The Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling - Erin Bernstein - ebook

There's never been a greater nor more controversial topic than that famous oxymoron: holy war. When has war ever been more than a physical embodiment of twisted logic clashing with twisted logic? And, in the end, there is no true victor but Death. -- The Author

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Erin Bernstein, Kisari Mohan Ganguli

The Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling

Volume 5: Preparing For War

To my friends and family.BookRix GmbH & Co. KG80331 Munich

Chapter 699

Om. Let us honor Narayana. Let us honor Him, the most honorable Nara. Let us honor Her, the goddess called Saraswati. Jayatu Bhava!

“Vaisampayana said:

‘Once the brave descendents of Kuru who were a part of Virata’s party had celebrated Abhimanyu’s wedding and spent the night there, they, at dawn, entered Virata’s court, well-pleased. The King of the Matsyas’ room was full of luxurious things; it had goodly gems and precious stones here and there, had purposefully arranged seats, and had decorative garlands. A fragrance filled the air. The mighty rulers of men went there as one; the two front seats were occupied by King Virata and King Drupada. The respected and elderly world leaders as well as Valarama, Krishna, and their adopted father all sat there. Near the King of Panchala sat the great hero from Sini’s line as well as the son of Rohini. Together, next to the King of Matsya, were Krishna, Yudhishthira, every one of King Drupada’s sons, Bhima, Arjuna, the two sons of Madri, Pradyumna, Samva (two who were brave on the battlefield), Abhimanyu, and Virata’s sons. The princes who were the sons of Draupadi sat on excellent seats that had inlaid gold; they rivaled their adopted father when it came to bravery, strength, grace, and power. Once the mighty heroes wearing shiny decorations and robes had sat down, the lovely assembly of kings was so beautiful it was as if the sky’s brilliant stars made it sparkle. The brave men who had gathered together, having spoken to one another about various things, remained thoughtful for a while, gazing at Krishna without turning away. When they were finished talking, Krishna asked them to now think about the Pandavas’ affairs.

"The powerful kings, as one, heard Krishna’s weighty, lofty speech. He said: All of you know how Yudhishthira here lost a dice-game because the son of Suvala cheated; you know how his kingdom was stolen from him and how he had to, because a contract was drawn up, live in exile in the forest. Though they could take over the world by force, the adopted sons of Pandu kept their promise to be trustworthy. So, for thirteen years, the men who are beyond compare carried out the cruel order they were given. Oh, the thirteenth year was exceedingly difficult for them. Nevertheless, they spent that year without anyone recognizing them. You know this and you also know they’ve suffered intolerable, varying hardships. The noteworthy men spent their thirteenth year performing tedious tasks for others. That being said, you ought to think about what would do both Yudhishthira and Duryodhana some good. What, when it comes to the Kurus and Pandavas, would parallel righteousness and propriety? What would be the appropriate thing for everyone to do? Virtuous King Yudhishthira would never be wicked and covet any locale, even the divinities’ world. No, he’d righteously accept ruling one village. Oh, the sons of Dhritarashtra illegally took his adopted father’s kingdom away from him in a powerful way! Oh, the life he had that involved intolerable hardships! The kings assembled here know all about it. The sons of Dhritarashtra cannot overpower Arjuna using their strength – he’s the son of Pritha. But, King Yudhishthira and his friends just want to do Dhritarashtra’s son some good. The brave sons of Kunti and the two sons of Madri only want what, upon winning a battle, the kings who lost owe them. Surely you know too well how the Pandavas’ enemies, planning to take the kingdom, tried in a variety of ways to murder them when they were just children. How wicked and ruthless they were! How greedy they are! How virtuous Yudhishthira is! Think about their relationship. I beg you – consult as one and also think individually. The Pandavas have always respected truth. They kept their promise to the letter. Even if the sons of Dhritarashtra were united, they, if mistreated by them, would wipe them out. If their friends found out how others had mistreated them wrongfully, they’d be their allies and fight their oppressors, willing to die in battle if it meant the death of their enemies. Think that, just because there’re five of them, they cannot defeat their enemies? If they banded together and their friends were behind them, they’d surely try their best to destroy their enemies. Now, no one knows just what Duryodhana is thinking or will do. If no one knows the enemy, how can you say what you think would be the best thing to do? Someone virtuous, honest, of a respectable birth, and cautious – an apt ambassador – ought to beg them gently to return half of Yudhishthira’s kingdom.

"Having heard Krishna’s words, ones that’d been notably sensible and respectful of virtue as well as telling of his peaceful and unbiased spirit, his elder half-brother then told the assembly something that quite praised his younger half-brother.’”

Chapter 700

“Vaisampayana said:

‘Baladeva said: You’ve all heard what the elder half-brother of Gada had to say – it was telling of virtue and sensibility; it praised both Yudhishthira and King Duryodhana. These brave sons and stepsons of Kunti are ready to give up half their realm; a sacrifice for Duryodhana’s sake. So, the sons of Dhritarashtra should give up half the kingdom, celebrate, and be exceptionally happy with us so that the dispute can be thusly settled in a satisfactory manner. If the other party behaved well, the mighty ones who’d earned the kingdom would surely be at peace and happy. If they’re at peace, something will happen for the sake of the well-being of man. I’d be well-pleased if someone here, planning to soothe both the Kurus and the Pandavas, would go on a journey for the sake of finding out what Duryodhana is thinking and clarifying Yudhishthira’s beliefs. Let him salute the heroic scion of Kuru’s line named Bhishma with respect as well as the magnanimous son of Vichitravirya, Drona, Drona’s son, Vidura, Kripa, the King of Gandhara, and the Suta’s son. Let him pay his respects to all the other sons of Dhritarashtra too – each one’s famous for his strength, education, devotion to righteous duties, bravado, and knowledge of the signs of the times. When they’re gathered together – when the elderly men are gathered together – let him speak in a way that proves his humility and likelihood of serving Yudhishthira. Don’t provoke them at any time – a strong hand stole the kingdom. When Yudhishthira was on the throne, he lost himself – he gambled and had his kingdom stolen from him. That brave Kuru – that descendent of Ajamida – Yudhishthira – though he was untalented when it came to dice and dissuaded by his friends, challenged the son of the King of Gandhara (a skilled dice-game player) to a dice-game. There were thousands of dice-game players Yudhishthira could have challenged and defeated there at the time but he, ignoring them, chose to challenge Suvala’s son to a dice-game; he lost to him. Though he kept losing, he still wanted to play Sakuni. Yes, he played with Sakuni and lost to him in a terrible way but survived. So, Sakuni is not to blame. The ambassador should say things telling of his humility; they should pacify Vichitravirya's son. In this way, the ambassador can make Dhritarashtra’s son agree. Don’t look to fight the Kurus – speak to Duryodhana in a way that proves you want to make peace and success might be ours. Not by war – by making peace. Doing so may make us successful for some time.

