Monday, November 4, 2019

55. Adi Parva 53. The Saranga Birds

As Vaisampayana was narrating the story, Janamejaya asked him, “You explained how Maya and Aswasena were saved from the conflagration. But how did the Saranga birds escape?”

Janamejaya then narrated how the Saranga birds were saved from being burnt by the fire.

There was a great saint by name Mandapala, who was well versed in the scriptures and who practiced strict austerity.

Having achieved complete control over his senses, he left his body and went to Pitruloka, the land of the ancestors. He met Indra, the lord of the celestials who was sitting beside Yama, the God of death and asked him,“Why have I not got the fruits of my austerity? Why have I not reached this region of yours after all the penances I have undertaken?”

Indra said “Men are born as debtors. Their debts will be discharged when they observe austerities and perform penances and sacrifices and when they get children. These regions remain inaccessible to you only because you have no children. The Vedas say only a son can rescue a person from the hell called Put. (That is why a son is called Putra.)”

Hearing this, Mandapala reflected how he could beget many children within a short time. He then realized that of all the creatures, the birds were endowed with fecundity. So he assumed the form of a Saranga bird and connected with a female Saranga bird by name Jarita. He begot four male birds, all of whom were Vedic scholars even when they were born.

Even before his offspring could come out of their eggs, Mandapala went to live with another female bird by name Lapita.

Jarita had intense love for its offspring and brought them up with care and affection.

Once, when  Mandapala happened to fly over Khandava forest along with Lapita, he saw Agni going towards the forest. He became aware of Agni’s intention to burn the forest. 

Intending to save his offspring from the fire, he addressed Agni, “You are the mouth of the entire world. You are the carrier of the sacrificial butter. The wise people perform the sacrifices in your presence. Brahmins, along with their wives and children, reach eternal regions as a result of their sacrifices done through you. Oh, Agni! The flames put forth by you consume every creature. The Vedas are your word. All creatures depend on you. You are the Ashwini Devas, you are Surya, you are Chandra and you are Vayu.”

Agni was gratified by this praise and asked Mandapala,“What good can I do to you?”

Mandapala prayed to him with folded hands, “When you burn the Khandava forest, please spare my children!”

Agni said, "So be it!”

Accordingly, his flames did not touch Mandapala’s four children.

When the flames began to engulf every place in the forest, the infant birds became anxious. They had no means of escaping. Their mother cried helplessly, “My children, whose feathers have not developed, are not capable of escaping from the fire, nor am I capable of carrying them and escaping. I won’t abandon them.”

She then spoke to their children, “I will cover you with my wings and die with you. Your cruel father left me sometime back, telling me, ‘My race will be dependent on my eldest son Jaritari. My second son Sarisrikka will get children for expansion of my ancestor’s race. My third son Stamvamitra will be devoted to asceticism and my youngest son Drona will become the foremost of those acquainted with the Vedas.’ But this terrible tragedy has overtaken us.”

The infants told their mother, “Oh mother, go to a place where there is no fire. If we are killed here, you can have other children in future. If you are killed here, we will have no more children for our race. Do what is good for our race. Don’t be influenced by your affection for us, which will only destroy us as well as you. If you save yourself, you may have the wishes of our father gratified.”

Jarita said, :There is a rat hole underneath the tree. Enter the hole immediately. After you enter the hole, I will cover its mouth with dust. When the fire is put out, I will return here and remove the dust from the mouth of the hole. This seems to be the only means of escape from the conflagration.”

The infant birds said, “If we enter the hole, we will be eaten by the rat. If we stay here, we will be eaten by the fire. Considering both the options, we feel that death by fire is preferable, since such a death is approved by the wise.”

Jarita said, “The rat that came out of the hole was seized by a hawk and taken away. So you may safely enter the hole.”

The little birds said, “There may be other rats living there. On the other hand, the fire may not reach this place. We already see an adverse wind blowing the flames away. Oh, mother, a position in which death is uncertain is better than one in which death is certain. It is your duty to escape.”

The mother bird, then, as advised by its sons, left them and flew to a spot where there was no fire.

As the fire came towards the young birds, Jaritari, the eldest, said, “The person who is wakeful when death approaches him does not feel the pangs of death. One who is not, feels the pangs of death and never attains salvation.”

"The second, Sarisrikka told his elder brother, “You are patient and intelligent. The time has come when our lives are threatened. Only one among many becomes wise and brave.”

The third, Stamvamitra, said, “The eldest brother is called the protector. He is the one who protects the younger ones from danger. But if the eldest himself fails to save the younger ones, what will they do?”

The youngest, Drona said, “The cruel god of fire, with seven tongues and seven mouths, comes towards us fast, blazing forth in splendor and licking up everything in its path.”

The sons of Mandapala then recited hymns in praise of Agni.

Jaritari said, “Oh, Agni, you are the soul of air and the body of earth’s vegetation. You are the father of water and water is your father. You flames, like the rays of the Sun, extend to all sides.”

Sarisrikka said, “Oh, smoke-bannered god, our mother is not to be seen, and we know not our father! Our feathers have not yet grown. We have no one to protect us, except you. You are the one who gives heat to the rays of the Sun. We are young and we are sages. Please protect us.”

"Stamvamitra said, “You are everything. You sustain every creature and support the universe. You are the carrier of the sacrificial butter and you are the excellent sacrificial butter itself. Having created the three worlds, you destroy them when the time comes. You are the productive cause of the universe and you are the essence into which the universe dissolves itself.”

"Drona said, “Oh, lord of the universe, remaining within the bodies of the creatures, you cause the food they eat to be digested. Therefore everything is established in you. The Vedas have sprung from your mouth. You assume the form of the Sun, suck off the water and every juice from the earth and give them back to it in time in the form of rain and thus cause everything to grow. 

