Thursday, September 17, 2015

16. Yudhishtira is Born


After sometime, Pandu retired to the woods along with his two wives. He chose to live in a place on the southern slope of the Hmalayas. He wandered in the forest like the Iravata (the white elephant owned by Indra) accompanied by two she-elephants.  People who dwelled in the forest considered him to be God himself wandering among them. As per the command of Dritharashtra, people supplied Pandu  with many things  for his needs and enjoyment.

Pandu who was residing in the woods with his two wives and was hunting once killed a male and female deer when they were mating each other. In fact, a son of a sage of great ascetic powers  had assumed the form of a deer and was mating with his wife who was also in the form of a deer. Hit by Pandu’s arrow, the Rishikumara (son of the sage) spoke to Pandu in an agonizing voice.

"Oh Pandu, you were born in the virtuous Bharata race. How did you commit such an act which even a man under the grip of lust or anger won’t commit?”

 Pandu replied, 'O deer, hunting animals is a normal practice for kings. Why do you blame me for following this practice. Even Sage Agastya sacrificed deer in a sacrifice.”

The deer replied, “I don’t blame you for hurting me with your arrows. But you should have waited till I had completed my intercourse. This is a cruel act. As a king, you are expected to chastise people who do cruel things. But you have chosen to commit a cruel act yourself. I, now disguised as a deer am a sage by name Kindama. I have been living peacefully in the woods, consuming only fruits and leaves. I have not harmed you in any way. But you have killed me mistaking me for a deer. Since you  killed me when I was united with my wife, you will meet with instant death when you unite with your wife. Your wife will also follow you by giving up her life in grief.” The sage disguised as a deer breathed his last after inflicting this curse on Pandu.

Pandu narrated this incident to his wives and felt remorseful that despite being a son of Sage Vyasa, he had committed a sin by acting in haste. He told his wives that he would leave them, become a recluse and  adopt a Brahmacharya (celibate) way of life by controlling his passions through ascetic penance.  He also asked them to convey his decision to his mother, his grandmother Satyavati, Bhishma, Dritharashtra, Vidura and others.

Both Kunti and Madri pleaded with him that he could remain ascetic even while living with his wives and that he need not abandon them and go back to the Brahmachari way of life. They said that they would also control their passions and practice austerities along with him. He agreed to their request and said that he would live in solitude following the strictest practices of the vanaprastha way of life and that he won’t meet anyone including his relatives. He gave away all his valuables including precious ornaments, costumes and other physical possessions of himself and his wives to the Brahmins and his servants. He asked his servants to go back to Hastinapura.

On hearing the news about Pandu, Dritharshtra was plunged into grief.

Pandu began his ascetic way of life along with his two wives. He travelled from place to place in the mountains. By virtue of his strict adherence to austerity, he became the favorite of various groups of ascetics like the Siddhas and Charanyas living in the woods. Many Rishis (sages) also adored Pandu, some treating him as their son, some as their brother and some as their friend.  Some even treated him as a Brahmarishi, a title that could be earned only by a Brahmin.

One day, Pandu lamented to the sages about his fate of having to go with no children because of the curse delivered on him by sage Kindama. He said, “Men  born in this world have four obligations or debts that they owe, one to the gods, one to the rishis, one to their ancestors and one to other men.  The gods have to be pleased by performing sacrifices; the debt owed to rishis can be repaid  by doing meditation and practicing asceticism; the debt owed to the ancestors can be repaid by begetting sons who would continue the tradition of performing rites for the deceased; and the debt to the fellow human beings  should be repaid by leading a humanitarian life and by ensuring that one doesn’t do anything that will offend other people. I believe that I have discharged my debt to the other three but not to my ancestors. My inability to beget children has kept me from fulfilling my debt to my ancestors.”

The Rishis said they were able to foresee Pandu having children and advised him to deliberate on getting children.

