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Chapter 2

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘O grandsire, O wisest of men, O thou that artlearned in all the scriptures, I have listened to this great story, Oforemost of intelligent men. I am desirous of again hearing the recitalof some history full of religious instruction, and it behoves thee togratify me. O lord of Earth, tell me if any householder has eversucceeded in conquering Mrityu by the practice of virtue. Do thou recitethis to me with all details!’

“Bhishma said, ‘This ancient history is recited as an illustration of thesubject of the conquest by a householder, over Mrityu, through thepractice of virtue. The Prajapati Manu had a son, O king, of the name ofthe Ikshwaku. Of that king, illustrious as Surya, were born a hundredsons. His tenth son, O Bharata, was named Dasaswa, and this virtuousprince of infallible prowess became the king of Mahismati. Dasaswa’s son,O king, was a righteous prince whose mind was constantly devoted to thepractice of truth and charity and devotion. He was known by the name ofMadiraswa and ruled over the Earth as her lord. He was constantly devotedto the study of the Vedas as also of the science of arms. Madiraswa’s sonwas the king named Dyutimat who possessed great good fortune and powerand strength and energy. Dyutimat’s son was the highly devout and piousking who was famous in all the worlds under the name of Suvira. His soulwas intent on religion and he possessed wealth like another Indra, thelord of the deities. Suvira too had a son who was invincible in battle,and who was the best of all warriors and known by the name of Sudurjaya.And Durjya too, possessed of a body like that of Indra, had a son whobeamed with splendour like that of fire. He was the great monarch namedDuryodhana who was one of the foremost of royal sages. Indra used to pourrain profusely in the kingdom of this monarch, who never fled from thebattlefield and was possessed of valour like unto Indra himself. Thecities and the kingdom of this king were filled with riches and gems andcattle and grain of various kinds. There was no miser in his kingdom norany person afflicted with distress or poverty. Nor was there in hiskingdom any person that was weak in body or afflicted with disease. Thatking was very clever, smooth in speech, without envy, a master of hispassions, of a righteous soul, full of compassion, endued with prowess,and not given to boasting. He performed sacrifices, and wasself-restrained and intelligent, devoted to Brahmanas and Truth. He neverhumiliated others, and was charitable, and learned in the Vedas and theVedanta. The celestial river Narmada, auspicious and sacred and of coolwaters, in her own nature, O Bharata, courted him. He begot upon thatriver, a lotus-eyed daughter, by name Sudarsana, who was, O king, enduedwith great beauty. No creature, O Yudhisthira, had ever been born beforeamong womankind, that was, possessed of such beauty as that excellentdamsel who was the daughter of Duryodhana. The god Agni himself courtedthe beautiful princess Sudarsana, and taking the shape of a Brahmana, Omonarch, sought her hand from the king. The king was unwilling to givehis daughter in marriage to the Brahmana who was poor and not of the samerank with himself. Thereupon Agni vanished from his great sacrifice. Theking, grieved at heart, then addressed the Brahmanas, saying,–Of whatsin have I, ye excellent Brahmanas, or you, been guilty, that Agni shoulddisappear from this sacrifice, even as good done unto wicked mendisappears from their estimation. Great, indeed, must that sin of ours befor which Agni has thus disappeared. Either must the sin be yours, or, itmust be mine. Do you fully investigate the matter.–Then hearing theking’s words, O foremost prince of Bharata’s race, the Brahmanas,restraining speech, sought with concentrated faculties the protection ofthe god of fire. The divine carrier of oblations, resplendent as theautumnal Sun, appeared before them, enveloping his self in gloriousrefulgence. The high-souled Agni then addressed those excellentBrahmanas, saying,–I seek the daughter of Duryodhana for my own self. Atthis all those Brahmanas were struck with wonder, and rising on themorrow, they related to the king what had been said by the fire-god. Thewise monarch, hearing the words of those utterers of Brahma, wasdelighted at heart, and said,–Be it so.–The king craved a boon of theillustrious fire-god as the marriage dower,–Do thou, O Agni, deign toremain always with us here.