The Markandeya Purana

by Frederick Eden Pargiter | 1904 | 247,181 words | ISBN-10: 8171102237

This page relates “the story of hariscandra (continued)” which forms the 8th chapter of the English translation of the Markandeya-purana: an ancient Sanskrit text dealing with Indian history, philosophy and traditions. It consists of 137 parts narrated by sage (rishi) Markandeya: a well-known character in the ancient Puranas. Chapter 8 is included the section known as “conversation between Markandeya and the birds”.

Canto VIII - The Story of Hariścandra (continued)

Viśvamitra not satisfied demands further fees, and Hariścandra in desperation sells his wife and his son to a brahman and himself to a caṇḍāla, and gives Viśvāmitra all the priceHariścandra earns his livelihood as the caṇḍāla’ s servant at a burning-ground in the most abject state for a year—Then he sees a vision of his future transmigrations with a promise of happiness ultimatelyHis son is bitten by a snake, and the queen brings the corpse to the burning-ground—They recognise each other and bewail their misfortunes—Both resolve to immolate themselves on their son’s funeral pile; but the gods interpose and restore his son to life—Dharma explains that he had personated the caṇḍāla—Indra calls the king to Svarga, but he refuses to go without his faithful peopleHe, and his queen and people ascend to Svarga in perfect bliss.

Jaimini spoke:

Ye have declared this in order according to my questions: great is my curiosity regarding the story of Hariścandra. Ah! passing great was the woe incurred by that magnanimous king; I trust he obtained a happiness fully commensurate, O brāhmans!

The birds spoke:

Hearing Viśvāmitra’s speech, the king moved on slowly, full of sorrow, followed by his wife Śaivyā with her young boy. The king having reached the divine city[1] of Benares—the choice of Śiva who pronounced that it was not to be enjoyed by men. Distressed with sorrow, he travelled afoot with his compliant wife. On entering the city, he saw Viśvāmitra present. Seeing he had already arrived, Hariścandra bowed reverently and, joining his hands respectfully, addressed the great Muni“Here is my life, and this is my son, and this is my wife, O Muni! Take that as the choicest arghya offering with which thou shouldst quickly deal. Whatever else we should do, deign to excuse that.”

Viśvāmitra spoke:

“Gone is the month, O Rājarṣi!; let my fee be given me, if thy word regarding the Rājasūya sacrifice he remembered.”

Hariścandra spoke:

“O brahman, rich in fadeless austerities! today the month will, in truth, be completed: await this halfday which remains, but not long.”

Viśvāmitra spoke:

“Be it so, Mahārājā! I will come again: unless today thou shall make the gift, I will pronounce a curse on thee.”

The birds spoke:

Thus having spoken the brahman departed: and the Raja then took thought—“How shall I give him the fee which has been promised? Whence can I find powerful friends? Whence can I get wealth at this moment? Blameworthy is my present: how can I escape going downward? How much more am I abandoning life! To what region shall I, who am nothing, go, if I perish without having performed my promise? I shall become a robber of brahmans, a worm, a wicked man, the vilest of the vile; or I shall become a slave—better indeed let me sell myself.”

The birds spoke:

Then his wife in words broken with weeping answered the king, who was distressed, dejected, anxious, with downcast face—“Leave off care, O Mahārājā; preserve thy truthfulness; a man destitute of truth should be avoided like a burning-ground. There is no higher righteousness, they say, for a man than this, namely, maintaining his truthfulness, O noble man! Oblations to consecrated fire, or study, or the whole circle of good deeds, such as liberality, &c., are fruitless in him who speaks at random. Truthfulness is constantly declared in the Dharma-śāstras to tend to the salvation of men of understanding; and falsehood to the overthrow of men of uneducated minds. A king named Kṛti, after offering seven horse-sacrifices and a Rājasūya sacrifice, fell forthwith from Svarga for falsehood. O king, I have given birth to a child—”Thus having spoken she wept alond. The king spoke as follows to her whose eyes were bathed in tears.

Hariścandra spoke:

“Cease, lady, thy agitation; here stands thy boy; pray, speak what thou desirest to say, O thou who art graceful in thy gait!”

The queen spoke:

“O king, I have given birth to a child: the wives of good men bear fruit in their sons. Do thou therefore, being such a man, give me in exchange for wealth, and pay the brahman the fee.”

