Part 1 out of 8
E-text prepared by David Starner, S.R. Ellison, and the Online Distributed
KATE MILNER RABB
TO MY MOTHER.
This volume is intended for an introduction to the study of the epics.
While the simplicity and directness of the epic style seem to make such a
book unnecessary, the fact that to many persons of literary tastes some of
these great poems are inaccessible, and that to many more the pleasure of
exploring for themselves "the realms of gold" is rendered impossible by
the cares of business, has seemed sufficient excuse for its being. Though
the beauty of the original is of necessity lost in a condensation of this
kind, an endeavor has been made to preserve the characteristic epithets,
and to retain what Mr. Arnold called "the simple truth about the matter of
the poem." It is believed that the sketch prefacing each story, giving
briefly the length, versification, and history of the poem, will have its
value to those readers who have not access to the epics, and that the
selections following the story, each recounting a complete incident, will
give a better idea of the epic than could be formed from passages
scattered through the text.
The epic originated among tribes of barbarians, who deified departed
heroes and recited legends in praise of their deeds. As the hymn
developed, the chorus and strophe were dropped, and the narrative only was
preserved. The word "epic" was used simply to distinguish the narrative
poem, which was recited, from the lyric, which was sung, and from the
dramatic, which was acted.
As the nation passed from childhood to youth, the legends of the hero that
each wandering minstrel had changed to suit his fancy, were collected and
fused into one by some great poet, who by his power of unification made
this written epic his own.
This is the origin of the Hindu epics, the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey," the
"Kalevala," the "Shah-Nameh," "Beowulf," the "Nibelungen Lied," the "Cid,"
and the "Song of Roland."
The conditions for the production of the primitive epic exist but once in
a nation's growth. Its later epics must be written on subjects of national
importance, chosen by the poet, who arranges and embellishes his material
according to the rules of the primitive epic. To this class belong the
"Aeneid," the "Jerusalem Delivered," and the "Lusiad." Dante's poem is
broader, for it is the epic of mediaeval Christianity. Milton likewise
sought "higher argument" than
"Wars, hitherto the only argument
and crystallized the religious beliefs of his time in "Paradise Lost."
The characteristics both of the primitive and the modern epic are their
uniform metre, simplicity of construction, concentration of action into a
short time, and the use of episode and dialogue. The main difference lies
in the impersonality of the primitive epic, whose author has so skillfully
hidden himself behind his work that, as some one has said of Homer, "his
heroes are immortal, but his own existence is doubtful."
Although the historical events chronicled in the epics have in every case
been so distorted by the fancy of the poets that they cannot be accepted
as history, the epics are storehouses of information concerning ancient
manners and customs, religious beliefs, forms of government, treatment of
women, and habits of feeling.
Constructed upon the noblest principles of art, and pervaded by the
eternal calm of the immortals, these poems have an especial value to us,
who have scarcely yet realized that poetry is an art, and are feverish
from the unrest of our time. If by the help of this volume any reader be
enabled to find a portion of the wisdom that is hidden in these mines, its
purpose will have been accomplished.
My thanks are due to Mr. John A. Wilstach for the use of selections from
his translation of the "Divine Comedy;" to Prof. J. M. Crawford, for the
use of selections from his translation of the "Kalevala;" to Henry Holt &
Co., for the use of selections from Rabillon's translation of "La Chanson
de Roland;" to Roberts Brothers, for the use of selections from Edwin
Arnold's "Indian Idylls;" to Prof. J. C. Hall, for the use of selections
from his translation of "Beowulf;" and to A. C. Armstrong & Son, for the
use of selections from Conington's Translation of the "Aeneid." The
selections from the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" are used with the permission
of and by special arrangement with Houghton, Mifflin & Co., publishers of
Bryant's translations of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey." Special thanks are
due to Miss Eliza G. Browning of the Public Library of Indianapolis, to
Miss Florence Hughes of the Library of Indiana University, and to Miss
Charity Dye, of Indianapolis.
K. M. R.
INDIANAPOLIS, IND., September, 1896.
THE HINDU EPIC: THE RAMAYANA
THE HINDU EPIC: THE MAHA-BHARATA
THE GREEK EPIC: THE ILIAD
THE GREEK EPIC: THE ODYSSEY
THE FINNISH EPIC: THE KALEVALA
THE ROMAN EPIC: THE AENEID
THE SAXON EPIC: BEOWULF
THE GERMAN EPIC: THE NIBELUNGEN LIED
THE FRENCH EPIC: THE SONG OF ROLAND
THE PERSIAN EPIC: THE SHAH-NAMEH
THE SPANISH EPIC: THE POEM OF THE CID
THE ITALIAN EPIC: THE DIVINE COMEDY
THE ITALIAN EPIC: THE ORLANDO FURIOSO
THE PORTUGUESE EPIC: THE LUSIAD
THE ITALIAN EPIC: THE JERUSALEM DELIVERED
THE ENGLISH EPIC: PARADISE LOST
THE ENGLISH EPIC: PARADISE REGAINED
FROM THE RAMAYANA: TRANSLATOR
The Descent of the Ganges ... _Milman_
The Death of Yajnadatta ... "
FROM THE MAHA-BHARATA:
Savitri; or, Love and Death ... _Arnold_
The Great Journey ... "
FROM THE ILIAD:
Helen at the Scaean Gates ... _Bryant_
The Parting of Hector and Andromache ... "
FROM THE ODYSSEY:
The Palace of Alcinoues ... _Bryant_
The Bending of the Bow ... "
FROM THE KALEVALA:
Ilmarinen's Wedding Feast ... _Crawford_
The Birth of the Harp ... "
FROM THE AENEID:
Nisus and Euryalus ... _Conington_
Grendel's Mother ... _Hall_
FROM THE NIBELUNGEN LIED:
How Brunhild was received at Worms ... _Lettsom_
How Margrave Ruedeger was slain ... "
FROM THE SONG OF ROLAND:
The Horn ... _Rabillon_
Roland's Death ... "
FROM THE SHAH-NAMEH:
The Rajah of India sends a Chessboard
to Nushirvan _Robinson_
Zal and Rudabeh "
FROM THE POEM OF THE CID:
Count Raymond and My Cid _Ormsby_
My Cid's Triumph "
FROM THE DIVINE COMEDY:
Count Ugolino _Wilstach_
Buonconte di Montefeltro "
Beatrice descending from Heaven "
The Exquisite Beauty of Beatrice "
FROM THE ORLANDO FURIOSO:
The Death of Zerbino _Rose_
FROM THE LUSIAD:
Inez de Castro _Mickle_
The Spirit of the Cape "
FROM THE JERUSALEM DELIVERED:
Sophronia and Olindo _Wiffen_
FROM PARADISE LOST:
Apostrophe to Light
FROM PARADISE REGAINED:
The Temptation of the Vision of the Kingdoms of the Earth
"He who sings and hears this poem continually has attained to the
highest state of enjoyment, and will finally be equal to the gods."
The Ramayana, the Hindu Iliad, is variously ascribed to the fifth, third,
and first centuries B.C., its many interpolations making it almost
impossible to determine its age by internal evidence. Its authorship is
unknown, but according to legend it was sung by Kuca and Lava, the sons of
Rama, to whom it was taught by Valmiki. Of the three versions now extant,
one is attributed to Valmiki, another to Tuli Das, and a third to Vyasa.
Its historical basis, almost lost in the innumerable episodes and
grotesque imaginings of the Hindu, is probably the conquest of southern
India and Ceylon by the Aryans.
The Ramayana is written in the Sanskrit language, is divided into seven
books, or sections, and contains fifty thousand lines, the English
translation of which, by Griffith, occupies five volumes.
The hero, Rama, is still an object of worship in India, the route of his
wanderings being, each year, trodden by devout pilgrims. The poem is not a
mere literary monument,--it is a part of the actual religion of the Hindu,
and is held in such reverence that the mere reading or hearing of it, or
certain passages of it, is believed to free from sin and grant his every
desire to the reader or hearer.
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND CRITICISM, THE RAMAYANA.
G. W. Cox's Mythology and Folklore, 1881, p. 313;
John Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology, Religion,
Geography, History, and Literature, 1879;
Sir William Jones on the Literature of the Hindus (in his Works, vol. iv.);
Maj.-Gen. Vans Kennedy's Researches into Hindu Mythology, 1831;
James Mill's History of British India, 1840, vol. ii., pp. 47-123;
F. Max Mueller's Ancient Sanskrit Literature, 1859;
E. A. Reed's Hindu Literature, 1891, pp. 153-271;
Albrecht Weber's History of Indian Literature, 1878, pp. 191-195;
J. T. Wheeler's History of India, 4 vols., 1876, vol. ii.;
Sir Monier Williams's Indian Wisdom, 1863, Indian Epic Poetry, 1863;
Article on Sanskrit Literature in Encyclopaedia Britannica;
R. M. Gust's The Ramayana: a Sanskrit Epic (in his Linguistic and Oriental
Essays, 1880, p. 56);
T. Goldstuecker's Ramayana (in his Literary Remains, 1879, vol. i.,
C. J. Stone's Cradleland of Arts and Creeds, 1880, pp. 11-21;
Albrecht Weber's On the Ramayana, 1870; Westminster Review,
1849, vol. 1., p. 34;
J. C. Oman's Great Indian Epics, 1874, pp. 13-81.
STANDARD ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS, THE RAMAYANA.
The Ramayana, Tr. by R. T. H. Griffith, 5 vols., 1870-1874 (Follows Bombay
ed., Translated into metre of "Lady of the Lake");
Extracts from the Ramayana, Tr. by Sir William Jones (in his Works,
Iliad of the East, F. Richardson, 1873 (Popular translations of a set of
legends from the Ramayana);
The Ramayana translated into English Prose, edited and published by
Naumatha Nath Dutt, 7 vols., Calcutta, 1890-1894.
THE STORY OF THE RAMAYANA.
Brahma, creator of the universe, though all powerful, could not revoke a
promise once made. For this reason, Ravana, the demon god of Ceylon, stood
on his head in the midst of five fires for ten thousand years, and at the
end of that time boldly demanded of Brahma as a reward that he should not
be slain by gods, demons, or genii. He also requested the gift of nine
other heads and eighteen additional arms and hands.
These having been granted, he began by the aid of his evil spirits, the
Rakshasas, to lay waste the earth and to do violence to the good,
especially to the priests.