"But, whilst the brave Madhu scion was making a speech, the brave Sini-son leapt to his feet out of the blue and, in a huff, censured the things he’d said.’”

Chapter 701

“Vaisampayana said:

‘Satyaki said: Men’s hearts are like their mouthe. You’re conforming to the nature of your heart and doing nothing else. Now, there are brave men and there are cowards. Men can be divided into these two well-defined groups. One great tree can have a fruit-bearing branch and a bare branch – a single line can have both idiots and ones with natural, great strength. O one whose flag has a plough upon it, truly I cannot censure what you’ve said. But, plain and simple, I do scorn those, O son of Madhu, who listen to you. Really – how can one who shamelessly dares to blame Yudhishthira, even if the blame is slight, be allowed to speak before all amidst the assembly? Those who were clever when it came to dice-games challenged one who was unskilled, the magnanimous Yudhishthira – he trusted in them but was defeated. Can you say that they won the game fair and square? If they’d come to Yudhishthira and played here while he was with his half-brothers, what they’d won would’ve been won fair and square. Instead, they challenged Yudhishthira, one whose enslaving consciousness asked him to perform the obligatory duties for all Kshatriyas, and tricked him to win. When have they ever done anything righteous? Why should Yudhishthira be humble? He performed his duties to the letter when it came to the contract he signed because of the dice-game’s stakes. Now that he’s finished keeping the promise he made to enter the forest, he’s entitled to his ancestral throne. Even if Yudhishthira coveted others’ possessions, it would ill-suit him to beg. How can you call them righteous and not planning to steal the throne when, even though the Pandavas have finished their time of being incognito, they still say the Pandavas were recognized when they weren’t supposed to be? Bhishma and magnanimous Drona begged them, but they refused to give the Pandavas back the throne that their birth-right entitles them to. My kind of begging involves sharp arrows – I’ll fight and, my hand strong, force them to prostrate themselves before the feet of the noteworthy son of Kunti. If they don’t bow before wise Yudhishthira’s feet, they and their followers must go to Yama’s worlds. If Yuyudhana and I lost our temper and were ready to fight, they, to be sure, wouldn’t be good enough to tolerate his power like mountains unable to tolerate the power of a thunderbolt. Who could tolerate Arjuna in battle, who could tolerate the one wielding a discus in battle, and who could tolerate me? Who could tolerate the unapproachable Bhima? Which man who respects his life could near the twins who firmly grasp their bows and resemble death-dealing Yama when it comes to wisdom? Who could approach Dhrishtadyumna, the son of Drupada, or the five adopted sons of Pandu who’ve made Draupadi’s name more brilliant? They rival their forefathers when it comes to bravado and they’re equal to them in every way. They’re full of the pride that comes from being a warrior and they’re equal to the one who wields a powerful bow who’s the son of Subhadra and one even the gods find unavoidable. What about Gada, Pradyumna, and Samva (one like Yama, a thunderbolt, or fire)? We’ll slay Dhritarashtra’s son, Sakuni, and Karna in battle and then set the Pandava on the throne. There’s no sin in slaying the ones determined to slay us…to beg sinful and infamous foes! I ask you to be industrious when you do that which Yudhishthira truly wants. Let Pandu’s adopted son get back the kingdom Dhritarashtra gave away. Yudhishthira should get back his kingdom today or I shall slay all our enemies, prostrating them.’”

Chapter 702

“Vaisampayana said:

‘Drupada said: O mighty-armed one, it will surely be as such. Duryodhana will never give back the kingdom peacefully – Dhritarashtra, one who dotes on his son, will take his side when it comes to his father’s wish. Bhishma and Drona, two idiots, will do the same; Karna and Sakuni, both fools, will do likewise. What Valadeva said led me to my decision – the plan he created ought to truly be carried out by a man looking for a peace-based solution. But, Duryodhana should never be spoken to gently. Naturally vicious, he, methinks, cannot come to his senses by way of gentleness. Though you must be gentle with a jackass, you must be harsh with every specie of cow. If anyone spoke gently to Duryodhana, the one who’s naturally a vicious, wicked creature, he would deem the gentle one an idiot. If one was gentle with him, the fool would consider himself a winner. Let’s do this – let’s prepare – let’s send word to our friends that an army may be assembled for our sake. Let swift messengers go to Salya, Dhrishtaketu, Jayatsena, and the Prince of the Kekayas. Duryodhana, on his part, will send word to all the kings. But, sensible men answer the ones who beg them first. So, hurry and beg the way that you want instead of doing what these rulers of men want. To me, it seems the future involves a great mission. Quickly send word to Salya, to the kings beneath them, to King Bhagadata (one with an immeasurable amount of bravado living on the east sea-coast), to fierce Hardikya, to Ahuka, to the Malas’ king who has a powerful level of comprehension, and to Rochamana. Summon Vrihanta as well as King Senavindu, Vahlika, Mudjakesa, the Chedis’ ruler, Suparsva, Suvahu, the great hero named Paurava, the Sakas’ kings, the Pahlavas, the Daradas, Surari, Nadija, King Karnavest, Nila, brave King Viradharman, Durjaya, Dantavakra, Rukmi, Janamejaya, Ashada, Vayuvega, King Purvapali, Bhuritejas, Devaka, Ekalaya, Ekalaya’s sons, the Kraushan kings, brave Kshemamurti, the Kambojan kings, the Richika tribal kings, the rulers of the western sea-coast, Jayatsena, the King of Kashi, the rulers of the land of the five rivers, the proud son of Kratha, the rulers of the mountainous regions, Janaki, Susarman, Maniman, Potimatsyaka, brave Dhrishtaketu, the ruler of Pansu, Paundra, Dandadhara, brave Vrihatsena, Aparajita, Nishada, Srenimat, Vasumat, the quite strong Vrihadvala, the conqueror of unfriendly cities named Vahu, the warlike King Samudrasena, his son, Udhava, Kshemaka, King Vatadhana, Srutayus, Dridhayus, the brave son of Salwa, the Kulingas’ ruler, and Kumara (one invincible in battle). Quickly send word to them. That’s what seems the best thing to do. Let my priest, an educated Brahmin, be sent, O king, to Dhritarashtra. Tell him what he should say; what Duryodhana should hear. Tell him what to say to Bhishma and what to say to the supreme chariot-warrior named Drona.’”