The birds spoke:

Hearing this proposal, the king lost his senses; and on regaining consciousness lamented, sorely grieved:—“Dire is this grief, O lady, that thou thus mentionest to me: is thy joyous intercourse with me, wretch that I am, forgotten? Ah! alas! how eouldest thou suggest this. O sweet-smiler. Repugnant is this plan: how can I execute it?” Thus having spoken, the king, repeating the word “Shame! shame!” fell to the ground overwhelmed by faintness. Seeing the king Hariścandra prostrate on the earth. the queen full of sorrow, uttered these piteous words:—

The queen spoke:

“Alas! Mahārājā! from whom has come this evil thought, that thou, who art accustomed to coverings made of the hair of the spotted deer, hast fallen on the bare ground? Here sleeps the king, my lord, on the ground,—he, by whom ten thousands of choice cattle and wealth were dispensed among brahmans. Ah! woe! what has this king done to thee, O brahman, that he, the equal of Indra and Viṣṇu, has been reduced to a state of coma?” Having soliloquised thus, she, beautiful-hipped, fell swooning, crushed by the intolerable great weight of her husband's misfortunes. The child seeing his parents lying thus helpless on the ground, being excessively hungry and very unhappy, spoke “Father, dear father, give me some food; mother, mother, give me something to eat. I Lave become dreadfully hungry, and the tip of my tongue is growing parched.”

The birds spoke:

At this interval arrived Viśvāmitra great in austerities; but, seeing Hariścandra lying on the ground in a swoon, he sprinkled the king with water and addressed him thus:—“Rise up, rise up, O supreme king; give me the fee I desire. A debtor’s misery increases from day to day.” Then being refreshed with the snow-cold water, the king, recovering consciousness, and perceiving Viśvāmitra, again fell into a swoon, and the Muni grew angry. The brahman, making the king recover, spoke:—“Let my fee be given me, if thou regardest righteousness. By truth the sun sheds warmth; in truth the earth stands firm; truth in speech is the highest righteousness: Svarga is based on truth. Also a hundred horse-sacrifices and truth are placed in the balance—truth verily outweighs the hundred horse-sacrifices. Otherwise what motive is there for my speaking thus peaceably to thee, base one, evil-intentioned, and cruel, false in speech? Since thou art powerful as king, let this my kindly feeling be heeded. If O king, thou shalt not give me the fee today, when tho sun reaches the Western mountain, then I will assuredly curse thee.”

Having spoken thus the brāhman departed; and the king remained, weak with terror, fugitive, vile, indigent, harassed by the malicious and the rich. His wife again spoke thus—“Let my proposal be complied with, lest consumed by the fire of his curse thou perish.” But the king, thus urged by his wife again and again, replied—“Lady, here without pity I proceed to sell thee; what even the malicious could not do, that do I, if my voice be able to utter so hard a speech as this.” Thereupon having so spoken to his wife, he went unnerved to the city and then, his throat and eyes impeded with tears, uttered this speech;—

The king spoke:

“Ho! ho! citizens, listen ye all to my word. Why do ye ask me, ‘ho! who art thou?’ I am mischievous, inhuman either a very cruel Rākṣasa, or even more wicked than that I, who will not yield up my life, am come to sell my wife. If any of you has need of the desire of my life as a slave-girl, let him speak quickly while I survive.”

The birds spoke:

A certain aged brāhman approaching accosted the king— “Deliver the slave-girl to me; I am a purchaser, paying ready money. I have no little wealth, and my wife is very young; she cannot perform the household duties; therefore give me this girl. This wealth is proportionate to the skill, age, beauty and disposition of thy wife: take it; deliver me the maiden.” When thus addressed by the brahman, king Hariścandra’s mind was lacerated with grief; nor did he make him any reply. Thereupon the brahman binding up the money in cash in the end of the king’s back-cloth dress, dragged off the queen, seizing her by the hair. But the child Rohitāsya, who had a boy’s side-locks of hair, and who was clutching her dress with his hand, wept on seeing his mother dragged away.

The queen spoke:

“Loose, loose me, noble Sir! while I take a look at my boy. A future view of him, kind Sir! will be difficult to get. See! come my child to me thy mother thus sold into slavery. Do not touch me, my royal child! I must not be touched by thee now!” Then suddenly the boy seeing his mother dragged along, ran to her crying “Mother!” with tear-soiled eyes. The brāhman purchaser, seeing the child had approached, kicked him with his foot; the latter, however, exclaiming “Mother!” did not leave hold of his mother.

The queen spoke:

“Shew me favour, O master! and buy this boy. Although purchased, I shall not be a diligent servant to thee, Sir, when separated from him. Do thou in this way beam favourably on me unfortunate; unite me with my child as a cow with her calf.”

The brāhman spoke:

“Take ṭhou this wealth and give me the boy: the wages of a man and woman have been fixed by those conversant with the Dharma-śāstras at a hundred, a thousand, and a hundred thousand pieces, and a price of ten millions by others.”

The birds spoke:

Accordingly then he bound that money in the king’s upper garment, and taking the boy bound him close together with his mother. Seeing them both, his wife and son, led away, the king lamented sorely grieved, sighing deeply again and again. “My wife whom neither the wind, nor the sun, nor the moon, nor the populace formerly gazed on, here she is, fallen into bondage. Here is my boy, who is sprung from the Solar race, and whose hands and fingers are very young, disposed of by sale. Shame on me, sorry fool that I am! Ah, my darling! ah, my child, my pet! my imprudent conduct, base man that I am, has brought me into thraldom to fate; yet I am not dead, ah shame!”

The birds spoke:

While the king was thus lamenting, the brāhman taking them both disappeared hastily among trees, houses and other high objects. Then Viśvāmitra meeting the king, demanded the wealth; Hariścandra delivered that money to him. Considering those riches, procured by the sale of the wife, insufficient, Kauśika enraged addressed the sorrow-stricken king. “O kṣatriya, if thou deemest this a fitting sacrificial fee for me j then behold thou quickly my supreme might, arising from austerities well performed here, and from stainless brāhmanhood, and from my terrible majesty, and from my perfect study.”

Hariścandra spoke:

“More will I give thee, adorable one; be pleased to wait some time; at present I have nought; my wife has been sold, and my young son.”

Viśvāmitra spoke:

“This fourth part that now remains of the day, O king, for that I must wait; nought more must I say to thee.”

The birds spoke:

So, having' uttered the harsh pitiless speech to the supreme king, the angry Kauśika took the money and quickly departed. When Viśvāmitra had gone, the king, encompassed by a sea of fear and sorrow, after reflecting in every aspect, spoke aloud, with downcast face:—“Whatever man desires me for a slave, bought with money, let him speak quickly, while the sun yet shines.”

Then advanced hastily the god Dharma, wearing the form of a caṇḍāla, foul-smelling, disfigured, uncouth, bearded, with projecting teeth, compassionate, dark in complexion, his belly pendulous, his eyes tawny and haggard, his pronunciation rude, and carrying a batch of birds, adorned with garlands taken from corpses, a skull in his hand, his face long, horrid to look at, talking much and often, surrounded by a pack of dogs, dreadful, a staff in his hand, hideous.

The caṇḍāla spoke:

“I am an applicant to thee; tell me quickly thy own hire, at which, whether little or much, thou art to be acquired.”

The birds spoke:

There gazing at him, such as he was, cruel-eyed, very coarse, muttering, very bad in disposition, the king asked “Who art thou?”

The caṇḍāla spoke:

“I am a caṇḍāla, known here in this greatest of cities as Pravīra, famed as the slayer of those condemned to death, the gatherer of blankets from corpses.”

Hariścandra spoke:

“I should not wish to become the despicable slave of a caṇḍāla; better to be consumed by the fire of the curse rather than to be thrall to a caṇḍāla.”

The birds spoke:

While he was so speaking, the great hermit Viśvāmitra arrived, his eyes rolling with anger and wrath, and said this to the king:—

Viśvāmitra spoke:

“This caṇḍāla is ready to give thee no little wealth; why is not my full sacrificial fee paid me?”

Hariścandra spoke:

“Adorable descendant of Kuśika! I know myself to he sprung from the Solar race; how, though desirous of wealth, shall I go into bondage to a caṇḍāla?

Viśvāmitra spoke:

“If thou wilt not give me the caṇḍāla’s wealth, obtained in exchange for thyself, at the fixed time, I will assuredly curse thee.”

The birds spoke:

Thereupon the king Hariścandra, his life bound up in his anxiety, overcome with agitation seized the Ṛṣi’s feet, exclaiming—“Be thou gracious! I am a slave; I am in suffering; frightened am I; and I am specially thy votary: shew me favour, O Brahmarṣi! Deplorable is association with caṇḍālas. Instead of the balance of the money, I would he subject to thee indeed, O mighty Muni! thy agent in every matter, thy servant, obedient to thy will.”

Viśvāmitra spoke:

“If your honour is my servant, then, given by me to the caṇḍāla for a hundred millions of money, thou hast fallen into slavery.”

The birds spoke:

When he had so spoken, the low out-caste then, glad in mind, giving that pelf to Viśvāmitra, bound the king and led him, bewildered by blows of the staff, his senses utterly confused, grieved at his separation from his loved kindred, to his town.

Then king Hariścandra, dwelling in the caṇḍāla’s town, at morning, noon and evening sang this:—“My downcast girl seeing before her my downcast son, filled with grief, remembers me; hoping ‘the king will free ns both, by giving, when he has amassed wealth, more wealth than this to the brāhman.’ She, fawn-eyed, does not know that I have done more wickedly. Loss of kingdom, abandonment of friends, sale of wife and son, and this caṇḍāla-life that I have sunk to:—alas! a succession of misfortunes.” Dwelling in this condition, he remembered unceasingly his beloved son and his soul-engrossing wife; deprived of all his property, and abject.

