The Mahabharata 14
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The Mahābhārata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa. It narrates the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes and their succession. Along with the Rāmāyaṇa, it forms the Hindu Itihasa. It also contains philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four “goals of life” or puruṣārtha (12.161). Among the principal works and stories in the Mahābhārata are the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Damayanti, an abbreviated version of the Rāmāyaṇa, and the story of Ṛṣyasringa, often considered as works in their own right.
The Mahabharata
Book 14: Aswamedha Parva
Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr.

Section I

(Aswamedhika Parva)

OM! HAVING BOWED down unto Narayana, and Nara the foremost of male beings, and unto the goddess Saraswati, must the word Jaya be uttered.

“Vaisampayana said, “After the king Dhritarashtra had offered libations of water (unto the manes of Bhisma), the mighty-armed Yudhishthira, with his senses bewildered, placing the former in his front, ascended the banks (of the river), his eyes suffused with tears, and dropt down on the bank of the Ganga like an elephant pierced by the hunter. Then incited by Krishna, Bhima took him up sinking. ‘This must not be so,’ said Krishna, the grinder of hostile hosts. The Pandavas, O king, saw Yudhishthira, the son of Dharma, troubled and lying on the ground, and also sighing again and again. And seeing the king despondent and feeble, the Pandavas, overwhelmed with grief, sat down, surrounding him. And endowed with high intelligence and having the sight of wisdom, king Dhritarashtra, exceedingly afflicted with grief for his sons, addressed the monarch, saying,—’Rise up, O thou tiger among the Kurus. Do thou now attend to thy duties. O Kunti’s son, thou hast conquered this Earth according to the usage of the Kshatriyas. Do thou now, O lord of men, enjoy her with thy brothers and friends. O foremost of the righteous, I do not see why thou shouldst grieve. O lord of the Earth, having lost a hundred sons like unto riches obtained in a dream, it is Gandhari and I, who should mourn. Not having listened to the pregnant words of the high-souled Vidura, who sought our welfare, I, of perverse senses, (now) repent. The virtuous Vidura, endowed with divine insight, had told me,—’Thy race will meet with annihilation owing to the transgressions of Duryodhana. O king, if thou wish for the weal of thy line, act up to my advice. Cast off this wicked-minded monarch, Suyodhana, and let not either Karna or Sakuni by any means see him. Their gambling too do thou, without making any fuss suppress, and anoint the righteous king Yudhishthira. That one of subdued senses will righteously govern the Earth. If thou wouldst not have king Yudhishthira, son of Kunti, then, O monarch, do thou, performing a sacrifice, thyself take charge of the kingdom, and regarding all creatures with an even eye, O lord of men, do thou let thy kinsmen. O thou advancer of thy kindred, subsist on thy bounty.’ When, O Kunti’s son, the far-sighted Vidura said this, fool that I was I followed the wicked Duryodhana. Having turned a deaf ear to the sweet speech of that sedate one, I have obtained this mighty sorrow as a consequence, and have been plunged in an ocean of woe. Behold thy old father and mother, O king, plunged in misery. But, O master of men, I find no occasion for thy grief.’”

