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Chapter 85

Mahabharata English - ARANYAKA PARVA

“Pulastya said, ‘Arriving next at the excellent tirtha called Samvedya inthe evening, and touching its waters, one surely obtaineth knowledge.Created a tirtha in days of yore by Rama’s energy, he that proceedeth toLauhitya obtaineth the merit of giving away gold in abundance. Proceedingnext to the river Karatoya, and fasting there for three nights, a manacquireth the merit of the horse-sacrifice. Even this is the injunctionof the Creator himself. It hath been said by the wise, O king, that if aperson goeth to the spot where the Ganga mingleth with the sea, hereapeth merit which is ten times that of the horse-sacrifice. Crossingover to the opposite bank of the Ganga, he that batheth there havingresided for three nights is, O king, cleansed from all his sins. Oneshould next proceed to the Vaitarani capable of destroying every sin.Arriving next at the tirtha named Viraja one shineth like the moon, andsanctifying his race rescueth it and is himself cleansed of all his sins.He that bathes in Viraja further reapeth the merit of giving away athousand kine besides sanctifying his line. Residing with purity at theconfluence of the Sona and the Jyotirathi, and offering oblations ofwater to the gods and the Pitris, a man reapeth the merit of theAgnishtoma sacrifice. Touching next the waters of the Vansagulmaconstituting the sources of both the Sona and the Narmada, one obtaineththe merit of the horse-sacrifice. Sojourning next to the tirtha calledRishabha in Kosala, O lord of men, and fasting there for three nights oneearneth the merit of the Vajapeya sacrifice, and of the gift of athousand kine, and also delivereth his race. Arriving at Kosala, a manshould bathe in the tirtha named Kala. By this one surely obtaineth themerit of giving away one and ten bulls. By bathing in Pushpavati andfasting there, O king, for three nights one sanctifieth his own race,besides earning the merit of the gift of a thousand kine. Then, Oforemost of the Bharata race, by bathing in the tirtha called Vadarika,one obtaineth long life, and also goeth to heaven. Arriving next atChampa, and bathing in the Bhagirathi, and seeing Danda one earneth themerit of giving away a thousand kine. Then should one go to the sacredLapetika, graced by the presence of the pious. By so doing one reapeththe merit of the Vajapeya sacrifice and also becometh regarded by thegods. Proceeding next to the mountain called Mahendra, inhabited (ofyore) by Jamadagnya, and bathing in Rama’s tirtha, a person acquireth themerit of the horse-sacrifice. Here is Matanga’s tirtha called Kedara, Oson of the Kuru race! Bathing in it, O foremost of the Kurus, a manobtaineth the merit of giving away a thousand kine. Going to the mountainSree, one who toucheth the waters of the stream that is there byworshipping there the god having the bull for his mark obtaineth themerit of the horse-sacrifice. On the mountain Sree dwelleth happily, theeffulgent Mahadeva with the goddess, as also Brahma with the other gods.By bathing in the lake of Deva, with purity and restrained mind, oneobtaineth the merit of the-horse-sacrifice, and also attaineth to thehighest success.”‘

