Hindu Scriptures and Important Texts

Mahabharata: Pandu and His Sons

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Vaisampayana said, 'O king, one day Pandu, while roaming about in the woods (on the southern slopes of the Himavat) that teemed with deer and wild animals of fierce disposition, saw a large deer, that seemed to be the leader of a herd, serving his mate. Beholding the animals, the monarch pierced them both with five of his sharp and swift arrows winged with golden feathers. O monarch, that was no deer that Pandu struck at, but a Rishi's son of great ascetic merit who was enjoying his mate in the form of a deer. Pierced by Pandu, while engaged in the act of intercourse, he fell down to the ground, uttering cries that were of a man and began to weep bitterly.

"The deer then addressed Pandu and said, 'O king, even men that are slaves to lust and wrath, and void of reason, and ever sinful, never commit such a cruel act as this. Individual judgment prevaileth not against the ordinance, the ordinance prevaileth against individual judgment. The wise never sanction anything discountenanced by the ordinance. Thou art born, O Bharata, in a race that hath ever been virtuous. How is it, therefore, that even thou, suffering thyself to be overpowered by passion and wrath losest thy reason?' Hearing this, Pandu replied, 'O deer, kings behave in the matter of slaying animals of thy species exactly as they do in the matter of slaying foes. It behoveth thee not, therefore, to reprove me thus from ignorance. Animals of thy species are slain by open or covert means. This, indeed, is the practice of kings. Then why dost thou reprove me? Formerly, the Rishi Agastya, while engaged in the performance of a grand sacrifice, chased the deer, and devoted every deer in the forest unto the gods in general. Thou hast been slain, pursuant to the usage sanctioned by such precedent. Wherefore reprovest us then? For his especial sacrifices Agastya performed the homa with fat of the deer.'

"The deer then said, 'O king, men do not let fly their arrows at their enemies when the latter are unprepared. But there is a time for doing it (viz., after declaration of hostilities). Slaughter at such a time is not censurable.'

"Pandu replied, 'It is well-known that men slay deer by various effective means without regarding whether the animals are careful or careless. Therefore, O deer, why dost thou reprove me?'

"The deer then said, 'O, king, I did not blame thee for thy having killed a deer, or for the injury thou hast done to me. But, instead of acting so cruelly, thou shouldst have waited till the completion of my act of intercourse. What man of wisdom and virtue is there that can kill a deer while engaged in such an act? The time of sexual intercourse is agreeable to every creature and productive of good to all. O king, with this my mate I was engaged in the gratification of my sexual desire. But that effort of mine hath been rendered futile by thee. O king of the Kurus, as thou art born in the race of the Pauravas ever noted for white (virtuous) deeds, such an act hath scarcely been worthy of thee. O Bharata, this act must be regarded as extremely cruel, deserving of universal execration, infamous, and sinful, and certainly leading to hell. Thou art acquainted with the pleasures of sexual intercourse. Thou art acquainted also with the teaching of morality and dictates of duty. Like unto a celestial as thou art, it behoveth thee not to do such an act as leadeth to hell. O best of kings, thy duty is to chastise all who act cruelly, who are engaged in sinful practices and who have thrown to the winds religion, profit, and pleasure as explained in the scriptures. What hast thou done, O best of men, in killing me who have given thee no offence? I am, O king, a Muni who liveth on fruits and roots, though disguised as a deer. I was living in the woods in peace with all. Yet thou hast killed me, O king, for which I will curse thee certainly. As thou hast been cruel unto a couple of opposite sexes, death shall certainly overtake thee as soon as thou feelest the influence of sexual desire. I am a Muni of the name of Kindama, possessed of ascetic merit. I was engaged in sexual intercourse with this deer, because my feelings of modesty did not permit me to indulge in such an act in human society. In the form of a deer I rove in the deep woods in the company of other deer. Thou hast slain me without knowing that I am a Brahmana, the sin of having slain a Brahmana shall not, therefore, be thine. But senseless man, as you have killed me, disguised as a deer, at such a time, thy fate shall certainly be even like mine. When, approaching thy wife lustfully, thou wilt unite with her even as I had done with mine, in that very state shalt thou have to go to the world of the spirits. And that wife of thine with whom thou mayst be united in intercourse at the time of thy death shall also follow thee with affection and reverence to the domains of the king of the dead. Thou hast brought me grief when I was happy. So shall grief come to thee when thou art in happiness.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Saying this, that deer, afflicted with grief gave up the ghost; and Pandu also was plunged in woe at the sight.'"

