The Mahabharata Home
Vaisampayana said,--"Having said these words unto Dhritarashtra, Vyasa took his departure. And Dhritarashtra also, having heard those words, began to reflect in silence. And having reflected for only a short space of time, he began to sigh repeatedly. And, soon, O bull of Bharata's race, the king asked Sanjaya of soul worthy of praise,--saying,--'O Sanjaya, these kings, these lords of earth, so brave and taking delight in battle, are for smiting one another with weapons of diverse kinds, being prepared to lay down their very lives for the sake of earth. Incapable of being restrained, they are, indeed, smiting one another for increasing the population of Yama's domain. Desirous of prosperity connected with the possession
of earth they are incapable of bearing one another. I, therefore, think that earth must be possessed of many attributes. Tell me all these, O Sanjaya, Many thousands, many millions, many tens of millions, many hundreds of millions, heroic men have come together at Kurujangala. I desire to hear, O Sanjaya, with accurate details, about the situation and dimensions of those countries and cities from which they have come. Through the potency of that regenerate Rishi Vyasa of immeasurable energy, thou art endued with the lamp of celestial perception and the eye of knowledge.
"Sanjaya said,--'O thou of great wisdom, I will recount to thee the merits of earth according to my knowledge. Behold them with thy eye of wisdom. I bow to thee, O bull of Bharata's race. Creatures in this world are of two kinds, mobile and immobile. Mobile creatures are of three kinds according to their birth, viz., oviparous, viviparous, and those engendered by heat and damp. Of mobile creatures, O king, the foremost are certainly those called viviparous. Of viviparous creatures the foremost are men and animals. Animals, O king, of diverse forms, are of fourteen species. Seven have their abodes in the woods, and seven of these are domestic. Lions, tigers, boars, buffaloes, and elephants as also bears and apes, are, O king, regarded as wild. Kine, goats, sheep, men, horses, mules, and asses,--these seven amongst animals are reckoned as domestic by the learned. These fourteen, O king, complete the tale of domestic and wild animals, mentioned, O lord of earth, in the Vedas, and on which the sacrifices rest. Of creatures that are domestic, men are foremost, while lions are the foremost of those that have their abode in the woods. All creatures support their life by living upon one another. Vegetables are said to be immobile, and they are of four species viz., trees, shrubs, creepers, creeping plants existing for only a year, and all stemless plants of the grass species. 1 Of mobile and immobile creatures, there are thus one less twenty; and as regards their universal constituents, there are five. Twenty-four in all, these are described as Gayatri (Brahma) as is well-known to all. 2 He who knows these truly to be the sacred Gayatri possessed of every virtue, is not liable, O best of the Bharatas, to destruction in this world. Everything springeth from the earth and everything, when destroyed, mergeth into the Earth. The Earth is the stay and refuge of all creatures, and the Earth is eternal. He that hath the Earth, hath the entire universe with its mobile and immobile population. It is for this that longing for (the possession of the) Earth, kings slay one another.'"
11:1 Nilakantha explains these five species thus: trees such as the peepul; gulma (shrub), as kusa, kasa, &c., growing from a clump underneath; creepers, such as all plants growing upon the soil but requiring some support to twine round; Valli, those that creep on the earth and live for a year only, such, as the gourd, the pumpkin, etc., and lastly, Trina, such as grass and all plants that are stemless, having only their barks and leaves.
11:2 When Gayatri, or Brahma or the Universe, is mentioned, these twenty-four are indicated, five of which exist independently, the remaining nineteen being the result of five in those various proportions.
Next: Section V