Mahabharata (abridged)

258,337 words | ISBN-10: 8121505933

The English translation of the Mahabharata: one of the two major Sanskrit epics of India. Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes, the Mahabharata contains philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life". NOTE: this is a Summary Study (...

Shanti Parva

The Lamentation of Maharaja Yudhisthira

Having offered water unto all the deceased friends and relatives, the Pandavas continued to live on the banks of the Ganges for the period of one month. Many great sages and rishis came to see King Yudhisthira and offer him some consolation. Thousands of brahmanas came to comfort the King who was mourning the death of so many kinsmen. At that time the great sage Narada visited the King and spoke to him, O Yudhisthira, by the prowess of your arms and by the grace of the Supreme Lord Krishna, you have conquered the earth. By good luck, you have escaped this great slaughter of men. O son of Pandu, after defeating the sinful Duryodhana, are you not happy? I hope that grief and lamentation are not afflicting you.

O Narada, Yudhisthira replied, indeed, I have conquered the whole earth relying on the grace of Krishna, the blessings of the brahmanas and the strength of Bhima and Arjuna. There is, however, a heavy grief that is still sitting in my heart. I feel that my own greed has caused this great slaughter of kinsmen. Lamenting the death of Abhimanyu and the sons of Draupadi, I feel victory to be defeat. What will Subhadra say to me? The lamentation of Draupadi is more than I can bear. It was after the slaughter of all these men that I came to know that Karna was my brother. He was born of the union of the Sun god and my mother Kunti. He was regarded by the whole world to be the son of Radha, but in actuality, he was my mother's eldest son. I have, unknowingly, caused him to be slain. This is burning my limbs like fire burns a heap of cotton. Neither Arjuna nor Bhima nor the twins knew him to be our eldest brother. However, he knew that we were his younger brothers. He was informed of this by Lord Krishna and my mother. Because of his close ties with Duryodhana, he could not come to our side. He did, however, agree not to take our lives. If I could have had both Arjuna and Karna, I could have conquered over any of the great maharathis. During the gambling match, even though provoked by Karna's words, I became pacified by his sight. He always seemed to resemble our mother in many ways. I tried to find out the reason for the likeness, but I never came to any conclusion. O Narada, why has the earth swallowed up his chariot wheels? Why was my elder brother cursed? I desire to hear all that you know regarding this subject matter.

O great King, Narada said, I will tell you the history of this son of Kunti as you have asked. After he was raised by Radha and Athiratha, he came to Hastinapura to learn the science of arms. When he saw the strength of Bhimasena, the quickness of Arjuna, the intelligence of yourself, and the humility of the twins, he burned with envy. He could not tolerate the friendship between Krishna and Arjuna, nor the affection the people in general had for you. He then made friends with Duryodhana, led by his nature and his hate towards all of you. Upon seeing Arjuna's superiority in weaponry, he one day approached the great Drona and requested him, зPlease teach me the mantras for releasing and withdrawing the Brahmastra weapon. The affection you feel towards your disciples is the same as you feel towards your own son. Therefore, please bestow your blessings upon me so that I may become a master of arms.' Knowing the wickedness of Karna and feeling partiality towards Arjuna, Drona replied, зOnly a brahmana who has observed vows or a kshatriya who has practiced austere penances, should be acquainted with this weapon.'

After being rejected by Drona, Karna traveled to mount Mahendra where the great sage Parashurama lived. He bowed before the great rishi and with folded hands, he pleaded, зI am a brahmana descending in the line of Bhrigu. Please instruct me in the science of arms.' Hearing that the youth was a brahmana, Parashurama replied, зIndeed, you are welcome here.' Karna then took up his abode in the great sage's hermitage and became his disciple. While residing on Mount Mahendra, he met many Gandharvas, Yakshas and Rakshasas. He made friends with them, and they instructed him in how to use many weapons. He became a great favorite of the demigods. One day as he was roaming the area around the hermitage, he happen to kill a cow by accident. When he informed the brahmana who owned the cow, the brahmana became enraged and cursed Karna saying, зO wretched person, you shall bear the fruit of this sinful act. While fighting with you worst enemy, the earth shall devour your chariot wheel. In that state of confusion, your enemy will cut off your head. Just as you have killed my cow when she was inattentive, so your enemy will kill you in the same way!' Karna tried to pacify the brahmana, but the brahmana would not withdraw the curse. Thus Karna returned to his preceptor greatly unhappy.

