The Mahabharata Home
Vaishampayana said, "There, in that tirtha, O Bharata, where the Lord of stars had in former days performed the rajasuya sacrifice, a great battle was fought in which Taraka was the root of the evil. Bathing in that tirtha and making many presents, the virtuous Bala of cleansed soul proceeded to the tirtha of the muni named Sarasvata. There, during a drought extending for twelve years, the sage Sarasvata, in former days, taught the Vedas unto many foremost of brahmanas."
Janamejaya said, "Why did the sage Sarasvata, O thou of ascetic merit, teach the Vedas unto the rishis during a twelve years' drought?"
Vaishampayana continued, "In days of yore, O monarch, there was an intelligent sage of great ascetic merit. He was celebrated by the name of Dadhica. Possessing a complete control over his senses, he led the life of a brahmacari. In consequence of his excessive ascetic austerities Shakra was afflicted with a great fear. The sage could not be turned (away from his penance) by the offer of even diverse kinds of rewards. At last the chastiser of Paka, for tempting the sage, despatched unto him the exceedingly beautiful and celestial apsara, by name Alambusa. Thither where on the banks of the Sarasvati the high-souled sage was engaged in the act of gratifying the gods, the celestial damsel named above, O monarch, made her appearance. Beholding that damsel of beautiful limbs, the vital seed of that ascetic of cleansed soul came out. It fell into the Sarasvati, and the latter held it with care. Indeed, O bull among men, the River, beholding that seed, held it in her womb. In time the seed developed into a foetus and the great river held it so that it might be inspired with life as a child. When the time came, the foremost of rivers brought forth that child and then went, O lord, taking it with her, to that rishi.
Beholding that best of rishis in a conclave, Sarasvati, O monarch, while making over the child, said these words, 'O regenerate rishi, this is thy son whom I held through devotion for thee! That seed of thine which fell at sight of the apsara Alambusa, had been held by me in my womb, O regenerate rishi, through devotion for thee, well knowing that that energy of thine would never suffer destruction! Given by me, accept this faultless child of thy own!' Thus addressed by her, the rishi accepted the child and felt great joy. Through affection, that foremost of brahmanas then smelt the head of his son and held him in a close embrace, O foremost one of Bharata's race, for some time. Gratified with the River, the great ascetic Dadhica then gave a boon to her, saying, 'The vishvadevas, the rishis, and all the tribes of the gandharvas and the apsaras, will henceforth, O blessed one, derive great happiness when oblations of thy water are presented unto them!'
Having said so unto that great river, the sage, gratified and filled with joy, then praised her in these words. Listen to them duly, O king! 'Thou hast taken thy rise, O highly blessed one, from the lake of Brahman in days of old. All ascetics of rigid vows know thee, O foremost of rivers! Always of agreeable features, thou hast done me great good! This thy great child, O thou of the fairest complexion, will be known by the name of Sarasvata! This thy son, capable of creating new worlds, will become known after thy name! Indeed, that great ascetic will be known by the name of Sarasvata! During a drought extending for twelve years, this Sarasvata, O blessed one, will teach the Vedas unto many foremost of brahmanas! O blessed Sarasvati, through my grace, thou shalt, O beautiful one, always become the foremost of all sacred rivers!' Even thus was the great River praised by the sage after the latter had granted her boons. The River then, in great joy, went away, O bull of Bharata's race, taking with her that child.
Meanwhile, on the occasion of a war between the gods and the danavas, Shakra wandered through the three worlds in search of weapons. The great god, however, failed to find such weapons as were fit to slay the foes of the celestials. Shakra then said unto the gods. 'The great asuras are incapable of being dealt with by me! Indeed, without the bones of Dadhica, our foes could not be slain! Ye best of celestials, repair, therefore, to that foremost of rishis and solicit him, saying, "Grant us, O Dadhica, thy bones! With them we will slay our foes!"
Besought by them for his bones, that foremost of rishis, O chief of Kuru's race, unhesitatingly gave up his life. Having done what was agreeable to the gods, the sage obtained many regions of inexhaustible merit. With his bones, meanwhile, Shakra joyfully caused to be made many kinds of weapons, such as thunderbolts, discs, heavy maces, and many kinds of clubs and bludgeons. Equal unto the Creator himself, Dadhica, had been begotten by the great rishi Bhrigu, the son of the Lord of all creatures, with the aid of his austere penances. Of stout limbs and possessed of great energy, Dadhica had been made the strongest of creatures in the world. The puissant Dadhica, celebrated for his glory, became tall like the king of mountains. The chastiser of Paka had always been anxious on account of his energy. With the thunderbolt born of brahma energy, and inspired with mantras, O Bharata, Indra made a loud noise when he hurled it, and slew nine and ninety heroes among the daityas. After a long and dreadful time had elapsed since then, a drought, O king, occurred that extended for twelve years. During that drought extending for twelve years, the great rishis, for the sake of sustenance, fled away, O monarch, on all sides.
Beholding them scattered in all directions, the sage Sarasvata also set his heart on flight. The river Sarasvati then said unto him, 'Thou needst not, O son, depart hence, for I will always supply thee with food even here by giving thee large fishes! Stay thou, therefore, even here!' Thus addressed (by the river), the sage continued to live there and offer oblations of food unto the rishis and the gods. He got also his daily food and thus continued to support both himself and the gods.
After that twelve year's drought had passed away, the great rishis solicited one another for lectures on the Vedas. While wandering with famished stomachs, the rishis had lost the knowledge of the Vedas. There was, indeed, not one amongst them that could understand the scriptures. It chanced that someone amongst them encountered Sarasvata, that foremost of rishis, while the latter was reading the Vedas with concentrated attention. Coming back to the conclave of rishis, he spoke to them of Sarasvata of unrivalled splendour and god-like mien engaged in reading the Vedas in a solitary forest. Then all the great rishis came to that spot, and jointly spoke unto Sarasvata, that best of ascetics, these words, 'Teach us, O sage!' Unto them the ascetic replied, saying, 'Become ye my disciples duly!' The conclave of ascetics answered, 'O son, thou art too young in years!' Thereupon he answered the ascetics, 'I must act in such a way that my religious merit may not suffer a diminution! He that teaches improperly, and he that learns improperly, are both lost in no time and come to hate each other! It is not upon years, or decrepitude, or wealth, or the number of kinsmen, that rishis found their claim to merit! He amongst us is great who is capable of reading and understanding the Vedas!'
Hearing these words of his, those munis duly became his disciples and obtaining from him their Vedas, once more began to praise their rites. 60,000 munis became disciples of the regenerate rishi Sarasvata for the sake of acquiring their Vedas from him. Owning obedience to that agreeable rishi, though a boy, the munis each brought a handful of grass and offered it to him for his seat. The mighty son of Rohini, and elder brother of Keshava, having given away wealth in that tirtha, then joyfully proceeded to another place where lived (in days of yore) an old lady without having passed through the ceremony of marriage."
Next: Section 52