"From you, all the plants have grown, from you all the tanks and pools and even the oceans have sprung forth. This body depends on Varuna (the Water God) and hence is unable to bear your heat. Oh, auspicious protector, do not destroy us. Just as the ocean saves the houses on its banks, save us, by going along some remote route.”

Agni, pleased by the praises showered on him by the four brothers and remembering the promise he had made to Mandapala, told them that he would spare them.

Drona told Agni,“Oh, Agni, these cats trouble us. Consume them with their friends and relatives.”

Sage Mandapala became anxious of his sons. He shared his concern with his second wife Lapita. “If my children are unable to save themselves, how will their mother be able to save them? If she can’t save them, how will she compose herself? Oh, my sons, how are you and how is your mother?”

On hearing the sage’s lamentation, Lapita, gripped by jealousy said, ”You need not worry about your children, whom you have described as sages endued with great energy and prowess. You spoke to Agni in my presence and he also promised you that he would spare them. He will not go back on his promise. You are distracted by thinking of my rival Jarita. It is clear that your love for me is not equal to the love you have for your first wife. You better go to Jarita. Hereafter, I will wander alone, considering it as a reward for getting attached to a wicked person.”

Mandapala replied,”I am with you only for the sake of getting children. The children I already have, are in danger. One who abandons what he has for the sake of what  he may acquire is a wicked person. The world disregards and disrespects such a person. So, I have to go. You can do whatever you please to do. While the fire that is devouring the trees causes sorrow in me, it raises evil sentiments in you.”

In the meanwhile, after the fire had subsided, Jarita came to see the fate of her children. She was elated to find all the four of them alive. The young birds began to weep on seeing their mother. She embraced each of them.

Just at that time, Sage Mandapala arrived there. But none of his children expressed joy at seeing him. He spoke to each of them and their mother, but none of them responded.

Mandapala then asked his children, “Who among you is the first born, who is the second, who in the third and who is the last? Why don’t you speak to me? It is true that I had left you but I was not happy where I was.”

Jarita replied, “Why should you know which of them is the eldest, which is second and so on? Go back to that Lapita of sweet smiles, for whom you have forsaken me, considering me deficient!”

Mandapala said, “For women, there is nothing so destructive of their happiness as a co-wife and a clandestine lover. There is nothing else that inflames the fire of hostility as these two. Even the auspicious and well-behaved Arundhati was jealous of the illustrious Vasishtha of great purity of mind, who was always devoted to the good of his wife. Arundhati insulted the wise sage, who was the foremost among the seven sages. 

"As a consequence, she has become a little star which. like fire mixed with smoke, is sometimes visible and sometimes not and  is like an omen portending no good, among a constellation of seven bright stars representing the seven Rishis. Like Vasishta who never wronged his wife, I never wronged you. Your behavior towards me, like the behavior of Arundhati towards Vasishta, is born out of jealousy. Men should never trust women, even if they be wives! When a woman becomes mother, she doesn’t bother about her husband.”

After hearing Manadapala’s words, his children came to him and showed their respect to him. He spoke to them kindly and reassuringly. “I spoke to Agni requesting him to spare you all. He also assured me that he won’t harm you. Because of this assurance and because of my knowing about your mother’s devotion to you and the great energy all of you have, I didn’t come earlier. So don’t have any resentment towards me. You are all Rishis well versed in the Vedas. Agni also knows you well.”

Mandapala then took his wife and children with him and went to some other country.

Indra came to Krishna and Arjuna along with Maruts and told them, “You two have achieved a feat even a celestial could not. Ask a boon that is not obtainable by any celestial.”

Arjuna asked Indra to give him all his weapons. Indra agreed to give him all his weapons which would be useful to him when the time came. Krishna asked that his friendship with Arjuna be eternal.

Indra, after granting the boons asked by Krishna and Arjuna, went back to his abode.

Agni after becoming gratified after having eaten, in abundance, the flesh of the animals and birds and drunk their fat and blood, told Arjuna and Krishna, “I have been gratified by you two tigers among men. You will be competent to choose wherever you choose.”

Arjuna, Krishna and Daanava Maya then sat on the banks of the river.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

54. Adi Parva 52. The Burning of the Khandava Forest

Agni then put forth his most energetic form, and got ready to consume the forest. Surrounding it on all sides with his seven flames, he began to consume the forest of Khandava, exhibiting his all-consuming form like the fire at the end of the Yuga. 

Surrounding that forest from all sides and roaring like the clouds, Agni made every creature residing there tremble in fear. That burning forest looked resplendent like Meru, the king of mountains, blazing with the rays of the sun that have fallen on it.

Krishna and Arjuna, riding in their cars and placing themselves on opposite sides of that forest, began a great slaughter of the creatures dwelling in Khandava. When they saw some creatures trying to escape, they rushed to that place to prevent them from escaping.

As the forest was burning, hundreds of thousands of living creatures, uttering frightful yells, began to run about in all directions. Some had some of their limbs burnt, some were scorched with excessive heat, and some ran about from fear. And some clasping their children and some their parents and brothers chose to die rather than escape after abandoning their beloved kin.

Many creatures rose upwards but soon fell whirling into the blazing fire below. Some rolled on the ground with wings, eyes, and feet scorched and burnt. These creatures died at those spots almost immediately.

The tanks and ponds within that forest, heated by the fire around, began to boil, causing the fishes and the tortoises in them to perish The spectre of the burning bodies of various animals looked as if fire itself had assumed many forms.

The birds that tried to fly away from that conflagration were pierced by Arjuna’s arrows or cut into pieces. Pierced all over by Arjuna's arrows, the birds dropped down into the burning forest, uttering loud cries. The yelling of the creatures struck by the arrows resembled the frightful uproar heard during the churning of the ocean (in days of yore).

