The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma continued, 'The Nagas of that city became exceedingly distressed when they saw that that Brahmana, devoted to the practice of penances, continued to reside in the forest, entirely abstaining all the while from food, in expectation of the arrival of the Naga chief. All the kinsmen and relatives of the great Naga, including his brother and children and wife, assembling together, repaired to the spot where the Brahmana was staying. Arrived on the banks of the Gomati, they beheld that regenerate person seated in a secluded spot, abstaining from food of every kind, observant the while of excellent vows, and engaged in silently reciting certain Mantras. Approaching the presence of the Brahmana and offering him due worship, the kinsmen and relatives of the great Naga said unto him these words fraught with candour:--O Brahmana, endued with wealth of asceticism, this is the sixth day of thy arrival here, but thou sayest no word about thy food, O regenerate one, thou art devoted to righteousness. Thou hast come to us. We two are here in attendance upon thee. It is absolutely necessary that we should do the duties of hospitality to thee. We are all relations of the Naga chief with whom thou hast business. Roots or fruits, leaves, or water, or rice or meat, O best of Brahmanas, it behoveth thee to take for thy food. In consequence of thy dwelling in this forest under such circumstances of total abstention from food, the whole community of Nagas, young and old, is being afflicted, since this thy fast implies negligence on our part to discharge the duties of hospitality. We have none amongst us that has been guilty of Brahmanicide. None of us has ever lost a son immediately after birth. No one has been born in our race that has eaten before serving the deities or guests or relatives arrived at his residence.
"The Brahmana said, 'In consequence of these solicitations of you all, I may be regarded to have broken my fast. Eight days are wanting for the day to come when the chief of the Nagas will return. 1 If, on the expiry of the eighth night hence, the chief of the Nagas does not come back, I shall then break this fast by eating. Indeed, this vow of abstaining from
all food that I am observing is in consequence of my regard for the Naga chief. You should not grieve for what I am doing. Do you all return to whence you came. This my vow is on his account. You should not do anything in consequence of which this my vow may be broken.--The assembled Nagas, thus addressed by the Brahmana, were dismissed by him, whereupon, O foremost of men, they returned to their respective residences.'"
209:1 Some of the Bengal texts have dwigunam for dwiruna. Less than ten by two is the meaning.
Next: Section CCCLIX