The Mahabharata Home
Janamejaya said, "Why, O regenerate one, did that maiden betake herself to ascetic penances, in days of old? For what reason did she practise penances, and what was her vow? Unrivalled and fraught with mystery is the discourse that I have already heard from thee! Tell me (now) all the particulars in detail regarding how that maid engaged herself in penances."
Vaishampayana said, "There was a rishi of abundant energy and great fame, named Kuni-Garga. That foremost of ascetics, having practised the austerest of penances, O king, created a fair-browed daughter by a fiat of his will. Beholding her, the celebrated ascetic Kuni-Garga became filled with joy. He abandoned his body, O king, and then went to heaven. That faultless and amiable and fair-browed maiden, meanwhile, of eyes like lotus petals continued to practise severe and very rigid penances. She worshipped the pitris and the gods with fasts. In the practice of such severe penances a long period elapsed. Though her sire had been for giving her away to a husband, she yet did not wish for marriage, for she did not see a husband that could be worthy of her.
Continuing to emaciate her body with austere penances, she devoted herself to the worship of the pitris and the gods in that solitary forest. Although engaged in such toil, O monarch, and although she emaciated herself by age and austerities, yet she regarded herself happy. At last when she (became very old so that she) could no longer move even a single step without being aided by somebody, she set her heart upon departing for the other world.
Beholding her about to cast off her body, Narada said unto her, 'O sinless one, thou hast no regions of blessedness to obtain in consequence of thy not having cleansed thyself by rite of marriage! O thou of great vows, we have heard this in heaven! Great hath been thy ascetic austerities, but thou hast no claim to regions of blessedness!'
Hearing these words of Narada, the old lady went to a concourse of rishis and said, 'I shall give him half my penances who will accept my hand in marriage!' After she had said those words, Galava's son, a rishi, known by the name of Sringavat, accepted her hand, having proposed this compact to her, 'With this compact, O beautiful lady, I shall accept thy hand, that thou shalt live with me for only one night!' Having agreed to that compact, she gave him her hand.
Indeed, Galava's son, according to the ordinances laid down and having duly poured libations on the fire, accepted her hand and married her. On that night, she became a young lady of the fairest complexion, robed in celestial attire and decked in celestial ornaments and garlands and smeared with celestial unguents and perfumes. Beholding her blazing with beauty, Galava's son became very happy and passed one night in her company.
At morn she said unto him, 'The compact, O brahmana, I had made with thee, hath been fulfilled, O foremost of ascetics! Blessed be thou, I shall now leave thee!' After obtaining his permission, she once more said, 'He that will, with rapt attention, pass one night in this tirtha after having gratified the denizens of heaven with oblations of water, shall obtain that merit which is his who observes the vow of brahmacarya for eight and fifty years!' Having said these words, that chaste lady departed for heaven.
The Rishi, her lord, became very cheerless, by dwelling upon the memory of her beauty. In consequence of the compact he had made, he accepted with difficulty half her penances. Casting off his body he soon followed her, moved by sorrow, O chief of Bharata's race, and forced to it by her beauty.
Even this is the glorious history of the old maid that I have told thee! Even this is the account of her brahmacarya and her auspicious departure for heaven. While there Baladeva heard of the slaughter of Shalya. Having made presents unto the brahmanas there, he gave way to grief, O scorcher of his foes, for Shalya who had been slain by the Pandavas in battle. Then he of Madhu's race, having come out of the environs of Samantapanchaka, enquired of the rishis about the results of the battle at Kurukshetra. Asked by that lion of Yadu's race about the results of the battle at Kurukshetra, those high-souled ones told him everything as it had happened."
Next: Section 53