The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'King Yudhishthira endued with humility, once again questioned the royal son of Santanu on the subject of gifts of kine in detail.'
"The king said, 'Do thou, O Bharata, once more discourse to me in
detail on the merits of giving away kine. Verily, O hero, I have not been satiated with hearing thy nectar-like words!'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed by king Yudhishthira the just, Santanu's son began to discourse to him once again, in detail on the merits attaching to the gift of kine.'
"Bhishma said, 'By giving unto a Brahmana a cow possessed of a calf, endued with docility and other virtues, young in years, and wrapped round with a piece of cloth, one becomes cleansed of all one's sins. There are many regions (in Hell) which are sunless. One who makes the gift of a cow has not to go thither. That man, however, who gives unto a Brahmana a cow that is incapable of drinking or eating, that has her milk dried up, that is endued with senses all of which have been weakened, and that is diseased and overcome with decrepitude, and that may, therefore, be likened to a tank whose water has been dried up,--indeed, the man who gives such a cow unto a Brahmana and thereby inflicts only pain and disappointment upon him, has certainly to enter into dark Hell. That cow which is wrathful and vicious, or diseased, or weak or which has been purchased without the price agreed upon having been paid,--or which would only afflict the regenerate recipient with distress and disappointment, should never be given. The regions such a man may acquire (as the rewards of other acts of righteousness performed by him) would fail to give him any happiness or impart to him any energy. Only such kine as are strong, endued with good behaviour, young in years, and possessed of fragrance, are applauded by all (in the matter of gift). Verily, as Ganga is the foremost of all rivers, even so is a Kapila cow the foremost of all kine.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'Why, O grandsire, do the righteous applaud the gift of a Kapila cow (as more meritorious) when all good kine that are given away should be regarded as equal? O thou of great puissance, I wish to hear what the distinction is that attaches to a Kapila cow. Thou art, verily, competent to discourse to me on this topic!' 1
"Bhishma said, 'I have, O son, heard old men recite this history respecting the circumstances under which the Kapila cow was created. I shall recite that old history to thee! In days of yore, the Self-born Brahman commanded the Rishi Daksha, saying,--Do thou create living creatures! From desire of doing good to creatures, Daksha, in the first instance, created food. Even as the deities exist, depending upon nectar, all living creatures, O puissant one, live depending upon the sustenance assigned by Daksha. Among all objects mobile and immobile, the mobile are superior. Among mobile creatures Brahmanas are superior. The sacrifices are all established upon them. It is by sacrifice that Soma (nectar) is got. Sacrifice has been established upon kine. 2 The gods become gratified through
sacrifices. As regards the Creation then, the means of support came first, creatures came next. As soon as creatures were born, they began to cry aloud for food. All of them then approached their creator who was to give them food like children approaching their father or mother. Knowing the intention which moved all his creatures, the holy lord of all creatures, viz., Daksha, for the sake of the beings he had created, himself drank a quantity of nectar. He became gratified with the nectar he quaffed and thereupon an eructation came out, diffusing an excellent perfume all around. As the result of that eructation. Daksha saw that it gave birth to a cow which he named Surabhi. This Surabhi was thus a daughter of his, that had sprung from his mouth. The cow called Surabhi brought forth a number of daughters who came to be regarded as the mothers of the world. Their complexion was like that of gold, and they were all Kapilas. They were the means of sustenance for all creatures. As those kine, whose complexion resembled that of Amrita, began to pour milk, the froth of that milk arose and began to spread on every side, even as when the waves of a running stream dashing against one another, copious froth is produced that spreads on every side. Some of that froth fell, from the mouths of the calves that were sucking, upon the head of Mahadeva who was then sitting on the Earth. The puissant Mahadeva thereupon, filled with wrath, cast his eyes upon those kine. With that third eye of his which adorns his forehead, he seemed to burn those kine as he looked at them. Like the Sun tingeing masses of clouds with diverse colours the energy that issued from the third eye of Mahadeva produced, O monarch, diverse complexion in those kine. Those amongst them, however, which succeeded in escaping from the glance of Mahadeva by entering the region of Soma, remained of the same colour with which they were born, for no change was produced in their complexion. Seeing that Mahadeva had become exceedingly angry; Daksha, the lord of all creatures, addressed him, saying--Thou hast, O great deity, been drenched with nectar. The milk or the froth that escapes from the mouths of calves sucking their dams is never regarded as impure remnant. 1 Chandramas, after drinking the nectar, pours it once more. It is not, however, on that account, looked upon as impure. After the same manner, the milk that these kine yield, being born of nectar, should not be regarded as impure (even though the udders have been touched by the calves with their mouths). The wind can never become impure. Fire can never become impure. Gold can never become impure. The Ocean can never become impure. The Nectar, even when drunk by the deities, can never become impure. Similarly, the milk of a cow, even when her udders are sucked by her calf, can never become impure. These kine will support all these worlds with the milk they will yield and the ghee that will be manufactured therefrom. All creatures wish to enjoy
the auspicious wealth, identifiable with nectar, that kine possess!--Having said these words, the lord of creatures, Daksha, made a present unto Mahadeva of a bull with certain kine. Daksha gratified the heart of Rudra, O Bharata, with that present, Mahadeva, thus gratified, made that bull his vehicle. And it was after the form of that bull that Mahadeva adopted the device on the standard floating on his battle-car. For this reason it is that Rudra came to be known as the bull-bannered deity. It was on that occasion also that the celestials, uniting together, made Mahadeva the lord of animals. Indeed, the great Rudra became the Master of kine and is named as the bull-signed deity. Hence, O king, in the matter of giving away kine, the gift is regarded as primarily desirable of Kapila kine which are endued with great energy and possessed of colour unchanged (from white). Thus are kine, the foremost of all creatures in the world. It is from them that the means have flowed of the sustenance of all the worlds. They have Rudra for their master. They yield Soma (nectar) in the form of milk. They are auspicious and sacred, and grantors of every wish and givers of life. A person by making a gift of a cow come to be regarded as making a gift of every article that is desired to be enjoyed by men. That man who, desiring to attain to prosperity, reads with a pure heart and body these verses on the origin of kine, becomes cleansed of all his sins and attains to prosperity and children and wealth and animals. He who makes a gift of a cow, O king, always succeeds in acquiring the merits that attach to gifts of Havya and Kavya, to the offer of oblations of water unto the Pitris, to other religious acts whose performance brings peace and happiness, to the gift of vehicles and cloths, and to the cherishing of children and the old.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Hearing these words of his grandsire, Pritha's son, viz., the royal Yudhishthira of Ajamida's race, uniting with his brothers, began to make gifts of both bulls and kine of different colours unto foremost of Brahmanas. Verily, for the purpose of subduing regions of felicity in the next, and winning great fame, king Yudhishthira performed many sacrifices and, as sacrificial presents, gave away hundreds of thousands of kine unto such Brahmanas.'"
109:1 Sikhi means a bull, so called from the hump it carries. The construction is sikhi Vrishaiva etc,
110:1 A Kapila cow is one that gives a copious measure of milk whenever she is milked, and is possessed of various other accomplishments and virtues.
110:2 For without ghee, which is produced from milk, there can be no sacrifice. The sa may refer to Soma, but sacrifice is evidently meant.
111:1 The idea of uchcchishta, is peculiarly Hindu and cannot be rendered into any other language. Everything that forms the remnant of meal after one has left of eating, is uchcchishta. The calf sucks its dam. The udders, however, are not washed before milking the dam, for the milk coming out of them is not held to be impure remnant.
Next: Section LXXVIII