PREVIOUS: The Mahabharata, Book 11: Stri Parva
Om! Having bowed down unto Narayana and Nara, the foremost of male beings, and unto the goddess Sarasvati, must the word Jaya be uttered.
Janamejaya said, “After Duryodhana had fallen and after all the warriors also had fallen, what, O sage, did king Dhritarashtra do on receipt of the intelligence? What also did the high-souled Kuru king Yudhishthira, the son of Dharma, do? What did the three survivors (of the Kuru army) viz. Kripa and the others do? I have heard everything about the feats of Ashvatthama. Tell me what happened after that mutual denunciation of curses. Tell me all that Sanjaya said unto the blind old king.”
Vaishampayana said, “After he had lost his century of sons, king Dhritarashtra, afflicted with grief on that account, cheerless, and looking like a tree shorn of its branches, became overwhelmed with anxiety and lost his power of speech. Possessed of great wisdom, Sanjaya, approaching the monarch, addressed him, saying, ‘Why dost thou grieve, O monarch? Grief does not serve any purpose. Eight and ten Akshauhinis of combatants, O king, have been slain! The earth hath become desolate, and is almost empty now! Kings of diverse realms, hailing from diverse quarters, united with thy son (for aiding him in battle) have all laid down their lives. Let now the obsequial rites of thy sires and sons and grandsons and kinsmen and friends and preceptors be performed in due order.”
Vaishampayana continued, “Destitute of sons and counsellors and all his friends, king Dhritarashtra of great energy suddenly fell down on the earth like a tree uprooted by the wind.
“Dhritarashtra said, ‘Destitute as I am of sons and counsellors and all my friends, I shall, without doubt have to wander in sorrow over the earth. What need have I now of life itself, left as I am of kinsmen and friends and resembling as I do a bird shorn of its wings and afflicted with decrepitude? Shorn of kingdom, deprived of kinsmen, and destitute of eyes, I cannot, O thou of great wisdom, shine any longer on earth like a luminary shorn of its splendours! I did not follow the counsels of friends of Jamadagni’s son, of the celestial rishi Narada, and of island-born Krishna, while they offered me counsel. In the midst of the assembly, Krishna told me what was for my good, saying, “A truce (tense) to hostilities, O king! Let thy son take the whole kingdom! Give but five villages to the Pandavas!” Fool that I was, for not following that advice, I am now obliged to repent so poignantly! I did not listen to the righteous counsels of Bhishma. Alas, having heard of the slaughter of Duryodhana whose roars were as deep as those of a bull, having heard also of the death of Duhshasana and the extinction of Karna and the setting of the Drona-sun, my heart does not break into pieces. I do not, O Sanjaya, remember any evil act committed by me in former days, whose consequences, fool that I am, I am suffering today. Without doubt, I committed great sins in my former lives, for which the Supreme Ordainer has set me to endure such a measure of grief. This destruction of all my kinsmen, this extermination of all my well-wishers and friends, at this old age, has come upon me through the force of Destiny. What other man is there on earth who is more afflicted than my wretched self? Since it is so, let the Pandavas behold me this very day firmly resolved to betake myself to the long way that leads to the regions of Brahman!’”
Vaishampayana continued, “While king Dhritarashtra was indulging in such lamentations, Sanjaya addressed him in the following words for dispelling his grief, ‘Cast off thy grief, O monarch! Thou hast heard the conclusions of the Vedas and the contents of diverse scriptures and holy writ, from the lips of the old, O king! Thou hast heard those words which the sages said unto Sanjaya while the latter was afflicted with grief on account of the death of his son. When thy son, O monarch, caught the pride that is born of youth, thou didst not accept the counsels offered unto thee by thy well-wishers. Desirous of fruit, thou didst not, through covetousness, do what was really for thy benefit. Thy own intelligence, like a sharp sword, has wounded thee. Thou didst generally pay court to those that were of wicked behaviour. Thy son had Duhshasana for his counsellor, and the wicked-souled son of Radha, and the equally wicked Shakuni and Citrasena of foolish understanding, and Salya. Thy son (by his own behaviour) made the whole world his enemy. Thy son, O Bharata, did not obey the words of Bhishma, the reverend chief of the Kurus, of Gandhari and Vidura, of Drona, O king, of Kripa the son of Sharadvata, of the mighty-armed Krishna, of the intelligent Narada, of many other rishis, and of Vyasa himself of immeasurable energy. Though possessed of prowess, thy son was of little intelligence, proud, always desirous of battle, wicked, ungovernable, and discontented. Thou art possessed of learning and intelligence and art always truthful. They that are so righteous and possessed of such intelligence as thou, are never stupefied by grief. Virtue was regarded by none of them. Battle was the one word on their lips. For this the Kshatriya order has been exterminated and the fame of thy foes enhanced. Thou hadst occupied the position of an umpire, but thou didst not utter one word of salutary advise. Unfitted as thou wert for the task, thou didst not hold the scales evenly. Every person should, at the outset, adopt such a beneficial line of action that he may not have, in the end, to repent for something already done by him. Through affection for thy son, O monarch, thou didst what was agreeable to Duryodhana. Thou art obliged to repent for that now. It behoveth thee, however not to give way to grief. The man whose eyes are directed towards only the honey without being once directed to the fall, meets with destruction through his covetousness for honey. Such a man is obliged to repent even like thee. The man who indulges in grief never wins wealth. By grieving one loses the fruits one desires. Grief is again an obstacle to the acquisition of objects dear to us. The man who gives way to grief loses even his salvation. The man who shrouds a burning coal within the folds of his attire and is burnt by the fire that is kindled by it, would be pronounced a fool if he grieves for his injuries. Thyself, with thy son, hadst, with your words, fanned the Partha-fire, and with your covetousness acting as clarified butter caused that fire to blaze forth, into consuming flames. When that fire thus blazed forth thy sons fell into it like insects. It behoveth thee not, however, to grieve for them now that they have all been burnt in the fire of the enemy’s arrow. The tear-stained face, O king, which thou bearest now is not approved by the scriptures or praised by the wise. These tears, like sparks of fire, burn the dead for whom they are shed. Kill thy grief with thy intelligence, and bear thyself up with the strength of thy own self!’ Thus was the king comforted by the high-souled Sanjaya. Vidura then, O scorcher of foes, once again addressed the king, displaying great intelligence.”
Vaishampayana said, “Listen, O Janamejaya, to the nectar-like words that Vidura said unto the son of Vicitravirya and by which he gladdened that bull among men!
