Mahabharata (English)

by Kisari Mohan Ganguli | 2,566,952 words | ISBN-10: 8121505933

The English translation of the Mahabharata is a large text describing ancient India. It is authored by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa and contains the records of ancient humans. Also, it documents the fate of the Kauravas and the Pandavas family. Another part of the large contents, deal with many philosophical dialogues such as the goals of life. Book...

Section CXLII

"Vaisampayana continued, 'On hearing that the heroic sons of Pandu endued with excess of energy had become so mighty, king Dhritarashtra became very miserable with anxiety. Then summoning unto his side Kanika, that foremost of minister, well-versed in the science of politics and an expert in counsels the king said,

'O best of Brahmanas, the Pandavas are daily overshadowing the earth.
I am exceedingly jealous of them.
Should I have peace or war with them?
O Kanika, advise me truly, for I shall do as you biddest.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'That best of Brahmanas, thus addressed by the king, freely answered him in these pointed words well-agreeing with the import of political science."

"Listen to me, O sinless king, as I answer you.

And, O best of Kuru kings, it behoves you not to be angry with me after hearing all I say. Kings should ever be ready with uplifted maces (to strike when necessary), and they should ever increase their prowess. Carefully avoiding all faults themselves they should ceaselessly watch over the faults of their foes and take advantage of them.

If the king is always ready to strike, everybody fears him.

Therefore the king should ever have recourse to chastisement in all he does. He should so conduct himself that, his foe may not detect any weak side in him. But by means of the weakness he detects in his foe he should pursue him (to destruction).

He should always conceal, like the tortoise concealing its body, his means and ends, and he should always keep back his own weakness from, the sight of others. And having begun a particular act, he should ever accomplish it thoroughly. Behold, a thorn, if not extracted wholly, produces a festering sore.

The slaughter of a foe who does you evil is always praiseworthy. If the foe be one of great prowess, one should always watch for the hour of his disaster and then kill him without any scruples. If he should happen to be a great warrior, his hour of disaster also should be watched and he should then be induced to fly.

O sire, an enemy should never be scorned, however contemptible. A spark of fire is capable of consuming an extensive forest if only it can spread from one object to another in proximity. Kings should sometimes feign blindness and deafness, for if impotent to chastise, they should pretend not to notice the faults that call for chastisement.

On occasions, such as these, let them regard their bows as made of straw. But they should be always on the alert like a herd of deer sleeping in the woods. When your foe is in your power, destroy him by every means open or secret. Do not show him any mercy, although he seeks your protection.

A foe, or one that has once injured you, should be destroyed by lavishing money, if necessary, for by killing him you mayest be at your ease. The dead can never inspire fear. You must destroy the three, five and seven (resources) of your foes.

You must destroy your foes root and branch. Then should you destroy their allies and partisans. The allies and partisans can never exist if the principal be destroyed. If the root of the tree is torn up, the branches and twigs can never exist as before.

Carefully concealing your own means and ends, you should always watch your foes, always seeking their flaws.

You should, O king, rule your kingdom, always anxiously watching your foes. By maintaining the perpetual fire by sacrifices, by brown cloths, by matted locks, and by hides of animals for your bedding, should you at first gain the confidence of your foes, and when you has gained it you should then spring upon them like a wolf.

For it has been said that in the acquisition of wealth even the garb of holiness might be employed as a hooked staff to bend down a branch in order to pluck the fruits that are ripe.

The method followed in the plucking of fruits should be the method in destroying foes, for you should proceed on the principle of selection. Bear your foe upon your shoulders till the time comes when you canst throw him down, breaking him into pieces like an earthen pot thrown down with violence upon a stony surface.

The foe must never be let off even though he addresses you most piteously. No pity should you show him but slay him at once. By the arts of conciliation or the expenditure of money should the foe be slain. By creating disunion amongst his allies, or by the employment of force, indeed by every means in your power should you destroy your foe.'

"Dhritarashtra said,

'Tell me truly how a foe can be destroyed by the arts of conciliation or the expenditure of money, or by producing disunion or by the employment of force.'

