The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'O high-souled grandsire, thou hast duly discoursed to us on the subject of Sacrifices, including the merits in detail that attach to them both here and hereafter. It should be remembered, however, O grandsire, that Sacrifices are incapable of being performed, by people that are poor, for these require a large store of diverse kinds of articles. Indeed, O grandsire, the merit attaching to Sacrifices can be acquired by only kings and princes. That merit is incapable of being acquired by those that are destitute of wealth and divested of ability and that live alone and are helpless. Do thou tell us, O grandsire, what the ordinances are in respect of those acts that are fraught with merit equal to what attaches to sacrifices and which, therefore, are capable of being performed by persons destitute of means.' 1
"Bhishma said, 'Listen, O Yudhishthira! Those ordinances that I have told thee of,--those, viz., that were first promulgated by the great Rishi Angiras, and that have reference to meritorious facts for their soul,--are regarded as equal to Sacrifices (in respect of the fruits they bring about both here and hereafter). That man who takes one meal in the forenoon and one at night, without taking any food or drink during the interval, and who observes this regulations for a period of six years in succession, abstaining all the while from injuring any creature and regularly pouring libations on his sacred fire every day, attains, without doubt, to success. Such a man acquires hereafter a car of the complexion of heated gold, and attains to a residence, for millions of years, in the region of Prajapati, in the company of celestial damsels, that ever echoes with the sound of music and dance, and blazes with the effulgence of fire. He who passes three years, confining himself every day to one meal and abstaining all the while from congress with any other woman save his own wedded wife, attains to the merit of the Agnishtoma sacrifice, Such a man is regarded as having performed a Sacrifice, with plenty of gifts in gold, that is dear to Vasava himself. By practising truthfulness of speech, making gifts, reverencing the Brahmanas, avoiding malice, becoming forgiving and self-restrained,
and conquering wrath, a man attains to the highest end. Riding on a car of the complexion of white clouds that is drawn by swans, he lives, for millions and million of years, in the company of Apsaras. Fasting for a whole day and eating only one meal on the second day, he who pours libations upon his sacred fire for the period of a whole year,--verily, he who observes such a fast and attends every day to his fire and rises every day from bed before sunrise, attains to the merit of the Agnishtoma sacrifice. Such a man acquires a car drawn by swans and cranes. Surrounded by the most beautiful damsels, he resides in the region of Indra. That man who eats only one meal every third day, and pours libations every day on his sacred fire for a period of a whole year,--indeed, he who thus attends to his fire every day and wakes up from sleep every morning before the sun is up, attains to the high merit of the Atiratra sacrifice. He acquires a car drawn by peacocks and swans and cranes. Proceeding to the region of the seven (celestial) Rishis, he takes up his residence there, surrounded by Apsaras of great beauty. It is well-known that such residence lasts for full three Padmas of years. 1 Fasting for three days in succession, he who takes only one meal every fourth day, and pours libations every day on his sacred fire, acquires the high merit of the Vajapeya sacrifice. The car he ac-quires is graced by celestial damsels of great beauty that have Indra for their father. He resides in the region of Indra for millions and millions of years and experiences great happiness by witnessing the sports of the chief of the deities. Fasting for four days in succession, he who eats only one meal every fifth day, and pours libations on the sacred fire every day for the period of a whole year, and who lives without cupidity, telling the truth, reverencing the Brahmanas, abstaining from every kind of injury, and avoiding malice and sin, acquires the merit of the Vajapeya sacrifice. The car he rides is made of gold and drawn by swans and endued with the effulgence of many suns rising together. He acquires, a palatial mansion of pure white. He lives there in great happiness for full one and fifty Padmas of years. 2 Fasting for five days, he who takes food on only the sixth day, and pours libations on his sacred fire every day for a whole year, and who performs three ablutions in course of the day for purifying himself and saying his prayers and doing his worship, and who leads a life of Brahmacharya, divested of malice in his conduct, acquires the merit of the Gomedha sacrifice. He acquires an excellent car adorned with pure gold, possessed of the effulgence of a blazing fire and drawn by swans and peacocks. He sleeps on the lap of Apsaras and is awakened every
