The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'The disposition is seen, O grandsire, in all the orders of men, including the very Mlechchhas, of observing fasts. The reason, however, of this is not known to us. It has been heard by us that only Brahmanas and Kshatriyas should observe the vow of fasts. How, O grandsire, are the other orders to be taken as earning any merit by the observance of fasts? How have vows and fasts come to be observed by persons of all orders, O king? What is that end to which one devoted to the observance of fasts attains? It has been said that fasts are highly meritorious and that fasts are a great refuge. O prince of men, what is the fruit that is earned in this world by the man that observe fasts? By what means is one cleansed of one's sins? By what means doth one acquire righteousness? By what means, O best of the Bharatas, doth one succeed in acquiring heaven and merit? After having observed a fast, what should one give away, O king? O, tell me, what those duties are by which one may succeed in obtaining such objects as lead to happiness?'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Unto Kunti's son by the deity of Dharma, who was conversant with every duty and who said so unto him, Santanu's son, Bhishma, who was acquainted with every duty, answered in the following words.'
"Bhishma, said, 'In former days, O king, I heard of these high merits, O chief of Bharata's race, as attaching to the observance of fasts according to the ordinance, I had, O Bharata, asked the Rishi Angiras of high ascetic merit, the very same questions which thou hast asked me today. Questioned by me thus, the illustrious Rishi, who sprang from the sacrificial fire, answered me even thus in respect of the observance of fasts according to the ordinance.'
"Angiras said, 'As regards Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, fasts for three nights at a stretch are ordained for them, O delighter of the Kurus. Indeed, O chief of men, a fast for one night, for two nights, and for three nights, may be observed by them. (They should never go beyond three nights). As regards Vaisyas and Sudras, the duration of fasts prescribed for them is a single night. If, from folly, they observe fasts for two or three nights, such fasts never lead to their advancement. Indeed, for Vaisyas and Sudras, fasts for two nights have been ordained (on certain special occasions). Fasts for three nights, however, have not been laid down for them by persons conversant with and observant of duties. That man of wisdom who, with his senses and soul under control, O Bharata, fasts, by abstaining from one of the two meals, on the fifth and the sixth days of the moon as also on the day of the full moon, becomes endured with forgiveness and beauty of person and conversance with the scriptures. Such a person never becomes childless and poor. He who performs sacrifices for adoring the deities on the fifth and sixth days of the moon, transcends all the members of his family and succeeds in feeding a large number of Brahmanas. He who observes fasts on the eighth and the
fourteenth days of the dark fortnight, becomes freed from maladies of every kind and possessed of great energy. The man who abstains from one meal every day throughout the month called Margasirsha, should, with reverence and devotion, feed a number of Brahmanas. By so doing he becomes freed from all his sins. Such a man becomes endued with prosperity, and all kinds of grain become his. He becomes endued with energy. In fact, such a person reaps an abundance of harvest from his fields, acquires great wealth and much corn. That man, O son of Kunti, who passes the whole month of Pausha, abstaining every day from one of two meals, becomes endued with good fortune and agreeable features and great fame. He who passes the whole month of Magha, abstaining every day from one of the two meals, takes birth in a high family and attains to a position of eminence among his kinsmen. He who passes the whole month of Bhagadaivata, confining himself every day to only one meal becomes a favourite with women who, indeed, readily own his sway. He who passes the whole of the month of Chaitra, confining himself every day to one meal, takes birth in a high family and becomes rich in gold, gems, and pearls. The person, whether male or female, who passes the month of Vaisakha, confining himself or herself every day to one meal, and keeping his or her senses under control, succeeds in attaining to a position of eminence among kinsmen. The person who passes the month of Jyaishtha confining himself every day to one meal a day, succeeds in attaining to a position of eminence and great wealth. If a woman, she reaps the same reward. He who passes the month of Ashadha confining himself to one meal a day and with senses steadily concentrated upon his duties, becomes possessed of much corn, great wealth, and a large progeny. He who passes the month of Sravana, confining himself to one meal a day, receives the honours of Abhisheka wherever he may happen to reside, and attains to a position of eminence among kinsmen whom he supports. That man who confines himself to only one meal a day for the whole month of Proshthapada, becomes endued with great wealth and attains, to swelling and durable affluence. The man who passes the month of Aswin, confining himself to one meal a day, becomes pure in soul and body, possessed of animals and vehicles in abundance, and a large progeny. He who passes the month of Kartika, confining himself to one meal every day, becomes possessed of heroism, many spouses, and great fame. I have now told thee, O chief of men what the fruits are that are obtained by men by observing fasts for the two and ten months in detail. Listen now, O king, to me as I tell thee what the rules are in respect of each of the lunar days. The man who, abstaining from it every day, takes rice at the expiration of every fortnight, becomes possessed of a great many kine, a large progeny, and a long life. He who observes a fast for three nights every month and conducts himself thus for two and ten years, attains to a position of supremacy among his kinsmen and associates, without a rival to contest
