The Mahabharata Home
(Khandava-daha Parva continued)
"Vaisampayana said, 'O thou of Kuru's race, the Rishi Mandapala became very anxious about his children, although he had spoken of them to the god of fierce rays. Indeed, his mind was not in peace. Distressed on account of his sons, he addressed Lapita (his second wife with whom he then was), saying, 'O Lapita, as my children are incapable of the power of moving, how are they? When the fire will grow in strength and the wind begin to blow violently, my children will scarcely be able to save themselves. How will their mother be able to rescue them? That innocent woman will be afflicted with great sorrow when she will find herself unable to save her offspring. Oh, how will she compose herself, uttering various lamentations on account of my children who are all incapable of taking wing or rising up into the air. Oh, how is Jaritari, my son, and how is Sarisrikka, and how is Stamvamitra, and how is Drona, and how also is their helpless mother?'
"Unto the Rishi Mandapala thus weeping in the forest, Lapita, O Bharata, thus replied, under the influence of jealousy, 'Thou need not worry for thy children who, as thou hast assured me, are all Rishis endued with energy and prowess! They can have no fear from fire. Didst thou not speak to Agni in my presence, in their behalf? Has not the illustrious deity promised to save them? One of the regents of the universe as Agni is, he will never falsify his speech. Thou hast no anxiety, nor is thy heart inclined towards benefiting friends. It is only by thinking of her--my rival (Jarita) that thou art so distracted! Certain it is that the love thou bearest to me is not equal to what thou hadst for her at first. He that hath two parties dividing his attention, can easily behold one of those suffer all sorts of pangs; but he should not disregard the party that is next to his heart. Then go thou to Jarita, for whom thy heart is sorrowing! As for myself, I shall henceforth wander alone, as a fit reward for my having attached myself to a wicked person.'
"Hearing these words, Mandapala replied, 'I do not wander over the earth with such intentions as thou conceivest. It is only for the sake of progeny that I am here. And even those that I have are in danger. He who casteth off what he hath for the sake of what he may acquire, is a wicked person. The world disregardeth and insulteth him. (Therefore, go I must). As for thyself thou art free to do what thou choosest. This blazing fire that licketh up the trees causeth sorrow in my anxious heart and raiseth therein evil presentiments.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Meanwhile, after the fire had left the spot where the Sarngakas dwelt, Jarita, much attached to her children, hastily came thither to see how they were. She found that all of them had escaped from the fire and were perfectly well. Beholding their mother, they began to weep, though safe and sound. She too shed tears upon beholding them alive. And she embraced, one by one, all her weeping children. Just at that time, O Bharata, the Rishi Mandapala arrived there. But none of his sons expressed joy, upon beholding him. The Rishi, however, began to speak to them one after another and unto Jarita also, repeatedly. But neither his sons nor Jarita spoke anything well or ill unto him in return.'
"Mandapala then said, 'Who amongst these is thy first born, and who the next after him? And who is the third, and who the youngest? I am speaking unto thee woefully; why dost thou not reply to me? I left thee, it is true, but I was not happy where I was.'
"Jarita then said, 'What hast thou to do with the eldest of these, and what with him that is next? And what with the third and what with the youngest? Go now unto that Lapita of sweet smiles and endued with youth, unto whom thou didst go of old, beholding me deficient in everything!' Mandapala replied, 'As regards females, there is nothing so destructive of their happiness whether in this or the other world as a co-wife and a clandestine lover. There is nothing like these two that, inflames the fire of hostility and causes such anxiety. Even the auspicious and well-behaved Arundhati, celebrated amongst all creatures, had been jealous of the illustrious Vasishtha of great purity of mind and always devoted to the good of his wife. Arundhati insulted even the wise Muni amongst the (celestial) seven. In consequence of such insulting thoughts of hers, she has become a little star, like fire mixed with smoke, sometimes visible and sometimes invisible, like an omen portending no good (amongst a constellation of seven bright stars representing the seven Rishis). I look to thee for the sake of children. I never wronged thee, like Vasishtha who never wronged his wife. Thou hast, therefore, by thy jealousy behaved towards me like Arundhati of old towards Vasishtha. Men should never trust women even if they be wives. Women, when they have become mothers, do not much mind serving their husbands.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'After this, all his children came forward to worship him. And he also began to speak kindly towards them all, giving them every assurance.'"
Next: Section CCXXXVI