“Yudhishthira said, ‘I ask, O chief of Bharata’s race, what is the originof the saying, about discharging all duties jointly at the time of aperson’s taking the hand of his spouse in marriage? Is that saying inrespect of discharging all duties together, due only to what is laid downby the great Rishis in days of yore, or does it refer to the duty ofbegetting offspring from religious motives, or has it reference to onlythe carnal pleasure that is expected from such union? I he doubt thatfills my mind in this respect is very great. What is spoken of as jointduties by the sages is in my consideration incorrect. That which iscalled in this world the union for practising all duties together ceaseswith death and is not to be seen to subsist hereafter. This union forpractising all duties together leads to heaven. But heaven, O grandsire,is attained to by persons that are dead. Of a married couple it is seenthat only one dies at a time. Where does the other then remain? Do tellme this. Men attain to diverse kinds of fruits by practising diversekinds of duties. The occupations again, to which men betake themselvesare of diverse kinds. Diverse, again, are the hells to which they go inconsequence of such diversity of duties and acts. Women, in particular,the Rishis have said, are false in behaviour. When human beings are such,and when women in particular have been declared in the ordinances to befalse, how, O sire, can there be a union between the sexes for purposesof practising all duties together? In the very Vedas one may read thatwomen are false. The word ‘Duty’, as used in the Vedas, seems to havebeen coined in the first instance for general application (so that it isapplied to practices that have no merit in them). Hence the applicationof that word to the rites of marriage is, instead of being correct, onlya form of speech forcibly applied where application it has none. Thesubject seems to me to be inexplicable although I reflect upon itincessantly. O grandsire, O thou of great wisdom, it behoveth thee toexpound this to me in detail, clearly and according to what has been laiddown in the Sruti. In fact, do thou explain to me what itscharacteristics are, and the way in which it has come to pass!'
“Bhishma said, ‘In this connection is cited the old narrative of thediscourse between Ashtavakra and the lady known by the name of Disa. Indays of yore Ashtavakra of severe penances, desirous of marriage, beggedthe high-souled Rishi Vadanya of his daughter. The name by which thedamsel was known was Suprabha. In beauty she was unrivalled on Earth. Invirtues, dignity, conduct, and manners, she was superior to all thegirls. By a glance alone that girl of beautiful eyes had robbed him ofhis heart even as a delightful grove in spring, adorned with flowers,robs the spectator of his heart. The Rishi addressed Ashtavakra andsaid,–Yes, I shall bestow my daughter on thee. Listen, however, to me.Make a journey to the sacred North. Thou wilt see many things there!'
“Ashtavakra said, ‘It behoveth thee to tell me what I shall see in thatregion. Indeed, I am ready to execute whatever command may be laid uponme by thee.'”
“Vadanya said, ‘Passing over the dominions of the lord of Treasures thouwill cross the Himavat mountains. Thou wilt then behold the plateau onwhich Rudra resides. It is inhabited by Siddhas and Charanas. It aboundswith the associates of Mahadeva, frolicsome and fond of dance andpossessed of diverse forms. It is peopled with also many Pisachas, Omaster, of diverse forms and all daubed with fragrant powders of diversehues, and dancing with joyous hearts in accompaniment with instruments ofdifferent kinds made of brass. Surrounded by these who move with electricrapidity in the mazes of the dance or refrain at times altogether fromforward or backward or transverse motion of every kind, Mahadeva dwellsthere. That delightful spot on the mountains, we have heard, is thefavourite abode of the great Deity. It is said that that great god asalso his associates are always present there. It was there that thegoddess Uma practised the severest austerities for the sake of (obtainingfor her lord) the three-eyed Deity. Hence, it is said, that spot is muchliked by both Mahadeva and Uma. In days of yore there, on the heights ofthe Mahaparswa, which are situate to the north of the mountains sacred toMahadeva, the sessions, and the last Night, and many deities, and manyhuman beings also (of the foremost order), in their embodied forms, hadadored Mahadeva. Thou shalt cross that region also in thy northwardjourney. Thou will then see a beautiful and charming forest blue of hueand resembling a mass of clouds. There, in that forest, thou wilt beholda beautiful female ascetic looking like Sree herself. Venerable in ageand highly blessed, she is in the observance of the Diksha. Beholding herthere thou shouldst duly worship her with reverence. Returning to thisplace after having beheld her, thou wilt take the hand of my daughter inmarriage. If thou wanteth to make this agreement, proceed then on thyjourney and do what I command thee.'”