Chapter 703

“Vaisampayana said:

‘Krishna said: These words were good enough to be spoken by the Chief of the Somaka tribe; they’ll further the interests of the adopted son of Pandu who has immeasurable strength. Because we want to be diplomatic, surely this is the first thing we must do – the man who does anything else is a great fool. The Kurus and the Pandus are of equal importance, no matter how the latter treats the former. We and you were both invited to the marriage. Now that the celebration is over, let’s go home – we’re well-pleased. You’re the oldest and most educated king; surely we, as if we were your students, are all here. Dhritarashtra has always had much respect for you; you’re a friend to two teachers – Drona and Kripa. So, I ask you to tell the Kurus something for the Pandavas’ sake. We’ve all agreed that you should be the one to give them the message. If the Kuru chief makes peace fairly, the brotherly love the Kurus have for the Pandus and vice versa will go unscathed. But, if the son of Dhritarashtra gets cocky and refuses to make peace (being foolish), summon others as well as ourselves. Gandiva’s wielder will be ignited due to wrath – the fool-headed and wicked Duryodhana will, along with his supporters and friends, die.

"King Virata, upon honoring Krishna, sent him, his devotees, and his relations home. Once Krishna had departed for Dwaraka, Yudhishthira, his devotees, and King Virata began preparing for war. Virata and his relations sent word to all the kings; King Drupada did the same. Because the leonine Kurus, the two Matsyan kings, and the Panchalas had invited them, many world leaders with great strength went there, their hearts cheerful. When the sons of Dhritarashtra heard that the Pandavas had assembled a large army, they too gathered together many world leaders. Then, O king, the world became crowded with world leaders that were marching as one, supporting either the Kurus or the Pandavas. The land was full of regiments made up of the four kinds of armies. From all sides, regiments began pouring in. When they marched, Mother Earth, a goddess, as well as her mountains and forests, seemed to tremble. The King of the Panchalas, having asked what Yudhishthira wished for, sent his own priest, one elderly and quite educated, to the Kurus.’”

Chapter 704

“Vaisampayana said:

‘Drupada said: The best kinds of creatures are the living ones, the best kinds of living creatures are those with natural intelligence, the best kinds of those with natural intelligence are men, the best kinds of men are the twice-born, the best kinds of twice-born men are those who study The Vedas, the best of those who study them are those who are educated in a refined way, the best of those men are practical, and the best of those who are practical are those who know the holy, supreme being. To me, you are the best of those who’ve had a refined education. You’re known for your age and your education. You’re as wise as Sukra or Angiras’ son Vrihaspati. You know what kind of man the Kurus’ chief is and you know what kind of man the son of Kunti named Yudhishthira is. Dhritarashtra knows that the Pandavas were truly conned by their enemies. Vidura taught him, but he’s his son’s devotee. Sakuni, taking another’s advice, challenged Yudhishthira to gamble even though Yudhishthira was unskilled at gambling and Sakuni was. Yes, unskilled when it came to such games and open, Yudhishthira did that which a Kshatriya must do to a t. They cheated virtuous King Yudhishthira thusly – they won’t freely give up the kingdom – impossible. If you say righteous things to Dhritarashtra, you’ll earn the hearts of his men. Vidura will make use of your words too; that’s how he’ll separate Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, and the others from the ones they cling to. When the officers-of-state detach themselves and the Kshatriyas become confused, the enemy must work on winning them back. While this happens, the Pandavas will, easily and whole-heartedly, focus on readying their army and storing up. If the enemy’s devotees detach themselves and you linger around them, they surely won’t make ready for war in a goodly way. To me, this plan is practical. Now, when you meet Dhritarashtra, he could do what you want. Since you are virtuous, you must be virtuous when in their presence. When facing the compassionate, talk about how difficult it was for the Pandavas. When facing the elderly, detach them from those they’re devoted to by talking about what members of their family have always done. I’m utterly certain about this. Don’t worry about their being dangerous – you’re a Brahmin, you know The Vedas, you’re going there as an ambassador, and, more importantly, you’re an old man. So, please lose no time in departing for the Kauravas, planning to further the Pandavas’ interests, departing when Pushya meets the year called Jaya, and Jaya comes once every sixty years.

"Having been instructed by the magnanimous Drupada, the virtuous priest set out for Hastinapura, the city named for the elephant. The educated man, well-versed when it came to the laws of the science of politics, departed with some devotees toward the Kurus to do Pandu’s adopted sons some good.’”