"Kanika replied,

'Listen, O monarch, to the history of a jackal dwelling in days of yore in the forest and fully acquainted with the science of politics. There was a wise jackal, mindful of his own interests who lived in the company of four friends, viz., a tiger, a mouse, a wolf, and a mongoose.

One day they saw in the woods a strong deer, the leader of a herd, whom, however, they could not seize for his fleetness and strength. They thereupon called a council for consultation.

The jackal opening the proceedings said,

'O tiger, you have made many an effort to seize this deer, but all in vain simply because this deer is young, fleet and very intelligent. Let now the mouse go and eat into its feet when it lies asleep. And when this is done, let the tiger approach and seize it.

Then shall we all, with great pleasure feast on it.'

Hearing these words of the jackal, they all set to work very cautiously as he directed. And the mouse ate into the feet of the deer and the tiger killed it as anticipated. And beholding the body of the deer lying motionless on the ground, the jackal said unto his companions,

'Blessed be you! Go and perform your ablutions.
In the meantime I will look after the deer.'

Hearing what the jackal said, they all went into a stream. And the jackal waited there, deeply meditating upon what he should do. The tiger endued with great strength, returned first of all to the spot after having performed his ablutions. And he saw the jackal there plunged in meditation. The tiger said,

'Why art you so sorrowful, O wise one!
You are the foremost of all intelligent beings.
Let us enjoy ourselves today by feasting on this carcass.'

The jackal said,

'Hear, O mighty-armed one, what the mouse has said.
He has even said, O, fie on the strength of the king of the beasts!
This deer has been slain by me.
By might of my arm he will today gratify his hunger.'

When he has boasted in such a language, I, for my part, do not wish to touch this food.'

The tiger replied,

'If, indeed, the mouse has said so, my sense is now awakened.

I shall, from this day, slay with the might of my own arms, creatures ranging the forest and then feast on their flesh.'

Having said this, the tiger went away.

"And after the tiger had left the spot, the mouse came. And seeing the mouse come, the jackal addressed him and said,

'Blest be you, O mouse, but listen to what the mongoose has said.
He has even said, The carcass of this deer is poison (the tiger having touched it with his claws).
I will not eat of it.
On the other hand, if you, O jackal, permittest it, I will even slay the mouse and feast on him.'

Hearing this the mouse became alarmed and quickly entered his hole. And after the mouse had gone, the wolf, O king, came there having performed his ablutions. And seeing the wolf come, the jackal said unto him,

'The king of the beasts has been angry with you.
Evil is certain to overtake you.
He is expected here with his wife. Do as you pleasest.'

Thus was the wolf also, fond of animal flesh, got rid of by the jackal. And the wolf fled, contracting his body into the smallest dimensions. It was then that the mongoose came. And, O king, the jackal, seeing him come, said,

'By the might of my arm have I defeated the others who have already fled.
Fight with me first and then eat of this flesh as you please.'

The mongoose replied,

'When, indeed, the tiger, the wolf, and the intelligent mouse have all been defeated by you, heroes as they are, you seemest to be a greater hero still.

I do not desire to fight with you.'

Saying this, the mongoose also went away.

"Kanika continued,

'When they all had thus left the place, the jackal, well-pleased with the success of his policy, alone ate up that flesh. If kings always act in this way, they can be happy.

Thus should the timid by exciting their fears, the courageous by the arts of conciliation, the covetous by gift of wealth, and equals and inferiors by exhibition of prowess be brought under your sway.

Besides all this, O king, that I have said, listen now to something else that I say.'

"Kanika continued,

'If your son, friend, brother, father, or even the spiritual preceptor, anyone becomes your foe, you should, if desirous of prosperity, slay him without scruples. By curses and incantations, by gift of wealth, by poison, or by deception, the foe should be slain.

He should never be neglected from disdain. If both the parties be equal and success uncertain, then he that acts with diligence grows in prosperity. If the spiritual preceptor himself be vain, ignorant of what should be done and what left undone, and vicious in his ways, even he should be chastised.