“Ashtavakra said, ‘So be it. I shall do thy bidding. Verily, I shallproceed to that region which thou speakest of, O thou of righteous soul.On thy side, let thy words, accord with truth.'”
“Bhishma continued, “The illustrious Ashtavakra set out on his journey.He proceeded more and more towards the north and at last reached theHimavat mountains peopled by Siddhas and Charanas. Arrived at theHimavat mountains, that foremost of Brahamanas then came upon the sacredriver Vahuda whose waters produce great merit. He bathed in one of thedelightful Tirthas of that river, which was free from mud, and gratifiedthe deities with oblations of water. His ablutions being over, he spreada quantity of Kusa grass and laid himself down upon it for resting awhileat his ease. Passing the night in this way, the Brahmana rose withthe day. He once more performed his ablutions in the sacred waters of theVahuda and then ignited his homa fire and worshipped it with the aid ofmany foremost of Vedic mantras. He then worshipped with due ritesboth Rudra and his spouse Uma, and rested for some more time by the sideof that lake in the course of the Vahuda whose shores he had reached.Refreshed by such rest, he set out from that region and then proceededtowards Kailasa. He then beheld a gate of gold that seemed to blaze withbeauty. He saw also the Mandakini and the Nalini of the high-souledKuvera, the Lord of Treasures. Beholding the Rishi arrived there,all the Rakshasas having Manibhadra for their head, who were engaged inprotecting that lake abounding with beautiful lotuses, came out in a bodyfor welcoming and honouring the illustrious traveller. The Rishiworshipped in return those Rakshasas of terrible prowess and asked themto report, without delay, his arrival unto the Lord of Treasures.Requested by him to do this, those Rakshasas, O king, said untohim,–King Vaisravana, without waiting for the news from us, is coming ofhis own accord to thy presence. The illustrious Lord of Treasures is wellacquainted with the object of this thy journey. Behold him,–that blessedMaster,–who blazes with his own energy. Then king Vaisravana,approaching the faultless Ashtavakra, duly enquired about his welfare.The usual enquiries of politeness being over, the Lord of Treasures thenaddressed the regenerate Rishi, saying,–Welcome art thou here. Do tellme what it is thou seekest at my hands. Inform me of it. I shall, Oregenerate one, accomplish whatever thou mayst bid me to accomplish. Dothou enter my abode as pleases thee, O foremost of Brahamanas. Dulyentertained by me, and after thy business is accomplished, thou mayst gowithout any obstacles being placed in thy way.–Having said these words,Kuvera took the hand of that foremost of Brahmanas and led him into hispalace. He offered him his own seat as also water to wash his feet andthe Arghya made of the usual ingredients. After the two had taken theirseats, the Yakshas of Kuvera headed by Manibhadra, and many Gandharvasand Kinnaras, also sat down before them. After all of them had takentheir seats, the Lord of Treasures said these words,–Understanding whatthy pleasure is, the diverse tribes of Apsaras will commence their dance.It is meet that I should entertain thee with hospitality and that thoushouldst be served with proper ministrations. Thus addressed, the asceticAshtavakra said, in a sweet voice, Let the dance proceed. Then Urvara andMisrakesi, and Rambha and Urvasi, and Alumvusha and Ghritachi, and Chitraand Chitrangada and Ruchi, and Manohara and Sukesi and Sumukhi and Hasiniand Prabha, and Vidyuta, and Prasami and Danta and Vidyota andRati,–these and many other beautiful Apsaras began to dance. TheGandharvas played on diverse kinds of musical instruments. After suchexcellent music and dance had commenced, the Rishi Ashtavakra of severepenances unconsciously passed a full celestial year there in the abode ofking Vaisravana. Then king Vaisravana said unto the Rishi,–Olearned Brahmana, behold, a little more than a year has passed away sincethy arrival here. This music and dance, especially known by the name ofGandharva, is a stealer of the heart (and of time). Do thou act as thouwishes or let this go on if that be thy pleasure. Thou art my guest and,therefore, worthy of adoration. This is my house. Givest thou thycommands. We are all bound to thee. The illustrious Ashtavakra, thusaddressed by king Vaisravana, replied unto him, with a pleased heart,saying,–I have been duly honoured by thee. I desire now, O Lord ofTreasures, to go hence. Indeed, I am highly pleased. All this befitsthee, O Lord of Treasures. Through thy grace, O illustrious one, andagreeably to the command of the high-souled Rishi Vadanya, I shall nowproceed to my journey’s end. Let growth and prosperity be thine.