The Mahabharata - First Book
'What was the fault of the Vasus and who was Apava, through whose curse the Vasus had to be born among men? What also hath this child of thine, Gangadatta, done for which he shall have to live among men? Why also were the Vasus, the lords of the three worlds, condemned to be born amongst men?
O daughter of Jahnu, tell me all.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed, the celestial daughter of Jahnu, Ganga, then replied unto the monarch, her husband, that bull amongst men, saying,
'O best of Bharata's race, he who was obtained as son by Varuna was called Vasishtha, the Muni who afterwards came to be known as Apava. He had his asylum on the breast of the king of mountains called Meru. The spot was sacred and abounded with birds and beasts. And there bloomed at all times of the year flowers of every season.
And, O best of Bharata's race, that foremost of virtuous men, the son of Varuna, practised his ascetic penances in those woods abounding with sweet roots and water.
"Daksha had a daughter known by the name of Surabhi, who, O bull of Bharata's race, for benefiting the world, brought forth, by her connection with Kasyapa, a daughter (Nandini) in the form of a cow. That foremost of all kine, Nandini, was the cow of plenty (capable of granting every desire).
The virtuous son of Varuna obtained Nandini for his Homa rites. And Nandini, dwelling in that hermitage which was adored by Munis, roamed about fearlessly in those sacred and delightful woods.
"One day, O bull of Bharata's race, there came into those woods adored by the gods and celestial Rishis, the Vasus with Prithu at their head. And wandering there with their wives, they enjoyed themselves in those delightful woods and mountains.
And as they wandered there, the slender-waisted wife of one of the Vasus, O thou of the prowess of Indra, saw in those woods Nandini, the cow of plenty. And seeing that cow possessing the wealth of all accomplishments, large eyes, full udders, fine tail, beautiful hoofs, and every other auspicious sign, and yielding much milk, she showed the animal to her husband Dyu.
O thou of the prowess of the first of elephants, when Dyu was shown that cow, he began to admire her several qualities and addressing his wife, said,
'O black-eyed girl of fair thighs, this excellent cow belongeth to that Rishi whose is this delightful asylum. O slender-waisted one, that mortal who drinketh the sweet milk of this cow remaineth in unchanged youth for ten thousand years.'
'There is on earth a friend of mine, Jitavati by name, possessed of great beauty and youth. She is the daughter of that god among men, the royal sage Usinara, endued with intelligence and devoted to truth. I desire to have this cow, O illustrious one, with her calf for that friend of mine.
Therefore, O best of celestials, bring that cow so that my friend drinking of her milk may alone become on earth free from disease and decrepitude.
O illustrious and blameless one, it behoveth thee to grant me this desire of mine. There is nothing that would be more agreeable to me.'
On hearing these words of his wife, Dyu, moved by the desire of humouring her, stole that cow, aided by his brothers Prithu and the others. Indeed, Dyu, commanded by his lotus-eyed wife, did her bidding, forgetting at the moment the high ascetic merits of the Rishi who owned her. He did not think at the time that he was going to fall by committing the sin of stealing the cow.
"When the son of Varuna returned to his asylum in the evening with fruits he had collected, he beheld not the cow with her calf there. He began to search for them in the woods, but when the great ascetic of superior intelligence found not his cow on search, he saw by his ascetic vision that she had been stolen by the Vasus.
His wrath was instantly kindled and he cursed the Vasus, saying,
'Because the Vasus have stolen my cow of sweet milk and handsome tail, therefore, shall they certainly be born on earth!'
"O thou bull of Bharata's race, the illustrious Rishi Apava thus cursed the Vasus in wrath. And having cursed them, the illustrious one set his heart once more on ascetic meditation.
And after that Brahmarshi of great power and ascetic wealth had thus in wrath cursed the Vasus, the latter, O king, coming to know of it, speedily came into his asylum. And addressing the Rishi, O bull among kings, they endeavoured to pacify him.
But they failed, O tiger among men, to obtain grace from Apava — that Rishi conversant, with all rules of virtue. The virtuous Apava, however, said,
'Ye Vasus, with Dhava and others, ye have been cursed by me. But ye shall be freed from my curse within a year of your birth among men. But he for whose deed ye have been cursed by me he, viz., Dyu, shall for his sinful act, have to dwell on earth for a length of time.
I shall not make futile the words I have uttered in wrath. Dyu, though dwelling on Earth, shall not beget children. He shall, however, be virtuous and conversant with the scriptures. He shall be an obedient son to his father, but he shall have to abstain from the pleasure of female companionship.'
"Thus addressing the Vasus, the great Rishi went away. The Vasus then together came to me. And, O king, the begged of me the boon that as soon as they would be born, I should throw them into the water. And, O best of kings, I did as they desired, in order to free them from their earthly life.
And O best of kings, from the Rishi's curse, this one only, viz., Dyu, himself, is to live on earth for some time.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Having said this, the goddess disappeared then and there. And taking with her the child, she went away to the region she chose. And that child of Santanu was named both Gangeya and Devavrata and excelled his father in all accomplishments.
"Santanu, after the disappearance of his wife, returned to his capital with a sorrowful heart. I shall now recount to thee the many virtues and the great good fortune of the illustrious king Santanu of the Bharata race.
Indeed, it is this splendid history that is called the Mahabharata.'"
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