The mighty flames of the blazing fire reaching the firmament, caused great anxiety to the celestials themselves. They went to their Chief Indra, the one with thousand eyes, the slayer of Asuras and the one who had performed hundred sacrifices, and said “O, lord of immortals, why does Agni burn these creatures below? Has the time come for the destruction of the world?”

Hearing this, Indra, who himself was witnessing the spectacle with concern, set out to protect the forest of Khandava. Covering the sky with masses of clouds, he commanded the clouds to shower on the burning forest. Those masses of clouds, commanded by Indra, began to pour rain on Khandava in heavy showers. But the showers were all dried up in the sky itself by the heat of the fire and could not, therefore, reach the fire at all!

Indra got angry with Agni, gathered huge masses of clouds and made them deliver a heavy  downpour. The showers falling on the fire caused a lot of smoke, which, together with flashes of lightning, presented a horrible sight.

Arjuna, using his powerful weapons, countered the shower of rain with the shower of his arrows. With the sky above that forest being covered by Arjuna’s arrows, no living creature was able to escape from the forest.

It so happened that Takshaka was not in the forest when it was burning, But his son Aswasena was there. He made great efforts to escape from the forest but could not find a way through Arjuna's arrows. His mother tried to save him by swallowing him. She swallowed his head and even while swallowing his tail,she rose up above the ground, trying to fly away.

Seeing her escape, Arjuna cut off her head using an arrow. Indra who was watching this, in an effort to save his friend’s son, created a violent wind that made Arjuna unconscious for a while. Using this brief time, Aswasena succeeded in escaping. Enraged by this deception, Arjuna cut every animal trying to escape, into several pieces.

Angered by Indra’s act, Arjuna tried to fight with him, by hurling his weapons in the sky. Indra countered these weapons by discharging heavy winds that assembled masses of clouds which gave rise to torrents of rains.

Arjuna then hurled a weapon called Vavavya to dispel the clouds. This weapon destroyed the clouds and dried up the rains. In a moment, the sky was cleared and the Sun appeared on the sky like a disc and in place of heavy winds, a cool breeze began to blow.

Agni, gladdened by these developments, blazed forth with more energy, assuming various forms, with his power increased by the fats of the animals burnt by the fire. 

Numerous birds of the Garuda tribe descended from the sky intending to attack Arjuna and Krishna with their thunder-like wings and sharp beaks and claws. A number of snakes also descended from above emitting poison.

Seeing the birds and snakes descending down, Arjuna cut them into pieces using arrows, steeped in the fire of his anger. The birds and snakes fell into the fire.

Others like Asuras, Gandharvas, Yakshas and Nagas also came, with terrifying cries, to fight Arjuna, Armed with machines emitting iron balls and bullets from their mouths and catapults that would propel huge stones and rockets, they began to attack Arjuna and Krishna. Arjuna cut off their heads using his powerful arrows. Krishna also attacked the Daityas and Danavas with his disk and killed them.

Then Indra, riding on his white elephant hurled his Vajrayuta, which would never go in vain, on Arjuna and Krishna. Other celestials also took up their weapons in their hands. Yama took up his mace, Kubera his spiked club, Varuna his noose, Skanda his long lance, the Aswini Devatas their resplendent plants, Dhatri his bow, Jaya his thick club, Tvashta a huge mountain, Surya a bright dart, Mrityu a battle-axe, Aryaman a bludgeon with sharp spikes, Mitra a discus and Pusha, Bagha and Savitr, bows.

Rudras, Vasus, Maruts, Viswedevas and Sadhyas and other celestials also took up their weapons. All of them charged towards Arjuna and Krishna.

Arjuna and Krishna, fearless and invincible in battle, seeing Indra and other celestials charging towards them, calmly waited, with bows in their hands. Skilled in battle, these two heroes assailed them with their own weapons and drove them away. The celestials ran away in fear and sought the protection of Indra. The sages who witnessed the battle from the skies were amazed by the feat of Arjuna and Krishna.

Indra caused a heavy shower of stones which were dispelled by Arjuna, using his arrows. Indra then tore up a large peak from the Mandara mountain and hurled it toward Arjuna. Arjuna cut it into a thousand pieces by his fire emitting arrows. 

The fall of the fragments of that mountain on the earth looked like the Sun, the Moon and the other planets falling on the earth after being displaced from their positions These fragments falling on the forest caused the death of numerous living creatures living in the forest.

The inhabitants of the forest of Khandava, the Danavas and Rakshasas and Nagas, wolves and bears and other wild animals, elephants, tigers, lions, manes, deer, buffaloes, various birds, and various other creatures, frightened at the falling stones  began to fly in all directions.

They saw the forest burning all around and Krishna and Arjuna also ready with their weapons. Frightened at the terrible sounds, those creatures lost their power of movement. They emitted a frightful roar.

Krishna hurled his large and fierce discus at the animal to hasten their death. The forest-dwellers including the Danavas and the Rakshasas, afflicted by that weapon, were cut into hundreds of pieces and fell unto the mouth of Agni. Mangled by Krishna's discus, the Asuras were besmeared with blood and fat and looked like evening clouds.

Krishna moved like death itself, slaying Pisachas and birds and Nagas and other creatures by thousands. The discus itself, repeatedly hurled from the hands of Krishna, came back to his hands after slaughtering many creatures. The face and form of Krishna - that soul of every created thing - became fierce to behold while he was thus employed in the slaughter of the Pisachas, Nagas and Rakshasas.

No one among the celestials, who had mustered there could vanquish in battle Krishna and Arjuna. When the celestials saw that they could not protect that forest from the might of Krishna and Arjuna by extinguishing that conflagration, they retired from the scene.