Narada continued, Parashurama was very pleased with the prowess of Karna, as well as his affection, sense control and the services he rendered toward toward him. Parashurama happily gave to Karna the mantras for releasing and withdrawing the Brahma weapon. Having acquired knowledge of this weapon, he continued to reside happily in the ashrama of Parashurama. One day while roaming the forests with Karna, Parashurama became fatigued due to his continued fasts. He lay down on his disciple's lap and fell fast asleep. While he was sleeping, a worm that lived on flesh and blood began to eat away at Karna's leg. Karna was unable to throw away or kill the worm. The worm gradually bored through Karna's leg, and Karna, not wanting to disturb his preceptor, tolerated the pain. When blood touched Parashurama's face, the great sage awoke and saw the blood. He inquired, зHow have I been made impure? Cast off all fear and tell me what has happened.' Karna then informed him that a worm had bitten his leg. Parashurama then saw that worm which resembled a small boar. It had eight legs and very sharp teeth. It was covered with bristles that were like needles. As soon as the rishi cast his glance upon the worm, it gave up its life force. A Rakshasa then suddenly appeared in the heavens. He addressed the rishi in the following words, зO best of the ascetics, you have kindly rescued me from this hellish condition. Formerly, I was a great asura of the name Dansa. During the Satya Yuga, I took away the wife of the great sage Bhrigu. He cursed me saying, зYou shall become a worm and live on flesh and blood.' I then humbly requested him that there be an end to the curse. He replied, зThis curse shall end when you are killed by the great sage Parashurama.' O righteous one, by your grace I have been released from this hellish existence. I now take leave of you.' Having revealed his past, the Rakshasa went his own way.

Narada Muni continued, Parashurama angrily addressed Karna, зO fool, no brahmana could endure such pain. Your patience is like that of a warrior. You must tell me truthfully what caste you were born in.' Fearfully Karna replied, зO descendent of Bhrigu, I am the son of a carpenter. My mother's name is Radha. Do not be displeased with me. It was for obtaining the science of arms that I presented myself in the way that I did. You are my preceptor and are like a father. Please do not take seriously the faults of your son.' Karna then prostrated himself before his martial guru and asked that he be merciful. Parashurama was enraged that this person had lied to him. He cursed Karna in the following words, зSince you have lied to me and approached me under false pretenses, I say that you will not be able to remember the hymns of the brahmastra weapon when you are fighting with your foremost enemy. You must now leave my ashrama for this is no place for such false behavior.' Although cursed in this way, Parashurama blessed Karna as he was leaving, зOn earth there shall be no kshatriya who will be your equal in battle.' Karna then returned to Hastinapura and to the presence of his friend Duryodhana.

Having obtained the science of weapons from Parashurama, Karna began to pass his days in Duryodhana's company. Once upon a time, many kings went to the country of the Kalingas, ruled by a king named Chitrangada. The city was named Rajapura. Hearing that many kings had assembled in this city hoping to gain the King's daughter, Duryodhana accompanied by Karna, also attended the ceremony. Some of the prominent Kings were Shishupala, Jarasandha, Bhishmaka, Vakra, Nila and Rukmi. When these kings had taken their proper seats, the King's daughter entered the arena accompanied by her guards. She was, indeed, beautiful, and all the Kings were attracted to her. While she was being informed of the princes and Kings present, the beautiful maiden passed by Duryodhana, thus rejecting him. Not tolerating her rejection and relying on Karna's prowess, Duryodhana took the maiden by force and put her on his chariot. There was a great uproar from all the kings present, and they all immediately put on their coats of armor to fight with Duryodhana. As they pursued the fleeing King, Karna stood to challenge them. Singlehandedly, he fought with them and defeated them. He shattered their bows, lances, darts, maces and clubs. He killed their horses and charioteers, but left them with their lives. Thus Duryodhana obtained his queen by the grace of the powerful Karna.