At the time when Ravana's outrages were spreading terror throughout the
land, and Brahma, looking down from his throne, shuddered to see the
monster he had gifted with such fell power, there reigned in Ayodhya, now
the city of Oude, a good and wise raja, Dasaratha, who had reigned over
the splendid city for nine thousand years without once growing weary. He
had but one grief,--that he was childless,--and at the opening of the
story he was preparing to make the great sacrifice, Asva-medha, to
propitiate the gods, that they might give him a son.
The gods, well pleased, bore his request to Brahma in person, and
incidentally preferred a request that he provide some means of destroying
the monster Ravana that was working such woe among their priests, and
disturbing their sacrifices.
Brahma granted the first request, and, cudgeling his brains for a device
to destroy Ravana, bethought himself that while he had promised that
neither gods, genii, nor demons should slay him, he had said nothing of
man. He accordingly led the appealing gods to Vishnu, who proclaimed that
the monster should be slain by men and monkeys, and that he would himself
be re-incarnated as the eldest son of Dasaratha and in this form compass
the death of Ravana.
In course of time, as a reward for his performance of the great sacrifice,
four sons were born to Dasaratha, Rama by Kausalya, his oldest wife,
Bharata, whose mother was Kaikeyi, and twin sons, Lakshmana and Satrughna,
whose mother was Sumitra.
Rama, the incarnation of Vishnu, destined to destroy Ravana, grew daily in
grace, beauty, and strength. When he was but sixteen years old, having
been sent for by a sage to destroy the demons who were disturbing the
forest hermits in their religious rites, he departed unattended, save by
his brother Lakshmana and a guide, into the pathless forests, where he
successfully overcame the terrible Rakshasa, Tarika, and conveyed her body
to the grateful sage.
While he was journeying through the forests, destroying countless
Rakshasas, he chanced to pass near the kingdom of Mithila and heard that
its king, Janaka, had offered his peerless daughter, Sita, in marriage to
the man who could bend the mighty bow of Siva the destroyer, which, since
its owner's death, had been kept at Janaka's court.
Rama at once determined to accomplish the feat, which had been essayed in
vain by so many suitors. When he presented himself at court Janaka was at
once won by his youth and beauty; and when the mighty bow, resting upon an
eight-wheeled car, was drawn in by five thousand men, and Rama without
apparent effort bent it until it broke, he gladly gave him his beautiful
daughter, and after the splendid wedding ceremonies were over, loaded the
happy pair with presents to carry back to Ayodhya.
When Dasaratha, who had attended the marriage of his son at Mithila,
returned home, he began to feel weary of reigning, and bethought himself
of the ancient Hindu custom of making the eldest son and heir apparent a
Yuva-Raja,--that is appointing him assistant king. Rama deserved this
honor, and would, moreover, be of great assistance to him.
His happy people received the announcement of his intention with delight;
the priests approved of it as well, and the whole city was in the midst of
the most splendid preparations for the ceremony, when it occurred to
Dasaratha that all he lacked was the congratulations of his youngest and
favorite wife, Kaikeyi, on this great event. The well-watered streets and
the garlanded houses had already aroused the suspicions of
Kaikeyi,--suspicions speedily confirmed by the report of her maid. Angered
and jealous because the son of Kausalya and not her darling Bharata, at
that time absent from the city, was to be made Yuva-Raja, she fled to the
"Chamber of Sorrows," and was there found by the old Raja.
Though Kaikeyi was his youngest and most beautiful wife, her tears,
threats, and entreaties would have been of no avail had she not recalled
that, months before, the old Raja, in gratitude for her devoted nursing
during his illness, had granted her two promises. She now demanded the
fulfilment of these before she would consent to smile upon him, and the
consent won, she required him, first, to appoint Bharata Yuva-Raja; and,
second, to exile Rama for fourteen years to the terrible forest of
The promise of a Hindu, once given, cannot be revoked. In spite of the
grief of the old Raja, of Kausalya, his old wife, and of all the people,
who were at the point of revolt at the sudden disgrace of their favorite
prince, the terrible news was announced to Rama, and he declared himself
ready to go, to save his father from dishonor.
He purposed to go alone, but Sita would not suffer herself to be thus
deserted. Life without him, she pleaded, was worse than death; and so
eloquent was her grief at the thought of parting that she was at last
permitted to don the rough garment of bark provided by the malicious
The people of Ayodhya, determined to share the fate of their favorites,
accompanied them from the city, their tears laying the dust raised by
Rama's chariot wheels. But when sleep overcame them, Rama, Sita, and
Lakshmana escaped from them, dismissed their charioteer, and, crossing the
Ganges, made their way to the mountain of Citra-kuta, where they took up
No more beautiful place could be imagined. Flowers of every kind,
delicious fruits, and on every side the most pleasing prospects, together
with perfect love, made their hermitage a paradise on earth. Here the
exiles led an idyllic existence until sought out by Bharata, who, learning
from his mother on his return home the ruin she had wrought in the Raj,
had indignantly spurned her, and hastened to Dandaka. The old Raja had
died from grief soon after the departure of the exiles, and Bharata now
demanded that Rama should return to Ayodhya and become Raja, as was his
right, as eldest son.
When Rama refused to do this until the end of his fourteen years of exile,
Bharata vowed that for fourteen years he would wear the garb of a devotee
and live outside the city, committing the management of the Raj to a pair
of golden sandals which he took from Rama's feet. All the affairs of state
would be transacted under the authority of the sandals, and Bharata, while
ruling the Raj, would pay homage to them.
Soon after the departure of Bharata the exiles were warned to depart from
their home on Citra-kuta and seek a safer hermitage, for terrible
rakshasas filled this part of the forest. They accordingly sought the
abode of Atri the hermit, whose wife Anasuya was so pleased with Sita's
piety and devotion to her husband that she bestowed upon her the crown of
immortal youth and beauty. They soon found a new abode in the forest of
Pancarati, on the banks of the river Godavari, where Lakshmana erected a
spacious bamboo house.
Their happiness in this elysian spot was destined to be short-lived. Near
them dwelt a horrible rakshasa, Surpanakha by name, who fell in love with
Rama. When she found that he did not admire the beautiful form she assumed
to win him, and that both he and Lakshmana laughed at her advances, she
attempted to destroy Sita, only to receive in the attempt a disfiguring
wound from the watchful Lakshmana. Desiring revenge for her disfigured
countenance and her scorned love, she hastened to the court of her brother
Ravana, in Ceylon, and in order to induce him to avenge her wrongs, dwelt
upon the charms of the beautiful wife of Rama.
Some days after, Sita espied a golden fawn, flecked with silver, among the
trees near their home. Its shining body, its jewel-like horns, so
captivated her fancy that she implored Rama, if possible, to take it alive
for her; if not, at least to bring her its skin for a couch. As Rama
departed, he warned Lakshmana not to leave Sita for one moment; he would
surely return, since no weapon could harm him. In the depths of the forest
the fawn fell by his arrow, crying as it fell, "O Sita! O Lakshmana!" in
Rama's very tones.
When Sita heard the cry she reproached Lakshmana for not going to his
brother's aid, until he left her to escape her bitter words. He had no
sooner disappeared in the direction of the cry than a hermit appeared and
asked her to minister unto his wants.
Sita carried him food, bathed his feet, and conversed with him until, able
no longer to conceal his admiration for her, he revealed himself in his
true form as the demon god of Ceylon.
When she indignantly repulsed him he seized her, and mounting his chariot
drove rapidly towards Ceylon.
When Rama and Lakshmana returned home, soon after, they found the house
empty. As they searched through the forest for traces of her they found a
giant vulture dying from wounds received while endeavoring to rescue the
shrieking Sita. Going farther, they encountered the monkey king Sugriva
and his chiefs, among whom Sita had dropped from the chariot her scarf and
Sugriva had been deposed from his kingdom by his brother Bali, who had
also taken his wife from him. Rama agreed to conquer Bali if Sugriva would
assist in the search for Sita; and, the agreement made, they at once
marched upon Kishkindha, together slew Bali, and gained possession of the
wealthy city and the queen Tara. They were now ready to search for the
In his quest through every land, Hanuman, the monkey general, learned from
the king of the vultures that she had been carried to Ceylon. He
immediately set out for the coast with his army, only to find a bridgeless
ocean stretching between them and the island. Commanding his soldiers to
remain where they were, Hanuman expanded his body to enormous proportions,
leaped the vast expanse of water, and alighted upon a mountain, from which
he could look down upon Lanka, the capital city of Ceylon. Perceiving the
city to be closely guarded, he assumed the form of a cat, and thus,
unsuspected, crept through the barriers and examined the city. He found
the demon god in his apartments, surrounded by beautiful women, but Sita
was not among them. Continuing his search, he at last discovered her, her
beauty dimmed by grief, seated under a tree in a beautiful asoka grove,
guarded by hideous rakshasas with the faces of buffaloes, dogs, and swine.
Assuming the form of a tiny monkey, Hanuman crept down the tree, and
giving her the ring of Rama, took one from her. He offered to carry her
away with him, but Sita declared that Rama must himself come to her
rescue. While they were talking together, the demon god appeared, and,
after fruitless wooing, announced that if Sita did not yield herself to
him in two months he would have her guards "mince her limbs with steel"
for his morning repast.
In his rage, Hanuman destroyed a mango grove and was captured by the
demon's guards, who were ordered to set his tail on fire. As soon as this
was done, Hanuman made himself so small that he slipped from his bonds,
and, jumping upon the roofs, spread a conflagration through the city of
He leaped back to the mainland, conveyed the news of Sita's captivity to
Rama and Sugriva, and was soon engaged in active preparations for the
As long as the ocean was unbridged it was impossible for any one save
Hanuman to cross it. In his anger at being so thwarted, Rama turned his
weapons against it, until from the terrified waves rose the god of the
ocean, who promised him that if Nala built a bridge, the waves should
support the materials as firmly as though it were built on land.
Terror reigned in Lanka at the news of the approach of Rama. Vibishana,
Ravana's brother, deserted to Rama, because of the demon's rage when he
advised him to make peace with Rama. Fiercely fought battles ensued, in
which even the gods took part, Vishnu and Indra taking sides with Rama,
and the evil spirits fighting with Ravana.
