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Chapter 189

“Rama said, ‘O damsel, in the very sight of all these persons, I havefought according to the best of my power and displayed my prowess! Byusing even the very best of weapons I have not been able to obtain anyadvantage over Bhishma, that foremost of all wielders of weapons! I haveexerted now to the best of my power and might. O beautiful lady, gowithersoever thou wishest! What other business of thine can I accomplish?Seek the protection of Bhishma himself! Thou hast no other refuge now!Shooting mighty weapons Bhishma hath vanquished me!’ Having said this,the high-souled Rama sighed and remained silent. That maiden thenaddressed him, saying, ‘O holy one, it is even so as thy holy self hathsaid! This Bhishma of great intelligence is incapable of being vanquishedin battle by even the gods! Thou hast done my business to the best of thyexertion and power. Thou hast displayed in this battle energy incapableof being baffled and weapons also of diverse kinds. Thou hast yet beenunable to obtain any advantage over Bhishma in combat. As regards myself,I will not go a second time to Bhishma. I will, however, O perpetuator ofBhrigu’s race, go thither, O thou endued with wealth of asceticism, whereI may (obtain the means to) myself slay Bhishma in battle!’ Having saidthe words, that maiden went away, with eyes agitated with wrath, andthinking to compass my death, she firmly resolved to devote herself toasceticism. Then that foremost one of Bhrigu’s race, accompanied by thoseascetics, bidding me farewell, departed, O Bharata, for the mountainswhence he had come. I also, ascending my car, and praised by theBrahmanas, entered our city and represented, everything unto my motherSatyavati, everything that had transpired, and she, O great king, utteredbenedictions on me. I then appointed persons endued with intelligence toascertain the doings of that maiden. Devoted to the good of myself–theirwell-wisher, those spies of mine, with great application brought to meaccounts of her course of action, her words and actions, from day to day.When that maiden went to the woods, resolved on ascetic austerities, eventhen I became melancholy, and afflicted with pain, I lost my heart’stenor. Except one acquainted with Brahma and observant of vows, that arepraiseworthy owing to the austerities they involve, no Kshatriya hathever by his prowess, vanquished me in battle! I then, O king, humblyrepresented to Narada as also to Vyasa all that the maiden did. They bothtold me, ‘O Bhishma, do not give way to sorrow on account of the daughterof Kasi. Who is there that would venture to baffle destiny by individualexertion?’ Meanwhile, O great king, that maiden, entering a cluster ofretreats practised austerities, that were beyond human powers (ofendurance). Without food, emaciated, dry, with matted-locks and begrimedwith filth, for six months she lived on air only, and stood unmoved likea street-post. And that lady, possessed of wealth of asceticism,foregoing all food in consequence of the fast she kept, passed a wholeyear after this, standing in the waters of the Yamuna. Endued with greatwrath, she passed the next whole year standing on her front toes andhaving eaten only one fallen leaf (of a tree). And thus for twelve years,she made the heavens hot by her austerities. And though dissuaded by herrelatives, she could not by any means be weaned off (from that course ofaction). She then went unto Vatsabhumi resorted to by the Siddhas andCharanas, and which was the retreat of high-souled ascetics of piousdeeds. Bathing frequently in the sacred waters of that retreat, theprincess of Kasi roamed about according to her will. Proceeding next (oneafter another) to the asylum, O king, of Narada, and to the auspiciousasylum of Uluka and to that of Chyavana, and to the spot sacred toBrahmana, and to Prayaga the sacrificial platform of the gods, and tothat forest sacred to the gods, and to Bhogawati, and, O monarch, to theasylum of Kusika’s son (Viswamitra), and to the asylum of Mandavya, andalso to the asylum of Dwilipa, and to Ramhrada, and, O Kaurava, to theasylum of Garga, the princess of Kasi, O king, performed ablutions in thesacred waters of all these, observing all the while the most difficult ofvows. One day, my mother from the waters asked her, O Kauravya, saying,’O blessed lady, for what dost thou afflict thyself so? Tell me thetruth!’ Thus asked, O monarch, that faultless damsel answered her withjoined hands, saying, ‘O thou of handsome eyes, Rama hath been vanquishedin battle by Bhishma. What other (Kshatriya) king then would venture todefeat the latter when ready with his weapons? As regards myself, I ampractising the severest penances for the destruction of Bhishma. I wanderover the earth, O goddess, so that I may slay that king! In every thing Ido, O goddess, even this is the great end of my vows!’ Hearing thesewords of hers, the Ocean-going (river Ganga) replied unto her, saying, ‘Olady, thou art acting crookedly! O weak girl, this wish of thine thoushalt not be able to achieve, O faultless one? if, O princess of Kasi,thou observest these vows for destruction of Bhishma, and if thou takestleave of thy body while observing them, thou shalt (in thy next birth)become a river, crooked in her course and of water only during the rains!All the bathing places along thy course will be difficult of approach,and filled only during the rains, thou shalt be dry for eight months(during the year)! Full of terrible alligators, and creatures offrightful mien thou shalt inspire fear in all creatures! Addressing herthus, O king, my mother, that highly-blessed lady, in seeming smiles,dismissed the princess of Kasi. That highly fair damsel then once morebegan to practise vows, foregoing all food, aye, even water, sometimesfor eight months and sometimes for ten months! And the daughter of theking of Kasi, wandering hither and thither for her passionate desire oftirthas, once more came back, O Kauravya, to Vatsabhumi. And it is there,O Bharata, that she is known to have become a river, filled only duringthe rainy seasons, abounding with crocodiles, crooked in her course, anddestitute of easy access to her water. And, O king, in consequence of herascetic merit only half her body became such a river in Vatsabhumi, whilewith the other half, she remained a maiden as before!’

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