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Chapter 258

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Narada said, ‘The large-eyed lady, controlling her grief by an effort ofher own, addressed the Grandsire, with joined hands and bending in anattribute of humility like a creeper. And she said, ‘How, O foremost ofspeakers, shall a lady like me that has sprung from thee proceed toaccomplish such a terrible feat,–a feat, that is, which is sure toinspire all living creatures with dread? I fear to do aught that isiniquitous. Do thou appoint such work for me as is righteous. Thou seestthat I am frightened. Oh, cast a compassionate glance upon me. I shallnot be able to cut off living creatures,–infants, youths, and agedones,–who have done me no injury. O lord of all creatures, I bow tothee, be gratified with me. I shall not be able to cut off dear sons andloved friends and brothers and mothers and fathers. If these die (throughmy act), their surviving relatives will surely curse me. I am filled withfear at the prospect of this.[1111] The tears of the sorrow-strickensurvivors will burn me for eternity. I am very much afraid of them (whoserelatives I shall have to cut off). I seek thy protection. All sinfulcreatures (slain by me) will have to sink into the infernal regions. Iseek to gratify thee, O boon-giving god! Extend to me thy grace, Opuissant lord! I seek the gratification of this wish, O Grandsire, of allthe worlds. O foremost of all the gods, I seek, through thy grace, eventhis object, viz., permission to undergo severe austerities.’

“The Grandsire said, ‘O Death, thou hast been intended by me for thedestruction of all creatures. Go, and set thyself to the task of slayingall. Do not reflect (upon the propriety or otherwise of this act). Thismust certainly be. It cannot be otherwise. O sinless one, O lady offaultless limbs, do thou accomplish the behest I have uttered.’ Thusaddressed, O thou of Mighty arms, the lady called Death, O conqueror ofhostile cities, spoke not a word, but humbly stood there with her eyesupturned towards the puissant Lord of all creatures. Brahman addressedher repeatedly, but the lady seemed to be herself deprived of life.Beholding her thus, the god of gods, that lord of lords, became silent.Indeed, the Self-born, by an effort of his will, became gratified.Smiling, the lord of all the worlds then cast his eyes on the universe.It has been heard by us that when that unconquered and illustrious lordsubdued his wrath, the lady (called Death) went away from his side.Leaving Brahman’s side without having promised to accomplish thedestruction of living creatures, Death quickly proceeded, O king, to thesacred spot known by the name of Dhenuka. There the goddess practised theseverest austerities for five and ten billions of years, all the whilestanding upon one foot.[1112] After she practised such exceedingly severeausterities in that place, Brahman of great energy once more said untoher, ‘Do thou accomplish my behest, O Death!’ Disregarding this command,the lady once more practised penances standing upon one foot for twentybillions of years, O giver of honours! And once more, O son, she led alife in the woods with the deer for another long period consisting of tenthousand billions of years.[1113] And once, O foremost of men, she passedtwice ten thousand years, living upon air only as her sustenance. Onceagain, O monarch, she observed the excellent vow of silence for eightthousand years, passing the whole time in water. Then that maiden, O bestof kings, went to the river Kausiki. There she began to pass her days inthe observance of another vow, living the while upon only water and air.After this, O monarch, the blessed maiden proceeded to the Ganges andthence to the mountains of Meru. Moved by the desire of doing good to allliving creatures, she stood perfectly motionless there like a piece ofwood. Proceeding thence to the summit of Himavat where the deities hadperformed their great sacrifice, she stood there for another hundredbillions of years, supporting her weight upon only the toes of her feetwith the object of gratifying the Grandsire with such an act ofausterity. Wending thither, the Creator and Destroyer of the universeagain addressed her saying, ‘Upon what art thou engaged, O daughter?Accomplish those words of mine.’ Addressing the divine Grandsire, themaiden once more said, ‘I am unable to cut off living creatures, O god! Iseek to gratify thee (so that I may be excused of this behest).’Frightened at the prospect of demerit she prayed the Grandsire for beingexcused of obedience to his command, the Grandsire silenced her, and oncemore addressed her, saying, ‘No demerit will accrue, O Death! Do thou, Oauspicious maiden, set thyself to the task of destroying livingcreatures. That which I have uttered, O amiable girl, cannot certainly befalsified. Eternal righteousness shall now take refuge in thee. Myselfand all the deities shall always be employed in seeking thy good. Thisother wish that is in thy heart I grant thee. Living creatures shall beafflicted by disease, and (dying) shall cast the blame on thee. Thoushalt become a male in all male beings, a female in all female beings,and a eunuch in all those that are of the third sex.[1114] Thus addressedby Brahman, O king, the maiden at last said, with joined hands unto thathigh-souled and undeteriorating lord of all the deities, these words, ‘Iam unable to obey thy command.’ The great God, without relenting, again,said unto her, ‘O Death, do thou kill men. I shall so ordain that thoushalt not incur any demerit by doing this, O auspicious lady! Those teardrops that I see fallen from thy eyes, and that thou still boldest in thyjoined hands, shall take the form of terrible diseases and even theyshall destroy men when their hours come. When the end comes of livingcreatures, thou shalt despatch Desire and Wrath together against them.Immeasurable merit shall be thine. Thou shalt not incur iniquity, beingthyself perfectly equal in thy behaviour.[1115] By doing this thou wiltonly observe righteousness instead of sinking thyself into iniquity. Dothou, therefore, set thy heart upon the task at hand, and addressingDesire and Wrath begin to slay all living creatures.’ Thus addressed,that lady, called by the name of Death, became afraid of Brahman’s curseand answered him, saying, ‘Yes!’ From that time she began to despatchDesire and Wrath as the last hours of living creatures and through theiragency to put a stop to their life-breaths. Those tears that Death hadshed are the diseases by which the bodies of men become afflicted. At thedestruction, therefore, of living creatures, one should not,understanding, with the aid of the intelligence (to what cause suchdestruction is due), give way to grief. As the senses of all creaturesdisappear when the latter become plunged into dreamless sleep and returnonce more when they awake, after the same manner all human beings, uponthe dissolution of their bodies, have to go into the other world andreturn thence to this, O lion among kings! The element called wind, thatis endued with terrible energy and mighty prowess and deafening roars,operates as the life in all living creatures. That wind, when the bodiesof living creatures are destroyed, escaping from the old becomes engagedin diverse functions in diverse new bodies. For this reason, the wind iscalled the lord of the senses and is distinguished above the otherelements constituting the gross body. The gods, without exception, (whentheir merits cease), have to take birth as mortal creatures on earth.Similarly, all mortal creatures also (when they acquire sufficientmerit), succeed in attaining to the status of gods. Therefore, O lionamong kings, do not grieve for thy son. Thy son has attained to heavenand is enjoying great happiness there! It was thus, O monarch, that Deathwas created by the Self-born and it is in this way that she cuts off dulyall living creatures when their hours come. The tears she had shed becomediseases, which, when their last hours come, snatch away all beingsendued with life.'”

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