The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'A person that is born of an irregular union presents diverse features of disposition. One's purity of birth, again, is to be ascertained from one's acts which must resemble the acts of those who are admittedly good and righteous. A disrespectable behaviour, acts opposed to those laid down in the scriptures, crookedness and cruelty, and abstention from sacrifices and other spiritual acts that lead to merit, proclaim one's impurity of origin. A son receives the disposition of either the sire or the
mother. Sometimes he catches the dispositions of both. A person of impure birth can never succeed in concealing his true disposition. As the cub of a tiger or a leopard resembles its sire and dam in form and in (the matter of) its stripes of spots, even so a person cannot but betray the circumstance of his origin. However covered may the course of one's descent be, if that descent happens to be impure, its character or disposition is sure to manifest itself slightly or largely. A person may, for purposes of his own, choose to tread on an insincere path, displaying such conduct as seems to be righteous. His own disposition, however, in the matter of those acts that he does, always proclaims whether he belongs to a good order or to a different one. Creatures in the world are endued with diverse kinds of disposition. They are, again, seen to be employed in diverse kinds of acts. Amongst creatures thus employed, there is nothing that is so good or precious as pure birth and righteous conduct. If a person be born in a low order, that good understanding which arises from a study of the scriptures fails to rescue his body from low acts. Absolute goodness of understanding may be of different degrees. It may be high, middling, or low. Even if it appears in a person of low extraction, it disappears like autumnal clouds without producing any consequences. On the other hand, that other goodness of understanding which, according to its measure, has ordained the status in which the person has been born, shows itself in his acts 1. If a person happens to belong to a superior order but still if he happens to be divested of good behaviour, he should receive no respect or worship. One may worship even a Sudra if he happens to be conversant with duties and be of good conduct. A person proclaims himself by his own good and acts and by his good or bad disposition and birth. If one's race of birth happens to be degraded for any reason, one soon raises it and makes it resplendent and famous by one's acts. For these reasons they that are endued with wisdom should avoid those women, among these diverse castes mixed or pure, upon whom they should not beget offspring.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'Do thou discourse to us, O sire, upon the orders and classes separately, upon different kinds of sons begotten upon different types of women, upon the person entitled to have them as sons, and upon their status in life. It is known that disputes frequently arise with respect to sons. It behoveth thee, O king, to solve the doubts that have taken possession of our minds. Indeed, we are stupefied with respect to this subject.'
"Bhishma said, 'The son of one's loins is regarded as one's own self. The son that is begotten upon one's wife by a person whom one has invited for the task, is called Niruktaja. The son that is begotten upon one's
wife by somebody without one's permission, is Prasritaja. The son begotten upon his own wife by a person fallen away from his status is called Patitaja. There are two other sons, viz., the son given, and the son made. There is another called Adhyudha. 1 The son born of a maiden in her father's house is called Kanina. Besides these, there are six kinds of sons called Apadhwansaja and six others that are Apasadas. These are the several kinds of sons mentioned in the scriptures, learn, O Bharata!
"Yudhishthira said, 'Who are the six that are called Apadhwansajas? Who also are the Apasadas? It behoveth thee to explain all these to me in detail.'
"Bhishma said, 'The sons that a Brahmana begets upon spouses taken from the three inferior orders, those begotten by a Kshatriya upon spouses taken from the two orders inferior to his own, O Bharata, and the sons that a Vaisya begets upon a spouse taken from the one order that is inferior to his,--are all called Apadhwansajas. They are, as thus explained, of six kinds. Listen now to me as I tell thee who the Apasadas, are. The son that a Sudra begets upon a Brahmana woman is called a Chandala. Begotten upon a Kshatriya woman by a person of the Sudra order, the son is called a Vratya. He who is born of a Vaisya woman by a Sudra father is called a Vaidya. These three kinds of sons are called Apasadas. The Vaisya, by uniting himself with a woman of the Brahmana order, begets a son that is called a Magadha, while the son that he gets upon a Kshatriya woman is called a Vamaka. The Kshatriya can beget but one kind of son upon a woman of a superior order. Indeed, the son begotten by a Kshatriya upon a Brahmana woman, is called a Suta. These three also are called Apasadas. It cannot be said, O king, that these six kinds of sons are no sons.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'Some say that one's son is he that is born in one's soil. Some, on the other hand, say that one's son is he who has been begotten from one's seed. Are both these kinds of sons equal? Whore, again, is the son to be? Do thou tell me this, O grandsire!
