The Mahabharata Home
"Utathya said, 'If the deity of the clouds pours rain seasonably and the king acts virtuously, the prosperity that ensues maintain the subjects in felicity. That washerman who does not know how to wash away the filth of cloth without taking away its dye, is very unskilful in his profession. That person among Brahmanas or Kshatriyas or Vaisyas who, having fallen away from the proper duties of his order, has become a Sudra, is truly to be compared to such a washerman. Menial service attaches to the Sudra; agriculture to the Vaisya; the science of chastisement to the Kshatriya, and Brahmacharya, penances, mantras, and truth, attach, to the Brahmana. That Kshatriya who knows how to correct the faults of behaviour of the other orders and to wash them clean like a washerman is really their father and deserve to be their king. The respective ages called Krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali, O bull of Bharata's race, are all dependent on the conduct of the king. It is the king who constitutes
the age. 1 The four orders, the Vedas and the duties in respect of the four modes of life, all become confused and weakened when the king becomes heedless. The three kinds of Fire, the three Vedas, and sacrifices with Dakshina, all become lost when the king becomes heedless. The king is the creator of all creatures, and the king is their destroyer. That king who is of righteous soul is regarded as the creator, while he that is sinful is regarded as the destroyer. The king's wives, sons, kinsmen, and friends, all become unhappy and grieve when the king becomes heedless. Elephants and steeds and kine and camels and mules and asses and other animals all lose their vigour when the king becomes unrighteous. It is said, O Mandhatri, that the Creator created Power (represented by the king) for the object of protecting Weakness. Weakness is, indeed, a great being, for everything depends upon it. 2 All creatures worship the king. All creatures are the children of the king. If, therefore, O monarch, the king becomes unrighteous, all creatures come to grief. The eyes of the weak, of the Muni, and of the snake of virulent poison, should be regarded as unbearable. Do not, therefore, come into (hostile) contact with the weak. Thou shouldst regard the weak as always subject to humiliation. Take care that the eyes of the weak do not burn thee with thy kinsmen. In a race scorched by the eyes of the weak, no children take birth. Such eyes burn the race to its very roots. Do not, therefore, come into (hostile) contact with the weak. Weakness is more powerful than even the greatest Power, for that Power which is scorched by Weakness becomes totally exterminated. If a person, who has been humiliated or struck, fails, while shrieking for assistance, to obtain a protector, divine chastisement overtakes the king and brings about his destruction. Do not, O sire, while in enjoyment of Power, take wealth from those that are Weak. Take care that that the eyes of the Weak do not burn thee like a blazing fire. The tears shed by weeping men afflicted with falsehood slay the children and animals of those that have uttered those falsehoods. Like a cow a sinful act perpetrated does not produce immediate fruits. 3 If the fruit is not seen in the perpetrator himself, it is seen in his son or in his son's son, or daughter's son. When a weak person fails to find a rescuer, the great rod of divine chastisement falls (upon the king). When all subjects of a king (are obliged by distress to) live like Brahmanas, by mendicancy, such mendicancy brings destruction upon the king. When all the officers of the king posted in the provinces unite together and act with injustice, the king is then said to bring about a state of unmixed evil upon his kingdom. When the officers of the king extort wealth, by unjust means or acting from lust or avarice, from persons piteously soliciting mercy, a great
destruction then is sure to overtake the king. A mighty tree, first starting into life, grows into large proportions. Numerous creatures then come and seek its shelter. When, however, it is cut down or consumed in a conflagration, those that, had recourse to it for shelter all become homeless. 1 When the residents of a kingdom perform acts of righteousness and all religious rites, and applaud the good qualities of the king, the latter reaps an accession of affluence. When, on the other hand, the residents, moved by ignorance, abandon righteousness and act unrighteously, the king becomes overtaken by misery. When sinful men whose acts are known are allowed to move among the righteous (without being punished for their misdeeds), Kali then overtakes the rulers of those realms. 2 When the king causes chastisement to overtake all wicked people, his kingdom thrives in prosperity. The kingdom of that king certainly thrives who pays proper honours to his ministers and employs them in measures of policy and in battles. Such a ruler enjoys the wide earth for ever. That king who duly honours all good acts and good speeches succeeds in earning great merit. The enjoyment of good things after sharing them with others, paying proper honours to the ministers, and subjugation or persons intoxicated with strength, are said to constitute the great duty of a king. Protecting all men by words, body, and deeds, and never forgiving his son himself (if he has offended), constitute the great duty of the king. The maintenance of those that are weak by sharing with them the things he has, and thereby increasing their strength constitute the duty of the king. Protection of the kingdom, extermination of robbers, and conquering in battle, constitute the duty of the king. Never to forgive