Sunday, April 26, 2015

6. Adi Parva - 4. Bharata

On hearing her story, King Dushmanta said, "You spoke well. Oh beautiful girl, will you be my wife? I will shower you with golden ornaments, rare pearls from various countries, finest carpets and more. My entire kingdom will be yours! Let us marry in the Gandharva1 style.”

Shakuntala said, “Let us wait for my father’s return. He will give my hand in marriage to you.”

Dushmanta said, “Oh beautiful and faultless girl! You can present yourself to me. This is permitted by the scriptures. There are eight kinds of marriage viz Brahma, Daiva, Arsha, Prajapatya, Asura, Gandharva, Rakshasa and Paisasa. Manu2 says any of these eight systems of marriage will be appropriate depending on the circumstances, though certain systems have been considered appropriate for certain castes. The Gandharva and Rakshasa systems are permitted for kings. You don’t have to have any fear. Let us get married in the Gandharva style.”

Sakuntala said, “If this is permitted by tradition, then I accept your proposal.  But I need a promise from you. My son should be your heir-apparent.”

The King, driven by an impulsive desire to possess her, readily agreed to Sakuntala’s condition, without even thinking about it. 

They got married in the Gandharva style. The king took leave of her, promising to take her to his capital in a formal way, by sending all the four divisions of his troops to escort her with honor.

Sage Kanwa returned to his Ashram soon after Dushmanta had left. Sakuntala did not dare to tell him of what happened, out of a sense of shame. However, Kanwa, who possessed immense spiritual powers, was able to discern what had happened. He told Sakuntala, “Don’t worry, my daughter. You have not done anything wrong. The Gandharva style of marriage is appropriate for the kings. Dushmanta is a man of virtues. The child to be born to you will be a man of great prowess and valor and will rule the world.”

Shakuntala, moved by her father’s kind words, washed his feet and sought his blessings for Dushmanta. Kanwa blessed that all kings of the Puru race would remain virtuous and would never be deprived of their thrones.

Sakuntala gave birth to a boy. The baby had auspicious signs on its palm indicating that it would grow into a man of great prowess and virtues. Even at the age of six, the boy would capture wild animals like lions and tigers and tie them to the trees. By virtue of his performing this feat, he was nicknamed Sarvadamana (one who can subdue all.)

Kanwa decided that it was time that the boy was taken to King Dushmanta and made the heir-apparent. He asked some of his disciples to take Sakuntala and her son to Hastinapura, the Capital of the Puru kingdom. The disciples took both of them to the King’s palace. They left the mother and son in the king’s court and returned to their place.

Sakuntala told the king, “Oh king! Here is your son. Please make him the heir-apparent as per your promise made to me.”

Dushmanta said, "Who are you? I don’t remember to have seen you at all. Please go away.”

Astounded by the king’s words, Sakuntala became furious and her eyes turned red. However, controlling her anger, she said, “Oh king! Though you know the truth, you behave like a mean person. One who is dishonest with himself robs himself. Don’t be under the illusion that no one else knows what has happened. The omniscient Narayana, who resides in you has witnessed everything. You have sinned in his presence. He is aware of all your sins.

"The acts of a man are also witnessed by The Sun, the Moon, the Air, the Fire, the Earth, the Sky, Water, the heart, Yama, the day, the night, the two twilights, and Dharma. A person who degrades himself by telling lies will not be blessed by the gods. Even his own soul won’t forgive him.

“Just because I have come to you on my own without your having brought me here as promised by you, don’t treat me lightly. I am your wife and I deserve to be treated with respect. The husband who enters the womb of a woman emerges as the son. The son so born rescues his ancestors from the hell called ‘Put.’ That is why he is called a putra (son). One who begets a son conquers the three worlds. One who begets a grandson attains eternity. Through his grandson’s son, he gets everlasting happiness.

“A woman who has borne a son is considered a true wife. She is a true wife who is devoted to her husband. She is a man's half. The wife is a man’s first friend. Only a person who has a wife can perform religious rites. The wife is thus a man’s most valuable possession. A wife who predeceases her husband waits for his arrival at Yama’s world. A husband enjoys the company of his wife both in this world and in the other world.

“It has been said by learned people that a man himself is born as his son. So, a man should look upon his wife who has borne his son as his mother. Looking at the face of his son will make a man feel that he is looking at his own face in the mirror. The pleasure derived by a man by looking at the face of his son is like the pleasure derived by a virtuous man when he reaches the heaven. All physical and mental discomforts of a man will disappear when he looks at the face of his son.

