Friday, March 25, 2016

19. The End of Satyavati

The  sages after consulting among themselves decided to take Kunti and the five sons of Pandu to Hastinapura and hand them over to Bhishma and Drhitarashtra, Accordingly, they left for Hastinapura taking Kunti, the Pandavas and the two dead bodies along with them.When the entourage arrived at Kurujangala (the western region of the Kuru kingdom), the ascetics sent word to Dhritarashtra and Bhishma through the gatekeepers. The citizens came out in large numbers, amazed at the sight of the large number of ascetics. After getting the message, Bishma, Dhritarashtra, Somadatta, Vidura, Duryodhana and his brothers also arrived at Kurujangala.

After the ascetics were duly received, extended appropriate hospitality and offered seats, the oldest of the ascetics narrated the events that took place in the forest. The substance of their message was this."After living a virtuous life and reviving the almost extinct line of his grandfather by making use of the boon grated to Kunti, Pandu departed from this world. His wife Madri ascended the funeral pyre of her husband and sacrificed her life. We have brought the unburnt portions of the two bodies. Appropriate rites could be performed for the departed souls."  The ascetics also presented the five children of Pandu and requested that they be received with due honor. After giving their message, the ascetics instantly vanished into thin air.

Dhritarashtra asked Vidura to make arrangements for performing the funeral ceremonies for Pandu and Madri and to liberally donate cattle, clothes, gems and other kinds of wealth to the poor and the needy. He also said, "Let us not lament the death of Pandu, who was a heroic king and who has left behind him five heroic sons equal to the celestials."

Vidura, in consultation with Bhishma, selected a suitable place and made arrangements for the funeral rites. The citizens, watching the remains of the dead bodies wailed in grief and said that they would follow their king by giving up their lives. The Pandavas lit the pyre and cremated the dead bodies. Seeing the bodies go up  in flames, Pandu's mother Ambalika cried "Oh my son!" and fell down unconscious. The wise Vidura and Bhishma also cried. So did Dhritarashtra.

Seeing the Pandavas sleep on the ground during the period of mourning, the citizens also renounced their beds and observed a 12-day mourning along with the Pandavas.

After the mourning period was over and all ceremonial functions were duly completed, the Pandavas returned to Hastinapura. The citizens of the Kuru kingdom continued to grieve over Pandu, who had been occupying a special place in their hearts due to his virtues, valor, simplicity and sacrifice.

Vyasa told his mother Satyavati, "Mother, our days of happiness are over. They have been succeeded by days of calamity. Sin is going up day by day. The Kaurava empire will no longer endure because many wrongs are going to be committed by the rulers. It will be better for you to retire to the forest and spend your time in devotion and yoga. You will save yourself from witnessing, in your old age, the annihilation of your race."

Accepting the counsel of her wise son, Satyavati retired to the forest along with her two daughters in law, after obtaining the consent of Bhishma and spent her time in contemplation of God. After some time, she ascended to heaven.

Friday, March 18, 2016

18. Pandu Invites His Death

After three sons were born to Kunti and hundred sons were born to Gandhari, Madri, Pandu's second wife told her husband " I feel grieved that unlike Kunti, I am childless.But I feel reluctant to seek this favor from Kunti. So, I feel that you should ask Kunti to fulfill my desire to have children."'

Pandu replied, 'O Madri, I have been thinking about this myself but I was reluctant to suggest this to you since I was not sure how you would receive the idea. Now that you have conveyed your desire to me, I will speak to Kunti. I am confident that she will not refuse to help you."

Pandu then asked Kunti to help Madri get children andgain the satisfaction of making her a mother. Kunti readily agreed to this. She told Madri, "Think of some celestial and you will get a child through him."

Madri  thought of the Aswini Devata, the Twin Gods of Health. The twins gave her two beautiful children Nakula and Sahadeva. At the time the children came out of their mother's womb, a celestial voice said, "In energy and beauty, these twins will surpass Aswini Devatas themselves."

After all the five children were born, they were blessed by the sages living in the mountains by performing the first rites of birth and bestowing appellations on them. The three sons of Kunti were called Yudhishtira, Bhimasena and Arjuna and the two sons of Madri Nakula and Sahadeva. The five sons born at an interval of one year after one another looked like an embodiment of a five year period.