Narada continued, Hearing of Karna's fame and his superior strength, Jarasandha, the ruler of Magadha, challenged him to single combat. Both warriors were masters of celestial weapons, and both were very powerful. As their battle progressed, they soon exhausted their arrows and other weapons, and then fought with bare arms. Karna knew the secret of Jarasandha's birth and was about to sever him in two. Jarasandha, understanding his antagonists motives and feeling himself defeated, cast off his desire to fight and said, зI am pleased with you.' Out of a desire to win his friendship, he gave Karna a town called Malini. Thus Karna became famous on earth as a great fighter. However, due to his being cursed by his preceptor and the brahmana, as well as his being belittled by Bhishma and Salya, Karna has been killed by the wielder of the Gandiva bow. Even though he has fallen in battle, you should not lament for this was his destiny.

After Narada had revealed Karna's history, the royal King Yudhisthira could not control his emotions and began to shed tears. Kunti then came forward and spoke to her son, O my mighty armed Yudhisthira, do not grieve in this way. I tried previously to inform Karna of his relationship with you. I tried to persuade him to give up his enmity. The Sun god also spoke to him. However, because of his intimate friendship with Duryodhana, he would not change his position. I tried to persuade him otherwise, but he would not agree. I then gave up the attempt.

When King Yudhisthira heard his mother's words of consolation, he could not contain his anger and grief. He said to her, Because you have concealed this knowledge from me, I will be subdued, not by war, but by sinful reactions. I curse all womenhood that henceforward no woman shall succeed in keeping a secret. Reflecting over the death of so many kinsmen, the King could not be pacified.

While engaging in various lamentations, King Yudhisthira looked up at Arjuna and spoke to him, O Partha, if we had led a mendicant's life in the cities of the Vrishnis and the Andakas, then this unnecessary slaughter of so many men would have never taken place. Shame on the duties of a kshatriya! Shame on strength and prowess! It is because of these duties that this terrible massacre of men has taken place. Blessed are the qualities of forgiveness, sense control, purity, renunciation, non violence, and humility. Because we have desired sovereignty of the earth, we have committed many sinful acts. We were like a pack of dogs fighting for a piece of meat. We no longer desire that piece of meat, and it will be thrown aside. For Duryodhana's sinful determination, this whole kshatriya race has been exterminated. We never showed any hatred or envy for the sons of Dhritarastra. On the other hand, they always hated us though we tried to avoid them in all circumstances. Now, having slain them, our wrath has been pacified. The only atonement as prescribed in the scriptures is to lead a renounced life. I shall therefore abandon this kingdom and enter the forest to lead a mendicant's life. Now that peace has been restored on earth, I hand this kingdom over to you. Rule it according to your desire.

Upon hearing his elder brother's determination, Arjuna said, I grieve to see the great agitation of your heart. You have achieved a superhuman feat, and now you are bent on destroying it. Having slain your enemy and acquired the sovereignty of the earth, why should you abandon everything through fickleness of heart? Why have you killed all the kings of the earth? You are born in a race of great monarchs. Now, having won the conquest of the earth, why are you desiring to abandon virtue and profit from folly? If you retire to the forest, dishonest men will become prominent and destroy the sacrificial fires of the brahmanas. This sin will surely accrue due to your lack of responsibility. The wealth that kings take from others becomes the means of their prosperity. We have never seen that wealth has been won without doing harm to others. The royal sages have declared that this is the duty of the kshatriyas. This earth formerly belonged to Dilipa, Nahusha, Ambarisha, and Mandhatri. She now belongs to you. It is now your duty to perform a horse sacrifice so that the sins of killing so many men will not accrue to you, and your citizens will prosper.