“Vidura said, ‘Rise, O king! Why art thou stretched on the earth? Bear thyself up with thy own self. O king, even this is the final end of all living creatures. Everything massed together ends in destruction; everything that gets high is sure to fall down. Union is certain to end in separation; life is sure to end in death. The destroyer, O Bharata, drags both the hero and the coward. Why then, O bull amongst Kshatriyas, should not Kshatriyas engage in battle? He that does not fight is seen to escape with life. When, however, one’s time comes, O king, one cannot escape. As regards living creatures, they are non-existent at first. They exist in the period that intervenes. In the end they once more become non-existent. What matter of grief then is there in this? The man that indulges in grief succeeds not in meeting with the dead. By indulging in grief, one does not himself die. When the course of the world is such, why dost thou indulge in sorrow? Death drags all creatures, even the gods. There is none dear or hateful to death, O best of the Kurus! As the wind tears off the tops of all blades of grass, even so, O bull of Bharata’s race, death overmasters all creatures. All creatures are like members of a caravan bound for the same destination. (When death will encounter all) it matters very little whom he meets with first. It behoveth thee not, O king, to grieve for those that have been slain in battle. If the scriptures are any authority, all of them must have obtained the highest end. All of them were versed in the Vedas; all of them had observed vows. Facing the foe all of them have met with death. What matter of sorrow is there in this? Invisible they had been (before birth). Having come from that unknown region, they have once more become invisible. They are not thine, nor art thou theirs. What grief then is there in such disappearance? If slain, one wins heaven. By slaying, fame is won. Both these, with respect to us, are productive of great merit. Battle, therefore, is not bootless. No doubt, Indra will contrive for them regions capable of granting every wish. These, O bull among men, become the guests of Indra. Men cannot, by sacrifices with profuse gifts, by ascetic penances and by learning, go so speedily to heaven as heroes slain in battle. On the bodies of hostile heroes constituting the sacrificial fire, they poured their arrowy libations. Possessed of great energy, they had in return to endure the arrowy libations (poured upon them by their enemies). I tell thee, O king, that for a Kshatriya in this world there is not a better road to heaven than battle! They were all high-souled Kshatriyas; possessed of bravery, they were ornaments of assemblies. They have attained to a high state of blessedness. They are not persons for whom we should grieve. Comforting thyself by thy own self cease to grieve, O bull among men! It behoveth thee not to suffer thyself to be overwhelmed with sorrow and to abandon all actions. There are thousands of mothers and fathers and sons and wives in this world. Whose are they, and whose are we? From day to day thousands of causes spring up for sorrow and thousands of causes for fear. These, however, affect the ignorant but are nothing to him that is wise. There is none dear or hateful to Time, O best of the Kurus! Time is indifferent to none. All are equally dragged by Time. Time causeth all creatures to grow, and it is Time that destroyeth everything. When all else is asleep, Time is awake. Time is irresistible. Youth, beauty, life, possessions, health, and the companionship of friends, all are unstable. He that is wise will never covet any of these. It behoveth thee not to grieve for what is universal. A person may, by indulging in grief, himself perish, but grief itself, by being indulged in, never becomes light. Ifthou feelest thy grief to be heavy, it should be counteracted by not indulging in it. Even this is the medicine for grief, viz., that one should not indulge in it. By dwelling on it, one cannot lessen it. On the other hand, it grows with indulgence. Upon the advent of evil or upon the bereavement of something that is dear, only they that are of little intelligence suffer their minds to be afflicted with grief. This is neither Profit, nor Religion, nor Happiness, on which thy heart is dwelling. The indulgence of grief is the certain means of one’s losing one’s objects. Through it, one falls away from the three great ends of life (religion, profit, and pleasure). They that are destitute of contentment, are stupefied on the accession of vicissitudes dependent upon the possession of wealth. They, however, that are wise, are on the other hand, unaffected by such vicissitudes. One should kill mental grief by wisdom, just as physical grief should be killed by medicine. Wisdom hath this power. They, however, that are foolish, can never obtain tranquillity of soul. The acts of a former life closely follow a man, insomuch that they lie by him when he lies down, stay by him when he stays, and run with him when he runs. In those conditions of life in which one acts well or ill, one enjoys or suffers the fruit thereof in similar conditions. In those forms (of physical organisation) in which one performs particular acts, one enjoys or suffers the fruits thereof in similar forms. One’s own self is one’s own friend, as, indeed, one’s own self is one’s own enemy. One’s own self is the witness of one’s acts, good and evil. From good acts springs a state of happiness, from sinful deeds springs woe. One always obtains the fruit of one’s acts. One never enjoys or suffers weal or woe that is not the fruit of one’s own acts. Intelligent persons like thee, O king, never sink in sinful enormities that are disapproved by knowledge and that strike at the very root (of virtue and happiness).’”
“Dhritarashtra said, ‘O thou of great wisdom, my grief has been dispelled by thy excellent words! I desire, however, to again hear thee speak. How, indeed, do those that are wise free themselves from mental grief born of the advent of evils and the bereavement of objects that are dear?’
“Vidura said, ‘He that is wise obtains tranquillity by subduing both grief and joy through means by which one may escape from grief and joy. All those things about which we are anxious, O bull among men, are ephemeral. The world is like a plantain tree, without enduring strength. Since the wise and the foolish, the rich and the poor, all, divested of their anxieties, sleep on the crematorium, with bodies reft of flesh and full of bare bones and shrivelled sinews, whom amongst them will the survivors look upon as possessed of distinguishing marks by which the attributes of birth and beauty may be ascertained? (When all are equal in death) why should human beings, whose understandings are always deceived (by the things of this world) covet one another’s rank and position? The learned say that the bodies of men are like houses. In time these are destroyed. There is one being, however, that is eternal. As a person, casting off one attire, whether old or new, wears another, even such is the case with the bodies of all embodied beings. O son of Vicitravirya, creatures obtain weal or woe as the fruit of their own acts. Through their acts they obtain heaven, O Bharata, or bliss, or woe. Whether able or unable, they have to bear their burdens which are the result of their own acts. As amongst earthen pots some break while still on the potter’s wheel, some while partially shaped, some as soon as brought into shape, some after removal from the wheel, some while in course of being removed, some after removal, some while wet, some while dry, some while being burnt, some while being removed from the kiln, some after removal therefrom, and some while being used, even such is the case with the bodies of embodied creatures. Some are destroyed while yet in the womb, some after coming out of the womb, some on the day after, some on the expiration of a fortnight or of a month, some on the expiration of a year or of two years, some in youth, some in middle age, and some when old. Creatures are born or destroyed according to their acts in previous lives. When such is the course of the world, why do you then indulge in grief? As men, while swimming in sport on the water, sometimes dive and sometimes emerge, O king, even so creatures sink and emerge in life’s stream. They that are of little wisdom suffer or meet with destruction as the result of their own acts. They, however, that are wise, observant of virtue, and desirous of doing good unto all living creatures, they, acquainted with the real nature of the appearance of creatures in this world, attain at last to the highest end.’”
“Dhritarashtra said, ‘O foremost speakers, how may the wilderness of this world be known? I desire to hear this. Asked by me, tell me this.’
