The Mahabharata Home
Janamejaya said, "Why was that tirtha called Sapta-Saraswat? Who was the ascetic Mankanaka? How did that adorable one become crowned with success? What were his vows and observances? In whose race was he born? What books did that best of regenerate ones study? I desire to hear all this, O foremost of regenerate ones!"
Vaishampayana said, "O king, the seven Sarasvatis cover this universe! Whithersoever the Sarasvati was summoned by persons of great energy, thither she made her appearance. These are the seven forms of the Sarasvati: Suprava, Kanchanakshi, Visala, Manorama, Oghavati, Surenu, and Vimalodaka. The Supreme Grandsire had at one time performed a great sacrifice. While that sacrifice was in course of performance on the ground selected, many regenerate ones crowned with ascetic success came there. The spot resounded with the recitation of sacred hymns and the chanting of the Vedas. In the matter of those sacrificial rites, the very gods lost their coolness (so grand were the preparations). There, O monarch, while the Grandsire was installed in the sacrifice and was performing the grand ceremony capable of bestowing prosperity and every wish, many notable ones conversant with righteousness and profit were present. As soon as they thought of the articles of which they stood in need, these, O monarch, immediately appeared before the regenerate ones (among the guests) that came there. The Gandharvas sang and the diverse tribes of Apsaras danced. And they played upon many celestial instruments all the time. The wealth of provisions procured in that sacrifice satisfied the very gods. What shall I say then of human beings? The very celestials became filled with wonder! During the continuance of that sacrifice at Pushkara and in the presence of the Grandsire, the Rishis, O king, said, 'This sacrifice cannot be said to possess high attributes, since that foremost of rivers, Sarasvati, is not to be seen here!' Hearing these words, the divine Brahman cheerfully thought of Sarasvati. Summoned at Pushkara by the Grandsire engaged in the performance of a sacrifice, Sarasvati, O king, appeared there, under the name of Suprava. Beholding Sarasvati quickly pay that regard to the Grandsire, the Munis esteemed that sacrifice highly. Even thus that foremost of rivers, the Sarasvati, made her appearance at Pushkara for the sake of the Grandsire and for gratifying the Munis. (At another time), O king, many Munis, mustering together at Naimisha, took up their residence there. Delightful disquisition occurred among them, O king, about the Vedas. There where those Munis, conversant with diverse scriptures, took up their abode, there they thought of the Sarasvati. Thus thought of, O monarch, by those Rishis performing a sacrifice, the highly blessed and sacred Sarasvati, for rendering assistance, O king, to those high-souled Munis assembled together, made her appearance at Naimisha and came to be called Kanchanakshi. That foremost of rivers, worshipped by all, thus came there, O Bharata! While (king) Gaya was engaged in the performance of a great sacrifice at Gaya, the foremost of rivers, Sarasvati, summoned at Gaya's sacrifice (made her appearance there). The Rishis of rigid vows that were there, named this form of hers at Gaya as Visala. That river of swift current flows from the sides of the Himavat. Auddalaka had also, O Bharata, performed a sacrifice. A large concourse of Munis had been gathered there. It was on that sacred region, the northern part of Kosala, O king, that the sacrifice of high-souled Auddalaka was performed. Before Auddalaka began his sacrifice, he had thought of the Sarasvati. That foremost of rivers came to that region for the sake of those Rishis. Worshipped by all those Munis clad in barks and deer-skins she became known by the name of Manorama, as those Rishis mentally called her. While, again, the high-souled Kuru was engaged in a sacrifice at Kurukshetra, that foremost of rivers, the highly blessed Sarasvati, made her appearance there. Summoned, O monarch, by the high-souled Vasishtha (who assisted Kuru in his sacrifice), the Sarasvati, full of celestial water appeared at Kurukshetra under the name of Oghavati. Daksha at one time performed a sacrifice at the source of Ganga. The Sarasvati appeared there under the name of the fast-flowing Surenu. Once again, while Brahman was engaged in a sacrifice on the sacred forest of the Himavat mountains, the adorable Sarasvati, summoned (by him), appeared there. All these seven forms then came and joined together in that tirtha where Baladeva came. And because the seven mingled together at that spot, therefore is that tirtha known on Earth by the name of Sapta Sarasvati. Thus have I told thee of the seven Sarasvatis, according to their names. I have also told thee of the sacred tirtha called Sapta Saraswat. Listen now to a great feat of Mankanaka, who had from his youth led the life of a brahmacari. While employed in performing his ablutions in the river, he beheld (one day), O Bharata, a woman of faultless limbs and fair brows, bathing in the river at will, her person uncovered. At this sight, O monarch, the vital seed of the Rishi fell unto the Sarasvati. The great ascetic took it up and placed it within his earthen pot. Kept within that vessel, the fluid became divided into seven parts. From those seven portions were born seven Rishis from whom sprang the (nine and forty) Maruts. The seven Rishis were named Vayuvega, Vayuhan, Vayumandala, Vayujata, Vayuretas, and Vayuchakra of great energy. Thus were born these progenitors of the diverse Maruts. Hear now a more wonderful thing, O king, a fact exceedingly marvellous on Earth, about the conduct of the great Rishi, which is well known in the three worlds. In days of yore, after Mankanaka had become crowned with success, O king, his hand, on one occasion, became pierced with a Kusa blade. Thereupon, a vegetable juice came out of the wound (and not red blood). Seeing that vegetable juice, the Rishi became filled with joy and danced about on the spot. Seeing him dance, all mobile and immobile creatures, O hero, stupefied by his energy, began to dance. Then the gods with Brahman at their head, and the Rishis possessed of wealth of asceticism, O king, all went to Mahadeva and informed him of the act of the Rishi (Mankanaka). And they said unto him, 'It behoveth thee, O god, to do that which may prevent the Rishi from dancing!' Then Mahadeva, seeing the Rishi filled with great joy, and moved by the desire of doing good unto the gods, addressed him, saying, 'Why, O Brahmana, dost thou dance in this way, acquainted as thou art with thy duties? What grave cause is there for such joy of thine, O sage, that, an ascetic as thou art, O best of Brahmanas, and walking as thou dost along the path of virtue, thou shouldst act in this way?'
"The Rishi said, 'Why, seest thou not, O Brahmana, that a vegetable juice is flowing from this wound of mine? Seeing this, O lord, I am dancing in great joy!' Laughing at the Rishi who was stupefied by passion, the god said, 'I do not, O Brahmana, at all wonder at this! Behold me!' Having said this unto that foremost of Rishis, Mahadeva of great intelligence struck his thumb with the end of one of his fingers. Thereupon, O king, ashes, white as snow, came out of that wound. Seeing this, the Rishi became ashamed, O monarch, and fell at the feet of the god. He understood the god to be none else than Mahadeva. Filled with wonder, he said, 'I do not think that thou art any one else than Rudra, that great and Supreme being! O wielder of the trident, thou art the refuge of this universe consisting of gods and Asuras! The wise say that this universe hath been created by thee! At the universal destruction, everything once more enters thee! Thou art incapable of being known by the gods, how then canst thou be known by me? All forms of being that are in the universe are seen in thee! The gods with Brahman at their head worship thy boon giving self, O sinless one! Thou art everything! Thou art the creator of the gods and it was thou who hadst caused them to be created! Through thy grace, the gods pass their time in joy and perfect fearlessness!' Having praised Mahadeva in this manner, the Rishi bowed to him, 'Let not this absence of gravity, ridiculous in the extreme, that I displayed, O god, destroy my ascetic merit! I pray to thee for this!' The god, with a cheerful heart, once more said unto him 'Let thy asceticism increase a thousandfold, O Brahmana, through my grace! I shall also always dwell with thee in this asylum! For the man that will worship me in the tirtha Sapta-Saraswat there will be nothing unattainable here or hereafter. Without doubt, such a one shall go to the region called Saraswat (in heaven) after death!' Even this is the history of Mankanaka of abundant energy. He was a son begotten by the god of wind upon (the lady) Sukanya."
Next: Section 39