Proceeding next to the mountain Rishabha in Pandya, worshipped by thegods, one obtains the merit of the Vajapeya sacrifice and rejoices inheaven. One should next proceed to the river Kaveri, frequented byApsaras. Bathing there, O monarch, one obtaineth, the merit of givingaway a thousand kine. Touching next the waters of the tirtha called Kanyaon the shores of the sea one is cleansed from every sin. Proceeding nextto Gokarna celebrated over the three worlds, and which is situate, O bestof kings, in the midst of the deep, and is reverenced by all the worlds,and where the gods headed by Brahma, and Rishis endued with wealth ofasceticism, and spirits and Yakshas and Pisachas, and Kinnaras and thegreat Nagas, and Siddhas and Charanas and Gandharvas, and men andPannagas, and rivers, Seas and Mountains, worship the lord of Uma, oneshould worship Isana, fasting there for three nights. By this, oneacquireth the merit of the horse-sacrifice, and the status of Ganapatya.By staying there for twelve nights, one’s soul is cleansed of all sins.One should next proceed to the tirtha known as Gayatri celebrated overthe three worlds. Staying there for three nights, one acquireth the meritof giving away a thousand kine. A strange phenomenon is seen to occurthere in respect to Brahmanas, O Lord of men! If a Brahmana, whether bornof a Brahmani or any other woman, reciteth the Gayatri there, therecitation becomes rhythmic and musical, while, O king, a person who isnot a Brahmana cannot adequately hymn it at all. Proceeding next to theinaccessible tank of the Brahmana Rishi Samvarta, one acquireth personalbeauty and prosperity. Repairing next to Vena, he that offers oblationsof water to the gods and the Pitris, obtains a car drawn by peacocks andcranes. Going next to the Godavari, ever frequented by the Siddhas, oneearneth the merit of the cow-sacrifice, and goeth to the excellent regionof Vasuki. Bathing next at the confluence of the Venna, one obtains themerit of the Vajapeya sacrifice. By a dip next at the confluence ofVarada, one acquireth the merit of giving away a thousand kine. Arrivingnext at Brahmasthuna, one that stayeth there for three nights acquireththe merit of giving away a thousand kine, and also ascendeth to heaven.Coming next to Kusaplavana, with subdued soul and leading a Brahmacharyamode of life, and staying there for three nights he that bathes in itobtains the merit of the horse-sacrifice. Bathing next at the romanticDeva-hrada that is supplied by the waters of the Krishna-Venna, and alsoin the Jatismara-hrada, one acquireth the memory of one’s former life. Itwas there that the chief of the celestials celebrated a hundredsacrifices and ascended to heaven. By a visit only to that spot, oneacquireth the merit of the Agnishtoma sacrifice. Bathing next in theSarvadeva-hrada, a person obtaineth the merit of giving away a thousandkine. Proceeding next to the highly sacred tank called Payoshni, thatbest of waters, he that offers oblations of water to the gods and thePitris acquires the merit of the gift of a thousand kine. Arriving nextat the sacred forest of Dandaka, a person should bathe (in the waters)there. By this, O king, one at once obtains, O Bharata, the merit ofgiving away a thousand kine. Proceeding next to the asylum of Sarabhangaand that of the illustrious Suka, one acquireth immunity from misfortune,besides sanctifying his race. Then should one proceed to Surparaka, whereJamadagni’s son had formerly dwelt. Bathing in that tirtha of Rama, oneacquireth the merit of giving away gold in abundance. Bathing next in theSaptagadavara, with the subdued sense and regulated diet, one earnethgreat merit, and goeth also to the region of the celestials. Proceedingnext to Deva-hrada, with subdued sense and regulated diet, a manobtaineth the merit of the Devasatra sacrifice. One should proceed nextto the forest of Tungaka, with subdued senses and leading a Brahmacharyamode of life It was here that in olden days Muni Saraswata taught theVedas to the ascetics. When the Vedas had been lost (in consequence ofthe Munis having forgotten them), Angirasa’s son, seated at ease on theupper garments of the Munis (duly spread out), pronounced distinctly andwith emphasis the syllable Om. And at this, the ascetics againrecollected all that they had learnt before. It was there that the Rishisand the gods Varuna, Agni, Prajapati, Narayana also called Hari, Mahadevaand the illustrious Grandsire of great splendour, appointed theresplendent Bhrigu to officiate at a sacrifice. Gratifying Agni bylibations of clarified butter poured according to the ordinance, theillustrious Bhrigu once performed the Agnyadhana sacrifice for all thoseRishis, after which both they and the gods went away to their respectivehomes one after another. One who enters the forest of Tungaka, is, O bestof kings, male or female, cleansed of every sin. There in that tirtha, Ohero, one should reside for a month, with subdued senses and regulateddiet. By this, O king, one ascendeth to the region of Brahma, anddelivereth also his race. Arriving next at Medhavika, one should offeroblations of water to the gods and the Pitris. By this, one acquires themerit of the Agnishtoma sacrifice, and also memory and intellect. Therein that tirtha is the mountain known over the whole world and calledKalanjara. Bathing in the celestial lake that is there, one acquires themerit of giving away a thousand kine. He that, O king, after a bath,offereth oblations (to the gods and the Pitris) on the Kalanjaramountain, is, without doubt, regarded in heaven. Proceeding next, Omonarch, to the river Mandakini capable of destroying all sins and whichis on that best of mountains called Chitrakuta, he that bathes there andworships the gods and the Pitris, obtains the merit of thehorse-sacrifice and attains to an exalted state. One should next, Ovirtuous one, proceed to the excellent tirtha called Bhartristhana,where, O king, ever dwells the celestial generalissimo Kartikeya. By ajourney only to that spot, a person, O foremost of kings, attaineth tosuccess. Bathing next at the tirtha called Koti, one earneth the merit ofgiving away a thousand kine. Having walked round Koti, one should proceednext to Jyeshthasthana. Beholding Mahadeva who is there, one shineth likethe moon. There, O mighty monarch, is a celebrated well. O bull of theBharata race! There in that well, O foremost of warriors, are the fourseas. He that bathes there, O foremost of kings, and with subdued soulworships the gods and the Pitris, is cleansed of all his sins andattaineth to an exalted state. Then, O mighty king, should one proceed tothe great Sringaverapura, where, O foremost of kings, formerly Rama,Dasharatha’s son, had crossed (the Ganga). Bathing in that tirtha, one, Omighty-armed one, is cleansed of all his sins. Bathing with subduedsenses and leading a Brahmacharya mode of life, in the Ganga, one iscleansed of every sin, and obtains also the merit of the Vajapeyasacrifice. One should next proceed to the place called Mayuravata,consecrated to Mahadeva of high intelligence. Beholding there the god,bowing down to him and walking round the spot, one acquireth, O Bharata,the Ganapatya status. Bathing in Ganga at that tirtha, one is cleansed ofall his sins. Then, O king, should one proceed to Prayaga, whose praiseshave been sung by Rishis and where dwell the gods with Brahma at theirhead, the Directions with their presiding deities, the Lokapalas, theSiddhas, the Pitris adored by the worlds, the great Rishis-Sanatkumaraand others, stainless Brahmarshis–Angiras and others,–the Nagas, theSuparnas, the Siddhas, the Snakes, the Rivers, the Seas, the Gandharvas,the Apsaras, and the Lord Hari with Prajapati. There in that tirtha arethree fiery caverns between which the Ganga, that foremost of tirthas,rolleth rapidly. There in that region also the world-purifying daughterof the sun, Yamuna, celebrated over the three worlds, uniteth with theGanga. The country between the Ganga and the Yamuna is regarded as themons veneris of the world, and Prayaga as the foremost point of thatregion. The tirthas Prayaga, Pratisthana, Kamvala, Aswatara and Bhogavatiare the sacrificial platforms of the Creator. There in those places, Oforemost of warriors, the Vedas and the Sacrifices, in embodied forms,and the Rishis endued with wealth of asceticism, adore Brahma, and therethe gods and rulers of territories also celebrate their sacrifices. Thelearned, however, say that of all these tirthas, O exalted one, Prayagais the most sacred, in fact, the foremost of all tirthas in the threeworlds. By going to that tirtha, by singing its praises, or by taking alittle earth from it, one is cleansed from every sin. He that bathes inthat confluence celebrated over the world, acquires all the merits of theRajasuya and the horse-sacrifices. This sacrificial place is worshippedby the gods themselves. If a man giveth there ever so little, itincreaseth, O Bharata, a thousandfold. O child, let not the texts of theVeda, nor the opinions of men dissuade thy mind from the desire of dyingat Prayaga. O son of the Kuru race, the wise say that six hundred millionand ten thousand tirthas exist at Prayaga. Bathing in the confluence ofGanga and Yamuna, one obtains the merit that attaches to the four kindsof knowledge and the merits also of those that are truthful. There atPrayaga is the excellent tirtha of Vasuki called Bhogavati. He thatbatheth in it, obtaineth the merit of the horse-sacrifice. There also inthe Ganga is the tirtha famed over the three worlds, calledRamaprapatana, which conferreth the merit of ten horse-sacrifices. O sonof the Kuru race! Wherever may a person bathe in the Ganga, he earnethmerit equal to that of a trip to Kurukshetra. An exception, however, ismade in favour of Kanakhala, while the merit attaching to Prayaga is thegreatest. Having committed a hundred sins, he that bathes in the Ganga,hath all his sins washed off by the waters thereof, even as fuel isconsumed by fire. It hath been said that in the Satyayuga all the tirthaswere sacred; in the Treta, Pushkara alone was such; in Dwapara,Kurukshetra; and in the Kali-yuga, the Ganga alone is sacred. InPushkara, one should practise austerities; in Mahalaya, one should giveaway; in the Malaya mountains, one should ascend the funeral pyre; and inBhrigutunga, one should renounce one’s body by forgoing food. Bathing inPushkara, in Kurukshetra, in the Ganga and in the confluence (of theGanga and the Yamuna), one sanctifieth seven generations of one’s race upand down. He that reciteth the name of the Ganga is purified; while hethat beholdeth her, receiveth prosperity; while he that bathes in her anddrinks of her waters sanctifieth seven generations of his race up anddown. As long, O king, as one’s bones lie in contact with the waters ofthe Ganga, so long doth he live regarded in heaven, even as one liveth inheaven in consequence of the merit he earneth by pious pilgrimages tosacred tirthas and holy spots. There is no tirtha that is like unto theGanga, there is no god like unto Kesava, and there is none superior toBrahmanas,–this hath been said even by the Grandsire. O great king, theregion through which the Ganga flows should be regarded as a sacredasylum, and a spot of land that is on the Ganga’s banks, should beregarded as one favourable to the attainment of ascetic success.