morning by the melodious tinkle of Nupuras and Kanchis. He leads such a life of happiness for ten thousand million years and three thousand million besides and eight and ten Padmas and two Patakas. 1 Such a man resides also, honoured by all, in the region of Brahma for as many years as there are hairs on the bodies of hundreds of bears. Fasting for six days, he who eats only one meal every seventh day and pours libations on the sacred fire every day, for a full year, restraining speech all the while and observing the vow of Brahmacharya, and abstaining from the use of flowers and unguents and honey and meat, attains to the region of the Maruts and of India. Crowned with the fruition of every desire as it springs up in the mind, he is waited upon and adored by celestial damsels. He acquires the merits of a sacrifice in which abundance of gold is given away. Proceeding to the regions named, he lives there for countless years in the greatest happiness 2. He who shows forgiveness to all and fasting for seven days eats on every eighth day for a whole year, and, pouring libations every day on the sacred fire, adores the deities regularly, acquires the high merits of the Paundarika sacrifice. The car he rides is of a colour like that of the lotus. Without doubt, such a man acquires also a large number of damsels, possessed of youth and beauty, some having complexions that are dark, some with complexions like that of gold, and some that are Syamas, whose looks and attitudes are of the most agreeable kind. He who fasts for eight days and takes only one meal on every ninth day for a whole year, and pours libations on the sacred fire every day, acquires the high merits of a thousand Horse-sacrifices. The car he rides in Heaven is as beautiful as a lotus. He always makes his journeys on that car, accompanied by the daughters of Rudra adorned with celestial garlands and endued with the effulgence of the midday sun or the fires of blazing flames. Attaining to the regions of Rudra, he lives there in great happiness for countless years. He who fasts for nine days and takes only one meal every tenth day for a whole year, and pours libations on his sacred fire every day, acquires the high merit of a thousand Horse-sacrifices, and attains to the companionship of Brahmanas' daughters endued with beauty capable of charming the hearts of all creatures. These damsels, possessed of such beauty, and some of them possessed of complexion like that of the lotus and some like that of the same flower of the blue variety, always keep him in joy 3. He acquires a beautiful vehicle, that moves in beautiful circles and that looks like the dense cloud called Avarta, verily, it may be said to resemble also an ocean-wave. That vehicle resounds with the constant tinkle of rows of pearls and gems, and the melodious blare of conchs, and is adorned with columns made of crystals
and diamonds, as also with an altar constructed of the same minerals. He makes his journeys on such a car, drawn by swans and cranes and lives for millions and millions of years in great happiness in heaven. He who fasts for ten days and eats only ghee on every eleventh day for a whole year and pours libations on his sacred fire every day, who never, in word or thought, covets the companionship of other people's wives and who never utters an untruth even for the sake of his mother and father, succeeds in beholding Mahadeva of great puissance seated on his car. Such a person acquires the high merit of a thousand Horse-sacrifices. He beholds the car of the Self-born Brahman himself approach for taking him on it. He rides in it, accompanied by celestial damsels possessed of great beauty, and complexion as effulgent as that of pure gold. Endued with the blazing splendour of the Yoga-fire, he lives for countless years in a celestial mansion in heaven, full of every happiness. For those countless years he experiences the joy of bending his head in reverence unto Rudra adored by deities and Danavas. Such a person obtains every day the sight of the great deity. That man who having fasted for eleven days eats only a little ghee on the twelfth, and observes this conduct for a whole year, succeeds in obtaining the merits attaching to all the sacrifices. The car he rides in is possessed of the effulgence of a dozen suns. Adorned with gems and pearls and corals of great value, embellished with rows of swans and snakes and of peacocks and Chakravakas uttering their melodious notes, and beautified with large domes, is the residence to which he attains in the region of Brahman. That abode, O king, is always filled with men and women (who wait upon him for service). Even this is what the highly blessed Rishi Angiras, conversant with every duty, said (regarding the fruits of such a fast). That man who having fasted for twelve days eats a little ghee on the thirteenth, and bears himself in this way for a whole year, succeeds in attaining to the