"Vaisampayana said, 'After the death of that deer, king Pandu with his wives was deeply afflicted and wept bitterly. And he exclaimed, 'The wicked, even if born in virtuous families, deluded by their own passions, become overwhelmed with misery as the fruit of their own deeds. I have heard that my father, though begotten by Santanu of virtuous soul, was cut off while still a youth, only because he had become a slave to his lust. In the soil of that lustful king, the illustrious Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana himself, of truthful speech, begot me. A son though I am of such a being, with my wicked heart wedded to vice, I am yet leading a wandering life in the woods in the chase of the deer. Oh, the very gods have forsaken me! I shall seek salvation now. The great impediments to salvation are the desire to beget children, and other concerns of the world. I shall now adopt the Brahmacharya mode of life and follow in the imperishable wake of my father. I shall certainly bring my passions under complete control by severe ascetic penances. Forsaking my wives and other relatives and shaving my head, alone shall I wander over the earth, begging for my subsistence from each of these trees standing here. Forsaking every object of affection and aversion, and covering my body with dust, I shall make the shelter of trees or deserted houses my home. I shall never yield to influence of sorrow or joy, and I shall regard slander and eulogy in the same light. I shall not seek benedictions or bows. I shall be at peace with all, and shall not accept gifts. I shall not mock anybody, nor shall I knit my brows at any one, but shall be ever cheerful and devoted to the good of all creatures. I shall not harm any of the four orders of life gifted with power of locomotion or otherwise, viz., oviparous and viviparous creatures and worms and vegetables. But on the contrary, preserve an equality of behaviour towards all, as if they were, my own children. Once a day shall I beg of five or ten families at the most, and if I do not succeed in obtaining alms, I shall then go without food. I shall rather stint myself than beg more than once of the same person. If I do not obtain anything after completing my round of seven or ten houses, moved by covetousness, I shall not enlarge my round. Whether I obtain or fail to obtain alms. I shall be equally unmoved like a great ascetic. One lopping off an arm of mine with a hatchet, and one smearing another arm with sandal-paste, shall be regarded by me equally. I shall not wish prosperity to the one or misery to the other. I shall not be pleased with life or displeased with death. I shall neither desire to live nor to die. Washing my heart of all sins, I shall certainly transcend those sacred rites productive of happiness, that men perform in auspicious moments, days, and periods. I shall also abstain from all acts of religion and profit and also those that lead to the gratification of the senses. Freed from all sins and snares of the world, I shall be like the wind subject to none. Following the path of fearlessness and bearing myself in this way I shall at last lay down my life. Destitute of the power of begetting children, firmly adhering to the line of duty I shall not certainly deviate therefrom in order to tread in the vile path of the world that is so full of misery. Whether respected or disrespected in the world that man who from covetousness casteth on others a begging look, certainly behaveth like a dog. (Destitute as I am of the power of procreation, I should not certainly, from desire of offspring, solicit others to give me children).'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'The king, having thus wept in sorrow, with a sigh looked at his two wives Kunti and Madri, and addressing them said, 'Let the princess of Kosala (my mother), Vidura, the king with our friends, the venerable Satyavati, Bhishma, the priests of our family, illustrious Soma-drinking Brahmanas of rigid vows and all elderly citizens depending on us be informed, after being prepared for it, that Pandu hath retired into the woods to lead a life of asceticism.' Hearing these words of their lord who had set his heart on a life of asceticism in the woods, both Kunti and Madri addressed him in these proper words, 'O bull of Bharata's race, there are many other modes of life which thou canst adopt and in which thou canst undergo the severest penances along with us, thy wedded wives--in which for the salvation of thy body (freedom from re-birth), thou mayest obtain heaven. We also, in the company of our lord, and for his benefit, controlling our passions and bidding adieu to all luxuries, shall subject ourselves to the severest austerities. O king, O thou of great wisdom, if thou abandonest us, we shall then this very day truly depart from this world.'

Pandu replied, 'If, indeed, this your resolve springeth from virtue, then with you both I shall follow the imperishable path of my fathers. Abandoning the luxuries of cities and towns, clad in barks of trees, and living on fruits and roots, I shall wander in deep woods, practising the severest penances. Bathing morning and evening, I shall perform the homa. I shall reduce my body by eating very sparingly and shall wear rags and skins and knotted locks on my head. Exposing myself to heat and cold and disregarding hunger and thirst, I shall reduce my body by severe ascetic penances, I shall live in solitude and I shall give myself up to contemplation; I shall eat fruit, ripe or green, that I may find. I shall offer oblations to the Pitris (manes) and the gods with speech, water and the fruits of the wilderness. I shall not see, far less harm, any of the denizens of the woods, or any of my relatives, or any of the residents of cities and towns. Until I lay down this body, I shall thus practise the severe ordinances of the Vanaprastha scriptures, always searching for severer ones that they may contain.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'The Kuru king, having said this unto his wives, gave away to Brahmanas the big jewel in his diadem, his necklace of precious gold, his bracelets, his large ear-rings, his valuable robes and all the ornaments of his wives. Then summoning his attendants, he commended them, saying, 'Return ye to Hastinapura and proclaim unto all that Pandu with his wives hath gone into the woods, foregoing wealth, desire, happiness, and even sexual appetite.' Then those followers and attendants, hearing these and other soft words of the king, set up a loud wail, uttering, 'Oh, we are undone!' Then with hot tears trickling down their cheeks they left the monarch and returned to Hastinapura with speed carrying that wealth with them (that was to be distributed in charity). Then Dhritarashtra, that first of men, hearing from them everything that had happened in the woods, wept for his brother. He brooded over his affliction continually, little relishing the comfort of beds and seats and dishes.

"Meanwhile, the Kuru prince Pandu (after sending away his attendants) accompanied by his two wives and eating fruits and roots went to the mountains of Nagasata. He next went to Chaitraratha, and then crossed the Kalakuta, and finally, crossing the Himavat, he arrived at Gandhamadana. Protected by Mahabhutas, Siddhas, and great Rishis, Pandu lived, O king, sometimes on level ground and sometimes on mountain slopes. He then journeyed on to the lake of Indradyumna, whence crossing the mountains of Hansakuta, he went to the mountain of hundred peaks (Sata-sringa) and there continued to practise ascetic austerities.

