BY: SUN STAFF
Kunti leads Dhritarashtra and Gandhar to the Forest
Ashramavasika Parva, c. 1598
The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa
Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli (published between 1883 and 1896)
Apr 14, 2012 CANADA (SUN)
Book 14 - Aswamedha Parva, Anugita Parva - Section 87, Part One.
Janamejaya said, 'It behoveth thee to tell me of any wonderful incident that occurred in the sacrifice of my grandsires. Vaisampayana said, 'Hear, O chief of kings of a most wonderful incident that occurred, O puissant monarch, at the conclusion of that great horse-sacrifice.
After all the foremost of Brahmanas and all the kinsmen and relatives and friends, and all the poor, the blind, and the helpless ones had been gratified, O chief of Bharata's race, when the gifts made in profusion were being spoken of on all sides, indeed, when flowers were rained down on the head of king Yudhishthira the just, a blue-eyed mongoose, O sinless one, with one side of his body changed into gold, came there and spoke in a voice that was as loud and deep as thunder. Repeatedly uttering such deep sounds and thereby frightening all animals and birds, that proud denizen of a hole, with large body, spoke in a human voice and said, 'Ye kings, this great sacrifice is not equal to a prastha of powdered barley given away by a liberal Brahmana of Kurukshetra who was observing the Unccha vow.' Hearing these words of the mongoose, O king, all those foremost of Brahmanas became filled with wonder.
Approaching the mongoose, they then asked him, saying, 'Whence hast thou come to this sacrifice, this resort of the good and the pious? What is the extent of thy might? What thy learning? And what thy refuge? How should we know thee that thus censurest this our sacrifice? Without having disregarded any portion of the scriptures, everything that should be done has been accomplished here according to the scriptures and agreeably to reason, with the aid of diverse sacrificial rites. Those who are deserving of worship have been duly worshipped here according to the way pointed out by the scriptures. Libations have been poured on the sacred fire with the aid of proper mantras.
That which should be given has been given away without pride. The regenerate class have been gratified with gifts of diverse kinds. The Kshatriyas have been gratified with battles fought according to just methods. The grandsires have been gratified with Sraddhas. The Vaisyas have been gratified by the protection offered to them, and many foremost of women have been gratified by accomplishing their desires. The Sudras have been gratified by kind speeches, and others with the remnants of the profuse wealth collected on the spot.
Kinsmen and relatives have been gratified by the purity of behaviour displayed by our king. The deities have been gratified by libations of clarified butter and acts of merit, and dependants and followers by protection. That therefore, which is true, do thou truly declare unto these Brahmanas. Indeed, do thou declare what is agreeable to the scriptures and to actual experience, asked by the Brahmanas who are eager to know. Thy words seem to demand credit. Thou art wise. Thou bearest also a celestial form. Thou hast come into the midst of learned Brahmanas. It behoveth thee to explain thyself.' Thus addressed by those regenerate persons, the mongoose, smiling, answered them as follows. 'Ye regenerate ones, the words I have uttered are not false.
Neither have I spoken them from pride. That which I have said may have been heard by you all. Ye foremost of regenerate persons, this sacrifice is not equal in merit to the gift of a prastha of powdered barley. Without doubt, I should say this, ye foremost of Brahmanas. Listen to me with undivided attention as I narrate what happened to thee truly. Wonderful and excellent was the occurrence that fell out. It was witnessed by me and its consequences were felt by me. The incident relates to a liberal Brahmana dwelling in Kurukshetra in the observance of the Unccha vow. In consequence of that incident he attained to Heaven, ye regenerate ones, along with his wife and son and daughter-in-law. And in consequence of what then happened half my body became transformed into gold.'
The Mongoose continued, 'Ye regenerate ones, I shall presently tell you what the excellent fruit was of the gift, made by a Brahmana, of a very little measure (of powdered barley) obtained by lawful means. On that righteous spot of ground known by the name of Kurukshetra, which is the abode of many righteous persons, there lived a Brahmana in the observance of what is called the Unccha vow. That mode of living is like unto that of the pigeon. He lived there with his wife and son and daughter-in-law and practised penances. Of righteous soul, and with senses under complete control, he adopted the mode of living that is followed by a parrot. Of excellent vows, he used to eat everyday at the sixth division. If there was nothing to eat at the sixth division of the day, that excellent Brahmana would fast for that day and eat the next day at the sixth division. On one occasion, ye Brahmanas, there occurred a dreadful famine in the land.
During that time there was nothing stored in the abode of that righteous Brahmana. The herbs and plants were all dried up and the whole realm became void of foodstore. When the accustomed hours came for eating, the Brahmana had nothing to eat. This occurred day after day. All the members of his family were afflicted with hunger but were obliged to pass the days as best they could. One day, in the month of Jaishtha, while the Sun was in the meridian, the Brahmana was engaged in picking up grains of corn. Afflicted by heat and hunger, he was practising even this penance. Unable to obtain grains of corn, the Brahmana soon became worn out with hunger and toil. Indeed, with all the members of his family, he had no food to eat. That best of Brahmanas passed the days in great suffering. One day, after the sixth division came, he succeeded in obtaining a prastha of barley. That barley was then reduced by those ascetics to powder for making what is called Saktu of it.
Having finished their silent recitations and other daily rites, and having duly poured libations on the sacred fire, those ascetics divided that little measure of powdered barley amongst themselves so that the share of each came up to the measure of a Kudava. 2 As they were about to sit down for eating, there came unto their abode a guest. Beholding the person who came as a guest, all of them became exceedingly glad. Indeed, seeing him, they saluted him and made the usual enquiries of welfare. They were of pure minds, self-restrained, and endued with faith and control over the passions. Freed from malice, they had conquered wrath. Possessed of piety, they were never pained at the sight of other people's happiness.