Then, Indra, beholding the celestials  retreat, applauded Krishna and Arjuna. A voice from the skies, addressing Indra, said, “Your friend Takshaka, that chief of snakes, has not been slain! Before the conflagration commenced in Khandava, he had  left for Kurukshetra. Know from my words, O Indra that Vasudeva and Arjuna are incapable of being vanquished in battle by any one! They are Nara and Narayana - those gods of ancient times, well known in heaven! You know what their energy and strength are. These best of old Rishis are unconquerable by any one in all the worlds! They deserve the most reverential worship of all the celestials and Asuras; of Yakshas and Rakshasas and Gandharvas, of human beings and Kinnaras and Nagas. Therefore,  it will be worthy of you and the celestials to go back to your abodes. The destruction of Khandava hath been ordained by Fate!”

Then the chief of the immortals, knowing these words to be true, gave up his anger and jealousy, and went back to heaven. The celestials followed their chief, along with their soldiers. Seeing the retreat of Indra and other celestials, the duo roared like lions.

After Indra had left the scene, these two heroes continued to assist in  the conflagration of the forest. No creature survived the onslaught of Arjuna. All of them fell into the  mouth of Agni. 

Gratified with large quantities of flesh, blood, and fat, Agni,  with his blazing  eyes, and flaming tongue and large mouth, drank that nectar-like stream of animal fat, became filled with joy. Gratified greatly, Agni derived much happiness.

An Asura by name Maya who was trying to escape from the fire was pursued by Krishna and Agni. Maya sought protection from Arjuna. Arjuna promised him that he being the brother of Namuchi (who was killed by Indra), he won’t be killed. Accordingly, Agni also spared him.

Agni burnt the forest for fifteen days  and only six of its dwellers were not killed in the fire. They were Aswasena, Maya and four birds called Sarangas.

Next: Adi Parva - 53 The Saranga Birds
Previous: Adi Parva - 51. Arjuna Agrees to Help Agni

Saturday, September 28, 2019

53. Adi Parva 51. Arjuna Agrees to help Agni

Vaisampayana began to narrate the story of why Agni wanted to consume the Khandava forest.

There was a king by name Swetaki who was equal to Indra himself, in prowess and strength. No one on earth equaled him in sacrifices, charity, and intelligence.

Swetaki performed the five great sacrifices and many other sacrifices, his heart having always been set upon sacrifices, religious rites, and presenting gifts of all kinds to others.

Swetaki performed sacrifices for so many years that at one stage, the priests conducting the sacrifices had their eyes afflicted by the continued smoke. Having become very weak, they left the king, not willing to assist him in his sacrifices any more. The king managed to complete the sacrifices with the help of some other people.

After some time, the king wanted to perform another sacrifice which would take a hundred years. But he couldn’t get any priest to conduct this sacrifice, in spite of his beseeching them, offering them great wealth etc. 

The Brahmins told him, “O, king! Your sacrifices go on endlessly. By helping you in the sacrifices for such a long time, we have become fatigued. Give us leave. Go to Rudra. He will help you in conducting the sacrifice.”

Swetaki was angered by the Brahmins’ response. He went to the Kailasa mountain and began to meditate on Lord Siva. He performed rigorous penances for several months. Pleased by his austerity, Lord Siva appeared before him and offered to grant him any boon he would seek.

Swetaki said, “O God of gods, assist me in my sacrifice!"

Lord Siva said, “We do not ourselves assist at sacrifices. But since you have performed a rigorous penance, I will assist you in your sacrifice, on one condition. If you pour libations of butter into the fire for twelve years without intermission, leading the life of a Brahmachari, you will get what you want.”

Swetaki did what Lord Siva asked him to do for 12 years. After 12 years, he came back to Lord Siva. 

Lord Siva told him, “I have been gratified by your deed. But the duty of assisting in sacrifices properly belongs to the Brahmins. Therefore, I will not myself assist you in your sacrifice. There is an exalted Brahmin called Durvasa, who is a portion of my own self. He will assist you in your sacrifice. You may make preparations for the sacrifice.”

The king returned to the capital and collected everything for the sacrifice. He then came back to Lord Siva and told him, “O lord! I have made all the preparations for the sacrifice. Please let me start the sacrifice tomorrow."

Siva summoned Durvasa and and asked him to assist Swetaka in the sacrifice.

The sacrifice was conducted by the king with the help of Durvasa. 

After the sacrifice was successfully completed, the king presented huge gifts to the Brahmins who participated in the sacrifice. The king was praised by the Brahmins. He then returned to his palace. The citizens were also happy.

Since Swetaka spent so much of his life in conducting sacrifices, he was called Rajarishi (Royal Sage).

When the time came, Swetaka ascended to the Heaven.

Agni had drunk clarified butter for twelve years in Sweraka’s sacrifice.  Butter was poured into Agni's mouth in a continuous stream for 12 years. Having drunk so much butter, Agni became satiated and didn’t want  to consume butter again from the hand of anybody else in any other sacrifice.

Agni lost his color and became pale. He could not shine as before. He felt a loss of appetite. His energy levels came down. He was even afflicted by sickness.

Finding that his energy was gradually diminishing, Agni went to Brahma and told him, “O exalted one, Swetaki  has, by his sacrifice, gratified me to excess. Even now I am suffering from the surfeit of butter consumed by me. I have been steadily losing both my splendour and my strength. With your grace, I would like to regain my own permanent nature.”

Brahma said, “You have been afflicted by this sickness because you have consumed a continuous stream of butter poured into your month for twelve years! Don’t worry. The time for regaining your strength has come.

“Once, at the request of the gods, you had consumed the dreadful Khandava forest, the abode of the enemies of the gods. It has now become the home of numerous creatures. When you eat the fat of those creatures, you will regain your nature. So, consume that forest with its living population. You will then be cured of the malady afflicting you.”