"Vaisampayana said, 'Pandu, possessed of great energy, then devoted himself to asceticism. Within a short time he became the favourite of the whole body of the Siddhas and Charanas residing there. And, O Bharata, devoted to the service of his spiritual masters, free from vanity, with mind under complete control and the passions fully subdued, the prince, becoming competent to enter heaven by his own energy, attained to great (ascetic) prowess. Some of the Rishis would call him brother, some friend, while others cherished him as their son. And, O bull of Bharata's race, having acquired after a long time great ascetic merit coupled with complete singleness, Pandu became even like a Brahmarshi (though he was a Kshatriya by birth).

"On a certain day of the new moon, the great Rishis of rigid vows assembled together, and desirous of beholding Brahman were on the point of starting on their expedition. Seeing them about to start, Pandu asked those ascetics, saying, 'Ye first of eloquent men, where shall we go?' The Rishis answered, 'There will be a great gathering today, in the abode of Brahman, of celestials, Rishis and Pitris. Desirous of beholding the Self-create we shall go there today.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Hearing this, Pandu rose up suddenly, desirous of visiting heaven along with the great Rishis. Accompanied by his two wives, when he was on the point of following the Rishis in the northerly direction from the mountain of hundred peaks, those ascetics addressed him saying, 'In our northward march, while gradually ascending the king of mountains, we have seen on its delightful breast many regions inaccessible to ordinary mortals; retreats also of the gods, and Gandharvas and Apsaras, with palatial mansions by hundreds clustering thick around and resounding with the sweet notes of celestial music, the gardens of Kuvera laid out on even and uneven grounds, banks of mighty rivers, and deep caverns. There are many regions also on those heights that are covered with perpetual snow and are utterly destitute of vegetable and animal existence. In some places the downpour of rain is so heavy that they are perfectly inaccessible and incapable of being utilised for habitation. Not to speak of other animals, even winged creatures cannot cross them. The only thing that can go there is air, and the only beings, Siddhas and great Rishis. How shall these princesses ascend those heights of the king of mountains? Unaccustomed to pain, shall they not droop in affliction? Therefore, come not with us, O bull of Bharata's race!'

"Pandu replied, 'Ye fortunate ones, it is said that for the sonless there is no admittance into heaven. I am sonless! I In affliction I speak' unto you! I am afflicted because I have not been able to discharge the debt I owe to my ancestors. It is certain that with the dissolution of this my body my ancestors perish! Men are born on this earth with four debts, viz. those due unto the (deceased) ancestors, the gods, the Rishis, and other men. In justice these must be discharged. The wise have declared that no regions of bliss exist for them that neglect to pay these debts in due time. The gods are paid (gratified) by sacrifices, the Rishis, by study, Meditation, and asceticism, the (deceased) ancestors, by begetting children and offering the funeral cake, and, lastly other men, by leading a humane and inoffensive life. I have justly discharged my obligations to the Rishis, the gods, and other men. But those others than these three are sure to perish with the dissolution of my body! Ye ascetics, I am not yet freed from the debt I owe to my (deceased) ancestors. The best of men are born in this world to beget children for discharging that debt. I would ask you, should children be begotten in my soil (upon my wives) as I myself was begotten in the soil of my father by the eminent Rishi?'

"The Rishis said, 'O king of virtuous soul, there is progeny in store for thee, that is sinless and blest with good fortune and like unto the gods. We behold it all with our prophetic eyes. Therefore, O tiger among men, accomplish by your own acts that which destiny pointeth at. Men of intelligence, acting with deliberation, always obtain good fruits; it behoveth thee, therefore, O king, to exert thyself. The fruits thou wouldst obtain are distinctly visible. Thou wouldst really obtain accomplished and agreeable progeny.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Hearing these words of the ascetics, Pandu, remembering the loss of his procreative powers owing to the curse of the deer, began to reflect deeply. And calling his wedded wife the excellent Kunti, unto him, he told her in private, 'Strive thou to raise offspring at this time of distress. The wise expounders of the eternal religion declare that a son, O Kunti, is the cause of virtuous fame in the three worlds. It is said that sacrifices, charitable gifts, ascetic penances, and vows observed most carefully, do not confer religious merit on a sonless man. O thou of sweet smiles, knowing all this, I am certain that as I am sonless, I shall not obtain regions of true felicity. O timid one, wretch that I was and addicted to cruel deeds, as a consequence of the polluted life I led, my power of procreation hath been destroyed by the curse of the deer. The religious institutes mention six kinds of sons that are heirs and kinsmen, and six other kinds that are not heirs but kinsmen. I shall speak of them presently. O Pritha, listen to me. They are: 1st, the son begotten by one's own self upon his wedded wife; 2nd, the son begotten upon one's wife by an accomplished person from motives of kindness; 3rd, the son begotten upon one's wife by a person for pecuniary consideration; 4th, the son begotten upon the wife after the husband's death; 5th, the maiden-born son; 6th, the son born of an unchaste wife; 7th, the son given; 8th, the son bought for a consideration; 9th, the son self-given; 10th, the son received with a pregnant bride; 11th, the brother's son; and 12th, the son begotten upon a wife of lower caste. On failure of offspring of a prior class, the mother should desire to have offspring of the next class. In times of distress, men solicit offspring from accomplished younger brothers. The self-born Manu hath said that men failing to have legitimate offspring of their own may have offspring begotten upon their wives by others, for sons confer the highest religious merit. Therefore, O Kunti, being destitute myself of the power of procreation, I command thee to raise good offspring through some person who is either equal or superior to me. O Kunti, listen to the history of the daughter of Saradandayana who was appointed by her lord to raise offspring. That warrior-dame, when her monthly season arrived, bathed duly and in the night went out and waited on a spot where four roads met. She did not wait long when a Brahmana crowned with ascetic success came there. The daughter of Saradandayana solicited him for offspring. After pouring libations of clarified butter on the fire (in the performance of the sacrifice known by the name of Punsavana) she brought forth three sons that were mighty car-warriors and of whom Durjaya was the eldest, begotten upon her by that Brahmana. O thou of good fortune, do thou follow that warrior-dame's example at my command, and speedily raise offspring out of the seed of some Brahmana of high ascetic merit.'"

