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Chapter 98

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Tell me, O grand-sire, what regions are earned byunreturning heroes by encountering death in battle.”

“Bhishma, said, ‘In this connection, O Yudhishthira, is cited the oldstory of the discourse between Amvarisha and Indra. Amvarisha, the son ofNabhaga, having repaired to heaven that is so difficult of acquisition,beheld his own generalissimo in those celestial regions in the company ofIndra. The king saw his puissant general blazing with every kind ofenergy, endued with celestial form, seated on a very beautiful car, andjourneying (in that vehicle) up and up towards still higher regions.Beholding the prosperity of his general Sudeva, and observing how hetraversed regions that were still higher, the high-souled Amvarisha,filled with surprise, addressed Vasava, in the following words.’

“Amvarisha said, ‘Having duly governed the whole earth bounded by theseas, having from desire of earning religious merit practised all thoseduties that are common to the four orders as declared by the scriptures,having practised with rigid austerity all the duties of the Brahmacharyamode, having waited with dutiful obedience upon my preceptors and otherreverend seniors, having studied with due observances the Vedas and thescriptures on kingly duties, having gratified guests with food and drink,the Pitris with offerings in Sraddhas, the Rishis with attentive study ofthe scriptures and with initiation (under proper forms into the mysteriesof religion), and the gods with many excellent and high sacrifices,having duly observed Kshatriya duties according to the injunctions of thescriptures, having cast my eyes fearlessly upon hostile troops, I wonmany victories in battle, O Vasava! This Sudeva, O chief of the deities,was formerly the generalissimo of my forces. It is true. He was a warriorof tranquil soul. For what reason, however, has he succeeded intranscending me? He never worshipped the gods in high and greatsacrifices. He never gratified the Brahmanas (by frequent and costlypresents) according to the ordinance. For what reason, then, has hesucceeded in transcending me?’

“Indra said, ‘Regarding this Sudeva, O sire, the great sacrifice ofbattle had often been spread out by him. The same becomes the case withevery other man that engages in fight. Every warrior accoutred in armour,by advancing against foes in battle array, becomes installed in thatsacrifice. Indeed, it is a settled conclusion that such a person, byacting in this way, comes to be regarded as the performer of thesacrifice of battle.’

“Amvarisha said, ‘What constitutes the libations in that sacrifice? Whatconstitutes its liquid offerings? What is its Dakshina? Who, again, areregarded its Ritwijas? Tell me all this, O performer of a hundredsacrifices.’