After the war had been carried on for some time, with varying results, it
was decided to determine it by single combat between Ravana and Rama. Then
even the gods were terrified at the fierceness of the conflict. At each
shot Rama's mighty bow cut off a head of the demon, which at once grew
back, and the hero was in despair until he remembered the all-powerful
arrow given him by Brahma.
As the demon fell by this weapon, flowers rained from heaven upon the
happy victor, and his ears were ravished with celestial music.
Touched by the grief of Ravana's widows, Rama ordered his foe a splendid
funeral, and then sought the conquered city.
Sita was led forth, beaming with happiness at finding herself re-united to
her husband; but her happiness was destined to be of short duration. Rama
received her with coldness and with downcast eyes, saying that she could
no longer be his wife, after having dwelt in the zenana of the demon. Sita
assured him of her innocence; but on his continuing to revile her, she
ordered her funeral pyre to be built, since she would rather die by fire
than live despised by Rama. The sympathy of all the bystanders was with
Sita, but Rama saw her enter the flames without a tremor. Soon Agni, the
god of fire, appeared, bearing the uninjured Sita in his arms. Her
innocence thus publicly proved by the trial by fire, she was welcomed by
Rama, whose treatment she tenderly forgave.
The conquest made, the demon destroyed, and Sita restored, Rama returned
in triumph to Ayodhya, and assumed the government. The city was
prosperous, the people were happy, and for a time all went well. It was
not long, however, before whispers concerning Sita's long abode in Ceylon
spread abroad, and some one whispered to Rama that a famine in the country
was due to the guilt of Sita, who had suffered the caresses of the demon
while in captivity in Ceylon. Forgetful of the trial by fire, forgetful of
Sita's devotion to him through weal and woe, the ungrateful Rama
immediately ordered her to the forest in which they had spent together the
happy years of their exile.
Without a murmur the unhappy Sita, alone and unbefriended, dragged herself
to the forest, and, torn with grief of body and spirit, found the
hermitage of Valmiki, where she gave birth to twin sons, Lava and Kuca.
Here she reared them, with the assistance of the hermit, who was their
teacher, and under whose care they grew to manhood, handsome and strong.
It chanced about the time the youths were twenty years old, that Rama, who
had grown peevish and disagreeable with age, began to think the gods were
angered with him because he had killed Ravana, who was the son of a
Brahman. Determined to propitiate them by means of the great sacrifice, he
caused a horse to be turned loose in the forest. When his men went to
retake it, at the end of the year, it was caught by two strong and
beautiful youths who resisted all efforts to capture them. In his rage
Rama went to the forest in person, only to learn that the youths were his
twin sons, Lava and Kuca. Struck with remorse, Rama recalled the
sufferings of his wife Sita, and on learning that she was at the hermitage
of Valmiki, ordered her to come to him, that he might take her to him
again, having first caused her to endure the trial by fire to prove her
innocence to all his court.
Sita had had time to recover from the love of her youth, and the prospect
of life with Rama, without the _couleur de rose_ of youthful love, was
not altogether pleasant. At first, she even refused to see him; but
finally, moved by the appeals of Valmiki and his wife, she clad herself in
her richest robes, and, young and beautiful as when first won by Rama, she
stood before him. Not deigning to look in his face, she appealed to the
earth. If she had never loved any man but Rama, if her truth and purity
were known to the earth, let it open its bosom and take her to it. While
the armies stood trembling with horror, the earth opened, a gorgeous
throne appeared, and the goddess of earth, seated upon it, took Sita
beside her and conveyed her to the realms of eternal happiness, leaving
the too late repentant Rama to wear out his remaining years in shame and
SELECTIONS FROM THE RAMAYANA.
THE DESCENT OF THE GANGES.
Sagara, an early king of Ayodhya, had sixty thousand sons, whom he sent
out one day to recover a horse that had been designed for the great
sacrifice, but had been stolen by a rakshasa. Having searched the earth
unsuccessfully, they proceeded to dig into the lower regions.
Cloven with shovel and with hoe, pierced by axes and by spades,
Shrieked the earth in frantic woe; rose from out the yawning shades
Yells of anguish, hideous roars from the expiring brood of hell,--
Serpents, giants, and asoors, in the deep abyss that dwell.
Sixty thousand leagues in length, all unweary, full of wrath,
Through the centre, in their strength, clove they down their hellward
And downward dug they many a rood, and downward till they saw aghast,
Where the earth-bearing elephant stood, ev'n like a mountain tall and
'T is he whose head aloft sustains the broad earth's forest-clothed
With all its vast and spreading plains, and many a stately city crowned.
If underneath the o'erbearing load bows down his weary head, 't is then
The mighty earthquakes are abroad, and shaking down the abodes of men.
Around earth's pillar moved they slowly, and thus in humble accents
Him the lofty and the holy, that bears the region of the East.
And southward dug they many a rood, until before their shuddering sight
The next earth-bearing elephant stood, huge Mahapadmas' mountain height.
Upon his head earth's southern bound, all full of wonder, saw they rest.
Slow and awe-struck paced they round, and him, earth's southern
Westward then their work they urge, king Sagara's six myriad race,
Unto the vast earth's western verge, and there in his appointed place
The next earth-bearing elephant stood, huge Saumanasa's mountain crest;
Around they paced in humble mood, and in like courteous phrase addrest,
And still their weary toil endure, and onward dig until they see
Last earth-bearing Himapandure, glorying in his majesty.
_At last they reach the place where Vishnu appears with the horse. A flame
issues from the mouth of the indignant deity and destroys the six myriad
sons of Sagara, The adventure devolves on their brother Ansuman, who
achieves it with perfect success. He is permitted to lead away the horse,
but the ashes of his brothers cannot be purified by earthly water; the
goddess Ganga must first be brought to earth, and having undergone
lustration from that holy flood, the race of Sagara are to ascend to
heaven. Brahma at last gives his permission to Ganga to descend. King
Bhagiratha takes his stand on the top of Gokarna, the sacred peak of
Himavan (the Himalaya), and here_--
Stands with arms outstretch'd on high, amid five blazing fires, the one
Towards each quarter of the sky, the fifth the full meridian sun.
Mid fiercest frosts on snow he slept, the dry and withered leaves his
Mid rains his roofless vigil kept, the soul and sense alike subdued.
High on the top of Himavan the mighty Mashawara stood;
And "Descend," he gave the word to the heaven-meandering water--
Full of wrath the mandate heard Himavan's majestic daughter.
To a giant's stature soaring and intolerable speed,
From heaven's height down rushed she, pouring upon Siva's sacred head,
Him the goddess thought in scorn with her resistless might to sweep
By her fierce waves overborne, down to hell's remotest deep.
Down on Sankara's holy head, down the holy fell, and there,
Amid the entangling meshes spread, of his loose and flowing hair,
Vast and boundless as the woods upon the Himalaya's brow,
Nor ever may the struggling floods rush headlong to the earth below.
Opening, egress was not there, amid those winding, long meanders.
Within that labyrinthine hair, for many an age, the goddess wanders.
_By the penances of the king, Siva is propitiated, and the stream, by
seven channels, finds its way to the plains of India_.
Up the Raja at the sign upon his glittering chariot leaps,
Instant Ganga the divine follows his majestic steps.
From the high heaven burst she forth first on Siva's lofty crown,
Headlong then, and prone to earth thundering rushed the cataract down,
Swarms of bright-hued fish came dashing; turtles, dolphins in their
Fallen or falling, glancing, flashing, to the many-gleaming earth.
And all the host of heaven came down, spirits and genii, in amaze,
And each forsook his heavenly throne, upon that glorious scene to gaze.
On cars, like high-towered cities, seen, with elephants and coursers
Or on soft swinging palanquin, lay wondering each observant god.
As met in bright divan each god, and flashed their jewell'd vestures'
The coruscating aether glow'd, as with a hundred suns ablaze.
And with the fish and dolphins gleaming, and scaly crocodiles and
Glanc'd the air, as when fast streaming the blue lightning shoots and
And in ten thousand sparkles bright went flashing up the cloudy spray,
The snowy flocking swans less white, within its glittering mists at
And headlong now poured down the flood, and now in silver circlets
Then lake-like spread all bright and broad, then gently, gently flowed
Then 'neath the caverned earth descending, then spouted up the boiling
Then stream with stream harmonious blending, swell bubbling up and
By that heaven-welling water's breast, the genii and the sages stood,
Its sanctifying dews they blest, and plung'd within the lustral flood.
Whoe'er beneath the curse of heaven from that immaculate world had fled,
To th' impure earth in exile driven, to that all-holy baptism sped;
And purified from every sin, to the bright spirit's bliss restor'd,
Th' ethereal sphere they entered in, and through th' empyreal mansions
The world in solemn jubilee beheld those heavenly waves draw near,
From sin and dark pollution free, bathed in the blameless waters clear.
Swift king Bhagiratha drave upon his lofty glittering car,
And swift with her obeisant wave bright Ganga followed him afar.
THE DEATH OF YAJNADATTA.
The Raja Dasaratha was compelled to banish his favorite son Rama,
immediately after his marriage to Sita, because his banishment was
demanded by the Raja's wife Kaikeyi, to whom he had once promised to grant
any request she might make. His grief at the loss of his son is described
in this selection.
Scarce Rama to the wilderness had with his younger brother gone,
Abandoned to his deep distress, king Dasaratha sate alone.
Upon his sons to exile driven when thought that king, as Indra bright,
Darkness came o'er him, as in heaven when pales th' eclipsed sun his
Six days he sate, and mourned and pined for Rama all that weary time.
At midnight on his wandering mind rose up his old forgotten crime.
His queen, Kausalya, the divine, addressed he, as she rested near:
"Kausalya, if thou wakest, incline to thy lord's speech thy ready ear.
Whatever deed, or good or ill, by man, O blessed queen, is wrought.
Its proper fruit he gathers still, by time to slow perfection brought.
He who the opposing counsel's weight compares not in his judgment cool,
Or misery or bliss his fate, among the sage is deemed a fool.
As one that quits the Amra bower, the bright Palasa's pride to gain
Mocked by the promise of its flower, seeks its unripening fruit in vain,
So I the lovely Amra left for the Palasa's barren bloom,
Through mine own fatal error 'reft of banished Rama, mourn in gloom.