“Why do you  treat with indifference your son who has come to you and who is eager to climb up on your knees? Even ants support their eggs. Why shouldn’t you, a virtuous man, support your son? The touch of soft sandal paste, cool water or of a woman won’t give you as pleasing a sensation as the touch of a son!

“At the time your son was born into this world, there was a divine voice from the sky proclaiming, 'He will perform 100 Aswametha  yagas (Horse sacrifices).'

“My life depends on you and so does the continuation of my race. I was born to Menaka, the foremost among the six celestial women  (Urvasi, Purvasithi, Sahajanya, Viswasi and Ghritasi being the other five), who descended from the heaven and Sage Viswamitra whom she enticed. She cast me in the forest and went away. I was a virgin in Sage Kanwa’s Ashram before I met you. I don’t know what sin I had committed to be cast away  first by my parents and now by you! I can go back to my father’s place. But please don’t cast off your son."

Dushmanta said, “Women generally tell lies. Who will believe your words? After all, you were born to the lewd Menaka and the lustful Viswamitra! Your mother discarded you after giving birth to you, the way one throws away the flowers offered to God, after the worship is over. You speak like a lewd woman. I don’t know you. I am not the father of your son."

Sakuntala said, “My mother Menaka is the first among the celestial women. My birth is superior to yours. I have the power to go to the abodes of Indra, Yama, Kubera and Varuna.  I am like the Mountain Meru and you are like a mustard! An ugly person deludes himself to be better looking than others until he looks at his face in the mirror. But one who is handsome will not taunt others. One who is pure will never speak ill of others. But one who is wicked will derive pleasure from insulting good people. 

"Nothing can be more ridiculous than the wicked people calling the honest ones wicked! The swine will always look for the dirt and filth even if it is in a flower garden, while a swan will take only the milk after separating it from the water it is mixed with. A man, who, after having begotten a son, refuses to regard him as his son, will never attain the worlds he seeks to attain. He will find the gods destroying his possessions and fortune. 

"I appeal to you to honor the truth by accepting your son. When hundred Aswameta yagnas were weighed against Truth, Truth weighed heavier! Truth has the same value as have the study of the Vedas and ablution in holy places.Truth is God himself. Don’t violate your pledge. I desire that you and Truth be united. In case you don’t believe my words, I will go away. But take it from me that after you are gone from this world, my son will rule the entire world surrounded by the four seas."

After saying these words, Sakuntala left the palace. Immediately after this, Dushmanta, when he was among his ministers and priests, heard a voice from the skies uttering, “Dushmanta! What Sakuntala told you is the truth. Accept your son and don’t insult Sakuntala. Since the boy is to be cherished by you as per our word, he will go by the name Bharata (the cherished).”

Hearing these words, Dushmanta told his ministers and priests, “Did you hear the words uttered by people from the heavens? I knew all along that he was my son. But if I had accepted him based on Sakuntala’s words alone, my people would have been  harboring some doubts about his birth and they would not have considered him pure."

The king accepted the boy as his son and performed all the rites that a father was required to perform. He hugged his son and experienced the delight that a father would derive from the touch of his son. The Brahmins blessed the boy and the bards applauded him.

Dushmanta also accepted Sakuntala as his wife. He told her, "Oh Goddess! Since our union took place without the knowledge of anyone, I wanted to get it authenticated. If I had accepted you and our son on the basis of your words, my people would have deemed our union to have resulted from lust and our son to have been a product of an impure birth. Please forgive me and take back the harsh words you spoke against me in anger.”

Dushmanta then named his son Bharata and installed him as his heir-apparent.

Eventually Bharata became the king. The wheels of his chariots traversed the entire world. He conquered all the kings of the earth. He earned great fame. He was known as Chakravarti (the Emperor) and Sarvabhauma (Ruler of the whole Earth.) He performed many sacrifices including the Cow Sacrifice and Horse sacrifice and Sage Kanwa was the chief priest at those sacrifices.

It is from Bharata that the great Bharata race emanated. Many godlike monarchs had been born in this race.

Sage Vaisampayana mentioned the names of the important monarchs in the Bharata race.

1 - Gandharva style of marriage is a marriage based on mutual attraction between a man and a woman, with no rituals, witnesses or the presence of family members of the bride and groom.

2 - Manu is the author of Manu Smriti, a code of ethics and behavior

Previous: Adi Parva 5. The Birth of Sakuntala

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