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Chapter 338

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘When the great king Vasu was so wholly devoted toNarayana, for what reason then did he fall down from heaven and why againhad he to sink beneath the surface of the Earth?”

‘Bhishma said, ‘In this connection is cited an old narrative, O Bharata,of a discourse between the Rishis and the gods. The gods, once on a time,addressing many foremost of Brahmanas, said unto them that sacrificesshould be performed by offering up Ajas as victims. By the word Ajashould be understood the goat and no other animal.’

The Rishis said, The Vedic Sruti declares that in sacrifices theofferings should consist of (vegetable) seeds. Seeds are called Ajas. Itbehoveth you not to slay goats. Ye deities, that cannot be the religionof good and righteous people in which slaughter of animals is laid down.This, again, is the Krita age. How can animals be slaughtered in thisepoch of righteousness?’

“Bhishma continued, While this discourse was going between the Rishis andthe deities, that foremost of kings, viz., Vasu, was seen to come thatway. Endued with great prosperity, the king was coming through thewelkin, accompanied by his troops and vehicles and animals. Beholdingking Vasu coming to that spot through the skies, the Brahmanas addressingthe deities, said,–This one will remove our doubts. He performssacrifices. He is liberal in making gifts. He always seeks the good ofall creatures. How, indeed, will the great Vasu, speak otherwise,–Havingthus spoken unto each other, the deities and the Rishis quicklyapproached king Vasu and questioned him, saying,–O king, with whatshould one perform sacrifices? Should one sacrifice with the goat or withherbs and plants? Do thou dispel this doubt of ours. We constitute theeour judge in this matter.–Thus addressed by them, Vasu joined his handsin humility and said unto them.–Tell me truly, ye foremost of Brahmanas,what opinion is entertained by you in this matter?

“‘The Rishis said, The opinion entertained by us, O king, is thatsacrifices should be performed with grain. The deities, however, maintainthat sacrifices should be performed with animals. Do thou judge betweenus and tell us which of these opinions is correct.’

“Bhishma continued, ‘Learning what the opinion was that was entertainedby the deities, Vasu, moved by partiality for them, said that sacrificesshould be performed with animals. At this answer, all the Rishis, enduedwith the splendour of the Sun, became very angry. Addressing Vasu who wasseated on his car and who had (wrongly) taken up the side of the deities,they said unto him,–Since thou hast (wrongly) taken up the side of thedeities, do thou fall down from heaven. From this day, O monarch, thoushalt lose the power of journeying through the sky. Through our course,thou shalt sink deep below the surface of the Earth. After the Rishis hadsaid these words, king Uparichara immediately fell down, O monarch, andwent down a hole in Earth. At the command, however, of Narayana, Vasu’smemory did not leave him. To the good fortune of Vasu, the deities,pained at the course denounced on him by the Brahmanas, began to thinkanxiously as to how that course might be neutralised. They said, Thishigh-souled king hath been cursed for our sake. We, denizens of heaven,should unite together for doing what is good to him in return for thatwhich he has done to us. Having quickly settled this in their minds withthe aid of reflection, the deities proceeded to the spot where the kingUparichara was. Arrived, at his presence, they addressed him, saying,Thou art devoted to the great God of the Brahmanas (viz., Narayana). Thatgreat Lord of both the deities and the Asuras, gratified with thee, willrescue thee from the course that has been denounced upon thee. It isproper, however, that the high-souled Brahmanas should be honoured.Verily, O best of kings, their penances should fructify.[1813] Indeed,thou hast already fallen down from the sky on the Earth. We desire,however, O best of kings, to show thee a favour in one respect. As longas thou, O sinless one, shalt dwell in his hole, so long shalt thoureceive (due sustenance, through our boon)! Those streaks of clarifiedbutter which Brahmans with concentrated minds pour in sacrifices inaccompaniment with sacred mantras, and which are called by the name ofVasudhara, shall be thine, through our care for thee! Indeed weakness ordistress shall not touch thee.[1814] While dwelling, O king of kings, inthe hole of the Earth, neither hunger nor thirst shall afflict thee forthou shalt drink those streaks of clarified butter called Vasudhara. Thyenergy also shall continue unabated. In consequence also of this our boonthat we grant thee, the God of gods, viz., Narayana will be gratifiedwith thee, and He will bear thee hence to the region of Brahman!–Havinggranted these boons unto the king, the denizens of heaven, as also allthose Rishis possessed of wealth of penances, returned each to hisrespective place. Then Vasu, O Bharata, began to adore the Creator of theuniverse and to recite in silence those sacred mantras that had come outof Narayana’s mouth in days of yore.[1815] Although dwelling in a pit ofthe Earth, the king still worshipped Hari, the Lord of all the deities,in the well-known five sacrifices that are performed five times everyday, O slayer of foes! In consequence of these adorations, Narayana,otherwise called Hari, became highly pleased with him who thus showedhimself to be entirely devoted to Him, by wholly relying upon Him as hissole refuge, and who had completely subjugated his senses. Theillustrious Vishnu, that giver of boons, then addressing Garuda of greatspeed, that foremost of birds, who waited upon Him as his servant, saidthese desirable words:–O foremost of birds, O thou that art highlyblessed, listen to what I say! There is a great king of the name of Vasuwho is of righteous soul and rigid vows. Through the wrath of theBrahmanas, he has fallen into a pit of the Earth. The Brahmans, have beensufficiently honoured (for their curse has fructified). Do thou go tothat king now. At my command, O Garuda, go to that foremost of kings,viz., Uparichara who is now dwelling in a whole of the Earth andincapable of any longer sailing through the sky, and bring him up withoutdelay into the welkin. Hearing these words of Vishnu, Garuda, spreadinghis wings and rushing with the speed of the wind, entered that hole inthe Earth in which king Vasu was living. Suddenly taking the king up, theson of Vinata soared into the sky and there released the king from hisbeaks. At that moment, king Uparichara once more acquired his celestialform and re-entered the region of Brahman. It was in this way, O son ofKunti, that great king first fell down through the curse of the Brahmanasfor a fault of speech, and once more ascended to heaven at the command ofthe great God (Vishnu). Only the puissant Lord Hari, that foremost of allBeings, was devoutly worshipped by him. It was for this devout worshipthat the king succeeded very soon in escaping from the curse denouncedupon him by the Brahmanas and in regaining the felicitous regions ofBrahman.

“Bhishma continued, ‘I have thus told thee everything respecting theorigin of the spiritual sons of Brahman. Listen to me with undividedattention, for I shall now narrate to thee how the celestial Rishi Naradaproceeded in days of yore to White Island.'”

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