his claim and without any anxiety caused by any one endeavouring to rise to the same height. These rules that I speak of, O chief of Bharata's race, should be observed for two and ten years. Let the inclination be manifested towards it. That man who eats once in the forenoon and once after evening and abstains from drinking (or eating anything) in the interval, and who observes compassion, towards all creatures and pours libations of clarified butter on his sacred fire every day, attains to success, O king, in six years. There is no doubt in this. Such a man earns the merit that attaches to the performance of the Agnishtoma sacrifice. Endued with merit and freed from every kind of stain, he attains to the region of the Apsaras that echo with the sound of songs and dance, and passes his days in the company of a thousand damsels of great beauty. He rides on a car of the complexion of melted gold and receives high honours in the region of Brahma. After the exhaustion of that merit such a person comes back to earth and attains to pre-eminence of position. That man who passes one whole year, confining himself every day to only one meal, attains to the merit of the Atiratra sacrifice. He ascends to heaven after death and receives great honours there. Upon the exhaustion of that merit he returns to earth and attains to a position of eminence. He who passes one whole year observing fasts for three days in succession and taking food on every fourth day, and abstaining from injury from every kind adheres to truthfulness of speech and keeps his senses under control, attains to the merit of the Vajapeya sacrifice. Such a person ascends to heaven after death and receives high honours there. That man, O son of Kunti, who passes a whole year observing fasts for five days and taking food on only the sixth day, acquires the merit of the Horse-sacrifice. The chariot he rides is drawn by Chakravakas. Such a man enjoys every kind of happiness in heaven for full forty thousand years. He who passes a whole year observing fasts for seven days and taking food on only every eighth day, acquires the merit of the Gavamaya sacrifice. The chariot he rides is drawn by swans and cranes. Such a person enjoys all kinds of happiness in Heaven for fifty thousand years. He who passes a whole year, O king, eating only at intervals of a fortnight, acquires the merit of a continuous fast for six months. This has been said by the illustrious Angiras himself. Such a man dwells in heaven for sixty thousand years. He is roused every morning from his bed by the sweet notes of Vinas and Vallakis and flutes, O king. He who passes a whole year, drinking only a little water at the expiration of every month, acquires, O monarch, the merit of the Viswajit sacrifice. Such a man rides a chariot drawn by lions and tigers. He dwells in heaven for seventy thousand years in the enjoyment of every kind of happiness. No fast for more than a month, O chief of men, has been ordained. Even this, O son of Pritha, is the ordinance in respect of fasts that has been declared by sages conversant with duties. That man who, unafflicted by disease and free from every malady, observes a fast, verily acquires, at every step the merits
that attach to Sacrifices. Such a man ascends to Heaven on a car drawn by swans. Endued with puissance, he enjoys every kind of happiness in heaven for a hundred years. A hundred Apsaras of the most beautiful features wait upon and sport with him. He is roused from his bed every morning by the sound of the Kanchis and the Nupuras of those damsels. 1 Such a person rides on a car drawn by a thousand swans. Dwelling, again, in a region teeming with hundreds of the most beautiful damsels, he passes his time in great joy. The person who is desirous of heaven does not like the accession of strength when he becomes weak, or the cure of wounds when he is wounded, or the administration of healing drugs when he is ill, or soothing by others when he is angry, or the mitigation, by the expenditure of wealth, of sorrows caused by poverty, Leaving this world where he suffers only privations of every kind, he proceeds to heaven and rides on cars adorned with gold, his person embellished with ornaments of every kind. There, in the midst of hundreds of beautiful damsels, he enjoys all kinds of pleasure and happiness, cleansed of every sin. Indeed, abstaining from food and enjoyments in this world, he takes leave of this body and ascends to heaven as the fruit of his penances. There, freed from all his sins, health and happiness become his and whatever wishes arise in his mind become crowned with fruition. Such a person rides on a celestial car of golden complexion, of the effulgence of the morning sun, set with pearls and lapis lazuli, resounding with the music of Vinas and Murajas, adorned with banners and lamps, and echoing with the tinkle of celestial bells, such a person enjoys all kinds of happiness in heaven for as many years as there are pores in his body. There is no Sastra superior to the Veda. There is no person more worthy of reverence than the mother. There is no acquisition superior to that of Righteousness, and no penance superior to fast. There is nothing, more sacred, in heaven or earth, than Brahmanas. After the same manner there is no penance that is superior to the observance of fasts. It was by fasts that the deities have succeeded in becoming denizens of heaven. It is by fasts that the Rishis have attained to high success. Viswamitra passed a thousand celestial years, confining himself every day to only one meal, and as the consequence thereof attained to the status of a Brahmana. Chyavana and Jamadagni and Vasishtha and Gautama and Bhrigu--all these great Rishis endued with the virtue of forgiveness, have attained to heaven through observance of fasts. In former days Angiras declared so unto the great Rishis. The man who teaches another the merit of fasts have never to suffer any kind of misery. The ordinances about fasts, in their due order, O son of Kunti, have flowed from the great Rishi Angiras. The man who daily reads these ordinances or
hears them read, becomes freed from sins of every kind. Not only is such a person freed from every calamity, but his mind becomes incapable of being touched by any kind of fault. Such a person succeeds in understanding the sounds of all creatures other than human, and acquiring eternal fame, become foremost of his species.'"
212:1 Kanchi is an ornament worn by ladies round the waist or hips. There is a shining disc of gold or silver, which dangles on the hip. It is commonly called Chandra-hara. The Nupura is an anklet of silver, with moving bullets placed within, so that when the wearer moves, these make an agreeable sound.
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