Kausalya! in my early youth by my keen arrow, at his mark
Aimed with too sure and deadly truth, was wrought a deed most fell and
At length, the evil that I did, hath fallen upon my fated head,
As when on subtle poison hid an unsuspecting child hath fed;
Even as that child unwittingly hath made the poisonous fare his food,
Even so, in ignorance by me was wrought that deed of guilt and blood.
Unwed wert thou in virgin bloom, and I in youth's delicious prime,
The season of the rains had come,--that soft and love enkindling time.
Earth's moisture all absorbed, the sun through all the world its warmth
Turned from the north, its course begun, where haunt the spirits of the
Gathering o'er all the horizon's bound on high the welcome clouds
Exulting, all the birds flew round,--cranes, cuckoos, peacocks, flew and
And all down each wide-watered shore the troubled, yet still limpid
Over their banks began to pour, as o'er them hung the bursting clouds.
And, saturate with cloud-born dew, the glittering verdant-mantled earth,
The cuckoos and the peacocks flew, disputing as in drunken mirth.--
"In such a time, so soft, so bland, oh beautiful! I chanced to go.
With quiver and with bow in hand, where clear Sarayu's waters flow,
If haply to the river's brink at night the buffalo might stray,
Or elephant, the stream to drink,--intent my savage game to slay.
Then of a water cruse, as slow it filled, the gurgling sound I heard,
Nought saw I, but the sullen low of elephant that sound appeared.
The swift well-feathered arrow I upon the bowstring fitting straight,
Towards the sound the shaft let fly, ah, cruelly deceived by fate!
The winged arrow scarce had flown, and scarce had reached its destined
'Ah me, I'm slain,' a feeble moan in trembling human accents came.
'Ah, whence hath come this fatal shaft against a poor recluse like me,
Who shot that bolt with deadly craft,--alas! what cruel man is he?
At the lone midnight had I come to draw the river's limpid flood,
And here am struck to death, by whom? ah whose this wrongful deed of
Alas! and in my parents' heart, the old, the blind, and hardly fed,
In the wild wood, hath pierced the dart, that here hath struck their
Ah, deed most profitless as worst, a deed of wanton useless guilt:
As though a pupil's hand accurs'd his holy master's blood had spilt.
But not mine own untimely fate,--it is not that which I deplore.
My blind, my aged parents' state--'tis their distress afflicts me more.
That sightless pair, for many a day, from me their scanty food have
What lot is theirs when I'm away, to the five elements returned?
Alike, all wretched they, as I--ah, whose this triple deed of blood?
For who the herbs will now supply,--the roots, the fruit, their
My troubled soul, that plaintive moan no sooner heard, so faint and low,
Trembled to look on what I'd done, fell from my shuddering hand my bow.
Swift I rushed up, I saw him there, heart-pierced, and fallen the stream
The hermit boy with knotted hair,--his clothing was the black deer's
On me most piteous turned his look, his wounded breast could scarce
And these the words, O queen, he spoke, as to consume me in his ire:
'What wrong, O Kshatriya, have I done, to be thy deathful arrow's aim,
The forest's solitary son, to draw the limpid stream I came.
Both wretched and both blind they lie, in the wildwood all destitute,
My parents, listening anxiously to hear my home-returning foot.
By this, thy fatal shaft, this one, three miserable victims fall,
The sire, the mother, and the son--ah why? and unoffending all.
How vain my father's life austere, the Veda's studied page how vain,
He knew not with prophetic fear his son would fall untimely slain.
But had he known, to one as he, so weak, so blind, 't were bootless all,
No tree can save another tree by the sharp hatchet marked to fall.
But to my father's dwelling haste, O Raghu's son, lest in his ire
Thy head with burning curse he blast, as the dry forest tree the fire.
Thee to my father's lone retreat will quickly lead yon onward path,
Oh, haste his pardon to entreat, or ere he curse thee in his wrath.
Yet first that gently I may die, draw forth the barbed steel from hence,
Allay thy fears, no Brahmin I, not thine of Brahmin blood the offence.
My sire, a Brahmin hermit he, my mother was of Sudra race.'
So spake the wounded boy, on me while turned his unreproaching face.
As from his palpitating breast I gently drew the mortal dart,
He saw me trembling stand, and blest that boy's pure spirit seemed to
As died that holy hermit's son, from me my glory seemed to go,
With troubled mind I stood, cast down t' inevitable endless woe.
That shaft that seemed his life to burn like serpent venom, thus drawn
I, taking up his fallen urn, t' his father's dwelling took my route.
There miserable, blind, and old, of their sole helpmate thus forlorn,
His parents did these eyes behold, like two sad birds with pinions
Of him in fond discourse they sate, lone, thinking only of their son,
For his return so long, so late, impatient, oh by me undone.
My footsteps' sound he seemed to know, and thus the aged hermit said,
'O Yajnadatta, why so slow?--haste, let the cooling draught be shed.
Long on the river's cooling brink hast thou been sporting in thy joy.
Thy mother's fainting spirits sink in fear for thee; but thou, my boy,
If aught to grieve thy gentle heart thy mother or thy sire do wrong,
Bear with us, nor, when next we part, on the slow way thus linger long,
The feet of those that cannot move, of those that cannot see the eye,
Our spirits live but in thy love,--oh wherefore, dearest, no reply?'
"My throat thick swollen with bursting tears, my power of speech that
seemed to choke,
With hands above my head, my fears breaking my quivering voice, I spoke:
The Kshatriya Dasaratha I, O hermit sage, 't is not thy son!
Most holy ones, unknowingly a deed of awful guilt I've done.
With bow in hand I took my way along Sarayu's pleasant brink,
The savage buffalo to slay, or elephant come down to drink.
"A sound came murmuring to my ear,--'twas of the urn that slowly filled,
I deemed some savage wild-beast near,--my erring shaft thy son had
A feeble groan I heard, his breast was pierced by that dire arrow keen:
All trembling to the spot I pressed, lo there thy hermit boy was seen.
Flew to the sound my arrow, meant the wandering elephant to slay,
Toward the river brink it went,--and there thy son expiring lay.
The fatal shaft when forth I drew, to heaven his parting spirit soared,
Dying he only thought of you, long, long, your lonely lot deplored.
Thus ignorantly did I slay your child beloved, O hermit sage!
Turn thou on me, whose fated day is come, thy all-consuming rage!'
He heard my dreadful tale at length, he stood all lifeless, motionless;
Then deep he groaned, and gathering strength, me the meek suppliant did
'Kshatriya, 't is well that thou hast turned, thy deed of murder to
Else over all thy land had burned the fire of my wide-wasting curse.
If with premeditated crime the unoffending blood thou 'dst spilt,
The Thunderer on his throne sublime had shaken at such tremendous guilt.
Against the anchorite's sacred head, hadst, knowing, aimed thy shaft
In th' holy Vedas deeply read, thy skull in seven wide rents had burst.
But since, unwitting, thou hast wrought that deed of death, thou livest
O son of Taghu, from thy thought dismiss all dread of instant ill.
Oh lead me to that doleful spot where my poor boy expiring lay,
Beneath the shaft thy fell hand shot, of my blind age the staff, the
On the cold earth 'twere yet a joy to touch my perished child again,
(So long if I may live) my boy in one last fond embrace to strain
His body all bedewed with gore, his locks in loose disorder thrown,
Let me, let her but touch once more, to the dread realm of Yama gone.'
Then to that fatal place I brought alone that miserable pair;
His sightless hands and hers I taught to touch their boy that slumbered
Nor sooner did they feel him lie, on the moist herbage coldly thrown,
But with a shrill and feeble cry upon the body cast them down.
The mother as she lay and groaned, addressed her boy with quivering
And like a heifer sadly moaned, just plundered of her new-dropped young:
"'Was not thy mother once, my son, than life itself more dear to thee?
Why the long way thou hast begun, without one gentle word to me?
One last embrace, and then, beloved, upon thy lonely journey go!
Alas! with anger art thou moved, that not a word thou wilt bestow?'
"The miserable father now with gentle touch each cold limb pressed,
And to the dead his words of woe, as to his living son addressed:
'I too, my son, am I not here?--thy sire with thy sad mother stands;
Awake, arise, my child, draw near, and clasp each neck with loving
Who now, 'neath the dark wood by night, a pious reader shall be heard?
Whose honeyed voice my ear delight with th' holy Veda's living word?
The evening prayer, th' ablution done, the fire adored with worship
Who now shall soothe like thee, my son, with fondling hand, my aged
And who the herb, the wholesome root, or wild fruit from the wood shall
To us the blind, the destitute, with helpless hunger perishing?
Thy blind old mother, heaven-resigned, within our hermit-dwelling lone,
How shall I tend, myself as blind, now all my strength of life is gone?
Oh, stay, my child, oh. Part not yet, to Yama's dwelling go not now,
To-morrow forth we all will set,--thy mother and myself and thou:
For both, in grief for thee, and both so helpless, ere another day,
From this dark world, but little loath, shall we depart, death's easy
And I myself, by Yama's seat, companion of thy darksome way,
The guerdon to thy virtues meet from that great Judge of men will pray.
Because, my boy, in innocence, by wicked deed thou hast been slain,
Rise, where the heroes dwell, who thence ne'er stoop to this dark world
Those that to earth return no more, the sense-subdued, the hermits wise,
Priests their sage masters that adore, to their eternal seats arise.
Those that have studied to the last the Veda's, the Vedanga's page,
Where saintly kings of earth have passed, Nahusa and Yayati sage;
The sires of holy families, the true to wedlock's sacred vow;
And those that cattle, gold, or rice, or lands, with liberal hands
That ope th' asylum to th' oppressed, that ever love, and speak the
Up to the dwellings of the blest, th' eternal, soar thou, best-loved
For none of such a holy race within the lowest seat may dwell;
But that will be his fatal place by whom my only offspring fell.'
"So groaning deep, that wretched pair, the hermit and his wife, essayed
The meet ablution to prepare, their hands their last faint effort made.
Divine, with glorious body bright, in splendid car of heaven elate,
Before them stood their son in light, and thus consoled their helpless
'Meed of my duteous filial care, I've reached the wished for realms of
And ye, in those glad realms, prepare to meet full soon your dear-loved
My parents, weep no more for me, yon warrior monarch slew me not,
My death was thus ordained to be, predestined was the shaft he shot.'
Thus as he spoke, the anchorite's son soared up the glowing heaven afar,
In air his heavenly body shone, while stood he in his gorgeous car.
