The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'I desire to hear, O grandsire, what the merits are of that person who makes the gift of a pair of sandals unto a Brahmana whose feet are burning or being scorched by hot sand, while he is walking.'
"Bhishma said, 'The man, that gives unto the Brahmanas sandals for the protection of their feet, succeeds in crushing all thorns and gets over every kind of difficulty. Such a man, O Yudhishthira, stays over the heads of all his foes. Vehicles of pure splendour, with mules harnessed thereto, and made of gold and silver, O monarch, approach him. He who makes a gift of sandals is said to earn the merit of making the gift of a vehicle with well-broken steeds yoked thereto.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'Do thou tell me in detail once more, O grandsire, of the merits that attach to gifts of sesame and land and kine and food.'
"Bhishma said, 'Do thou hear, O son of Kunti, what the merits are that attach to the gift of sesame. Hearing me, do thou, then, O best of the Kurus, make gifts of sesame according to the ordinance. Sesame seeds were created by the Self-born Brahman as the best food for the Pitris. Hence, gifts of sesame seeds always gladden the Pitris greatly. The man who makes gifts of sesame seeds, in the month of Magha, unto the Brahmanas, has never to visit hell which abounds with all frightful creatures. He who adores the Pitris with offerings of sesame seeds is regarded as worshipping the deities at all the sacrifices. One should never perform a Sraddha with offerings of sesame seeds without cherishing some purpose. 1 Sesame seeds sprang from the limbs of the great Rishi Kasyapa. Hence, in the matter of gifts, they have come to be regarded as possessed of high efficacy. Sesame seeds bestow both prosperity and personal beauty and cleans the giver of all his sins It is for this reason that the gift of sesame seeds is distinguished above the gift of every other article. Apastamva
of great intelligence, and Kankha and Likhita, and the great Rishi Gautama have all ascended to heaven by having made gifts of sesame seeds. Those Brahmanas that make Homa with offerings of sesame, abstain from sexual intercourse, and are observant of the religion of Pravritti or acts, are regarded as equal (in purity and efficacy) to bovine Havi. The gift of sesame seeds is distinguished above all gifts. Amongst all gifts, the gifts of sesame is regarded as productive of inexhaustible merit. In ancient times when Havi (clarified butter) on one occasion had become unobtainable the Rishi Kusika, O scorcher of foes, made offerings of sesame seeds to his three sacrificial fires and succeeded in attaining to an excellent end. I have thus said unto thee, O chief of the Kurus, what the regulations are respecting the excellent gift of sesame seeds. It is in consequence of these regulations that the gift of sesame seeds has come to be regarded as endued with very superior merit. After this, listen to what I would say. Once on a time the deities, desirous of making a sacrifice, repaired, O monarch, to the presence of the Self-born Brahman. Having met Brahman, being desirous of performing a sacrifice on earth, they begged him for a piece of auspicious earth, saying, 'We want it for our sacrifice.'
'The deities said, 'O illustrious one, thou art the lord of all the earth as also of all the deities. With thy permission, O highly blessed one, we desire to perform a sacrifice. The person who has not obtained by lawful means the earth whereon to make the sacrificial altar, earns not the merit of the sacrifice he performs. Thou art the Lord of all the universe consisting of its mobile and immobile objects. Hence, it behoveth thee to grant us a piece of earth for the sacrifice we wish to make.'
"Brahman said, 'Ye foremost of deities, I shall give you a piece of earth whereon, ye sons of Kasyapa, you shall perform your intended sacrifice.'
"The deities said, 'Our wishes, O holy one, have been crowned with fruition. We shall perform our sacrifice even here with large Dakshina. Let, however, the Munis always adore the piece of earth. Then there came to that place Agastya and Kanwa and Bhrigu and Atri and Vrishakapi, and Asita and Devala. The high-souled deities then, O thou of unfading glory, performed their sacrifice. Those foremost of gods concluded it in due time. Having completed that sacrifice of theirs on the breast of that foremost of mountains. Himavat, the deities attached to the gift of earth a sixth part of the merit arising from their sacrifice. The man who makes a gift of even a span of earth (unto a Brahmana) with reverence and faith, has never to languish under any difficulty and has never to meet with any calamity. By making a gift of a house that keeps out cold, wind, and sun, and that stand upon a piece of clean land, the giver attains to the region of the deities and does not fall down even when his merit becomes exhausted. By making a gift of a residential house, the giver, possessed of wisdom, lives, O king, in happiness in the company of Sakra. Such a person receives great honours in heaven.