Pandu was elated by looking at the five children of celestial beauty, abundant energy, great strength and prowess, The children were also loved by the sages and their wives living in the mountains.

After sometime, Pandu again approached Kunti at the behest of Madri. Kunti said, "When I gave her the formula for invoking it once, she managed to obtain two sons. She has deceived me. If I give her the formula again, she will end up having more children than me. This is the way of wicked women. I was a fool to have not used the formula to get two children at a time. I beseech you not to command me to give the formula to Madri once again. Let this be a boon granted to me by you."

As the five sons of Pandu were growing up in the forest, the sages' affection and admirationfor the children began to grow as well.

One day, in the season of spring, Pandu was wandering in the forest with his wife Madri. They witnessed several species of animals and birds engaged in mating, with their passions stirred up by the spring season. Pandu felt the  desire to unite with his wife. Overpowered by this desire, he embraced Madri. Though Madri, apprehensive of the effect of the sage's curse, resisted him, Pandu had his way And with the curse acting on him,  Pandu died while being united in intercourse with his wife.

Madri, clasping the dead body of Pandu, began to weep loudly.  Kunit and the children, hearing her cries, came rushing to the spot. Madri requested Kunti to come alone, leaving the children where they were. Kunti asked the children to stay behind and came to the spot. Beholding  Pandu and Madri lying prostrate on the ground, Kunti said, "O Madri, knowing the sage's curse, how did you let yourself enjoy his company?  However, I envy you because you have seen the face of our husband suffused with joy."

Madri replied with tears in her eyes, "'Revered sister, I resisted the king, but he could not control himself, as if he was determined to make the curse take effect."

Kunti said, 'I being his first wife, I have to follow him in death. Please don't prevent me from doing this."

Madri replied, Since it was my fault in not preventing this tragedy from happening, it is only fair that I follow him. If I were to survive you, I won't be able to rear your childrentreating them as my own children. But you will bring up my sons considering them as your own."

Eventually, Madri ascended the funeral pyre of Pandu.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

17. The Birth of Bhima and Arjuna

After Yudhishtira was born, Pandu asked Kunti to seek a son with great strength since a Kshatriya was expected to be a man of great strength. Kunti invoked Vayu and sought a son through him, who would be endowed with great strength, large limbs and the capability to humble the pride of everyone. Vayu gave her Bhima. When Bhima was born, a voice from the skies said, "This child shall be the foremost of all those endowed with strength."

Once when the child Bhima was sleeping in his mother's lap, Kunti, frightened by a tiger, got up suddenly, momentarily becoming unconscious of the child lying in her lap. The child fell on the rocky surface on which her mother was sitting. The rock was broken into fragments by the impact of Bhima's fall. Pandu was amazed at this sight.

As mentioned earlier, Duryodhana was born on the same day as Bhima was born.

After Bhima was born, Pandu began to think of getting a son who would achieve world-wide fame. Since Indra, the chief of the celestials was considered  to be endowed with immense strength and prowess and boundless energy, Pandu wanted to have a son through Indra. He felt that that son would possess superior skills and capabilities that would enable him vanquish all other men and other creatures.

After taking the advice of some sages, Pandu asked Kunti to observe an auspicious vow for the next one year with the objective of pleasing Indra. He himself practiced severe austerities by standing on one leg from morning to evening and meditating upon the Lord.

After a long time, Indra, gratified by the devotion shown by Pandu and Kunti appeared before Pandu and said, "I will give you a son who will be celebrated over all the three worlds and who will promote the welfare of virtuous people and destroy the wicked. He will be foremost among all men and will destroy all his foes."

Elated by Indra's words, Pandu conveyed his message to Kunti and asked her to invoke Indra.

Arjuna was born as a result of Kunti's union with Indra. Immediately after he was born, a celestial voice  pronounced that the child would be equal to Kartavirya in energy and Siva in prowess and invincible like Indra himself and that he would achieve great fame.

Kunti was excited to hear these words. The ascetics doing penance in the mountains and the celestials also heard these words. There were shouts of joy and celebrations all around. The sages began to utter propitiatory hymns.

Pandu wanted to have more children and broached the subject to Kunti. But Kunti declined his proposal saying that  she won't have intercourse with a fourth person.