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Chapter 58

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Bhishma said, ‘Protection of the subject, O Yudhishthira, is the verycheese of kingly duties. The divine Vrihaspati does not applaud any otherduty (so much as this one). The divine Kavi (Usanas) of large eyes andaustere penances, the thousand-eyed Indra, and Manu the son of Prachetas,the divine Bharadwaja, and the saga Gaurasiras, all devoted to Brahma andutterers of Brahma, have composed treatises on the duties of kings. Allof them praise the duty of protection, O foremost of virtuous persons, inrespect of kings. O thou of eyes like lotus leaves and of the hue ofcopper, listen to the means by which protection may be secured. Thosemeans consist of the employment of spies and servants, giving them theirjust dues without haughtiness, the realisation of taxes withconsiderateness, never taking anything (from the subject) capriciouslyand without cause, O Yudhishthira, the selection of honest men (for thedischarge of administrative functions), heroism, skill, and cleverness(in the transaction of business), truth, seeking the good of the people,producing discord and disunion among the enemy by fair or unfair means,the repair of buildings that are old or on the point of falling away, theinfliction of corporal punishments and fines regulated by observance ofthe occasion, never abandoning the honest, granting employment andprotection to persons of respectable birth, the storing of what should bestored, companionship with persons of intelligence, always gratifying thesoldiery, supervision over the subjects, steadiness in the transaction ofbusiness, filling the treasury, absence of blind confidence on the guardsof the city, producing disloyalty among the citizens of a hostile town,carefully looking after the friends and allies living in the midst of theenemy’s country, strictly watching the servants and officers of thestate, personal observation of the city, distrust of servants, comfortingthe enemy with assurances, steadily observing the dictates of policy,readiness for action, never disregarding an enemy, and casting off thosethat are wicked. Readiness for exertion in kings is the root of kinglyduties. This has been said by Vrihaspati. Listen to the verses sung byhim: ‘By exertion the amrita was obtained; by exertion the Asuras wereslain, by exertion Indra himself obtained sovereignty in heaven and onearth. The hero of exertion is superior to the heroes of speech. Theheroes of speech gratify and worship the heroes of exertion.[169]’ Theking that is destitute of exertion, even if possessed of intelligence, isalways overcome by foes like a snake that is bereft of poison. The king,even if possessed of strength, should not disregard a foe, however weak.A spark of fire can produce a conflagration and a particle of poison cankill. With only one kind of force, an enemy from within a fort, canafflict the whole country of even a powerful and prosperous king. Thesecret speeches of a king, the amassing of troops for obtaining victory,the crooked purposes in his heart, similar intents for accomplishingparticular objects, and the wrong acts he does or intends to do, shouldbe concealed by putting on an appearance of candour. He should actrighteously for keeping his people under subjection. Persons of crookedminds cannot bear the burden of extensive empire. A king who is mildcannot obtain superior rank, the acquisition of which depends uponlabour. A kingdom, coveted by all like meat, can never be protected bycandour and simplicity. A king, O Yudhishthira, should, therefore, alwaysconduct himself with both candour and crookedness. If in protecting hissubjects a king falls into danger, he earns great merit. Even such shouldbe the conduct of kings. I have now told thee a portion only of theduties of kings. Tell me, O best of the Kurus, what more you wish toknow.”

Vaisampayana continued, “The illustrious Vyasa and Devasthana and Aswa,and Vasudeva and Kripa and Satyaki and Sanjaya, filled with joy, and withfaces resembling full-blown flowers, said, ‘Excellent! Excellent!’ andhymned the praises of that tiger among men, viz., Bhishma, that foremostof virtuous persons. Then Yudhishthira, that chief of Kuru’s race, with acheerless heart and eyes bathed in tears, gently touched Bhishma’s feetand said, ‘O grandsire, I shall to-morrow enquire after those pointsabout which I have my doubts, for today, the sun, having sucked themoisture of all terrestrial objects, is about to set.’ Then Kesava andKripa and Yudhishthira and others, saluting the Brahmanas (assembledthere) and circumambulating the son of the great river, cheerfullyascended their cars. All of them observant of excellent vows then bathedin the current of the Drishadwati. Having offered oblations of water untotheir ancestors and silently recited the sacred mantras and done otherauspicious acts, and having performed the evening prayer with due rites,those scorchers of foes entered the city called after the elephant.”

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