If you are angry, show thyself as if you are not so, speaking even then with a smile on your lips. Never reprove any one with indications of anger (in your speech). And O Bharata, speak soft words before you smitest and even while you are smiting! After the smiting is over, pity the victim, and grieve for him, and even shed tears. Comforting your foe by conciliation, by gift of wealth, and smooth behaviour, you must smite him when he walks not aright.

You should equally smile the heinous offender who lives by the practice of virtue, for the garb of virtue simply covers his offences like black clouds covering the mountains.

You should burn the house of that person whom you punishest with death. And you should never permit beggars and atheists and thieves to dwell in your kingdom. By a sudden sally or pitched battle by poison or by corrupting his allies, by gift of wealth, by any means in your power, you should destroy your foe.

You mayest act with the greatest cruelty.

You should make your teeth sharp to give a fatal bite. And you should ever smite so effectually that your foe may not again raise his head.

You should ever stand in fear of even one from whom there is no fear, not to speak of him from whom there is such. For if the first be ever powerful he may destroy you to the root (for your unpreparedness).

You should never trust the faithless, nor trust too much those that are faithful, for if those in whom you confidest prove your foes, you are certain to be annihilated. After testing their faithfulness you should employ spies in your own kingdom and in the kingdoms of others. Your spies in foreign kingdoms should be apt deceivers and persons in the garb of ascetics.

Your spies should be placed in gardens, places of amusement, temples and other holy places, drinking halls, streets, and with the (eighteen) tirthas [1], and in places of sacrifice, near wells, on mountains and in rivers, in forests, and in all places where people congregate.

In speech you should ever be humble, but let your heart be ever sharp as razor. And when you are engaged in doing even a very cruel and terrible act, you should talk with smiles on your lips. If desirous of prosperity, you should adopt all arts—humility, oath, conciliation. Worshipping the feet of others by lowering your head, inspiring hope, and the like.

And, a person conversant with the rules of policy is like a tree decked with flowers but bearing no fruit; or, if bearing fruit, these must be at a great height not easily attainable from the ground; and if any of these fruits seem to be ripe care must be taken to make it appear raw. Conducting himself in such a way, he shall never fade. Virtue, wealth and pleasure have both their evil and good effects closely knit together. While extracting the effects that are good, those that are evil should be avoided.

Those that practise virtue (incessantly) are made unhappy for want of wealth and the neglect of pleasure. Those again in pursuit of wealth are made unhappy for the neglect of two others. And so those who pursue pleasure suffer for their inattention to virtue and wealth.

Therefore, you should pursue virtue, wealth and pleasure, in such a way that you mayest not have to suffer therefrom. With humiliation and attention, without jealousy and solicitous of accomplishing your purpose, should you, in all sincerity, consult with the Brahmanas.

When you are fallen, you should raise thyself by any means, gentle or violent; and after you have thus raised thyself you should practise virtue.

He that has never been afflicted with calamity can never have prosperity. This may be seen in the life of one who survives his calamities.

He that is afflicted with sorrow should be consoled by the recitation of the history of persons of former times (like those of Nala and Rama).

He whose heart has been unstrung by sorrow should be consoled with hopes of future prosperity.

He again who is learned and wise should be consoled by pleasing offices presently rendered unto him.

He who, having concluded a treaty with an enemy, reposes at ease as if he has nothing more to do, is very like a person who awakes, fallen down from the top of a tree whereon he had slept.

A king should ever keep to himself his counsels without fear of calumny, and while beholding everything with the eyes of his spies, he should take care to conceal his own emotions before the spies of his enemies. Like a fisherman who becomes prosperous by catching and killing fish, a king can never grow prosperous without tearing the vitals of his enemy and without doing some violent deeds.

The might of your foe, as represented by his armed force, should ever be completely destroyed, by ploughing it up (like weeds) and mowing it down and otherwise afflicting it by disease, starvation, and want of drink. A person in want never approaches (from love) one in affluence; and when one’s purpose has been accomplished, one has no need to approach him whom he had hitherto looked to for its accomplishment.

Therefore, when you doest anything never do it completely, but ever leave something to be desired for by others (whose services you mayest need). One who is desirous of prosperity should with diligence seek allies and means, and carefully conduct his wars. His exertions in these respects should always be guided by prudence.