"Vaisampayana said, 'Thus addressed, Kunti replied unto her heroic lord, king Pandu, that bull amongst the Kurus, saying, 'O virtuous one, it behoveth thee not to say so unto me. I am, O thou lotus-eyed one, thy wedded wife, devoted to thee. O, Bharata of mighty arms, thyself shalt, in righteousness, beget upon me children endued with great energy. Then I shall ascend to heaven with thee; O prince of Kuru's race, receive me in thy embrace for begetting children. I shall not certainly, even in imagination, accept any other man except thee in my embraces. What other man is there in this world superior to thee? O virtuous one, listen to this Pauranic narrative that hath been, O thou of large eyes, heard by me, and that I shall presently narrate.

"There was, in ancient times, a king in the race of Puru, known by the name of Vyushitaswa. He was devoted to truth and virtue. Of virtuous soul and mighty arms, on one occasion, while he was performing a sacrifice the gods with Indra and the great Rishis came to him, and Indra was so intoxicated with the Soma juice he drank and the Brahmanas with the large presents they received, that both the gods and the great Rishis began themselves to perform everything appertaining to that sacrifice of the illustrious royal sage. And thereupon Vyushitaswa began to shine above all men like the Sun appearing in double splendour after the season of frost is over. And the powerful Vyushitaswa, who was endued with the strength of ten elephants very soon performed the horse-sacrifice, overthrowing, O best of monarchs, all the kings of the East, the North, the West and the South, and exacted tributes from them all. There is an anecdote, O best of the Kurus, that is sung by all reciters of the Puranas, in connection with that first of all men, the illustrious Vyushitaswa.--Having conquered the whole Earth up to the coast of the sea, Vyushitaswa protected every class of his subjects as a father does his own begotten sons.--Performing many great sacrifices he gave away much wealth to the Brahmanas. After collecting unlimited jewels and precious stones he made arrangements for performing still greater ones. And he performed also the Agnishtoma, and other special Vedic sacrifices, extracting great quantities of Soma juice. And, O king, Vyushitaswa had for his dear wife, Bhadra, the daughter of Kakshivat, unrivalled for beauty on earth. And it hath been heard by us that the couple loved each other deeply. King Vyushitaswa was seldom separated from his wife. Sexual excess, however, brought on an attack of phthisis and the king died within a few days, sinking like the Sun in his glory. Then Bhadra, his beautiful queen, was plunged into woe, and as she was sonless, O tiger among men, she wept in great affliction. Listen to me, O king, as I narrate to you all that Bhadra said with bitter tears trickling down her cheeks. 'O virtuous one', she said, 'Women serve no purpose when their husbands are dead. She who liveth after her husband is dead, draggeth on a miserable existence that can hardly be called life. O bull of the Kshatriya order, death is a blessing to women without husbands. I wish to follow the way thou hast gone. Be kind and take me with thee. In thy absence, I am unable to bear life even for a moment. Be kind to me, O king and take me hence pretty soon. O tiger among men, I shall follow thee over the even and uneven ground. Thou hast gone away, O lord, never to return. I shall follow thee, O king, as thy own shadow. O tiger among men, I will obey thee (as thy slave) and will ever do what is agreeable to thee and what is for thy good. O thou of eyes like lotus-petals, without thee, from this day, mental agonies will overwhelm me and eat into my heart. A wretch that I am, some loving couple had doubtless been separated by me in a former life, for which, in this life, I am made to suffer the pangs of separation from thee. O king, that wretched woman who liveth even for a moment separated from her lord, liveth in woe and suffereth the pangs of hell even here. Some loving couple had doubtless been separated by me in a former life, for which sinful act I am suffering this torture arising from my separation from thee. O king, from this day I will lay myself down on a bed of Kusa grass and abstain from every luxury, hoping to behold thee once more. O tiger among men, show thyself to me. O king, O lord, command once more thy wretched and bitterly weeping wife plunged in woe.'

"Kunti continued, 'It was thus, O Pandu, that the beautiful Bhadra wept over the death of her lord. And the weeping Bhadra clasped in her arms the corpse in anguish of heart. Then she was addressed by an incorporeal voice in these words, "Rise up, O Bhadra, and leave this place. O thou of sweet smiles, I grant thee this boon. I will beget offspring upon thee. Lie thou down with me on thy own bed, after the catamenial bath, on the night of the eighth or the fourteenth day of the moon.' Thus addressed by the incorporeal voice, the chaste Bhadra did, as she was directed, for obtaining offspring. And, O bull of the Bharatas, the corpse of her husband begat upon her seven children viz., three Salwas and four Madras. O bull of the Bharatas, do thou also beget offspring upon me, like the illustrious Vyushitaswa, by the exercise of that ascetic power which thou possessest.'"