Hearing these words of Brahma, Agni proceeded with great speed to Khandava forest. He blazed, assisted by Vayu, the Wind God. The creatures dwelling there, made great efforts to extinguish the fire. Elephants came by thousands, bringing water in their trunks and poured it on the fire. Thousands of snakes poured water through their hoods. All the other creatures living in the forest attempted to extinguish the fire through various means.

Agni tried to consume the forest seven times and it was extinguished all the seven times by the creatures living there. Agni became frustrated and angry. He went back to Brahma and narrated his experience to him.

Brahma said, “I see a way by which you may consume the forest of Khandava today in the very sight of Indra. Those old deities, Nara and Narayana, have become incarnate in the world to accomplish the business of the celestials. They are called Arjuna and Krishna. 

"They are now staying in the forest of Khandava. Solicit their help in consuming that forest. They will prevent the population of Khandava from escaping, and thwart Indra’s efforts to help them escape. You will thus be able to consume the forest even if it be protected by the celestials!”

Agni narrated these events to Arjuna and Krishna and requested their help.

Arjuna said, “I have the skills and the weapons to fight anyone and Krishna has the energy to defeat anyone. I have numerous excellent celestial weapons with which I can fight even many Indras holding the Vajrayuta but I have no bow suited to the strength of my arms, and capable of bearing the might I may put forth in battle. 

"Considering the swiftness of my hands, I also require arrows that must never be exhausted. My chariot also is scarcely able to bear load of arrows that I would desire to keep by me. I desire celestial white horses possessing the speed of the wind and a chariot possessing the splendour of the sun and the clatter of whose wheels should resemble the roar of the clouds. 

"Then, there is no weapon suited to Krishna's energy and with which he can slay Nagas and Pisachas. O, Agni, we are ready to do all that manliness and prowess can do. But, you need to provide us the adequate means."

After listening to Arjuna, Agni wanted to meet Varuna, the rain god who was residing in water, Varuna immediately appeared before Agni. Agni requested Varuna to give him the bow and quiver and the ape bannered chariot given to him by King Soma, using which Arjuna could fight Indra.

Varuna gave the bow, two inexhaustible quivers and a chariot furnished with celestial weapons and a banner bearing the image of an ape to Agni, as desired by him. The bow was the chief of all the weapons. It was always worshipped both by the celestials and the Gandharvas. The chariot was made by Viswakarma, the celestial architect, after performing an austere meditation.

The chariot had a splendour matching that of the Sun, making it difficult for people even to gaze at it. This was the chariot from which Lord Siva had fought and vanquished the Dhanavas.

Agni gave Krishna a discus with an iron pole attached to its center.

Arjuna, armed with the sword, and wearing  leather gloves over his palms, walked around that excellent car adorned with numerous flags. He bowed to the gods and ascended the chariot, like a virtuous man riding in the celestial car that would take him to heaven.

Arjuna took in his hands, the celestial bow called Gandiva created by Brahma, bowed to Krishna and strung the bow. Those who heard the sound made by Arjuna’s stringing of the bow quivered with fear. He then felt competent to perform the task. He told Krishna, “Oh, slayer of Madhu, using this weapon  one can vanquish  men, gods, Rakshasas, Pissachas, Daityas and Nagas.”

Varuna then gave Krishna a mace called Kaumodaki, capable of slaying every Daitya and producing, when hurled, a roar like that of the thunder.

Then Arjuna and Krishana, filled with joy, told Agni, "Having been furnished with weapons and a chariot, we will be able to fight all the Devas and Asuras together, let alone the Vajra-holding Indra, who wants to fight  for the sake of his friend Takshaka."

Arjuna said, “Oh,Agni! When Krishna moves on the battlefield with this discus in hand, there is nothing in the three worlds that he will not be able to consume by hurling this weapon. Having obtained the bow Gandiva and this couple of inexhaustible quivers I also am ready to conquer the three worlds. Therefore, you can now blaze forth through the forest as you like, surrounding this large forest on all  sides.”

Next: Adi Parva - 52. The Burning of Khandava Forest

Previous: Adi Parva - 50. Agni Seeks Arjuna's Help

Saturday, June 29, 2019

52. Adi Parva - 50. Agni Seeks Arjuna's Help!

Oneday, Yudhishtira  told Krishna,“The summer days have come. Let us all go to the banks of Yamuna, enjoy ourselves there and return in the evening.”

Krishna readily agreed since he was also interested in sporting in water in the company of friends.

Accordingly, all of them went to the banks of Yamuna. Studded with a number of tall trees and high mansions, the place looked like the celestial city.

Yudhishtira had arranged for a variety of foods and drinks, floral wraths and perfumes to be brought there. Every one sported according to his pleasure. 

Many beautiful women entertained them, some sporting in the woods, some in the waters and some in the mansions. Some sang, some danced and some conversed with the men. The mansions and the woods reverberated with the charming music of flutes, guitars and kettle drums.

Yudhishtira, Arjuna, Draupadi and Subhadra  presented the women with gifts.

Arjuna and Krishna went to a charming place in the woods. They sat there and chatted about the past events and several other things. They were sitting there like the Aswinin Devatas (the divine twins). 

A Brahmin with a bright appearance, but clad in rags came near them and spoke to them.

“You two are like the two foremost heroes on the earth. I am a voracious eater. O, Partha, gratify me by giving me sufficient food.”

Arjuna and Krishna asked him what kind of food he desired.
The Brahmin replied, “I don’t desire ordinary food. I am Agni (the God of fire). So, give me the food that will suit me. 

"I have been  desiring to consume this Kandava forest. But this forest is protected by Indra, for the sake of protecting his friend Takshaka, the snake, who has been living here. Because of him, many other creatures are also getting protected. Whenever I try to consume this forest, Indra pours water on me from the clouds and foils my attempt.

