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Thread: Maha Bharata - by Sri C. Rajagopalachari

          
   
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    Maha Bharata - by Sri C. Rajagopalachari

    MAHABHARATA retold by C. Rajagopalachari
    (Compiled and edited by Jay Mazo, International Gita Society)
    Contents

    1. Ganapati, the Scribe
    2. Devavrata
    3. Bhishma's Vow
    4. Amba And Bhishma
    5. Devayani And Kacha
    6. The Marriage Of Devayani
    7. Yayati
    8. Vidura
    9. Kunti Devi
    10. Death Of Pandu
    11. Bhima
    12. Karna
    13. Drona
    14. The Wax Palace
    15. The Escape Of The Pandavas
    16. The Slaying Of Bakasura
    17. Draupadi's Swayamvaram
    18. Indraprastha
    19. The Saranga Birds
    20. Jarasandha
    21. The Slaying Of Jarasandha
    22. The First Honor
    23. Sakuni Comes In
    24. The Invitation
    25. The Wager
    26. Draupadi's Grief
    27. Dhritarashtra's Anxiety
    28. Krishna's Vow
    29. Pasupata
    30. Affliction Is Nothing New
    31. Agastya
    32. Rishyasringa
    33. Fruitless Penance
    34. Yavakrida's End
    35. Mere Learning Is Not Enough
    36. Ashtavakra
    37. Bhima And Hanuman
    38. I am No Crane

    39. The Wicked Are Never Satisfied
    40. Duryodhana Disgraced
    41. Sri Krishna's Hunger
    42. The Enchanted Pool
    43. Domestic Service
    44. Virtue Vindicated
    45. Matsya Defended
    46. Prince Uttara
    47. Promise Fulfilled
    48. Virata's Delusion
    49. Taking Counsel
    50. Arjuna's Charioteer
    51. Salya Against His Nephews
    52. Vritra
    53. Nahusha
    54. Sanjaya's Mission
    55. Not a Needle-Point Of Territory
    56. Krishna's Mission
    57. Attachment and Duty
    58. The Pandava Generalissimo
    59. Balarama
    60. Rukmini
    61. Non-Cooperation
    62. Krishna Teaches
    63. Yudhishthira Seeks Benediction
    64. The First Day's Battle
    65. The Second Day
    66. The Third Day's Battle
    67. The Fourth Day
    68. The Fifth Day
    69. The Sixth Day
    70. The Seventh Day
    71. The Eighth Day
    72. The Ninth Day
    73. The Passing Of Bhishma
    74. Karna and the Grandsire
    75. Drona in Command
    76. To Seize Yudhishthira Alive
    77. The Twelfth Day
    78. Brave Bhagadatta
    79. Abhimanyu
    80. The Death Of Abhimanyu
    81. A Father's Grief
    82. The Sindhu King
    83. Borrowed Armor
    84. Yudhishthira's Misgivings
    85. Yudhishthira's Fond Hope
    86. Karna And Bhima
    87. Pledge Respected
    88. Somadatta's End
    89. Jayadratha Slain
    90. Drona Passes Away
    91. The Death Of Karna
    92. Duryodhana
    93. The Pandavas Reproached
    94. Aswatthama
    95. Avenged
    96. Who Can Give Solace?
    97. Yudhishthira's Anguish
    98. Yudhishthira Comforted
    99. Envy
    100. Utanga
    101. A Pound Of Flour
    102. Yudhishthira Rules
    103. Dhritarashtra
    104. The Passing Away Of The Three
    105. Krishna Passes Away
    106. Yudhishthira's Final Trial
    Last edited by nagamani; 16th August 2012 at 12:43.

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    AUTHOR'S PREFACE

    IT is not an exaggeration to say that the persons and incidents portrayed in the great literature of a people influence national character no less potently than the actual heroes and events enshrined in its history. It may be claimed that the former play an even more important part in the formation of ideals, which give to character its impulse of growth.
    In the moving history of our land, from time immemorial great minds have been formed and nourished and touched to heroic deeds by the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In most Indian homes, children formerly learnt these immortal stories as they learnt their mother tongue at the mother's knee. And the sweetness and sorrows of Sita and Draupadi, the heroic fortitude of Rama and Arjuna and the loving fidelity of Lakshmana and Hanuman became the stuff of their young philosophy of life.
    The growing complexity of life has changed the simple pattern of early home life. Still, there are few in our land who do not know the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Though the stories come to them so embroidered with the garish fancies of the Kalakshepam (devotional meeting where an expert scholar and singer tells a story to his audience) and the cinema as to retain but little of the dignity and approach to truth of Vyasa or Valmiki. Vyasa's Mahabharata is one of our noblest heritages. And it is my cherished belief that to hear it faithfully told is to love it and come under its elevating influence. It strengthens the soul and drives home, as nothing else does, the vanity of ambition and the evil and futility of anger and hatred.
    The realities of life are idealised by genius and given the form that makes drama, poetry or great prose. Since literature is closely related to life, so long as the human family is divided into nations, literature cannot escape the effects of such division.
    But the highest literature transcends regionalism and through it, when we are properly attuned, we realise the essential oneness of the human family. The Mahabharata is of this class. It belongs to the world and not only to India. To the people of India, indeed, this epic has been an unfailing and perennial source of spiritual strength. Learnt at the mother's knee with reverence and love, it has inspired great men to heroic deeds as well as enabled the humble to face their trials with fortitude and faith.
    The Mahabharata was composed many thousand years ago. But generations of gifted reciters have added to Vyasa's original a great mass of material. All the floating literature that was thought to be worth preserving, historical, geographical, legendary political, theological and philosophical, of nearly thirty centuries, found a place in it.
    In those days, when there was no printing, interpolation in a recognised classic seemed to correspond to inclusion in the national library. Divested of these accretions, the Mahabharata is a noble poem possessing in a supreme degree the characteristics of a true epic, great and fateful movement, heroic characters and stately diction.
    The characters in the epic move with the vitality of real life. It is difficult to find anywhere such vivid portraiture on so ample a canvas. Bhishma, the perfect knight; the venerable Drona; the vain but chivalrous Karna; Duryodhana, whose perverse pride is redeemed by great courage in adversity; the high souled Pandavas with godlike strength as well as power of suffering; Draupadi, most unfortunate of queens; Kunti, the worthy mother of heroes; Gandhari, the devoted wife and sad mother of the wicked sons of Dhritarashtra, these are some of the immortal figures on that crowded, but never confused, canvas.
    Then there is great Krishna himself, most energetic of men, whose divinity scintillates through a cloud of very human characteristics. His high purposefulness pervades the whole epic. One can read even a translation and feel the over whelming power of the incomparable vastness and sublimity of the poem.
    The Mahabharata discloses a rich civilisation and a highly evolved society, which though of an older world, strangely resembles the India of our own time, with the same values and ideals. India was divided into a number of independent kingdoms.
    Occasionally, one king, more distinguished or ambitious than the rest, would assume the title of emperor, securing the acquiescence of other royalties, and signalised it by a great sacrificial feast. The adherence was generally voluntary. The assumption of imperial title conferred no overlordship. The emperor was only first among his peers.
    The art of war was highly developed and military prowess and skill were held in high esteem. We read in the Mahabharata of standardised phalanxes and of various tactical movements. There was an accepted code of honorable warfare, deviations from which met with reproof among Kshatriyas. The advent of the Kali age is marked by many breaches of these conventions in the Kurukshetra battle, on account of the bitterness of conflict, frustration and bereavements. Some of the most impressive passages in the epic center round these breaches of dharma.
    The population lived in cities and villages. The cities were the headquarters of kings and their household and staff. There were beautiful palaces and gardens and the lives led were cultured and luxurious. There was trade in the cities, but the mass of the people were agriculturists.
    Besides this urban and rural life, there was a very highly cultured life in the seclusion of forest recesses, centerd round ascetic teachers. These ashramas kept alive the bright fires of learning and spiritual thought. Young men of noble birth eagerly sought education at these ashramas. World-weary aged went there for peace. These centers of culture were cherished by the rulers of the land and not the proudest of them would dare to treat the members of the hermitages otherwise than with respect and consideration.
    Women were highly honored and entered largely in the lives of their husbands and sons. The caste system prevailed, but intercaste marriages were not unknown. Some of the greatest warriors in the Mahabharata were brahmanas. The Mahabharata has moulded the character and civilisation of one of the most numerous of the world's people.
    How did it fulfil, how is it still continuing to fulfil, this function? By its gospel of dharma, which like a golden thread runs through all the complex movements in the epic. By its lesson that hatred breeds hatred, that covetousness and violence lead inevitably to ruin, that the only real conquest is in the battle against one's lower nature.