"Vaisampayana said, 'Thus addressed by his loving wife, king Pandu, well-acquainted with all rules of morality, replied in these words of virtuous import, 'O Kunti, what thou hast said is quite true. Vyushitaswa of old did even as thou hast said. Indeed he was equal unto the celestials themselves. But I shall now tell thee about the practices of old indicated by illustrious Rishis, fully acquainted with every rule of morality. O thou of handsome face and sweet smiles, women formerly were not immured within houses and dependent on husbands and other relatives. They used to go about freely, enjoying themselves as best as they liked. O thou of excellent qualities, they did not then adhere to their husbands faithfully, and yet, O handsome one, they were not regarded sinful, for that was the sanctioned usage of the times. That very usage is followed to this day by birds and beasts without any (exhibition of) jealousy. That practice, sanctioned by precedent, is applauded by great Rishis. O thou of taper thighs, the practice is yet regarded with respect amongst the Northern Kurus. Indeed, that usage, so lenient to women, hath the sanction of antiquity. The present practice, however (of women's being confined to one husband for life) hath been established but lately. I shall tell thee in detail who established it and why.

"It hath been heard by us that there was a great Rishi of the name of Uddalaka, who had a son named Swetaketu who also was an ascetic of merit. O thou of eyes like lotus-petals, the present virtuous practice hath been established by that Swetaketu from anger. Hear thou the reason. One day, in the presence of Swetaketu's father a Brahmana came and catching Swetaketu's mother by the hand, told her, 'Let us go.' Beholding his mother seized by the hand and taken away apparently by force, the son was greatly moved by wrath. Seeing his son indignant, Uddalaka addressed him and said, 'Be not angry. O son! This is the practice sanctioned by antiquity. The women of all orders in this world are free, O son; men in this matter, as regards their respective orders, act as kine.' The Rishi's son, Swetaketu, however, disapproved of the usage and established in the world the present practice as regards men and women. It hath been heard by us, O thou of great virtue, that the existing practice dates from that period among human beings but not among beings of other classes. Accordingly, since the establishment of the present usage, it is sinful for women not to adhere to their husbands. Women transgressing the limits assigned by the Rishi became guilty of slaying the embryo. And, men, too, viol ting a chaste and loving wife who hath from her maidenhood observed the vow of purity, became guilty of the same sin. The woman also who, being commanded by her husband to raise offspring, refuses to do his bidding, becometh equally sinful.

"Thus, O timid one, was the existing usage established of old by Swetaketu, the son of Uddalaka, in defiance of antiquity. O thou of taper thighs, it hath also been heard by us that Madayanti, the wife of Saudasa, commanded by her husband to raise offspring went unto Rishi Vasishtha. And on going in unto him, the handsome Madayanti obtained a son named Asmaka. She did this, moved by the desire of doing good to her husband. O thou of lotus-eyes, thou knowest, O timid girl, how we ourselves, for the perpetuation of the Kuru race, were begotten by Krishna-Dwaipayana. O faultless one, beholding all these precedents it behoveth thee to do my bidding, which is not inconsistent with virtue, O princess, who is devoted to her husband, it hath also been said by those acquainted with the rules of morality that a wife, when her monthly season cometh, must ever seek her husband, though at other times she deserveth liberty. The wise have declared this to be the ancient practice. But, be the act sinful or sinless, those acquainted with the Vedas have declared that it is the duty of wives to do what their husbands bid them do. Especially, O thou of faultless features, I, who am deprived of the power of procreation, having yet become desirous of beholding offspring, deserve the more to be obeyed by thee. O amiable one, joining my palms furnished with rosy fingers, and making of them a cup as of lotus leaves, I place them on my head to propitiate thee. O thou of lair looks, it behoveth thee to raise offspring, at my command, through some Brahmana possessed of high ascetic merit. For then, owing to thee, O thou of fair hips, I may go the way that is reserved for those that are blessed with children.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed by Pandu, that subjugator of hostile cities, the handsome Kunti, ever attentive to what was agreeable and beneficial to her lord, then replied unto him, saying, 'In my girlhood, O lord, I was in my father's house engaged in attending upon all guests. I used to wait respectfully upon Brahmanas of rigid vows and great ascetic merit. One day I gratified with my attentions that Brahmana whom people call Durvasa, of mind under full control and possessing knowledge of all the mysteries of religion. Pleased with my services, that Brahmana gave me a boon in the form of a mantra (formula of invocation) for calling into my presence any one of the celestials I liked. And the Rishi, addressing me, said, 'Anyone among the celestials whom thou callest by this shall, O girl, approach thee and be obedient to thy will, whether he liketh it or not. And, O princess, thou shall also have offspring through his grace.' O Bharata, that Brahmana told me this when I lived in my father's house. The words uttered by the Brahmana can never be false. The time also hath come when they may yield fruit. Commanded by thee, O royal sage, I can by that mantra summon any of the celestials, so that we may have good children. O foremost of all truthful men, tell me which of the celestials I shall summon. Know that, as regards this matter, I await your commands.'

"Hearing this, Pandu replied, 'O handsome one, strive duly this very day to gratify our wishes. Fortunate one, summon thou the god of justice. He is the most virtuous of the celestials. The god of justice and virtue will never be able to pollute us with sin. The world also, O beautiful princess, will then think that what we do can never be unholy. The son also that we shall obtain from him shall in virtue be certainly the foremost among the Kurus. Begotten by the god of justice and morality, he would never set his heart upon anything that is sinful or unholy. Therefore, O thou of sweet smiles, steadily keeping virtue before thy eyes, and duly observing holy vows, summon thou the god of justice and virtue by the help of thy solicitations and incantations.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Then Kunti, that best of women, thus addressed by her lord, said, 'So be it.' And bowing down to him and reverently circumambulating his person, she resolved to do his bidding.'"