Chapter 705

“Vaisampayana said:

‘Having sent the priest to the city named for the elephant, they sent messengers to the rulers of various countries. Having sent messengers to other lands, the Kuru hero named Dhananjaya, the taurine man and son of Kunti, left for Dwaraka. Once Krishna and Valadeva, the descendants of Madhu, had both departed for Dwaraka along with hundreds of Vrishnis, hundreds of Andhakas, and hundreds of Bhojas, the royal son of Dhritarashtra had, by sending out secret messengers, discovered everything the Pandavas were doing. Discovering that Krishna was on his way, the prince went to Dwaraka using goodly horses that could move at wind-speed; he took a small number of regiments with him. That same day, the adopted son of Kunti and Pandu (Dhananjaya) quickly came to the beautiful city that belonged to Anarta. The two Kuru scions (tigrine men), upon arrival, saw that Krishna was asleep. They neared him whilst he slept; Duryodhana entered the room and sat upon a fine seat that was at the head of the bed. The next to enter was the crown-wearing, magnanimous Arjuna. He stood at the back of the bed, bowing and putting his palms together. When the descendant of Vrishni named Krishna awoke, he first looked at Arjuna. He asked them if there had been any dangers along the way and he greeted them suitably. Then, Madhu’s slayer asked them why they’d come. Duryodhana told Krishna, looking cheery: It’d suit you to assist me in the upcoming war. Both Arjuna and I are your friends. O descendent of Madhu, you mean as much to me as you do to Arjuna. O slayer of Madhu, I am the first one here today. Sensible men help the man who comes to him first – that’s what men of the past did. O Krishna, you’re supremely sensible and always respected. I ask that you act like a sensible man. And Krishna replied: I’m utterly certain you were the first to arrive, O king. But, O king and son of Kunti, Dhananjaya was the first one I saw. Because you were the first to arrive and because Arjuna was the first one I saw, surely I shall help you both, Suyodhana. But, it is said that the younger man should have first dibs. So, Dhananjaya, the son of Kunti has first dibs. There’re one-hundred million cowmen that challenge my strength; these are the Narayanas; they can fight during the worst part of the battle. These soldiers, irresistible in battle, shall be given to one of you. I, refusing to fight, will lay down my arms and go to the remaining one. You may, O son of Kunti, choose whether you want those cowmen or myself. You have the right to choose first – that’s the law.

"Having thusly been addressed by Krishna, Dhananjaya, the son of Kunti, said he chose Kesava (one who would not fight in battle) – Narayana – the slayer of enemies – the uncreated one – the one born into the world of men (his choice) – the top Kshatriya – the top god – the top Danava. Duryodhana chose the Narayanas. O Bharata tribesman, when he earned the thousands upon thousands of men, he was delighted beyond delighted, even though Krishna was not on his side. Having secured the terribly powerful army, Duryodhana went to Rohini’s son (a quite strong one) and told him why he’d come. Sura’s descendent answered him, Dhritarashtra’s son: Remember, O tigrine man, what I said at the wedding ceremony Virata celebrated. O one who delights the Kurus’ line, I then, for your sake, opposed Krishna and argued with him. I repeatedly spoke of how we’re just as good as both parties. But, Krishna disapproved of my views. I cannot separate myself from Krishna, not even for a moment. Seeing that I cannot oppose Krishna, I’ve decided to be on neither Kunti’s sons’ side nor yours. O taurine Bharata tribesman, you were born into Bharata’s line, one honored by all kings – go now and fight properly.

"Having thusly been addressed, Duryodhana hugged the hero whose battle-weapon was a plough – though he knew that Krishna was no longer on his side, he considered Arjuna defeated. The royal son of Dhritarashtra then went to Kritavarman. Kritavarman gave him a collection of troops –an Akshauhini. Surrounded by the army that was terrible to look upon, the Kauravan sallied forth, delighting his friends. Once Duryodhana had departed, Krishna, the holy creator of the world dressed in yellow, told Kiritin: I will not fight whatsoever – why did you choose me?

"And Arjuna replied: I don’t doubt that you can slay them all; I too can slay them without any help, O best of men. You are a noteworthy man of this world; the fame for being so will follow you. I too court fame – that’s why I chose you. I’ve always wanted you to be my charioteer. So, I ask that you make my long-held wish come true.

"So Vasudeva’s son said: It well-suits you, son of Kunti, to compare yourself to me. I will be your charioteer – your wish shall come true.

"Then, with a glad heart, Kunti’s son, along with Krishna and the follower of Dasarha’s line, went to Yudhishthira.’”

Chapter 706

“Vaisampayana said:

‘O king, having learnt the news from the messengers, Salya, along with a great number of troops and his sons (each one a mighty warrior), neared the Pandavas. His camp was twelve miles square – that’s how great the army the supreme man owned was. He ruled, O king, an Akshauhini; he had much power and bravery. Within his army were heroes donning multicolored armor and bearing various kinds of flags, bows, and decorations. There were also chariots and beasts. They wore excellent leis, a variety of robes, and decorations. Hundreds and thousands of the best Kshatriyas led his troops; they were dressed and decorated like locals. He marched slowly, letting his troops rest; he went to the place where the Pandava was. Earthly creatures felt troubled; the marching troops made the ground shake. King Duryodhana, hearing that the magnanimous and mighty hero was on his way, hurried towards him and honored him, O top Bharata tribesman. He erected exquisitely decorated places for entertainment on beautiful plots here and there to welcome him; many artists were sent there to entertain guests. The pavilions were filled with garlands, meat, utterly choice kinds of foods, drinks, different kinds of wells that could refresh a heart, different kinds of pools, things to eat, and spacious quarters. Upon arriving at the pavilions and being served as if he were a god by Duryodhana’s servants, ones situated here and there, Salya came to another place of entertainment that shone as if it were a shelter for divinities. When he was there and offered supremely luxurious things fit for creatures above man, he considered himself better than the Lord of the Gods and he considered Indra low-born when compared to him. Well-pleased, the top Kshatriya asked the servants: Where are Yudhishthira’s servants, the ones who erected these rejuvenating locations? Bring them to me – methinks they’re good enough for me to reward. I must reward them! Make it so; let it please Kunti’s son. The servants, surprised, told Duryodhana what had happened. Salya, one pleased beyond pleased and ready to give anything, even his life, away, was then met by the previously hidden Duryodhana, his maternal uncle. The Madras’ servants saw him and realized Duryodhana had gone to great lengths to welcome him. Salya hugged Duryodhana and said: Take something you want.

"To this Duryodhana said: Should you be telling the truth, auspicious one, do me a favor and lead my army.