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    1. GANAPATI, THE SCRIBE

    BHAGAVAN VYASA, the celebrated compiler of the Vedas, was the son of the great sage Parasara. It was he who gave to the world the divine epic of the Mahabharata.
    Having conceived the Mahabharata he thought of the means of giving the sacred story to the world. He meditated on Brahma, the Creator, who manifested himself before him. Vyasa saluted him with bowed head and folded hands and prayed:
    "Lord, I have conceived an excellent work, but cannot think of one who can take it down to my dictation."
    Brahma extolled Vyasa and said: "O sage, invoke Ganapati and beg him to be your amanuensis." Having said these words he disappeared. The sage Vyasa meditated on Ganapati who appeared before him. Vyasa received him with due respect and sought his aid.
    "Lord Ganapati, I shall dictate the story of the Mahabharata and I pray you to be graciously pleased to write it down."
    Ganapati replied: "Very well. I shall do as you wish. But my pen must not stop while I am writing. So you must dictate without pause or hesitation. I can only write on this condition?"
    Vyasa agreed, guarding himself, however, with a counter stipulation: "Be it so, but you must first grasp the meaning of what I dictate before you write it down."
    Ganapati smiled and agreed to the condition. Then the sage began to sing the story of the Mahabharata. He would occasionally compose some complex stanzas which would make Ganapati pause a while to get at the meaning and Vyasa would avail himself of this interval to compose many stanzas in his mind. Thus the Mahabharata came to be written by Ganapati to the dictation of Vyasa.
    It was before the days of printing, when the memory of the learned was the sole repository of books. Vyasa first taught the great epic to his son, the sage Suka. Later, he expounded it to many other disciples. Were it not so, the book might have been lost to future generations.
    Tradition has it that Narada told the story of the Mahabharata to the devas while Suka taught it to the Gandharvas, the Rakshasas and the Yakshas. It is well known that the virtuous and learned Vaisampayana, one of the chief disciples of Vyasa, revealed the epic for the benefit of humanity.
    Janamejaya, the son of the great King Parikshit, conducted a great sacrifice in the course of which Vaisampayana narrated the story at the request of the former. Afterwards, this story, as told by Vaisampayana, was recited by Suta in the forest of Naimisa to an assembly of sages under the lead of the Rishi Saunaka.
    Suta addressed the assembly: "I had the good fortune to hear the story of the Mahabharata composed by Vyasa to teach humanity dharma and the other ends of life. I should like to narrate it to you." At these words the ascetics eagerly gathered round him.
    Suta continued: "I heard the main story of the Mahabharata and the episodic tales contained therein told by Vaisampayana at the sacrifice conducted by King Janamejaya. Afterwards, I made an extensive pilgrimage to various sacred places and also visited the battlefield where the great battle described in the epic was fought. I have now come here to meet you all." He then proceeded to tell the whole story of the Mahabharata in the grand assembly.
    After the death of the great King Santanu, Chitrangada became King of Hastinapura and he was succeeded by Vichitravirya. The latter had two sons, Dhritarashtra and Pandu. The elder of the two being born blind, Pandu, the younger brother, ascended the throne. In the course of his reign, Pandu committed a certain offence and had to resort to the forest with his two wives where he spent many years in penance.
    During their stay in the forest, the two wives of Pandu, Kunti and Madri gave birth to five sons who became well known as the five Pandavas. Pandu passed away while they were still living in the forest. The sages brought up the five Pandavas during their early years.
    When Yudhishthira, the eldest, attained the age of sixteen the rishis led them all back to Hastinapura and entrusted them to the old grandsire Bhishma. In a short time the Pandavas gained mastery over the Vedas and the Vedanta as well as over the various arts, especially pertaining to the Kshatriyas. The Kauravas, the sons of the blind Dhritarashtra, became jealous of the Pandavas and tried to injure them in various ways.
    Finally Bhishma, the head of the family, intervened to bring about mutual understanding and peace between them. Accordingly the Pandavas and the Kauravas began to rule separately from their respective capitals, Indraprastha and Hastinapura.
    Some time later, there was a game of dice between the Kauravas and the Pandavas according to the then prevailing Kshatriya code of honor. Sakuni, who played on behalf of the Kauravas, defeated Yudhishthira. As a result, the Pandavas had to be in exile for a period of thirteen years. They left the kingdom and went to the forest with their devoted wife Draupadi.
    According to the conditions of the game, the Pandavas spent twelve years in the forest and the thirteenth year incognito.
    When they returned and demanded of Duryodhana their paternal heritage, the latter, who had in the meanwhile usurped their kingdom, refused to return it. War followed as a consequence.
    The Pandavas defeated Duryodhana and regained their patrimony. The Pandavas ruled the kingdom for thirty-six years. Afterwards, they transferred the crown to their grandson, Parikshit, and repaired to the forest with Draupadi, all clad humbly in barks of trees.
    This is the substance of the story of the Mahabharata. In this ancient and wonderful epic of our land there are many illustrative tales and sublime teachings, besides the narrative of the fortunes of the Pandavas.
    The Mahabharata is in fact a veritable ocean containing countless pearls and gems. It is, with the Ramayana, a living fountain of the ethics and culture of our Motherland.