"Vaisampayana said, 'O Janamejaya, when Gandhari's conception had been a full year old, it was then that Kunti summoned the eternal god of justice to obtain offspring from him. And she offered without loss of time, sacrifices unto the god and began to duly repeat the formula that Durvasa had imparted to her some time before. Then the god, overpowered by her incantations, arrived at the spot where Kunti was seated in his car resplendent as the Sun. Smiling, he asked, 'O Kunti, what am I to give thee?' And Kunti too smiling in her turn, replied, 'Thou must even give me offspring.' Then the handsome Kunti was united (in intercourse) with the god of justice in his spiritual form and obtained from him a son devoted to the good of all creatures. And she brought his excellent child, who lived to acquire a great fame, at the eighth Muhurta called Abhijit, of the hour of noon of that very auspicious day of the seventh month (Kartika), viz., the fifth of the lighted fortnight, when the star Jyeshtha in conjunction with the moon was ascendant. And as soon as the child was born, an incorporeal voice (from the skies) said, 'This child shall be the best of men, the foremost of those that are virtuous. Endued with great prowess and truthful in speech, he shall certainly be the ruler of the earth. And this first child of Pandu shall be known by the name of Yudhishthira. Possessed of prowess and honesty of disposition, he shall be a famous king, known throughout the three worlds.'

"Pandu, having obtained that virtuous son, again addressed his wife and said. 'The wise have declared that a Kshatriya must be endued with physical strength, otherwise he is no Kshatriya.' Therefore, ask thou for an offspring of superior strength. Thus commanded by her lord, Kunti then invoked Vayu. And the mighty god of wind, thus invoked, came unto her, riding upon a deer, and said, 'What, O Kunti, am I to give thee? Tell me what is in thy heart" Smiling in modesty, she said to him, 'Give me, O best of celestials, a child endued with great strength and largeness of limbs and capable of humbling the pride of every body.' The god of wind thereupon begat upon her the child afterwards known as Bhima of mighty arms and fierce prowess. And upon the birth of that child endued with extraordinary strength, an incorporeal voice, O Bharata, as before, said, 'This child shall be the foremost of all endued with strength.' I must tell you, O Bharata, of another wonderful event that occurred alter the birth of Vrikodara (Bhima). While he fell from the lap of his mother upon the mountain breast, the violence of the fall broke into fragments the stone upon which he fell without his infant body being injured in the least. And he fell from his mother's lap because Kunti, frightened by a tiger, had risen up suddenly, unconscious of the child that lay asleep on her lap. And as she had risen, the infant, of body hard as the thunderbolt, falling down upon the mountain breast, broke into a hundred fragments the rocky mass upon which he fell. And beholding this, Pandu wondered much. And it so happened that that very day on which Vrikodara was born, was also, O best of Bharatas, the birthday of Duryodhana who afterwards became the ruler of the whole earth.'

"After the birth of Vrikodara, Pandu again began to think, 'How am I to obtain a very superior son who shall achieve world-wide fame? Every, thing in the world dependeth on destiny and exertion. But destiny can never be successful except by timely exertion. We have heard it said that Indra is the chief of the gods. Indeed, he is endued with immeasurable might and energy and prowess and glory. Gratifying him with my asceticism, I shall obtain from him a son of great strength. Indeed, the son he giveth me must be superior to all and capable of vanquishing in battle all men and creatures other than men. I shall, therefore, practise the severest austerities, with heart, deed and speech.'

"After this, the Kuru king Pandu, taking counsel with the great Rishis commanded Kunti to observe an auspicious vow for one full year, while he himself commenced, O Bharata, to stand upon one leg from morning to evening, and practise other severe austerities with mind rapt in Meditation, for gratifying the lord of the celestials.

"It was after a long time that Indra (gratified with such devotion) approached Pandu and, addressing him, said, 'I shall give thee, O king, a son who will be celebrated all over the three worlds and who will promote the welfare of Brahmanas, kine and all honest men. The son I shall give thee will be the smiter of the wicked and the delight of friends and relatives. Foremost of all men, he will be an irresistible slayer of all foes.' Thus addressed by Vasava (the king of the celestials), the virtuous king of the Kuru race, well-recollecting those words, said unto Kunti, 'O fortunate one, thy vow hath become successful. The lord of the celestials hath been gratified, and is willing to give thee a son such as thou desirest, of superhuman achievements and great fame. He will be the oppressor of all enemies and possessed of great wisdom. Endued with a great soul, in splendour equal unto the Sun, invincible in battles, and of great achievements, he will also be extremely handsome. O thou of fair hips and sweet smiles, the lord of the celestials hath become gracious to thee. Invoking him, bring thou forth a child who will be the very home of all Kshatriya virtues.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'The celebrated Kunti, thus addressed by her lord, invoked Sakra (the king of the gods) who thereupon came unto her and begat him that was afterwards called Arjuna. And as soon as this child was born, an incorporeal voice, loud and deep as that of the clouds and filling the whole welkin, distinctly said, addressing Kunti in the hearing of every creature dwelling in that asylum, 'This child of thine, O Kunti, will be equal unto Kartavirya in energy and Siva in prowess. Invincible like Sakra himself he will spread thy fame far and wide. As Vishnu (the youngest of Aditi's sons) had enhanced Aditi's joy, so shall this child enhance thy joy. Subjugating the Madras, the Kurus along with the Somakas, and the people of Chedi, Kasi and Karusha, he will maintain the prosperity of the Kurus. (Surfeited with libations at the sacrifice of king Swetaketu), Agni will derive great gratification from the fat of all creatures dwelling in the Khandava woods (to be burnt down) by the might of this one's arms. This mighty hero, vanquishing all the effeminate monarchs of the earth, will, with his brothers perform three great sacrifices. In prowess, O Kunti, he will be even as Jamadagnya or Vishnu. The foremost of all men endued with prowess, he will achieve great fame. He will gratify in battle (by his heroism) Sankara, the god of gods (Mahadeva), and will receive from him the great weapon named Pasupata. This thy son of mighty arms will also slay, at the command of Indra, those Daityas called the Nivatakavachas who are the enemies of the gods. He will also acquire all kinds of celestial weapons, and this bull among men will also retrieve the fortunes of his race.'

