The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'It is even so as thou sayest, O thou of mighty arms. There is nothing untrue in all this that thou sayest, O thou of Kuru's race, on the subject of women. In this connection I shall recite to thee the old history of how in days of yore the high-souled Vipula had succeeded in restraining women within the bounds laid down for them. I shall also tell thee, O king, how women were created by the Grandsire Brahman and the object for which they were created by Him. There is no creature more sinful, O son, than women. Woman is a blazing fire. She is the illusion, O king, that the Daitya Maya created. She is the sharp edge of the razor. She is poison. She is a snake. She is fire. She is, verily, all these united together. It has been heard by us that all persons of the human race are characterised by righteousness, and that they, in course of natural progress and improvement, attain to the status of deities. This circumstance alarmed the deities. They, therefore, O chastiser of foes, assembled together and repaired to the presence of the Grandsire. Informing Him of what was in their minds, they stood silent in his presence, with downcast eyes. The puissant Grand sire having ascertained what was in the hearts of the deities, created women, with the aid of an Atharvan rite. In a former
creation, O son of Kunti, women were all virtuous. Those, however, that sprang from this creation by Brahman with the aid of an illusion became sinful. The grandsire bestowed upon them the desire of enjoyment, all kinds of carnal pleasure. Tempted by the desire of enjoyment, they began to pursue persons of the other sex. The puissant lord of the deities created Wrath as the companion of Lust. Persons of the male sex, yielding to the power of Lust and Wrath, sought the companionship of women. Women have no especial acts prescribed for them. Even this is the ordinance that was laid down. The Sruti declares that women are endued with senses the most powerful, that they have no scriptures to follow, and that they are living lies. Beds and seats and ornaments and food and drink and the absence of all that is respectable and righteous, indulgence in disagreeable words, and love of sexual companionship,--these were bestowed by Brahman upon women. Men are quite unable to restrain them within bounds. The Creator himself is incapable of restraining them within the limits that are proper: what need then be said of men? This, O chief of men, I heard in former days, viz., how Vipula had succeeded in protecting his preceptor's spouse in ancient times. There was in days of yore a highly blessed Rishi of the name of Devasarman of great celebrity. He had a wife, Ruchi by name, who was unequalled on earth for beauty. Her loveliness intoxicated every beholder among the deities and Gandharvas and Danavas. The chastiser of Paka, viz., Indra, the slayer of Vritra, O monarch, was in particular enamoured of her and coveted her person. The great ascetic Devasarman was fully cognisant of the disposition of women. He, therefore, to the best of his power and energy, protected her (from every kind of evil influence). The Rishi knew that Indra was restrained by no scruples in the matter of seeking the companionship of other people's wives. It was for this reason that he used to protect his spouse, putting forth all his power. Once on a time, O son, the Rishi became desirous of performing a sacrifice. He began to think of how (during his own absence from home) his wife could be protected. Endued with high ascetic merit, he at last hit upon the course he should adopt. Summoning his favourite disciple whose name was Vipula and who was of Bhrigu's race, he said as follows:
"Devasarman said, 'I shall leave home (for a while) in order to perform a sacrifice. The chief of the celestials always covets this Ruchi of mine. Do thou, during my absence, protect her, putting forth all thy might! Thou shalt pass thy time heedfully in view of Purandara. O foremost one of Bhrigu's race, that Indra assumes various disguises.'
Bhishma continued, 'Thus addressed by his preceptor, the ascetic Vipula with senses under control, always engaged in severe penances, possessed of the splendour, O king, of fire or the sun conversant with all the duties of righteousness, and ever truthful in speech, answered him, saying, 'So be it.' Once more, however, as his preceptor was about to set out Vipula asked him in these words.'
"Vipula said, Tell me, O Muni, what forms does Sakra assume when he
presents himself. Of what kind is his body and what is his energy? It behoveth thee to say all this to me.'
"Bhishma continued, 'The illustrious Rishi then truly described unto the high-souled Vipula all the illusions of Sakra, O Bharata.'