This truthful description (of the tirthas) one should recite only untothe regenerate ones, unto those that are pious, unto one’s son andfriends and disciples and dependents. This narrative, without a rival, isblessed and holy and leadeth to heaven. Holy and entertaining andsanctifying, it is productive of merit and high worth. Destructive ofevery sin, it is a mystery that the great Rishis cherish with care. Byreciting it in the midst of Brahmanas, one is cleansed of every sin, andascends to heaven. This description of tirthas is auspicious andheaven-giving and sacred; ever blessed as it is, it destroys one’senemies; foremost of all accounts, it sharpens the intellect. By readingthis narrative the sonless obtains sons, the destitute obtains riches, aperson of the royal order conquereth the whole earth, the Vaisya comethby wealth, the Sudra obtaineth all his desires, and the Brahmana crosseththe ocean (of the world). Purifying himself, he that listens daily to themerits of the different tirthas, recollects the incidents of manyprevious births and rejoices in heaven. Of the tirthas that have beenrecited here, some are easily accessible, while others are difficult ofaccess. But he that is inspired with the desire of beholding all tirthas,should visit them even in imagination. Desirous of obtaining merit, theVasus, and the Sadhyas, the Adityas, the Maruts, the Aswins, and theRishis equal unto celestials, all bathed in these tirthas. Do thou also,O thou of the Kuru race, observing the ordinance as explained by me,visit, with subdued senses, these tirthas, increasing thy merit, O thouof excellent vows. Men of piety and learning are able to visit thesetirthas, by reason of their purified senses, their belief in Godhead, andtheir acquaintance with the Vedas. He that doth not observe vows, he thathath not his soul under control, he that is impure, he that is a thief,and he that is of crooked mind, doth not, O Kauravya, bathe in tirthas.Thou art ever observant of virtue, and art of pure character. By thyvirtue, O virtuous one, thou hast always gratified thy father and thygrand-father, and great-grand-fathers, and the gods with Brahma at theirhead, and the Rishis also, O thou versed in virtue! Thou who resemblestVasava, thou wilt, O Bhishma, attain to the region of the Vasus, and alsoeternal fame on earth!’

