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Chapter 38

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘O holy and great ascetic, I desire to hear in detailwhat the duties of kings are and what the duties, in full, of all thefour orders. I desire also to hear, O foremost of Brahmanas, whatbehaviour should be adopted in seasons of distress, and how I maysubjugate the world by treading along the path of morality. Thisdiscourse on expiation, treating (at the same time) of fasts and capableof exciting great curiosity, fills me with joy. The practice of virtueand the discharge of kingly duties are always inconsistent with eachother. For always thinking of how one may reconcile the two, my mind isconstantly stupefied.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then Vyasa, O monarch, that foremost of allpersons conversant with the Vedas, casting his eyes upon that ancient andall-knowing person, viz., Narada, said, If, O king, thou wishest to hearof duties and morality in full, then ask Bhishma, O mighty-armed one,that old grandsire of the Kurus. Conversant with all duties and possessedof universal knowledge, that son of Bhagirathi will remove all the doubtsin thy heart on the difficult subject of duties. That goddess, viz., thegenius of the celestial river of three courses brought him forth. He sawwith his physical eyes all the gods with Indra at their head. Havinggratified with his dutiful services the celestial Rishis havingVrihaspati at their head, he acquired a knowledge of the duties of kings.That foremost one among the Kurus obtained a knowledge also of thatscience, with its interpretations, with Usanas and that regenerate onewho is the preceptor of the celestials know. Having practised rigid vows,that mighty-armed one acquired a knowledge of all the Vedas and theirbranches, from Vasishtha and from Chyavana of Bhrigu’s race. In oldendays he studied under the eldest-born son of the Grandsire himself, viz.,Sanatkumara of blazing splendour, well conversant with the truths ofmental and spiritual science. He learnt the duties in full of the Yatisfrom the lips of Markandeya. The bull among men obtained all weapons fromRama and Sakra. Although born among human beings, his death itself isstill under his own control. Although childless, yet he has many regionsof bliss hereafter as heard by us. Regenerate Rishis of great merit werealways his courtiers. There is nothing among objects that should be knownthat is unknown to him. Conversant with all duties and acquainted withall the subtle truths of morality, even he will discourse to thee uponduty and morality. Go unto him before he abandons his life breath. Thusaddressed by him, the high-souled son of Kunti, of great wisdom, said thefollowing words unto Satyavati’s son Vyasa, that first of eloquent men.’

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Having caused a great and horrid slaughter ofkinsmen, I have become an offender against all and a destroyer of theearth. Having caused that Bhishma himself, that warrior who always foughtfairly, to be slain by the aid of deceit, how shall I approach him forasking him (about duties and morality)?’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Moved by the desire of benefiting all the fourorders, the mighty armed and high-souled chief of Yadu’s race once moreaddressed that foremost of kings (in the following words).’

“Vasudeva said, ‘It behoveth thee not to show such pertinacity in grief.Do that, O best of kings, which the holy Vyasa has said. The Brahmanas, Omighty-armed one, and these thy brothers of great energy, stand beforethee beseechingly like persons beseeching the deity of the clouds at theclose of summer. The unslain remnant of the assembled kings, and thepeople belonging to all the four orders of thy kingdom of Kurujangala, Oking, are here. For the sake of doing what is agreeable to thesehigh-souled Brahmanas, in obedience also to the command of thy reveredsenior Vyasa of immeasurable energy, and at the request of out-selvesthat are thy well-wishers, and of Draupadi, O scorcher of foes, do whatis agreeable to us, O slayer of foes, and what is beneficial to theworld.’

“Vaisampayana continued. ‘Thus addressed by Krishna, the high-souled king(Yudhishthira) of eyes like lotus petals, rose from his seat for the goodof the whole world. The tiger among men, viz., Yudhishthira of greatfame, besought by Krishna himself, by the Island-born (Vyasa), byDevasthana, by Jishnu, by these and many others, cast off his grief andanxiety. Fully conversant with the declarations of the Srutis, with thescience that treats of the interpretation of those declarations, and withall that men usually hear and all that deserve to be heard, the son ofPandu obtained peace of mind and resolved upon that he should next do.Surrounded by all of them like the moon by the stars, the king, placingDhritarashtra at the head of the train, set out for entering the city.Desirous of entering the city, Kunti’s son Yudhishthira, conversant withevery duty, offered worship unto the gods and thousands of Brahmanas. Hethen ascended a new and white car covered with blankets and deerskins,and unto which were yoked sixteen white bullocks possessed of auspiciousmarks, and which had been sanctified with Vedic mantras. Adored bypanegyrists and bards, the king mounted upon that car like Soma ridingupon his own ambrosial vehicle. His brother Bhima of terrible prowesstook the reins. Arjuna held over his head a white umbrella of greateffulgence. That white umbrella held upon the car looked beautiful like astar-decked white cloud in the firmament. The two heroic sons of Madri,viz., Nakula and Sahadeva, took up two yak-tails white as the rays of themoon and adorned with gems for fanning the king. The five brothers deckedwith ornaments, having ascended the car, O king, looked like the fiveelements (that enter into the composition of everybody). Riding uponanother white car unto which were yoked steeds fleet as thought, Yuyutsu,O king, followed the eldest son of Pandu behind. Upon his own brilliantcar of gold unto which were yoked Saivya and Sugriva, Krishna, withSatyaki, followed the Kurus. The eldest uncle of Pritha’s son, O Bharata,accompanied by Gandhari, proceeded at the head of the train, upon avehicle borne on the shoulders of men. The other ladies of the Kuruhousehold, as also Kunti and Krishna, all proceeded on excellentvehicles, headed by Vidura. Behind followed a large number of cars andelephants decked with ornaments, and foot-soldiers and steeds. Hispraises chanted by sweet-voiced panegyrists and bards, the king proceededtowards the city called after the elephant. The progress, O mighty-armedone, of king Yudhishthira, became so beautiful that its like had neverbeen on earth. Teeming with healthy and cheerful men, thy busy hum ofinnumerable voices was heard there. During the progress of Pritha’s son,the city and its streets were adorned with gay citizens (all of whom hadcome out for honouring the king). The spot through which the king passedhad been decked with festoons of flowers and innumerable banners. Thestreets of the city were perfumed with incense. The place was overlaidwith powdered perfumes and flowers and fragrant plants, and hung overwith garlands and wreaths. New metallic jars, full of water to the brim,were kept at the door of every house, and bevies of beautiful maidens ofthe fairest complexion stood at the particular spots. Accompanied by hisfriends, the son of Pandu, adored with sweet speeches, entered the citythrough its well-adorned gate.'”

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