But they, of that lost boy so dear the last ablution meetly made,
Thus spoke to me that holy seer, with folded hands above his head.
'Albeit by thy unknowing dart my blameless boy untimely fell,
A curse I lay upon thy heart, whose fearful pain I know too well.
As sorrowing for my son I bow, and yield up my unwilling breath,
So, sorrowing for thy son shalt thou at life's last close repose in
That curse dread sounding in mine ear, to mine own city forth I set,
Nor long survived that hermit seer, to mourn his child in lone regret.
This day that Brahmin curse fulfilled hath fallen on my devoted head,
In anguish for my parted child have all my sinking spirits fled.
No more my darkened eyes can see, my clouded memory is o'ercast,
Dark Yama's heralds summon me to his deep, dreary realm to haste.
Mine eye no more my Rama sees, and grief-o'erborne, my spirits sink,
As the swoln stream sweeps down the trees that grow upon the crumbling
Oh, felt I Rama's touch, or spake one word his home-returning voice,
Again to life I should awake, as quaffing nectar draughts, rejoice,
But what so sad could e'er have been, celestial partner of my heart,
As Rama's beauteous face unseen, from life untimely to depart?
His exile in the forest o'er, him home returned to Oude's high town,
Oh happy those, that see once more, like Indra from the sky come down.
No mortal men, but gods I deem,--moonlike, before whose wondering sight
My Rama's glorious face shall beam, from the dark forest bursting
Happy that gaze on Rama's face with beauteous teeth and smile of love,
Like the blue lotus in its grace, and like the starry king above.
Like to the full autumnal moon, and like the lotus in its bloom,
That youth who sees returning soon,--how blest shall be that mortal's
Dwelling in that sweet memory, on his last bed the monarch lay,
And slowly, softly seemed to die, as fades the moon at dawn away.
"Ah, Rama! ah, my son!" thus said, or scarcely said, the king of men,
His gentle hapless spirit fled in sorrow for his Rama then,
The shepherd of his people old at midnight on his bed of death,
The tale of his son's exile told, and breathed away his dying breath.
"It is a deep and noble forest, abounding in delicious fruits and fragrant
flowers, shaded and watered by perennial springs."
Though parts of the Maha-Bharata, or story of the great war, are of great
antiquity, the entire poem was undoubtedly collected and re-written in the
first or second century A. D. Tradition ascribes the Maha-Bharata to the
Brahman Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa.
The Maha-Bharata, unlike the Ramayana, is not the story of some great
event, but consists of countless episodes, legends, and philosophical
treatises, strung upon the thread of a single story. These episodes are
called Upakhyanani, and the five most beautiful are called, in India, the
five precious stones.
Its historical basis is the strife between the Aryan invaders of India and
the original inhabitants, illustrated in the strife between the sons of
the Raja Pandu and the blind Raja, Dhrita-rashtra, which forms the main
story of the poem.
Though marred by the exaggerations peculiar to the Hindu, the poem is a
great treasure house of Indian history, and from it the Indian poets,
historical writers, and philosophers have drawn much of their material.
The Maha-Bharata is written in the Sanskrit language; it is the longest
poem ever written, its eighteen cantos containing two hundred thousand
It is held in even higher regard than the Ramayana, and the reading of it
is supposed to confer upon the happy reader every good and perfect gift.
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND CRITICISM, THE MAHA-BHARATA.
G.W. Cox's Mythology and Folklore, 1881, p. 313;
John Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology, Religion,
Geography, History, and Literature, 1879;
F. Max Mueller's Ancient Sanskrit Literature, 1859 (Introduction);
E. A. Reed's Hindu Literature, 1891, pp. 272-352;
Albrecht Weber's History of Indian Literature, 1878, pp. 184-191;
J. T. Wheeler's History of India, 4 vols., 1876, vol. ii.;
J. C. Oman's Great Indian Epics, 1874, pp. 87-231;
T. Goldstuecker's Hindu Epic Poetry; the Maha-Bharata Literary Remains,
1879, (vol. ii., pp. 86-145);
M. Macmillan's Globe-trotter in India, 1815, p. 193;
J. Peile's Notes on the Tales of Nala, 1882;
C. J. Stone's Cradle-land of Arts and Creeds, 1880, pp. 36-49;
H. H. Wilson's Introduction to the Maha-Bharata and a Translation of three
Extracts (in his Works, vol. iii., p. 277); Westminster Review, 1868, vol.
xxxiii., p. 380.
STANDARD ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS, THE MAHA-BHARATA.
The Maha-Bharata, Selections from the, Tr. by Sir Edwin Arnold, in his
Indian Poetry, 1886; in his Indian Idylls, 1883;
Nala and Damayanti and other Poems, Tr. from the Maha-Bharata by
H. H. Milman, (his translation of the Story of Nala is edited with notes by
Monier Williams, 1879);
Metrical translations from Sanskrit writers by John Muir, 1879, pp. 13-37;
Last Days of Krishna, Tr. from the Maha-Bharata Price (Oriental
Translation Fund: Miscellaneous Translations);
The Maha-Bharata, an English Prose Translation with notes, by Protap
Chandra Roy, Published in one hundred parts, 1883-1890;
Asiatic Researches, Tr. by H. H. Wilson, from the Maha-Bharata vol. xv.,
Translations of episodes from the Maha-Bharata, in Scribner's Monthly,
1874, vol. vii., p. 385;
International Review, vol. x., pp. 36, 297; Oriental Magazine, Dec., 1824,
March, Sept., 1825, Sept., 1826.
THE STORY OF THE MAHA-BHARATA.
Long ago there dwelt in India two great Rajas who were brothers, the Raja
Pandu and the blind Raja, Dhritarashtra. The former had five noble sons
called the Pandavas, the eldest of whom was Yudhi-sthira, the second
Bhima, the third Arjuna, and the youngest, twin sons, Nakalu and Sahadeva.
All were girted in every way, but Arjuna was especially noble in form and
The blind Raja had a family of one hundred sons, called the Kauravas from
their ancestor, Kura. The oldest of these was Duryodhana, and the bravest,
Before the birth of Pandu's sons, he had left his kingdom in charge of
Dhrita-rashtra, that he might spend his time in hunting in the forests on
the slopes of the Himalayas. After his death Dhrita-rashtra continued to
rule the kingdom; but on account of their claim to the throne, he invited
the Pandavas and their mother to his court, where they were trained,
together with his sons, in every knightly exercise.
There was probably jealousy between the cousins from the beginning, and
when their teacher, Drona, openly expressed his pride in the wonderful
archery of Arjuna, the hatred of the Kauravas was made manifest. No
disturbance occurred, however, until the day when Drona made a public
tournament to display the prowess of his pupils.
The contests were in archery and the use of the noose and of clubs. Bhima,
who had been endowed by the serpent king with the strength of ten thousand
elephants, especially excelled in the use of the club, Nakalu was most
skillful in taming and driving the horse, and the others in the use of the
sword and spear. When Arjuna made use of the bow and the noose the
plaudits with which the spectators greeted his skill so enraged the
Kauravas that they turned the contest of clubs, which was to have been a
friendly one, into a degrading and blood-shedding battle. The spectators
left the splendid lists in sorrow, and the blind Raja determined to
separate the unfriendly cousins before further harm could come from their
Before this could be done, another event increased their hostility. Drona
had agreed to impart to the Kauravas and the Pandavas his skill in
warfare, on condition that they would conquer for him his old enemy, the
Raja of Panchala. On account of their quarrel the cousins would not fight
together, and the Kauravas, marching against the Raja, were defeated. On
their return, the Pandavas went to Panchala, and took the Raja prisoner.
After Yudhi-sthira had been appointed Yuva-Raja, a step Dhrita-rashtra was
compelled by the people of Hastinapur to take, the Kauravas declared that
they could no longer remain in the same city with their cousins.
A plot was laid to destroy the Pandavas, the Raja's conscience having been
quieted by the assurances of his Brahman counsellor that it was entirely
proper to slay one's foe, be he father, brother, or friend, openly or by
secret means. The Raja accordingly pretended to send his nephews on a
pleasure-trip to a distant province, where he had prepared for their
reception a "house of lac," rendered more combustible by soaking in
clarified butter, in which he had arranged to have them burned as if by
accident, as soon as possible after their arrival.
All Hastinapur mourned at the departure of the Pandavas, and the princes
themselves were sad, for they had been warned by a friend that
Dhrita-rashtra had plotted for their destruction. They took up their abode
in the house of lac, to which they prudently constructed a subterranean
outlet, and one evening, when a woman with five sons attended a feast of
their mother's, uninvited, and fell into a drunken sleep, they made fast
the doors, set fire to the house, and escaped to the forest. The bodies of
the five men and their mother were found next day, and the assurance was
borne to Hastinapur that the Pandavas and their mother Kunti had perished
The five princes, with their mother, disguised as Brahmans, spent several
years wandering through the forests, having many strange adventures and
slaying many demons. While visiting Ekachakra, which city they freed from
a frightful rakshasa, they were informed by the sage Vyasa that Draupadi,
the lovely daughter of the Raja Draupada of Panchala, was going to hold a
Svayamvara in order to select a husband. The suitors of a princess
frequently attended a meeting of this sort and took part in various
athletic contests, at the end of which the princess signified who was most
pleasing to her, usually the victor in the games, by hanging around his
neck a garland of flowers.
Vyasa's description of the lovely princess, whose black eyes were large as
lotus leaves, whose skin was dusky, and her locks dark and curling, so
excited the curiosity of the Pandavas that they determined to attend the
Svayamvara. They found the city full of princes and kings who had come to
take part in the contest for the most beautiful woman in the world. The
great amphitheatre in which the games were to take place was surrounded by
gold and jewelled palaces for the accommodation of the princes, and with
platforms for the convenience of the spectators.
After music, dancing, and various entertainments, which occupied sixteen
days, the contest of skill began. On the top of a tall pole, erected in
the plain, was placed a golden fish, below which revolved a large wheel.
He who sent his arrow through the spokes of the wheel and pierced the eye
of the golden fish was to be the accepted suitor of Draupadi.
When the princes saw the difficulty of the contest, many of them refused
to enter it; as many tried it only to fail, among them, the Kaurava
Duryodhana. At last Arjuna, still in his disguise, stepped forward, drew
his bow, and sent his arrow through the wheel into the eye of the golden
Immediately a great uproar arose among the spectators because a Brahman
had entered a contest limited to members of the Kshatriya, or warrior
class. In the struggle which ensued, however, Arjuna, assisted by his
brothers, especially Bhima, succeeded in carrying off the princess, whose
father did not demur.