“Vidura said, ‘I will describe to thee all the acts of creatures from their first conception. At the outset it lives in the admixture of blood and the vital fluid. Then it grows little by little. Then on the expiry of the fifth month it assumes shape. It next becomes a foetus with all its limbs completed, and lives in a very impure place, covered with flesh and blood. Then, through the action of the wind, its lower limbs are turned upwards and the head comes downwards. Arriving in this posture at the mouth of the uterus, it suffers manifold woes. In consequence of the contractions of the uterus, the creature then comes out of it, endued with the results of all his previous acts. He then encounters in this world other evils that rush towards him. Calamities proceed towards him like dogs at the scent of meat. Next diverse diseases approach him while he is enchained by his previous acts. Bound by the chains of the senses and women and wealth and other sweet things of life, diverse evil practices also approach him then, O king! Seized by these, he never obtains happiness. At that season he succeeds not in obtaining the fruit of his acts, right or wrong. They, however, that set their hearts on reflection, succeed in protecting their souls. The person governed by his senses does not know that death has come at his door. At last, dragged by the messengers of the Destroyer, he meets with destruction at the appointed time. Agitated by his senses, for whatever good and evil has been done at the outset and having enjoyed or suffered the fruits of these, he once more becomes indifferent to his acts of self-slaughter. Alas, the world is deceived, and covetousness brings it under its dominion. Deprived of understanding by covetousness, wrath, and fear, one knows not one’s own self. Filled with joy at one’s own respectability of birth, one is seen to traduce those that are not high-born. Swelled also with pride of wealth, one is seen to contemn the poor. One regards others to be ignorant fools, but seldom takes a survey of one’s own self. One attributes faults to others but is never desirous to punish one’s own self. Since the wise and the ignorant, the rich and the poor, the high-born and the lowborn, the honoured and the dishonoured, all go to the place of the dead and sleep there freed from every anxiety, with bodies divested of flesh and full only of bones united by dried-up tendons, whom amongst them would the survivors look upon as distinguished above the others and by what signs would they ascertain the attributes of birth and beauty? When all, stretched after the same fashion, sleep on the bare ground, why then should men, taking leave of their senses, desire to deceive one another? He that, looking at this saying (in the scriptures) with his own eyes or hearing it from others, practiseth virtue in this unstable world of life and adhereth to it from early age, attaineth to the highest end. Learning all this, he that adhereth to Truth, O king, succeedeth in passing over all paths.’”
“Dhritarashtra said, ‘Tell me in detail everything about the ways of that intelligence by which this wilderness of duties may be safely covered.’
“Vidura said, ‘Having bowed down to the Self-create, I will obey thy behest by telling thee how the great sages speak of the wilderness of life. A certain brahmana, living in the great world, found himself on one occasion in a large inaccessible forest teeming with beasts of prey. It abounded on every side with lions and other animals looking like elephants, all of which were engaged in roaring aloud. Such was the aspect of that forest that Yama himself would take fright at it. Beholding the forest, the heart of the brahmana became exceedingly agitated. His hair stood on end, and other signs of fear manifested themselves, O scorcher of foes! Entering it, he began to run hither and thither, casting his eyes on every point of the compass for finding out somebody whose shelter he might seek. Wishing to avoid those terrible creatures, he ran in fright. He could not succeed, however, in distancing them or freeing himself from their presence. He then saw that that terrible forest was surrounded with a net, and that a frightful woman stood there, stretching her arms. That large forest was also encompassed by many five-headed snakes of dreadful forms, tall as cliffs and touching the very heavens. Within it was a pit whose mouth was covered with many hard and unyielding creepers and herbs. The brahmana, in course of his wanderings, fell into that invisible pit. He became entangled in those clusters of creepers that were interwoven with one another, like the large fruit of a jack tree hanging by its stalk. He continued to hang there, feet upwards and head downwards. While he was in that posture, diverse other calamities overtook him. He beheld a large and mighty snake within the pit. He also saw a gigantic elephant near its mouth. That elephant, dark in complexion, had six faces and twelve feet. And the animal gradually approached that pit covered with creepers and trees. About the twigs of the tree (that stood at the mouth of the pit), roved many bees of frightful forms, employed from before in drinking the honey gathered in their comb about which they swarmed in large numbers. Repeatedly they desired, O bull of Bharata’s race, to taste that honey which though sweet to all creatures could, however, attract children only. The honey (collected in the comb) fell in many jets below. The person who was hanging in the pit continually drank those jets. Employed, in such a distressful situation, in drinking that honey, his thirst, however, could not be appeased. Unsatiated with repeated draughts, the person desired for more. Even then, O king, he did not become indifferent to life. Even there, the man continued to hope for existence. A number of black and white rats were eating away the roots of that tree. There was fear from the beasts of prey, from that fierce woman on the outskirts of that forest, from that snake at the bottom of the well, from that elephant near its top, from the fall of the tree through the action of the rats, and lastly from those bees flying about for tasting the honey. In that plight he continued to dwell, deprived of his senses, in that wilderness, never losing at any time the hope of prolonging his life.’”
“Dhritarashtra said, ‘Alas, great was the distress of that person and very painful his mode of life! Tell me, O first of speakers, whence was his attachment to life and whence his happiness? Where is that region, so unfavourable to the practice of virtue, in which that person resides? Oh, tell me how will that man be freed from all those great terrors? Tell me all this! We shall then exert ourselves properly for him. My compassion has been greatly moved by the difficulties that lie in the way of his rescue!’
“Vidura said, ‘They that are conversant, O monarch, with the religion of moksha cite this as a simile. Understanding this properly, a person may attain to bliss in the regions hereafter. That which is described as the wilderness is the great world. The inaccessible forest within it is the limited sphere of one’s own life. Those that have been mentioned as beasts of prey are the diseases (to which we are subject). That woman of gigantic proportions residing in the forest is identified by the wise with Decrepitude which destroys complexion and beauty. That which has been spoken of as the pit is the body or physical frame of embodied creatures. The huge snake dwelling in the bottom of that pit is time, the destroyer of all embodied creatures. It is, indeed, the universal destroyer. The cluster of creepers growing in that pit and attached to whose spreading stems the man hangeth down is the desire for life which is cherished by every creature. The six-faced elephant, O king, which proceeds towards the tree standing at the mouth of the pit is spoken of as the year. Its six faces are the seasons and its twelve feet are the twelve months. The rats and the snakes that are cutting off the tree are said to be days and nights that are continually lessening the periods of life of all creatures. Those that have been described as bees are our desires. The numerous jets that are dropping honey are the pleasures derived from the gratification of our desires and to which men are seen to be strongly addicted. The wise know life’s course to be even such. Through that knowledge they succeed in tearing off its bonds.’”
“Dhritarashtra said, ‘Excellent is this parable that thou hast recited! Indeed, thou art acquainted with truth! Having listened to thy nectarlike speech, I desire to hear thee more.’