–Be it so–said the divine Agni to that lordof Earth. For this reason Agni has always been present in the kingdom ofMahismati to this day, and was seen by Sahadeva in course of hisconquering expedition to the south. Then the king gave his daughter,dressed in new garments and decked with jewels, to the high-souled deity,and Agni too accepted, according to Vedic rites, the princess Sudarsanaas his bride, even as he accepts libations of clarified butter atsacrifices, Agni was well pleased with her appearance, her beauty, grace,character, and nobility of birth, and was minded to beget offspring uponher. And a son by Agni, of the name of Sudarsana, was soon born of her.Sudarsana also was, in appearance, as beautiful as the full moon, andeven in his childhood he attained to a knowledge of the supreme andeverlasting Brahma. There was also a king of the name of Oghavat, who wasthe grandfather of Nriga. He had a daughter of the name of Oghavati, anda son too of the name of Ogharatha born unto him. King Oghavat gave hisdaughter Oghavati, beautiful as a goddess, to the learned Sudarsana forwife. Sudarsana, O king, leading the life of a householder with Oghavati,used to dwell in Kurukshetra with her. This intelligent prince of blazingenergy took the vow, O lord, of conquering Death by leading the life ofeven a householder. The son of Agni, O king, said to Oghavati,–Do thounever act contrary to (the wishes of) those that seek our hospitality.Thou shouldst make no scruple about the means by which guests are to bewelcomed, even if thou have to offer thy own person. O beautiful one,this vow is always present in the mind, since for householders, there isno higher virtue than hospitality accorded to guests. Do thou always bearthis in mind without ever doubting it, if my words be any authority withthee. O sinless and blessed one, if thou hast any faith in me, do thounever disregard a guest whether I be at thy side or at a distance fromthee! Unto him, with hands clasped and placed on her head, Oghavatireplied, saying,–‘I shall leave nothing undone of what thou commandestme.–Then Mrityu, O king, desiring to over-reach Sudarsana, began towatch him for finding out his lathes. On a certain occasion, when the sonof Agni went out to fetch firewood from the forest, a graceful Brahmanasought the hospitality of Oghavati with these words:–O beautiful lady,if thou hast any faith in the virtue of hospitality as prescribed forhouseholders, then I would request thee to extend the rites ofhospitality to me to-day.–The princess of great fame, thus addressed bythat Brahmana, O king, welcomed him according to the rites prescribed inthe Vedas. Having offered him a seat, and water to wash his feet, sheenquired, saying,–What is thy business? What can I offer thee? TheBrahmana said unto her,–My business is with thy person, O blessed one.Do thou act accordingly without any hesitation in thy mind. If the dutiesprescribed for householders be acceptable to thee, do thou, O princess,gratify me by offering up thy person to me.–Though tempted by theprincess with offers of diverse other things, the Brahmana, however, didnot ask for any other gift than the offer of her own person. Seeing himresolved, that lady, remembering the directions which had before beengiven to her by her husband, but overcome with shame, said, to thatexcellent Brahmana,–Be it so.–Remembering the words of her husband whowas desirous of acquiring the virtue of householders, she cheerfullyapproached the regenerate Rishi. Meanwhile, the son of Agni, havingcollected his firewood, returned to his home. Mrityu, with his fierce andinexorable nature, was constantly by his side, even, as one attends uponone’s devoted friend. When the son of Pavaka returned to his ownhermitage, he called Oghavati by name, and (receiving no answer)repeatedly, exclaimed,–Whether art thou gone?–But the chaste lady,devoted to her husband, being then locked in the arms of that Brahmana,gave no reply to her husband. Indeed, that chaste woman, consideringherself contaminated became speechless, overcome with shame. Sudarsana,addressing her again, exclaimed,–Where can my chaste wife be? Whitherhas she gone? Nothing can be of greater moment to me than this (herdisappearance). Why does not that simple and truthful lady, devoted toher husband, alas, answer to my call today as she used to do before withsweet smiles? Then that Brahmana, who was within the hut, thus replied toSudarsana,–Do thou learn, O son of Pavaka, that a Brahmana guest hasarrived, and though tempted by this