The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Led into a spacious apartment, Gautama was introduced to the king of the Rakshasas. Worshipped by the latter (with the usual offerings), he took his seat on an excellent seat. The king asked him about the race of his birth and his practices, his study of the Vedas and his observance of the Brahmacharya vow. The Brahmana, however, without answering the other queries, only stated his name and race. The king having ascertained only the name and the race of his guest, and seeing that he was destitute of Brahmanic splendour and Vedic studies, next enquired about the country of his residence.'
"The Rakshasa said, 'Where is thy residence, O blessed one, and to what race does thy wife belong? Tell us truly, do not fear. Trust us without anxiety.'
"Gautama said, 'I belong by birth to the Middle country. I live in a village of hunters. I have married a Sudra spouse who had been a widow. All this that I tell you is the truth.'
"Bhishma continued, 'The king then began to reflect as to what he should do. Indeed, the king began to think how he might succeed in acquiring merit. He said unto himself. 'This man is by birth a, Brahmana. He is, again a friend of the high-souled Rajadharman. He has been sent to me by that son of
[paragraph continues] Kasyapa. I must do what is agreeable to my friend. He is very intimate with me. Indeed, he is my brother, and a dear relative. He is truly a friend of my heart. On this day of the month of Kartika, a thousand Brahmanas of the foremost order are to be entertained in my house. This Gautama also shall be entertained with them and I shall give wealth unto him too. This is a sacred day. Gautama has come hither as a guest. The wealth that is to be given away (unto the Brahmanas) is ready. What is there then to think of?' Just about this time a thousand Brahmanas, possessed of great learning, with persons purified by baths and adorned (with sandalpaste and flowers) and attired in long robes of linen, came to the palace. The Rakshasa king Virupaksha, O monarch, received the guests, as they came, duly and according to the rites laid down in the scriptures. At the command of the king, skins were spread out for them. The royal servants then, O best of the Bharatas, placed mats of Kusa grass on the ground. 1 Those foremost of Brahmanas, having been duly worshipped by the king sat down on those seats. The Rakshasa chief once more worshipped his guests, as provided by the ordinance, with sesame seeds, green blades of grass, and water. Some amongst them were selected for representing the Viswedevas, the Pitris, and the deities of fire. These were smeared with sandal-paste, and flowers were offered unto them. They were also adored with other kinds of costly offerings. After such worship, every one of them looked as effulgent as the moon in the firmament. Then bright and polished plates of gold, adorned with engravings, and filled with excellent food prepared with ghee and honey, were given unto those Brahmanas. Every year (on the days of full moon) of the months of Ashadha and Magha, a large number of Brahmanas used to receive from the Rakshasa chief, after proper honours, the best kinds of food that they desired. Especially, on the day of full moon in the month of Kartika, after the expiry of autumn, the king used to give unto the Brahmanas much wealth of diverse kinds, including gold, silver, jewels, gems, pearls, diamonds of great value, stones of the lapis lazuli variety, deer-skins, and skins of the Ranku deer. Indeed, O Bharata, throwing a heap of wealth of many kinds for giving it away as Dakshina (unto his regenerate guests), the mighty Virupaksha, addressing those foremast of Brahmanas, said unto them, 'Take from these jewels and gems as much as ye wish and can hope to bear away.' And he also used to say unto them, O Bharata, these words: 'Taking those plates of gold and vessels which you have used for your dinner, go ye away, O foremost of Brahmanas.' When these words were uttered by the high-souled Rakshasa king (on the occasion of that particular feast), those bulls among Brahmanas took as much wealth as each desired. Worshipped with those costly jewels and gems, those best of Brahmanas, attired in excellent robes, became filled with delight. Once more, the Rakshasa king, having restrained the Rakshasas that had come to his palace from diverse lands, addressed those Brahmanas and said,
[paragraph continues] 'This one day, ye regenerate ones, ye need have no fear from the Rakshasas here. Sport ye as ye wish, and then go away with speed.' The Brahmanas then, leaving that spot, went away in all directions with great speed. Gautama also, having taken up a heavy quantity of gold without any loss of time, went away. Carrying the burthen with difficulty, he reached that same banian (under which he had met the crane). He sat himself down, fatigued, toil worn, and hungry. While Gautama was resting there, that best of birds viz., Rajadharman, O king, came there. Devoted to friends, he gladdened Gautama by bidding him welcome. By flapping his wings he began to fan his guest and dispel his fatigue. Possessed of great intelligence, he worshipped Gautama, and made arrangements for his food. Having eaten and refreshed himself, Gautama began to think, 'Heavy is this load that I have taken of bright gold, moved by covetousness and folly. I have a long way to travel. I have no food by which to support life on my way. What should I do for supporting life?' Even these were his thoughts then. It so happened that even upon much thinking he failed to see any food which he could eat on the way. Ungrateful as he was, O tiger among men, even this was the thought that he then conceived, 'This prince of cranes, so large and containing a heap of flesh, stayeth by my side. Staying and bagging him, I shall leave this spot and go along with great speed.'"
376:1 At such entertainments, Hindus, to this day, sit on separate seats when eating. If anybody touches anybody else's seat, both become impure and cannot eat any longer. Before eating, however, when talking or hearing, the guests may occupy a common seat, i.e., a large mat or blanket or cloth, etc., spread out on the floor.
Next: Section CLXXII