"When he heard this, Salya said: Done! What else must be done? Repeatedly, the son of Gandhari said: It shall be so. Then, Salya said: O Duryodhana – O best of men – return to your city. I’ll meet with Yudhishthira, the tamer of enemies, and then, O king and ruler of men, I shall quickly return. The top man – the adopted son of Pandu named Yudhishthira – must surely be visited by me. Duryodhana tolerated this and then said: O king – O world leader – see the Pandava and then quickly return. I put all my trust in you, King of Kings. Remember what wish of mine you’ve granted. So Salya replied: May good things happen to you! I’ll return quickly. Return to your city, O protector of men. Then, each hugged the other. Having greeted Salya thusly, Duryodhana returned to his own city; Salya went off to tell the sons of Kunti what he’d done. He went to Upaplavya, entered the camp, and saw each adopted son of Pandu. Once he’d greeted them, mighty-armed Salya took water to wash his feet with and accepted the usual honoring gifts (this was the common custom) (the cow he received included). The Madras’ king – the enemy-slayer – first asked them how they were. Then, quite delighted, he hugged Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, and the twin boys (his nephews). Once everyone had sat down, Salya told the son of Kunti named Yudhishthira: O tigrine king – O delighter of Kuru’s line – is it utterly well with you? O top victor, Lady Luck was on your side when you lived in the wild. O king and Lord of Rulers, it was exceedingly difficult for you to live in the wild with your half-brothers as well as this noble lady. Then, you performed the terribly difficult task of going incognito for a year – O descendant of Bharata, anyone thrown off a throne has nothing but difficulties awaiting him. O king, how can he be happy? O enemy-troubler, to balance out the vast misery Dhritarashtra’s son created, you’ll be vastly happy once you’ve wiped out your enemies. O great king and ruler of men, you know the ways of the world. So, my son, wickedness never controls anything you do. O Bharata tribesman, take the paths ancient, saintly kings took. Son, be steadfast when you take the paths of charity, self-denial, and truth. O royal Yudhishthira, mercy, self-control, truth, and sympathy for all dwell in you. You’re gentle, generous, devout, and free – you see virtue as the highest good. O king, there are many rules having to do with virtue for men and you know them all. O son – O enemy-troubler – you know everything of earth. O king – O top Bharata tribesman – how lucky you were to survive your time of difficulty. Lady Luck, O king and top ruler, has ensured I see you, one with a quite virtuous soul and one who’s a treasury of righteousness – you and your devotees survived.

"Then, O Bharata tribesman, the king talked about his meeting with Duryodhana; he told him everything about that promise and about the wish he’d granted. Yudhishthira said: Brave king, that was executed excellently – pleased in your heart, you begged Duryodhana to see your truth. But (may good things happen to you, world leader), I ask that you do one thing. O king and top man, this must be for my sake and it alone, be it improper or proper. Listen to this, brave one. Great king, you’re as good as Krishna in battle. O supreme king, when Karna fights Arjuna one-on-one, I’m certain you’ll be Karna’s charioteer. At that time, if you want to do me some good, protect Arjuna. Act in such a way, O king, that the Suta named Karna turns disenheartened and victory is ours. I’m sure this is improper, Uncle, but you must do this nonetheless. And Salya said: May good things happen to you, adopted son of Pandu. Now, you want me to act in such a way that the nasty son of a Suta turns disenheartened. Surely I’ll charioteer him; he considers me just as good as Krishna. O tigrine descendant of Kuru, I’ll surely talk to him when he wants to fight – I’ll argue with him and verbally abuse him so that he, humbled and now cowardly, can be easily slain by the enemy. I tell the truth. You asked me to do this, so I’m determined to do it, my son. Anything else I can do I shall do for your own good. The troubles you all, including Draupadi, had during the dice-game, the rude and cruel things the Suta’s son said, the misery the Asura named Jata and the one named Kichaka brought you, and the miserable things, noteworthy one, that happened to Draupadi like they happened to Damayanti – you will one day be joyful, O hero. Do not lament for these things – fate is omnipotent on earth. O Yudhishthira, lofty-minded people must endure a variety of miseries – the gods, O king, have been troublingly misfortunate at times. O king – O Bharata tribesman – it is told that lofty-minded Indra, the divinities’ chief, truly suffered through a time of great misery along with his wife.’”

Chapter 707

“Vaisampayana said,

‘Yudhishthira said: O supreme king, how did noteworthy Indra and his wife suffer through a time of great misery that was like no other?

"And Salya said: Listen, O king, as I tell you the old story of what happened long ago; what happened, O Bharata tribesman, when Indra and his wife were miserable. Once, Twashtri, the Lord of Creatures and the top divinity, was being austere in a strict way. It is told that, because he disliked Indra, he created a three-headed son. The whole, quite shiny being coveted Indra’s throne. Possessive of three terrible faces (a sun-like one, a moon-like one and a fire-like one), he mouthed the words of The Vedas with one mouth, drank wine with a second mouth, and used the third mouth to gaze and seem to almost swallow the main points. Preferring to be austere, gentle, and possessive of self-control, he focused on living a life of religious deeds and austerities. When he was austere, enemy-tamer, he was strict, dreaded, and exceedingly harsh when it came to character. Seeing how austere, brave, and honest the one with immeasurable energy was, Indra turned anxious, fearing that the creature would take his place. He thought: How could I make him addicted to sensual pleasures? How could I make him stop being rigidly austere? If the three-headed one were stronger, he’d swallow the whole universe. That’s what Indra mulled over in his mind; O supreme Bharata tribesman blessed with intelligence, he ordered the divine nymphs to lure Twashtri’s son. He said to them: ‘Quick! Lose no time in luring that three-headed being; make him drown in sensual pleasures to the nth degree. Possess captivating hips, dress in sensual clothes, decorate your bodies with charming necklaces, and both make gestures and flatter for the sake of love. Be naturally lovely, lure him, and take away my dread. O lovely virgins, my heart cannot rest. Keep me from the impending doom, ladies. May good things happen to you.’ And the nymphs said: ‘O Indra – O slayer of Vala – we’ll do our best to tempt him so that you won’t be afraid of anything he might do. We’ll go as one and tempt the container of austerities that sits there as if burning everything with his eyes, O god. We’ll try to take control of him and quell your fears.’