a person however dear, if he has committed an offence by act or word, constitutes the duty of the king. Protecting those that solicit shelter, as he would protect his own children, and never depriving one of the honours to which he is entitled constitute the duty of the king. 3 Adoring the deities, with a devoted heart, in sacrifices completed by presents, and subduing lust and envy, constitute the duty of the king. Wiping the tears of the distressed, the helpless, and the old, and inspiring them with joy, constitute the duty of the king. Aggrandising friends, weakening foes, and honouring the good, constitute the duty of the king. Cheerfully observing the obligations of truth, always making gifts of land, entertaining guests, and supporting dependents, constitute the duty of the king. That king who favours those that deserve favours and chastises those that deserve chastisement earns great merit both here and hereafter. The king is Yama himself. He is, O Mandhatri, the god (incarnate) unto all that are righteous. By subduing his senses he succeeds in acquiring great affluence. By not subduing them he incurs sin. 4
[paragraph continues] Paying proper honours unto Ritwijas and priests and preceptors, and doing good offices unto them constitute the duty of the king. Yama governs all creatures without observing distinctions. The king should imitate him in his behaviour by restraining all his subjects duly. The king is said to resemble the Thousand-eyed (Indra) in every respect. That, O bull among men, should be regarded as righteousness which is regarded as such by him. Thou shouldst, without being heedless, cultivate forgiveness, intelligence, patience, and the, love of all creatures. Thou shouldst also ascertain the strength and weakness of all men and learn to distinguish between right and wrong. Thou shouldst conduct thyself with propriety towards all creatures, make gifts, and utter agreeable and sweet words. Thou shouldst maintain the residents of thy city and the provinces in happiness. A king who is not clever, never succeeds in protecting his subjects. Sovereignty, O sire, is a very happy burthen to bear. Only that king who is possessed of wisdom and courage, and who is conversant with the science of chastisement, can protect a kingdom. He, on the other hand, who is without energy and intelligence, and who is not versed in the great science, is incompetent to bear the burthen of sovereignty. Aided by ministers of handsome features and good birth, clever in business, devoted to their master, and possessed of great learning, thou shouldst examine the hearts and acts of all men including the very ascetics in the forests. Conducting thyself thus, thou wilt be able to learn the duties of all orders of men. That will aid thee in observing thy own duties, whether when thou art in thy country or when thou repairest to other realms. Amongst these three objects, viz., Virtue, Profit, and Pleasure, Virtue is the foremost. He that is of virtuous soul obtains great happiness both here and hereafter. If men be treated with honour, they can abandon (for the sake of the honour thou mayst give them) their very wives and sons. By attaching good men to himself (by doing good offices unto them), by gifts, sweet words, heedfulness and purity of behaviour, a king may win great prosperity. Do not, therefore, O Mandhatri, be heedless to these qualities and acts. The king should never be heedless in looking after his own laches, as also after those of his foes. He should act in such a way that his foes may not be able to detect his laches, and he should himself assail them when theirs are visible. This is the way in which Vasava, and Yama, and Varuna, and all the great royal sages have acted. Do thou observe the same conduct. Do thou, O great king, adopt this behaviour which was followed by those royal sages. Do thou soon, O bull of Bharata's race, adept this heavenly road. The gods, the Rishis, the Pitris, and the Gandharvas, possessed of great energy, sing the praises, both here and hereafter, of that king whose conduct is righteous.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Thus addressed by Utathya, O Bharata, Mandhatri, unhesitatingly did as he was directed, and became the sole lord of the wide earth. Do thou also, O king, act righteously like Mandhatri. Thou wilt then, after ruling the earth, obtain an abode in heaven.'"
199:1 The address Bharatarshabha is misplaced, seeing that it is Utathya who is speaking and Mandhatri who is listening. The sense of the verse is that it is the king who causes the age, for if he acts righteously, the age that sets in is Krita; if, on the other hand, he acts sinfully, he causes the Kali age to set in; etc. etc.
199:2 He who protects Weakness wins heaven, while he who persecutes it goes to bell. Weakness, thus, is a great thing. Its power, so to say, is such that it can lead to heaven and hell everyone with whom it may come into contact.
199:3 The keeper of a cow has to wait, till it calves, for milk.
200:1 The sense is, I suppose, that if the king be overtaken by destruction, his officers also do not escape.
200:2 Rajnah, Nilakantha thinks, is an accusative plural.
200:3 Some texts read Saranikan, meaning traders that make journeys and voyages.
200:4 The king is God (incarnate) unto all righteous men, because they may expect everything from him. As regards the second line, the meaning depends upon bharati, which as the commentator explains means, "obtains affluence or prosperity." For Patukah some texts read Pavakah. The meaning then would be "becomes as a fire," i.e., destroys his own roots, or, probably, becomes destructive to others."
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