Now for some time king Hariścandra, as a servant to that man, became a gatherer of garments from dead bodies at the burning-ground, and was instructed by the caṇḍāla, who gathered garments from dead bodies—“Stay here day and night on the look out for the arrival of corpses. This part is to be given to the king, and a sixth part is for the corpse, let three parts be for me, and two parts for thy wages.”

Thus instructed he went to the mortuary house and to the southern quarter, where then stood in Benares the burning-ground, a place of horrible cries, frequented by hundreds of jackals, strewn with the garlands from corpses, foul-smelling, reeking with smoke, thronged by Piśācas, Bhūtas, Vetālas, Dākinīs, and Yakṣas, crowded with vultures and jackals, encompassed by packs of dogs, thickly strewn with heaps of bones, full of dreadful odours; pervaded with the cries of the friends of the various dead persons and with a terrible hubbub—“Ah! son!—friend!—ah! kinsman!—brother!—my child, dear to me now!—ah! husband!—sister!—mother!—ah! maternal uncle!—paternal grandfather!—maternal grandfather!—father!—grandson!—where art thou gone! —come, my kinsman!”; where was heard a great din of persons uttering such cries as these :—a place filled with the sputtering of burning flesh, marrow and fat. Black half-burnt corpses, their rows of teeth just bursting into view grinned from amidst the fire, as if saying, ‘This is the body’s final state!’ Here the fire crackled along rows of bones of various ages; and there was the sound of the wailing of the relations, which was caused by the merriment of the pukkasas.[2] There is heard a very loud and frightful sound,—-as if at the close of the age,—of Bhūtas, Vetālas, Piśācas, Gaṇas and Rākṣasas singing. Crowded with great heaps of buffaloes’ ordure and cows’ dung; and surrounded with high piles of the ashes derived therefrom, mixed with bones; darkened by the confusion of the crows among the many offerings, garlands and lamps; filled with many sounds, the burning-ground resembles Naraka.[3] The buming-ground reverberated with the fire-pregnant, inauspicious yells of the she-jackals; it was impenetrable by reason of the terrific cries; very dire[4] with the close contagion of fear; and painful by reason of the sounds of lamentation.

The king arrived there, unhappy, ready to grieve: “Ah servants, ministers, brāhmans! Where has that my kingdom gone, O Creator? Ah Śaivyā! ah my young son! forsaking me, luckless one, through Viśvāmitra’s fault they both, mine own relatives, have gone elsewhere.” There revolving thus in his mind over and over again the words of the caṇḍāla, dirty, uncouth in every limb, his hair long, mal-odorous, bearing a flag, armed with a club, somewhat resembling Death, and running hither and thither, exclaiming “This price has been obtained for this corpse, and shall I get it? This is mine, this is for the king, and this for the head cāṇḍāla the king, while running in all directions, and while alive, entered into another birth. Clothed in patched cloth made of old rags well fastened together; his face, arms, belly and feet covered with ashes from funeral piles and with dust; his hands and fingers smeared with various kinds of fat, oil and marrow; sighing; intent on satisfying himself by feeding on various corpses and water;[5] his head dressed with bands of garlands therefrom; he sleeps not either by day or by night, frequently exclaiming “ah! alas!” In this manner passed twelve months as if a hundred.

