The Mahabharata Home
(Astika Parva continued)
"Saunaka said, 'Tell me again, in detail,--all that king Janamejaya had asked his ministers about his father's ascension to heaven.'
'Sauti said, 'O Brahmana, hear all that the king asked his ministers, and all that they said about the death of Parikshit.'
"Janamejaya asked, 'Know ye all that befell my father. How did that famous king, in time, meet with his death? Hearing from you the incidents of my father's life in detail, I shall ordain something, if it be for the benefit of the world. Otherwise, I shall do nothing.'
'The minister replied, 'Hear, O monarch, what thou hast asked, viz., an account of thy illustrious father's life, and how also that king of kings left this world. Thy father was virtuous and high-souled, and always protected his people. O, hear, how that high-souled one conducted himself on earth. Like unto an impersonation of virtue and justice, the monarch, cognisant of virtue, virtuously protected the four orders, each engaged in the discharge of their specified duties. Of incomparable prowess, and blessed with fortune, he protected the goddess Earth. There was none who hated him and he himself hated none. Like unto Prajapati (Brahma) he was equally disposed towards all creatures. O monarch, Brahmanas and Kshatriyas and Vaisyas and Sudras, all engaged contentedly in the practice of their respective duties, were impartially protected by that king. Widows and orphans, the maimed and the poor, he maintained. Of handsome features, he was unto all creatures like a second Soma. Cherishing his subjects and keeping them contented, blessed with good fortune, truth-telling, of immense prowess, he was the disciple of Saradwat in the science of arms. And, O Janamejaya, thy father was dear unto Govinda. Of great fame, he was loved by all men. And he was born in the womb of Uttara when the Kuru race was almost extinct. And, therefore, the mighty son of Abhimanyu came to be called Parikshit (born in an extinct line). Well-versed in the interpretation of treatises on the duties of kings, he was gifted with every virtue. With passions under complete control, intelligent, possessing a retentive memory, the practiser of all virtues, the conqueror of his six passions of powerful mind, surpassing all, and fully
acquainted with the science of morality and political science, the father had ruled over these subjects for sixty years. And he then died, mourned by all his subjects. And, after him, O first of men, thou hast acquired this hereditary kingdom of the Kurus for the last thousand years. Thou wast installed while a child, and art thus protecting every creature.'
"Janamejaya said, 'There hath not been born in our race a king who hath not sought the good of his subjects or been loved by them. Behold especially the conduct of my grandsires ever engaged in great achievements. How did my father, blessed with many virtues, meet with his death? Describe everything to me as it happened. I am desirous of hearing it from you!'
"Sauti continued, 'Thus directed by the monarch, those councillors, ever solicitous of the good of the king, told him everything exactly as it had occurred.'
'And the councillors said, 'O king, that father of thine, that protector of the whole earth, that foremost of all persons obedient to the scriptures, became addicted to the sports of the field, even as Pandu of mighty arms, that foremost of all bearers of the bow in battle. He made over to us all the affairs of state from the most trivial to the most important. One day, going into the forest, he pierced a deer with an arrow. And having pierced it he followed it quickly on foot into the deep woods, armed with sword and quiver. He could not, however, come upon the lost deer. Sixty years of age and decrepit, he was soon fatigued and became hungry. He then saw in the deep woods a high-souled Rishi. The Rishi was then observing the vow of silence. The king asked him about the deer, but, though asked, he made no reply. At last the king, already tired with exertion and hunger, suddenly became angry with that Rishi sitting motionless like a piece of wood in observance of his vow of silence. Indeed, the king knew not that he was a Muni observing the vow of silence. Swayed by anger, thy father insulted him. O excellent one of the Bharata race, the king, thy father taking up from the ground with the end of his bow a dead snake placed it on the shoulders of that Muni of pure soul. But the Muni spake not a word good or bad and was without anger. He continued in the same posture, bearing the dead snake.'"
Next: Section L