O King, Bhima added, your intelligence has become covered to the truth. If, renouncing the duties of a King, you would lead a life of idleness, then this massacre of Dhritarastra's sons was uncalled for. Are forgiveness, compassion, and non violence not to be found among those of the kshatriya race? If we had known that after this great battle, you would have renounced the kingdom, then we would have never slain a single creature. We would have lived in the forest till the demise of this body. Wise men, acquainted with the duties of a kshatriya, say that those, who unrighteously steal another's property or unlawfully usurp the throne, should be slain. Duryodhana and his followers were guilty of this fault and thus they have been killed. O Yudhisthira, govern this world righteously. It has been laid down that a life of renunciation should be adopted only in times of distress. A king should only lead a life of renunciation when he is decrepit or devoid of his kingdom. Men of wisdom, therefore, do not sanction renunciation as the duty of a kshatriya. You are, O Monarch, conversant with all duties. There is nothing that is not known to you. We always wish to imitate your conduct, but we cannot do so.

Hearing Bhima's advice, Nakula then spoke to his elder brother, O Yudhisthira, real renunciation for a kshatriya is to protect the citizens. One who gives in charity to the brahmanas, who are conversant with Vedic knowledge, leads a life of true renunciation. That king, who neglects his citizens and does not give them protection, is the very embodiment of Kali. If you do not give protection to the citizens, then you will incur sin. As the ancient kings before you have performed their duties, so should you also perform your duty.

Sahadeva then added, O King, it is not by casting off external objects that one attains success. One who renounces all material possessions, but still internally covets them, only deludes himself and makes no spiritual progress. O King, such a person lives in the jaws of death. Behold, O descendent of Bharata, the forms of all creatures to be manifestations of your own self. Please protect them as they are in great need.

Arjuna then turned to Lord Krishna and requested Him, This great King, O Krishna, is grieving for the loss of so many kinsmen. O Madhava, please comfort him. Once again, O descendent of Vrishni, we have fallen into a great danger. It behooves You to dispel his grief.

Thus addressed by Arjuna, the lotus eyed Lord turned his face toward Yudhisthira. Whatever was spoken by Lord Govinda could not be rejected by the King. From the very beginning Lord Krishna was dearer to him than Arjuna. Taking up the hand of the King with His Own, Lord Krishna, whose hands and eyes resembled lotus flowers said, Do not, O tiger among men, grieve for those who are already dead. No amount of lamentation will bring them back to life. Those great warriors who fell in this battle are like objects seen in dreams. They only temporarily exist. All the warriors in this great battle attained a higher destination that is the pride of a fallen warrior. Death is the destination for all who take birth in this world. One may die today or tomorrow, according to one's predestined activities. Therefore, O King, cast off this lamentation and act according to the duties suited for the King of this world.

Seeing the King still plunged in grief, Vyasadeva, the grandfather of the Pandavas, then spoke words for the King's benefit. He said, O Ajatashatru, protection of the citizens is the duty of a King. You should follow in the footsteps of those greatly pious monarchs who proceeded you. The first and foremost duty of a kshatriya is to protect those who take shelter under him. A person who transgresses the laws of justice and morality must be punished. The Kauravas were offenders in every sense of the word. Therefore, they deserved to die at Kurukshetra.

I do not doubt your advice, Yudhisthira said. Everything about justice and morality is known to you. I have, however, for the sake of a kingdom caused many persons to be slain. This is burning my heart like a forest fire.