“I have come to you since both of you are skilled in weapons. I pray to you to prevent the showers from descending and any of the creatures from escaping, when I begin to consume this forest!”

When Vaisampayana was narrating this, Janamejaya asked him, “Why did Agni desire to consume the Khandava  forest, which was the abode of  various living creatures? There should have been a reason for this. Please enlighten me on this.”

Vaisampayana answered his question by narrating a story.

Next: Adi Parva - 51. Arjuna Agrees to HelpAgni

Previous: Adi Parva - 49. The Pandavas Live in Peace and Happiness

Friday, June 28, 2019

51. Adiparva 49. The Pandavas live in peace and happiness

After Arjuna’s return to Indraprasta, Krishna along with Balarama, his other relatives and men like Akrura, Anadhrishti, Udhdhava, Vrishapati, Satyaka, Salyaki, Kritavarma, Satwata, Pradhyumna, Samva, Nisatha, Sanku, Charudeshna, Jhilli, Viprithu, Sarana and Gada, came to see him.

Yudhishtira sent Nakula and Sahadeva to receive Krishna and his men, who were given a majestic reception. Krishna, gratified by the warm reception, saluted Yudhishtira and Bhima.

Krishna presented many gifts to Arjuna and Subhadra.

The Yadavas and the Kurus spent a lot of time together.

In course of time, Subhadra gave birth to a son who came to be called Abhimanyu. Yudhishtira celebrated the birth of Abhimanyu by gifting cows and gold coins to Brahmins and other people. 

Krishna performed the appropriate rites ordained to be performed by the maternal uncle.

As Abhimanyu grew up, he became conversant with the Vedas. He learnt the art of weapons from his father. Like his father, Abhimanyu became proficient both in the use of weapons and in the knowledge of scriptures and religious rites. Arjuna was very happy at his son’s progress.

Draupadi gave birth to five sons through each of her husbands. Yudhishtira’s son was called Prativindhya, since he was strong like the Vindhya mountains. Bhima’s son was called Sutasoma, since he was born after Bhima had performed a thousand Soma sacrifices. Since Arjuna’s son was born after Arjuna had returned from his exile after performing many feats, he was called Srutakarma. Nakula named his son Satanika after a royal sage in the illustrious race of Kuru. Since Sahadeva’s son was born  under the constellation Vahni-daivata (Krittika), he was called Srutasena (Kartikeya).

The sons of Draupadi were born at the interval of one year each. All of them became renowned and very much attached to one another. Their rites of infancy such as Chudakarana (first shave of the head) and Upanayana (investiture with the sacred threads) were performed by Sage Dhaumya . 

All of them, after studying the Vedas, acquired the knowledge of the weapons from Arjuna. The Pandavas were elated when  their sons, who were equal in glory to the sons of the celestials, became accomplished warriors.

The Pandavas brought many kings under their rule. People were happy under Yudhishtira’s rule. Yudhishtira studied the Vedas, performed sacrifices and protected the people. He combined  virtue, pleasure and profit judiciously.

Because of Yudhishtirs’s influence, other kings on the earth also became aligned to virtue and they became inclined towards meditation on the Supreme spirit.

Assisted by his four brothers, Yudhishtira shone like a sacrifice assisted by the four Vedas. Many Brahmins waited upon Yudhishtira like the celestial waiting upon the Lord of the creation. People were delighted to look at Yudhishtira, who was like the full moon without a stain.

People developed an affection towards Yudhishtira who never uttered anything that was improper, untrue, unbearable or disagreeable. Yudhishtira, endowed with  great energy, and aided by his brothers took care of his people and lived happily with no enemy to disturb his peace.

Next: Adi Parva-50. Agni seeks Arjuna's help
Previous: Adi Parva-48. Arjuna Weds Subhadra

Sunday, June 23, 2019

50. Adi Parva - 48. Arjuna Weds Subhadra

The grand festival of the Vrishni and Andhaka tribes was celebrated on the Raivataka mountain. The region around the hill was adorned with gems and artificial trees of various hues. There was music and dance.

The festival was attended by Balarama and his wife Revathi, the Vrishni king Ugrasena,Raukmineya, Shamva, Akrura, Sarana, Gada, Vabhru, Nisatha, Charudeshna,Prithu, Viprithu, Satyaka, Satyaki, Bhangakara, Maharava,  Hardikya, Uddhava and many others with their wives.

Krishna and Arjuna went around witnessing the activities related to the festival. Arjuna looked at Subhadra*, daughter of Vasudeva and instantly felt a liking for. Observing this, Krishna smiled and said, “How is it that the heart of one wandering in the forests is agitated by the god of desire? She is my sister and the favourite daughter of my father. Tell me if your heart is fixed on her. I will speak to my father.”

Arjuna said, “If your sister becomes my wife, I can achieve anything that is achievable by man. Tell me what I should do to win her hand in marriage.”

Krishna said, “We don’t know her mind. In the case of Kshatriyas who are brave, a forcible abduction of a girl for marrying her is approved. So, carry away my beautiful sister by force. Who knows what she may do at a Swayamvara (self-choice)?”

Then Krishna and Arjuna sent the message to Yudhishthira at Indraprastha through a speedy messenger, informing him of everything. Yudhishthira, on hearing this, conveyed his assent to the proposal.

Arjuna informed Krishna about the assent of Yudhishthira. Learning that Subhadra had gone the Raivataka hill, Arjuna, after taking the consent and advice of Krishna, rode in a golden chariot driven by the horses towards the Raivataka hill.

Subhadra, after worshipping deities in the temple and seeking the blessings of the Brahmins there, was returning to Dwaraka. Arjuna met her on the way, rushed towards her and forcibly took her into his custody. He then proceeded towards Indraprastha.