One day that noble king wearied, separated from his kindred, and uncouth in form, being overpowered by slumber, fell indeed into a dead sleep; and there on his pallet beheld a great wonder:—Through the power of destiny, he had in another body by diligent occupation at the burning-ground given the guru his fee, and there was immunity from the infliction of pain for twelve years. Then he saw himself conceived in the womb of a pukkasa woman. Further the king, when in that condition, considered thus—“Immediately I am born, I will verily practice the duty of liberality.” Thereupon he was born. Then as a pukkasa boy he was always ready to perform the obsequies of the dead bodies in the burning-ground. On his reaching his seventh year, a dead brāhman was brought to the burning ground by the relatives; then he perceived that the brāhman had been poor and virtuous. But he, asking for his wage, despised the brāhmans; those brāhmans mentioned there what Viśvāmitra had done,—“Do thou a deed most sinful, and vicious, O evil-doer; Hariścandra the king was formerly turned by Viśvāmitra into a pukkasa for breaking the slumber of a brāhman, by the destruction of his merit.” When he did not have patience with them, they then in anger cursed him—“Go forthwith thou vilest of men to terrible Naraka.” Immediately upon these words, the king still in his sleep saw Yama’s messengers, bearing nooses, terror-inspiring. He saw himself then seized by them and led off by force. Sorely afflicted, exclaiming, “Alas now, O mother! O father!” he fell into Naraka into a tub of oil. And he was torn asunder beneath by saws and the edges of razors, and suffered pain in dense darkness, feeding on pus and blood. He saw his dead self, seven years old, in the form of a pukkasa. Day by day in Naraka he is burnt and roasted in one place; he is afflicted and shaken in another place; he is killed and torn asunder in another place; in another he is made to melt away and to blaze; in another place he is assailed with cold winds. He remained in Naraka one day, which was as long as a hundred years; so a hundred years there in Naraka are called by the demons. Thereafter cast upon the earth he was born as a dog, eating filth and vomited matter, and enduring cold and heat: in a month he died. Next he saw his body born as an ass, an elephant, a monkey, an ox, a goat, a cat, and a heron, a bull, a sheep, a bird, a worm, a fish, a tortoise, and a wild boar, a porcupine, a cock, a parrot, a maina,[6] and motionless living objects, a snake and other corporeal beings. Day by day consumed with grief he saw the birth of one living being after another; a day was as a hundred years. A full hundred years thus passed with him there born among the lower creation. And the king saw himself born once again in his own race. While in that state, he lost his kingdom in dice-playing; and his wife was carried off, and his son too; and he sought the forest alone. There he saw a terrible ravenous lion approaching with open mouth, accompanied by a young elephant[7]; and again he was devoured, while ready to bewail his wife, ‘Ah Śaivyā! where art thou gone now, forsaking me here in misery?’ Again he saw his wife with her son imploring him, ‘ Rescue us O Hariścandra! What hast thou to do with dice-playing, my lord? Thy son has fallen to a lamentable condition, and so has thy wife Śaivyā.’ Then he no longer saw them, though running about again and again. And again he saw,—he the king was seated in Svarga; slie poor thing was brought by force, with dishevelled hair, stript of her garments, exclaiming ‘Ah! alas! rescue me!’ in repeated cries. Then again he saw there through Yama’s ordainment—the dwellers in the sky are calling out ‘Come hither O king! Yama has been addressed by Viśvāmitra, O king, regarding thee.’ Yama’s servants, who bore nooses of serpents, having thus spoken, lead away the prince by force. Yama related Viśvāmitra’s deed. At that point, however, his change which resulted from iniquity came to an end. These were all his states of being which were revealed in sleep; they were all experienced by him during twelve years. When the twelve years were spent, being brought forcibly by the demons, he saw Yama in bodily shape. Yama addressed the king, ‘This anger of the high-souled Viśvāmitra is difficult to be resisted. Kauśika will inflict even death on thy son. Go thou to the world of men, and undergo the remainder of thy suffering. When thou art gone there, O supreme king! thou shalt obtain happiness.’ And when the twelve years expired, the king, at the end of his misery, fell from the sky, being thrust away by Yama’s messengers.

And when fallen from Yama’s world, he awoke through the agitation of fear, exclaiming, “Alas! woe is me!” thinking of the working of the corrosive substance in his wounds. “In my sleep I have seen grievous woe, the end of which I do not perceive: but have twelve years, as I have seen in my sleep, gone with me?” he inquired with agitation of the pukkasas standing there. “No” replied certain of the bystanders; and others said exactly the same.

Then the king grieved at hearing this, sought the gods for refuge, ejaculating, “May the gods bestow blessings on me, on Śaivyā and on my child. Adoration to great Dharma! Adoration to Kṛṣṇa the creator, all-comprising, pure, ancient, and immutable! Adoration to thee, O Vṛhaspati! and adoration to thee, Indra!”

Having uttered this prayer, the king employed himself in the pukkasas’ occupation, in fixing the price of corpses, as if again dead in memory. Filthy, matted-haired, black, armed with a club, despondent was the king. No son had he, nor wife indeed, in the track of his memory; ruined in energy was he through the loss of his kingdom; dwelling then in the burning-ground.

To that place came his queen, bewailing, bringing her son dead, for the boy had been bitten by a snake. “Ah my darling! ah my son, my child!” thus she was oft exclaiming; emaciated, pallid, insane, her hair covered with dust.

The queen spoke:

“Alas O king! dost thou not see today on earth this thy child, whom thou didst formerly see playing about, now bitten by a huge snake and dead?”

The king, listening to that her lamentation, hurried thither thinking “here will be a dead man’s blanket.” But the king did not recognise as his wife her, who was weeping sorely, who worn with his long absence was like a woman in another birth. The princess too seeing him, who formerly had beautiful locks, now with matted curls did not recognise the king, who was like a withered tree. The king seeing the snake-bitten child, who was characterized with the kingly marks, on the black cloth, fell into a reverie:—“Ah! alas! to what a state has this child born in the family of some king been brought by malignant Death! For, since I have seen my child thus lying in his mother’s lap, my child Rohitāsya with his lotus-like eyes recurs to my memory. Such indeed would be my child, and of about this age, if dreadful Death has not made him his thrall.”

