The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grand-sire, what regions are earned by unreturning heroes by encountering death in battle."
"Bhishma, said, 'In this connection, O Yudhishthira, is cited the old story of the discourse between Amvarisha and Indra. Amvarisha, the son of Nabhaga, having repaired to heaven that is so difficult of acquisition, beheld his own generalissimo in those celestial regions in the company of Indra. The king saw his puissant general blazing with every kind of energy, endued with celestial form, seated on a very beautiful car, and journeying (in that vehicle) up and up towards still higher regions. Beholding the prosperity of his general Sudeva, and observing how he traversed regions that were still higher, the high-souled Amvarisha, filled with surprise, addressed Vasava, in the following words.'
"Amvarisha said, 'Having duly governed the whole earth bounded by the seas, having from desire of earning religious merit practised all those duties that are common to the four orders as declared by the scriptures, having practised with rigid austerity all the duties of the Brahmacharya mode, having waited with dutiful obedience upon my preceptors and other reverend seniors, having studied with due observances the Vedas and the scriptures on kingly duties, having gratified guests with food and drink, the Pitris with offerings in Sraddhas, the Rishis with attentive study of the scriptures and with initiation (under proper forms into the mysteries of religion), and the gods with many excellent and high sacrifices, having duly observed Kshatriya duties according
to the injunctions of the scriptures, having cast my eyes fearlessly upon hostile troops, I won many victories in battle, O Vasava! This Sudeva, O chief of the deities, was formerly the generalissimo of my forces. It is true. He was a warrior of tranquil soul. For what reason, however, has he succeeded in transcending me? He never worshipped the gods in high and great sacrifices. He never gratified the Brahmanas (by frequent and costly presents) according to the ordinance. For what reason, then, has he succeeded in transcending me?'
"Indra said, 'Regarding this Sudeva, O sire, the great sacrifice of battle had often been spread out by him. The same becomes the case with every other man that engages in fight. Every warrior accoutred in armour, by advancing against foes in battle array, becomes installed in that sacrifice. Indeed, it is a settled conclusion that such a person, by acting in this way, comes to be regarded as the performer of the sacrifice of battle.'
"Amvarisha said, 'What constitutes the libations in that sacrifice? What constitutes its liquid offerings? What is its Dakshina? Who, again, are regarded its Ritwijas? Tell me all this, O performer of a hundred sacrifices.'
"Indra said, 'Elephants constitute the Ritwijas of that sacrifice, and steeds are its Audharyus. The flesh of foes constitutes ifs libations, and blood is its liquid offering. 1 Jackals and vultures and ravens, as also winged shafts, constitute its Sadasyas. These drink the remnants left of the liquid offering in this sacrifice and eat the remnants of its libations. Heaps of lances and spears, of swords and darts and axes, blazing, sharp, and well-tempered, constitute the ladles of the sacrificer. Straight, sharp, and well-tempered arrows, with keen points and capable of piercing the bodies of foes, impelled from well-stretched bows, constitute its large double-mouthed ladles. Sheathed in scabbards made of tiger-skin and equipped with handles made of ivory, and capable of cutting off the elephant's trunk, the swords form the Sphises of this sacrifice. 2 The strokes inflicted with blazing and keen lances and darts and swords and axes, all made of hard iron, constitute its profuse wealth procured from the respectable people by agreement in respect of the amount and period. The blood that runs over the field in consequence of the fury of the attack, constitutes the final libation, fraught with great merit and capable of granting every wish, in the Homa of this sacrifice. Cut, Pierce, and such other sounds, that are heard in the front ranks of the array, constitute the Samans sung by its Vedic chanters in the abode of Yama. The front ranks of the enemy's array constitute the vessel for the keep of its libations. The crowd of elephants and steeds and men equipped with shields are regarded to constitute the Syenachit fire of that sacrifice. The headless trunks that rise up after thousands have been slaughtered constitute the octagonal stake, made of Khadira wood, for the hero who performs that sacrifice. The shrieks that elephants utter when urged on with hooks, constitute its Ida mantras. The kettle-drums, with the slaps of palms forming the Vashats, O king, are its
