The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'O thou of great wisdom, a doubt I have that is very great and that is as vast as the ocean itself. Listen to it, O mighty-armed one and having learnt what it is, it behoves thee to explain it unto me. I have a great curiosity with respect to Jamadagni's son, O lord, viz., Rama, that foremost of all righteous persons. It behoveth thee to gratify that curiosity. How was Rama born who was endued with prowess incapable of being baffled? He belonged by birth to a race of regenerate Rishis. How did he become a follower of Kshatriya practices? Do thou, then, O king, recite to me in detail the circumstances of Rama's birth. How also did a son of the race of Kusika who was Kshatriya become a Brahmana? Great, without doubt, was the puissance of the high-souled Rama, O chief of men, as also of Viswamitra. Why did the grandson of Richika instead of his son become a Kshatriya in conduct? Why also did the grandson of Kusika and not his son become a Brahmana? Why did such untoward incidents overtake the grandsons of both, instead of their sons? It behoveth thee to explain the truth in respect of these circumstances.'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited an old history of the discourse between Chyavana and Kusika, O Bharata! Endued with great intelligence, Chyavana of Bhrigu's race, that best of ascetics beheld (with his spiritual eye) the stain that would affect his own race (in consequence of some descendant of his becoming wedded to Kshatriya practice). Reflecting upon the merits and faults of that incident, as also its strength and weakness, Chyavana endued with wealth of asceticism became desirous of consuming the race of the Kusikas (for it was from that race that the stain of Kshatriya practices would, he knew, affect his own race). Repairing then to the presence of king Kusika, Chyavana said unto him, 'O sinless one, the desire has arisen in my heart of dwelling with thee for some time.'
"Kusika said, 'O holy one, residence together is an act which the learned ordain for girls when these are given away. They that are endued with wisdom always speak of the practice in such connection only. O Rishi endued with wealth of asceticism, the residence which thou seekest with me is not sanctioned by the ordinance. Yet, however opposed to the dictates of duty and righteousness, I shall do what thou mayst be pleased to command.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Ordering a seat to be placed for the great ascetic Chyavana, king Kusika, accompanied by his wife, stood in the presence of the ascetic. Bringing a little jar of water, the king offered him water for washing his feet. He then, through his, servants, caused all the rites to be duly performed in honour of his high-souled guest. The high-souled Kusika, who was observant of restraints and vows, then cheerfully presented, according to due forms, the ingredients consisting of honey and the other things, to the great Rishi and induced him to accept the same. Having welcomed and honoured the learned Brahmana in this way, the
king once more addressed him and said, 'We two await thy orders! Command us what we are to do for thee, O holy one! If it is our kingdom or wealth or kine, O thou of rigid vows, or all articles that are given away in sacrifices, which thou wantest, tell us the word, and we shall bestow all upon thee! This palace, the kingdom, this seat of justice, await thy pleasure. Thou art the lord of all these! Do thou rule the earth! As regards myself, I am completely dependent upon thee.' Addressed in these words by the king, Chyavana of Bhrigu's race, filled with great delight, said unto Kusika these words in reply.'
"Chyavana said, 'I do not, O king, covet thy kingdom, nor thy wealth, nor the damsels thou hast, nor thy kine, nor thy provinces, nor articles needed for sacrifice. Do thou listen to me. If it pleases thee and thy wife, I shall commence to observe a certain vow. I desire thee and thy wife to serve me during that period without any scruples. Thus addressed by the Rishi, the king and the queen became filled with joy, O Bharata, and answered him, saving, 'Be it so, O Rishi!' Delighted with the Rishi's words, the king led him into an apartment of the palace. It was an excellent one, agreeable to see. The king showed him everything in that room. And the king said. 'This, O holy one, is thy bed. Do thou live here as thou pleasest! O thou that art endued with wealth of asceticism, myself and my queen shall strive our best to give thee every comfort and every pleasure.' While they were thus conversing with each other, the sun passed the meridian. The Rishi commanded the king to bring him food and drink, King Kusika, bowing unto the Rishi, asked him, saying, 'What kind of food is agreeable to thee? What food, indeed, shall be brought for thee?' Filled with delight, the Rishi answered that rule of men, O Bharata, saying, 'Let food that is proper be given to me.' Receiving these words with respect, the king said, 'So be it!' and then offered unto the Rishi food of the proper kind. Having finished his meals, the holy Chyavana, conversant with every duty, addressed the king and the queen, saying, 'I desire to slumber. O puissant one, sleep hinders me now.' Proceeding thence to a chamber that had been prepared for him, that best of Rishis then laid himself down upon a bed. The king and the queen sat themselves down. The Rishi said to them, 'Do not, while I sleep, awake me. Do ye keep yourselves awake and continually press my feet as long as I sleep.' Without the least scruple, Kusika, conversant with every duty, said, 'So be it!' Indeed, the king and the queen kept themselves awake all night, duly engaged in tending and serving the Rishi in the manner directed. The royal couple, O monarch accomplished the Rishi's bidding with earnestness and attention. Meanwhile the holy Brahmana, having thus laid his commands upon the king, slept soundly, without changing his posture or turning even once, for a space of one and twenty days. The king, O delighter of the Kurus, foregoing all food, along with his wife, sat joyfully the whole time engaged in tending and serving the Rishi. On the expiration of one and twenty days, the son of Bhrigu rose of his own accord. The great ascetic then went out of the room,
without accosting them at all. Famished and toil-worn the king and the queen followed him, but that foremost of Rishis did not deign to cast a single glance upon any of them. Proceeding a little way, the son of Bhrigu disappeared in the very sight of the royal couple (making himself invisible by his Yoga-power). At this, the king, struck with grief, fell down on the earth. Comforted, he rose up soon, and accompanied by his queen, the monarch, possessed of great splendour, began to search everywhere for the Rishi.'
Next: Section LIII