CURIOUS incident followed the bridal of Draupadi. The five sons
of Panda returned with her to the potter's house, where they were
living on alms according to the custom of Brahmans, and the brothers
reported to their mother that they had received a great gift on
that day. "Enjoy ye the gift in common," replied their
mother, not knowing what it was. And as a mother's mandate cannot
be disregarded, Draupadi became the common wife of the five brothers.
real significance of this strange legend is unknown. The custom
of brothers marrying a common wife prevails to this day in Thibet
and among the hill-tribes of the Himalayas, but it never prevailed
among the Aryan Hindus of India. It is distinctly prohibited in
their laws and institutes, and finds no sanction in their literature,
ancient or modern. The legend in the Maha-bharata, of brothers marrying
a wife in common, stands alone and without a parallel in Hindu traditions
from the main incidents of the Epic, Draupadi might rather be regarded
as the wife of the eldest brother Yudhishthir. Bhima had already
mated himself to a female in a forest, by whom he had a son, Ghatotkacha,
who distinguished himself in war later on. Arjun too married the
sister of Krishna, shortly after Draupadi's bridal, and had by her
a son, Abhimanyu, who was one of the heroes of the war. On the other
hand, Yudhishthir took to him self no wife save Draupadi, and she
was crowned with Yudhishthir in the Rajasuya or Imperial Sacrifice.
Notwithstanding the legend, therefore, Draupadi might be regarded
as wedded to Yudhishthir, though won by the skill of Arjun, and
this assumption would be in keeping with Hindu customs and laws,
ancient and modern.
jealous Duryodhan heard that his contrivance to kill his cousins
at Varanavata had failed. He also heard that they had found a powerful
friend in Drupad, and had formed an alliance with him. It was no
longer possible to keep them from their rightful inheritance. The
Kuru kingdom was accordingly parcelled; Duryodhan retained the eastern
and richer portion with its ancient capital Hastina-pura on the
Ganges; and the sons of Panda were given the western portion on
the Jumna, which was then a forest and a wilderness. The sons of
Panda cleared the forest and built a new capital Indra-prastha,
the supposed ruins of which, near modem Delhi, are still pointed
out to the curious traveller.
the eldest of the five sons of Pandu, and now king of Indra-prastlia,
resolved to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice, which was a formal assumption
of the Imperial title over all the kings of ancient India. His brothers
went out with troops in all directions to proclaim his supremacy
over all surrounding kings. Jarasandha, the powerful and semi-civilised
king of Magadha or South Behar, opposed and was killed; but other
monarchs recognised the supremacy of Yudhishthir and came to the
sacrifice with tributes. King Dhrita-rashtra and his sons, now reigning
at Hastina-pura, were politely invited to take a share in the performance
of the sacrifice.
portion translated in this Book forms Sections xxxiii. To xxxvi.
and Section xliv. of Book ii. of the original.
THE ASEMBLAGE OF KINGS
Ancient halls of proud Hastina mirrored bright on Ganga's wave!
Thither came the son of Pandu, young Nakula true and brave,
to ask Hastina's monarch, chief of Kuru's royal race,
To partake Yudhishthir's banquet and his sacrifice to grace.
came in gladness unto Indra-prastha's town,
Marked its new-built tower and turret on the azure Jumna frown,
him came preceptor Kripa, and the ancient Bhishma came,
Elders of the race of Kuru, chiefs and Brahmans known to fame.
came from distant regions to partake the holy rite,
Warlike chiefs from court and castle in their arms accoutred bright,
came with ample tribute for the holy sacrifice,
Precious gems and costly jewels, gold and gifts of untold price.