[paragraph continues] Trisaman Udgatri. When the property or a Brahmana is being taken away, he who casts off his body that is so dear for protecting that property, does, by that act of self-devotion, acquire the merit or a sacrifice with infinite presents. That hero who, for the sake of his master, displays prowess at the van of the array and shows not his back through fear, earns those regions of felicity that are mine. He who strews the altar of the sacrifice constituted by battle, with swords cased in blue scabbards and severed arms resembling heavy bludgeons, succeeds in winning regions of felicity like mine. That warrior who, resolved upon obtaining victory, penetrates into the midst of the enemy's ranks without waiting for any assistance, succeeds in winning regions of felicity like mine. That warrior who in battle, causes a river of blood to flow, terrible and difficult to cross, having kettle-drums for its frogs and tortoises, the bones of heroes for its sands, blood and flesh for its mire, swords and shields for its rafts, the hair of slain warriors for its floating weeds and moss, the crowds of steeds and elephants and cars for its bridges, standards and banners for its bushes of cane, the bodies or slain elephants for its boats and huge alligators, swords and scimitars for its larger vessels, vultures and Kankas and ravens for the rafts that float upon it, that warrior who causes such a river, difficult of being crossed by even those that are possessed of courage and power and which inspires all timid men with dread, is said to complete the sacrifice by performing the final ablutions. That hero whose altar (in such a sacrifice) is strewn over with the (severed) heads of foes, of steeds, and of elephants, obtains regions of felicity like mine. The sages have said that that warrior who regards the van of the hostile army as the chambers of his wives, who looks upon the van of his own army as the vessel for the keep of sacrificial offering, who takes the combatants standing to his south for his Sadasyas and those to his north as his Agnidhras, and who looks upon the hostile forces as his wedded wife, succeeds in winning all regions of felicity. 1 The open space lying between two hosts drawn up for fight constitutes the altar of such a sacrificer, and the three Vedas are his three sacrificial fires. Upon that altar, aided by the recollection of the Vedas, he performs his sacrifice. The inglorious warrior who, turning away from the fight in fear, is slain by foes, sinks into hell. There is no doubt in this. That warrior, on the other hand, whose blood drenches the sacrificial altar already strewn with hair and flesh and bones, certainly succeeds in attaining a high end. That powerful warrior who, having slain the commander of the hostile army, mounts the vehicle of his fallen antagonist, comes to be regarded as possessed of the prowess of Vishnu himself and the intelligence of Vrihaspati, the preceptor of the celestials. That warrior who call seize alive the commander of the hostile army or his son or some other respected leader, succeeds in winning regions of felicity like mine. One should never grieve for a hero slain in battle. A slain hero, if nobody grieves for him, goes to heaven and earns the respect of its denizens. Men do not desire to dedicate (for his salvation) food and drink. Nor do they bathe (after receiving the intelligence),
nor go into mourning for him. Listen to me as I enumerate the felicity that is in store for such a person. Foremost of Apsaras, numbering by thousands, go out with great speed (for receiving the spirit of the slain hero) coveting him for their lord. That Kshatriya who duly observes his duty in battle, acquires by that act the merit of penances and of righteousness. Indeed, such conduct on his part conforms with the eternal path of duty. Such a man obtains the merits of all the four modes of life. The aged and the children should not be slain; nor one that is a woman; not one that is flying, away; nor one that holds a straw in his lips 1; nor one that says. 'I am thine.' Having slain in battle Jambha, Vritra, Vala, Paka, Satamaya, Virochana, the irresistible Namuchi, Samvara of innumerable illusions, Viprachitti,--all these sons of Diti and Danu, as also Prahlada, I myself have become the chief of the celestials.'
'Bhishma continued, 'Hearing these words of Sakra and approving of them, king Amvarisha comprehended how warriors succeed, (by battle as their means) in compassing success for themselves (in respect of winning regions of beatitude in heaven).'"
212:1 Ajya is any liquid substance, generally of course clarified butter, that is poured upon the sacrificial fire.
212:2 Sphis is the wooden stick with which lines are drawn on the sacrificial platform.
213:1 The van of the hostile army is the place of his wives, for he goes thither as cheerfully as he does to such a mansion. Agnidhras are those priests that have charge of the celestial fires.
214:1 To take up a straw and hold it between the lips is an indication of unconditional surrender.
Next: Section XCIX