–Havingsaid these words, the illustrious Rishi set out of Kuvera’s abode andproceeded northwards. He crossed the Kailasa and the Mandara as also thegolden mountains. Beyond those high and great mountains is situated thatexcellent region where Mahadeva, dressed as an humble ascetic, has takenup his residence. He circumambulated the spot, with concentrated mind,bending his head in reverence the while. Descending then on the Earth, heconsidered himself sanctified for having obtained a sight of that holyspot which is the abode of Mahadeva. Having circumambulated that mountainthrice, the Rishi, with face turned towards the north, proceeded with ajoyous heart. He then beheld another forest that was very delightful inaspect. It was adorned with the fruits and roots of every season, and itresounded with the music of winged warblers numbering by thousands. Therewere many delightful groves throughout the forest. The illustrious Rishithen beheld a charming hermitage. The Rishi saw also many golden hillsdecked with gems and possessed of diverse forms. In the begemmed soil hesaw many lakes and tanks also. And he saw diverse other objects that wereexceedingly delightful. Beholding these things, the mind of that Rishi ofcleansed soul became filled with joy. He then saw a beautiful mansionmade of gold and adorned with gems of many kinds. Of wonderful structure,that mansion surpassed the place of Kuvera himself in every respect.Around it there were many hills and mounts of jewels and gems. Manybeautiful cars and many heaps of diverse kinds of jewels also werevisible in that place. The Rishi beheld there the river Mandakini whosewaters were strewn with many Mandara flowers. Many gems also were seenthere that were self-luminous, and the soil all around was decked withdiamonds of diverse species. The palatial mansion which the Rishi sawcontained many chambers whose arches were embellished with various kindsof stones. Those chambers were adorned also with nets of pearlsinterspersed with jewels and gems of different species. Diverse kinds ofbeautiful objects capable of stealing the heart and the eye, surroundedthat palace. That delightful retreat was inhabited by numerous Rishis.Beholding these beautiful sights all around, the Rishi began to thinkwhere he would take shelter. Proceeding then to the gate of the mansion,he uttered these words:–Let those that live here know that a guest hascome (desirous of shelter). Hearing the voice of the Rishi, a number ofmaidens came out together from that palace. They were seven in number, OKing, of different styles of beauty, all of them were exceedinglycharming. Every one of those maidens upon whom the Rishi cast his eyes,stole his heart. The sage could not, with even his best efforts, controlhis mind. Indeed, at the sight of those maidens of very superior beauty,his heart lost all its tranquillity. Seeing himself yielding to suchinfluences, the Rishi made a vigorous effort and possessed as he was ofgreat wisdom he at last succeeded in controlling himself. Those damselsthen addressed the Rishi, saying,–Let the illustrious one enter. Filledwith curiosity in respect of those exceedingly beautiful damsels as alsoof that palatial mansion, the regenerate Rishi entered as he was bidden.Entering the mansion he beheld an old lady, with indications ofdecrepitude, attired in white robes and adorned with every kind ofornament. The Rishi blessed her, saying,–Good be to you.–The old ladyreturned his good wishes in proper form. Rising up, she offered a seat tothe Rishi. Having taken his seat, Ashtavakra said,–Let all the damselsgo to their respective quarters. Only let one stay here. Let that oneremain here who is possessed of wisdom and who has tranquillity of heart.Indeed, let all the others go away at their will.