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    2. DEVAVRATA
    "You must certainly become my wife, whoever you may be." Thus said the great King Santanu to the goddess Ganga who stood before him in human form, intoxicating his senses with her superhuman loveliness.
    The king earnestly offered for her love his kingdom, his wealth, his all, his very life.
    Ganga replied: "O king, I shall become your wife. But on certain conditions that neither you nor anyone else should ever ask me who I am, or whence I come. You must also not stand in the way of whatever I do, good or bad, nor must you ever be wroth with me on any account whatsoever. You must not say anything displeasing to me. If you act otherwise, I shall leave you then and there. Do you agree?"
    The infatuated king vowed his assent, and she became his wife and lived with him.
    The heart of the king was captivated by her modesty and grace and the steady love she bore him. King Santanu and Ganga lived a life of perfect happiness, oblivious of the passage of time.
    She gave birth to many children; each born babe she took to the Ganges and cast into the river, and then returned to the king with a smiling face.
    Santanu was filled with horror and anguish at such fiendish conduct, but suffered it all in silence, mindful of the promise be had made. Often he wondered who she was, wherefrom she had come and why she acted like a murderous witch. Still bound by his word, and his all-mastering love for her, he uttered no word of blame or remonstrance.
    Thus she killed seven children. When the eighth child was born and she was about to throw it into the Ganges, Santanu could not bear it any longer.
    He cried: "Stop, stop, why are you bent on this horrid and unnatural murder of your own innocent babes?" With this outburst the king restrained her.
    "O great king," she replied, "you have forgotten your promise, for your heart is set on your child, and you do not need me any more. I go. I shall not kill this child, but listen to my story before you judge me. I, who am constrained to play this hateful role by the curse of Vasishtha, am the goddess Ganga, adored of gods and men. Vasishtha cursed the eight Vasus to be born in the world of men, and moved by their supplications said, I was to be their mother. I bore them to you, and well is it for you that it was so. For you will go to higher regions for this service you have done to the eight Vasus. I shall bring up this last child of yours for some time and then return it to you as my gift."
    After saying these words the goddess disappeared with the child. It was this child who later became famous as Bhishma. This was how the Vasus came to incur Vasishtha's curse. They went for a holiday with their wives to a mountain tract where stood the hermitage of Vasishtha: One of them saw Vasishtha's cow, Nandini, grazing there.
    Its divinely beautiful form attracted him and he pointed it out to the ladies. They were all loud in praise of the graceful animal, and one of them requested her husband to secure it for her.
    He replied: "What need have we, the devas, for the milk of cows? This cow belongs to the sage Vasishtha who is the master of the whole place. Man will certainly become immortal by drinking its milk. But this is no gain to us, who are already immortal. Is it worth our while incurring Vasishtha's wrath merely to satisfy a whim?"
    But she was not thus to be put off. "I have a dear companion in the mortal world. It is for her sake that I make this request. Before Vasishtha returns we shall have escaped with the cow. You must certainly do this for my sake, for it is my dearest wish." Finally her husband yielded. All the Vasus joined together and took the cow and its calf away with them.
    When Vasishtha returned to his ashrama, he missed the cow and the calf, because they were indispensable for his daily rituals.
    Very soon he came to know by his yogic insight all that had taken place. Anger seized him and he uttered a curse against the Vasus. The sage, whose sole wealth was his austerity, willed that they should be born into the world of men. When the Vasus came to know of the curse, repentant too late, they threw themselves on the sage's mercy and implored forgiveness.
    Vasishtha said: "The curse must needs take its course. Prabhasa, the Vasu who seized the cow, will live long in the world in all glory, but the others will be freed from the curse as soon as born. My words cannot prove ineffective, but I shall soften the curse to this extent."
    Afterwards, Vasishtha set his mind again on his austerities, the effect of which had been slightly impaired by his anger. Sages who perform austerities acquire the power to curse, but every exercise of this power reduces their store of merit.
    The Vasus felt relieved and approached the goddess Ganga and begged of her: "We pray you to become our mother. For our sake we beseech you to descend to the earth and marry a worthy man. Throw us into the water as soon as we are born and liberate us from the curse." The goddess granted their prayer, came to the earth and became the wife of Santanu.
    When the goddess Ganga left Santanu and disappeared with the eighth child, the king gave up all sensual pleasures and ruled the kingdom in a spirit of asceticism. One day he was wandering along the banks of the Ganges when he saw a boy endowed with the beauty and form of Devendra, the king of the gods.
    The child was amusing himself by casting a dam of arrows across the Ganges in flood, playing with the mighty river as a child with an indulgent mother. To the king who stood transfixed with amazement at the sight, the goddess Ganga revealed herself and presented the child as his own son.
    She said: "O king, this is that eighth child I bore you. I have brought him up till now. His name is Devavrata. He has mastered the art of arms and equals Parasurama in prowess. He has learnt the Vedas and the Vedanta from Vasishtha, and is well versed in the arts and sciences known to Sukra. Take back with you this child who is a great archer and hero as well as a master in statecraft."
    Then she blessed the boy, handed him to his father, the king, and disappeared.