"Bhishma said, 'His is the son from whose seed he has sprung. If, however, the owner of the seed abandons the son born of it, such a son then becomes his upon whose spouse he has been begotten. The same rule applies to the son called Adhyudha. He belongs to the person from whose seed he has taken his birth. If, however, the owner of the seed abandons him, he becomes the son of the husband of his mother. 2 Know that even this is what the law declares.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'We know that the son becomes his from whose
seed he has taken birth. Whence does the husband of the woman that brings forth the son derive his right to the latter? Similarly, the son called Adhyudha should be known to be the son of him from whose seed he has sprung. How can they be sons of others by reasons of the engagement about owning and rearing them having been broken?'
"Bhishma said, 'He who having begotten a son of his own loins, abandons him for some reason or other, cannot be regarded as the sire of such a son, for vital seed only cannot create sonship. Such a son must be held to belong to the person who owns the soil. When a man, desiring to have a son, weds a girl quick with child, the son born of his spouse must belong to him, for it is the fruit of his own soil. The person from whose vital seed the son has sprung can have no right to such a son. The son that is born in one's soil but not begotten by the owner, O chief of Bharata's race, bears all the marks of the sire that has actually begotten him (and not the marks of one that is only the husband of his mother). The son thus born is incapable of concealing the evidences that physiognomy offers. He is at once known by eyesight (to belong to another). 1 As regards the son made, he is sometimes regarded as the child of the person who has made him a son and so brings him up. In his case, neither the vital seed of which he is born nor the soil in which he is born, becomes the cause of sonship.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'What kind of a son is that who is said to be a made son and whose sonship arises from the fact of his being taken and brought up and in whose case neither the vital seed nor the soil of birth, O Bharata, is regarded as the cause of sonship?'
"Bhishma said, 'When a person takes up and rears a son that has been cast off on the road by his father and mother, and when the person thus taking and rearing him fails to find out his parents after search, he becomes the father of such a son and the latter becomes what is called his made son. Not having anybody to own him, he becomes owned by him who brings him up. Such a son, again, comes to be regarded as belonging to that order to which his owner or rearer belongs.'
"Yudhishthira said, How should the purificatory rites of such a person be performed? In whose case what sort of rites are to be performed? With what girl should he be wedded? Do thou tell me all this, O grandsire!"
"Bhishma said, 'The rites of purification touching such a son should be performed conformably to the usage of the person himself that raises him, for, cast off by his parents, such a son obtains the order of the person that takes him and brings him up. Indeed, O thou of unfading glory, the rearer should perform all the purificatory rites with respect to such a son according to the practices of the rearer's own race and kinsmen. As regards the girl also, O Yudhishthira, that should be bestowed in marriage upon such a son, who belongs to the order of the rearer himself,
[paragraph continues] All this is to be done only when the order of son's true mother cannot be ascertained. Among sons, he that is born of a maiden and he that is born of a mother that had conceived before her marriage but had brought him fourth subsequent to that are regarded as very disgraceful and degraded. Even those two, however, should receive the same rites of purification that are laid down for the sons begotten by the father in lawful wedlock. With respect to the son that becomes his sire's in consequence of his birth in the sire's soil and of those sons that are called Apasadas and, those conceived by the spouse in her maidenhood but brought forth after marriage, Brahmanas and others should apply the same rites of purification that hold good for their own orders. These are the conclusions that are to be found in the scriptures with respect to the different orders. I have thus told thee everything appertaining to thy questions. What else dost thou wish to hear?"
35:1 The second line is exceedingly terse. The sense seems to be this: one who is of low birth must remain low in disposition. Absolute goodness may arise in his heart, but it disappears immediately without producing any effect whatsoever. The study of the scriptures, therefore, cannot raise such a person. On the other hand, the goodness which according to its measure has ordained for one (1) the status of humanity and (2) the rank in that status, is seen to manifest itself in his act.
36:1 The son begotten upon a maiden by one who does not become her husband, and born after her marriage, is regarded as belonging not to the begetter but to the husband.
36:2 Such a son becomes the property of the mother's husband and not of his begetter. If however, the begetter expresses a wish to have him and rear him, he should be regarded as the begetter's. The principle upon which he becomes the child of the mother's husband is that the begetter conceals himself and never wishes to have him.
37:1 The objects of Yudhishthira's question will appear clearly from the answer given to it by Bhishma.
Next: Section L