Section II

“Vaisampayana said, “Thus addressed by the intelligent king Dhritarashtra Yudhishthira, possessed of understanding, became calm. And then Kesava (Krishna) accosted him,—’If a person indulges excessively in sorrow for his departed forefathers, he grieves them. (Therefore, banishing grief), do thou (now) celebrate many a sacrifice with suitable presents to the priests; and do thou gratify the gods with Soma liquor, and the manes of thy forefathers with their due food and drink. Do thou also gratify thy guests with meat and drink and the destitute with gifts commensurate with their desires. A person of thy high intelligence should not bear himself thus. What ought to be known hath been known by thee; what ought to be done, hath also been performed. And thou hast heard the duties of the Kshatriyas, recited by Bhishma, the son of Bhagirathi, by Krishna Dwaipayana, Narada and Vidura. Therefore thou shouldst not walk the way of the stupid; but pursuing the course of thy forefathers, sustain the burthen (of the empire). It is meet that a Kshatriya should attain heaven for certain by his (own) renown. Of heroes, those that came to be slain never shall have to turn away (from the celestial regions). Renounce thy grief, O mighty sovereign. Verily, what hath happened was destined to happen so. Thou canst in no wise see those that have been slain in this war.—Having said this unto Yudhishthira, prince of the pious, the high-spirited Govinda paused; and Yudhishthira answered him thus, ‘O Govinda, full well do I know thy fondness for me. Thou hast ever favoured me with thy love and thy friendship. And, O holder of the mace and the discus. O scion of Yadu’s race, O glorious one, if (now) with a pleased mind thou dost permit me to go to the ascetic’s retreat in the woods, then thou wouldst compass what is highly desired by me. Peace find I none after having slain my grand-father, and that foremost of men, Karna, who never fled from the field of battle. Do thou, O Janarddana, so order that I may be freed from this heinous sin and that my mind may be purified. As Pritha’s son was speaking thus, the highly-energetic Vyasa, cognisant of the duties of life, soothing him, spoke these excellent words, My child, thy mind is not yet calmed; and therefore thou art again stupefied by a childish sentiment. And wherefore, O child, do we over and over again scatter our speech to the winds? Thou knowest duties of the Kshatriyas, who live by warfare. A king that hath performed his proper part should not suffer himself to be overwhelmed by sorrow. Thou hast faithfully listened to the entire doctrine of salvation; and I have repeatedly removed thy misgivings arising out of desire. But not paying due heed to what I have unfolded, thou of perverse understanding hast doubtless forgotten it clean. Be it not so. Such ignorance is not worthy of thee. O sinless one, thou knowest all kinds, of expiation; and thou hast also heard of the virtues of kings as well as the merits of gifts. Wherefore then, O Bharata, acquainted with every morality and versed in all the Agamas, art thou overwhelmed (with grief) as if from ignorance?’”

Section III

“Vyasa said, ‘O Yudhishthira, thy wisdom, I conceive, is not adequate. None doth any act by virtue of his own power. It is God. who engageth him in acts good or bad, O bestower of honour. Where then is the room for repentance? Thou deemest thyself as having perpetrated impious acts. Do thou, therefore, O Bharata, harken as to the way in which sin may be removed. O Yudhishthira, those that commit sins, can always free themselves from them through penance, sacrifice and gifts. O king, O foremost of men, sinful people are purified by sacrifice, austerities and charity. The high-souled celestials and Asuras perform sacrifices for securing religious merit; and therefore sacrifice are of supreme importance. It is through sacrifices that the high-souled celestials had waxed so wondrously powerful; and having celebrated rites did they vanquish the Danavas. Do thou, O Yudhishthira, prepare for the Rajasuya, and the horse-sacrifice, as well as, O Bharata, for the Sarvamedha and the Naramedha. And then as Dasaratha’s son, Rama, or as Dushmanta’s and Sakuntala’s son, thy ancestor, the lord of the Earth, the exceedingly puissant king Bharata, had done, do thou agreeably to the ordinance celebrate the Horse-sacrifice with Dakshinas. Yudhishthira replied, ‘Beyond a doubt, the Horse-sacrifice purifieth princes. But I have a purpose of which it behoveth thee to hear. Having caused this huge carnage of kindred, I cannot, O best of the regenerate ones, dispense gifts even on a small scale; I have no wealth to give. Nor can I for wealth solicit these juvenile sons of kings, staying in sorry plight, with their wounds yet green, and undergoing suffering. How, O foremost of twice-born ones, having myself destroyed the Earth can I, overcome by sorrow, levy dues for celebrating a sacrifice? Through Duryodhana’s fault, O best of ascetics, the kings of the Earth have met with destruction, and we have reaped ignominy. For wealth Duryodhana hath wasted the Earth; and the treasury of that wicked-minded son of Dhritarashtra is empty. (In this sacrifice), the Earth is the Dakshina; this is the rule that is prescribed in the first instance. The usual reversal of this rule, though sanctioned, is observed, by the learned as such. Nor, O ascetic, do I like to have a substitute (for this process). In this matter, O reverend sir, it behoveth thee to favour me with thy counsel’. Thus addressed by Pritha’s son, Krishna Dwaipayana, reflecting for a while, spoke unto the righteous king,—’This treasury, (now) exhausted, shall be full. O son of Pritha, in the mountain Himavat (The Himalayas) there is gold which had been left behind by Brahmanas at the sacrifice of the high-souled Marutta.’ Yudhishthira asked, ‘How in that sacrifice celebrated by Marutta was so much gold amassed? And, O foremost of speakers, when did he reign?’ Vyasa said ‘If, O Pritha’s son, thou art anxious to hear concerning that king sprung from the Karandhama race, then listen to me as I tell thee when that highly powerful monarch possessed of immense wealth reigned.’”