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    3. BHISHMA'S VOW

    WITH joy the king received to his heart and his kingdom the resplendent and youthful prince Devavrata and crowned him as the Yuvaraja, the heir apparent.
    Four years went by. One day as the king was wandering on the banks of the Yamuna, the air was suddenly filled with a fragrance so divinely sweet that the king sought for its cause, and he traced it to a maiden so lovely that she seemed a goddess. A sage had conferred on her the boon that a divine perfume should emanate from her, and this was now pervading the whole forest.
    From the moment the goddess Ganga left him, the king had kept his senses under control, but the sight of this divinely beautiful maiden burst the bonds of restraint and filled him with an overmastering desire. He asked her to be his wife.
    The maiden said: "I am a fisherwoman, the daughter of the chief of the fishermen. May it please you to ask him and get his consent." Her voice was sweet as her form.
    The father was an astute man.
    He said: "O king, there is no doubt that this maiden, like every other, has to be married to someone and you are indeed worthy of her. Still you have to make a promise to me before you can have her."
    Santanu replied: "If it is a just promise I shall make it."
    The chief of the fisherfolk said: "The child born of this maiden should be the king after you."
    Though almost mad with passion, the king could not make this promise, as it meant setting aside the godlike Devavrata, the son of Ganga, who was entitled to the crown.
    It was a price that could not be thought of without shame. He therefore returned to his capital, Hastinapura, sick with baffled desire. He did not reveal the matter to anyone and languished in silence.
    One day Devavrata asked his father: "My father, you have all that your heart could wish. Why then are you so unhappy? How is it that you are like one pining away with a secret sorrow?"
    The king replied: "Dear son, what you say is true. I am indeed tortured with mental pain and anxiety. You are my only son and you are always preoccupied with military ambitions. Life in the world is uncertain and wars are incessant. If anything untoward befalls you our family will become extinct. Of course, you are equal to a hundred sons. Still, those who are well read in the scriptures say that in this transitory world having but one son is the same as having no son at all. It is, not proper that the perpetuation of our family should depends on a single life, and above all things I desire the perpetuation of our family. This is the cause of my anguish." The father prevaricated, being ashamed to reveal the whole story to his son.
    Thewise Devavrata realised that there must be a secret cause for the mental condition of his father, and questioning the king's charioteer came to know of his meeting with the fishermaiden on the banks of the Yamuna. He went to the chief of the fishermen and besought his daughter's hand on his father's behalf.
    The fisherman was respectful, but firm: "My daughter is indeed fit to be the king's spouse. Then should not her son become king? But you have been crowned as the heir apparent and will naturally succeed your father. It is this that stands in the way."
    Devavrata replied: "I give you my word that the son born of this maiden shall be king. And I renounce in his favor my right as heir apparent," and he took a vow to that effect.
    The chief of the fishermen said: "O best of the Bharata race, you have done what no one else born of royal blood has you have done till now. You are indeed a hero. You can yourself conduct my daughter to the king, your father. Still, hear with patience these words of mine which I say as the father of the girl.
    "I have no doubt you will keep your word, but how can I hope that the children born of you will renounce their birthright? Your sons will naturally be mighty heroes like you, and will be hard to resist if they seek to seize the kingdom by force. This is the doubt that torments me."
    When he heard this knotty question posed by the girl's father, Devavrata, who was bent on fulfilling the king's desire, made his supreme renunciation. He vowed with upraised arm to the father of the maiden: "I shall never marry and I dedicate myself to a life of unbroken chastity."
    And as he uttered these words of renunciation the gods showered flowers on his head, and cries of "Bhishma," "Bhishma" resounded in the air. "Bhishma" means one who undertakes a terrible vow and fulfils it. That name became the celebrated epithet of Devavrata from that time. Then the son of Ganga led the maiden Satyavati to his father.
    Two sons were born of Satyavati to Santanu, Chitrangada and Vichitravirya, who ascended the throne one after the other. Vichitravirya had two sons, Dhritarashtra and Pandu, born respectively of his two queens, Ambika and Ambalika.
    The sons of Dhritarashtra, a hundred in number, were known as the Kauravas. Pandu had five sons who became famous as the Pandavas. Bhishma lived long, honored by all as the grandsire until the end of the famous battle of Kurukshetra.
    The Family Tree
    Santanu
    (by Ganga) (by Satyavati)
    Bhishma Chitrangada&Vichitravirya
    (by Ambika) (by Ambalika)
    Dhtitarashtra Pandu
    ↓ ↓
    The Kauravas The Pandavas