“Vidura said, ‘Listen to me, O king, I shall once more discourse in detail on those means an acquaintance with which enable the wise to free themselves from the ties of the world. As a person, O king, who has to travel a long way is sometimes obliged to halt when fatigued with toil, even so, O Bharata, they that are of little intelligence, travelling along the extended way of life, have to make frequent halts in the shape of repeated births in the womb. They, however, that are wise are free from that obligation. Men conversant with the scriptures, for this, describe life’s course as a long way. The wise also call life’s round with all its difficulties a forest. Creatures, O bull of Bharata’s race, whether mobile or immobile, have to repeatedly return to the world. The wise alone escape. The diseases, mental and physical, to which mortals are subject, whether visible or invisible, are spoken of as beasts of prey by the wise. Men are always afflicted and impeded by them, O Bharata! Then again, those fierce beasts of prey, represented by their own acts in life, never cause any anxiety to them that are of little intelligence. If any person, O monarch, somehow escapes from diseases, Decrepitude, that destroyer of beauty, overwhelmshim afterwards. Plunged in a slough by the objects of the different senses–sound and form and taste and touch and scent–man remains there without anything to rescue him thence. Meanwhile, the years, the seasons, the months, the fortnights, the days, and the nights, coming one after another, gradually despoil him of beauty and lessen the period allotted to him. These all are messengers of death. They, however, that are of little understanding know them not to be such. The wise say that all creatures are governed by the Ordainer through their acts. The body of a creature is called the car. The living principle is the driver of (that car). The senses are said to be steeds. Our acts and the understanding are the traces. He who followeth after those running steeds has to come repeatedly to this world in a round of rebirths. He, however, who, being self-restrained restrains them by his understanding hath not to come back. They, however, that are not stupefied while wandering in this wheel of life that is revolving like a real wheel, do not in reality wander in a round of rebirths. He that is wise should certainly take care to prevent the obligation of rebirth. One should not be indifferent to this, for indifference may subject us to it repeatedly. The man, O king, who has restrained his senses and subdued wrath and covetousness, who is contented, and truthful in speech, succeeds in obtaining peace. This body is called the car of Yama. Then those that are of little intelligence are stupefied by it. Such a person, O king, would obtain that which thou hast obtained. The loss of kingdom, of friends, and of children, O Bharata, and such as these, overtake him who is still under the influence of desire. He that is wise should apply the medicine of intelligence to all great griefs. Indeed, obtaining the medicine of wisdom, which is truly very efficacious and is almost unattainable, the man of restrained soul would kill that serious disease called sorrow. Neither prowess, nor wealth, nor friend, nor well-wishers can cure a man of his grief so effectually as the self-restrained soul. Therefore, observant of the great duty of abstention from all injuries, or friendship for all creatures, be of pious behaviour, O Bharata! Self-restraint, renunciation, and heedfulness are the three steeds of Brahman. He who rides on the car of his soul, unto which are yoked these steeds with the aid of traces furnished by good conduct, and drives it, casting off all fear of death, proceedeth, O king, to the regions of Brahman. That person, O monarch, who gives unto all creatures an assurance of his harmlessness, goes to the highest of regions, the blessed realm of Vishnu. The fruit that one obtains by an assurance unto all creatures of his harmlessness cannot be obtained by a 1,000 sacrifices or by daily fasts. Amongst all things there is certainly nothing dearer than self. Death is certainly disliked by all creatures, O Bharata! Therefore, compassion should certainly be shown unto all. Endued with diverse kinds of errors entangled by the net of their own intelligence, they that are wicked and are of good vision, wander repeatedly on the earth. They however, that are wise and endued with subtle sight, attain to a union with Brahman.’”
Vaishampayana said, “Even after hearing the words of Vidura, the chief of the Kurus, afflicted with grief on account of the death of his sons, fell down senseless on the Earth. Beholding him fall down in that state, his friends, as also the island-born Vyasa, and Vidura, and Sanjaya, and other well-wishers, and the attendants who used to wait at the gates and who enjoyed his confidence, sprinkled cool water over his body, and fanned him with palm leaves, and gently rubbed him with their hands. For a long while they comforted the king while in that condition. The monarch, recovering his senses after a long time, wept for a long while, overwhelmed with grief on account of the death of his sons. He said, ‘Fie on the state of humanity! Fie on the human body! The woes that are suffered in this life frequently arise from the very state of humanity. Alas, O lord, great is the grief, like poison or fire, that one suffers at the loss of sons, of wealth, of kinsmen, and relatives. That grief causes the limbs to burn and our wisdom to be destroyed. Overwhelmed with that grief, a person regards death to be preferable. This calamity that has overtaken me through ill-luck is even like that. It will not, I see, end except with life itself. O best of regenerate ones, I shall, therefore, put an end to my life this very day.’ Having said these words unto his high-souled sire, that foremost of all persons conversant with Brahman, Dhritarashtra, overwhelmed with grief, became stupefied. The king, O monarch reflecting on his woes, became speechless. Hearing these words of his, the puissant Vyasa thus spoke unto his son afflicted with grief on account of the death of his children.
“Vyasa said, ‘O mighty-armed Dhritarashtra, listen to what I say. Thou art possessed of learning, thou hast great intelligence, and thou, O puissant one, art skilled in understanding duties. Nothing of that which should be known is unknown to thee, O scorcher of foes! Without doubt, thou knowest the instability of all things doomed to death. When the world of life is unstable when this world itself is not eternal, when life is sure to end in death, why then, O Bharata, dost thou grieve? Before thy very eyes, O king, the concatenation of facts brought about by Time making thy son the cause, produced this hostility. This destruction of the Kurus, O king, was inevitable. Why then dost thou grieve for those heroes that have attained to the highest end? O thou of mighty arms, the high-souled Vidura knew everything. With all his might he had endeavoured, O king, to bring about peace. It is my opinion that the course marked out by Destiny cannot be controlled by anyone, even if one struggles for eternity. The course that was settled by the gods was heard directly by me. I will recite it to thee, so that tranquillity of mind may be thine. Once before, without any fatigue, I repaired very quickly to the court of Indra. There I beheld all the denizens of heaven assembled together. There were, O sinless one, all the celestial rishis also, headed by Narada. There, O monarch, I saw also the Earth (in her embodied form). The latter had repaired to the gods for the accomplishment of a particular mission. Approaching the gods, she said, “That which ye all should do for me hath, ye blessed ones, been already promised by you while you were in Brahma’s abode. Let