Chapter 122

Mahabharata English - ADI PARVA

“Vaisampayana said, ‘Thus addressed by his loving wife, king Pandu,well-acquainted with all rules of morality, replied in these words ofvirtuous import, ‘O Kunti, what thou hast said is quite true.

Vyushitaswaof old did even as thou hast said. Indeed he was equal unto thecelestials themselves. But I shall now tell thee about the practices ofold indicated by illustrious Rishis, fully acquainted with every rule ofmorality. O thou of handsome face and sweet smiles, women formerly werenot 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 husbandsfaithfully, and yet, O handsome one, they were not regarded sinful, forthat was the sanctioned usage of the times. That very usage is followedto this day by birds and beasts without any (exhibition of) jealousy.That practice, sanctioned by precedent, is applauded by great Rishis. Othou of taper thighs, the practice is yet regarded with respect amongstthe Northern Kurus. Indeed, that usage, so lenient to women, hath thesanction of antiquity. The present practice, however (of women’s beingconfined to one husband for life) hath been established but lately. Ishall tell thee in detail who established it and why.

“It hath been heard by us that there was a great Rishi of the name ofUddalaka, 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 beenestablished by that Swetaketu from anger. Hear thou the reason. One day,in the presence of Swetaketu’s father a Brahmana came and catchingSwetaketu’s mother by the hand, told her, ‘Let us go.’ Beholding hismother seized by the hand and taken away apparently by force, the son wasgreatly moved by wrath. Seeing his son indignant, Uddalaka addressed himand said, ‘Be not angry. O son! This is the practice sanctioned byantiquity. The women of all orders in this world are free, O son; men inthis matter, as regards their respective orders, act as kine.’ TheRishi’s son, Swetaketu, however, disapproved of the usage and establishedin the world the present practice as regards men and women. It hath beenheard by us, O thou of great virtue, that the existing practice datesfrom that period among human beings but not among beings of otherclasses. Accordingly, since the establishment of the present usage, it issinful for women not to adhere to their husbands. Women transgressing thelimits assigned by the Rishi became guilty of slaying the embryo. And,men, too, viol ting a chaste and loving wife who hath from her maidenhoodobserved the vow of purity, became guilty of the same sin. The woman alsowho, being commanded by her husband to raise offspring, refuses to do hisbidding, becometh equally sinful.

“Thus, O timid one, was the existing usage established of old bySwetaketu, the son of Uddalaka, in defiance of antiquity. O thou of taperthighs, it hath also been heard by us that Madayanti, the wife ofSaudasa, commanded by her husband to raise offspring went unto RishiVasishtha. And on going in unto him, the handsome Madayanti obtained ason named Asmaka. She did this, moved by the desire of doing good to herhusband. O thou of lotus-eyes, thou knowest, O timid girl, how weourselves, for the perpetuation of the Kuru race, were begotten byKrishna-Dwaipayana. O faultless one, beholding all these precedents itbehoveth thee to do my bidding, which is not inconsistent with virtue, Oprincess, who is devoted to her husband, it hath also been said by thoseacquainted with the rules of morality that a wife, when her monthlyseason cometh, must ever seek her husband, though at other times shedeserveth liberty. The wise have declared this to be the ancientpractice. But, be the act sinful or sinless, those acquainted with theVedas have declared that it is the duty of wives to do what theirhusbands bid them do. Especially, O thou of faultless features, I, who amdeprived of the power of procreation, having yet become desirous ofbeholding offspring, deserve the more to be obeyed by thee. O amiableone, joining my palms furnished with rosy fingers, and making of them acup as of lotus leaves, I place them on my head to propitiate thee. Othou of lair looks, it behoveth thee to raise offspring, at my command,through some Brahmana possessed of high ascetic merit. For then, owing tothee, O thou of fair hips, I may go the way that is reserved for thosethat are blessed with children.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Thus addressed by Pandu, that subjugator ofhostile cities, the handsome Kunti, ever attentive to what was agreeableand beneficial to her lord, then replied unto him, saying, ‘In mygirlhood, O lord, I was in my father’s house engaged in attending uponall guests. I used to wait respectfully upon Brahmanas of rigid vows andgreat ascetic merit. One day I gratified with my attentions that Brahmanawhom people call Durvasa, of mind under full control and possessingknowledge of all the mysteries of religion. Pleased with my services,that Brahmana gave me a boon in the form of a mantra (formula ofinvocation) for calling into my presence any one of the celestials Iliked. And the Rishi, addressing me, said, ‘Anyone among the celestialswhom thou callest by this shall, O girl, approach thee and be obedient tothy will, whether he liketh it or not. And, O princess, thou shall alsohave offspring through his grace.’ O Bharata, that Brahmana told me thiswhen I lived in my father’s house. The words uttered by the Brahmana cannever 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 thecelestials, so that we may have good children. O foremost of all truthfulmen, tell me which of the celestials I shall summon. Know that, asregards this matter, I await your commands.’

“Hearing this, Pandu replied, ‘O handsome one, strive duly this very dayto gratify our wishes. Fortunate one, summon thou the god of justice. Heis the most virtuous of the celestials. The god of justice and virtuewill never be able to pollute us with sin. The world also, O beautifulprincess, will then think that what we do can never be unholy. The sonalso that we shall obtain from him shall in virtue be certainly theforemost among the Kurus. Begotten by the god of justice and morality, hewould never set his heart upon anything that is sinful or unholy.Therefore, O thou of sweet smiles, steadily keeping virtue before thyeyes, and duly observing holy vows, summon thou the god of justice andvirtue by the help of thy solicitations and incantations.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then Kunti, that best of women, thus addressedby her lord, said, ‘So be it.’ And bowing down to him and reverentlycircumambulating his person, she resolved to do his bidding.'”

Chapter 123
Chapter 121
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