Reflecting on what the sages had said, Pandu called Kunti and spoke to her in privacy.”Kunti, it is said that charitable actions, austere practices and vows observed do not confer religious merit on a person who has no sons.  The religious texts mention six kinds of sons. 1) the son  born to one’s wedded wife. 2) the son begotten upon one’s wife  by an accomplished person motivated by kindness. 3) the son begotten upon one’s wife by a person for  pecuniary consideration. 4) the son begotten upon the wife after the person’s death. 5) the son born to a maid and 6) the son born of an unchaste wife. Manu has said that a person unable to raise an offspring of his own can have offspring begotten upon their wives by others. There is a story of the daughter of Saradandayana who was asked by her husband to raise offspring. That warrior-dame, on a night  during her monthly season, went out and stood on a spot where four roads met. When she saw a Brahmin of ascetic powers, she solicited him and requested him to raise offspring for her husband.  After performing the purifying ceremony called Punsavana, she united with that Brahmin and brought forth three sons who became mighty car-warriors and of whom Durjaya was the eldest.  I command you to follow the example of that lady and raise offspring for me.”

Kunti replied, “ O king, as your wedded wife, I will beget children only through you. Please embrace me. You may die after the intercourse because of the sage’s curse. I will also leave this world and join you after delivering the children. I can’t even imagine being in the embrace of any other person."

She then narrated the story of  King Vyushitaswa.Vyushitaswa was a king in the Puru race. He had a wife by name Badra. Vyushitaswa conquered many kingdoms and performed the Aswameta Yaga (the horse sacrifice). However Vyushitasa was often intoxicated  by drinking the Soma juice (the liquor of the celestials). He also enjoyed the company of many women when he was intoxicated. He soon died of a disease that resulted from sexual excesses. His wife Badra, holding on to the corpse of her husband cried, “A woman has no life after her husband leaves her. Please take me with you. Otherwise I will lie down on the Kusa grass and starve to death.”

She then heard a voice apparently emanating from the corpse. “Lie down with me on my bed on the 8th or 14th day of the moon.”   She did accordingly. Seven children were born to her through her dead husband.

After narrating this story, Kunti  told Pandu “You can also beget offspring on me as Vyushitawa did.”

Pandu replied, “What you said is true. But Vyushitasa was like a celestial. I don’t have the powers that he had.  In the olden days women were confined within their houses. They were free to move about. They did not have to live with one husband. A woman having relationship with more than one person was not considered sinful. This practice was sanctioned by the sages. This is still being followed by certain kings in the North, belonging to our race. The present system of a woman being confined to one husband for life was established later.’

Pandu narrated to her the story of sage Uddalaka.  Once, Uddalaka was sitting with his wife and son Swetaketu. At that time, a Brahmin came to their place, pulled the hand of Uddalaka’s wife and took her with him. Swetaketu was angered by this but his father told him that a woman was  free to leave her husband and live with another man. However, Swetaketu disapproved of this practice and established the present practice. As per the practice established by Sweataketu and being followed now, not adhering to her husband would be sinful for a woman.  Men violating a chaste wife would also be guilty. A woman who refuses to raise offspring as commanded by her husband would also be committing a sin.”

Pandu continued “Madyanti, the wife of Sudasa raised offspring through Sage Vasishta as commanded by her husband. We three (Dritharashtra, Vidura and I) were also raised by Sage Vyasa, for the perpetuation of the Kuru race. Since I have been deprived of the power of procreation, you should listen to my plea.”

Kunti then told Pandu of the boon given to her by Sage Durvasa. She said she would invoke the celestial chosen by Pandu.

Pandu was excited by his information. He asked Kunti  to summon the God of Justice, the most virtuous of all celestials. Kunti did accordingly.

She chanted the mantra given to her by Durvasa invoking the God of Justice, who appeared before her presently. He united with her in his spiritual form and gave her a son. The child was born at noon in the seventh month (Karthika) when the star Jyeshta was in conjunction with the moon. As soon as the child was born, a voice was heard from the skies saying, “This child will earn a reputation for being truthful and virtuous. He will go by the name Yudhishtira and he will become the ruler of the earth.

At the time Yudhishtira was born to Kunti, Gandhari had been conceiving for one year.

There were also some developments in Hastinapura.

Bhishma came to know that King Devaka had a beautiful daughter born to a Sudra wife.  Bhishma brought her to Hastinapura  after getting her father’s consent and got her married to Vidura.

One day Vyasa visited the palace of the Kurus and he was taken care of by Gandhari. Pleased by Gandhari’s  hospitality, he granted her a boon she asked for that hundred sons each with the strength of Dritharashtra be born to her.  Soon Gandhari  became pregnant  but no child was delivered even after two years. She was grieved by this.