“Narada continued, ‘Having cheerfully spoken thus, the illustrious RishiPulastya, well-pleased, bidding Bhishma farewell, disappeared there andthen. And Bhishma also, O tiger among men, well understanding the trueimport of the Shastras, wandered over the world at the command ofPulastya. Thus, O thou blessed one, did Bhishma end at Prayaga his highlymeritorious journey to the tirthas capable of destroying all sins. Theman that ranges the earth in accordance with these injunctions, obtainsthe highest fruit of a hundred horse-sacrifices and earns salvationhereafter. Thou wilt, O son of Pritha, obtain merit consisting of theeight attributes, even like that which Bhishma, the foremost of theKurus, had obtained of yore. And as thou wilt lead these ascetics tothose tirthas, thy merit will be much greater. Those tirthas are infestedby Rakshasas, and no one, save thyself, O son of Kuru race, can go there.Rising early he that reciteth this narrative by the celestial Rishis onthe subject of the tirthas, becometh free from all sins. Those foremostof Rishis, Valmiki, and Kasyapa, and Atreya, and Kundajathara, andViswamitra, and Gautama, and Asita, and Devala, and Markandeya, andGalava, and Bharadwaja, and Vasishtha, and the Muni Uddalaka, and Saunakawith his son, and Vyasa, that best of ascetics, and Durvasas, thatforemost of Munis, and Javali of great austerities–all these illustriousRishis endued with wealth of asceticism, are staying in expectation ofthee. With these, O mighty king, do thou meet by visiting these tirthas.And, O illustrious monarch, a great Rishi of immeasurable energy, Lomasaby name, will come to thee. Do thou follow him, and me, and by turnsvisit these tirthas, O thou virtuous one! By this, thou wilt acquiregreat fame, like king Mahabhisha! O tiger among kings, even as thevirtuous Yayati and king Pururavas, dost thou blaze forth with thy ownvirtue. Like king Bhagiratha and the illustrious Rama, dost thou shineamong kings even as the Sun himself. And thou art, O great king,celebrated (in the world) even as Muni or Ikshwaku, or the highly famousPuru or Vainya! And as in days of yore the slayer of Vritra, afterburning all his foes, ruled the three worlds, his mind freed fromanxiety, so wilt thou rule thy subjects, after slaying all thy enemies.And, O thou of eyes like lotus leaves, having conquered the earthaccording to the customs of thy order, thou wilt obtain renown by thyvirtue, even like Kartaviryaryuna.'”

Vaisampayana continued, “O great king, having comforted the monarch thus,the illustrious Rishi Narada, bidding farewell to the king, disappearedthere and then. And the virtuous Yudhishthira, reflecting upon thesubject, began to recite unto the ascetics the merit attaching totirthas!”

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