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    4. AMBA AND BHISHMA

    CHITRANGADA, the son of Satyavati, was killed in battle with a Gandharva. As he died childless, his brother, Vichitravirya, was the rightful heir and was duly crowned king. And as he was a minor, Bhishma governed the kingdom in his name till be came of age.
    When Vichitravirya reached adolescence Bhishma cast about for a bride for him. And as he heard that the daughters of the king of Kasi were to choose theirhusbands according to the ancient Kshatriya practice he went there to secure them for his brother.
    The rulers of Kosla, Vanga, Pundra, Kalinga and other princes and potentates had also repaired to Kasi for the swayamvara, attired in their best. The princesses were so far-famed for beauty and accomplishments that there was fierce competition to win them.
    Bhishma was famous among the Kshatriyas as a mighty man-at-arms. At first everyone thought that the redoubtable hero had come merely to witness the festivities of the swayamvara. But when they found that he was also a suitor, the young princes felt themselves let down and were full of chagrin. They did not know that he had really come for the sake of his brother, Vichitravirya.
    The princes began to cast affronts at Bhishma: "This most excellent and wise descendant of the Bharata race forgets that he is too old and forgets also his vow of celibacy. What has this old man to do with this swayamvara? Fie on him!" The princesses who were to choose their husbands barely glanced at the old man and looked away.
    Bhishma's wrath flamed up. He challenged the assembled princes to a trial of their manhood and defeated them all. And taking the three princesses in his chariot he set out for Hastinapura.
    But before he had gone far, Salva, the king of the Saubala country who was attached to Amba, intercepted and opposed him. For that princess had mentally chosen Salva as her husband. After a bitter fight Salva was worsted, and no wonder, as Bhishma was a peerless bowman. But at the request of the princesses Bhishma spared his life.
    Arriving in Hastinapura with the princesses, Bhishma made preparations for their marriage to Vichitravirya. When all were assembled for the marriage, Amba smiled mockingly at Bhishma and addressed him as follows: "O son of Ganga, you are aware of what is enjoined in the scriptures. I have mentally chosen Salva, the king of Saubala, as my husband. You have brought me here by force. Knowing this, do what you, learned in the scriptures, should do."
    Bhishma admitted the force of her objection and sent her to Salva with proper escort. The marriage of Ambika and Ambalika, the two younger sisters, with Vichitravirya was duly solemnised.
    Amba went rejoicing to Salva and told him what had happened: "I have mentally chosen you as my husband from the very start. Bhishma has sent me to you. Marry me according to the sastras."
    Salva replied: "Bhishma defeated me in sight of all, and carried you away. I have been disgraced. So, I cannot receive you now as my wife. Return to him and do as he commands." With these words Salva sent her back to Bhishma.
    She returned to Hastinapura and told Bhishma of what had taken place. The grandsire tried to induce Vichitravirya to marry her. But Vichitravirya roundly refused to marry a maiden whose heart had already been given to another.
    Amba then turned to Bhishma and she sought him to marry her himself as there was no other recourse. It was impossible for Bhishma to break his vow, sorry as he was for Amba. And after some vain attempts to make Vichitravirya change his mind, he told her there was no way left to her but to go again to Salva and seek to persuade him.
    This at first she was too proud to do, and for long years she abode in Hastinapura. Finally, in sheer desperation, she went to Salva and found him adamant in refusal.
    The lotus-eyed Amba spent six bitter years in sorrow and baffled hope. And her heart was seared with suffering and all the sweetness in her turned to gall and fierce hatred towards Bhishma as the cause of her blighted life.
    She sought in vain for a champion among the princes to fight and kill Bhishma and thus avenge her wrongs but even the foremost warriors were afraid of Bhishma and paid no heed to her appeal.
    At last, she resorted to hard austerities to get the grace of Lord Subrahmanya. He graciously appeared before her and gave her a garland of ever-fresh lotuses, saying that the wearer of that garland would become the enemy of Bhishma.
    Amba took the garland and again be sought every Kshatriya to accept the garland gift of the six-faced Lord and to champion her cause. But no one had the hardihood to antagonise Bhishma.
    Finally, she went to King Drupada who also refused to grant her prayer. She then hung the garland at Drupada's palace gate and went away to the forest. Some ascetics whom she met there and to whom she told her sorrowful tale advised her to go to Parasurama as a suppliant. She followed their advice.
    On hearing her sad story, Parasurama was moved with compassion and said: "Dear child, what do you want? I can ask Salva to marry you if you wish it."
    Amba said: "No, I do not wish it. I no longer desire marriage or home or happiness. There is now but one thing in life for me, revenge on Bhishma. The only boon I seek is the death of Bhishma."
    Parasurama moved as much by her anguish as by his abiding hatred of the Kshatriya race, espoused her cause and fought with Bhishma. It was a long and equal combat between the two greatest men-at-arms of the age. But in the end Parasurama had to acknowledge defeat. He told Amba: "I have done all that I could and I have failed. Throw yourself on the mercy of Bhishma. That is the only course left to you."
    Consumed with grief and rage, and kept alive only by the passion for revenge, Amba went to the Himalayas and practised rigorous austerities to get the grace of Siva, now that all human aid had failed her. Siva appeared before her and granted her a boon, that in her next birth she would slay Bhishma.
    Amba was impatient for that rebirth which would give her heart's desire. She made a pyre and plunged into the fire pouring out the flame in her heart into the scarcely hotter blaze of the pyre.
    By the grace of Lord Siva, Amba was born as the daughter of King Drupada. A few years after her birth, she saw the garland of never-fading flowers that still hung at the palace gate and had remained there untouched by anyone through fear. She put it round her neck. Her father Drupada was in consternation at her temerity which he feared would draw on his head the wrath of Bhishma.
    He sent his daughter in exile out of the capital to the forest. She practised austerities in the forest and in time was transformed into a male and became known as the warrior Sikhandin.
    With Sikhandin as his charioteer, Arjuna attacked Bhishma on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Bhishma k that Sikhandin was born as female, and true to his code of chivalry he would not fight him under any circumstance.
    So it was that Arjuna could fight screened by Sikhandin and conquer Bhishma, especially because Bhishma k that his long and weary probation on earth was finished and consented to be vanquished.
    As the arrows struck Bhishma in his last fight, he singled out those which had pierced him deepest and said: "This is Arjuna's arrow and not Sikhandin's." So fell this great warrior.

