The Mahabharata 16
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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 16: Mausala Parva
Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr.

Section 1

Om! Having bowed down unto Narayana, and to Nara, the foremost of men, as also to the goddess Sarasvati, should the word “Jaya” be uttered.

Vaishampayana said: “When the thirty-sixth year (after the battle) was reached, the delighter of the Kurus, Yudhishthira, beheld many unusual portents. Winds, dry and strong, and showering gravels, blew from every side. Birds began to wheel, making circles from right to left. The great rivers ran in opposite directions. The horizon on every side seemed to be always covered with fog. Meteors, showering (blazing) coals, fell on the Earth from the sky. The Sun’s disc, O king, seemed to be always covered with dust. At its rise, the great luminary of day was shorn of splendour and seemed to be crossed by headless trunks (of human beings). Fierce circles of light were seen every day around both the Sun and the Moon. These circles showed three hues. Their edges seemed to be black and rough and ashy-red in colour. These and many other omens, foreshadowing fear and danger, were seen, O king, and filled the hearts of men with anxiety. A little while after, the Kuru king Yudhishthira heard of the wholesale carnage of the Vrishnis in consequence of the iron bolt. The son of Pandu, hearing that only Vasudeva and Rama had escaped with life, summoned his brothers and took counsel with them as to what they should do. Meeting with one another, they became greatly distressed upon hearing that the Vrishnis had met with destruction through the Brahmana’s rod of chastisement. The death of Vasudeva, like the drying up of the ocean, those heroes could not believe. In fact the destruction of the wielder of Saranga was incredible to them. Informed of the incident about the iron bolt, the Pandavas became filled with grief and sorrow. In fact, they sat down, utterly cheerless and penetrated with blank despair.”

Janamejaya said: “Indeed, O holy one, how was it that the Andhakas along with Vrishnis, and those great car-warriors, the Bhojas, met with destruction in the very sight of Vasudeva?”

Vaishampayana continued: “When the thirty-sixth year was reached (after the great battle) a great calamity overtook the Vrishnis. Impelled by Time, they all met with destruction in consequence of the iron bolt.”

Janamejaya said: “Cursed by whom did those heroes, the Vrishnis, the Andhakas, and the Bhojas, met with destruction? O foremost regenerate persons, do thou tell me this in detail.

Vaishampayana continued: “One day, the Vrishni heroes numbering Sarana amongst them, saw Vishvamitra and Kanwa and Narada arrived at Dwaraka. Afflicted by the rod of chastisement wielded by the deities, those heroes, causing Samva to be disguised like a woman, approached those ascetics and said, ‘This one is the wife of Vabhru of immeasurable energy who is desirous of having a son. Ye Rishis, do you know for certain what this one will bring forth?’

“Hear now, O king, what those ascetics, attempted to be thus deceived, said: ‘This heir of Vasudeva, by name Samva, will bring forth a fierce iron bolt for the destruction of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas. Ye wicked and cruel ones, intoxicated with pride, through that iron bolt ye will become the exterminators of your race with the exception of Rama and Janarddana. The blessed hero armed with the plough will enter the ocean, casting off his body, while a hunter of the name of Jara will pierce the high-souled Krishna while lying on the ground.’

“Endeavoured to be deceived by those wicked ones, those ascetics, with eyes red in wrath, looked at each other and uttered those words. Having said so they then proceeded to see Keshava. The slayer of Madhu, informed of what had taken place, summoned all the Vrishnis and told them of it. Possessed of great intelligence and fully acquainted with what the end of his race would be, he simply said that that which was destined would surely happen. Hrishikesa having said so, entered his mansion. The Lord of the universe did not wish to ordain otherwise. When the next day came, Samva actually brought forth an iron bolt through which all the individuals in the race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas became consumed into ashes. Indeed, for the destruction of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas, Samva brought forth, through that curse, a fierce iron bolt that looked like a gigantic messenger of death. The fact was duly reported to the king. In great distress of mind, the king (Ugrasena) caused that iron bolt to be reduced into fine powder. Men were employed, O king, to cast that powder into the sea. At the command of Ahuka, of Janarddana, of Rama, and of the high-souled Vabhru, it was, again, proclaimed throughout the city that from that day, among all the Vrishnis and the Andhakas no one should manufacture wines and intoxicating spirits of any kind, and that whoever would secretly manufacture wines and spirits should be impaled alive with all his kinsmen. Through fear of the king, and knowing that it was the command of Rama also of unimpeachable deeds, all the citizens bound themselves by a rule and abstained from manufacturing wines and spirits.”