merits of the divine sacrifice. Such a man obtains a car of the complexion of the newly-blown lotus, adorned with pure gold and heaps of jewels and gems. He proceeds to the region of the Maruts that teem with celestial damsels, that are adorned with every kind of celestial ornament, that are redolent with celestial perfumes, and that contain every element of felicity. The number of years he resides in those happy regions is countless 1. Soothed with the sound of music and the melodious voice of Gandharvas and the sounds and blare of drums and Panavas, he is constantly gladdened by celestial damsels of great beauty. That man who having fasted for thirteen days eats a little ghee on the fourteenth day, and bears himself in this way for a full year, obtains the merits of the Mahamedha sacrifice. 2 Celestial damsels of indescribable beauty, and whose age cannot be guessed for they are for ever young in appearance, adorned with every ornament and with armlets of blazing effulgence, wait upon him with many cars and follow
him in his journeys. He is waked every morning from his bed by the melodious voice of swans, the tinkle of Nupuras, and the highly agreeable jingle of Kanchis. Verily, he resides in a superior abode, waited upon by such celestial damsels, for years as countless as the sands on the shores of Ganga. That man who, keeping his senses under control, fasts for a fortnight and takes only one meal on the sixteenth day, and bears himself in this way for a whole year, pouring libations every day on his sacred fire, acquires the high merits that attach to a thousand Rajasuya sacrifices. The car he rides in is possessed of great beauty and is drawn by swans and peacocks. Riding in such a vehicle, that is, besides, adorned with garlands of pearls and the purest gold and graced with bevies of celestial damsels decked with ornaments of every kind, having one column and four arches and seven altars exceedingly auspicious, endued with thousands of banners and echoing with the sound of music, celestial and of celestial attributes, embellished with gems and pearls and corals, and possessed of the effulgence of lightning, such a man lives in heaven for a thousand Yugas, having elephants and rhinoceroses for dragging that vehicle of his. That man who having fasted for fifteen days takes one meal on the sixteenth day and bears himself in this way for one whole year, acquires the merits attaching to the Soma sacrifice. Proceeding to Heaven he lives in the company of Soma's daughters. His body fragrant with unguents whose perfumes are as sweet as those of Soma himself, he acquires the power of transporting himself immediately to any place he likes. Seated on his car he is waited upon by damsels of the most beautiful features and agreeable manners, and commands all articles of enjoyment. The period for which he enjoys such happiness consists of countless years. 1 That man who having fasted for sixteen days eats a little ghee on the seventeenth day and bears himself in this way for a whole year, pouring libations every day on his sacred fire, proceeds to the regions of Varuna and Indra, and Rudra and the Maruts and Usanas and Brahman himself. There he is waited upon by celestial damsels and obtains a sight of the celestial Rishi called Bhurbhuva and grasps the whole universe in his ken. The daughters of the deity of the deities gladden him there. Those damsels, of agreeable manners and adorned with every ornament, are capable of assuming two and thirty forms. As long as the Sun and the Moon move in firmament, so long does that man of wisdom reside in those regions of felicity, subsisting upon the succulence of ambrosia and nectar. That man who having fasted for seventeen days eats only one meal on the eighteenth day, and bears himself in this way for a whole year, succeeds in grasping the seven regions, of which the universe consist, in his ken. While performing his journeys on his car he is always followed by a large train of cars producing the most agreeable rattle and ridden by celestial damsels blazing with ornament and beauty. Enjoying the greatest happiness, the vehicle he rides in is celestial and
endued with the greatest beauty. It is drawn by lions and tigers, and produces a rattle as deep as the sound of the clouds. He lives in such felicity for a thousand Kalpas subsisting upon the succulence of ambrosia that is as sweet as nectar itself. That man who having fasted for eighteen days eats only one meal on the nineteenth day and bears himself in this way for a full year, succeeds in grasping within his ken all the seven regions of which the universe consists. The region to which he attains is inhabited by diverse tribes, of Apsaras and resounds with the melodious voice of Gandharvas. The car he rides in is possessed of the effulgence of the sun. His heart being freed from every anxiety, he is waited upon by the foremost of celestial damsels. Decked with celestial garlands, and possessed of beauty of form, he lives in