Duryodhan and his brothers came in fair and friendly guise,
With the ancient Kuru monarch and Vidura, good and wise,
his son came brave Suvala from Gandhara's distant land,
Car-borne Salya, peerless Karna, came with bow and spear and brand.
the priest and proud preceptor Drona skilled in arms and lore,
Jayadratha famed for valour came from Sindhu's sounding shore,
came with gallant princes from Panchala's land of fame,
Salwa lord of outer nations to the mighty gathering came.
came in chariot from the land of nations brave,
Prag-jyotisha, where the red sun wakes on Brahma-putra's wave,
him came untutored Mlechchas who beside the ocean dwell,
Uncouth chiefs of dusky nations from the lands where mountains swell,
Virata, Matsya's monarch, and his warlike sons and bold,
Sisupala, king of Chedi, with his son bedecked in gold.
the warlike chiefs of Vrishni from the shores of Western Sea,
And the lords of Madhya-desa, ever warlike ever free!
FEAST AND SACRIFICE
Jumna's dark and limpid waters laved Yudhishthir's palace walls
And to hail him Dharma-raja, monarchs thronged his royal halls,
to honoured kings and chieftains with a royal grace assigned
Palaces with sparkling waters and with trees umbrageous lined,
thus, the mighty monarchs lived in mansions milky white,
Like the peaks of famed Kailasa lifting proud their snowy height!
walls that swept the meadows circled round the royal halls,
Nets of gold belaced the casements, gems bedecked the shining walls,
of steps led up to chambers many-tinted-carpet-graced,
And festooning fragrant garlands were harmonious interlaced!
below from spacious gateways rose the people's gathering cry,
And from far the swan-white mansions caught the ravished gazer's
graced with precious metals shone the turrets bright and gay,
Like the rich-ored shining turrets of the lofty Himalay.
the scene bedecked by rishis and by priests and kings of might,
Shone like azure sky in splendourgraced by deathless Sons of Light!
Yudhishthir unto Bhishma, elder of the Kuru race,
Unto Drona proud preceptor, rich in lore and warlike grace,
to wise preceptor Kripa, versed in sacred rites of old,
To Duryodhan and his brothers, honoured guests and kinsmen bold:
and kinsmen, grant your favour and your sweet affection lend,
May your kindness ever helpful poor Yudhishthir's rite attend,
your own, command my treasure, costly gifts and wealth untold,
To the poor and to the worthy scatter free my gems and gold!"
thus he made his diksha, and to holy work inclined,
To his friends and to his kinsmen all their various tasks assigned:
Duhsasan in his bounty spread the rich and sumptuous feast,
Drona's son with due devotion greeted saint and holy priest,
with a regal honour welcomed king and chief of might,
Bhishma and the pious Drona watched the sacrificial rite,
guarded wealth and treasure, gold and gems of untold price,
And with presents unto Brahmans sanctified the sacrifice,
old and sightless, through the scene of gladness strayed,
With a careful hand Vidura all the mighty cost defrayed,
Duryodhan took the tribute which the chiefs and monarchs paid,
Pious Krishna unto Brahmans honour and obeisance made.
a gathering fair and wondrous on fair Jumna's sacred shore,
Tributes in a thousand nishkas every willing monarch bore,
gifts proclaimed the homage of each prince of warlike might,
Chieftains vied with rival chieftains to assist the holy rite.
Immortals, robed in sunlight, sailed across the liquid sky,
And their gleaming cloud-borne chariots rested on the turrets high,
holy Brahmans, filled the balls bedecked in gold,
White-robed priests adept in mantra mingled with the chieftains
amidst this scene of splendour, pious-hearted, pure and good,
Like the sinless god VARUNA, gentle-souled Yudhishthir stood,
bright fires Yudhishthir lighted, offerings made to gods above,
Gifts unto the poor and lowly spake the monarch's boundless love.
men were fed and feasted with an ample feast of rice,
Costly gifts to holy Brahmans graced the noble sacrifice,
ajya, homa offerings, pleased the "Shining Ones" on high,
Brahmans pleased with costly presents with their blessings filled
GLIMPSES OF THE TRUTH
Dawned the day of abhisheka, proud anointment, sacred bath,
Crownéd kings and learnéd Brahmans crowded on Yudhishthir's
as gods and heavenly rishis throng in BRAHMA'S mansions bright,
Holy priests and noble monarchs graced the inner sacred site!