that be accomplished soon.” Hearing these words of hers, Vishnu, the adored of all the worlds, smilingly addressed her in the midst of the celestial conclave, saying, “The eldest of the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra, who is known by the name of Duryodhana, will accomplish thy business. Through that king, thy purpose will be achieved. For his sake, many kings will assemble together on the field of Kuru. Capable of smiting, they will cause one another to be slain through the instrumentality of hard weapons. It is evident, O goddess, that thy burthen will then be lightened in battle. Go quickly to thy own place and continue to bear the weight of creatures, O beauteous one!” From this thou wilt understand, O king, that thy son Duryodhana, born in Gandhari’s womb, was a portion of Kali, sprung for the object of causing a universal slaughter. He was vindictive, restless, wrathful, and difficult of being gratified. Through the influence of Destiny his brothers also became like him. Shakuni became his maternal uncle and Karna his great friend. Many other kings were born on earth for aiding in the work of destruction. As the king is, so do his subjects become. If the king becomes righteous, even unrighteousness (in his dominions) assumes the shape of righteousness. Servants, without doubt, are affected by the merits and defects of their masters. Those sons of thine, O king, having obtained a bad king, have all been destroyed. Conversant with truth, Narada, knew all this. Thy sons, through their own faults, have been destroyed, O king! Do not grieve for them, O monarch! There is no cause for grief. The Pandavas have not, O Bharata, the least fault in what has happened. Thy sons were all of wicked souls. It is they that caused this destruction on earth. Blessed be thou; Narada had truly informed Yudhishthira of all this in his court on the occasion of the rajasuya sacrifice, saying, “The Pandavas and the Kauravas, encountering each other, will meet with destruction. Do that, O son of Kunti, which thou shouldst!” Upon these words of Narada, the Pandavas became filled with grief. I have thus told thee that which is an eternal secret of the gods. This will destroy thy grief and restore to thee a love of thy life-breath, and cause thee to cherish affection for the Pandavas, for all that has happened has been due to what had been ordained by the gods. O thou of mighty arms, I had learnt all this sometime before. I also spoke of it to king Yudhishthira the just on the occasion of his foremost of sacrifices, the rajasuya. When I secretly informed him of all this, Dharma’s son endeavoured his best for preserving peace with the Kauravas. That, however, which is ordained by the gods proved too powerful (to be frustrated by him). The fiat, O king of the Destroyer, is incapable of being baffled anyhow by mobile and immobile creatures. Thou art devoted to virtue and possessed of superior intelligence, O Bharata! Thou knowest also that which is the way and that which is not the way of all creatures. If king Yudhishthira learns that thou art burning with grief and losing thy senses frequently, he will cast off his very life-breath. He is always compassionate and possessed of wisdom. His kindness extends even to all the inferior creatures. How is it possible, O king, that he will not show compassion to thee, O monarch? At my command, and knowing that what is ordained is inevitable, as also from kindness to the Pandavas, continue to bear thy life, O Bharata! If thou livest thus, thy fame will spread in the world. Thou shalt then be able to acquire a knowledge of all duties and find many years for obtaining ascetic merit. This grief for the death of thy sons that has arisen in thy heart, like a blazing fire, should always be extinguished, O king, by the water of wisdom!”’”
Vaishampayana continued, “Hearing these words of Vyasa of immeasurable energy and reflecting upon them for a little while, Dhritarashtra said, ‘O best of regenerate ones, I am exceedingly afflicted by a heavy load of grief. My senses are repeatedly forsaking me and I am unable to bear up my own self. Hearing, however, these words of thine about what had been ordained by the gods, I shall not think of casting off my life-breath and shall live and act without indulging in grief!’ Hearing these words of Dhritarashtra, O monarch, Satyavati’s son, Vyasa, disappeared then and there.”
Janamejaya said, “After the holy Vyasa had departed, what, O regenerate sage, did king Dhritarashtra, do? It behoveth thee to tell me this. What also did the Kuru king, the high-souled son of Dharma, do? And how did those three, Kripa and others, do? I have heard of the feats of Ashvatthama and the mutual denouncement of curses. Tell me what happened next and what Sanjaya next said (unto the old king).”
Vaishampayana said, “After Duryodhana had been slain and all the troops slaughtered, Sanjaya, deprived of his spiritual sight, came back to Dhritarashtra.
“Sanjaya said, ‘The kings of diverse peoples, that came from diverse realms, have all, O king, gone to the regions of the dead, along with thy sons. Thy son, O king, who had constantlybeen implored (for peace) but who always wished to terminate his hostility (with the Pandavas by slaughtering them) has caused the earth to be exterminated. Do thou, O king, cause the obsequial rites of thy sons and grandsons and sires to be performed according to due order!’”
Vaishampayana continued, “Hearing these terrible words of Sanjaya, the king fell down on the Earth and lay motionless like one deprived of life. Approaching the monarch who was lying prostrate on the Earth, Vidura, conversant with every duty, said these words: ‘Rise, O king, why dost thou lie down thus? Do not grieve, O bull of Bharata’s race! Even this, O lord of Earth, is the final end of all creatures. At first creatures are non-existent. In the interim, O Bharata, they become existent. At the end, they once more become non-existent. What cause of sorrow is there in all this? By indulging in grief, one cannot get back the dead. By indulging in grief, one cannot die himself. When such is the course of the world, why dost thou indulge in grief? One may die without having been engaged in battle. One also escapes with life after being engaged in battle. When one’s Time comes, O king, one cannot escape! Time drags all kinds of creatures. There is none dear or hateful to Time, O best of the Kurus! As the wind tears off the ends of all blades of grass, even so all creatures, O bull of Bharata’s race, are brought by Time under its influence. All creatures are like members of the same caravan bound for the same destination. What cause of sorrow is there if Time meets with one a little earlier than with another? Those again, O king, that have fallen in battle and for whom thou grievest, are not really objects of thy grief, since all those illustrious ones have gone to heaven. By sacrifices with profuse presents, by ascetic austerities, and by knowledge, people cannot so easily repair to heaven as heroes by courage in battle. All those heroes were conversant with the Vedas; all of them were observant of vows; all of them have perished, facing the foe in battle. What cause of sorrow then is there? They poured their arrowy libations upon the bodies of their brave foes as upon a fire. Foremost of men, they bore in return the arrowy libations poured upon themselves. I tell thee, O king, that there is no better way to heaven for a Kshatriya than through battle. All of them were high-souled Kshatriyas, all of them were heroes and ornaments of assemblies. They have attained to a high state of blessedness. One should not grieve for them. Do thou comfort thy own self. Do not grieve, O bull among men! It behoveth thee not to suffer thyself to be overwhelmed with sorrow and abandon all action.’”