thy wife with diverse other offers ofwelcome, I have, O best of Brahmanas, desired only her person, and thisfair-faced lady is engaged in welcoming me with due rites. Thou art atliberty to do whatever thou thinkest to be suitable to this occasion.Mrityu, armed with the iron club, pursued the Rishi at that moment,desirous of compassing the destruction of one that would, he thought,deviate from his promise. Sudarsana was struck with wonder, but castingoff all jealousy and anger by look, word, deed, or thought, said,–Dothou enjoy thyself, O Brahmana. It is a great pleasure to me. Ahouseholder obtain the highest merit by honouring a guest. It is said bythe learned that, as regards the householder, there is no higher meritthan what results unto him from a guest departing from his house afterhaving been duly honoured by him. My life, my wife, and whatever otherworldly possessions I have, are all dedicated to the use of my guests.Even this is the vow that I have taken. As I have truly made thisstatement, by that truth, O Brahmana, I shall attain to the knowledge ofSelf. O foremost of virtuous men, the five elements, viz., fire, air,earth, water, and sky, and the mind, the intellect and the Soul, and timeand space and the ten organs of sense, are all present in the bodies ofmen, and always witness the good and evil deeds that men do. This truthhas today been uttered by me, and let the gods bless me for it or destroyme if I have spoken falsely. At this, O Bharata, there arose in alldirections, in repeated echoes, a voice, crying,–This is true, this isnot false. Then that Brahmana came out of the hovel, and like the windrising and encompassing both Earth and sky, and making the three worldsecho with Vedic sounds, and calling that virtuous man by name, andcongratulating him said,–O sinless one, I am Dharma; All glory to thee.I came here, O truth-loving one, to try thee, and I am well pleased withthee by knowing thee to be virtuous. Thou hast subdued and conqueredMrityu who always has pursued thee, seeking thy laches? O best of men, noone in the three worlds has the ability to insult, even with looks, thischaste lady devoted to her husband, far less to touch her person. She hasbeen protected from defilement by thy virtue and by her own chastity.There can be nothing contrary to what this proud lady will say. Thisutterer of Brahma, endued with austere penances, shall, for the salvationof the world, be metamorphosed into a mighty river. And thou shalt attainto all the worlds in this thy body, and as truly as the science of Yogais within her control, this highly blessed lady will follow thee withonly half of her corporeal self, and with the other half will she becelebrated as the river Oghavati! And thou shalt attain with her to allthe worlds that acquired through penances, Those eternal and everlastingworlds from which none cometh back will be attained by thee even in thisgross body of thine. Thou hast conquered Death, and attained to thehighest of all felicities, and by thy own power (of mind), attaining tothe speed of thought, thou hast risen above the power of the fiveelements! By thus adhering to the duties of a householder, thou hastconquered thy passions, desires, and anger, and this princess, O princeof virtuous men has, by serving thee, conquered affliction, desire,illusion, enmity and lassitude of mind!’

“Bhishma continued, ‘Then the glorious Vasava (the lord of the gods),riding in a fine chariot drawn by a thousand white horses, approachedthat Brahmana. Death and Soul, all the worlds, all the elements,intellect, mind, time, and space as also desire and wrath, were allconquered. There-fore, O best of men, do thou bear this in mind, that toa householder there is no higher divinity than the guest. It is said bythe learned that the blessings of an honoured guest are more efficaciousthan the merit of a hundred sacrifices. Whenever a deserving guest seeksthe hospitality of a householder and is not honoured by him, he takesaway (with him) all the virtues of the latter giving him his sins (inreturn). I have now recited to thee, my son, this excellent story as tohow Death was conquered of old by a householder. The recital of thisexcellent story confers glory, fame, and longevity (upon those thatlisten to it). The man that seeks worldly prosperity should consider itas efficacious in removing all evil. And, O Bharata, the learned man thatdaily recites this story of the life of Sudarsana attains to the regionsof the blessed.'”

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