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Chapter 103

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Thou hast discoursed to us on diverse kinds of gift,on tranquillity of soul, on Truth, on compassion, on contentment withone’s wedded wife, and the merits of gift. It is known to thee, Ograndsire, that there is nothing whose puissance is superior to that ofpenances. It behoveth thee to expound to us what constitutes the highestpenances.’

“Bhishma said, ‘I tell thee, O Yudhishthira, that one attains to a regionof felicity that corresponds with the kind of penances that one observes.This is what I hold, O son of Kunti, that there is no penance that issuperior to abstention from food! In this connection is recited theancient narrative of the discourse between Bhagiratha and the illustriousBrahman (the Grandsire of the Creation). It has been heard by us, OBharata, that Bhagiratha attained to that region which transcends that ofthe deities, of kine, and of the Rishis. Beholding this, O monarch, theGrandsire Brahman, addressing Bhagiratha, said, ‘How, O Bhagiratha, hastthou attained to this region that is so difficult of attainment? Neitherthe deities, nor Gandharvas, nor human beings, O Bhagiratha succeed incoming here without having practised the severest austerities. How,indeed, hast thou attained to this region?’

“Bhagiratha said, ‘I used to make gifts of hundreds of thousands of goldcoin unto the Brahmanas, observing the Brahmacharya vow all the while, itis not through the merit on those gifts, O learned one, that I haveattained to this region. I performed the Ekaratra sacrifice for tentimes, and the Pancharatra sacrifice for as many times. The Ekadasaratrasacrifice was performed by me eleven times. The great sacrifice ofJyotishtoma was performed by me a hundred times. It is not, however,through the merits of those sacrifices that I have attained to thisregion of felicity.[454] For a hundred years I lived continuously by theside of the holy Jahnavi, all the while practising the severestausterities. There I made gifts unto the Brahmanas of thousands of maleand female slaves. By the side of the Pushkara lakes I made gifts untothe Brahmanas, for a hundred thousand times, a hundred thousand steeds,and two hundred thousand kine. I also gave away a thousand damsels ofgreat beauty, each adorned with golden moons, and sixty thousand moredecked with ornaments of pure gold. It is not, however, through themerits of those acts that I have succeeded in attaining to theseregions.[455] O lord of the universe, performing those sacrifices knownby the name of Gosava, I gave away ten Arvudas of kine, presenting eachBrahmana with ten kine, each of whom was accompanied with her calf, eachof whom yielded milk at the time, and with each of whom were given avessel of gold and one of white brass for milking her. Performing manySoma sacrifices, I gave away unto each Brahmana ten kine each of whomyielded milk, and each of whom had brought forth only her first calf,besides making presents unto them of hundreds of kine belonging to thatspecies which is known by the name of Rohini. I also gave away unto theBrahmanas twice ten Prayutas of other kine, all yielding milk. It is notthrough the merit of those gifts, O Brahman, that I have succeeded inattaining to this region of felicity. I also gave away a hundred thousandhorses of the Valhika breed, all white of complexion, and adorned withgarlands of gold. It is not, however, through the merits of those actsthat I have attained to this region. I gave away eight crores of goldencoins unto the Brahmanas, O Brahman, and then another ten crores also, ineach sacrifice that I performed. It is not, however, through the meritsof those acts that I have attained to this region of felicity. I alsogave away ten and then seven crores of steeds, O Grandsire, each of greencomplexion, each having ears that were dark, and each adorned withgarlands of gold. I also gave away ten and seven thousand elephants ofhuge size, of teeth as large as plough-shares, each having those whorlson its body which are called Padmas, and each adorned with garlands ofgold. I gave away ten thousand cars, O Grandsire, whose limbs were madeof gold, and which were adorned with diverse ornaments of gold. I alsogave away seven thousand other cars with steeds yoked unto each. All thesteeds that were yoked unto them were adorned with ornaments of gold.Those cars represented the Dakshinas of a sacrifice and were of exactlythat kind which is indicated in the Vedas. In the ten great Vajapeyasacrifices that I performed, I gave away a thousand horses each enduedwith the puissance of Indra himself, judged by their prowess and thesacrifices they had performed. Spending a vast sum of money, O Grandsire,and performing eight Rajasuya sacrifices, I gave away (unto the Brahmanasthat officiated in them) a thousand kings whose necks were adorned withgarlands of gold, after having vanquished them in battle. It is not,however, through the merits of those acts that I have attained to thisregion. In those sacrifices, O Lord of the universe, the presents thatflowed from me were as copious as the stream of Ganga herself. Unto eachBrahmana I gave two thousand elephants decked with gold, as many steedsadorned with golden ornaments, and a hundred villages of the best kind.Verily, I gave these unto each Brahmana for three times in succession.Observant of penances, subsisting on regulated diet, adoptingtranquillity of soul, and restraining speech, I dwelt for a long time onthe breast of Himavat by the side of that Ganga whose irresistiblecurrent (as it fell from heaven) was borne by Mahadeva on his head. It isnot through the merit of these acts, O Grand sire, that I have attainedto this region. Throwing the Sami, I adored the gods in myriads of suchsacrifices as are completed in course of a single day, and such others astake twelve days for completing, and others still as can be completed inthree and ten days, besides many Pundarikas. I have not attained to thisregion through the merits of any of those sacrifices.[456] I gave untothe Brahmanas eight thousand white-complexioned bulls, each graced with abeautiful hump, and each having one of its horns covered with gold. Untothem I also gave beautiful wives whose necks were adorned with chains ofgold. I also gave away large heaps of gold and wealth of other kinds.Verily, I gave away hills of gems and precious stones. Villages,numbering by thousands and teeming with wealth and corn, were also givenaway by me. With all my senses about me, I gave away unto the Brahmanas ahundred thousand kine each of whom had brought forth only her first calf,at many great sacrifices which I performed. It is not, however, throughthe merits of those acts that I have attained to this region. I adoredthe deities in a sacrifice that is completed in eleven days. Twice Iadored them in sacrifices that are completed in twelve days. I adoredthem also many a time in the horse-sacrifices. Six and ten times Iperformed the Arkayana sacrifice. It is not through the merits of thoseacts that I have attained to this region. I also gave unto each Brahmanaa forest of Kanchana trees extending for a Yojana on every side, and witheach tree adorned with jewels and gems. It is not through the merits ofthat act that I have attained to this region. For thirty years, withheart perfectly freed from wrath, I observed the Turayana vow that ispossessed of very superior merit, and gave away unto the Brahmanas everyday nine hundred kine. Indeed, O Lord of the universe, every one of thosekine belonged to the Rohini species, and yielded milk at the time I gavethem away. It is not through the merits of those acts, O chief of thedeities, that I have attained to this region. I worshipped thirty fires,O Brahmana, every day. I adored the deities in eight sacrifices in whichthe fat of all animals was poured on the fire. I adored them in sevensacrifices in which the fat of human beings was poured on the fire. Iadored them in a thousand and twenty-eight Viswajit sacrifices. It is notthrough the merits of those sacrifices O Lord of all the deities, that Ihave attained to this region. On the banks of Sarayu and Vahuda and Gangaas also in the woods of Naimisha, I gave away millions of kine unto theBrahmanas. It is not through the merits of those acts that I haveattained to this region. The vow of fast had been known to Indra. He had,however, kept it a secret. Sukra, the descendant of Bhrigu, obtained aknowledge of it by means of spiritual sight acquired through penances.Blazing with energy as he does, it is Usanas who first made it known tothe universe. I observed that vow, O boon giving Deity! When Iaccomplished that very superior vow, the Brahmana became all gratifiedwith me. A thousand Rishis came thither. All those Brahmanas and Rishis,O puissant lord, gratified with me, said, ‘Do thou repair to the regionof Brahmana! It is in consequence of the merits of that vow that I havesucceeded in attaining to this region of very superior felicity. There isno doubt in this. Asked by the Supreme Ordainer of all things, I haveduly expounded the merits of the vow of fast. In my opinion, there is nopenance higher than fast. I vow to thee, O foremost of all the deities!Be thou propitious unto me!’

“Bhishma continued, ‘King Bhagiratha, who had said so and who deservedevery honour was on the conclusion of his speech, honoured by Brahmanaccording to the rites ordained for that purpose. Do thou, therefore, OYudhishthira, observe the vow of fast and worship the Brahmanas everyday. The words uttered by Brahmanas can accomplish everything both hereand hereafter. Indeed, the Brahmanas should ever be gratified with giftsof robes food and white complexioned kine and good dwelling houses andmansions. The very deities should gratify the Brahmanas. Freeing thyselffrom cupidity, do thou practise this vow of very superior merit that isnot known to all!'”

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