their fame and virtue, great their penance and their power,
And in converse deep and learned Brahmans passed the radiant hour,
on subjects great and sacred, oft divided in their thought,
Various sages in their wisdom various diverse maxims taught,
reasons seemed the stronger, faultless reasons often failed,
Keen disputants like the falcon fell on views their rivals held!
were versed in Laws of Duty, some the Holy Vows professed,
Some with gloss and varied comment still his learned rival pressed,
the concourse of the Brahmans unto sacred learning given,
Like the concourse of the bright stars in the glorious vault of
of impure caste and conduct trespassed on the holy site,
None of impure life and manners stained Yudhishthir's sacred rite!
saintly Narad, marked the sacrificial rite,
Sanctifying by its lustre good Yudhishthir's royal might,
a ray of heavenly wisdom lit the rishi's inner eye,
As he saw the gathered monarchs in the concourse proud and high!
had heard from lips celestial in the heavenly mansions bright,
All these kings were god incarnate, portions of Celestial Light,
he saw in them embodied beings of the upper sky,
And in lotus-eyéd Krishna saw the Highest of the High!
the ancient World's Preserver, great Creation's Primal Cause,
Who had sent the gods as monarchs to uphold his righteous laws,
for the cause of virtue, perish in a deadly war,
Then to seek their upper mansions in the radiant realms afar!
World's Preserver, sent immortal gods on earth,
He himself in race of Yadu hath assumed his mortal birth,
the moon among the planets born in Vrishni's noble clan,--
He whom bright gods render worship,--NARAYANA, Son of Man,
Cause and Self-created! when is done his purpose high,
NARAYANA leads Immortals to their dwelling in the sky."
bright glimpses of the Secret flashed upon his inner sight,
As in lofty contemplation Narad gazed upon the rite.
Outspake Bhishma to Yudhishthir: "Monarch of this wide domain,
Honour due to crowned monarchs doth our sacred law ordain,
to the wise Preceptor, to the Kinsman and to Priest,
To the Friend and to the Scholar, to the King as lord of feast,
these is due the arghya, so our holy writs have said,
Therefore to these kings assembled be the highest honour paid,
are these crownéd monarchs, radiant like the noonday sun,
To the noblest, first in virtue, be the foremost honour done!"
is noblest," quoth Yudhishthir, "in this galaxy of fame,
Who of chiefs and crownéd monarchs doth our foremost honour
ring spake the ancient Bhishma in his accents deep and clear:
Greatest midst the great is Krishna! chief of men without a peer
these monarchs pure in lustre, purest-hearted and most high
Like the radiant sun is Krishna midst the planets of the sky,
climes are warmed to verdure by the sun's returning ray,
Windless wastes are waked to gladness when reviving breezes play,
so this rajasuya, this thy sacrificial rite,
Owes its sanctity and splendour unto Krishna's holy might!"
spake and Sahadeva served his mandate quick as thought,
And the arghya duly flavoured unto peerless Krishna brought,
trained in rules of virtue then the offered arghya took,
Darkened Sisupala's forehead and his frame in tremor shook,
Yudhishthir and to Bhishma turns the chief his flaming eyes,
To the great and honoured Krishna, Sisupala wrathful cries.
Not to Vrishni's uncrowned hero should this reverence be paid,
Midst these mighty crownéd monarchs in their kingly pomp
beseems the good Yudhishthir, royal Pandu's righteous son,
Homage to an uncrowned chieftain, to the lowly honour done!
sons are yet untutored, and with knowledge yet unblessed,
Knowing Bhishma blessed with wisdom hath the rules of courts transgressed,
in the Laws of Duty he hath sinned from partial love,
Conscious breach of rules of honour doth our deeper hatred move!
this throng of crownéd monarchs, ruling kings of righteous
Can this uncrowned Vrishni chieftain foremost rank and honour claim?
he as a sage and elder claim the homage to him done?
Sure his father Vasudeva hath his claims before his son!
he as Yudhishthir's kinsman count as foremost and the best?
Royal Drupad by alliance surely might the claim contest!
he as a wise preceptor claim the highest, foremost place,
When the great preceptor Drona doth his royal mansion grace?
Krishna as a rishi should the foremost rank be given?