"As commanded by Indra, they then went before the three-headed one. Upon arrival, the lovely virgins tempted him with love-gestures, showing off their refined figures. But, though he looked at them, he, focusing on being austere in an exceedingly severe manner, was not led by desire. He, one possessed with tamed senses, was as heavy (serious) as the filled-to-the-brim ocean. The nymphs did their best and then returned to Indra. They, with joined palms, told the Lord of Divinities: ‘Oh, that unapproachable creature cannot be disturbed by us! Do now what you think is appropriate, O one who’s gifted in a lofty way.’ Lofty-minded Indra honored the nymphs and sent them away, wondering, O Yudhishthira, what other way he could destroy his enemy. Blessed with intelligence, he thought of a plan to destroy the three-headed one. He announced: ‘I’ll hurl a thunderbolt at him. It will be a quick death for him. Even strong creatures don’t ignore an enemy on the rise, however disliked that enemy may be.’ Thinking about what he’d learned as a student, he set his heart on slaying that being. Then he, enraged, hurled a thunderbolt at the three-headed one – it resembled fire, was terrible to look upon, and filled one with dread. The creature, effectively hit by a thunderbolt, died and fell like a loosened hilltop falling to the ground. Seeing that the thunderbolt had killed him and that he was lying there like a great hill, the divinities’ chief turned restless; the shiny exterior of the corpse blazed and shone as if the body still moved and it burnt him. Strangely, the still heads lying low in the field seemed to move. Exceedingly fearful of that shine, Indra lost himself in his thoughts. Just then, great king, a carpenter with an axe on his shoulder came to the forest and neared the place where the corpse was. Fearful Indra, Sachi’s husband, saw that a carpenter had, by chance, arrived – Paka’ s criticizer said at once: ‘Do as I say – quickly behead this creature.’

"But the carpenter then said: ‘He has broad shoulders and my axe won’t be able to behead him. Plus, I refuse to do that which the righteous condemn.’ To this, Indra said: ‘Have no fear and obey me quickly. I shall make your axe like a thunderbolt.’ But the carpenter said: ‘You’ve done something frightening today – who are you? I want to learn your identity – be perfectly honest with me.’ So Indra said: ‘O carpenter, I am Indra, the gods’ chief – know this. Do just what I’ve told you to do and don’t hesitate, O carpenter.’ But the carpenter said: ‘O Indra, have you no shame for this quite cruel deed? Aren’t you alarmed that you have slain a saint’s son? It’s as if you’ve slain a Brahmin.’ And Indra said: ‘Afterwards, I shall perform some religious ceremony, a thorough one, to purify myself. He was a powerful enemy of mine and I used my thunderbolt to kill him. I’m still uneasy, O carpenter, and I truly still dread him. Quickly behead him and I shall favor you. During sacrifices, you will earn the head of the sacrificed animal. That’s how I will favor you. Quickly do what I say.’

"When he heard this, the carpenter, honoring great Indra’s request, used his axe to behead the three-headed creature at once. Out of the heads flew partridges, quails, and sparrows – the mouth used to mouth words from The Vedas and take in Soma-juice was exited by partridges quickly, the mouth, O king and adopted son of Pandu, used to gaze at main points as if swallowing them all was exited by a number of quails, and the mouth the three-headed being used to take in wine was exited by a number of sparrows and hawks. Now that the heads had rolled due to Indra, Indra’s unease was no more; he returned to Heaven, gladdened in his heart. The carpenter returned to his home. The Asuras’ slayer, having killed his enemy, considered his goal reached. When the Lord of Creatures named Twashtri heard that Indra had slain his son, his eyes reddened in anger. He said: ‘Since Indra has killed mine innocent son (he was constantly focused on being austere, he was merciful, he had self-control, and he had tamed passions), I’ll create a being named Vritra to kill Indra. Let the worlds bear witness to my power; let them see how powerful being austere can be! Let the quite cruel and wicked-minded Lord of the Gods bear witness to that which the worlds will!’ Upon saying so, the furious one famous for being austere rinsed his mouth, made offerings to a fire, created the terrible being called Vritra, and told him: ‘O one destined to kill Indra, become mighty when I perform rituals involving austerity!’ The Asura became mighty; it resembled Fire’s son and it scraped the sky. It asked: ‘I’ve risen like the sun of doomsday – what am I to do?’ ‘Kill Indra!’ was what it was told. So, it departed for the heavens. Then, each one ignited and wrathful, Vritra and Indra fought in a powerful way. Yes, O top Kuru, a dreaded fight took place there. Heroic Vritra grabbed the divine ruler who had performed one-hundred sacrifices – wrathful, he spun Indra and then popped him into his mouth. When Indra was swallowed by Vritra, the terrified, older gods who were naturally quite mighty created a being named Jrimbhika so that Vritra would die. When Vritra yawned, Vala, the Asura-slayer, shrunk down and exited Vritra’s mouth. That’s why a yawn clings to the life-breath of all animate creatures the three worlds over. The god rejoiced at Indra’s door. Then, another terrible fight between Vritra and Indra began – each one was quite angry. The fight went on for some time, supreme Bharata tribesman. When Vritra, inspired by Twashtri’s mighty spirit, himself naturally strong, got the upper hand, Indra fled – this truly troubled the gods. All, including Indra, were overpowered by Twashtri’s might. They met with saints for consultation, O Bharata tribesman, and thought about what would be proper to do; they were overwhelmingly full of dread. Atop Mount Mandara, determined to kill Vritra, they could only think of Vishnu, the indestructible one.’”

Chapter 708

“Vaisampayana said:

‘Indra said: ‘Vritra has passed through the entire, indestructible universe, O gods. There’s nothing more powerful than the act of fighting him. I was skilled long ago, but now I’m not. May good things happen to you – what can I do? Methinks he’s unapproachable. Powerful and magnanimous, possessive of immeasurable strength during battle, he could swallow the three worlds, including their gods, Asuras, and men. Listen to my plan, O heaven-dwellers. Go to Vishnu’s home along with the mahatma and holy being we must consult with to discover how we might slay the merciless wretch.’

