The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Upon the expiry of the period of full fifteen days, the Naga chief (Padmanabha), having finished his task of dragging the car of Surya and obtained the latter's permission, came back to his own house. Beholding him come back, his spouse approached him quickly for washing his feet and dutifully discharging other tasks of a similar nature. Having gone through these tasks, she took her seat by his side, The Naga then, refreshed from fatigue, addressed his dutiful and chaste wife, saying, I hope, my dear wife, that during my absence thou hast not been unmindful of worshipping the deities and guests agreeably to the instructions I gave thee, and according to the ordinances laid down in the scriptures. I hope, without yielding to that uncleansed understanding which is natural to persons of thy sex, thou hast, during my absence from home, been firm in the observance of the duties of hospitality. I trust that thou hast not transcended the barriers of duty and righteousness.'
"The wife of the Naga said, 'The duty of disciples is to wait with reverence upon their preceptor accomplishing his bidding; that of Brahmanas is to study the Vedas and bear them in memory; that of servants is to obey the commands of their masters; that of the king is to protect his people by cherishing the good and chastising the wicked. It is said that the duties of a Kshatriya embrace the protection of all creatures from wrong and oppression. The duty of the Sudra is to serve with humility persons of the three regenerate orders, viz., Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas. The religion of the house-holder, O chief of the Nagas, consists in doing good to all creatures. Frugality of fare and observance of vow in due order, constitute merit (for persons of all classes) in consequence of the connection that exists between the senses and the duties of religion. 1 Who am I? Whence have I come? What are others to me and what am
[paragraph continues] I to others?--these are the thoughts to which the mind should ever be directed by him who leads that course of life which leads to Emancipation. Chastity and obedience to the husband constitute the highest duty of the wife. Through thy instruction, O chief of the Nagas, I have learnt this well. I, therefore, that am well conversant with my duty, and that have thee for my husband--thee that art devoted to righteousness,--O, why shall I, swerving from the path of duty, tread along the path of disobedience and sin? During thy absence from home, the adorations to the deities have not fallen off in any respect. I have also, without the slightest negligence, attended to the duties of hospitality towards persons arrived as guests in thy abode. Fifteen days ago a Brahmana has come here. He has not disclosed his object to me. He desires to have an interview with thee. Dwelling the while on the banks of the Gomati he is anxiously expecting thy return. Of rigid vows, that Brahmana is sitting there, engaged in the recitation of the Vedas. O chief of the Nagas, I have made a promise to him to the effect that I would despatch thee to him as soon as thou wouldst come back to thy abode. Hearing these words of mine, O best of Nagas, it behoveth thee to repair thither. O thou that hearest with thy eyes, it behoveth thee to grant unto that regenerate person the object that has brought him hither!'" 1
210:1 This verse seems to be unintelligible. I think the sense is this. Frugality of fare and observance of vows constitute merit for person of all classes. These imply the restraint of the senses, for if the senses be not restrained, no one can observe vows or practise frugality. There is a connection, thus between the duties of religion and the senses.
211:1 Darsana-sravas means one who hears with the eye. The Nagas or snakes are believed to have no ears, but to use their eyes both for seeing and hearing. Who the Nagas of the Mahabharata or the Puranas were, it is difficult to determine. They seem to have been a superior order of beings, having their abode in the nether regions.
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