The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'What is the nature of the compassion or pity that is felt at the sight of another's woe? What is the nature of that compassion or sympathy that one feels for another in consequence of one's living in the companionship of that other? What is the nature (and degree) of the high blessedness that attaches to kine? It behoveth thee, O grandsire, to expound all this to me.'
"Bhishma said, 'I shall, in this connection, O thou of great effulgence, recite to thee an ancient narrative of a conversation between Nahusha and the Rishi Chyavana. In days of yore O Chief of Bharata's race, the great Rishi Chyavana of Bhrigu's race, always observant of high vows, became desirous of leading for some time the mode of life called Udavasa and set himself to commence it. Casting off pride and wrath and joy and grief, the ascetic, pledging himself to observe that vow, set himself to live for twelve years according to the rules of Udavasa. The Rishi inspired all creatures with a happy trust. And he inspired similar confidence in all creatures living in water. The puissant ascetic resembled the Moon himself in his behaviour to all. Bowing unto all the deities and having cleansed himself of all sins, he entered the water at the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna, and stood there like an inanimate post of wood. Placing his head against it, he bore the fierce and roaring current of the two streams united together,--the current whose speed resembled that of the wind itself. The Ganga and the Yamuna, however, and the other streams and lakes, whose waters unite together at the confluence at Prayaga, instead of afflicting the Rishi, went past him (to show him respect). Assuming the attitude of a wooden post, the great Muni sometimes laid himself
down in the water and slept at ease. And sometimes, O chief of Bharata's race, the intelligent sage stood in an erect posture. He became quite agreeable unto all creatures living in water. Without the least fear, all these used to smell the Rishi's lips. In this way, the Rishi passed a long time at that grand confluence of waters. One day some fishermen came there. With nets in their hands, O thou of great effulgence, those men came to that spot where the Rishi was. They were many in number and all of them were bent upon catching fish. Well-formed and broad-chested, endued with great strength and courage and never returning in fear from water, those men who lived upon the earnings by their nets, came to that spot, resolved to catch fish. Arrived at the water which contained many fish, those fishermen, O chief of the Bharatas, tied all their nets together. Desirous of fish, those Kaivartas, many in number united together and surrounded a portion of the waters of the Ganga and the Yamuna with their nets. Indeed, they then cast into water their net which was made of new strings, capable of covering a large space, and endued with sufficient length and breadth. All of them, getting into the water, then began to drag with great force that net of theirs which was very large and had been well-spread over a large space. All of them were free from fear, cheerful, and fully resolved to do one another's bidding. They had succeeded in enmeshing a large number of fish and other aquatic animals. And as they dragged their net, O king, they easily dragged up Chyavana the son of Bhrigu along with a large number of fish. His body was overgrown with the river moss. His beard and matted locks had become green. And all over his person could be seen conchs and other molluscs attached with their heads. Beholding that Rishi who was well-conversant with the Vedas dragged up by them from water, all the fishermen stood with joined palms and then prostrated themselves on the ground and repeatedly bent their heads. Through fear and pain caused by the dragging of the net, and in consequence of their being brought upon land, the fish enmeshed in the net yielded up their lives. The ascetic, beholding that great slaughter of fishes, became filled with compassion and sighed repeatedly.'
"The fishermen said, 'We have committed this sin (of dragging thy sacred self from water) through ignorance. Be gratified with us! What wish of thine shall we accomplish? Command us, O great ascetic!'
"Bhishma continued, 'This addressed by them, Chyauana, from among that heap of fishes around him, said, 'Do ye with concentrated attention hear what my most cherished wish is. I shall either die with these fishes or do ye sell me with them. I have lived with them for a long time within the water. I do not wish to abandon them at such a time.' When he said these words unto them, the fishermen became exceedingly terrified. With pale faces they repaired to king Nahusha and informed him of all that had taken place.'"
Next: Section LI