When the princes returned to their hut they went into the inner room and
informed their mother that they had brought home a prize. Supposing that
it was some game, she told them it would be well to share it equally. The
mother's word was law, but would the gods permit them to share Draupadi?
Their troubled minds were set at rest by Vyasa, who assured them that
Draupadi had five different times in former existences besought Siva for a
good husband. He had refused her requests then, but would now allow her
five husbands at once. The princes were well satisfied, and when the Raja
Draupada learned that the Brahmans were great princes in disguise, he
caused the five weddings to be celebrated in great state.
Not satisfied with this, the Raja at once endeavored to make peace between
the Pandavas and their hostile cousins, and succeeded far enough to induce
Dhrita-rashtra to cede to his nephews a tract of land in the farthest part
of his kingdom, on the river Jumna, where they set about founding a most
splendid city, Indra-prastha.
Here they lived happily with Draupadi, conquering so many kingdoms and
accumulating so much wealth that they once more aroused the jealousy of
their old enemies, the Kauravas. The latter, knowing that it would be
impossible to gain the advantage of them by fair means, determined to
conquer them by artifice, and accordingly erected a large and magnificent
hall and invited their cousins thither, with a great show of friendliness,
to a gambling match.
The Pandavas knew they would not be treated fairly, but as such an
invitation could not be honorably declined by a Kshatriya, they went to
Hastinapur. Yudhi-sthira's opponent was Shakuni, the queen's brother, an
unprincipled man, by whom he was defeated in every game.
Yudhi-sthira staked successively his money, his jewels, and his slaves;
and when these were exhausted, he continued to play, staking his kingdom,
his brothers, and last of all his peerless wife, Draupadi.
At this point, when the excitement was intense, the brutal Dhusasana
commanded Draupadi to be brought into the hall, and insulted her in every
way, to the great rage of the helpless Pandavas, until Dhrita-rashtra,
affrighted by the evil omens by which the gods signified their
disapproval, rebuked Dhusasana for his conduct, and giving Draupadi her
wish, released her husbands and herself and sent them back to their
To prevent the Pandavas from gaining time to avenge their insult, the
Kauravas induced their father to invite their cousins to court to play a
final game, this time the conditions being that the losing party should go
into exile for thirteen years, spending twelve years in the forest and the
thirteenth in some city. If their disguise was penetrated by their enemies
during the thirteenth year, the exile was to be extended for another
Though they knew the outcome, the Pandavas accepted the second invitation,
and in consequence again sought the forest, not departing without the most
terrible threats against their cousins.
In the forest of Kamyaka, Yudhi-sthira studied the science of dice that he
might not again be defeated so disastrously, and journeyed pleasantly from
one point of interest to another with Draupadi and his brothers, with the
exception of Arjuna, who had sought the Himalayas to gain favor with the
god Siva, that he might procure from him a terrible weapon for the
destruction of his cousins.
After he had obtained the weapon he was lifted into the heaven of the god
Indra, where he spent five happy years. When he rejoined his wife and
brothers, they were visited by the god Krishna and by the sage Markandeya,
who told them the story of the creation and destruction of the universe,
of the flood, and of the doctrine of Karma, which instructs one that man's
sufferings here below are due to his actions in former and forgotten
existences. He also related to them the beautiful story of how the
Princess Savitri had wedded the Prince Satyavan, knowing that the gods had
decreed that he should die within a year; how on the day set for his death
she had accompanied him to the forest, had there followed Yama, the awful
god of death, entreating him until, for very pity of her sorrow and
admiration of her courage and devotion, he yielded to her her husband's
Near the close of the twelfth year of their exile, the princes, fatigued
from a hunt, sent Nakalu to get some water from a lake which one had
discovered from a tree-top. As the prince approached the lake he was
warned by a voice not to touch it, but thirst overcoming fear, he drank
and fell dead. The same penalty was paid by Sahadeva, Arjuna, and Bhima,
who in turn followed him. Yudhi-sthira, who went last, obeyed the voice,
which, assuming a terrible form, asked the king questions on many subjects
concerning the universe. These being answered satisfactorily, the being
declared himself to be Dharma, the god of justice, Yudhi-sthira's father,
and in token of his affection for his son, restored the princes to life,
and granted them the boon of being unrecognizable during the remaining
year of their exile.
The thirteenth year of their exile they spent in the city of Virata, where
they entered the service of the Raja,--Yudhi-sthira as teacher of
dice-playing, Bhima as superintendent of the cooks, Arjuna as a teacher of
music and dancing to the ladies, Nakalu as master of horse, and Sahadeva
as superintendent of the cattle. Draupadi, who entered the service of the
queen, was so attractive, even in disguise, that Bhima was forced to kill
the queen's brother, Kechaka, for insulting her. This would have caused
the Pandavas' exile from Virata had not their services been needed in a
battle between Virata and the king of the Trigartas.
The Kauravas assisted the Trigartas in this battle, and the recognition,
among the victors, of their cousins, whose thirteenth year of exile was
now ended, added to the bitterness of their defeat.
Their exile over, the Pandavas were free to make preparations for the
great war which they had determined to wage against the Kauravas. Both
parties, anxious to enlist the services of Krishna, sent envoys to him at
the same time. When Krishna gave them the choice of himself or his armies,
Arjuna was shrewd enough to choose the god, leaving his hundreds of
millions of soldiers to swell the forces of the Kauravas.
When their preparations were completed, and the time had come to wreak
vengeance on their cousins, the Pandavas were loath to begin the conflict.
They seemed to understand that, war once declared, there could be no
compromise, but that it must be a war for extinction. But the Kauravas
received their proposals of peace with taunts, and heaped insults upon
When the Pandavas found that there was no hope of peace, they endeavored
to win to their side Karna, who was really a son of Kunti, and hence their
half-brother, though this fact had not been made known to him until he had
long been allied with the Kauravas. In anticipation of this war, the gods,
by a bit of trickery, had robbed Karna of his god-given armor and weapons.
However, neither celestial artifice, the arguments of Krishna, nor the
entreaties of Kunti were able to move Karna from what he considered the
path of duty, though he promised that while he would fight with all his
strength, he would not slay Yudhi-sthira, Bhima, and the twins.
The forces of the two armies were drawn up on the plain of Kuruk-shetra.
The army of the Kauravas was under the command of the terrible Bhishma,
the uncle of Pandu and Dhrita-rashtra, who had governed the country during
the minority of Pandu.
Each side was provided with billions and billions of infantry, cavalry,
and elephants; the warriors were supplied with weapons of the most
dangerous sort. The army of the Kauravas was surrounded by a deep trench
fortified by towers, and further protected by fireballs and jars full of
scorpions to be thrown at the assailants.
As night fell, before the battle, the moon's face was stained with blood,
earthquakes shook the land, and the images of the gods fell from their
The next morning, when Arjuna, from his chariot, beheld the immense army,
he was appalled at the thought of the bloodshed to follow, and hesitated
to advance. Krishna insisted that it was unnecessary for him to lament,
setting forth his reasons in what is known as the Bhagavat-gita, the
divine song, in which he said it was no sin to slay a foe, since death is
but a transmigration from one form to another. The soul can never cease to
be; who then can destroy it? Therefore, when Arjuna slew his cousins he
would merely remove their offensive bodies; their souls, unable to be
destroyed, would seek other habitations. To further impress Arjuna,
Krishna boasted of himself as embodying everything, and as having passed
through many forms. Faith in Krishna was indispensable, for the god placed
faith above either works or contemplation. He next exhibited himself in
his divine form to Arjuna, and the warrior was horror-stricken at the
terrible divinity with countless arms, hands, and heads, touching the
skies. Having been thus instructed by Krishna, Arjuna went forth, and the
eighteen days' battle began.
The slaughter was wholesale; no quarter was asked or given, since each
side was determined to exterminate the other. Flights of arrows were
stopped in mid-air by flights of arrows from the other side. Great maces
were cut in pieces by well-directed darts. Bhima, wielding his great club
with his prodigious strength, wiped out thousands of the enemy at one
stroke, and Arjuna did the same with his swift arrows. Nor were the
Kauravas to be despised. Hundreds of thousands of the Pandavas' followers
fell, and the heroic brothers were themselves struck by many arrows.
Early in the battle the old Bhishma was pierced by so many arrows that,
falling from his chariot, he rested upon their points as on a couch, and
lay there living by his own desire, until long after the battle.
After eighteen days of slaughter, during which the field reeked with blood
and night was made horrible by the cries of the jackals and other beasts
of prey that devoured the bodies of the dead, the Kauravas were all slain,
and the five Pandavas, reconciled to the blind Raja, accompanied him back
to Hastinapur, where Yudhi-sthira was crowned Raja, although the Raj was
still nominally under the rule of his old uncle.
Yudhi-sthira celebrated his accession to the throne by the performance of
the great sacrifice, which was celebrated with the utmost splendor. After
several years the unhappy Dhrita-rashtra retired with his wife to a jungle
on the banks of the Ganges, leaving Yudhi-sthira in possession of the
kingdom. There the Pandavas visited him, and talked over the friends who
had fallen in the great war. One evening the sage Vyasa instructed them to
bathe in the Ganges and then stand on the banks of the river. He then went
into the water and prayed, and coming out stood by Yudhi-sthira and called
the names of all those persons who had been slain at Kuruk-shetra.
Immediately the water began to foam and boil, and to the great surprise
and terror of all, the warriors lost in the great battle appeared in their
chariots, at perfect peace with one another, and cleansed of all earthly
stain. Then the living were happy with the dead; long separated families
were once more united, and the hearts that had been desolate for fifteen
long years were again filled with joy. The night sped quickly by in tender
conversation, and when morning came, all the dead mounted into their
chariots and disappeared. Those who had come to meet them prepared to
leave the river, but with the permission of Vyasa, the widows drowned
themselves that they might rejoin their husbands.