"Devasarman said, 'The puissant chastiser of Paka, O regenerate Rishi, is full of illusion. Every moment he assumes those forms that he chooses. Sometimes he wears a diadem and holds the thunderbolt. Sometimes armed with the thunderbolt and wearing a crown on his head, he adorns himself with ear-rings, in a moment he transforms himself into the shape and aspect of Chandala. Sometimes, he appears with coronal locks on his head: soon again, O son, he shows himself with matted locks, his person clad the while in rags. Sometimes, he assumes a goodly and gigantic frame. The next moment he transforms himself into one of emaciated limbs, and dressed in rags. Sometimes he becomes fair, sometimes darkish, sometimes dark of complexion. Sometimes he becomes ugly and sometimes as possessed of great comeliness of person. Sometimes he shows himself as young and sometimes as old Sometimes he appears as a Brahmana, sometimes as a Kshatriya, sometimes as a Vaisya, and sometimes as a Sudra. Verily, he of a hundred sacrifices appears at times as a person born of impure order, that is as the son of a superior father by an inferior mother or of an inferior father by a superior mother. Sometimes he appears as a parrot, sometimes as a crow, sometimes as a swan, and sometimes as a cuckoo. He assumes the forms also of a lion, a tiger, or an elephant. Sometimes he shows himself as a god, sometimes as a Daitya, and sometimes he assumes the guise of a king. Sometimes he appears as fat and plump. Sometimes as one whose limbs have been broken by the action of disordered wind in the system, sometimes as a bird, and sometimes as one of exceedingly ugly features. Sometimes he appears as a quadruped. Capable of assuming any form, he sometimes appears as an idiot destitute of all intelligence. He assumes also the forms of flies and gnats. O Vipula, no one can make him out in consequence of these innumerable disguises that he is capable of assuming. The very Creator of the universe is not equal to that feat. He makes himself invisible when he chooses. He is incapable of being seen except with the eye of knowledge. The chief of the celestials sometimes transforms himself into the wind. The chastiser of Paka always assumes these disguises. Do thou, therefore, O Vipula, protect this slender-waisted spouse of mine with great care. O foremost one of Bhrigu's race, do thou take every care for seeing that the chief of the celestials may not defile this spouse of mine like a wretched dog licking the Havi kept in view of a sacrifice. Having said these words, the highly-blessed Muni, viz., Devasarman, intend upon performing a sacrifice, set out from his abode, O chief of the Bharatas. Hearing these words of his preceptor, Vipula began to think, 'I shall certainly protect this lady in every respect from the puissant chief of the celestials. But what should be the means? What can I do in this matter of protecting the wife of my preceptor? The chief of the celestials is endued with large powers of illusion.
[paragraph continues] Possessed of great energy, he is difficult of being resisted. Indra cannot be kept out by enclosing this retreat of ours or fencing this yard, since he is capable of assuming innumerable forms. Assuming the form of the wind, the chief of the celestials may assault the spouse of my preceptor. The best course, therefore, for me, would be to enter (by Yoga-power) the body of this lady and remain there. By putting forth my prowess I shall not be able to protect the lady, for the puissant chastiser of Paka, it has been heard by me, is capable of assuming any form he likes. I shall, therefore, protect this one from Indra by my Yoga-power. For carrying out my object I shall with my body enter the body of this lady. If my preceptor, coming back, beholds his spouse defiled, he will, without doubt, curse me through wrath, for endued with great ascetic merit, he is possessed of spiritual vision. This lady is incapable of being protected in the way in which other women are protected by men, since the chief of the celestials is endued with large powers of illusion. Alas, the situation in which I find myself is very critical. The behest of my preceptor should certainly be obeyed by me. If, therefore, I protect her by my Yoga-power, the feat will be regarded by all as a wonderful one. By my Yoga-power, therefore, I shall enter the body of my preceptor's lady. I shall stay within her and yet not touch her person, like a drop of water on a lotus-leaf which lies on it and yet does not drench it at all. If I be free from the taint of passion, I cannot incur any fault by doing what I wish to do. As a traveller, in course of his sojourn, takes up his residence (for a while) in any empty mansion he finds, I shall, after the same manner, reside this day within the body of my preceptor's lady Verily, with mind rapt up in Yoga, I shall dwell today in this lady's body! Giving his best consideration to these points of righteousness, thinking of all the Vedas and their branches, and with eye directed to the large measure of penances which his preceptor had and which he himself also was possessed of, and having settled in his mind, with a view only to protect the lady, to enter her person by Yoga-power. Vipula of Bhrigu's race took great care (for accomplishing his purpose). Listen now to me, O monarch, as I recite to thee what he did. Endued with great penances, Vipula sat himself down by the side of his preceptor's spouse as she of faultless features was sitting in her cottage, Vipula then began to discourse to her bringing her over to the cause of righteousness and truth. Directing his eyes then to hers and uniting the rays of light that emanated from her organs of vision with those that issued from his, Vipula (in his subtile form) entered the lady's body even as the element of wind enters that of ether of space. Penetrating her eyes with his eyes and her face with his face, Vipula stayed, without moving, within her invisibly, like her shadow. Restraining every part of the lady's body, Vipula continued to dwell within her, intent on protecting her from Indra. The lady herself knew nothing of this. It was in this way, O monarch, that Vipula continued to protect the lady till the time of his high-souled preceptor's coming back after accomplishing the sacrifice which he had gone out to perform.'"
Next: Section XLI