Vaishampayana said, “Hearing these words of Vidura, that bull of Bharata’s race (Dhritarashtra) ordered his car to be yoked. The king once more said, ‘Bring Gandhari hither without delay, and all the Bharata ladies. Bring hither Kunti also, as well as all the other ladies with her.’ Having said these words unto Vidura, conversant with every duty, Dhritarashtra of righteous soul, deprived of his senses by sorrow, ascended on his car. Then Gandhari, afflicted with grief on account of the death of her sons, accompanied by Kunti and the other ladies of the royal household, came at the command of her lord to that spot where the latter was waiting for her. Afflicted with grief, they came together to the king. As they met, they accosted each other and uttered loud wails of woe. Then Vidura, who had become more afflicted than those ladies, began to comfort them. Placing those weeping fair ones on the cars that stood ready for them, he set out (with them) from the city. At that time a loud wail of woe arose from every Kuru house. The whole city, including the very children, became exceedingly afflicted with grief. Thoseladies that had not before this been seen by the very gods were now helpless, as they were, for the loss of their lords, seen by the common people. With their beautiful tresses all dishevelled and their ornaments cast off, those ladies, each attired in a single piece of raiment, proceeded most woefully. Indeed, they issued from their houses resembling white mountains, like a dappled herd of deer from their mountain caves after the fall of their leader. These fair ladies, in successive bevies, O king, came out, filled with sorrow, and ran hither and thither like a herd of fillies on a circus yard. Seizing each other by the hand, they uttered loud wails after their sons and brothers and sires. They seemed to exhibit the scene that takes place on the occasion of the universal destruction at the end of the Yuga. Weeping and crying and running hither and thither, and deprived of their senses by grief, they knew not what to do. Those ladies who formerly felt the blush of modesty in the presence of even companions of their own sex, now felt no blush of shame, though scantily clad, in appearing before their mothers-in-law. Formerly they used to comfort each other while afflicted with even slight causes of woe. Stupefied by grief, they now, O king, refrained from even casting their eyes upon each other. Surrounded by those thousands of wailing ladies, the king cheerlessly issued out of the city and proceeded with speed towards the field of battle. Artisans and traders and Vaishyas and all kinds of mechanics, issuing out of the city, followed in the wake of the king. As those ladies, afflicted by the wholesale destruction that had overtaken the Kurus, cried in sorrow, a loud wail arose from among them that seemed to pierce all the worlds. All creatures that heard that wail thought that the hour of universal destruction had come when all things would be consumed by the fire that arises at the end of the Yuga. The citizens also (of Hastinapura), devoted to the house of Kuru, with hearts filled with anxiety at the destruction that had overtaken their rules, set up, O king, a wail that was as loud as that uttered by those ladies.”
Vaishampayana said, “Dhritarashtra had not proceeded for more than two miles when he met with those three great car-warriors, Sharadvata’s son Kripa, Drona’s son (Ashvatthama), and Kritavarma. As soon as the latter obtained a sight of the blind monarch possessed of great power, the three heroes sighed in grief and with voices choked in tears weepingly addressed him, saying, ‘Thy royal son, O king, having achieved the most difficult feats, has, with all his followers, gone to the region of Indra. We are the only three car-warriors of Duryodhana’s army that have escaped with life. All the others, O bull of Bharata’s race, have perished.’ Having said these words unto the king, Sharadvata’s son Kripa, addressing the grief-afflicted Gandhari, said these words unto her, ‘Thy sons have fallen while engaged in achieving feats worthy of heroes, while fearlessly fighting in battle and striking down large numbers of foes. Without doubt, having obtained those bright worlds that are attainable only by the use of weapons, they are sporting there like celestials, having assumed resplendent forms. Amongst those heroes there was no one that turned back from battle. Every one of them has fallen at the end or edge of weapons. None of them joined his hands, begging for quarter. Death in battle at the end or edge of weapons has been said by the ancients to be the highest end that a Kshatriya can obtain. It behoveth thee not, therefore, to grieve for any of them. Their foes, O queen, the Pandavas, too, have not been more fortunate. Listen, what we, headed by Ashvatthama, have done unto them. Learning that thy son had been slain unrighteously by Bhima, we slaughtered the Pandavas after entering their camp buried in sleep. All the Pancalas have been slain. Indeed, all the sons of Drupada, as also all the sons of Draupadi, have been slaughtered. Having caused this carnage of the sons of our foes, we are flying away since we three are incapable of standing in battle with them. Our foes, the Pandavas, are all heroes and mighty bowmen. They will soon come up with us, filled with rage, for taking vengeance on us. Hearing the slaughter of their sons, those bulls among men, infuriated with rage, those heroes, O illustrious lady, will speedily pursue our track. Having caused a carnage (in their sleeping camp) we dare not stay. Grant us permission, O queen! It behoveth thee not to set thy heart on sorrow. Grant us thy permission also, O king! Summon all thy fortitude. Do thou also observe the duties of a Kshatriya in their highest form.’ Having said these words unto the king, and circumambulating him, Kripa and Kritavarma and Drona’s son, O Bharata, without being able to withdraw their eyes from king Dhritarashtra possessed of great wisdom, urged their steeds towards the banks of the Ganga. Moving away from that spot, O king, those great car-warriors, with hearts plunged in anxiety, took one another’s leave and separated from one another. Sharadvata’s son, Kripa, went to Hastinapura; Hridika’s son repaired to his own kingdom; while the son of Drona set for the asylum of Vyasa. Even thus those heroes, who had offended the high-souled sons of Pandu, respectively proceeded to the places they selected, afflicted with fear and casting their eyes on one another. Having met the king thus, those brave chastisers of foes, before the sun rose, went away, O monarch, to the places they chose. It was after this, O king, that the sons of Pandu, those great car-warriors, encountered the son of Drona, and putting forth their prowess, vanquished him, O monarch, (in the way already related).”