A prudent king should ever act in such a way that friends and foes may never know his motive before the commencement of his acts. Let them know all when the act has been commenced or ended, and as long as danger does not come, so long only shall you act as if you are afraid. But when it has overtaken you, you must grapple with it courageously. He who trusts in a foe who has been brought under subjection by force, summons his own death as a crab by her act of conception.

You should always reckon the future act as already arrived (and concert measures for meeting it), else, from want of calmness caused by haste, you mayest overlook an important point in meeting it when it is before you.

A person desirous of prosperity should always exert with prudence, adopting his measures to time and place. He should also act with an eye to destiny as capable of being regulated by mantras and sacrificial rites; and to virtue, wealth, and pleasure.

It is well-known that time and place (if taken into consideration) always produce the greatest good. If the foe is insignificant, he should not yet be despised, for he may soon grow like a palmyra tree extending its roots or like a spark of fire in the deep woods that may soon burst into an extensive conflagration.

As a little fire gradually fed with faggots soon becomes capable of consuming even the biggest blocks, so the person who increases his power by making alliances and friendships soon becomes capable of subjugating even the most formidable foe.

The hope you givest unto your foe should be long deferred before it is fulfilled; and when the time comes for its fulfilment, invent some pretext for deferring it still. Let that pretext be shown as founded upon some reason, and let that reason itself be made to appear as founded on some other reason.

Kings should, in the matter of destroying their foes, ever resemble razors in every particular; unpitying as these are sharp, hiding their intents as these are concealed in their leathern cases, striking when the opportunity comes as these are used on proper occasions, sweeping off their foes with all their allies and dependants as these shave the head or the chin without leaving a single hair.

O supporter of the dignity of the Kurus, bearing thyself towards the Pandavas and others also as policy dictates, act in such a way that you mayest not have to grieve in future. Well do I know that you are endued with every blessing, and possessed of every mark of good fortune.

Therefore, O king, protect thyself from the sons of Pandu!

O king, the sons of Pandu are stronger than their cousins (your sons); therefore, O chastiser of foes, I tell you plainly what you should do. Listen to it, O king, with your children, and having listened to it, exert yourselves (to do the needful).

O king, act in such a way that there may not be any fear for you from the Pandavas. Indeed, adopt such measures consonant with the science of policy that you mayest not have to grieve in the future.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Having delivered himself thus Kanika returned to his abode, while the Kuru king Dhritarashtra became pensive and melancholy.'"

Footnotes and references:


viz., the minister, the chief priest, the heir-presumptive, the commander-in-chief, the gate-keepers of the court, persons in the inner apartments, the jailor, the chief surveyor, the head of the treasury, the general executant of orders, the chief of the town police, the chief architect, the chief justice, the president of the council, the chief of the punitive department, the commander of the fort, the chief of the arsenal, the chief of the frontier guards, and the keeper of the forests


This concludes Section CXLII of Book 1 (Adi Parva) of the Mahabharata, of which an English translation is presented on this page. This book is famous as one of the Itihasa, similair in content to the eighteen Puranas. Book 1 is one of the eighteen books comprising roughly 100,000 Sanskrit metrical verses.

FAQ (frequently asked questions):

Which keywords occur in Section CXLII of Book 1 of the Mahabharata?

The most relevant definitions are: Kanika, Vaisampayana, Pandu, Dhritarashtra, Brahmanas, Pandavas; since these occur the most in Book 1, Section CXLII. There are a total of 13 unique keywords found in this section mentioned 30 times.

What is the name of the Parva containing Section CXLII of Book 1?

Section CXLII is part of the Sambhava Parva which itself is a sub-section of Book 1 (Adi Parva). The Sambhava Parva contains a total of 78 sections while Book 1 contains a total of 19 such Parvas.

Can I buy a print edition of Section CXLII as contained in Book 1?

Yes! The print edition of the Mahabharata contains the English translation of Section CXLII of Book 1 and can be bought on the main page. The author is Kisari Mohan Ganguli and the latest edition (including Section CXLII) is from 2012.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: