The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'O holy and great ascetic, I desire to hear in detail what the duties of kings are and what the duties, in full, of all the four orders. I desire also to hear, O foremost of Brahmanas, what behaviour should be adopted in seasons of distress, and how I may subjugate the world by treading along the path of morality. This discourse on expiation, treating (at the same time) of fasts and capable of exciting great curiosity, fills me with joy. The practice of virtue and the discharge of kingly duties are always inconsistent with each other. For always thinking of how one may reconcile the two, my mind is constantly stupefied.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Then Vyasa, O monarch, that foremost of all persons conversant with the Vedas, casting his eyes upon that ancient
and all-knowing person, viz., Narada, said, If, O king, thou wishest to hear of duties and morality in full, then ask Bhishma, O mighty-armed one, that old grandsire of the Kurus. Conversant with all duties and possessed of universal knowledge, that son of Bhagirathi will remove all the doubts in thy heart on the difficult subject of duties. That goddess, viz., the genius of the celestial river of three courses brought him forth. He saw with his physical eyes all the gods with Indra at their head. Having gratified with his dutiful services the celestial Rishis having Vrihaspati at their head, he acquired a knowledge of the duties of kings. That foremost one among the Kurus obtained a knowledge also of that science, with its interpretations, with Usanas and that regenerate one who is the preceptor of the celestials know. Having practised rigid vows, that mighty-armed one acquired a knowledge of all the Vedas and their branches, from Vasishtha and from Chyavana of Bhrigu's race. In olden days he studied under the eldest-born son of the Grandsire himself, viz., Sanatkumara of blazing splendour, well conversant with the truths of mental and spiritual science. He learnt the duties in full of the Yatis from the lips of Markandeya. The bull among men obtained all weapons from Rama and Sakra. Although born among human beings, his death itself is still under his own control. Although childless, yet he has many regions of bliss hereafter as heard by us. Regenerate Rishis of great merit were always his courtiers. There is nothing among objects that should be known that is unknown to him. Conversant with all duties and acquainted with all the subtle truths of morality, even he will discourse to thee upon duty and morality. Go unto him before he abandons his life breath. Thus addressed by him, the high-souled son of Kunti, of great wisdom, said the following words unto Satyavati's son Vyasa, that first of eloquent men.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'Having caused a great and horrid slaughter of kinsmen, I have become an offender against all and a destroyer of the earth. Having caused that Bhishma himself, that warrior who always fought fairly, to be slain by the aid of deceit, how shall I approach him for asking him (about duties and morality)?'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Moved by the desire of benefiting all the four orders, the mighty armed and high-souled chief of Yadu's race once more addressed that foremost of kings (in the following words).'
"Vasudeva said, 'It behoveth thee not to show such pertinacity in grief. Do that, O best of kings, which the holy Vyasa has said. The Brahmanas, O mighty-armed one, and these thy brothers of great energy, stand before thee beseechingly like persons beseeching the deity of the clouds at the close of summer. The unslain remnant of the assembled kings, and the people belonging to all the four orders of thy kingdom of Kurujangala, O king, are here. For the sake of doing what is agreeable to these high-souled Brahmanas, in obedience also to the command of thy revered senior Vyasa of immeasurable energy, and at the request of out-selves that are thy well-wishers, and of Draupadi, O scorcher of foes, do what is agreeable to us, O slayer of foes, and what is beneficial to the world.'
"Vaisampayana continued. 'Thus addressed by Krishna, the high-souled
king (Yudhishthira) of eyes like lotus petals, rose from his seat for the good of the whole world. The tiger among men, viz., Yudhishthira of great fame, besought by Krishna himself, by the Island-born (Vyasa), by Devasthana, by Jishnu, by these and many others, cast off his grief and anxiety. Fully conversant with the declarations of the Srutis, with the science that treats of the interpretation of those declarations, and with all that men usually hear and all that deserve to be heard, the son of Pandu obtained peace of mind and resolved upon that he should next do. Surrounded by all of them like the moon by the stars, the king, placing Dhritarashtra at the head of the train, set out for entering the city. Desirous of entering the city, Kunti's son Yudhishthira, conversant with every duty, offered worship unto the gods and thousands of Brahmanas. He then ascended a new and white car covered with blankets and deerskins, and unto which were yoked sixteen white bullocks possessed of auspicious marks, and which had been sanctified with Vedic mantras. Adored by panegyrists and bards, the king mounted upon that car like Soma riding upon his own ambrosial vehicle. His brother Bhima of terrible prowess took the reins. Arjuna held over his head a white umbrella of great effulgence. That white umbrella held upon the car looked beautiful like a star-decked white cloud in the firmament. The two heroic sons of Madri, viz., Nakula and Sahadeva, took up two yak-tails white as the rays of the moon and adorned with gems for fanning the king. The five brothers decked with ornaments, having ascended the car, O king, looked like the five elements (that enter into the composition of everybody). Riding upon another white car unto which were yoked steeds fleet as thought, Yuyutsu, O king, followed the eldest son of Pandu behind. Upon his own brilliant car of gold unto which were yoked Saivya and Sugriva, Krishna, with Satyaki, followed the Kurus. The eldest uncle of Pritha's son, O Bharata, accompanied by Gandhari, proceeded at the head of the train, upon a vehicle borne on the shoulders of men. The other ladies of the Kuru household, as also Kunti and Krishna, all proceeded on excellent vehicles, headed by Vidura. Behind followed a large number of cars and elephants decked with ornaments, and foot-soldiers and steeds. His praises chanted by sweet-voiced panegyrists and bards, the king proceeded towards the city called after the elephant. The progress, O mighty-armed one, of king Yudhishthira, became so beautiful that its like had never been on earth. Teeming with healthy and cheerful men, thy busy hum of innumerable voices was heard there. During the progress of Pritha's son, the city and its streets were adorned with gay citizens (all of whom had come out for honouring the king). The spot through which the king passed had been decked with festoons of flowers and innumerable banners. The streets of the city were perfumed with incense. The place was overlaid with powdered perfumes and flowers and fragrant plants, and hung over with garlands and wreaths. New metallic jars, full of water to the brim, were kept at the door of every house, and bevies of beautiful maidens of the fairest complexion stood at the particular spots. Accompanied by his friends, the son of Pandu, adored with sweet speeches, entered the city through its well-adorned gate.'"
Next: Section XXXIX