"Once this had been said, the gods, along with the rishi-army, went to the mighty god named Vishnu so that the Protector of All would protect them. Dreading Vritra in a troubling way, they told the holy, supreme Lord of Gods: ‘In the past, you passed through the three worlds by taking three steps. You’ve earned ambrosia, O Vishnu, and you’ve destroyed Asuras in battle. You’ve bound the great Asura named Vali and you’ve put Indra on Heaven’s throne. You’re the Lord of Gods; you pervade the entire cosmos. You’re the holy god, the mighty, holy god – everyone salutes you. Shelter the divinities (including Indra), supreme god. Vritra’s pervaded the entire universe, O slayer of Asuras.’ And Vishnu said: ‘Surely I must do that which will do you some good. So, I’ll tell you a way to wipe him off the face of the earth. Go with the rishis and Gandharvas to the place where Vritra (the one with a complete shape) is and reconcile with him. That’s the way to overpower him. O gods, Indra, due to my power, will be victorious – I shall enter the top weapon, that thunderbolt, whilst being invisible. O supreme gods, go now with the rishis and the Gandharvas. Lose no time in making Indra and Vritra want peace.’

"Once they had thusly spoken, the rishis and divinities with Indra leading them banded together and departed. Nearing Indra, they saw Vritra glowing, brilliant – it was as if he was burning the ten points and swallowing the three worlds; he looked like the sun or moon. Then, the rishis went to Vritra and told him for the sake of appeasement: ‘O invincible being, your energy has passed through the entire universe. But, you cannot overpower Indra, supremely mighty one. It’s been a long time since you started fighting. All beings, including gods, Asuras, and men, are suffering from the aftermath of that battle. Make Indra your friend and keep him one for all time. You’d be happy and live forever in Indra’s worlds.’ When mighty Vritra heard the saints’ words, he bowed his head before them. Then, the Asura said: ‘I’ve listened to what you quite gifted beings and Gandharvas have said. Now, pure ones, listen to me. How can Indra and I be at peace? How can two unfriendly authority figures be friends, O gods?’ So the rishis said, ‘Righteous ones can meet just once and become friends. Becoming friends is something to wish for. What happens after such an alliance is fate. The chance to make friends with someone righteous is not a chance one should give up. So, one ought to try to make friends with someone righteous. Being a righteous one’s friend is like being quite wealthy – a wise man gives advice when necessary. You can put a friendship with a good person to good use and that’s why a wise man shouldn’t want to kill someone righteous. The righteous honor Indra; he’s the shelter of the magnanimous; he’s truthful, innocent, one who knows what virtue is, and one who judges in a refined kind of way. Now that you’ve heard about Indra, be his friend for all time. Have faith in him thusly and don’t attach your heart to some other decision.’

"When he heard the great Rishis’ words, the noteworthy Asura replied: ‘Surely rishis with supernatural powers ought to be respected by me. O god, do that which I am about to command to be done to a t and I’ll do everything these top Brahmins have told me to do. O Brahmin lords, make it so Indra does not kill me using something dry, wet, made of stone, or wooden. It cannot be something for close-range combat and it cannot be a missile. He cannot kill me during the day or at night. I’d create immortal peace for our sake if my demands were met.’ The rishis said ‘Excellent!’, top Bharata tribesman. Now that there was peace, Vritra was quite pleased. Indra, though he always thought about killing Vritra, now felt pleased, too. The divinities’ chief, his mind restless, spent his time looking for a loophole. Then, one special day, during the evening when things were bad, Indra spotted the mighty Asura on the sea-coast. He thought about the noteworthy Asura’s wish that had been granted and said: ‘What an awful time of day this is; it’s evening and neither day nor night. Vritra, mine enemy, has taken everything away from me. Surely I must kill him. If I never kill Vritra (a great, mighty Asura whose body is tremendous), not even by tricking him, it’ll be bad for me.’ Whilst Indra thought about all this, keeping Vishnu in mind, he instantly spotted, in the sea, a foamy mass that was as big as a hill. He said: ‘It’s neither dry nor wet and it’s not a weapon. If I hurl it at Vritra he’s sure to die instantly.’ So, he stirred the foam with his thunderbolt and hurled it at Vritra. When Vishnu entered the foam, Vritra died. Now that Vritra was dead, the main points became gloom-free; a pleasant breeze blew – all creatures were quite pleased. The gods, Gandharvas, Yakshas, Rakshasas, great snakes and saints glorified mighty Indra with various praising hymns. Upon being saluted, Indra encouraged them all. His heart as well as the gods’ hearts were gladdened by the enemy’s death. Knowing what virtue was like, he worshipped Vishnu, the most praiseworthy thing in all the world. Now, when mighty Vritra, one who treated the gods terribly, died, Indra became overpowered by Falsehood; he turned exceedingly sad and he was also overpowered by the sin of killing a Brahmin (the three-headed son of Twashtri). He went to the edge of the worlds and lost both his senses and consciousness. When his sins overwhelmed him, no one could recognize him. Like a wriggling snake, he hid underwater. Now that the Lord of Divinities, oppressed with dread because he’d killed a Brahmin, had vanished, the earth looked like havoc had been wrecked. The trees disappeared, the forests died, rivers stopped flowing, the reservoirs dried up, and animals felt troubled because no rain fell. The gods and the great rishis felt exceedingly fearful; the world was king-less and overpowered by disasters. Now that the gods and divine saints of Heaven had been separated from the gods’ chief, they filled with terror and wondered who would be their king. No one had any desire whatsoever to be the gods’ king.’”