Vyasadeva then questioned Maharaja Yudhisthira, O descendent of Bharata, is the Supreme Lord the cause of all action, or is man the ultimate cause? Is everything the result of chance, or are the fruits we enjoy the result of previous actions? If man acts according to the desires of the Supreme Lord, then the fruits of those acts should be awarded to that Supreme Being. If a person cuts down a tree in the forest with the use of an axe, then it is the person that incurs the sin and not the axe. O Yudhisthira, you have been but an instrument in this great battle desired by the Supreme Lord Himself. No one, O King, can turn away from that which has been predestined by the Supreme Lord. If is is necessary to ascertain what is good and what is bad, then one should consult the scriptures. In those scriptures it has been laid down that kings should stand with the rod of chastisement uplifted in their hands. Actually, these kings have died through the influence of time. Neither you nor Bhima nor Arjuna nor the twins have killed anyone. The Supreme Lord Himself has said, зTime I am the destroyer of all things, and I have come to engage all people.' You have simply been an instrument in the hands of that Supreme Being. Therefore, O Yudhisthira, do not fall under the sway of lamentation. Act according to the duties of a King. Protect the citizens and engage them according to their prescribed activities.

O holy one, Yudhisthira said, I desire to hear in detail the duties of the four Varnas and four Ashramas. I desire to hear how one can subjugate the world by treading the path of morality.

If, O King, you wish to hear about the science of of morality and the duties for all men, Vyasadeva replied, then approach Bhishma, the grandsire of the Kurus.

After causing the slaughter of so many men, Yudhisthira said, I have become an offender to all persons. I have caused our grandsire to be slain on the field of battle by means of deceit. How then c n I ask him the science of morality?

In your grief do not be impertinent, Lord Krishna said. You should follow the advice given by the great sage Vyasa. We shall enter the city of Hastinapura, and after being greeted by the citizens, we will see to your coronation. Then we will approach the great grandsire of the Kuru dynasty and receive his final instructions.

King Yudhisthira then cast off all lamentation and ascended the royal chariot which was drawn by sixteen spotlessly white oxen. To the sounds of musical instruments and to glorification by the bards and minstrels, King Yudhisthira started for Hastinapura. Bhima took the reins of the beautiful chariot, and Arjuna held the royal umbrella over his elder brother's head. Nakula and Sahadeva fanned the King with chamara wisks that were as white as the rays of the moon. Behind the royal chariot rode Yuyutsu and behind him rode the Lord of the universe, Lord Krishna, accompanied by Satyaki. At the head of the procession rode King Dhritarastra and his chaste wife Gandhari. They were riding on a special royal palanquin. Also in that procession were the ladies such as Kunti and Draupadi. Behind the procession were a large number of chariots, elephants, horsemen and foot soldiers.

While the procession was proceeding towards the city of the elephants, the jubilant citizens were busy decorating the city to greet their King. The citizens were joyous and quickly saw to it that the streets were dampened with perfumed water, and that flowers and festoons were hung from the beautifully decorated houses. After all was made ready, they anxiously awaited the arrival of the King.

At the time when the Pandavas entered the city, thousands upon thousands of citizens came out to behold the sight. The well adorned streets and squares were indeed beautiful. As the King passed in his procession, the ladies threw flowers and praised him accordingly. They exclaimed, All glories to the pious King Yudhisthira. All glories to the son of Vayu, Bhima. All glories to the son of Indra, Arjuna, and all glories to Nakula and Sahadeva. There was an uproar of drums, kettledrums, conchshells and trumpets. The cheers of the citizens and the showers of flowers combined to present a wondrous scene. After thirteen years of exile, the Pandavas were greeted by the pious citizens of Hastinapura. Having passed through the streets of the city, Yudhisthira entered the palace of Kurus which was decorated with every conceivable ornament. The people, belonging to the city as well as other provinces, approached the palace uttering auspicious words. By good luck, O foremost of Kings, you have vanquished your enemies and recovered the kingdom. Be our monarch for a hundred years and protect us as Indra protects the denizens of heaven. The King then descended from his chariot and entered the beautifully decorated palace. He offered obeisances to the deities of the demigods and worshiped them accordingly. He then came out of the palace again and saw a large number of brahmanas desiring to bless him with benedictions. When they surrounded him, it appeared as if the moon was present with its many luminaries. The King then worshiped those brahmanas and bestowed upon them all kinds of wealth. Then loud shouts of This is a blessed day filled the sky. The King heard those sounds as well as the sounds of drums and conchshells. This was all indicative of his triumph.