Vaishampayana said, “After all the warriors had been slaughtered, king Yudhishthira the just heard that his uncle Dhritarashtra had set out from the city called after the elephant. Afflicted with grief on account of the death of his sons, Yudhishthira, O king, accompanied by his brothers, set out for meeting his uncle, filled with sorrow and overwhelmed with grief for the slaughter of his (hundred) sons. The son of Kunti was followed by the high-souled and heroic Krishna of Dasharha’s race, and by Yuyudhana, as also by Yuyutsu. The princess Draupadi also, burning with grief, and accompanied by those Pancala ladies that were with her, sorrowfully followed her lord. Yudhishthira beheld near the banks of the Ganga, O king, the crowd of Bharata ladies afflicted with woe and crying like a flight of she-ospreys. The king was soon surrounded by those thousands of ladies who, with arms raised aloft in grief, were indulging in loud lamentations and giving expression to all kinds of words, agreeable and disagreeable: ‘Where, indeed, is that righteousness of the king, where is truth and compassion, since he has slain sires and brothers and preceptors and sons and friends? How, O mighty-armed one, hath thy heart become tranquil after causing Drona, and thy grandsire Bhishma, and Jayadratha, to be slaughtered? What need hast thou of sovereignty, after having seen thy sires and brothers, O Bharata, and the irresistible Abhimanyu and the sons of Draupadi, thus slaughtered?’ Passing over those ladies crying like a flight of she-ospreys, the mighty-armed king Yudhishthira the just saluted the feet of his eldest uncle. Having saluted their sire according to custom, those slayers of foes, the Pandavas, announced themselves to him, each uttering his own name. Dhritarashtra, exceedingly afflicted with grief on account of the slaughter of his sons, then reluctantly embraced the eldest son of Pandu, who was the cause of that slaughter. Having embraced Yudhishthira the just and spoken a few words of comfort to him, O Bharata, the wicked-souled Dhritarashtra sought for Bhima, like a blazing fire ready to burn everything that would approach it. Indeed, that fire of his wrath, fanned by the wind of his grief, seemed then to be ready to consume the Bhima-forest. Ascertaining the evil intentions cherished by him towards Bhima, Krishna, dragging away the real Bhima, presented an iron statue of the second son of Pandu to the old king. Possessed of great intelligence, Krishna had, at the very outset, understood the intentions of Dhritarashtra, and had, therefore, kept such a contrivance ready for baffling them. Seizing with his two arms that iron Bhima, king Dhritarashtra, possessed of great strength, broke into pieces, thinking it to be Bhima himself in flesh and blood. Endued with might equal to that of 10,000 elephants, the king reduced that statue into fragments. His own breast, however, became considerably bruised and he began to vomit blood. Covered with blood, the king fell down on the ground like a parijata tree topped with its flowery burden. His learned charioteer Sanjaya, the son of Gavalgana, raised the monarch and soothing and comforting him, said, ‘Do not act so.’ The king then, having cast off his wrath and returned to his normal disposition, became filled with grief and began to weep aloud, saying, ‘Alas, oh Bhima, alas, oh Bhima!’ Understanding that he was no longer under the influence of wrath, and that he was truly sorry for having (as he believed) killed Bhima, Vasudeva, that foremost of men, said these words, ‘Do not grieve, O Dhritarashtra, for thou hast not slain Bhimasena! That is an iron statue, O king, which has been broken by thee! Understanding that thou wert filled with rage, O bull of Bharata’s race, I dragged the son of Kunti away from within the jaws of Death. O tiger among kings, there is none equal to thee in strength of body. What man is there, O mighty-armed one, that would endure pressure of thy arms? Indeed, as no one can escape with life from an encounter with the Destroyer himself, even so no body can come out safe from within thy embrace. It was for this that yonder iron statue of Bhima, which had been caused to be made by thy son, had been kept ready for thee. Through grief for the death of thy sons, thy mind has fallen off from righteousness. It is for this, O great king, that thou seekest to slay Bhimasena. The slaughter of Bhima, however, O king, would do thee no good. Thy sons, O monarch, would not be revived by it. Therefore, do thou approve of what has been by us with a view to secure peace and do not set thy heart on grief!’”
Vaishampayana said, “Certain maid-servants then came to the king for washing him. After he had been duly washed, the slayer of Madhu again addressed him, saying, ‘Thou hast, O king, read the Vedas and diverse scriptures. Thou hast heard all old histories, and everything about the duties of kings. Thou art learned, possessed of great wisdom, and indifferent to strength and weakness. Why then dost thou cherish such wrath when all that has overtaken thee is the result of thy own fault? I spoke to thee before the battle. Both Bhishma and Drona, O Bharata, did the same, as also Vidura and Sanjaya. Thou didst not, however, then follow our advice. Indeed, though exhorted by us, thou didst not yet act according to the counsels we offered, knowing that the Pandavas were superior to thee and thine, O Kauravya, in strength and courage. That king who is capable of seeing his own faults and knows the distinctions of place and time, obtains great prosperity. That person, however, who, though counselled by well-wishers, does not accept their words, good or bad, meets with distress and is obliged to grieve in consequence of the evil policy he pursues. Observe thou a different course of life now, O Bharata! Thou didst not keep thy soul under restraint, but suffered thyself to be ruled by Duryodhana. That which has come upon thee is due to thy own fault. Why then dost thou seek to slay Bhima? Recollecting thy own faults, govern thy wrath now. That mean wretch who had, from pride, caused the princess of Pancala to be brought into the assembly has been slain by Bhimasena in just revenge. Look at thy own evil acts as also at those of thy wicked-souled son. The sons of Pandu are perfectly innocent. Yet have they been treated most cruelly by thee and him.’”
Vaishampayana continued, “After he had thus been told nothing but the truth by Krishna, O monarch, king Dhritarashtra replied unto Devaki’s son, saying, ‘It is even so, O thou of mighty arms! What thou sayest, O Madhava, is perfectly true. It is parental affection, O thou of righteous soul, that caused me to fall away from righteousness. By good luck, that tiger among men, the mighty Bhima of true prowess, protected by thee, came not within my embrace. Now, however, I am free from wrath and fever. I desire eagerly, O Madhava, to embrace that hero, the second son of Pandu. When all the kings have been dead, when my children are no more, upon the sons of Pandu depend my welfare and happiness.’ Having said these words, the old king then embraced those princes of excellent frames, Bhima and Dhananjaya, and those two foremost of men, the two sons of Madri, and wept, and comforted and pronounced blessings upon them.”
Vaishampayana said, “Commanded by Dhritarashtra, those bulls of Kuru’s race, the Pandava brothers, accompanied by Keshava, then proceeded to see Gandhari. The faultless Gandhari, afflicted with grief on account of the death of her hundred sons, recollecting that king Yudhishthira the just had slain all his enemies, wished to curse him. Understanding her evil intentions towards the Pandavas, the son of Satyavati addressed himself for counteracting them at the very outset. Having cleansed himself by the sacred and fresh water of the Ganga, the great rishi, capable of proceeding everywhere at will with the fleetness of the mind, came to that spot. Capable of seeing the heart of every creature with his spiritual vision and with his mind directed towards it, the sage made his appearance there. Endued with great ascetic merit and ever intent on saying what was for the benefit of creatures, the rishi, addressing his daughter-in-law at the proper moment, said, ‘Do not avail thyself of this opportunity for denouncing a curse. On the other hand, utilize it for showing thy forgiveness. Thou shouldst not be angry with the Pandavas, O Gandhari! Set thy heart on peace. Restrain the words that are about to fall from thy lips. Listen to my advice. Thy son, desirous of victory, had besought thee every day for the eighteen days that battle lasted, saying, “O mother, bless me who am fighting with my foes.” Implored every day in these words by thy son desirous of victory, the answer thou always gavest him was, “Thither is victory where righteousness is!” I do not, O Gandhari, remember that any words spoken by thee have become false. Those words, therefore, that thou, implored by Duryodhana, saidst unto him, could not be false. Thou art always employed in the good of all creatures. Having without doubt reached the other shore in that dreadful battle of Kshatriyas, the sons of Pandu have certainly won the victory and a measure of righteousness that is much greater. Thou wert formerly observant of the virtue of forgiveness. Why wouldst thou not observe it now? Subdue unrighteousness, O thou that art conversant with righteousness. There is victory where righteousness is. Remembering thy own righteousness and the words spoken by thyself, restrain thy wrath, O Gandhari! Do not act otherwise, O thou that art beautiful in speech.’ Hearing these words, Gandhari said, ‘O holy one, I do not cherish any ill feelings towards the Pandavas, nor do I wish that they should perish. In consequence, however, of grief for the death of my sons, my heart is very much agitated. I know that I should protect the Pandavas with as much care as Kunti herself protects them, and that Dhritarashtra also should protect them as I should. Through the fault of Duryodhana and of Shakuni the son of Subala, and through the action of Karna and Duhshasana, extermination of the Kurus hath taken place. In this matter the slightest blame cannot attach to Vibhatsu or to Pritha’s son Vrikodara, or to Nakula or Sahadeva, or to Yudhishthira himself. While engaged in battle, the Kauravas, swelling with arrogance and pride, have fallen along with many others (that came to their aid). I am not grieved at this. But there has been one act done by Bhima in the very presence of Vasudeva (that moves my resentment). The high-souled Vrikodara, having challenged Duryodhana to a dreadful encounter with mace, and having come to know that my son, while careering in diverse kinds of motion in the battle, was superior to him in skill, struck the latter below the navel. It is this that moves my wrath. Why should heroes, for the sake of their lives, cast off obligations of duty that have been determined by high-souled persons conversant with every duty?’”