–Thus addressed, allthose damsels circumambulated the Rishi and then left the chamber. Onlythat aged lady remained there. The day quickly passed and night came. TheRishi seated on a splendid bed, addressed the old lady, saying,–Oblessed lady, the night is deepening. Do thou address thyself to sleep.Their conversation being thus put a stop to by the Rishi, the old ladylaid herself down on an excellent bed of great splendour. Soon after, sherose from her bed and pretending to tremble with cold, she left it forgoing to the bed of the Rishi. The illustrious Ashtavakra welcomed herwith courtesy. The lady however, stretching her arms, tenderly embracedthe Rishi, O foremost of men. Beholding the Rishi quite unmoved and asinanimate as a piece of wood, she became very sorry and began to conversewith him. There is no pleasure, save that which waits upon Kama (desire),which women can derive from a person of the other sex. I am now under theinfluence of desire. I seek thee for that reason. Do thou seek me inreturn. Be cheerful, O learned Rishi, and unite thyself with me. Do thouembrace me, O learned one, for I desire thee greatly. O thou of righteoussoul, even this union with me is the excellent and desirable reward ofthose severe penances which thou hast undergone. At the first sight Ihave become disposed to seek thee. Do thou also seek me. All this wealth,and everything else of value that thou seest here are mine. Do thouverily become the lord of all this along with my person and heart. Ishall gratify every wish of thine. Do thou sport with me, therefore, inthese delightful forest, O Brahmana, that are capable of granting everywish. I shall yield thee complete obedience in everything, and thou shallsport with me according to thy pleasure. All objects of desire that arehuman or that appertain to heaven shall be enjoyed by us. There is nopleasure more agreeable to women (than that which is derivable from thecompanionship of a person of the other sex). Verily, congress with aperson of the opposite sex is the most delicious fruit of joy that we canreap. When urged by the god of desire, women become very capricious. Atsuch times they do not feel any pain, even if they walk over a desert ofburning sand.'”
“Ashtavakra said, ‘O blessed lady, I never approach one that is another’sspouse. One’s congress with another man’s wife is condemned by personsconversant with the scriptures on morality. I am an utter stranger toenjoyments of every kind. O blessed lady, know that I have becomedesirous of wedlock for obtaining offspring. I swear by truth itself.Through the aid of offspring righteously obtained, I shall proceed tothose regions of felicity which cannot be attained without such aid. Ogood lady, know what is consistent with morality, and knowing it, desistfrom thy efforts.'”
“The lady said, ‘The very deities of wind and fire and water, or theother celestials, O regenerate one, are not so agreeable to women as thedeity of desire. Verily, women are exceedingly fond of sexual congress.Among a thousand women, or, perhaps, among hundreds of thousands,sometimes only one may be found that is devoted to her husband. Whenunder the influence of desire, they care not for family or father ormother or brother or husband or sons or husband’s brother (but pursue theway that desire points out). Verily, in pursuit of what they considerhappiness, they destroy the family (to which they belong by birth ormarriage) even as many queenly rivers eat away the banks that containthem. The Creator himself had said this, quickly marking the faults ofwomen.'”
“Bhishma continued, ‘The Rishi, bent upon finding out the faults ofwomen, then addressed that lady, saying,–Cease to speak to me in thisstrain. Yearning springs from liking. Tell me what (else) I am todo.–That lady then said in return,–O illustrious one, thou shaltsee according to time and place (as do whether I have anything agreeablein me). Do thou only live here (for some time). O highly blessed one, andI shall regard myself amply rewarded.–Thus addressed by her, theregenerate Rishi, O Yudhishthira, expressed his resolution to comply withher request, saying,–Verily, I shall dwell with thee in this place aslong as I can venture to do so.–The Rishi then, beholding that ladyafflicted with decrepitude, began to reflect earnestly on the matter. Heseemed to be even tortured by his thoughts. The eyes of that foremost ofBrahmanas failed to derive any delight from those parts of that lady’sperson whereupon they were cast. On the other hand, his glances seemed tobe dispelled by the ugliness of those particular limbs.–This lady iscertainly the goddess of this palace. Has she been made ugly through somecurse. It is not proper that I should hastily ascertain the cause ofthis.–Reflecting upon this in the secrecy of his heart, and curious toknow the reason, the Rishi passed the rest of that day in an anxiousstate. The lady then addressed him, saying,–O illustrious one, beholdthe aspect of the Sun reddened by the evening clouds. What service shallI do unto thee.–The Rishi addressed her, saying,–.’Fetch water for myablutions. Having bathed, I shall say my evening prayers, restraining mytongue and the senses.'”