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Chapter 178

Mahabharata English - ADI PARVA

“The Gandharva continued, ‘There was, O Partha, a king in this world,named Kalmashapada, who was of the race of Ikshvaku and was unequalled onearth for prowess. One day the king went from his capital into the woodsfor purposes of hunting, and this grinder of foes pierced (with hisarrows) many deer and wild boars.

And in those deep woods the king alsoslew many rhinoceroses. Engaged in sport for some length of time, themonarch became very much fatigued and at last he gave up the chase,desiring to rest awhile.

“The great Viswamitra, endued with energy, had, a little while ago,desired to make that monarch his disciple. As the monarch, afflicted withhunger and thirst, was proceeding through the woods, he came across thatbest of Rishis, the illustrious son of Vasishtha, coming along the samepath. The king ever victorious in battle saw that Muni bearing the nameof Saktri, that illustrious propagator of Vasishtha’s race, the eldest ofthe high-souled Vasishtha’s hundred sons, coming along from oppositedirection. The king, beholding him said, ‘Stand out of our way.’ TheRishi, addressing the monarch in a conciliatory manner, said unto himsweetly, ‘O king, this is my way. This is the eternal rule of moralityindicated in every treatise on duty and religion, viz., that a kingshould ever make way for Brahmanas.’ Thus did they address each otherrespecting their right of way. ‘Stand aside, stand aside’, were the wordsthey said unto each other. The Rishi, who was in the right, did notyield, nor did the king yield to him from pride and anger. That best ofmonarchs, enraged at the Rishi, refusing to yield him the way, acted likea Rakshasa, striking him with his whip. Thus whipped by the monarch, thatbest of Rishis, the son of Vasishtha, was deprived of his senses byanger, and speedily cursed that first of monarchs, saying, ‘O worst ofkings, since thou persecutest like a Rakshasa an ascetic, thou shalt fromthis day, became a Rakshasa subsisting on human flesh! Hence, thou worstof kings! thou shalt wander over the earth, affecting human form!’ Thusdid the Rishi Sakti, endued with great prowess, speak unto kingKalmashapada. At this time Viswamitra, between whom and Vasishtha therewas a dispute about the discipleship of Kalmashapada, approached theplace where that monarch and Vasishtha’s son were. And, O Partha, thatRishi of severe ascetic penances, viz., Viswamitra of great energy,approached the pair (knowing by his spiritual insight that they had beenthus quarrelling with each other). After the curse had been pronounced,that best of monarchs knew that Rishi to be Vasishtha’s son and equalunto Vasishtha himself in energy. And, O Bharata, Viswamitra, desirous ofbenefiting himself, remained on that spot, concealed from the sight ofboth by making himself invisible. Then that best of monarchs, thus cursedby Saktri, desiring to propitiate the Rishi began to humbly beseech him.And, O chief of the Kurus, Viswamitra, ascertaining the disposition ofthe king (and fearing that the difference might be made up), ordered aRakshasa to enter the body of the king. And a Rakshasa of the name ofKinkara then entered the monarch’s body in obedience to Saktri’s curseand Viswamitra’s command. And knowing, O chastiser of foes, that theRakshasa had possessed himself of the monarch, that best of Rishis,Viswamitra, then left the spot and went away.

“Shortly after, O Partha, the monarch, possessed by the Rakshasa andterribly afflicted by him, lost all his senses. At this time a Brahmanabeheld the king in the woods. Afflicted with hunger, that Brahmana beggedof the king some food with meat. The royal sage, Kalmashapada, thatcherisher of friends, answered the Brahmana, saying, ‘Stay thou here, OBrahmana for a moment. On my return, I will give thee whatever food thoudesirest.’ Having said this, the monarch went away, but the Brahmanastayed on there. The high-minded king having roved for some time atpleasure and according to his will, at last entered his inner apartment.Thus waking at midnight and remembering his promise, he summoned his cookand told him of his promise unto the Brahmana staying in the forest. Andhe commanded him, saying, ‘Hie thee to that forest. A Brahmana waitethfor me in the hope of food. Go and entertain him with food and meat.’

“The Gandharva continued, ‘Thus commanded, the cook went out in search ofmeat. Distressed at not having found any, he informed the king of hisfailure. The monarch, however, possessed as he was by the Rakshasa,repeatedly said, without scruple of any kind, ‘Feed him with humanflesh.’ The cook, saying, ‘So be it,’ went to the place where the(king’s) executioners were, and thence taking human flesh and washing andcooking it duly and covering it with boiled rice offered it unto thathungry Brahmana devoted to ascetic penances. But that best of Brahmanas,seeing with his spiritual sight that the food was unholy and, therefore,unworthy of being eaten, said these words with eyes red with anger,’Because that worst of kings offereth me food that is unholy and unworthyof being taken, therefore that wretch shall have himself a fondness forsuch food. And becoming fond of human flesh as cursed by Saktri of old,the wretch shall wander over the earth, alarming and otherwise troublingall creatures.’ The curse, therefore, on that king, thus repeated asecond time, became very strong, and the king, possessed by a Rakshasadisposition, soon lost all his senses.

“A little while after, O Bharata, that best of monarchs, deprived of allhis senses by the Rakshasa within him, beholding Saktri who had cursedhim, said, ‘Because thou hast pronounced on me this extraordinary curse,therefore, I shall begin my life of cannibalism by devouring thee.’Having said this, the king immediately slew Saktri and ate him up, like atiger eating the animal it was fond of. Beholding Saktri thus slain anddevoured, Viswamitra repeatedly urged that Rakshasa (who was within themonarch) against the other sons of Vasishtha. Like a wrathful liondevouring small animals, that Rakshasa soon devoured the other sons ofthe illustrious Vasishtha that were junior to Saktri in age. ButVasishtha, learning that all his sons had been caused to be slain byViswamitra, patiently bore his grief like the great mountain that bearsthe earth. That best of Munis, that foremost of intelligent men, wasresolved rather to sacrifice his own life than exterminate (in anger) therace of Kusikas. The illustrious Rishi threw himself down from the summitof Meru, but he descended on the stony ground as though on a heap ofcotton. And, O son of Pandu, when the illustrious one found that deathdid not result from that fall, he kindled a huge fire in the forest andentered it with alacrity. But that fire, though burning brightly,consumed him not. O slayer of foes, that blazing fire seemed to him cool.Then the great Muni under the influence of grief, beholding the sea, tieda stony weight to his neck and threw himself into its waters. But thewaves soon cast him ashore. At last when that Brahmana of rigid vowssucceeded not in killing himself by any means, he returned, in distressof heart, to his asylum.'”

FOLLOW US ON:
Chapter 179
Chapter 177
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