Section 2

Vaishampayana said: “While the Vrishnis and the Andhakas were thus endeavouring (to avoid the impending calamity), the embodied form of Time (death) every day wandered about their houses. He looked like a man of terrible and fierce aspect. Of bald head, he was black and of tawny complexion. Sometimes he was seen by the Vrishnis as he peered into their houses. The mighty bowmen among the Vrishnis shot hundreds and thousands of shafts at him, but none of these succeeded in piercing him, for he was none else than the Destroyer of all creatures. Day by day strong winds blew, and many were the evil omens that arose, awful and foreboding the destruction of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas. The streets swarmed with rats and mice. Earthen pots showed cracks or broke from no apparent cause. At night, the rats and mice ate away the hair and nails of slumbering men. Sarikas chirped, sitting within the houses of the Vrishnis. The noise made by those birds ceased not for even a short while by day or by night. The Sarashas were heard to imitate the hooting of the owl, and goats imitated the cries, O Bharata, of jackals. Many birds appeared, impelled by Death, that were pale of complexion but that had legs red of hue. Pigeons were seen to always disport in the houses of the Vrishnis. Asses were born of kine, and elephants of mules. Cats were born of bitches, and mouse of the mongoose. The Vrishnis, committing sinful acts, were not seen to feel any shame. They showed disregard for Brahmanas and the Pitris and the deities, They insulted and humiliated their preceptors and seniors. Only Rama and Janardana acted differently. Wives deceived their husbands, and husbands deceived their wives. Fires, when ignited, cast their flames towards the left. Sometimes they threw out flames whose splendour was blue and red. The Sun, whether when rising or setting over the city, seemed to be surrounded by headless trunks of human form. In cook rooms, upon food that was clean and well-boiled, were seen, when it was served out for eating, innumerable worms of diverse kinds. When Brahmanas, receiving gifts, blessed the day or the hour (fixed for this or that undertaking) or when high-souled men were engaged in silent recitations, the heavy tread was heard of innumerable men running about, but no one could be seen to whom the sound of such tread could be ascribed. The constellations were repeatedly seen to be struck by the planets. None amongst the Yadavas could, however, obtain a sight of the constellation of his birth. When the Panchajanya was blown in their houses, asses of dissonant and awful voice brayed aloud from every direction. “Beholding these signs that indicated the perverse course of Time, and seeing that the day of the new moon coincided with the thirteenth (and the fourteenth) lunation, Hrishikesa, summoning the Yadavas, said unto them these words: ‘The fourteenth lunation has been made the fifteenth by Rahu once more. Such a day had happened at the time of the great battle of the Bharatas. It has once more appeared, it seems, for our destruction.’ “The slayer of Keshi, Janardana, thinking upon the omens that Time showed, understood that the thirty-sixth year had come, and that what Gandhari, burning with grief on account of the death of her sons, and deprived of all her kinsmen, had said was about to transpire. ‘The present is exactly similar to that time when Yudhishthira noted at such awful omens when the two armies had been arrayed in order of battle.’ Vasudeva, having said so, endeavoured to bring about those occurrences which would make Gandhari’s words true. That chastiser of foes commanded the Vrishnis to make a pilgrimage to some sacred water. The messengers forthwith proclaimed at the command of Keshava that the Vrishnis should make a journey to the sea-coast for bathing in the sacred waters of the ocean.”

Section 3

Vaishampayana said: “At that time the Vrishni ladies dreamed every night that a woman of black complexion and white teeth, entering their abodes, laughed aloud and ran through Dvaraka, snatching from them the auspicious threads in their wrists. The men dreamt that terrible vultures, entering their houses and fire-chambers, gorged themselves on their bodies. Their ornaments and umbrellas and standards and armour were seen to be taken away by terrible Rakshasas. In the very sight of the Vrishnis, the discus of Krishna, given by Agni, made of iron and having its nave composed of hardest adamant, ascended into the firmament. In the very sight of Daruka, the excellent car of Vasudeva, of solar effulgence, and properly equipped, was taken away by the horses yoked unto it. Those foremost of steeds, numbering four, (Saivya, Sugriva, Meghapushpa and Valahaka), and endued with the speed of thought, fled away, dragging the car after them along the surface of the ocean. The two great standards of Krishna’s car and Valadeva’s car, that with the device of Garuda and that bearing the device of the palmyra, which were reverently worshipped by those two heroes, were taken away by Apsaras who, day and night, called upon the Vrishnis and the Andhakas to set out on a pilgrimage to some sacred water. When these omens were seen and heard, those foremost of men, the mighty car-warriors of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas, became desirous of setting out, with their whole families, on a pilgrimage to some sacred water. They prepared diverse kinds of viands and edibles and diverse kinds of wines and meat. The troops of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas, blazing with beauty and endued with fierce energy, then set out from the city on cars and steeds and elephants. The Yadavas, then, with their wives, proceeded to Prabhasa and took up their residence there, each in the (temporary) habitation that was assigned to him, and all having an abundance of provisions consisting of edibles and drink.

“Hearing that they had taken up their abode on the sea-coast, Uddhava, the wisest of men, who was, besides, well-versed in Yoga, proceeded there and took his leave (for departing). Krishna, with joined hands, saluted Uddhava, and seeing him bent on departing (from the world) and knowing that the destructions of the Vrishnis was at hand, did not feel any disposition to prevent him. The mighty car-warriors among the Vrishnis and the Andhakas, whose hour had come, then saw Uddhava proceed on his great journey, filling the whole welkin with his splendour. The Vrishnis, mixing with wine the food that had been cooked for high-souled Brahmanas, gave it away unto monkeys and apes. Those heroes of fierce energy then began their high revels, of which drinking formed the chief feature, at Prabhasa. The entire field echoed with the blare of hundreds of trumpets and abounded with actors and dancers plying their vocations. In the very sight of Krishna, Rama began to drink, with Kritavarma, Yuyudhana and Gada; and Vabhru also did the same. Then Yuyudhana, inebriated with wine, derisively laughing at and insulting Kritavarma in the midst of that assembly, said, ‘What Kshatriya is there who, armed with weapons, will slay men locked in the embraces of sleep and, therefore, already dead? Hence, O son of Hridika, the Yadavas will never tolerate what thou hast done.’ When Yuyudhana had said these words, Pradyumna, that foremost of car-warriors, applauded them, expressing his disregard for the son of Hridika.