They had cast off pride and haughtiness and anger. Indeed, they were conversant with every duty, ye foremost of regenerate ones. Informing their guest of their own penances and of the race or family to which they belonged, and ascertaining from him in return those particulars, they caused that hungry guest of theirs to enter their cottage. Addressing him they said, 'This is the Arghya for thee. This water is for washing thy feet. There are scattered some Kusa grass for thy seat, O sinless one. Here is some clean Saktu acquired by lawful means, O puissant one. Given by us, O foremost of regenerate persons, do thou accept it,'
Thus addressed by them, that Brahmana accepted the Kudava of powdered barley that was offered to him and ate it all. But his hunger, O king, was not appeased by what he ate. The Brahmana in the observance of the Unccha vow, seeing that his guest's hunger was still unappeased, began to think of what other food he could place before him for gratifying him. Then his wife said unto him,--'Let my share be given unto him. Let this foremost of regenerate persons be gratified and let him then go whithersoever he will.' Knowing that his chaste wife who said so was herself afflicted by hunger, that best of Brahmanas could not approve of her share of the powdered barley being given to the guest. Indeed, that best of Brahmanas possessed of learning, knowing from his own state that his aged, toil-worn, cheerless, and helpless wife was herself afflicted by hunger and seeing that lady who had been emaciated into mere skin and bone was quivering with weakness, addressed her and said, 'O beautiful one, with even animals, with even worms and insects, wives are fed and protected. It behoveth thee not, therefore, to say so. The wife treats her lord with kindness and feeds and protects him.
Everything appertaining to religion, pleasure, and wealth, careful nursing, offspring for perpetuating the race, are all dependent on the wife. Indeed, the merits of a person himself as also of his deceased ancestors depend also on her. The wife should know her lord by his acts. Verily, that man who fails to protect his wife earns great infamy here and goes into Hell hereafter. Such a man falls down from even a position of great fame and never succeeds in acquiring regions of happiness hereafter.' Thus addressed, she answered him, saying, 'O regenerate one, our religious acts and wealth are united. Do thou take a fourth of this barley. Indeed, be gratified with me. Truth, pleasure, religious merit, and Heaven as acquirable, by good qualities, of women, as also all the objects of their desire, O foremost of regenerate ones, are dependent on the husband. In the production of offspring the mother contributes her blood. The father contributes his seed. The husband is the highest deity of the wife.
Through the grace of the husband, women obtain both pleasure and offspring as the reward. Thou art my Pati (lord) for the protection thou givest me. Thou art my Bhartri for the means of sustenance thou givest me. Thou art, again, boon-giver to me in consequence of thy having presented me a son. Do thou, therefore, (in return for so many favours), take my share of the barley and give it unto the guest. Overcome by decrepitude, thou art of advanced years. Afflicted by hunger thou art exceedingly weakened. Worn out with fasts, thou art very much emaciated. (If thou couldst part with thy share, why should not I part with mine)' Thus addressed by her, he took her share of the powdered barley and addressing his guest said,--'O regenerate one, O best of men, do thou accept this measure of powdered barley as well.'
The Brahmana, having accepted that quantity, immediately ate it up, but his hunger was not yet appeased. Beholding him ungratified, the Brahmana in the observance of the Unccha vow became thoughtful. His son then said unto him, 'O best of men, taking my share of the barely do thou give it to the guest. I regard this act of mine as one of great merit. Therefore, do it. Thou shouldst be always maintained by me with great care. Maintenance of the father is a duty which the good always covet. The maintenance of the father in his old age is the duty ordained for the son. Even this is the eternal sruti (audition) current in the three worlds, O learned Rishi. By barely living thou art capable of practising penances. The life-breath is the great deity that resides in the bodies of all embodied creatures.'
The father, at this, said, 'If thou attainest to the age of even a thousand years, thou wilt still seem to me to be only a little child. Having begotten a son, the sire achieves success through him. O puissant one, I know that the hunger of children is very strong. I am old. I shall somehow succeed in holding my life-breaths. Do thou, O son, become strong (by eating the food that has fallen to thy share). Old and decrepit as I am, O son, hunger scarcely afflicts me. I have, again, for many years, practised penances. I have no fear of death.'
The son said, 'I am thy offspring. The Sruti declares that one's offspring is called putra because one is rescued by him. One's own self, again, takes birth as one's son. Do thou, therefore, rescue thyself by thy own self (in the form of thy son).'
The father said, 'In form thou art like me. In conduct and in self-restraint also thou art my like. Thou hast been examined on various occasions by me. I shall, therefore, accept thy share of the barley, O son.' Having said this, that foremost of regenerate persons cheerfully took his son's share of the barley and smilingly presented it to his regenerate guest. Having eaten that barley also, the guest's hunger was not appeased. The righteous-souled host in the observance of the unccha vow became ashamed (at the thought that he had nothing more to give). Desirous of doing what was agreeable to him, his chaste daughter-in-law then, bearing her share of the barley, approached him and said, 'Through thy son, O learned Brahmana, I shall obtain a son. Do thou, therefore, take my share of the barley and give it unto this guest.
Through thy grace, numerous regions of beatitude will be mine for eternity. Through the grandson one obtains those regions repairing whither one has not to endure any kind of misery. Like the triple aggregate beginning with Religion, or the triple aggregate of sacred fires, there is a triple aggregate of everlasting Heavens, depending upon the son, the grandson, and the great-grandson. The son is called Putra because he frees his sires from debt. Through sons and grandsons one always enjoys the happiness of those regions which are reserved for the pious and the good.'
Thus ends section 87, Part One of the Anugita Parva, Aswamedha Parva of Sri Mahabharata.