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    5. DEVAYANI AND KACHA

    IN ancient times, there was a bitter struggle between the devas or gods and the asuras or demons for the lordship of the three worlds. Both belligerents had illustrious preceptors. Brihaspati who was pre-eminent in the knowledge of the Vedas was the guiding spirit of the devas, while the asuras relied on Sukracharya's profound wisdom.
    The asuras had the formidable advantage that Sukracharya alone possessed the secret of Sanjivini which could recall the dead to life. Thus the asuras who had fallen in the battle were brought back to life, time and again, and continued their fight with the devas. The devas were thus at a great disadvantage in their long drawn-out war with their natural foes.
    They went to Kacha, the son of Brihaspati, and besought his aid. They begged him to win his way into the good graces of Sukracharya and persuade him to take him as a pupil. Once admitted to intimacy and confidence, he was to acquire, by fair means or foul, the secret of Sanjivini and remove the great handicap under which the devas suffered.
    Kacha acceded to their request and set out to meet Sukracharya who lived in the capital city of Vrishaparva, the king of the asuras. Kacha went to the house of Sukra, and after due salutation, addressed him thus: "I am Kacha, the grandson of the sage Angiras and the son of Brihaspati. I am a brahmacharin seeking knowledge under your tutelage."
    It was the law that the wise teacher should not refuse a worthy pupil who sought knowledge of him. So Sukra acceded and said: "Kacha, you belong to a good family. I accept you as my pupil, the more willingly, that by doing so I shall also be showing my respect for Brihaspati."
    Kacha spent many years under Sukracharya, rendering to perfection the prescribed duties in the household of his master. Sukracharya had a lovelydaughter, Devayani, of whom he was extremely fond. Kacha devoted himself to pleasing and serving her with song and dance and pastime and succeeded in winning her affection, without detriment however to the vows of brahmacharya.
    When the asuras came to know of this, they became anxious as they suspected that Kacha's object was somehow to wheedle out of Sukracharya the secret of Sanjivini. They naturally sought to prevent such a calamity.
    One day, as Kacha was engaged in grazing the cattle of his master the asuras seized him, tore him to pieces and cast his flesh to the dogs. When the cattle returned without Kacha, Devayani was filled with anxiety, and ran to her father with loud lamentations: "The sun has set," she wailed, "and your nightly fire sacrifice has been performed; still Kacha has not returned home. The cattle have come back by themselves. I fear some mishap has befallen Kacha. I cannot live without him."
    The fond father employed the art of Sanjivini and invoked the dead youth to appear. At once Kacha came back to life and greeted the master with smiles. Asked by Devayani the reason for his delay, he told her that as he was grazing the cattle the asuras came suddenly on him and slew him. How he came back to life he k not, but come back to life he did, and there he was.
    On another occasion Kacha went to the forest to pluck flowers for Devayani, and again the asuras seized and killed him, and pounding his body to a paste, mixed it up in sea-water. As he did not return even after a long time Devayani went as before to her father who brought Kacha back to life by his Sanjivini, and heard from him all that had taken place.
    For the third time again, the Asuras killed Kacha and very cleverly as they thought, burnt his body, mixed the ashes in wine and served it to Sukracharya who drank it, suspecting nothing. Once more the cows returned home without their keeper, and once again Devayani approached her father with her distressful appeal for Kacha.
    Sukracharya tried in vain to console his daughter. "Though I have again and again brought back Kacha to life," said he, "the asuras seem bent upon killing him. Well, death is the common lot, and it is not proper for a wise soul like you to sorrow at it. Your life is all before you to enjoy, with youth and beauty and the goodwill of the world."
    Devayani deeply loved Kacha, and since the world began, wise words have never cured the ache of bereavement. She said: "Kacha, the grandson of Angiras and the son of Brihaspati, was a blameless boy, who was devoted and tireless in our service. I loved him dearly, and now that he has been killed, life to me has become bleak and insupportable. I shall therefore follow in his path." And Devayani began to fast. Sukracharya, heart-stricken by his daughter's sorrow, became very angry with the asuras, and felt that the heinous sin of killing a brahmana would weigh heavily on their fortunes.
    He employed the Sanjivini art and called upon Kacha to appear. By the power of the Sanjivini Kacha dispersed as he was in the wine which was inside Sukracharya's body at the time, regained life, but prevented by the peculiarity of his location from coming out, he could only answer to his name from where he was.
    Sukracharya exclaimed in angry amazement: "O brahmacharin, how did you get into me? Is this also the work of the asuras? This is really too bad and makes me feel like killing the asuras immediately and joining the devas. But tell me the whole story."
    Kacha narrated it all, in spite of the inconvenience imposed by his position.
    Vaisampayana continued: "The high-souled and austere Sukracharya of immeasurable greatness, became angry at the deceit practised on him in his wine, and proclaimed for the benefit of humanity: 'Virtue will desert the man who through lack of wisdom drinks wine. He will be an object of scorn to all, This is my message to humanity, which should be regarded as an imperative scriptural injunction.' Then he turned to his daughter Devayani and said: Dear daughter, here is a problem for you. For Kacha to live, he must rend my stomach and come out of it, and that means death to me. His life can only be bought by my death."
    Devayani began to weep and said: "Alas! It is death to me either way. For if either of you perish, I shall not survive." Sukracharya sought a way out of the difficulty. The real explanation of it all flashed on him.
    He said to Kacha: "O son of Brihaspati, I now see with what object you came and verily you have secured it! I must bring you out to life for the sake of Devayani, but equally for her sake I must not die either. The only way is to initiate you in the art of Sanjivini so that you can bring me back to life after I shall have died when a way is torn out through my entrails for you. You should employ the knowledge I am going to impart to you and revive me, so that Devayani need not grieve for either of us."
    Accordingly Sukracharya imparted the art of Sanjivini to Kacha. Immediately Kacha came forth from Sukracharya's body, emerging like the full moon from a cloud, while the great preceptor fell down mangled and dead.
    But Kacha at once brought Sukracharya back to life by means of his ly acquired Sanjivini. Kacha bowed down to Sukracharya and said: "The teacher who imparts wisdom to the ignorant is a father. Besides, as I have issued from your body you are my mother too."
    Kacha remained for many more years under the tutelage of Sukracharya. When the period of his vow ended, he took leave of his master to return to the world of the gods.
    As he was about to depart Devayani humbly addressed him thus: "O, grandchild of Angiras, you have won my heart by your blameless life, your great attainments and nobility of birth. I have loved you long and tenderly, even while you were faithfully following your vows of a brahmacharin. You should now reciprocate my love and make me happy by marrying me. Brihaspati as well as yourself are fully worthy of being honored by me. "
    In those days, it was no uncommon thing for wise and learned brahmana ladies to speak out their mind with honorable frankness. But Kacha said:
    "O faultless one, you are my master's daughter and ever worthy of my respect. I got back my life by being born out of your father's body. Hence I am your brother. It is not proper for you, my sister, to ask me to wed you."
    Devayani sought in vain to persuade him. "You are the son of Brihaspati," said she, "and not of my father. If I have been the cause of your coming back to life, it was because I loved you as indeed I have always loved you as my husband. It is not fit that you should give up one like me sinless and devoted to you."
    Kacha replied: "Do not seek to persuade me to unrighteousness. You are enchanting more so now than ever, flushed as you are with anger. But I am your brother. Pray bid me adieu. Serve unto perfection, ever and always, my master Sukracharya."
    With these words Kacha gently disengaged himself and proceeded to the abode of Indra, the king of gods. Sukracharya consoled his daughter.

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    6. THE MARRIAGE OF DEVAYANI

