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Chapter 134

Mahabharata English - ARANYAKA PARVA

“Ashtavakra said, ‘O king, O leader of fierce legions, in this assemblyof monarchs of unrivalled power who have met together, I am unable tofind out Vandin, chief of the controversialists. But I am searching forhim, even as one doth for a swan on a vast expanse of water. O Vandin,thou regardest thyself as the foremost of controversialists. When thoughwilt engage with me in staking, thou wilt not be able to flow like thecurrent of a river. I am like a full-flaming fire. Be silent before me, OVandin! Do not awaken a sleeping tiger. Know that thou shalt not escapeunstung, after trampling on the head of a venomous snake, licking thecorners of its mouth with its tongue, and who hath been hurt by thy foot.That weak man who, in pride of strength, attempts to strike a blow at amountain, only gets his hands and nails hurt, but no wound is left on themountain itself. As the other mountains are inferior to the Mainaka, andas calves are inferior to the ox, so are all other kings of the earthinferior to the lord of Mithila. And as Indra is the foremost ofcelestials, and as the Ganga is the best of rivers, so thou alone art, Oking, the greatest of monarchs. O king, cause Vandin to be brought to mypresence.’

“Lomasa said, ‘Saying this, O Yudhishthira, wroth with Vandin, Ashtavakrathus thundered in the assembly, and addressed him in these words, ‘Dothou answer my questions, and I shall answer thine.’ Thereat Vandin said,’One only fire blazeth forth in various shapes; one only sun illumineththis whole world; one only hero, Indra, the lord of celestials,destroyeth enemies; and one only Yama is the sole lord of the Pitris.[26]Ashtavakra said, ‘The two friends, Indra and Agni, ever move together;the two celestial sages are Narada and Parvata; twins are theAswinikumaras; two is the number of the wheels of a car; and it is as acouple that husband and wife live together, as ordained by thedeity.'[27] Vandin said, ‘Three kinds of born beings are produced byacts; the three Vedas together perform the sacrifice, Vajapeya; at threedifferent times, the Adhwaryus commence sacrificial rites; three is thenumber of words: and three also are the divine lights.'[28] Ashtavakrasaid, ‘Four are the Asramas of the Brahmanas; the four orders performsacrifices; four are the cardinal points; four is the number of letters;and four also, as is ever known, are the legs of a cow.'[29] Vandin said,’Five is the number of fires; five are the feet of the metre calledPunki; five are the sacrifices; five locks, it is said in the Vedas, areon the heads of the Apsaras; and five sacred rivers are known in theworld.'[30] Ashtavakra said. ‘Six cows, it is asserted by some, and paidas a gratuity on the occasion of establishing the sacred fire; six arethe seasons belonging to the wheel of time; six is the number of thesenses; six stars constitute the constellation Kirtika; and six, it isfound in all the Vedas, is the number of the Sadyaska sacrifice.'[31]Vandin said, ‘Seven is the number of the domesticated animals; seven arethe wild animals; seven metres are used in completing a sacrifice; sevenare the Rishis, seven forms of paying homage are extant (in the world);and seven, it is known, are the strings of the Vina.'[32] Ashtavakrasaid, ‘Eight are the bags containing a hundred fold; eight is the numberof the legs of the Sarabha, which preyeth upon lions; eight Vasus, as wehear, are amongst the celestials; and eight are the angles of yupa(stake), in all sacrificial rites.'[33] Vandin said, ‘Nine is the numberof the mantras used in kindling the fire in sacrifices to the Pitris;nine are the appointed functions in the processes of creation; nineletters compose the foot of the metre, Vrihati; and nine also is ever thenumber of the figures (in calculation).'[34] Ashtavakra said, ‘Ten issaid to be the number of cardinal points, entering into the cognition ofmen in this world; ten times hundred make up a thousand; ten is thenumber of months, during which women bear; and ten are the teachers oftrue knowledge, and ten, the haters thereof, and ten again are thosecapable of learning it.'[35] Vandin said, ‘Eleven are the objectsenjoyable by beings; eleven is the number of the yupas; eleven are thechanges of the natural state pertaining to those having life; and elevenare the Rudras among the gods in heaven.'[36] Ashtavakra said, Twelvemonths compose the year; twelve letters go to the composition of a footof the metre called Jagati; twelve are the minor sacrifices; and twelve,according to the learned, is the number of the Adityas.'[37] Vandin said,’The thirteenth lunar day is considered the most auspicious; thirteenislands exist on earth.[38]

