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Chapter 56

Mahabharata English - ASWAMEDHA PARVA

“Janamejaya said, ‘With what penances was the high-souled Utanka enduedso that he entertained the wish to denounce a curse on Vishnu himself,who is the source of all puissance?’

“Vaisampayana said, ‘O Janamejaya, Utanka was endued with austerepenances. He was devoted to his preceptor. Endued with great energy, heabstained from worshipping anybody else. All the children of the Rishis OBharata, entertained even this wish, viz., that their devotion topreceptors should be as great as that of Utanka. Gautama’s gratificationwith and affection for Utanka, among his numerous disciples, were verygreat, O Janamejaya. Indeed, Gautama was highly pleased with theself-restraint and purity of behaviour that characterised Utanka, andwith his acts of prowess and the services he rendered to him. One afteranother, thousands of disciples received the preceptor’s permission toreturn home (after the completion of their pupilage). In consequence,however, of his great affection for Utanka, Gautama could not permit himto leave his retreat. Gradually, in course of time, O son, decrepitudeovertook Utanka, that great ascetic. The ascetic, however, in consequenceof his devotion to his preceptor, was not conscious of it. One day, heset out, O monarch, for fetching fuel for his preceptor. Soon afterUtanka brought a heavy load of fuel. Toil-worn and hungry and afflictedby the load he bore on his head, O chastiser of foes, he threw the loaddown on the Earth, O king. One of his matted locks, white as silver, hadbecome entangled with the load. Accordingly, when the load was throwndown, with it fell on the earth that matted lock of hair. Oppressed as hehad been by that load and overcome by hunger, O Bharata, Utanka,beholding that sign of old age, began to indulge in loud lamentationsfrom excess of sorrow. Conversant with every duty, the daughter of hispreceptor the, who was possessed of eyes that resembled the petals of thelotus, and of hips that were full and round, at the command of her sire,sought, with downcast face, to hold Utanka’s tears in her hands. Herhands seemed to burn with those tear-drops that she held. Unable,accordingly, to hold them longer, she was obliged to throw them down onthe Earth. The Earth herself was unable to hold those tear-drops ofUtanka. With a gratified heart, Gautama then said unto the regenerateUtanka,–Why, O son, is thy mind so afflicted with grief today? Tell mecalmly and quietly, O learned Rishi, for I wish to hear it in detail.’

“Utanka said, ‘With mind entirely devoted to thee, and wholly bent upondoing what is agreeable to thee, with my, heart’s devotion turned tothee, and with thoughts entirely dwelling on thee, (I have resided heretill) decrepitude has come upon me without my knowing it at all. I havenot, again, known any happiness. Though I have dwelt with thee for ahundred years, yet thou hast not granted me permission to depart. Manydisciples of thine, that were my juniors, have, however, been permittedby thee to return. Indeed, hundreds and thousands of foremost Brahmanashave, equipt with knowledge, been permitted by thee (to depart from thyretreat and set themselves up as teachers)!’

“Gautama said, ‘Through my love and affection for thee, and inconsequence of thy dutiful services to me, a long time has elapsedwithout my knowing it, O foremost of Brahmanas. If, however, O thou ofBhrigu’s race, the desire is entertained by thee of leaving this place,do thou go without delay, receiving my permission.’

“Utanka said. ‘What shall I present to my preceptor? Tell me this, O bestof regenerate persons. Having brought it, I shall go hence, O lord, withthy permission.’

“Gautama said. ‘The good that the gratification of the preceptor is thefinal fee.[171] Without doubt, O regenerate one. I have been highlygratified with thy conduct. Know, O perpetuator of Bhrigu’s race, that Ihave been exceedingly gratified with thee for this. If thou becomest ayoung man today of sixteen years, I shall bestow on thee, O regenerateone, this my own daughter for becoming thy wife. No other woman save thisone is capable of waiting upon thy energy.’ At these words of Gautama,Utanka once again became a youth and accepted that famous maiden for hiswife. Receiving the permission of his preceptor, he then addressed hispreceptor’s wife, saying,–‘What shall I give thee as final fee for mypreceptor? Do thou command me. I desire to accomplish, with wealth oreven my life, what is agreeable and beneficial to thee. Whatever gem,exceedingly wonderful and of great value, exists in this world, I shallbring for thee with the aid of my penances. I have no doubt in this.’

“Ahalya said, ‘I am highly gratified with thee, O learned Brahmana, withthy unintermitting devotion, O sinless one. This is enough. Blessed bethou, go whithersoever thou likest.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Utanka, however, O monarch, once more, saidthese words,–Do thou command me, O mother. It is meet that I should dosomething that is agreeable to thee.’

“Ahalya said, ‘Blessed be thou, bring for me those celestial ear-ringsthat are worn by the wife of Saudasa. That which is due to thy preceptorwill then be well-discharged.’ Replying unto her ‘So be it,’–Utankadeparted, O Janamejaya, resolved to bring those ear-rings for doing whatwas agreeable to his preceptor’s wife. That foremost of Brahmanas,Utanka, proceeded without any loss of time to Saudasa who had (throughthe curse of Vasishtha) become a cannibal, in order to solicit theear-rings from him. Gautama meanwhile said unto his wife,–‘Utanka is notto be seen today.’ Thus addressed, she informed him how he had departedfor fetching the jewelled ear-rings (of Saudasa’s queen). At this,Gautama said,–‘Thou hast not acted wisely. Cursed (by Vasishtha), thatking (who has been transformed into a man-eater) will verily slay Utanka.’

“Ahalya said, ‘Without knowing this, O holy one, I have set Utanka tothis task. He shall not, however, incur any danger through thy grace.Thus addressed by her, Gautama said,–‘Let it be so!’ Meanwhile, Utankamet king Saudasa in a deserted forest.'”

Chapter 57
Chapter 55


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