    ONE warm afternoon, pleasantly tired with sporting in the woods Devayani and the daughters of Vrishaparva, king of the asuras, went to bathe in the cool waters of a sylvan pool, depositing their garlands on the bank before they entered its waters.
    A strong breeze blew their clothes together into a huddled heap and when they came to take them up again, some mistakes naturally occurred. It so happened that princess Sarmishtha, the daughter of the king, clad herself in Devayani's clothes. The latter was vexed and exclaimed half in jest at the impropriety of the daughter of a disciple wearing the clothes of the master's daughter.
    These words were spoken half in jest, but the princess Sarmishtha became very angry and said arrogantly: "Do you not know that your father humbly bows in reverence to my royal father every day? Are you not the daughter of a beggar who lives on my father's bounty? You forget I am of the royal race which proudly gives, while you come of a race which begs and receives, and you dare to speak thus to me."
    Sarmishtha went on, getting angrier and angrier as she spoke till, working herself up into a fit of anger, she finally slapped Devayani on the cheek and pushed her into a dry well. The asura maidens thought that Devayani had lost her life and returned to the palace.
    Devayani had not been killed by the fall into the well but was in a sad plight because she could not climb up the steep sides. Emperor Yayati of the Bharata race who was hunting in the forest by a happy chance came to this spot in search of water to slake his thirst. When he glanced into the well, he saw something bright, and looking closer, he was surprised to find a beautiful maiden lying in the well.
    He asked: "Who are you, O beautiful maiden with bright earrings and ruddy nails? Who is your father? What is your ancestry? How did you fall into the well?" She replied: "I am the daughter of Sukracharya. He does not know that I have fallen into the well. Lift me up" and she held forth her hands. Yayati seized her hand and helped her out of the well.
    Devayani did not wish to return to the capital of the king of the asuras. She did not feel it safe to go there, as she pondered again and again on Sarmishtha's conduct. She told Yayati: "You have held a maiden by her right hand, and you must marry her. I feel that you are in every way worthy to be my husband."
    Yayati replied: "Loving soul, I am a kshatriya and you are a brahmana maiden. How can I marry you? How can the daughter of Sukracharya, who is worthy to be the preceptor of the whole world, submit to be the wife of a kshatriya like myself? Revered lady, return home." Having said these words Yayati went back to his capital.
    A kshatriya maiden could marry a brahmana, according to the ancient tradition, but it was considered wrong for a brahmana maiden to marry a kshatriya. The important thing was to keep the racial status of women unlowered. Hence anuloma or the practice of marrying men of higher castes was legitimate and the reverse practice, known as pratiloma, i.e. marrying men of a lower caste, was prohibited by the sastras.
    Devayani had no mind to return home. She remained sunk in sorrow in the shade of a tree in forest. Sukracharya loved Devayani more than his life. After waiting long in vain for the return of his daughter who had gone to play with her companions, he sent a woman in search of her.
    The messenger after a weary search came on her at last near the tree where she was sitting in dejection, her eyes red with anger and grief. And she asked her what had happened.
    Devayani said: "Friend, go at once and tell my father that I will not set my foot in the capital of Vrishaparva" and she sent her back to Sukracharya.
    Extremely grieved at the sad plight of his daughter Sukracharya hurried to her.
    Caressing her, he said: "It is by their own actions, good or bad, that men are happy or miserable. The virtues or vices of others will not affect us in the least." With these words of wisdom, he tried to console her.
    She replied in sorrow and anger: "Father, leave alone my merits and faults, which are after all my own concern. But tell me this, was Sarmishtha, the daughter of Vrishaparva, right when she told me you were but a minstrel singing the praises of kings? She called me the daughter of a mendicant living on the doles won by flattery. Not content with this arrogant contumely, she slapped me and threw me into a pit which was nearby. I cannot stay in any place within her father's territory." And Devayani began to weep.
    Sukracharya drew himself up proudly: "Devayani," he said with dignity, "you are not the daughter of a court minstrel. Your father does not live on the wages of flattery. You are the daughter of one who is reverenced by all the world. Indra, the king of the gods, knows this, and Vrishaparva is not ignorant of his debt to me. But no worthy man extols his own merits, and I shall say no more about myself. Arise, you are a peerless gem among women, bringing prosperity to your family. Be patient. Let us go home."
    In this context Bhagavan Vyasa advises humanity in general in the following words of counsel addressed by Sukracharya to his daughter:
    "He conquers the world, who patiently puts up with the abuse of his neighbors. He who, controls his anger, as a horseman breaks an unruly horse, is indeed a charioteer and not he who merely holds the reins, but lets the horse go whither it would. He who sheds his anger just as a snake its slough, is a real hero. He who is not moved despite the greatest torments inflicted by others, will realise his aim. He who never gets angry is superior to the ritualist who faith fully performs for a hundred years the sacrifices ordained by scripture. Servants, friends, brothers, wife, children, virtue and truth abandon the man who gives way to anger. The wise will not take to heart the words of boys and girls."
    Devayani humbly told her father: "I am indeed a little girl, but, I hope, not too young to benefit by the great truth taught by you. Yet, it is not proper to live with persons who have no sense of decency or decorum. The wise will not keep company with those who speak ill of their family. However rich they may be, the ill-mannered are really the veritable chandalas outside the pale of caste. The virtuous should not mix with them. My mind is ablaze with the anger roused by the taunts of Vrishaparva's daughter. The wounds inflicted by weapons may close in time; scalds may heal gradually; but wounds inflicted by words remain painful as long as one lives."
    Sukracharya went to Vrishaparva and fixing his eyes on him gravely said:
    "O king, though one's sins may not bring immediate punishment they are sure, sooner or later, to destroy the very germ of prosperity. Kacha, the son of Brihaspati, was a brahmacharin who had conquered his senses and never committed any sin. He served me with fidelity and never strayed from the path of virtue. Your attendants tried to kill him. I bore it. My daughter, who holds her honor high, had to hear dishonoring words uttered by your daughter. Besides, she was pushed into a well by your daughter. She cannot any more stay in your kingdom. Without her I cannot live here either. So, I am going out of your kingdom."
    At these words the king of the asuras was sorely troubled and said: "I am ignorant of the charges laid at my door. If you abandon me, I shall enter fire and die."
    Sukracharya replied: "I care more for the happiness of my daughter than for the fate of you and your asuras, for she is the one thing I have and dearer to me than life itself. If you can appease her, it is well and good. Otherwise I go."
    Vrishaparva and his retinue went to the tree under which Devayani stood and they threw themselves at her feet in supplication.
    Devayani was stubborn and said: "Sarmishtha who told me that I was the daughter of a beggar, should become my handmaiden and attend on me in the house into which my father gives me in marriage."
    Vrishaparva consented and asked his attendants to fetch his daughter Sarmishtha.
    Sarmishtha admitted her fault and bowed in submission. She said: "Let it be as my companion Devayani desires. My father shall not lose his preceptor for a fault committed by me. I will be her attendant," Devayani was pacified and returned to her house with her father.
    On another occasion also Devayani came across Yayati. She repeated her request that he should take her as his wife since he had clasped her right hand. Yayati again repeated his objection that he, a kshatriya, could not lawfully marry a brahmana.
    Finally they both went to Sukracharya and got his assent to their marriage. This is an instance of the pratiloma marriage which was resorted to on exceptional occasions. The sastras, no doubt, prescribe what is right and forbid what is wrong but a marriage once effected cannot be made invalid.
    Yayati and Devayani spent many days in happiness. Sarmishtha remained with her as an attendant. One day Sarmishtha met Yayati in secret and earnestly prayed to betaken also as his wife. He yielded to her prayer and married her without the knowledge of Devayani.
    But Devayani came to know of it and was naturally very angry, She complained to her father and Sukracharya in his rage cursed Yayati with premature old age.
    Yayati, thus suddenly stricken with age in the very prime of his manhood, begged so humbly for forgiveness that Sukracharya, who had not forgotten Devayani's rescue from the well, at last relented.
    He said: "O king, you have lost the glory which is youth. The curse cannot be recalled, but if you can persuade anyone to exchange his youth for your age the exchange will take effect." Thus he blessed Yayati and bade him farewell.