Vaishampayana said, “Hearing these words of Gandhari, Bhimasena, looking like one in fright, said these words for soothing her, ‘Be the act righteous or unrighteous, it was done by me through fear and for the object of protecting my own self. It behoveth thee therefore, to forgive me now. Thy mighty son was incapable of being slain by anybody in a fair and righteous battle. It was for this that I did what was unfair. Duryodhana himself had formerly vanquished Yudhishthira unrighteously. He used always to behave guilefully towards us. It was for this that I had recourse to an unfair act. Thy son was then the sole unslain warrior on his side. In order that that valiant prince might not slay me in the mace-encounter and once more deprive us of our kingdom, I acted in that way. Thou knowest all that thy son had said unto the princess of Pancala while the latter, in her season, was clad in a single piece of raiment. Without having disposed of Suyodhana it was impossible for us to rule peacefully the whole earth with her seas. It was for this that I acted in that way. Thy son inflicted many wrongs on us. In the midst of the assembly he had shown his left thigh unto Draupadi. For that wicked behaviour, thy son deserved to be slain by us even then. At the command, however, of king Yudhishthira the just, we suffered ourselves to be restrained by the compact that had been made. By this means, O queen, thy son provoked deadly hostilities with us. Great were our sufferings in the forest (whither we were driven by thy son). Remembering all this, I acted in that way. Having slain Duryodhana in battle, we have reached the end of our hostilities. Yudhishthira has got back his kingdom, and we also have been freed from wrath.’ Hearing these words of Bhima, Gandhari said, ‘Since thou praisest my son thus (for his skill in battle), he did not deserve such a death. He, however, did all that thou tellest me. When Vrishasena, however, had deprived Nakula of his steeds, O Bharata, thou quaffedst in battle the blood from Duhshasana’s body! Such an act is cruel and is censured by the good. It suits only a person that is most disrespectable. It was a wicked act, O Vrikodara, that was then accomplished by thee! It was undeserving of thee.’ Bhima replied, saying, ‘It is improper to quaff the blood of even a stranger, what then need be said about quaffing the blood of one’s own self? One’s brother, again, is like one’s own self. There is no difference between them. The blood, however, (that I am regarded to have quaffed) did not, O mother, pass down my lips and teeth. Karna knew this well. My hands only were smeared with (Duhshasana’s) blood. Seeing Nakula deprived of his steeds by Vrishasena in battle, I caused the rejoicing (Kaurava) brothers to be filled with dread. When after the match at dice the tresses of Draupadi were seized, I uttered certain words in rage. Those words are still in my remembrance, I would, for all years to come, have been regarded to have swerved from the duties of a Kshatriya if I had left that vow unaccomplished. It was for this, O queen, that I did that act. It behoveth thee not, O Gandhari, to impute any fault to me. Without having restrained thy sons in former days, doth it behove thee to impute any fault to our innocent selves?’
“Gandhari said, ‘Unvanquished by anyone, thou hast slain a hundred sons of this old man. Oh, why didst thou not spare, O child, even one son of this old couple deprived of kingdom, one whose offences were lighter? Why didst thou not leave even one crutch for this blind couple? O child, although thou livest unharmed, having slain all my children, yet no grief would have been mine if thou hadst adopted the path of righteousness (in slaying them).’”
Vaishampayana continued, “Having said these words, Gandhari, filled with wrath at the slaughter of all her sons and grandsons, enquired after Yudhishthira, saying, ‘Where is the king?’ After she had said these words king Yudhishthira, trembling and with joined hands, approached her and said these soft words unto her, ‘Here is Yudhishthira, O goddess, that cruel slayer of thy sons! I deserve thy curses, for I am the cause of this universal destruction. Oh, curse me! I have no longer any need for life, for kingdom, for wealth! Having caused such friends to be slain, I have proved myself to be a great fool and a hater of friends.’ Unto Yudhishthira who spoke such words, who was overcome with fear, and who stood in her presence, Gandhari, drawing long sighs, said nothing. Conversant with the rules of righteousness, the Kuru queen, possessed of great foresight, directed her eyes, from within the folds of the cloth that covered them, to the tip of Yudhishthira’s toe, as the prince, with body bent forwards, was about to fall down at her feet. At this, the king, whose nails had before this been all very beautiful, came to have a sore nail on his toe. Beholding this, Arjuna moved away to the rear of Vasudeva. and the other sons of Pandu became restless and moved from one spot to another. Gandhari then, having cast off her wrath, comforted the Pandavas as a mother should. Obtaining her leave, those heroes of broad chests then proceeded together to present themselves to their mother, that parent of heroes. Having seen her sons after a long time, Kunti, who had been filled with anxiety on their account, covered her face with her cloth and began to weep. Having wept for some time with her children, Pritha beheld the wounds and scars of many weapons on their bodies. She then repeatedly embraced and patted each of her sons, and afflicted with grief wept with Draupadi who had lost all her children and whom she saw lying on the bare earth, indulging in piteous lamentations.
“Draupadi said, ‘O venerable dame, where have all your grandsons, with Abhimanyu among them, gone? Beholding thee in such distress, why are they delaying in making their appearance before thee? Deprived as I am of my children, what need have I of kingdom?’ Raising the grief-stricken princess of Pancala who was weeping thus, Pritha began to comfort that lady of large eyes. Then Kunti, accompanied by the princess of Pancala and followed by her sons, proceeded towards the grief-afflicted Gandhari herself in greater affliction still. Beholding that illustrious lady with her daughter-in-law, Gandhari addressed her, saying, ‘Do not, O daughter, grieve so. Behold, I too am as much stricken with grief as thou. I think this universal destruction has been brought about by the irresistible course of Time. Inevitable as it was, this dreadful slaughter has not been due to the voluntary agency of human beings. Even that has come to pass which Vidura of great wisdom foretold after Krishna’s supplication for peace had failed. Do not, therefore, grieve, in a matter that was inevitable, especially after its occurrence. Having fallen in battle, they should not be grieved for. I am in the same predicament with thee. (If thou actest in such a way) who then will comfort us? Through my fault, this foremost of races has been destroyed.’”
Here ends the Jalapradanika-parva in the Stri-parva