[paragraph continues] That person in whose house a Brahmana of restrained sense, well-versed in the Vedas, and belonging by birth to a family of preceptors, resides in contentment, succeeds in attaining to and enjoying a region of high felicity. 1 After the same manner, O best of the Bharatas, by giving away a shed for the shelter of kine that can keep out cold and rain and that is substantial in structure, the giver rescues seven generations of his race (from hell). By giving away a piece of arable earth the giver attains to excellent prosperity. By giving a piece of earth containing mineral wealth, the giver aggrandises his family and race. One should never give away any earth that is barren or that is burnt (arid); nor should one give away any earth that is in close vicinity to a crematorium, or that has been owned and enjoyed by a sinful person before such gift. When a man performs a Sraddha in honour of the Pitris on earth belonging to another person, the Pitris render both the gift of that earth and the Sraddha itself futile. 2 Hence, one possessed of wisdom should buy even a small piece of earth and make a gift of it. The Pinda that is offered to one's ancestors on earth that has been duly purchased becomes inexhaustible. 3 Forests, and mountains, and rivers, and Tirthas are regarded as having no owners. No earth need be purchased here for performing Sraddhas. Even this has been said, O king, on the subject of the merits of making gifts of earth. After this, O sinless one, I shall discourse to thee on the subject of the gift of kine. Kine are regarded as superior to all the ascetics. And since it is so, the divine Mahadeva for that reason performed penance in their company. Kine, O Bharata, dwell in the region of Brahman, in the company of Soma. Constituting as it does the highest end, regenerate Rishis crowned with success strive to attain to that very region. Kine benefit human beings with milk, ghee, curds, dung, skin, bones, horns, and hair, O Bharata. Kine do not feel cold or heat. They always work. The season of rains also cannot afflict them at all. And since kine attain to the highest end (viz., residence in the region of Brahman), in the company of Brahmanas, therefore do the wise say that king and Brahmanas are equal. In days of yore, king Rantideva performed a grand sacrifice in which an immense number of kine were offered up and slaughtered. From the juice that was secreted by the skins of the slaughtered animals, a river was formed that came to be called by the name of Charmanwati. Kine no longer form animals fit for sacrifice. They now constitute animals that are fit for gift. That king who makes gifts of kine unto the foremost of Brahmanas, O monarch, is sure to get over
every calamity even if he falls into it. The man who makes a gift of a thousand kine has not to go to hell. Such a person, O ruler of men, obtains victory everywhere. The very chief of the deities had said that the milk of kine is nectar. For this reason, one who makes a gift of a cow is regarded as making a gift of nectar. Persons conversant with the Vedas have declared that the Ghee manufactured from cows' milk is the very best of all libations poured into the sacrificial fire. For this reason, the man who makes a gift of a cow is regarded as making a gift of a libation for sacrifice. A bovine bull is the embodiment of heaven. He who makes the gift of a bovine bull unto an accomplished Brahmana, receives great honours in heaven. Kine, O chief of Bharata's race, are said to be the life-breath of living creatures. Hence, the man who makes the gift of a cow is said to make the gift of life-breath. Persons conversant with the Vedas have said that kine constitute the great refuge of living creatures. Hence, the man who makes the gift of a cow is regarded as making the gift of what is the high refuge for all creatures. The cow should never be given away for slaughter (i.e., unto one who will kill her); nor should the cow be given unto a tiller of the soil; nor should the cow be given unto an atheist. The cow should not also, O chief of the Bharatas, be given unto one whose occupation is the keeping of kine. 1 The wise have said that a person who gives away the cow unto any of such sinful persons has to sink into everlasting hell. One should never give unto a Brahmana a cow that is lean, or that produces calves that do not live, or that is barren, or that is diseased, or that is defective of limb, or that is worn out with toil. The man that gives away ten thousand kine attains to heaven and sports in bliss in the companionship of Indra. The man who makes gifts of kine by hundred thousand acquires many regions of inexhaustible felicity. Thus have I recited to thee the merits attaching to the gift of kine and of sesame, as also to the gift of earth. Listen now to me as I discourse to thee upon the gift of food, O Bharata. The gift of food, O son of Kunti, is regarded as a very superior gift. King Rantideva in days of yore ascended to heaven by having made gifts of food. That king, who make a gift of food unto one that is toil-worn and hungry, attains to that region of supreme felicity which is the Self-born's own. Men fail to attain by gifts of gold and robes and of other thing, to that felicity to which givers of food succeed in attaining, O thou of great puissance! Food is, indeed, the first article. Food is regarded as the highest prosperity. It is from food that life springs, as also energy and prowess and strength. He who always makes gifts of food, with attention, unto the righteous, never falls into any distress.. Even this has been said by Parasara. Having worshipped the deities duly, food should be first dedicated to them. It has been said, O king, that the kind of food that is taken by particular
men is taken also by the deities those men worship. 1 That man who makes a gift of food in the bright fortnight of the month of Kartika, succeeds in crossing every difficulty here add attains to inexhaustible felicity hereafter. That man who makes a gift of food unto a hungry guest arrived at his abode, attains to all those regions, O chief of Bharata's race, that are reserved for persons acquainted with Brahma. The man who makes gifts of food is sure to cross every difficulty and distress. Such a person comes over every sin and cleanses himself of every evil act. I have thus discoursed to thee upon the merits of making gifts of food, of sesame, of earth, and of kine.'"
80:1 There may be akama and sakama acts, i.e., acts without desires of fruit and acts with desires of fruit. A Sraddha with Tila or sesame should never be done without desire for fruit.
82:1 When a residential house is given away unto such a Brahmana and the receiver resides in it, the giver reaps the reward indicated. It does not refer to the hospitable shelter to such a Brahmana given by one in one's own house.
82:2 To this day, in Bengal at least, a tenant never performs the first Sraddha or a Puja (worship of the deities) without obtaining in the first instance the permission of the landlord. There is in Sraddhas a Rajavarana or royal fee payable to the owner of the earth on which the Sraddha is performed.
82:3 Tasyam is explained by the commentator as kritayam.
83:1 Kinasa is either one who tills the soil with the aid of bulls or one who slays cattle. Having first mentioned vadhartham, kinasa should here be taken for a tiller. Kasai, meaning butcher, seems to be a corruption of the word kinasa.
84:1 One need not dedicate unto one's deities any other food than what one takes oneself. In the Ramayana it has been said that Rama offered unto the Pitris astringent fruits while he was in exile. The Pisachas dedicate carrion unto their deities for they themselves subsist upon carrion.
Next: Section LXVII