The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grandsire, by adopting what sort of intelligence may a monarch, who has been divested of prosperity and crushed by Time's heavy bludgeon, still live on this earth.'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited the old narrative of the discourse between Vasava and Virochana's son, Vali. One day Vasava, after having subjugated all the Asuras, repaired to the Grandsire and joining his hands bowed to him and enquired after the whereabouts of Vali. Tell me, O Brahman, where I may now find that Vali whose wealth continued undiminished even though he used to give it away as lavishly as he wished. He was the god of wind. He was Varuna. He was Surya. He was Soma. He was Agni that used to warm all creatures. He became water (for the use of all). I do not find where he now is. Indeed, O Brahman, tell me where I may find Vali now. Formerly, it was he who used to illumine all the points of the compass (as Surya) and to set (when evening came). Casting off idleness, it was he who used to pour rain upon all creatures at the proper season. I do not now see that Vali. Indeed, tell me, O Brahmana, where I may find that chief of the Asuras now.'
"Brahman said, 'It is not becoming in thee, O Maghavat, to thus enquire after Vali now. One should not, however, speak an untruth when one is questioned by another. For this reason, I shall tell thee the whereabouts of Vali. O lord of Sachi, Vali may now have taken his birth among camels or bulls or asses or horses, and having become the foremost of his species may now be staying in an empty apartment.'
"Sakra said, 'If, O Brahman, I happen to meet with Vali in an empty apartment, shall I slay him or spare him? Tell me how I shall act.'
"Brahman said, 'Do not, O Sakra, injure Vali, Vali does not deserve death. Thou shouldst, on the other hand, O Vasava, solicit instruction from him about morality, O Sakra, as thou pleasest.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Thus addressed by the divine Creator, Indra roamed over the earth, seated on the back of Airavata and attended by circumstances of great splendour. He succeeded in meeting with Vali, who, as the Creator had said, was living in an empty apartment clothed in the form of an ass.'
"Sakra said, 'Thou art now, O Danava, born as an ass subsisting on chaff as thy food. This thy order of birth is certainly a low one. Dost thou or dost thou not grieve for it? I see what I had never seen before, viz., thyself brought under the sway of thy enemies, divested of prosperity and friends, and shorn of energy and prowess. Formerly, thou used to make progress through the worlds with thy train consisting of thousands of vehicles and thousands of kinsmen, and to move along, scorching everybody with thy splendour and counting us as nought. The Daityas, looking up to thee as their protector, lived under thy sway. Through thy power, the earth used to yield crops without waiting for tillage. Today, however, I behold thee overtaken by this dire calamity. Dost thou or dost thou not indulge in grief for this? When formerly
thou usedst, with pride reflected in thy face, to divide on the eastern shores of the ocean thy vast wealth among thy kinsmen, what was the state of thy mind then? Formerly, for many years, when blazing with splendour, thou usedst to sport, thousands of celestial damsels used to dance before thee. All of them were adorned with garlands of lotuses and all had companions bright as gold. What, O lord of Danavas, was the state of thy mind then and what is it now? Thou hadst a very large umbrella made of gold and adorned with jewels and gems. Full two and forty thousand Gandharvas used in those days to dance before thee. 1 In thy sacrifices thou hadst a stake that was very large and made entirely of gold. On such occasions thou wert to give away millions upon millions of kine. What, O Daitya, was the state of thy mind then? Formerly, engaged in sacrifice, thou hadst gone round the whole earth, following the rule of the hurling of the Samya: What was the state of thy mind then? 2 I do not now behold that golden jar of thine, nor that umbrella of thine, nor those fans. I behold not also, O king of the Asuras, that garland of thine which was given to thee by the Grandsire.'
"Vali said, 'Thou seest not now, O Vasava, my jar and umbrella and fans. Thou seest not also my garland, that gift of the Grandsire. Those precious possessions of mine about which thou askest are now buried in the darkness of a cave. When my time comes again, thou wilt surely behold them again. This conduct of thine, however, does not become thy fame or birth. Thyself in prosperity, thou desirest to mock me that am sunk in adversity. They that have acquired wisdom, and have won contentment therefrom, they that are of tranquil souls, that are virtuous and good among creatures, never grieve in misery nor rejoice in happiness. Led, however, by a vulgar intelligence, thou indulgest in brag, O Purandara! When thou shalt become like me thou shalt not then indulge in speeches like these.'"
129:1 The Burdwan translator renders the second line as "six thousand Gandharvas used to dance before thee seven kinds of dance."
129:2 Both the vernacular translators have misunderstood this verse. A samya is explained as a little wooden cane measuring about six and thirty fingers breadth in altitude. What Vali did was to go round the Earth (anuparyagah, i.e., parihrityagatavan) throwing or hurling a samya. When thrown from a particular point by a strong man, the samya clears a certain distance. This space is called a Devayajana. Vali went round the globe, performing sacrifices upon each such Devayajana.
Next: Section CCXXIV