The armed attendants of Subhadra, seeing that she was seized and taken away, rushed to Dwaraka to inform the developments to the Yadava court called Sudharma. The chief of the court blew his conch and summoned the armed men.

Stirred by the sound of the blowing of the conch, the Bhojas, the Vrishnis, and the Andhakas began to pour in from all sides. They left whatever they were doing and rushed to the court. The chief apprised them of the developments.

The proud Vrishni heroes, on hearing of what Arjuna had done wanted to fight Arjuna with their weapons.

Balarama, tall and while like the peak of the Kailasa mountain, restrained them saying, “Let us hear what Krishna has to say and then act as per his wishes.” Other people endorsed his views with loud cries of approval.

Balarama told Krishna, “Krishna, why are you silent? It was for your sake that Arjuna was welcomed and honoured by us. But it appears that he didn’t deserve our respect. Who will break a plate after dining from it? Arjuna, disregarding us and even you, has outraged Subhadra, desiring his own death. He has put his foot on the crown of my head. I will not put up with this. Shall I eradicate the entire Kuru race?”

Everyone approved of what Balarama said and roared like clouds.

Krishna said, “Arjuna has not insulted us by his action. He has rather enhanced our respect. He considers Swayamvara (self choice of the bride) a dubious practice. Who will accept a girl as a gift as if she were an animal? Which man on earth will sell his offspring (daughter)? I think, Arjuna, considering these flaws in other methods, chose to carry the bride by force, as per established practice.

“The alliance is proper. Subhadra  is a renowned girl. Arjuna is a man of renown. Who won’t like to have Arjuna, born in the race of Bharata and Shantanu and who is the grandson of Kuntibhoja, as a friend? In all the worlds, no one except Mahadeva can vanquish Arjuna. 

"Arjuna’s prowess as a warrior is well known. Who can be equal to him? It is my opinion that we should approach him cheerfully and bring him back. If he goes to his city after vanquishing us, our fame will suffer. There is no disgrace in reconciliation.”

After listening to Krishna’s words, they acted as per his advice. They went after Arjuna, stopped him and persuaded him to return to Dwaraka.

Arjuna lived in Dwaraka for one year. His last year of exile was spent in Pushkara.

After the period of exile was over, Arjuna returned to Indraprastha. After paying obeisance to Yudhishtira and other elders, Arjuna went to the inner apartments to meet Draupadi. Draupadi was angry with him and said, “Why are you here? Go where the daughter of the Yadava race is! A second tie always relaxes the first one put on a pile of wood.”

Arjuna asked for Draupadi’s forgiveness and pacified her. He then sent Subhadra into the inner apartments, after getting her dressed as a cowherd woman.

After entering the inner apartments, Subhadra paid obeisance to Kunti who gave her blessings to Subhadra. 

Subhadra then went to Draupadi and told her, “I am your maid.” Draupadi embraced her and said,“May your husband be without any enemies!” Subhadra said, “So be it!”

After that, the Pandavas lived happily. Kunti was also happy.

*Subhadra was conceived in the womb of Kamsa's sister Vasudeva's wife and Devaki. She was the Maya of Vishnu.When Kamsa tried to kill her when she came out of Devaka's womb, she disappeared and entered the womb of Rohini, another wife of Vasudeva. She was named Bhadra and became Subhadra with the auspicious prefix Su added to her name. Perhaps the name Bhadra Kali was deived from her name, since Kali (Durga, Uma or Parvati) is considered Vishnu's sister.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

49. Arjuna's Pilgrimage

When Arjuna left for the forest, Brahmins well versed in the Vedas, persons skilled in music, ascetics, people who recite Puranas, narrators of sacred stories, devotees leading celibate lives, Vanaprasthas (People inclined to live the later part of their lives in forests), and various other kinds of people walked behind him for some distance.

Arjuna walked like Indra followed by the Maruts. As he walked, he witnessed many picturesque scenes. After arriving at the source of the river Ganga, he decided to settle down there. The Brahmins who followed him to the forest also settled down there. While staying there, Arjuna, inspired by the Brahmins, performed a number of Agnihotris (fire sacrifices). As a result of these sacrifices, that place itself became extremely beautiful.

Once, after making offerings to his ancestors, by standing in the Ganga, Arjuna was about to move from the river to the shore to perform the rites sitting before the fire. At that time, he was pulled from under the water by Ulupi, the daughter of the Nagas. 

He was carried by her to the palace of the Naga king Kauravya. Arjuna found that there was a sacrificial fire ignited for him. He performed the rites in that fire. Agni was pleased by Arjuna’s performance of the rites by pouring libations into the fire.

After performing the rites, Arjuna smiled at Ulupi and told her, “Oh, handsome girl, what a rash thing have you done by dragging me here! Whose country is this and whose daughter are you?”

Ulupi replied, “I am the daughter of Kauravya, the Naga king born in the line of Airavata. Looking at you perform ablutions in the river, I was smitten by love. I am unmarried. Gratify me by giving yourself to me.”

Arjuna said, “As commanded by my elder brother Yudhishtira, I am undergoing a vow of celibacy for twelve years. I am not free to do what I please. But I am still willing to make you happy. Tell me how I can make you happy without violating my vow and the truth.”

"Ulupi said, “I know why you were asked to undergo celibacy. Your exile is only for the sake of Draupadi. Your virtue will not suffer by acceding to my solicitation. Oh, man of large eyes, it is one’s duty to relieve the distressed. Your virtue will not suffer any diminution by pleasing me. On the other hand, you will earn great merit by saving my life. So, yield yourself to me. It is the opinion of the wise that a man should accept a woman that woos him. I will kill myself if you don’t accede to my request. Earn great merit by saving my life. I seek your shelter. Gratify my wish by yielding to me."