The queen spoke:

“Ah my child! through disregard of some sin this great and terrible evil has befallen us, the end of which we do not perceive. Ah, my lord king! how dost thou remain placidly in some place without consoling me who am miserable? Loss of kingdom, forsaking of friends, sale of wife and child—what has thou not done to the Rājarṣi Hariścandra, O creator?”

Hearing this her lament the fallen king, recognising his loved wife and his dead son, exclaimed “Alas! this is indeed my very Śaivyā, this is my child!” and wept consumed with sorrow, and fell into a swoon. She too recognising him fallen into that state, fainted with affliction and sank motionless to the ground. The king and queen both regaining consciousness together, wailed in deep suffering, oppressed with the load of anguish.

The king spoke:

“Alas my child! when I look on thy very young face, with its beautiful eyes, brows, nose and curls, is not my afflicted heart torn asunder? To whom, as he comes to me of himself sweetly babbling, ‘Father, dear father,’ shall I affectionately exclaim with an embrace, ‘My child, my child’? By whose knees shall the yellow dust be brought that shall soil my upper garment, my lap and body? Born of my body and limbs, thou wast the delight of mind and heart to me, who, bad father that I am, sold thee, O my child, like a chattel. After snatching away my large kingdom entire, with its resources and wealth, Fate as a noxious serpent then bit my child. Just gazing on the lotus-face of my son, who has been bitten by the serpent Fate, even I am now blinded by the dire poison.” Having thus spoken, incoherent through tears, he took the boy, and embracing him, fell motionless in a swoon.

The queen spoke:

“This tiger-like man is known truly by his voice; he has the moon-like mind of a wise man; it is Hariścandra without doubt. And his nose is prominent in front and goes downwards; and like opening buds are the teeth of him, the renowned, the high-souled. Wherefore has this king come to the burning-ground today?”

Ceasing her grief for her son, she looked at the prostrate king. Agitated, surprised, afflicted, sorely oppressed on account of her husband and son, gazing earnestly, she then saw her husband’s abominable staff fit for a low outcaste. Thereupon the long-eyed lady fainted, and gradually regaining consciousness, spoke falteringly:—

“Fie on thee, O Fate! most doleful, unruly, abominated, who hast reduced this god-like king to the position of a low outcaste. Though thou didst make him undergo loss of kingdom, forsaking of friends and the sale of wife and son, yet hast thou turned the king, after he was parted from us, into this caṇḍāla. Ah! O king! why dost thou not now raise me, who am thus afflicted, from the ground and tell me to mount to thy couch? I do not see this day thy regal umbrella, nor yet thy golden vase, thy chowrie or fan; what is this revolution? He, before whom formerly, when he moved, kings in the guise of servants freed the earth from dust with their own upper garments,—such having been, he the supreme king now walks oppressed with grief in the burning-ground, which is thickly strewn with jars and pots, with skulls fast fixed therein; where the hair of corpses is concealed by the remains of sacrificial ceremonies and strings; where the cavities of the dry ground are bedecked with oily exudations; which is dreadful by reason of the mixing of the marrow and half-burnt bones with the ashes and charcoal; where the small birds have been scared away by the cries of the vultures and jackals; which has spread gloom over the regions of the sky with the colour of the trails of smoke from the funeral piles; where the night-roaming demons are joyful through the delight of tasting carrion.”

Thus having spoken the princess embraced the king’s neck and, bearing hundreds of woes and griefs, lamented with sorrowful voice,—

The queen spoke:

“O king, is it sleep or waking truth? Tell me Sir, this that thou art thinking of: my mind is bewildered indeed. If this be so, O thou conversant with righteousness, there is no help in righteousness, nor in worship of brāhmans, gods and others, nor in protecting the world; there is no such thing as righteousness. Whence are there truth, and candour, and meekness, in that thou, the devotee of righteousness, hast been ousted from thy kingdom?”

Hearing this her speech, sighing deeply he related in faltering accents to the slender-limbed lady, how he had become a low outcaste. She also the timid lady wept very long, and sighing deeply, full of grief, told him how her son had met his death.