It so happened that among the brahmanas was a Rakshasa named Charvaka. He disguised himself as a brahmana, and he happened to be a friend of Duryodhana. When the brahmanas had become silent, this sinful Rakshasa stood fearlessly as if he were a representative of all the brahmanas and exclaimed, Having made Myself as their spokesman, these brahmanas have said, зShame upon you, O King! You are certainly wicked and a slayer of your kinsmen. What have you gained by exterminating your race? Having slain your superiors as well as your preceptor, you should give up your life.'

Hearing the bogus statements of the Rakshasa, the brahmanas were deeply agitated. They could not tolerate that speech. King Yudhisthira then replied to the false brahmana, I bow down to you, O brahmana, and ask that you be pleased with me. It does not befit you to address me like this. I shall soon lay down my life.

The brahmanas then loudly exclaimed, These are not our words, O King. We wish you all prosperity. This is a Rakshasa named Charvaka and a friend of Duryodhana. He has taken the garb of a brahmana, seeking to cast you into further lamentation. We have not, O righteous soul, made any statements of this kind. Those brahmanas, enraged by Charvaka's statements, sounded hymns from the Vedas, and the Rakshasa suddenly fell to the ground dead. He fell down like a tree hit by the thunderbolt of Indra. Then the brahmanas, uttering benedictions upon the King, made the necessary arrangements for the coronation of the king.

The royal son of Kunti, the mighty King Yudhisthira, then took his seat facing eastwards. He sat on a throne made of solid gold. On another seat facing him sat Lord Krishna and Satyaki. On either side of Yudhisthira were Bhima and Arjuna, also seated on beautiful thrones. Upon a throne made of ivory and bedecked with gold sat Nakula and Sahadeva and their mother Kunti. Also seated for the coronation were Dhritarastra, Gandhari, Dhaumya, Yuyutsu and others. The priests then came before Yudhisthira carrying the necessary paraphernalia needed for the coronation. The Lord of the Universe, the Supreme Person, Lord Krishna personally took the sanctified waters in a pure white conch and bathed the head of King Yudhisthira as well as the heads of Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. This was all done while the pious brahmanas poured clarified butter into the sacrificial fire and chanted the Vedic mantras.

After the coronation, King Yudhisthira appointed Bhima as the Yuvaraja. He appointed Sanjaya to look after the finances of the state, and he ordered Nakula to see to the welfare of the army. He appointed Arjuna to repel all enemy forces and to chastise the wicked. He appointed Dhaumya to look after the brahmanas, and he appointed Sahadeva to stay always by his side. King Yudhisthira then caused the Shraddha ceremony to be performed for all of his kinsmen slain in battle. He gave wealth away in the name of Drona, Karna, Dhristadyumna, Abhimanyu, Ghatotkacha, Virata, Drupada and the five sons of Draupadi. For the sake of these and many more, King Yudhisthira gave gold, jewels, cloth and cows to thousands of brahmanas . He thus paid off his debt that he owed to them and began to protect the citizens of the world as a righteous king should. He showed due honor to Dhritarastra, Gandhari, and the other Kuru elders. The affectionate King Yudhisthira extended his favors to the destitute, the blind and the helpless. He gave them food, clothes and shelter. He caused all the citizens to increase their devotion to God and the pious brahmanas. Thus he resided happily in his kingdom having conquered the whole earth.

Thus Ends the Shanti Parva, Entitled, The Lamentation of Maharaja Yudhisthira.  

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