Saintly Vyasa claims the honour, Vedic bard inspired by Heaven!
Krishna should we render honour for his warlike fame?
Thou, O Bhishma! Death's Subduer, surely might precedence claim!
Krishna for his knowledge should the noble prize we yield?
Drona's son unmatched in learning surely might contest the field!
Duryodhan midst the princes stands alone without a peer,
Kripa priest of royal Kurus, holiest of all priests is here!
Karna--braver archer none there is of mortal birth
Learnt his arms from Par'su Rama, he who slew the kings of earth!
then to unknown Krishna render we this homage free!
Saintly priest, nor wise preceptor, king nor foremost chief is he!"
Tiger-hearted Sisupala spake in anger stem and high,
Calm unto him Krishna answered, but a light was in his eye:
O chiefs and righteous monarchs! from a daughter of our race
Evil-destined Sisupala doth his noble lineage trace,
of wrong and frequent outrage, spite of insult often flung,
Never in his heart hath Krishna sought to do his kinsman wrong!
I went to eastern regions, Sisupala like a foe
Burnt my far-famed seaport Dwarka, laid the mart and temple low,
on Bhoja's trusting monarch faithless Sisupala fell,
Slew his men and threw him captive in his castle's dungeon cell,
for holy aswamedha Vasudeva sent his steed,
Sisupala stole the charger, sought to stop the righteous deed,
on saintly Babhru's consort, pious-hearted, pure and just,
Sisupala fell in madness, forced the lady to his lust,
Visala's beauteous princess went to seek her husband's side,
In her husband's garb disguiséd Sisupala olasped the bride,
and more hath Krishna suffered, for his mother is our kin,
But the sickening tale appalleth, and he addeth sin to sin!
more tale of sin I mention: by his impious passion fired,
To my saintly wife, Rukmini, Sisupala hath aspired,
the low-born seeks the Veda, soiling it with impure breath,
Sisupala sought my consort, and his righteous doom is Death!"
spake; the rising red blood speaks each angry hero's shame,
Shame for Chedi's impious actions, grief for Sisupala's fame!
laughed proud Sisupala, spake with bitter taunt and jeer,
Answered Krishna's lofty menace with disdain and cruel sneer:
in this vast assembly thus proclaim thy tale of shame,
If thy wedded wife and consort did inspire my youthful flame?
a man of sense and honour, blest with wisdom and with pride,
Thus proclaim his wedded consort was another's loving bride?
thy worst! Or if by anger or by weak forbearance led,
Sisupala seeks no mercy, nor doth Krishna's anger dread!"
Krishna's eye and forehead, and unto his hands there came
Fatal disc, the dread of sinners, disc that never missed its aim,
in this hall assembled!" Krishna in his anger cried,
"Oft hath Chedi's impious monarch Krishna's noble rage defied,
unto his pious mother plighted word and troth was given,
Sisupala's hundred follies would by Krishna be forgiven,
have kept the plighted promise, but his crimes exceed the tale,
And beneath this vengeful weapon Sisupala now shall quail!"
the bright and whirling discus, as this mandate Krishna said,
Fell on impious Sisupala, from his body smote his head,
the mighty-arméd monarch like a thunder-riven rock,
Severed from the parent mountain by the bolt's resistless shook!
his soul be-cleansedof passions came forth from its mortal shroud,
Like the radiant sun in splendour from a dark and mantling cloud,
Krishna good and gracious, like a lurid spark aflame,
Chastened of its sin and anger, Sisupala's spirit came!
descends in copious torrents, quick the lurid lightnings fly,
And the wide earth feels a tremor, restless thunders shake the sky,
feelings away the monarchs as they stand in hushed amaze,
Mutely in those speechless moments on the lifeless warrior gaze!
there are who seek their weapons, and their nervous fingers shake,
And their lips they bite in anger, and their frames in tremor quake,
in their inmost bosom welcome Krishna's righteous deed,
Look on death of Sisupala as a sinner's proper meed,
bless the deed of Krishna as they wend their various ways,
Brahmans pure and pious-hearted chant the righteous Krishna's praise!