Chapter 709

“Vaisampayana said,

‘Then, the rishis and the superior gods said: ‘Let handsome Nahusha be crowned King of the Gods. He’s powerful, famous, and eternally devoted to virtue.’ So, they went to him as one and told him: ‘O Lord of the Earth, be our king.’ Nahusha, thinking about his well-being, told the gods, saints, and ancestors of men: ‘I am weak and cannot protect you – someone powerful should be your ruler. Indra’s always been naturally strong.’ But the gods, as one, led by the saints, told him: ‘Let the virtue of our austerities help you rule the kingdom of Heaven. Surely each one of us is afraid of something. Be crowned, O Lord of Kings, the King of Heaven. You’ll be able to drain the power of anyone you see and get stronger – a god, an Asura, a Yaksha, a saint, a Pitri, or a Gandharva. Rule the worlds; protect the Brahmin saints and the gods of Heaven.’ Then, O Lord of Kings, Nahusha was crowned King of Heaven. Putting virtue first, he became the ruler of the worlds. Though he was always naturally virtuous, the precious wish he’d had granted and the prize of the Kingdom of Heaven made Nahusha sensual. When he became the King of the Gods, he surrounded himself with divine nymphs and virgins of divine birth; he began enjoying different things whilst in the Nandana-groves, atop Mount Kailasa, atop Himavat, atop Mandara, on the holy, white hill called Sahya, atop Mahendra, atop Malaya, on seas, and on rivers. He heard a variety of divine stories that captivated the ear and the heart; he heard a variety of instruments being played whilst sweet tunes were sung. The King of the Gods was served by Viswavasu, Narada, bevies of divine nymphs, bands of Gandharvas, and the personified six seasons. Perfumed breezes, refreshingly cool, swirled around him. Whilst the wretch was enjoying himself one day, the goddess who was Indra’s favorite wife came into view. The vicious soul looked at her and said to the courtiers: ‘Why doesn’t that goddess – Indra’s wife – serve me? I’m the King of the Gods and the ruler of the worlds. I order Sachi to hurry to my home.’ Saddened when she heard this, the goddess told Vrihaspati: ‘Protect me, O Brahmin, from Nahusha. I look to you to be my shelter. You always say, O Brahmin, that, because I’m the divine king’s favorite, I have each and every auspicious sign on my body. I am righteous, devoted to my husband, and destined never to be a widow. You’ve said these things about me before. Make them true. O one with great powers – O Lord – you never said anything that proved your vanity. So, top Brahmin, what you’ve said must be proven true.’ Then, Vrihaspati told Indra’s wife, one beside herself with fear: ‘What you’ve said will be proven true, O goddess. You’ll see Indra, the Lord of the Gods, return soon. I tell the truth – you have nothing to fear from Nahusha. Soon, I’ll reunite you with Indra.’ Now, when Nahusha got word that Indra’s wife had been sheltered by Vrihaspati, son of Angiras, he became quite enraged.’”

Chapter 710

“Vaisampayana said:

‘Seeing that Nahusha was enraged, the gods, led by the saints, told him: ‘What an awful-looking king you are now. O Lord of Gods, quell your wrath. When you’re furious, Lord, the holy universe, including its Asuras, Gandharvas, Kinnaras, and great snakes, trembles. Quell your wrath, righteous being. People like you don’t get irritable. That goddess is another’s wife. Soothe yourself, Lord of Gods. Avoid the sin of infuriating another’s wife. May you be prosperous – you’re the King of Gods. Protect your people, utterly righteous one.’ Though that’s what they said, he ignored those words, Lust making him senseless. The king spoke to the gods about Indra: ‘The wife of a saint with pure fame named Ahalya lost her temper due to Indra – her husband was still alive. Did you stop him? Over the years, Indra’s done cruel, wicked, and dishonest things. Did you stop him? Let the goddess please me to be eternally goodly. If you please me, you’ll be safe, O gods.’

"But the gods said: ‘Just as you commanded, O Lord of Heaven, we’ll bring you Indra’s wife. Quell your wrath, brave soul! Be at peace, Lord of Gods!’

"Having spoken to him thusly, the gods and the saint went to tell Vrihaspati and Indra’s wife the news. They said: ‘We know, supreme Brahmin, that Indra’s wife went to you for protection. We know you promised to protect her, supreme and divine saint. But, shiny one, we gods, Gandharvas, and saints beg you to let Indra’s wife go to Nahusha. Nahusha, the King of the Gods, shines brilliantly and is better than Indra. Let the lady with a supreme shape take him as her husband.’ At this, the goddess let herself weep; sobbing aloud, she mourned with pitiable tones. She told Vrihaspati: ‘O top divine saint, I don’t want Nahusha to be my husband. O Brahmin, I went to you for protection. Save me from great danger!’

"And Vrihaspati said: ‘This is my decision – I refuse to leave one who came to me for protection behind. O innocent one, I won’t forsake you – you’re virtuous and your manner is honest. I don’t want to do something inappropriate, especially because I’m a Brahmin who knows what righteousness is; I respect truth and am aware too of the laws of virtue. I cannot let this happen. Go where you will, supreme gods. Listen now to what Brahma sang about long ago about something like this: ‘The man who hands a terrified creature that came to him for protection over to an enemy, will, when in need of protection himself, have none. His seeds won’t grow when they should and he won’t have rain in the monsoon season. No, the one who hands a terrified creature who came to him for protection over will always fail. Senseless, he’ll fall, frozen, from Heaven. Gods will refuse his offerings. His children will die an untimely death and his forefathers will never be at peace with one another. The gods, led by Indra, will hurl a thunderbolt at him. Know that I won’t hand Sachi over – she, Indra’s wife, is famous for being his favorite wife. O top gods, I ask that you do that which does us both some good. I will never hand Sachi over!

"Then, the gods and the Gandharvas told the gods’ teacher: ‘O Vrihaspati, think about what would be a solid plan of action.’ And Vrihaspati said: ‘The auspicious-looking goddess should ask Nahusha to give her some time to make up her mind about his request. This will do Indra’s wife as well as ourselves some good. O gods, time could create obstacles and move itself forward. Nahusha’s arrogant and the wish of his that was granted made him powerful.’

"Vrihaspati, having said this, delighted the gods. They replied: ‘Well said, O Brahmin. This will do the gods some good – we’re certain of it. But, the goddess must be praised.’ Then, the assembled gods led by Agni, wishing to do all the worlds some good, spoke quietly to Indra’s wife. They said: ‘You support the entire cosmos of animate and inanimate objects. You’re righteous and true – go to Nahusha. Soon, the vicious being who lusts after you will fall and Indra, O goddess, will rule the gods again.’ Seeing that this was what they’d decided on, Indra’s wife, to be successful, went, shy, to Nahusha, one who looked terrible. When vicious Nahusha, one made senseless due to lust, saw how youthful and lovely she was, he became quite pleased.’”

Chapter 711

“Vaisampayana said: