The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'O chief of Bharata's rare, by whom was the custom of giving umbrellas and sandals at obsequial ceremonies introduced? Why was it introduced and for what purpose are those gifts made? They are given not only at obsequial ceremonies but also at other religious rites. They are given on many occasions with a view to acquiring religious merit. I wish to know, in detail, O regenerate one, the true meaning of this custom!'"
"Bhishma said, 'Do thou, O prince, attentively listen to the details I shall recite in respect of the custom of giving away umbrellas and shoes at religious rites, and as to how and by whom it was introduced. I shall also tell thee in full, O prince, how it acquired the force of a permanent observance and how it came to be viewed as a meritorious act. I shall, in this connection, recite the narrative of the discourse between Jamadagni and the high-souled Surya. In ancient times, the illustrious Jamadagni, O puissant king, of Bhrigu's race, was engaged in practising with his bow. Taking his aim, he shot arrow after arrow. His wife Renuka used to pick up the shafts when shot and repeatedly bring them back to that descendant, endued with blazing energy, of Bhrigu's race. Pleased with the whizzing noise of his arrows and the twang of his bow, he amused himself thus by repeatedly discharging his arrows which Renuka brought back into him. One day, at noontide, O monarch, in that month when the sun was in Jyesthamula, the Brahmana, having discharged all his arrows, said to Renuka, 'O large-eyed lady, go and fetch me the shafts I have shot from my bow, O thou of beautiful eye-brows! I shall again shoot them with my bow.' The lady proceeded on her errand but was compelled to sit under the shade of a tree, in consequence of her head and feet being scorched by the heat of the sun. The black-eyed and graceful Renuka, having rested for only a moment, feared the curse of her husband and, therefore, addressed herself again to the task of collecting and bringing back the arrows. Taking them with her, the celebrated lady of graceful features came back, distressed in mind and her feet smarting with pain.
[paragraph continues] Trembling with fear, she approached her husband. The Rishi, filled with wrath, repeatedly addressed his fair-faced spouse, saying, 'O Renuka, why hast thou teen so late in returning?'"
"Renuka said, 'O thou that art endued with wealth of penances, my head and feet were scorched by the rays of the sun! Oppressed by the heat, I had betaken myself to the shade of a tree! Just this has been the cause of the delay! Informed of the cause, do thou, O lord, cease to be angry with me!'"
"Jamadagni said, 'O Renuka, this very day shall I destroy, with the fiery energy of my weapons, the star of day with his blazing rays, that has afflicted thee in this way!'"
"Bhishma continued, 'Drawing his celestial bow, and taking up many arrows, Jamadagni stood, turning his face towards the sun and watching him as he moved (in his diurnal course). Then, O son of Kunti, beholding him addressed for fight, Surya approached him in the guise of a Brahmana, and said unto him. 'What has Surya done to displease thee? Coursing through the firmament, he draws up the moisture from the earth, and in the form of rains he pours it down once more on her. It is through this, O regenerate one, that the food of human beings springs up,--food that is so agreeable to them! The Vedas say that it is food that constitutes the life-breaths. O Brahmana, hidden in the clouds and encompassed by his rays, the sun drenches the seven islands with showers of rain. O puissant one, the moisture, thus poured, diffusing itself into the leaves and fruits of vegetables and herbs, is transformed into food. O son of Bhrigu, the rites of nativity, religious observances of every kind, investiture with the sacred thread, gifts of kine, weddings, all articles in view of sacrifices, the rules for the governance of men, gifts, all sorts of union (between man and man), and the acquisition of wealth, have their origin in food! Thou knowest this well! All the good and agreeable things in the universe, and all the efforts made by living creatures, flow from food. I duly recite what is well-known to thee! Indeed, thou fully knowest all that I have said! Do thou, therefore, O regenerate Rishi, appease thy anger! What wilt thou gain by annihilating the sun?'"
Next: Section XCVI