'Kunti heard these extraordinary words, while lying in the room. And hearing those words uttered so loudly, the ascetics dwelling on the mountain of a hundred peaks, and the celestials with Indra sitting in their cars, became exceedingly glad. The sounds of the (invisible) drum filled the entire welkin. There were shouts of joy, and the whole region was covered with flowers showered down by invisible agents. The various tribes of celestials assembled together, began to offer their respectful adorations to the son of Pritha. The sons of Kadru (Nagas), the son of Vinata, the Gandharvas, the lords of the creation, and the seven great Rishis, viz., Bharadwaja, Kasyapa, Gautama, Viswamitra, Jamadagni, Vasishtha, and the illustrious Atri who illumined the world of old when the Sun was lost, all came there. And Marichi, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Daksha the lord of creation, the Gandharvas, and Apsaras, came there also. The various tribes of Apsaras, decked with celestial garlands and every ornament, and attired in fine robes, came there and danced in joy, chanting the praises of Vibhatsu (Arjuna). All around, the great Rishis began to utter propitiatory formulas. And Tumvuru accompanied by the Gandharvas began to sing in charming notes. And Bhimasena and Ugrasena, Urnayus and Anagha. Gopati and Dhritarashtra and Suryavarchas the eighth, Yugapa and Trinapa, Karshni, Nandi, and Chitraratha, Salisirah the thirteenth, Parjanya the fourteenth, Kali the fifteenth, and Narada the sixteenth in this list, Vrihatta, Vrihaka, Karala of great soul, Brahmacharin, Vahuguna, Suvarna of great fame, Viswavasu, Bhumanyu, Suchandra, Sam and the celebrated tribes of Haha and Huhu gifted with wonderful melody of voice,--these celestial Gandharvas, O king, all went there. Many illustrious Apsaras also of large eyes, decked with every ornament came there to dance and sing. And Anuchana and Anavadya, Gunamukhya and Gunavara, Adrika and Soma, Misrakesi and Alambusha, Marichi and Suchika, Vidyutparna and Tilottama and Ambika, Lakshmana, Kshema Devi, Rambha, Manorama, Asita, Suvahu, Supriya, Suvapuh, Pundarika, Sugandha, Surasa, Pramathini, Kamya and Saradwati, all danced there together. And Menaka, Sahajanya, Karnika, Punjikasthala, Ritusthala, Ghritachi, Viswachi, Purvachiti, the celebrated Umlocha, Pramlocha the tenth and Urvasi the eleventh,--these large-eyed dancing girls of heaven,--came there and sang in chorus. And Dharti and Aryaman and Mitra and Varuna, Bhaga and Indra, Vivaswat, Pushan, Tvastri and Parjanya or Vishnu, these twelve Adityas came there to glorify Pandu's son. And, O king, Mrigavyadha, Sarpa, the celebrated Niriti, Ajaikapada, Ahivradhna, Pinakin, Dahana, Iswara, Kapalin, Sthanu and the illustrious Bhaga--these eleven Rudras,--also came there. And the twin Aswins, the eight Vasus, the mighty Maruts, the Viswedevas, and the Sadhyas, also came there. And Karkotaka, Vasuki, Kachchhapa, Kunda and the great Naga Takshaka,--these mighty and wrathful snakes possessed of high ascetic merit also came there. And Tarkshya, Arishtanemi, Garuda, Asitadvaja,--these and many other Nagas, came there, so also Aruna and Aruni of Vinata's race also came there. And only great Rishis crowned with ascetic success and not others saw those celestials and other beings seated in their cars or waiting on the mountain peaks. Those best of Munis beholding that wonderful sight, became amazed, and their love and affection for the children of Pandu was in consequence enhanced.

"The celebrated Pandu, tempted by the desire of having more children wished to speak again unto his wedded wife (for invoking some other god). But Kunti addressed him, saying, 'The wise do not sanction a fourth delivery even in a season of distress. The woman having intercourse with four different men is called a Swairini (heanton), while she having intercourse with five becometh a harlot. Therefore, O learned one, as thou art well-acquainted with the scripture on this subject, why dost thou, beguiled by desire of offspring, tell me so in seeming forgetfulness of the ordinance?'"

"Vaisampayana said, 'After the birth of Kunti's sons and also of the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra the daughter of the king of the Madras privately addressed Pandu, saying, 'O slayer of foes, I have no complaint even if thou beest unpropitious to me. I have, O sinless one, also no complaint that though by birth I am superior to Kunti yet I am inferior to her in station. I do not grieve, O thou of Kuru's race, that Gandhari hath obtained a hundred sons. This, however, is my great grief that while Kunti and I are equal, I should be childless, while it should so chance that thou shouldst have offspring by Kunti alone. If the daughter of Kuntibhoja should so provide that I should have offspring, she would then be really doing me a great favour and benefiting thee likewise. She being my rival, I feel a delicacy in soliciting any favour of her. If thou beest, O king, propitiously disposed to me, then ask her to grant my desire.'