Lomasa said, ‘Having proceeded thus far, Vandin stopped. ThereuponAshtavakra supplied the latter half of the sloka. Ashtavakra said,’Thirteen sacrifices are presided over by Kesi; and thirteen are devouredby Atichhandas, (the longer metres) of the Veda.[39] And seeingAshtavakra speaking and the Suta’s son silent, and pensive, and with headdowncast, the assembly broke into a long uproar. And when the tumult thusarose in the splendid sacrifice performed by king Janaka, the Brahmanaswell pleased, and with joined hands, approached Ashtavakra, and began topay him homage.’

“Thereupon Ashtavakra said, ‘Before this, this man, defeating theBrahmanas in controversy, used to cast them into water. Let Vandin todaymeet with the same fate. Seize him and drown him in water.’ Vandin said.’O Janaka, I am the son of king Varuna. Simultaneously with thysacrifice, there also hath commenced a sacrifice extending over twelveyears. It is for this that I have despatched the principal Brahmanasthither. They have gone to witness Varuna’s sacrifice. Lo! there they arereturning. I pay homage to the worshipful Ashtavakra, by whose graceto-day I shall join him who hath begot me.’

“Ashtavakra said, ‘Defeating the Brahmanas either by words or subtlety.Vandin had cast them into the waters of the sea. (That Vedic truth whichhe had suppressed by false arguments), have I to-day rescued by dint ofmy intellect. Now let candid men judge. As Agni, who knoweth thecharacter of both the good and the bad, leaveth unscorched by his heatthe bodies of those whose designs are honest, and is thus partial tothem, so good men judge the assertions of boys, although lacking thepower of speech, and are favourably disposed towards them. O Janaka, thouhearest my words as if thou hast been stupefied in consequence of havingeaten the fruit of the Sleshmataki tree. Or flattery hath robbed thee ofthy sense, and for this it is that although pierced by my words as anelephant (by the hook), thou hearest them not.’

“Janaka said, ‘Listening to thy words, I take them to be excellent andsuperhuman. Thy form also standeth manifest as superhuman. As thou hastto-day defeated Vandin in discussion, I place even him at thy disposal.’Ashtavakra said, ‘O king, Vandin remaining alive, will not serve anypurpose of mine. If his father be really Varuna, let him be drowned inthe sea.’

Vandin said, ‘I am King Varuna’s son. I have no fear (therefore) in beingdrowned. Even at this moment. Ashtavakra shall see his long-lost sire,Kahoda.’

“Lomasa said, ‘Then rose before Janaka all the Brahmanas, after havingbeen duly worshipped by the magnanimous Varuna. Kahoda said, ‘It is forthis, O Janaka, that men pray for sons, by performing meritorious acts.That in which I had failed hath been achieved by my son. Weak persons mayhave sons endued with strength; dunces may have intelligent sons; and theilliterate may have sons possessed of learning.’ Vandin said, ‘It is withthy sharpened axe, O monarch, that even Yama severeth the heads of foes.May prosperity attend thee! In this sacrifice of king Janaka, theprincipal hymns relating to the Uktha rites are being chanted, and theSoma juice also is being adequately quaffed. And the gods themselves, inperson, and with cheerful hearts, are accepting their sacred shares.’

“Lomasa said, ‘When in enhanced splendour, the Brahmanas had risen up,Vandin, taking king Janaka’s permission, entered into the waters of thesea. And then Ashtavakra worshipped his father, and he himself also wasworshipped by the Brahmanas. And having thus defeated the Suta’s son.[40]Ashtavakra returned to his own excellent hermitage, in company with hisuncle. Then in the presence of his mother, his father addressed him,saying, ‘(O son), thou speedily enter into this river, Samanga.’ Andaccordingly, he entered (into the water). (And as he plunged beneath thewater), all his (crooked) limbs were immediately made straight. And fromthat day that river came to be called Samanga and she became investedwith the virtues of purifying (sins). He that shall bathe in her, will befreed from his sins. Therefore, O Yudhishthira, do thou with thy brothersand wife descend to the river, and perform thy ablutions. O Kunti’s son,O scion of the Ajamidha race, living happily and cheerfully at this placetogether with thy brothers and the Brahmanas, thou wilt perform with meother acts of merit, being intent upon good deeds.'”

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