The Mahabharata Home
Janamejaya said, "Why is the current of (the tirtha known by the name of) Vasishthapavaha so rapid? For what reason did the foremost of rivers bear away Vasishtha? What, O lord, was the cause of the dispute between Vasishtha and Vishvamitra? Questioned by me, O thou of great wisdom, tell me all this! I am never satiated with hearing thee!"
Vaishampayana said, "A great enmity arose between Vishvamitra and Vasishtha, O Bharata, due to their rivalry in respect of ascetic austerities. The high abode of Vasishtha was in the tirtha called Sthanu on the eastern bank of the Sarasvati. On the opposite bank was the asylum of the intelligent Vishvamitra. There, in that tirtha, O monarch, Sthanu (Mahadeva) had practised the austerest penances. Sages still speak of those fierce feats. Having performed a sacrifice there and worshipped the river Sarasvati, Sthanu established that tirtha there. Hence it is known by the name Sthanu-tirtha, O lord. In that tirtha, the celestials had, in days of yore, O king, installed Skanda, that slayer of the enemies of the gods, in the supreme command of their army. Unto that tirtha of the Sarasvati, the great Rishi Vishvamitra, by the aid of his austere penances, brought Vasishtha. Listen to that history. The two ascetics Vishvamitra and Vasishtha, O Bharata, every day challenged each other very earnestly in respect of the superiority of their penances. The great Muni Vishvamitra, burning (with jealousy) at sight of the energy of Vasishtha, began to reflect on the matter. Though devoted to the performance of his duties, this, however, is the resolution, O Bharata, that he formed: 'This Sarasvati shall quickly bring, by force of her current, that foremost of ascetics, Vasishtha, to my presence. After he shall have been brought hither, I shall, without doubt, slay that foremost of regenerate ones.' Having settled this, the illustrious and great Rishi Vishvamitra with eyes red in wrath, thought of that foremost of rivers. Thus remembered by the ascetic, she became exceedingly agitated. The fair lady, however, repaired to that Rishi of great energy and great wrath. Pale and trembling, Sarasvati, with joined hands appeared before that foremost of sages. Indeed, the lady was much afflicted with grief, even like a woman who has lost her mighty lord. And she said unto that best of sages, 'Tell me what is there that I shall do for thee.' Filled with rage, the ascetic said unto her, 'Bring hither Vasishtha without delay, so that I may slay him.' Hearing these words the river became agitated. With joined hands the lotus-eyed lady began to tremble exceedingly in fear like a creeper shaken by the wind. Beholding the great river in that plight, the ascetic said unto her, 'Without any scruple, bring Vasishtha unto my presence!' Hearing these words of his, and knowing the evil he intended to do, and acquainted also with the prowess of Vasishtha that was unrivalled on earth, she repaired to Vasishtha and informed him of what the intelligent Vishvamitra had said unto her. Fearing the curse of both, she trembled repeatedly. Indeed, her heart was on the grievous curse (that either of them might pronounce on her). She stood in terror of both. Seeing her pale and plunged in anxiety, the righteous-souled Vasishtha, that foremost of men, O king, said these words unto her.
"Vasishtha said, 'O foremost of rivers, save thyself! O thou of rapid current, bear me away, otherwise Vishvamitra will curse thee. Do not feel any scruple.' Hearing these words of that compassionate Rishi, the river began to think, O Kauravya, as to what course would be best for her to follow. Even these were the thoughts that arose in her mind: 'Vasishtha showeth great compassion for me. It is proper for me that I should serve him.' Beholding then that best of Rishis, (Vasishtha) engaged in silent recitation (of mantras) on her bank, and seeing Kusika's son (Vishvamitra) also engaged in homa, Sarasvati thought, 'Even this is my opportunity.' Then that foremost of rivers, by her current, washed away one of her banks. In washing away that bank, she bore Vasishtha away. While being borne away, O king, Vasishtha praised the river in these words: 'From the Grandsire's (manasa) lake thou hast taken thy rise, O Sarasvati! This whole universe is filled with thy excellent waters! Wending through the firmament, O goddess, thou impartest thy waters to the clouds! All the waters are thee! Through thee we exercise our thinking faculties! Thou art Pushti and Dyuti, Kirti, and Siddhi and Uma! Thou art Speech, and thou art Svaha! This whole universe is dependent on thee! It is thou that dwellest in all creatures, in four forms!' Thus praised by that great Rishi, Sarasvati, O king, speedily bore that Brahmana towards the asylum of Vishvamitra and repeatedly represented unto the latter the arrival of the former. Beholding Vasishtha thus brought before him by Sarasvati, Vishvamitra, filled with rage, began to look for a weapon wherewith to slay that brahmana. Seeing him filled with wrath, the river from fear of (witnessing and aiding in) a brahmana's slaughter, quickly bore Vasishtha away to her eastern bank once more. She thus obeyed the words of both, although she deceived the son of Gadhi by her act. Seeing that best of Rishis, Vasishtha, borne away, the vindictive Vishvamitra, filled with wrath, addressed Sarasvati. saying, 'Since, O foremost of rivers, thou hast gone away, having deceived me, let thy current be changed into blood that is acceptable to Rakshasas.' Then, cursed by the intelligent Vishvamitra, Sarasvati flowed for a whole year, bearing blood mixed with water. The gods, the Gandharvas, and the Apsaras, beholding the Sarasvati reduced to that plight, became filled with great sorrow. For this reason, O king, the tirtha came to be called Vasishthapravaha on earth. The foremost of rivers, however, once more got back her own proper condition."
Next: Section 43