"Hearing her, Pandu replied, 'O Madri, I do revolve this matter often in my own mind, but I have hitherto hesitated to tell thee anything, not knowing how thou wouldst receive it. Now that I know what your wishes are, I shall certainly strive after that end. I think that, asked by me, Kunti will not refuse.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'After this, Pandu addressed Kunti in private, saying, 'O Kunti, grant me some more offspring for the expansion of my race and for the benefit of the world. O blessed one, provide thou that I myself, my ancestors, and thine also, may always have the funeral cake offered to us. O, do what is beneficial to me, and grant me and the world what, indeed, is the best of benefits. O, do what, indeed, may be difficult for thee, moved by the desire of achieving undying fame. Behold, Indra, even though he hath obtained the sovereignty of the celestials, doth yet, for fame alone, perform sacrifices. O handsome one, Brahmanas, well-acquainted with the Vedas, and having achieved high ascetic merit, do yet, for fame alone, approach their spiritual masters with reverence. So also all royal sages and Brahmanas possessed of ascetic wealth have achieved, for fame only, the most difficult of ascetic feat. Therefore, O blameless one, rescue this Madri as by a raft (by granting her the means of obtaining offspring), and achieve thou imperishable fame by making her a mother of children.'

"Thus addressed by her lord, Kunti readily yielded, and said unto Madri, 'Think thou, without loss of time, of some celestial, and thou shall certainly obtain from him a child like unto him.' Reflecting for a few moments. Madri thought of the twin Aswins, who coming unto her with speed begat upon her two sons that were twins named Nakula and Sahadeva, unrivalled on earth for personal beauty. And as soon as they were born, an incorporeal voice said, 'In energy and beauty these twins shall transcend even the twin Aswins themselves.' Indeed possessed of great energy and beauty, they illumined the whole region.

"O king, after all the children were born the Rishis dwelling on the mountain of a hundred peaks uttering blessings on them and affectionately performing the first rites of birth, bestowed appellations on them. The eldest of Kunti's children was called Yudhishthira, the second Bhimasena, and the third Arjuna, and of Madri's sons, the first-born of the twins was called Nakula and the next Sahadeva. And those foremost sons born at an interval of one year after one another, looked like an embodied period of five years. And king Pandu, beholding his children of celestial beauty and of super-abundant energy, great strength and prowess, and of largeness of soul, rejoiced exceedingly. And the children became great favourites of the Rishis, as also of their wives, dwelling on the mountain of a hundred peaks.

"Some time after, Pandu again requested Kunti on behalf of Madri. Addressed, O king, by her lord in private, Kunti replied, 'Having given her the formula of invocation only once, she hath, O king, managed to obtain two sons. Have I not been thus deceived by her, I fear, O king, that she will soon surpass me in the number of her children. This, indeed, is the way of all wicked women. Fool that I was, I did not know that by invoking the twin gods I could obtain at one birth twin children. I beseech thee, O king, do not command me any further. Let this be the boon granted (by thee) to me.'

"Thus, O king, were born unto Pandu five sons who were begotten by celestials and were endued with great strength, and who all lived to achieve great fame and expand the Kuru race. Each bearing every auspicious mark on his person, handsome like Soma, proud as the lion, well-skilled in the use of the bow, and of leonine tread, breast, heart, eyes, neck and prowess, those foremost of men, resembling the celestials themselves in might, began to grow up. And beholding them and their virtues growing with years, the great Rishis dwelling on that snowcapped sacred mountain were filled with wonder. And the five Pandavas and the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra--that propagator of the Kuru race--grew up rapidly like a cluster of lotuses in a lake.'"

"Vaisampayana said, "Beholding his five handsome sons growing up before him in that great forest on the charming mountain slope, Pandu felt the last might of his arms revive once more. One day in the season of spring which maddens every creature the king accompanied by his wife (Madri), began to rove in the woods where every tree had put forth new blossoms.

He beheld all around Palasas and Tilakas and Mangoes and Champakas and Parihadrakas and Karnikaras, Asokas and Kesaras and Atimuktas and Kuruvakas with swarms of maddened bees sweetly humming about. And there were flowers of blossoming Parijatas with the Kokilas pouring forth their melodies from under every twig echoing with the sweet hums of the black bees. And he beheld also various other kinds of trees bent down with the weight of their flowers and fruits. And there were also many fine pools of water overgrown with hundreds of fragrant lotuses. Beholding all these, Pandu felt the soft influence of desire. Roving like a celestial with a light heart amidst such scenery, Pandu was alone with his wife Madri in semi-transparent attire. And beholding the youthful Madri thus attired, the king's desire flamed up like a forest-fire. And ill-able to suppress his desire thus kindled at the sight of his wife of eyes like lotus-petals, he was completely overpowered. The king then seized her against her will, but Madri trembling in fear resisted him to the best of her might. Consumed by desire, he forgot everything about his misfortune. And, O thou of Kuru's race unrestrained by the fear of (the Rishi's) curse and impelled by fate, the monarch, overpowered by passion, forcibly sought the embraces of Madri, as if he wished to put an end to his own life. His reason, thus beguiled by the great Destroyer himself by intoxicating his senses, was itself lost with his life. And the Kuru king Pandu, of virtuous soul, thus succumbed to the inevitable influence of Time, while united in intercourse with his wife.

Quoted from The Mahabarata, Book 1: Adi Parva, Sambhava Parva; Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr. [1883-1896]

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