“Indra said, ‘Elephants constitute the Ritwijas of that sacrifice, andsteeds are its Audharyus. The flesh of foes constitutes ifs libations,and blood is its liquid offering.[290] Jackals and vultures and ravens,as also winged shafts, constitute its Sadasyas. These drink the remnantsleft of the liquid offering in this sacrifice and eat the remnants of itslibations. Heaps of lances and spears, of swords and darts and axes,blazing, sharp, and well-tempered, constitute the ladles of thesacrificer. Straight, sharp, and well-tempered arrows, with keen pointsand capable of piercing the bodies of foes, impelled from well-stretchedbows, constitute its large double-mouthed ladles. Sheathed in scabbardsmade of tiger-skin and equipped with handles made of ivory, and capableof cutting off the elephant’s trunk, the swords form the Sphises of thissacrifice.[291] The strokes inflicted with blazing and keen lances anddarts and swords and axes, all made of hard iron, constitute its profusewealth procured from the respectable people by agreement in respect ofthe amount and period. The blood that runs over the field in consequenceof the fury of the attack, constitutes the final libation, fraught withgreat merit and capable of granting every wish, in the Homa of thissacrifice. Cut, Pierce, and such other sounds, that are heard in thefront ranks of the array, constitute the Samans sung by its Vedicchanters in the abode of Yama. The front ranks of the enemy’s arrayconstitute the vessel for the keep of its libations. The crowd ofelephants and steeds and men equipped with shields are regarded toconstitute the Syenachit fire of that sacrifice. The headless trunks thatrise up after thousands have been slaughtered constitute the octagonalstake, made of Khadira wood, for the hero who performs that sacrifice.The shrieks that elephants utter when urged on with hooks, constitute itsIda mantras. The kettle-drums, with the slaps of palms forming theVashats, O king, are its Trisaman Udgatri. When the property or aBrahmana is being taken away, he who casts off his body that is so dearfor protecting that property, does, by that act of self-devotion, acquirethe merit or a sacrifice with infinite presents. That hero who, for thesake of his master, displays prowess at the van of the array and showsnot his back through fear, earns those regions of felicity that are mine.He who strews the altar of the sacrifice constituted by battle, withswords cased in blue scabbards and severed arms resembling heavybludgeons, succeeds in winning regions of felicity like mine. Thatwarrior who, resolved upon obtaining victory, penetrates into the midstof the enemy’s ranks without waiting for any assistance, succeeds inwinning regions of felicity like mine. That warrior who in battle, causesa river of blood to flow, terrible and difficult to cross, havingkettle-drums for its frogs and tortoises, the bones of heroes for itssands, blood and flesh for its mire, swords and shields for its rafts,the hair of slain warriors for its floating weeds and moss, the crowds ofsteeds and elephants and cars for its bridges, standards and banners forits bushes of cane, the bodies or slain elephants for its boats and hugealligators, swords and scimitars for its larger vessels, vultures andKankas and ravens for the rafts that float upon it, that warrior whocauses such a river, difficult of being crossed by even those that arepossessed of courage and power and which inspires all timid men withdread, is said to complete the sacrifice by performing the finalablutions. That hero whose altar (in such a sacrifice) is strewn overwith the (severed) heads of foes, of steeds, and of elephants, obtainsregions of felicity like mine. The sages have said that that warrior whoregards the van of the hostile army as the chambers of his wives, wholooks upon the van of his own army as the vessel for the keep ofsacrificial offering, who takes the combatants standing to his south forhis Sadasyas and those to his north as his Agnidhras, and who looks uponthe hostile forces as his wedded wife, succeeds in winning all regions offelicity.[292] The open space lying between two hosts drawn up for fightconstitutes the altar of such a sacrificer, and the three Vedas are histhree sacrificial fires. Upon that altar, aided by the recollection ofthe Vedas, he performs his sacrifice. The inglorious warrior who, turningaway from the fight in fear, is slain by foes, sinks into hell. There isno doubt in this. That warrior, on the other hand, whose blood drenchesthe sacrificial altar already strewn with hair and flesh and bones,certainly succeeds in attaining a high end. That powerful warrior who,having slain the commander of the hostile army, mounts the vehicle of hisfallen antagonist, comes to be regarded as possessed of the prowess ofVishnu himself and the intelligence of Vrihaspati, the preceptor of thecelestials. That warrior who call seize alive the commander of thehostile army or his son or some other respected leader, succeeds inwinning regions of felicity like mine. One should never grieve for a heroslain in battle. A slain hero, if nobody grieves for him, goes to heavenand earns the respect of its denizens. Men do not desire to dedicate (forhis salvation) food and drink. Nor do they bathe (after receiving theintelligence), nor go into mourning for him. Listen to me as I enumeratethe felicity that is in store for such a person. Foremost of Apsaras,numbering by thousands, go out with great speed (for receiving the spiritof the slain hero) coveting him for their lord. That Kshatriya who dulyobserves his duty in battle, acquires by that act the merit of penancesand of righteousness. Indeed, such conduct on his part conforms with theeternal path of duty. Such a man obtains the merits of all the four modesof life. The aged and the children should not be slain; nor one that is awoman; not one that is flying, away; nor one that holds a straw in hislips[293]; nor one that says. ‘I am thine.’ Having slain in battleJambha, Vritra, Vala, Paka, Satamaya, Virochana, the irresistibleNamuchi, Samvara of innumerable illusions, Viprachitti,–all these sonsof Diti and Danu, as also Prahlada, I myself have become the chief of thecelestials.’

‘Bhishma continued, ‘Hearing these words of Sakra and approving of them,king Amvarisha comprehended how warriors succeed, (by battle as theirmeans) in compassing success for themselves (in respect of winningregions of beatitude in heaven).'”

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