Arjuna fulfilled her desire. After spending the night in the palace, he returned to the originating point of the Ganga in the morning, accompanied by Ulupi. 

Ulupi then took leave of Arjuna and returned to her palace. She gave him a boon that he would be invincible in water. “Every amphibious creature will be vanquished by you,” she said.

Arjuna narrated everything to the Brahmins who were staying with him. He then visited different parts of the Himalayas like Agastyavata, Vasishta’s peak, the peak of Bhrigu etc. He performed various rites at these places and donated many houses and cows to the Brahmins. 

Arjuna then went to a sacred asylum called Hiranyavindu and performed his ablutions there.

He then descended from the Himalayas and journeyed towards the East. The Brahmins followed him.

Arjuna went to then forest of Naimisha (Naimisharanya,) where the rivers Utpalini, the Nanda, the Apara Nanda, the Kausiki, Gaya and Ganga were flowing. He purified himself by bathing in those sacred rivers. 

Arjuna also visited the holy places in Vanga and Kalinga and bathed himself in all the holy waters in those regions. The Brahmins took leave of Arjuna when he entered Kalinga.  

Arjuna, accompanied by a few attendants, went to many regions, visiting several holy places and palaces. He saw the Mahendra mountain on his way. 

He then went to Manipura. He walked along the seashore and reached the palace of King Chitravahana.

Chitravahana had a beautiful daughter by name Chitrangada. Arjuna happened to look at her and instantly developed a desire to possess her. He went to the king and requested him to give his daughter in marriage to him. 

The king asked Arjuna, “Who are you and who are your parents?”

Arjuna said, “I am Arjuna, the son of Pandu and Kunti.”

The king told Arjuna, “In our race, there was a king by name Prabhanjana. He had no children. He performed a penance meditating on Lord Siva. Lord Siva granted him a boon that each successive descendant of his race would have only one child. Each of my ancestors had a son but I have a daughter. 

"However, I look upon my daughter as my son. If you marry her, one of the sons born to her through you will be the perpetuator of my race. If you agree to this, you can marry her.”

Arjuna agreed to this and married Chitrangada. He lived with her in the city for 3 years. After she gave birth to a son, Arjuna took leave of her and began to wander again.

Arjuna then went to the South and travelled along the shores of the southern ocean. He came across five regions in which ascetics lived. But he found that they had shunned the five sacred waters in that region. 

Of these five, Agastya, Saubadra and Pauloma were considered holy while Karandhma was considered propitious for performing Aswameta Yaga (horse sacrifice) and Bharadwaja, a washer of sins.

Arjuna asked the ascetics why they were shunning the five sacred waters. The ascetics said that they were avoiding those sacred waters because those waters were inhabited by crocodiles that would take away the people who bathe in those waters.

Hearing this, Arjuna, though dissuaded by the ascetics, decided to explore those waters. Perhaps, he remembered the boon by Ulupi that he would be invincible in water). He first went to Saubhadra and plunged into the water. A large crocodile seized his leg. He dragged it to the shore. Once the crocodile was brought to the shore, it transformed itself into a beautiful woman.

When Arjuna asked her who she was, she replied, “Oh, strong armed one, I am an Apsara by name Varga. I was dear to Kubera. I and my four companions were once going to the abode of Kubera. On the way, we saw a Brahmin of handsome appearance and rigid vows meditating. We tried to lure him by singing and dancing. He was not lured by us. He became angry and cursed us to become crocodiles and range the waters for hundred years.

“Distressed by his curse, we sought his forgiveness for trying to lure him with our beauty and distract him from his meditation. Moved by our propitiation, the Brahmin said, 'The word hundred normally indicates eternity. But the word hundred used by me may mean a limited period of hundred years and not eternity. You will be crocodiles for a limited period of hundred years, seizing and taking away people. At the end of hundred years, an exalted individual will drag you all from water to the land. Then you will go back to your original forms. The sacred waters in which I will assign you to live will, after you are delivered by that individual, become known as Nari-tirthas (or sacred waters connected with the sufferings and liberation of women). These waters will become sacred, having the power to wash away sins.'

“We saluted the Brahmin and left him. We then came across Narada who asked us about our plight. When we narrated our story to him, he said, ‘In the low lands adjoining the southern ocean, there are five regions of sacred water.  Go there immediately. Arjuna, the son of Pandu will deliver you.’ Oh, hero, as per the sage’s words, you  have freed me from my curse. Please free my four friends also.”

Arjuna then freed the other four women also by pulling them out of the sacred waters in which they were living.

After giving leave to the five Apsaras, Arjuna became desirous of seeing Chitrangada one more time. He then proceeded to the city of Manipura. He saw Chitrangada and his son Vabhruvahana, who was installed on the throne. Arjuna then left for Gokarna.

Arjuna visited many sacred waters and holy places on the shores of the western ocean. When he came to a place called Prabhasa, Krishna, learning about his arrival there went to that place to meet his friend.

After the two friends had embraced each other and exchanged pleasantries, Krishna asked Arjuna, “Why are you  wandering over the earth, visiting the sacred waters and other holy places?"

Arjuna narrated the happenings to Krishna. Hearing this, Krishna said, “This is as it should be.”

The two friends then went to the Raivataka mountain to spend some days there. Before they arrived at Raivataka, Krishna had arranged for food and entertainment shows. However, Arjuna  politely dismissed the singers and dancers and retired to bed.  Before going to sleep, he described to Krishna the holy places and sacred waters visited by him.

Arjuna then set out to Dwaraka, the capital of the Yadava kingdom. The citizens of Dwaraka thronged to see the son of Kunti. He stayed there in the company of Krishna, for many days.