She heard that Kunti  had given birth to a son whose splendor was like that of the morning sun. Feeling frustrated over the long period of gestation, she struck her womb violently. Immediately, a hard mass of flesh like an iron ball was delivered by her. Learning about this through his spiritual powers, Vyasa appeared on the scene and inquired of her what she had done. She said, “Hearing of Kuntu having delivered a beautiful son, I struck my womb out of frustration. But you gave me a boon that I would get hundred sons. But there is only a ball of flesh here!”

Vyasa said, “My words won’t go futile.”

He then ordered that hundred pots full of clarified butter  be brought and kept in a concealed spot. He also had cold water sprinkled on the ball of flesh.  The ball of flesh, sometime after water was sprinkled on it got divided into hundred and one parts, each about the size of the thumb. These parts put into the pots containing clarified butter already kept in a concealed place.
As the parts were being put into the pots, Gandhari wished that she had a daughter too. Vyasa who was supervising the task sensed her feelings. It so happened that after 100 parts were put into the pots, one more ball of flesh remained, Vyasa said that this additional part would be born as a daughter. It was put in another pot.

Duryodhana was born from among those pieces of the ball of flesh that had been deposited in those pots.  Bhima was also born the same day. (Bhima’s birth will be described later)

"As soon as Duryodhana was born, he began to cry and bray like an ass. The asses, vultures, jackals and crows responded with their cries. There were violent storms at many places. Concerned by these symptoms, Dhritarashtra sought the counsel of  Bhishma and Vidura and others.

He asked them, “Yudhishtira, who was the first to be born would perpetuate the lineage of the Kurus. But will my son become the king?”

On hearing Dritharashtra’s words, jackals and other wild animals began to howl.

The Brahmins and Vidura said that the bad omens indicated that Duryodhana would be the exterminator of the race. They suggested that the king abandon the child since he would still have 99 sons.They reminded him of the principle that an individual could be sacrificed  for the sake of his family, a family for the sake of a country and the earth itself for the sake of the soul.

But, Dritharshtra, out of his affection for his son, rejected this advice.

Within a month, the other 99 children were born. A daughter was also born from the 101st part, as ordained by Vyasa. The daughter was named Dushala. A son was born to a Vaisya woman who was attending on Dritharashtra. He was named Yuyutsu. He grew to be a man of intelligence and virtues.

The names of the hundred and two children of Dritharashtra, in the order of their birth, are as below:

Duryodhana, Yuyutsu, Duhsasana, Duhsaha, Duhsala, Jalasandha, Sama, Saha, Vinda and Anuvinda, Durdharsha, Suvahu, Dushpradharshana, Durmarshana and Durmukha, Dushkarna,  Karna; Vivinsati and Vikarna, Sala, Satwa, Sulochana, Chitra and Upachitra, Chitraksha, Charuchitra, Sarasana, Durmada and Durvigaha, Vivitsu, Vikatanana; Urnanabha and Sunabha, then Nandaka and Upanandaka; Chitravana, Chitravarman, Suvarman, Durvimochana; Ayovahu, Mahavahu, Chitranga, Chitrakundala, Bhimavega, Bhimavala, Balaki, Balavardhana, Ugrayudha; Bhima, Karna, Kanakaya, Dridhayudha, Dridhavarman, Dridhakshatra, Somakitri, Anudara; Dridhasandha, Jarasandha, Satyasandha, Sada, Suvak, Ugrasravas, Ugrasena, Senani, Dushparajaya, Aparajita, Kundasayin, Visalaksha, Duradhara; Dridhahasta, Suhasta, Vatavega, and Suvarchas; Adityaketu, Vahvashin, Nagadatta, Agrayayin; Kavachin, Krathana, Kunda, Kundadhara, Dhanurdhara; the heroes, Ugra and Bhimaratha, Viravahu, Alolupa; Abhaya, and Raudrakarman, and Dridharatha; Anadhrishya, Kundabhedin, Viravi, Dhirghalochana Pramatha, and Pramathi and the powerful Dhirgharoma; Dirghavahu, Mahavahu, Vyudhoru, Kanakadhvaja; Kundasi