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    7. YAYATI
    EMPEROR Yayati was one of the ancestors of the Pandavas. He had never known defeat. He followed the dictates of the sastras, adored the gods and venerated his ancestors with intense devotion. He became famous as a ruler devoted to the welfare of his subjects.
    But as has already been told, he became prematurely old by the curse of Sukracharya for having wronged his wife Devayani. In the words of the poet of the Mahabharata:
    "Yayati attained that old age which destroys beauty and brings on miseries." It is needless to describe the misery of youth suddenly blighted into age, where the horrors of loss are accentuated by pangs of recollection.
    Yayati, who found himself suddenly an old man, was still haunted by the desire for sensual enjoyment. He had five beautiful sons, all virtuous and accomplished. Yayati called them and appealed piteously to their affection:
    "The curse of your grandfather Sukracharya has made me unexpectedly and prematurely old. I have not had my fill of the joys of life. For, not knowing what was in store for me I lived a life of restraint, denying myself even lawful pleasures. One of you ought to bear the burden of my old age and give his youth in return. He who agrees to this and bestows his youth on me will be the ruler of my kingdom. I desire to enjoy life in the full vigor of youth."
    He first asked his eldest son. That son replied: "O great king, women and servants will mock at me if I were to take upon myself your old age. I cannot do go. Ask of my younger brothers who are dearer to you than myself."
    When the second son was approached, he gently refused with the words: "Father, you ask me to take up old age that destroys not only strength and beauty but also as I see wisdom. I am not strong enough to do so."
    The third son replied: "An old man cannot ride a horse or an elephant. His speech will falter. What can I do in such a helpless plight? I cannot agree."
    The king was angry and disappointed that his three sons had declined to do as he wished, but he hoped for better from his fourth son, to whom he said: "You should take up my old age. If you exchange your youth with me, I shall give it back to you after some time and take back the old age with which I have been cursed."
    The fourth son begged to be forgiven as this was a thing he could by no means consent to. An old man had to seek the help of others even to keep his body clean, a most pitiful plight. No, much as he loved his father he could not do it.
    Yayati was struck with sorrow at the refusal of the four sons. Still, hoping against hope, he supplicated his last son who had never yet opposed his wishes: "You must save me. I am afflicted with this old age with its wrinkles, debility and grey hairs as a result of the curse of Sukracharya. It is too hard a trial! If you will take upon yourself these infirmities, I shall enjoy life for just a while more and then give you back your youth and resume my old age and all its sorrows. Pray, do not refuse as your elder brothers have done."
    Puru, the youngest son, moved by filial love, said: "Father, I gladly give you my youth and relieve you of the sorrows of old age and cares of state. Be happy."
    Hearing these words Yayati embraced him. As soon as he touched his son, Yayati became a youth. Puru, who accepted the old age of his father, ruled the kingdom and acquired great renown. Yayati enjoyed life for long, and not satisfied, went later to the garden of Kubera and spent many years with an Apsara maiden.
    After long years spent in vain efforts to quench desire by indulgence, the truth dawned on him.
    Returning to Puru, he said: "Dear son, sensual desire is never quenched by indulgence any more than fire is by pouring ghee in it. I had heard and read this, but till now I had not realised it. No object of desire, corn, gold, cattle or women, nothing can ever satisfy the desire of man, We can reach peace only by a mental poise beyond likes and dislikes. Such is the state of Brahman. Take back your youth and rule the kingdom wisely and well."
    With these words Yayati took his old age. Puru, who regained his youth, was made king by Yayati who retired to the forest. He spent his time there in austerities and, in due course, attained heaven.

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    8. VIDURA
    THE sage Mandavya who had acquired strength of mind and knowledge of the scriptures, spent his days in penance and the practice of truth.
    He lived in a hermitage in the forests on the outskirts of the city. One day while he was immersed in silent contemplation under the shade of a tree outside his hut of leaves, a band of robbers fled through the woods with officers of the king in hot pursuit.
    The fugitives entered the ashrama thinking that it would be a convenient place to hide themselves in. They placed their booty in a corner and hid themselves. The soldiers of the king came to the ashrama tracking their footsteps.
    The commander of the soldiers asked Mandavya, who was rapt in deep meditation in a tone of peremptory command: "Did you see the robbers pass by? Where did they go? Reply at once so that we may give chase and capture them."
    The sage, who was absorbed in yoga, remained silent. The commander repeated the question insolently. But the sage did not hear anything. In the meantime some of the attendants entered the ashrama and discovered the stolen goods lying there.
    They reported this to their commander. All of them went in and found the stolen goods and the robbers who were in hiding.
    The commander thought: "Now I know the reason why the brahmana pretended to be a silent sage. He is indeed the chief of these robbers. He has inspired this robbery." Then he ordered his soldiers to guard the place, went to the king and told him that the sage Mandavya had been caught with the stolen goods.
    The king was very angry at the audacity of the chief of the robbers who had put on the garb of a brahmana sage, the better to deceive the world. Without pausing to verify the facts, he ordered the wicked criminal, as he thought him, to be impaled.
    The commander returned to the hermitage, impaled Mandavya on a spear and handed over the stolen things to the king.
    The virtuous sage, though impaled on the spear, did not die. Since he was in yoga when he was impaled he remained alive by the power of yoga. Sages who lived in other parts of the forest came to his hermitage and asked Mandavya how he came to be in that terrible pass.
    Mandavya replied: "Whom shall I blame? The servants of the king, who protect the world, have inflicted this punishment."
    The king was surprised and frightened when he heard that the impaled sage was still alive and that he was surrounded by the other sages of the forest. He hastened to the forest with his attendants and at once ordered the sage to be taken down from the spear. Then he prostrated at his feet and prayed humbly to be forgiven for the offence unwittingly committed.
    Mandavya was not angry with the king. He went straight to Dharma, the divine dispenser of justice, who was seated on his throne, and asked him: "What crime have I committed to deserve this torture?"
    Lord Dharma, who k the great power of the sage, replied in all humility: "O sage, you have tortured birds and bees. Are you not aware that all deeds, good or bad, however small, inevitably produce their results, good or evil?"
    Mandavya was surprised at this reply of Lord Dharma and asked: "When did I commit this offence?"
    Lord Dharma replied: "When you were a child."
    Mandavya then pronounced a curse on Dharma: "This punishment you have decreed is far in excess of the deserts of a mistake committed by a child in ignorance. Be born, therefore, as a mortal in the world."
    Lord Dharma who was thus cursed by the sage Mandavya incarnated as Vidura and was born of the servant-maid of Ambalika, the wife of Vichitravirya.
    This story is intended to show that Vidura was the incarnation of Dharma. The great men of the world regarded Vidura as a mahatma who was unparalleled in his knowledge of dharma, sastras and statesmanship and was totally devoid of attachment and anger. Bhishma appointed him, while he was still in his teens, as the chief counsellor of king Dhritarashtra.
    Vyasa has it that no one in the three worlds could equal Vidura in virtue and knowledge. When Dhritarashtra gave his, permission for the game of dice, Vidura fell at his feet and protested solemnly: "O king and lord, I cannot approve of this action. Strife will set in among your sons as a result. Pray, do not allow this."
    Dhritarashtra also tried in manly ways to dissuade his wicked son. He said to him: "Do not proceed with this game. Vidura does not approve of it, the wise Vidura of lofty intellect who is ever intent on our welfare. He says the game is bound to result in a fierceness of hate which will consume us and our kingdom."
    But Duryodhana did not heed this advice. Carried away by his doting fondness for his son, Dhritarashtra surrendered his better judgment and sent to Yudhishthira the fateful invitation to the game.

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