Not long after his return to Hastinapur, Yudhi-sthira heard that the old
Raja and his wife had lost their lives in a jungle-fire; and soon after
this, tidings came to him of the destruction of the city of the Yadavas,
the capital of Krishna, in punishment for the dissipation of its
Yudhi-sthira's reign of thirty-six years had been a succession of gloomy
events, and he began to grow weary of earth and to long for the blessings
promised above. He therefore determined to make the long and weary
pilgrimage to Heaven without waiting for death. According to the
Maha-Bharata, the earth was divided into seven concentric rings, each of
which was surrounded by an ocean or belt separating it from the next
annular continent. The first ocean was of salt water; the second, of the
juice of the sugar-cane; the third, of wine; the fourth, of clarified
butter; the fifth, of curdled milk; the sixth, of sweet milk; the seventh,
of fresh water. In the centre of this vast annular system Mount Meru rose
to the height of sixty-four thousand miles.
Upon this mountain was supposed to rest the heaven of the Hindus, and
thither Yudhi-sthira proposed to make his pilgrimage. His brothers and
their wife Draupadi insisted on going with him, for all were equally weary
of the world. Their people would fain have accompanied them, but the
princes sent them back and went unaccompanied save by their faithful dog.
They kept on, fired by their high resolves, until they reached the long
and dreary waste of sand that stretched before Mount Meru. There Draupadi
fell and yielded up her life, and Yudhi-sthira, never turning to look
back, told the questioning Bhima that she died because she loved her
husbands better than all else, better than heaven. Next Sahadeva fell,
then Nakalu, and afterwards Arjuna and Bhima. Yudhi-sthira, still striding
on, informed Bhima that pride had slain the first, self-love the second,
the sin of Arjuna was a lie, and Bhima had loved too well the good things
Followed by the dog, Yudhi-sthira pushed across the barren sand until he
reached the mount and stood in the presence of the god. Well pleased with
his perseverance, the god promised him the reward of entering into heaven
in his own form, but he refused to go unless the dog could accompany him.
After vainly attempting to dissuade him, the god allowed the dog to assume
its proper form, and lo! it was Dharma, the god of justice, and the two
entered heaven together.
But where were Draupadi and the gallant princes, her husbands?
Yudhi-sthira could see them nowhere, and he questioned only to learn that
they were in hell. His determination was quickly taken. There could be no
heaven for him unless his brothers and their wife could share it with him.
He demanded to be shown the path to hell, to enter which he walked over
razors, and trod under foot mangled human forms. But joy of joys! The
lotus-eyed Draupadi called to him, and his brothers cried that his
presence in hell brought a soothing breeze that gave relief to all the
Yudhi-sthira's self-sacrifice sufficiently tested, the gods proclaimed
that it was all but an illusion shown to make him enjoy the more, by
contrast, the blisses of heaven. The king Yudhi-sthira then bathed in the
great river flowing through three worlds, and, washed from all sins and
soils, went up, hand in hand with the gods, to his brothers, the Pandavas,
"Lotus-eyed and loveliest Draupadi,
Waiting to greet him, gladdening and glad."
SELECTIONS FROM THE MAHA-BHARATA.
SAVITRI, OR LOVE AND DEATH.
The beautiful princess Savitri of her own choice wedded the prince
Satyavan, son of a blind and exiled king, although she knew that he was
doomed by the gods to die within a year. When the year was almost gone,
she sat for several days beneath a great tree, abstaining from food and
drink, and imploring the gods to save him from death. On the fateful day
she accompanied him to the forest to gather the sacred wood for the
evening sacrifice. As he struck the tree with the axe he reeled in pain,
and exclaiming, "I cannot work!" fell fainting.
Thereon that noble lady, hastening near.
Stayed him that would have fallen, with quick arms;
And, sitting on the earth, laid her lord's head
Tenderly in her lap. So bent she, mute,
Fanning his face, and thinking 't was the day--
The hour--which Narad named--the sure fixed date
Of dreadful end--when, lo! before her rose
A shade majestic. Red his garments were,
His body vast and dark; like fiery suns
The eyes which burned beneath his forehead-cloth;
Armed was he with a noose, awful of mien.
This Form tremendous stood by Satyavan,
Fixing its gaze upon him. At the sight
The fearful Princess started to her feet.
Heedfully laying on the grass his head,
Up started she, with beating heart, and joined
Her palms for supplication, and spake thus
In accents tremulous: "Thou seem'st some God;
Thy mien is more than mortal; make me know
What god thou art, and what thy purpose here."
And Yama said (the dreadful god of death):
"Thou art a faithful wife, O Savitri,
True to thy vows, pious, and dutiful;
Therefore I answer thee. Yama I am!
This Prince thy lord lieth at point to die;
Him will I straightway bind and bear from life;
This is my office, and for this I come."
Then Savitri spake sadly: "It is taught
Thy messengers are sent to fetch the dying;
Why is it, Mightiest, thou art come thyself?"
In pity of her love, the Pityless
Answered--the King of all the Dead replied:
"This was a Prince unparalleled, thy lord;
Virtuous as fair, a sea of goodly gifts,
Not to be summoned by a meaner voice
Than Yama's own: therefore is Yama come."
With that the gloomy God fitted his noose
And forced forth from the Prince the soul of him--
Subtile, a thumb in length--which being reft,
Breath stayed, blood stopped, the body's grace was gone,
And all life's warmth to stony coldness turned.
Then, binding it, the Silent Presence bore
Satyavan's soul away toward the South.
But Savitri the Princess followed him;
Being so bold in wifely purity,
So holy by her love; and so upheld,
She followed him.
Presently Yama turned.
"Go back," quoth he. "Pay for him funeral dues.
Enough, O Savitri, is wrought for love;
Go back! Too far already hast thou come."
Then Savitri made answer: "I must go
Where my lord goes, or where my lord is borne;
Naught other is my duty. Nay, I think,
By reason of my vows, my services,
Done to the Gurus, and my faultless love,
Grant but thy grace, I shall unhindered go.
The sages teach that to walk seven steps
One with another, maketh good men friends;
Beseech thee, let me say a verse to thee:--
_"Be master of thyself, if thou wilt be
Servant of Duty. Such as thou shall see
Not self-subduing, do no deeds of good
In youth or age, in household or in wood.
But wise men know that virtue is best bliss,
And all by some one way may reach to this.
It needs not men should pass through orders four
To come to knowledge: doing right is more
Than any learning; therefore sages say
Best and most excellent is Virtue's way."_
Spake Yama then: "Return! yet I am moved
By those soft words; justly their accents fell,
And sweet and reasonable was their sense.
See now, thou faultless one. Except this life
I bear away, ask any boon from me;
It shall not be denied."
"Let, then, the King, my husband's father, have
His eyesight back, and be his strength restored,
And let him live anew, strong as the sun."
"I give this gift," Yama replied. "Thy wish,
Blameless, shall be fulfilled. But now go back;
Already art thou wearied, and our road
Is hard and long. Turn back, lest thou, too, die."
The Princess answered: "Weary am I not,
So I walk near my lord. Where he is borne,
Thither wend I. Most mighty of the Gods,
I follow wheresoe'er thou takest him.
A verse is writ on this, if thou wouldst hear:--
_"There is naught better than to be
With noble souls in company:
There is naught better than to wend
With good friends faithful to the end.
This is the love whose fruit is sweet,
Therefore to bide within is meet."_
Spake Yama, smiling: "Beautiful! thy words
Delight me; they are excellent, and teach
Wisdom unto the wise, singing soft truth.
Look, now! Except the life of Satyavan,
Ask yet another--any--boon from me."
Savitri said: "Let, then, the pious King,
My husband's father, who hath lost his throne,
Have back the Raj; and let him rule his realm
In happy righteousness. This boon I ask."
"He shall have back the throne," Yama replied,
"And he shall reign in righteousness: these things
Will surely fall. But thou, gaining thy wish,
Return anon; so shalt thou 'scape sore ill."
"Ah, awful God! who hold'st the world in leash,"
The Princess said, "restraining evil men,
And leading good men--even unconscious--there,
Where they attain, hear yet those famous words:--
_"The constant virtues of the good are tenderness and love
To all that lives--in earth, air, sea--great, small--below, above;
Compassionate of heart, they keep a gentle thought for each,
Kind in their actions, mild in will, and pitiful of speech;
Who pitieth not, he hath not faith; full many an one so lives,
But when an enemy seeks help, a good man gladly gives."_
"As water to the thirsty," Yama said,
"Princess, thy words melodious are to me.
Except the life of Satyavan, thy lord,
Ask one boon yet again, for I will grant."
Answer made Savitri: "The King, my sire,
Hath no male child. Let him see many sons
Begotten of his body, who may keep
The royal line long regnant. This I ask."
"So shall it be," the Lord of Death replied;
"A hundred fair preservers of his race
Thy sire shall boast. But this wish being won,
Return, dear Princess; thou hast come too far."
"It is not far for me," quoth Savitri,
"Since I am near my husband; nay, my heart
Is set to go as far as to the end;
But hear these other verses, if thou wilt:--
_"By that sunlit name thou bearest,
Thou, Vaivaswata! art dearest;
Those that as their Lord proclaim thee,
King of Righteousness do name thee:
Better than themselves the wise
Trust the righteous. Each relies
Most upon the good, and makes
Friendship with them. Friendship takes
Fear from hearts; yet friends betray,
In good men we may trust alway."_
"Sweet lady," Yama said, "never were words
Spoke better; never truer heard by ear;
Lo! I am pleased with thee. Except this soul,
Ask one gift yet again, and get thee home."
"I ask thee then," quickly the Princess cried,
"Sons, many sons, born of my body; boys;
Satyavan's children; lovely, valiant, strong;
Continuers of their line. Grant this, kind God."
"I grant it," Yama answered; "thou shalt bear
These sons thy heart desireth, valiant, strong.
Therefore go back, that years be given thee.
Too long a path thou treadest, dark and rough."
But sweeter than before, the Princess sang:--
_"In paths of peace and virtue
Always the good remain;
And sorrow shall not stay with them,
Nor long access of pain;
At meeting or at parting
Joys to their bosom strike;
For good to good is friendly,
And virtue loves her like.
The great sun goes his journey
By their strong truth impelled;
By their pure lives and penances
Is earth itself upheld;
Of all which live and shall live
Upon its hills and fields,
Pure hearts are the protectors,
For virtue saves and shields.
"Never are noble spirits
Poor while their like survive;
True love has gems to render,
And virtue wealth to give.
