The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'Coming back to Upaplavya from Hastinapura, that chastiser of foes, Kesava, represented unto the Pandavas all that had happened, and conferring with them for a long space of time, and holding repeated consultations, Sauri went to his own quarters for rest. And dismissing all the kings, with Virata and others at their heads, the five brothers--the Pandavas--when the sun had set, said their evening prayers. And with hearts ever fixed on Krishna they began to think of him. And, at last, bringing Krishna of Dasarha's race into their midst, they began to deliberate again about what they should do. And Yudhishthira said, 'O thou of eyes like lotus-petals, it behoveth thee to tell us all that thou saidst unto Dhritarashtra's son in the assembly (of the Kurus), having gone to Nagapura.' Vasudeva said, 'Having gone to Nagapura, I addressed Dhritarashtra's son in the assembly such words as were true, reasonable, and beneficial. That wicked minded fellow did not, however, accept them.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'When Duryodhana desired to tread along the wrong path, what did the aged Kuru grandsire say, O Hrishikesa, unto that vindictive prince? What also did the highly-blessed preceptor--the son of Bharadwaja, say? And what did his parents Dhritarashtra and Gandhari say? What did our junior father Kshattri, who is the foremost of all persons conversant with virtue, and who is always afflicted with sorrow on account of ourselves whom he regards as his sons, say unto Dhritarashtra's son? What also did all the kings who sat in that assembly
say? O Janardana, say it all unto us, exactly as it happened. Thou hast already told us all the disagreeable words that the Kuru chiefs (Bhishma and Dhritarashtra) and others in that assembly of the Kurus said unto the wicked Duryodhana who is overwhelmed with lust and covetousness, and who regardeth himself wise. Those words, however, O Kesava, have flitted away from my memory. O Govinda, I desire to hear, O lord, all those words again. Act thou in such a way that the opportunity may not pass away. Thou, O Krishna, art our refuge, thou art our lord, thou art our guide!'
"Vasudeva said, 'Hear, O king, the words that were addressed to king Suyodhana in the midst of the assembly of the Kurus, and, O king of kings, bear them in thy mind. After my words were ended, Dhritarashtra's son laughed aloud. Highly incensed at this, Bhishma then said, 'Hear, O Duryodhana, what I say for (the preservation of) our race, and having heard it, O tiger among kings, do what is beneficial to thy own house. O sire, O king, my father Santanu, was widely known in the world. I was, at first, his only son. A desire sprung up in his heart as to how he might obtain a second son, for the wise say that an only son is no son,--Let not my race be extinct may my fame be spread. Even this was his desire. Knowing this to have been his desire, I procured Kali to become my mother, having myself made a promise highly difficult to observe, for the sake of my father as also for the sake of our race. How, in consequence of that promise I could not be king and have drawn up my vital seed, are, of course, well-known to thee. (I do not grieve for that). Observing that vow of mine, behold, I am living in happiness and joy. In her, O king, was born my younger brother, that mighty-armed and handsome supporter of Kuru's race, viz., Vichitravirya of virtuous soul. After my father's ascension to heaven, I installed Vichitravirya as a ruler of the kingdom, that was mine, while I placed myself under him as a servant of his. O king of kings, I then brought him suitable wives, having vanquished many assembled monarchs. Thou hast heard of it often. Sometime after, I was engaged in a single combat with the (great) Rama. From fear of Rama, my brother fled, the more so as his subject deserted him. During this period, he became very much attached to his wives and accordingly had an attack of phthisis. Upon his death, there was anarchy in the kingdom and the chief of the gods poured not a drop of rain (on the realm).' The subjects then, afflicted by fear of hunger, hastened to me and said, 'Thy subjects are on the point of being exterminated. Be thou our king for the sake of our good. Dispel this drought. Blessed be thou, O perpetuator of Santanu's race. Thy subjects are being greatly afflicted by severe and frightful maladies. Very few of them are still alive. It behoveth thee, O son of Ganga, to save them. Dispel these tortures. O hero, cherish thy subjects righteously. When thou art alive, let not the kingdom go to destruction.' Hearing these words of theirs uttered in a weeping voice, my heart was undisturbed. Remembering the behaviour of good, I desired to maintain
my vow. Then, O king, the citizens, my auspicious mother Kali herself, our servants, the priests and the preceptors (of our house), and many Brahmanas of great learning, all afflicted with great woe, solicited me to occupy the throne.' And they said, 'When thou art alive, shall the kingdom, ruled by Pratipa (of old), go to ruin? O thou of magnanimous heart, be thou the king for our good.' Thus addressed by them, I joined my hands together and, myself filled with grief and greatly afflicted, I represented to them the vow I had made from filial respect. I repeatedly informed them that for the sake of our race, I had vowed to live with vital seed drawn up and foreswearing the throne. It was especially for my mother, again, that I did so. I, therefore, begged them not to put me to the yoke. I again joined my hands and conciliated my mother, saying, 'O mother, begot by Santanu and being a member of Kuru's race, I cannot falsify my promise.' I repeatedly told her this. And, O king, I said further, It is for thee especially, O mother, that I took this vow; I am verily thy servant and slave, O mother, thou that art distinguished for parental affection.' Having begged my mother and the people thus, I then solicited the great sage Vyasa for begetting children upon the wives of my brother. Indeed, O king, both myself and my mother gratified that Rishi. At last, O king, the Rishi granted our prayers in the matter of the children. And he begot three sons in all, O best of Bharata's race. Thy father was born blind, and in consequence of this congenital defect of a sense, he could not become king. The high-souled and celebrated Pandu became king. And when Pandu became king, his sons must obtain their paternal inheritance. O sire, do not quarrel, give them half the kingdom. When I am alive, what other man is competent to reign? Do not disregard my words. I only wish that there should be peace amongst you. O sire, O king, I make no distinction between thee and then (but love all of you equally). What I have said unto thee represents also the opinion of thy father, of Gandhari, and also of Vidura. The words of those that are old should always be listened to. Do not disregard these words of mine. Do not destroy all thou hast and the earth also.'"
Next: Section CXLVIII