The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'How was Nahusha plunged into distress? How was he hurled down on the earth? How, indeed, was he deprived of the sovereignty of the gods? It behoveth thee to recite everything to me.'
"Bhishma said, 'Even thus did those two Rishis, viz., Bhrigu and Agastya, converse with each other. I have already told thee how Nahusha,
when he first became the chief of the gods, acted in a becoming way. Verily, all acts of human and celestial nature flowed from that high souled royal sage! The offering of light, and all other rites of a similar kind, the due presentation of Valis, and all rites as are performed on especially sacred days,--all these were properly observed by the high-souled Nahusha who had become the sovereign of the deities. 1 Pious acts are always observed by those that are possessed of wisdom, in both the world of men and that of the deities. Verily, O foremost of kings, if such acts are observed, householders always succeed in acquiring prosperity and advancement. Even such is the effect of the gift of lamps and of incense, as also of bows and prostrations, to the deities. When food is cooked, the first portion thereof should be offered to a Brahmana. The particular offerings called Vali should also be presented to the household deities. The deities become gratified with such gifts. 2 It is also well-known that the measure of gratification which the deities derive from such offerings is a hundred times as great as that which the householder himself derives from making them. Persons endued with piety and wisdom make offerings of incense and lights, accompanying them with bows and prostrations. Such acts are always fraught with advancement and prosperity to those that do them. Those rites which the learned go through in course of their ablutions, and with the aid of waters, accompanied with bows unto the gods, always contribute to the gratification of the gods. When worshipped with proper rites, the highly blessed Pitris, Rishis possessed of wealth of asceticism, and the household deities, all become gratified. Filled with such ideas, Nahusha, that great king, when he obtained the sovereignty of the deities, observed all these rites and duties fraught with great glory. Some time after the good fortune of Nahusha waned, and as the consequence thereof, he disregarded all these observances and began to act in defiance of all restraints in the manner I have already adverted to. The chief of the deities, in consequence of his abstention from observing the ordinances about the offers of incense and light, began to decline in energy. His sacrificial rites and presents were obstructed by Rakshasas. It was at this time that Nahusha yoked that foremost of Rishis, viz., Agastya, to his car. Endued with great strength, Nahusha, smiling the while, set that great Rishi quickly to the task, commanding him to bear the vehicle from the banks of the Saraswati (to the place he would indicate). At this time, Bhrigu, endued with great energy, addressed the son of Mitravaruna, saying, 'Do thou close thy eyes till I enter into the matted locks on thy head.' Having said this, Bhrigu of unfading glory and mighty energy entered into the matted locks of Agastya who stood still like a
wooden post for hurling king Nahusha from the throne of Heaven. Soon after Nahusha saw Agastya approach him for bearing his vehicle. Beholding the lord of the deities Agastya addressed him, saying, 'Do thou yoke me to thy vehicle without delay. To what region shall I bear thee? O lord of the deities, I shall bear thee to the spot which thou mayst be pleased to direct.' Thus addressed by him, Nahusha caused the ascetic to be yoked to his vehicle. Bhrigu, who was staying within the matted locks of Agastya, became highly pleased at this act of Nahusha. He took care not to cast his eyes upon Nahusha. Fully acquainted with the energy which the illustrious Nahusha had acquired in consequence of the boon which Brahman had granted him, Bhrigu conducted himself in this way. Agastya also, though treated by Nahusha in this way, did not give way to wrath. Then, O Bharata, king Nahusha urged Agastya on with, his goad. The righteous-souled Rishi did not still give way to anger. The lord of the deities, himself giving way to anger, then struck Agastya on the head with his left foot. When the Rishi was thus struck on the head, Bhrigu, who was staying within Agastya's matted locks, became incensed and cursed Nahusha of sinful soul, saying, 'Since thou hast struck with thy foot on the head of this great Rishi, do thou, therefore, fall down on the earth, transformed into a snake, O wretch of wicked understanding!' Thus cursed by Bhrigu who had not been seen. Nahusha immediately became transformed into a snake and fell down on the earth, O chief of Bharata's race! If O monarch, Nahusha had seen Bhrigu, the latter would not then have succeeded, by his energy, in hurling the former down on the earth. In consequence of the various gifts that Nahusha had made, as also his penances and religious observances though hurled down on the earth, O king, he succeeded in retaining his memory. He then began to propitiate Bhrigu with a view to the working out of the course. Agastya also, filled with compassion, joined Nahusha in pacifying Bhrigu for bringing about an end of the course. At last Bhrigu felt compassion for Nahusha and provided' for the working out of the course.'
'Bhrigu said, 'There will appear a king (on earth) of the name of Yudhishthira, the foremost of his race. He will rescue thee from this curse.' Having said this, the Rishi vanished in the very sight of Nahusha. Agastya also, of mighty energy, having thus accomplished the business of the true Indra, that performer of a hundred sacrifices, returned to his own asylum, worshipped by all members of the regenerate order. Thou hast, O king, rescued Nahusha from Bhrigu's curse. Verily, rescued by thee, he ascended to the region of Brahman in thy sight. As regards Bhrigu, having hurled Nahusha on the earth, he went to the region of Brahman and informed the Grandsire of it. The Grandsire, having called Indra back, addressed the deities, saying. 'Ye deities, through the boon I had granted him, Nahusha had obtained the sovereignty of heaven. Deprived, however, of that sovereignty by the enraged Agastya, he has been hurled on the earth. Ye deities, ye will not succeed in living without a chief.
[paragraph continues] Do ye, therefore, once more install Indra in the sovereignty of Heaven.' Unto the Grandsire, O son of Pritha, who said so unto them, the deities filled with joy, replied, saying, 'So be it!' The divine Brahman then, O best of monarchs, installed Indra in the sovereignty of heaven. Made once more the chief' of the deities, Vasava began to shine in beauty and resplendence. Even this is what occurred in days of yore through the transgression of Nahusha. In consequence, however, of the merits he had acquired through acts of the kind I have mentioned Nahusha succeeded in once more regaining his lost position. Hence, when evening comes, persons leading the domestic mode of life should give lights. The giver of lights is sure to acquire celestial sight after death. Verily, givers of light become as resplendent as the full moon. The giver of lights becomes endued with beauty of form and strength for as many years as correspond with the number of twinkles for which the lights given by him burn or blaze.'" 1
182:1 The Bombay text has vatsakah for utsavah. If the former reading he adopted, it would mean those rites that are performed for the prosperity and longevity of children. Of course, in such rites also the deities are worshipped and propitiated.
182:2 For Dwijaya some text read Grahaya meaning guests.
184:1 'Jwalante' has 'dwipah' for its nominative understood. A twinkle occupies an instant of time. What is said here is that the giver of lights becomes endued with beauty and strength for as many years as the number of instants for which the lights given by him are seen to burn.
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