The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection, O perpetuator of Kuru's race, is recited by the righteous the narrative of the great calamity that overtook king Nriga in consequence of his spoliation of what had belonged to a Brahmans. Some time before, certain young men of Yadu's race, while searching for water, had come upon a large well covered with grass and creepers. Desirous of drawing water from it, they laboured very much for removing the creepers that covered its mouth. After the mouth had been cleaned, they beheld within the well a very large lizard residing within it. The young men made strong and repeated efforts for rescuing the lizard from that situation. Resembling a very hill in size, the lizard was sought
to be freed by means of cords and leathern tongs. Not succeeding in their intention the young men then went to Janardana. Addressing him they said, 'Covering the entire space of a well, there is a very large lizard to be seen. Notwithstanding our best efforts we have not succeeded in rescuing it from that situation.' Even this was what they represented unto Krishna. Vasudeva then proceeded to the spot and took out the lizard and questioned it as to who it was. The lizard said that it was identical with the soul of king Nriga who had flourished in days of old and who had performed many sacrifices. Unto the lizard that said those words, Madhava spoke, 'Thou didst perform many righteous acts. No sin didst thou commit. Why, then, O king, hast thou come to such a distressful end? Do thou explain what this is and why it has been brought about. We have heard that thou didst repeatedly make gifts unto the Brahmanas of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands and once again eight times hundreds upon hundreds of ten thousands of kine. 1 Why, therefore, has this end overtaken thee?' Nriga then replied unto Krishna, saying, 'On one occasion a cow belonging to a Brahmana who regularly worshipped his domestic fire, escaping from the owner's abode while he was absent from home entered my flock. The keepers of my cattle included that cow in their tale of a thousand. In time that cow was given away by me unto a Brahmana, acting as I did from desire of happiness in heaven. The true owner, returning home, sought for his lost cow and at last saw it in the house of another.' Finding her, the owner said, 'This cow is mine!' The other person contested his claim, till both, disputing and excited with wrath, came to me. Addressing me one of them said, 'Thou hast been the giver of this cow!' The other one said, 'Thou hast robbed me of this cow--she is mine! I then solicited the Brahmana unto whom I had given that cow, to return the gift in exchange for hundreds upon hundreds of other kine. Without acceding to my earnest solicitations, he addressed me, saying. 'The cow I have got is well-suited to time and place. She yields a copious measure of milk, besides being very quiet and very fond of us. The mills she yields is very sweet. She is regarded as worthy of every praise in my house. She is nourishing, besides, a weak child of mine that has just been weaned. She is incapable of being given up by me.' Having said these words, the Brahmana went away. I then solicited the other Brahmana offering him an exchange, and saying, 'Do thou take a hundred thousand kine for this one cow.' The Brahmana, however, replied unto me, saying, 'I do not accept gifts from persons of the kingly order. I am able to get on without help. De thou then, without loss of time, give me that very cow which was mine.' Even thus, O slayer of Madhu, did that Brahmana speak unto me. I offered to make gifts unto him of gold and silver and horses and cars. That foremost of Brahmanas refused to accept any of these as gift and went away. Meanwhile, urged by time's irresistible influence, I had to depart from this world. Wending to the region of the Pitris I was taken
to the presence of the king of the dead. Worshipping me duly Yama addressed me, saying, 'The end cannot be ascertained, O king, of thy deed. There is, however, a little sin which was unconsciously perpetrated by thee. Do thou suffer the punishment for that sin now or afterwards as it pleases thee. Thou hadst (upon thy accession to the throne) sworn that thou wouldst protect (all persons in the enjoyment of their own). That oath of thine was not rigidly kept by thee. Thou tookest also what belonged to a Brahmana. Even this has been the two-fold sin thou hast committed.' I answered, saying, 'I shall first undergo the distress of punishment, and when that is over, I shall enjoy the happiness that is in store for me, O lord!' After I had said those words unto the king of the dead, I fell down on the Earth. Though fallen down I still could hear the words that Yama said unto me very loudly. Those words were, Janardana the son of Vasudeva, will rescue thee! Upon the completion of a full thousand years, when the demerit will be exhausted of thy sinful act, thou shalt then attain to many regions of inexhaustible felicity that have been acquired by thee through thy own acts of righteousness. Falling down I found myself, with head downwards, within this well, transformed into a creature of the intermediate order. Memory, however, did not leave me. By thee I have been rescued today. What else can it testify to than the puissance of thy penances? Let me have thy permission. O Krishna! I desire to ascend to heaven! permitted then by Krishna, king Nriga bowed his head unto him and then mounted a celestial car and proceeded to heaven. After Nriga had thus proceeded to heaven, O best of the Bharatas, Vasudeva recited this verse, O delighter of the Kurus. No one should consciously appropriate anything belonging to a Brahmana. The property of a Brahmana, if taken, destroys the taker even as the Brahmana's cow destroyed king Nriga! I tell thee, again, O Partha, that a meeting with the good never proves fruitless. Behold, king Nriga was rescued from hell through meeting with one that is good. As a gift is productive of merit even so an act of spoliation leads to demerit. Hence also, O Yudhishthira, one should avoid doing any injury to kine.'" 1
90:1 No particular number is intended. What is meant is--innumerable.
91:1 The 'hence' in the last line has reference to what has been said before on the subject of kine, and not to the first line of the verse.
Next: Section LXXI