.
But, a fully surrendered devotee is freed from the onslaught of material nature. Lord Krishna personally takes charge of his pure devotees and then mercifully gives them a token, summary punishment. Since he had been put into doubt by the deluding energy, as well as by the influence of Kali, Dharma neglected to point out that his sufferings were the causeless mercy of the Lord. Actually, the suffering of the cow and bull had been arranged by the will of the Lord, just to show Maharaja Parikshit’s ability to give them protection as the ideal executive head.
Being very satisfied by the bull’s meaningful statements, Maharaja Parikshit replied, “O you, who are in the form of a bull. You know the truth about religion. One who thinks that the perpetrator of an irreligious act is the cause of his suffering is just as ignorant as the miscreant is. Because you have understood this, you must verily be the personality of religion. As a devotee, you are ready to tolerate all kinds of misery, considering it to be God-sent. It is for this reason that you have not placed the blame upon this shudra that was beating your legs.”
“In Satya-yuga, your four legs were established by the practice of austerity, cleanliness, mercy and truthfulness. Now, however, three of your legs have been broken due to rampant irreligion in the form of pride, lust for women, and intoxication. You are standing upon the last leg of truthfulness and thus you somehow manage to still hobble along. Yet, since Kali is quarrel personified and thus flourishes by deceit, he will also try to destroy your last remaining leg.”
It is not the duty of a God-conscious king like Parikshit to sit by callously and allow mischief-mongers like Kali to deliberately perpetrate sinful activities. Therefore, after addressing Dharma, Maharaja Parikshit took out his sharp sword to kill the miscreant. When Kali saw the seriousness of the king’s intentions, he at once cast off his imitation royal dress and bowed down his head in surrender. At this, the righteous King Parikshit refrained from killing Kali.
Instead, while smiling compassionately, he said, “Since you have surrendered yourself unto me with folded hands, you need no longer fear for your life. However, I cannot allow you to remain within my kingdom, for you are the friend of irreligion. You do not deserve to reside in a place where God-conscious persons perform sacrifices according to religious principles for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord.”
Upon receiving this order, Kali began to tremble with fear. Seeing Maharaja Parikshit stand before him just like Yamaraja, Kali pleaded, “O King, since you are the emperor of the entire world, wherever I may go I will see you with sword in hand, ready to punish me for my sinful activities. Even though I am your enemy, because I have surrendered unto you, you should allot me a place of residence where I can live peacefully under your protection.”
Being thus petitioned, Maharaja Parikshit agreed to allow Kali to live where gambling, intoxication, prostitution and animal slaughter were being indulged in. However, since such places practically did not exist within Maharaja Parikshit’s kingdom, Kali felt cheated and so he begged for something more. In response, Maharaja Parikshit finally agreed that he could live where gold was being kept, for in such places there is invariably falsity, intoxication, lust, envy and enmity.
Thereafter, Maharaja Parikshit carefully re-established the lost legs of Dharma within his kingdom. Then, for encouraging activities meant to improve the condition of the earth, he collected all of the illicitly held gold that had been kept for furthering the activities of Kali and engaged it in the sankirtana-yagya.