Section IV

“Yudhishthira said, ‘O righteous one, I am desirous of hearing the history of that royal sage Marutta. Do thou, O Dwaipayana, relate this unto me, O sinless one.’

“Vyasa said, ‘O child, in the Krita age Manu was lord (of the Earth) wielding the sceptre. His son was known under the name of Prasandhi. Prasandhi had a son named Kshupa, Kshupa’s son was that lord (of men), king Ikshwaku. He, O king, had a hundred sons endowed with pre-eminent piety. And all of them were made monarchs by king Ikshwaku. The eldest of them, Vinsa by name became the model of bowmen. Vinsa’s son, O Bharata, was the auspicious Vivinsa. Vivinsa, O king, had five and ten sons; all of them were powerful archers, reverencial to the Brahmanas and truthful, gentle and ever speaking fair. The eldest brother, Khaninetra, oppressed all his brothers. And having conquered the entire kingdom rid of all troubles, Khaninetra could not retain his supremacy; nor were the people pleased with him. And dethroning him, they, O foremost of monarchs, invested his son Suvarcha with the rights of sovereignty and (having effected this) experienced joy (in their hearts). Seeing the reverses sustained by his site as well as his expulsion from the empire, he was ever intent on bringing about the welfare of the people, being devoted to the Brahmanas, speaking the truth, practising purity and restraining his senses and thoughts. And the subjects were well pleased with that high-minded one constant in virtue. But he being constantly engaged in virtuous deeds, his treasures and vehicles became greatly reduced. And on his treasury having become depleted, the feudatory princes swarming round him began to give him trouble. Being thus oppressed by many foes while his treasury, horses and vehicles were impoverished, the king underwent great tribulation along with his retainers and the denizens of his capital. Although his power waned greatly, yet the foes could not slay the king, for his power, O Yudhishthira, was established in righteousness. And when he had reached the extreme of misery along with the citizens, he blew his hand (with his mouth), and from that there appeared a supply of forces. And then he vanquished all the kings living along the borders of his dominions. And from this circumstance O king, he hath been celebrated as Karandhama. His son, (the first) Karandhama who was born at the beginning of the Treta age, equalled Indra himself and was endowed with grace, and invincible even by the immortals. At that time all the kings were under his control; and alike by virtue of his wealth and for his prowess, he became their emperor. In short, the righteous king Avikshit by name, became like unto Indra himself in heroism; and he was given to sacrifices, delight took in virtue and held his senses under restraint. And in energy he resembled the sun and in forbearance Earth herself; in intelligence, he was like Vrihaspati, and in calmness the mountain Himavat himself. And that king delighted the hearts of his subjects by act, thought, speech, self-restraint, and forbearance. He performed hundreds of horse-sacrifices, and the potent and learned Angira himself served him as priest. His son surpassed his sire in the possession of good qualities. Named Marutta, that lord of kings was righteous and o great renown, an possessed the might of ten thousand elephants. He was like unto Vishnu’s second self. Desirous of celebrating a sacrifice, that virtuous monarch, coming to Mount Meru on the northern side of Himavat, caused thousands of shining golden vessels to be forged. There on a huge golden hill he performed the rites. And goldsmiths made basins and vessels and pans and seats without number. And the sacrificial ground was near this place. And that righteous lord of Earth, king Marutta, along with other princes, performed a sacrifice there.’”

Section V