The king spoke:

“My darling, I choose not to undergo affliction for a long time, nor is my soul docile, O slender-limbed lady. Behold my ill-fortune. If I shall enter the fire, with the permission of the caṇḍāla, I shall in another birth go again into bondage to caṇḍālas. I shall fall into Naraka, as a worm-eating insect; into Vaitariṇī[8] which is slimy with much pus, fat, blood, and sinews. Reaching the Asipatra wood, I shall be frightfully cut to pieces; or reaching Mahāraurava and Raurava I shall be burnt. Surrender of life is the shore for one sunk in the ocean of grief. I had just one son, who was this boy, to continue my family. He too has sunk through the violence of the waters of my Fate, which are very strong. How shall I resign my life? I am dependent on others, and in a strait. Or, does not a man afflicted with pain regard evil? There is no such suffering in the brute creation, nor in the Asipatra forest. Whence is there such suffering in Vaitariṇī as in the bereavement of a son? I will fall then with my son’s body into the blazing fire, O slender-limbed! Thou must pardon my ill-deeds; and do thou who hast my permission go to the brāhman’s house, O bright smiler! And hearken, O slender-limbed! to my word with respectful mind. If one makes gifts, if one offers sacrifices, if the gurus are satisfied, there may be union for me in another world with my son and with thee. But whence in this world will there be this aim for me? In company with thee I shall speed happily on in the search for our son, which I shall make laughingly or somewhat secretly, O bright-smiler. Thou must pardon at my request all that I have spoken ill; despise not that brāhman through pride that thou art a queen; thou must please him with thy utmost efforts, as if he were thy lord and god, O beautiful lady!”

The queen spoke:

“I also, O Rājarṣi, unable to endure the burden of grief will assuredly enter the blazing fire with thee here this day.”

The birds spoke:

Thereupon the king heaping up the funeral pile, placed his son thereon; and then associated with his wife he joined his hands reverently, thinking of the Supreme Soul, Śiva, Nārāyaṇa Hari Vāsudeva, the ruler of the gods, who sits in the cave-like recesses of the heart, of Brāhman who is without beginning or end; of Kṛṣṇa, yellow-clad, beautiful.

While he was thinking, Indra and all the gods, making Dharma their leader, assembled in haste. Approaching spake they all—“Ho! O king! hearken, O lord! This is Brāhman, visible to open sight, and the adorable Dharma himself; and here are all the Sādhyas,[9] the Maruts,[10] the Lokapālas,[11] with their vehicles, the Nagas,[12] the Siddhas[13] and the Gandharvas,[14] and the Rudras[15] and the two Aśvins,—these and and others, many in number, and also Viśvāmitra, whom the three worlds could not formerly make a friend. But Viśvāmitra desires to proffer thee friendship and good.”

He mounted, thereon he met Dharma, and Indra and Viśvāmitra,

Dharma spoke:

“Be not rash, O king! I Dharma have visited thee, gratified with thy patience, self-command, truth and other virtues.”

Indra spoke:

“O virtuous Hariścandra! I Indra have approaclied nigh thee; the eternal worlds are won by thee and thy wife and son! Accompanied by thy wife and son, ascend, O king! to the third heaven, which to others is very difficult of attainment, but which has been won by thine own deeds.”

The birds spoke:

Then Indra, the lord, going to the funeral pile, poured down from the sky a shower of nectar that prevents sudden death, and a very copious shower of flowers, accompanied with the sound of the heavenly drums, here and there on that closelygathered assemblage of gods. Then the high-souled king’s son arose, very youthful in body, in perfeet health, placid in his organs and mind. And king Hariścandra immediately embraced his son; and in possessing his wife regained his own Fortune. He was decked with heavenly garlands; and was happy, completely satisfied in heart, and filled with supreme joy.

Indra at once re-addressed him. “Accompanied by thy wife and son, thou shalt gain supreme felicity. Ascend, O virtuous king, by the results of thy own actions!”

Hariścandra spoke:

“O king of the gods! while unpermitted by my master the low outcaste, I will not, without having recompensed[16] him, ascend to the abode of the gods.”

Dharma spoke:

“Perceiving this thy affliction that was to be, I myself descended as the low outcaste through an illusion of myself; and I displayed that inconsiderate conduct.”

Indra spoke:

Ascend, O Hariścandra, to the supreme abode which is desired by all mankind on the earth, the abode of men holy in deed.”

Hariścandra spoke:

“O king of the gods, adoration to thee! hearken also to this my speech, that, filled with affection, I speak to thee whose countenance is beautified through benignity. My subjects in the city of Kośalā[17] remain with minds sunk in my grief; how disregarding them shall I now ascend to heaven? The murder of a brāhman, the killing of a guru, the slaughter of cattle, and the slaying of women—equal to these has been pronounced the great sin incurred in the abandonment of one’s adherents. Neither in this world nor in the other do I see happiness for one who abandons an obsequious and innocent adherent, who ought not to be abandoned. If they go to Svarga in company with me, O lord of the gods! then I too will go; or I will go even to Naraka with them.”

