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Chapter 71

Mahabharata English - ADI PARVA

“Vaisampayana said, ‘The monarch then, as he proceeded, left even hisreduced retinue at the entrance of the hermitage. And entering quitealone he saw not the Rishi (Kanwa) of rigid vows.

And not seeing theRishi and finding that the abode was empty, he called loudly, saying,’What ho, who is here?’ And the sound of his voice was echoed back. Andhearing the sound of his voice, there came out of the Rishi’s abode amaiden beautiful as Sri herself but dressed as an ascetic’s daughter. Andthe black-eyed fair one, as she saw king Dushmanta, bade him welcome andreceived him duly. And, showing him due respect by the offer of a seat,water to wash his feet, and Arghya, she enquired about the monarch’shealth and peace. And having worshipped the king and asked him about hishealth and peace, the maiden reverentially asked, ‘What must be done, Oking! I await your commands.’ The king, duly worshipped by her, said untothat maiden of faultless features and sweet speech, ‘I have come toworship the highly-blessed Rishi Kanwa. Tell me, O amiable and beautifulone, where has the illustrious Rishi gone?’

“Sakuntala then answered, ‘My illustrious father hath gone away from theasylum to fetch fruit. Wait but a moment and thou wilt see him when hearrives.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘The king not seeing the Rishi and addressedthus by her, beheld that the maiden was exceedingly beautiful and enduedwith perfect symmetry of shape. And he saw that she was of sweet smiles.And she stood decked with the beauty of her faultless features, herascetic penances, and her humility. And he saw that she was in the bloomof youth. He therefore asked her, ‘Who art thou? And whose daughter, Obeautiful one? Why hast thou come into the woods also? O handsome one,gifted with so much beauty and such virtues, whence hast thou come? Ocharming one, at the very first glance hast thou stolen my heart! Idesire to learn all about thee; therefore tell me all.’ And thusaddressed by the monarch, the maiden smilingly replied in these sweetwords, ‘O Dushmanta, I am the daughter of the virtuous, wise,high-souled, and illustrious ascetic Kanwa.’

“Dushmanta, hearing this, replied, ‘The universally-worshipped andhighly-blessed Rishi is one whose seed hath been drawn up. Even Dharmahimself might fall off from his course but an ascetic of rigid vows cannever fall off so. Therefore, O thou of the fairest complexion, how hastthou been born as his daughter? This great doubt of mine it behoveth theeto dispel.’

“Sakuntala then replied, ‘Hear, O king, what I have learnt regarding allthat befell me of old and how I became the daughter of the Muni. Once ona time, a Rishi came here and asked about my birth. All that theillustrious one (Kanwa) told him, hear now from me, O king!

“My father Kanwa, in answer to that Rishi’s enquiries, said, ‘Viswamitra,of old, having been engaged in the austerest penances alarmed Indra, thechief of the celestials, who thought that the mighty ascetic of blazingenergy would, by his penances, hurl him down from his high seat inheaven.’ Indra, thus alarmed, summoned Menaka and told her, ‘Thou, OMenaka, art the first of celestial Apsaras. Therefore, O amiable one, dome this service. Hear what I say. This great ascetic Viswamitra like untothe Sun in splendour, is engaged in the most severe of penances. My heartis trembling with fear. Indeed, O slender-waisted Menaka, this is thybusiness. Thou must see that Viswamitra of soul rapt in contemplation andengaged in the austerest penances, who might hurl me down from my seat.Go and tempt him and frustrating his continued austerities accomplish mygood. Win him away from his penances, O beautiful one, by tempting himwith thy beauty, youth, agreeableness, arts, smiles and speech.’ Hearingall this, Menaka replied, ‘The illustrious Viswamitra is endued withgreat energy and is a mighty ascetic. He is very short-tempered too, asis known to thee. The energy, penances, and wrath of the high-souled onehave made even thee anxious. Why should I not also be anxious? He it waswho made even the illustrious Vasishtha bear the pangs of witnessing thepremature death of his children. He it was who, though at first born asKshatriya, subsequently became a Brahmana by virtue of his asceticpenances. He it was who, for purposes of his ablutions, created a deepriver that can with difficulty be forded, and which sacred stream isknown by the name of the Kausiki. It was Viswamitra whose wife, in aseason of distress, was maintained by the royal sage Matanga (Trisanku)who was then living under a father’s curse as a hunter. It was Viswamitrawho, on returning after the famine was over, changed the name of thestream having his asylum from Kausik into Para. It was Viswamitra who inreturn for the services of Matanga, himself became the latter’s priestfor purposes of a sacrifice. The lord of the celestials himself wentthrough fear to drink the Soma juice. It was Viswamitra who in angercreated a second world and numerous stars beginning with Sravana. He itwas who granted protection to Trisanku smarting under a superior’s curse.I am frightened to approach him of such deeds. Tell me, O Indra, themeans that should be adopted so that I may not be burnt by his wrath. Hecan burn the three worlds by his splendour, can, by a stamp (of hisfoot), cause the earth to quake. He can sever the great Meru from theearth and hurl it to any distance. He can go round the ten points of theearth in a moment. How can a woman like me even touch such a one full ofascetic virtues, like unto a blazing fire, and having his passions undercomplete control? His mouth is like unto a blazing fire; the pupils ofhis eyes are like the Sun and the Moon; his tongue is like unto Yamahimself. How shall, O chief of the celestials, a woman like me even touchhim? At the thought of his prowess Yama, Soma, the great Rishis, theSaddhyas, the Viswas, Valakhilyas, are terrified! How can a woman like megaze at him without alarm? Commanded, however, by thee, O king of thecelestials, I shall somehow approach that Rishi. But, O chief of thegods, devise thou some plan whereby protected by thee, I may safely moveabout that Rishi. I think that when I begin to play before the Rishi,Marut (the god of wind) had better go there and rob me of my dress, andManmatha (the god of love) had also, at thy command, better help me then.Let also Marut on that occasion bear thither fragrance from the woods totempt the Rishi.’ Saying this and seeing that all she had spoken abouthad been duly provided, Menaka went to the retreat of the great Kausika.'”

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