Yudhishthir, gentle-hearted, thus unto his brothers said:
"Funeral rites and regal honours be performed unto the dead,"
his faithful brothers then performed each pious rite,
Honours due to Chedi's monarch, to his rank and peerless might,
son they seated in his mighty father's place,
And with holy abhisheka hailed him king of Chedi's race!
Thus removed the hapless hindrance, now the holy sacrifice
Was performed with joy and splendour and with gifts of gold and
Krishna watched benignly with his bow and disc and mace,
And Yudhishthir closed the feasting with his kindliness and grace.
sprinkled holy water on the empire's righteous lord,
All the monarchs made obeisance, spake in sweet and graceful word:
of race of Ajamidha! thou hast spread thy father's fame,
Rising by thy native virtue thou hast won a mightier name,
this rite unto thy station doth a holier grace instil,
And thy royal grace and kindness all our hope and wish fulfil,
us, king of mighty monarchs, now unto our realms we go,
Emperor o'er earthly rulers, blessings and thy grace bestow!"
Yudhishthir to the monarchs parting grace and honours paid,
And unto his duteous brothers thus in loving-kindness said:
our feast these noble monarchs came from loyal love they bear.
Far as confines of their kingdoms, with them let our friends repair."
his brothers and his kinsmen duteously his hest obey,
With each parting guest and monarch journey on the home ward way.
wends with high-souled Drupad, famed for loftywarlike grace,
Dhrishta-dyumna with Virata, monarch of the Matsya race,
on the ancient Bhishma and on Kuru's king doth wait,
Sahadeva waits on Drona, great in arms, in virtue great,
Gandhara's warlike monarch brave Nakula holds his way,
Other chiefs with other monarchs where their distant kingdoms lay.
of all Yudhishthir's kinsman, righteous Krishna fain would part,
And unto the good Yudhishthir opens thus his joyful heart:
this glorious rajasuya, joy and pride of Kuru's race,
Grant, O friend! to sea-girt Dwarka, Krishna now his steps must
thy grace and by thy valour," sad Yudhishthir thus replies,
"By thy presence, noble Krishna, I performed this high emprise,
thy all-subduing glory monarchs bore Yudhishthir's sway,
Came with gifts and costly presents, came their tributes rich to
thou part? my uttered accents may not bid thee, friend, to go,
In thy absence vain were empire, and this life were full of woe,
thou partest, sinless Krishna, dearest, best belovéd friend,
And to Dwarka's sea-washed mansions Krishna must his footsteps bend!"
unto Yudhishthir's mother, pious-hearted Krishna hies,
And in accents love-inspiring thus to ancient Pritha cries:
fame and righteous glory crown thy sons, reveréd dame,
Joy thee in their peerless prowess, in their holy spotless fame,
thy sons' success and triumph cheer a widowed mother's heart,
Grant me leave, O noble lady! for to Dwarka I depart."
Yudhishthir's queen Draupadi parts the chief with many a tear,
And from Arjun's wife Sabhadra. Krishina's sister ever dear,
with rites and due ablutions to the gods are offerings made,
Priests repeat their benedictions, for the righteous Krishna said,
his faithful chariot-driver brings his falcon-bannered car,
Like the clouds in massive splendour and resistless in the war,
Krishna mounts the chariot, fondly greets his friends once more,
Leaves blue Jumna's sacred waters for his Dwarka's dear-loved shore,
Yudhishthir and his brothers, sad and sore and grieved at heart,
Followed Krishna's moving chariot, for they could not see him part,
stopped once more his chariot, and his parting blessing gave,
Thus the chief with eyes of lotus spake in accents calm and brave:
of men! with sleepless watching ever guard thy kingdom flair,
Like a father tend thy subjects with a father's love and care,
unto them like the rain-drop nourishing the thirsty ground,
Be unto them tree of shelter shading them from heat around,
the blue sky ever bending be unto them ever kind,
Free from pride and free from passion rule them with a virtuous
and left the saintly Krishna, pure and pious-hearted chief,
Sad Yudhishthir wended homeward andhis heart was filled with grief.