Never is lost or wasted
The goodness of the good;
Never against a mercy,
Against a right, it stood;
And seeing this, that virtue
Is always friend to all,
The virtuous and true-hearted,
Men their protectors call."_
"Line for line, Princess, as thou sangest so,"
Quoth Yama, "all that lovely praise of good,
Grateful to hallowed minds, lofty in sound,
And couched in dulcet numbers--word by word--
Dearer thou grew'st to me. O thou great heart,
Perfect and firm! ask any boon from me,--
Ask an incomparable boon!"
Swiftly, no longer stayed: "Not Heaven I crave,
Nor heavenly joys, nor bliss incomparable,
Hard to be granted, even by thee; but him,
My sweet lord's life, without which I am dead;
Give me that gift of gifts! I will not take
Aught less without him,--not one boon--no praise,
No splendors, no rewards,--not even those sons
Whom thou didst promise. Ah, thou wilt not now
Bear hence the father of them and my hope!
Make thy free word good; give me Satyavan
Alive once more."
And thereupon the God--
The Lord of Justice, high Vaivaswata--
Loosened the noose and freed the Prince's soul,
And gave it to the lady, saying this,
With eyes grown tender: "See, thou sweetest queen
Of women, brightest jewel of thy kind!
Here is thy husband. He shall live and reign
Side by side with thee, saved by thee,--in peace
And fame and wealth, and health, many long years,
For pious sacrifices world-renowned.
Boys shalt thou bear to him, as I did grant,--
Kshatriya kings, fathers of kings to be,
Sustainers of thy line. Also thy sire
Shall see his name upheld by sons of sons,
Like the immortals, valiant, Malavas."
ARNOLD: _Indian Idylls._
FROM "THE GREAT JOURNEY."
The shadow of the Great War hung over King Yudhi-sthira, whose reign was
one long succession of gloomy events, culminating in the death of the
blind Raja and his wife in a jungle fire, and the destruction of the
capital city of Krishna because of the dissipation of its inhabitants.
On tidings of the wreck of Vrishni's race,
King Yudhi-sthira of the Pandavas
Was minded to be done with earthly things,
And to Arjuna spake: "O noble prince,
Time endeth all; we linger, noose on neck,
Till the last day tightens the line, and kills.
Let us go forth to die, being yet alive."
And Kunti's son, the great Arjuna, said:
"Let us go forth! Time slayeth all.
We will find Death, who seeketh other men."
And Bhimasena, hearing, answered: "Yea,
We will find Death!" and Sahadev cried: "Yea!"
And his twin brother Nakalu; whereat
The princes set their faces for the Mount.
* * * * *
So ordering ere he went, the righteous King
Made offering of white water, heedfully,
To Vasudev, to Rama, and the rest,--
All funeral rites performing; next he spread
A funeral feast....
And all the people cried, "Stay with us, Lord!"
But Yudhi-sthira knew his time was come,
Knew that life passes and that virtue lasts,
And put aside their love....
So, with farewells
Tenderly took of lieges and of lords,
Girt he for travel with his princely kin,
Great Yudhi-sthira, Dharma's royal son.
Crest-gem and belt and ornaments he stripped
From off his body, and for broidered robe
A rough dress donned, woven of jungle bark;
And what he did--O Lord of men!--so did
Arjuna, Bhima, and the twin-born pair,
Nakalu with Sahadev, and she,--in grace
The peerless,--Draupadi. Lastly those six,--
Thou son of Bharata!--in solemn form
Made the high sacrifice of Naishtiki,
Quenching their flames in water at the close;
And so set forth, midst wailing of all folk
And tears of women, weeping most to see
The Princess Draupadi--that lovely prize
Of the great gaming, Draupadi the Bright--
Journeying afoot; but she and all the five
Rejoiced because their way lay heavenward.
Seven were they, setting forth,--Princess and King,
The King's four brothers and a faithful dog.
Those left Hastinapur; but many a man,
And all the palace household, followed them
The first sad stage: and ofttimes prayed to part,
Put parting off for love and pity, still
Sighing, "A little farther!" till day waned;
Then one by one they turned.
* * * * *
Thus wended they,
Pandu's five sons and loveliest Draupadi,
Taking no meat and journeying due east,
On righteousness their high hearts fed, to heaven
Their souls assigned; and steadfast trod their feet--
By faith upborne--past nullah ran, and wood,
River and jheel and plain. King Yudhi-sthir
Walked foremost, Bhima followed, after him
Arjuna, and the twin-born brethren next,
Nakalu with Sahadev; in whose still steps--
O Best of Bharat's offspring!--Draupadi,
That gem of women paced, with soft dark face,--
Clear-edged like lotus petals; last the dog
Following the Pandavas.
* * * * *
While yet those heroes walked,
Now to the northward banding, where long coasts
Shut in the sea of salt, now to the north,
Accomplishing all quarters, journeyed they;
The earth their altar of high sacrifice,
Which these most patient feet did pace around
Till Meru rose.
At last it rose! These Six,
Their senses subjugate, their spirits pure,
Wending along, came into sight--far off
In the eastern sky--of awful Himavat;
And midway in the peaks of Himavat,
Meru, the mountain of all mountains, rose,
Whose head is heaven; and under Himavat
Glared a wide waste of sand, dreadful as death.
Then, as they hastened o'er the deathly waste,
Aiming for Meru, having thoughts at soul
Infinite, eager,--lo! Draupadi reeled,
With faltering heart and feet; and Bhima turned,
Gazing upon her; and that hero spake
To Yudhi-sthira: "Master, Brother, King!
Why doth she fail? For never all her life
Wrought our sweet lady one thing wrong, I think.
Thou knowest; make us know, why hath she failed?"
Then Yudhi-sthira answered: "Yea, one thing.
She loved our brothers better than all else,--
Better than Heaven: that was her tender sin,
Fault of a faultless soul: she pays for that."
So spake the monarch, turning not his eyes,
Though Draupadi lay dead,--striding straight on
For Meru, heart-full of the things of Heaven,
Perfect and firm. But yet a little space
And Sahadev fell down; which Bhima seeing,
Cried once again: "O King, great Madri's son
Stumbles and sinks. Why hath he sunk?--so true,
So brave and steadfast, and so free from pride!"
"He was not free," with countenance still fixed,
Quoth Yudhi-sthira; "he was true and fast
And wise; yet wisdom made him proud; he hid
One little hurt of soul, but now it kills."
So saying, he strode on, Kunti's strong son,
And Bhima; and Arjuna followed him,
And Nakalu and the hound; leaving behind
Sahadev in the sands. But Nakalu,
Weakened and grieved to see Sahadev fall--
His dear-loved brother--lagged and stayed; and then
Prone on his face he fell, that noble face
Which had no match for beauty in the land,--
Glorious and godlike Nakalu! Then sighed
Bhima anew: "Brother and Lord! the man
Who never erred from virtue, never broke
Our fellowship, and never in the world
Was matched for goodly perfectness of form
Or gracious feature,--Nakalu has fallen!"
But Yudhi-sthira, holding fixed his eyes,--
That changeless, faithful, all-wise king,--replied:
"Yea, but he erred! The god-like form he wore
Beguiled him to believe none like to him,
And he alone desirable, and things
Unlovely, to be slighted. Self-love slays
Our noble brother. Bhima, follow! Each
Pays what his debt was."
Which Arjuna heard,
Weeping to see them fall; and that stout son
Of Pandu, that destroyer of his foes,
That Prince, who drove through crimson waves of war,
In old days, with his milk-white chariot-steeds,
Him, the arch hero, sank! Beholding this,--
The yielding of that soul unconquerable,
Fearless, divine, from Sakra's self derived,
Arjuna's--Bhima cried aloud: "O King!
This man was surely perfect. Never once,
Not even in slumber, when the lips are loosed,
Spake he one word that was not true as truth.
Ah, heart of gold! why art thou broke? O King!
Whence falleth he?"
And Yudhi-sthira said,
Not pausing: "Once he lied, a lordly lie!
He bragged--our brother--that a single day
Should see him utterly consume, alone,
All those his enemies,--which could not be.
Yet from a great heart sprang the unmeasured speech,
Howbeit a finished hero should not shame
Himself in such a wise, nor his enemy,
If he will faultless fight and blameless die:
This was Arjuna's sin. Follow thou me!"
So the King still went on. But Bhima next
Fainted, and stayed upon the way, and sank;
But, sinking, cried behind the steadfast Prince:
"Ah, Brother, see! I die! Look upon me,
Thy well beloved! Wherefore falter I,
Who strove to stand?"
And Yudhi-sthira said:
"More than was well the goodly things of earth
Pleased thee, my pleasant brother! Light the offence
And large thy spirit; but the o'erfed soul
Plumed itself over others. Pritha's son,
For this thou fallest, who so near didst gain."
Thenceforth alone the long-armed monarch strode,
Not looking back,--nay, not for Bhima's sake,--
But walking with his face set for the Mount;
And the hound followed him,--only the hound.
After the deathly sands, the Mount! and lo!
Sakra shone forth,--the God,--filling the earth
And Heavens with the thunders of his chariot wheels.
"Ascend," he said, "with me, Pritha's great son!"
But Yudhi-sthira answered, sore at heart
For those his kinsfolk, fallen on the way:
"O Thousand-eyed, O Lord of all the gods,
Give that my brothers come with me, who fell!
Not without them is Swarga sweet to me.
She too, the dear and kind and queenly,--she
Whose perfect virtue Paradise must crown,--
Grant her to come with us! Dost thou grant this?"
The God replied: "In Heaven thou shalt see
Thy kinsmen and the Queen--these will attain--
And Krishna. Grieve no longer for thy dead,
Thou chief of men! their mortal coverings stripped,
These have their places; but to thee, the gods
Allow an unknown grace: thou shalt go up,
Living and in thy form, to the immortal homes."
But the King answered: "O thou wisest One,
Who know'st what was, and is, and is to be,
Still one more grace! This hound hath ate with me,
Followed me, loved me; must I leave him now?"
"Monarch," spake Indra, "thou art now as we,--
Deathless, divine; thou art become a god;
Glory and power and gifts celestial,
And all the joys of heaven are thine for aye:
What hath a beast with these? Leave here thy hound."
Yet Yudhi-sthira answered: "O Most High,
O Thousand-Eyed and Wisest! can it be
That one exalted should seem pitiless?
Nay, let me lose such glory: for its sake
I cannot leave one living thing I loved."