Indra spoke:

“Many are their merits and sins, various and diverse. How wilt thou again attain to Svarga which will be enjoyed by multitudes?”

Hariścandra spoke:

“O Indra, by the influence of the householders a king enjoys his kingdom, and sacrifices with great sacrifices, and works meritorious deeds; and therefore by their influence have I performed everything; I will not forsake those benefactors in the desire to gain Svarga. Therefore whatever, O lord of the gods, I have done well, whatever I have given in alms, whatever sacrifices or prayers I have made, let that be common to them and us. For whatever fruit of my action must be eaten through long time, let that be for me and them together just a single day through thy favour!”

The birds spoke:

“So shall it be!” thus having spoken Indra, lord of the three worlds, and Dharma, and Viśvāmitra, Gādhi’s son, became propitious in their minds. Indra went from Svarga to the earth, with a company of ten million heavenly chariots and addressed the people of Ayodhyā thus, “Ascend ye to heaven.” And having heard with affection that speech of Indra and the king’s speech, and having brought Rohitāsya, Viśvāmitra himself, great in austerities, with the gods also, the Munis, and the Siddhas, enthroned the king’s son in the charming city of Ayodhyā, after enthroning the king. Then all the people, his glad and prosperous friends, with their children servants and wives, ascended to heaven with the king. Those people moved step by step from one heavenly chariot to another. Then king Hariścandra also grew in gladness. The king, attaining unparalleled dignity with the heavenly chai’iots, sat on the figure of a city which was surrounded with ramparts and walls.

Then beholding his prosperity, Uśanas, the eminent spiritual guide of the Daityas, conversant with the meaning and the truth of all the Śāstras, sang a verse there.

Śukra (Uśanas) spoke:

“Like unto Hariścandra there has been no king, nor shall there he. Whoever, when afflicted with his own sufferings listens to those of others, may he obtain great happiness! May he who longs for Svarga gain Svarga; may he who longs for a son gain a son; may he who longs for a wife gain a wife; may he who longs for a kingdom gain a kingdom! Ah, the majesty of patience! ah, the great fruit of liberality! since Hariścandra has reached his city and has gained his sovereignty.”

The birds spoke:

This whole story of the deeds of Hariścandra has been declared to thee: hear the remainder of the discourse next, O best of Munis! the outcome of the Rājasūya sacrifice, which was the cause of the decay of the earth, and the cause of that outcome, viz. the great battle of the Mainā[18] and Heron.[19]

Footnotes and references:


For parīm read purīm.


A low caste.


Naraka, the general name for hell or the place of torment; it is distinguished from Pdtāla, the lower regions.


Bead bheyam for bhayam?


The text nānā-śavodana-kṛtāhāra seems to be incorrect.


Śārikā, a mainā. There are several kinds of mainas (or mynas). The best known are the Common maina Acridotheres tristis, which is a brown bird common throughout India, and the Nepal Hill maina Eulabes intermedia, which is a black bird found along the lower ranges of the Himālayas. Both are commonly caged and learn to talk, but the latter attains much higher proficiency. (Jerdon’s Birds of India, Edn. Godwin-Austen, Vol. II, pp. 325 and 339). Prof Monier-Williams says Śārikā is Gracula religiosa or Turdus salica. The former name is an old name of the Southern Hill maina (E. religiosa) and of the Nepal Hill maina (E. intermedia). (Id., Vol. II, pp. 337, 339). I do not find the second name in Jerdon.


Śarabha; or a fabulous animal with eight legs, stronger than a lion.


The river of Naraka.


Class of inferior deities.




Guardian-gods of the world.


Human-faced serpents of Pātāla.


Class of demi-gods.


Demi-gods, Indra’s celestial musicians.


Eleven demi-gods (personified roaring of the wind)


For a-gatvā read a-dattvā?


I. e. Ayodhyā.


Ādi, also called Śarālī. The dictionaries all say this bird is Turdus ginginianus, which is the old name. It is Jerdon’s Bank Maina, Acridotheres ginginianus, which is common throughout Upper India, and burrows in the river banks (vol. II, p. 326). Jerdon gives salik (śārikā) as the general Bengali name for mainas ; but I do not trace either of these two words in his book.


Yaka. Prof. Monier-Williams called this bird Ardea nivida, but I do not find this name in Jerdon. Bak, bag, (Bengali) and baglā (Hindi) are the general modem names for various kinds of common herons, egrets and bitterns. The Large Egret (Herodias alba, Jerdon), the Smaller Egret (if. egrettoides), and the Little Egret (H. garzetta) are all white; the Cattle Egret (Buphus coromandus) and the Pond Heron, generally known as the Paddy-bird, (Ardeola leucoptera), which are most commonly called bag and baglā, have white bodies (Jerdon, vol. II, pp. 744-751).

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