such happiness for millions and millions of years. That man who having fasted for nineteen days eats only one meal on every twentieth day and bears himself in this way for a full year, adhering all the while to truthfulness of speech and to the observance of other (excellent) rituals, abstaining also from meat, leading the life of a Brahmacharin, and devoted to the good of all creatures, attains to the extensive legions, of great happiness, belonging to the Adityas. While performing his journeys on his own car, he is followed by a large train of cars ridden by Gandharvas and Apsaras decked with celestial garlands and unguents. That man who having fasted for twenty days takes a single meal on the twenty-first day and bears himself in this way for a full year, pouring libations every day on his sacred fire, attains to the regions of Usanas and Sakra, of the Aswins and the Maruts, and resides there in uninterrupted happiness of great measure. Unacquainted with sorrow of every kind, he rides in the foremost of cars for making his journeys, and waited upon by the foremost of celestials, damsels, and possessed of puissance, he sports in joy like a celestial himself. That man who having fasted for one and twenty days takes a single meal on the twenty-second day and bears himself in this way for a full year, pouring libations on his sacred fire every day, abstaining from injuring any creature, adhering to truthfulness of speech, and freed from malice attains to the regions of the Vasus and becomes endued with effulgence of the sun. Possessed of the power of going everywhere at will, subsisting upon nectar, and riding in the foremost of cars, his person decked with celestial ornaments, he sports in joy in the company of celestial damsels. That man who having fasted for two and twenty days takes a single meal on the twenty-third day and bears himself in this way for a full year, thus regulating his diet and keeping his senses under control, attains to the regions of the deity of Wind, of Usanas, and of Rudra. Capable of going every where at will and always roving at will, he is worshipped by diverse tribes of Apsaras. Riding in the foremost of cars and his person decked with celestial ornaments, he sports for countless years in great felicity in the company of celestial damsels. That man who having fasted for three and twenty days eats a little ghee on the twenty-fourth day, and bears himself in this way for a full year, pouring libations on his sacred fire, resides
for countless years in great happiness in the regions of the Adityas, his person decked with celestial robes and garlands and celestial perfumes and unguents. Riding in an excellent car made of gold and possessed of great beauty and drawn by swans, he sports in joy in the company of thousands and thousands of celestial damsels. That man who having fasted for four and twenty days eats a single meal on the twenty-fifth day and bears himself thus for a full year, succeeds in obtaining a car of the foremost kind, full of every article of enjoyment. He is followed in his journeys by a large train of cars drawn by lions and tigers, and producing a rattle as deep as the roar of the clouds ridden by celestial damsels, and all made of pure gold and possessed of great beauty. Himself riding on an excellent celestial car possessed of great beauty, he resides in those regions for a thousand Kalpas, in the company of hundreds of celestial damsels, and subsisting upon the succulence of ambrosia that is sweet as nectar itself. That man who having fasted for five and twenty days eats only one meal on the twenty-sixth day, and bears himself thus for a full year in the observance of such a regulation in respect of diet, keeping his senses under control, freed from attachment (to worldly objects), and pouring libations every day on his sacred fire,--that blessed man,--worshipped by the Apsaras, attains to the regions of the seven Maruts and of the Vasus. When performing his journeys he is followed by a large train of cars made of excellent crystal and adorned with all kinds of gems, and ridden by Gandharvas and Apsaras who show him every honour. He resides in those regions, in enjoyment of such felicity, and endued with celestial energy, for two thousand Yugas. That man who having fasted for six and twenty days eats a single meal on the twenty-seventh day and bears himself in this way for a full year, pouring libations every day on his sacred fire, acquires great merit and proceeding to Heaven receives honours from the deities. Residing there, he subsists on nectar, freed from thirst of every kind, and enjoying every felicity. His soul purified of every dross and performing his journeys on a celestial car of great beauty, he lives there, O king, bearing himself after the manner of the celestial Rishis and the royal sages. Possessed of great energy, he dwells there in great happiness in the company of celestial damsels of highly agreeable manners, for three thousand Yugas and Kalpas. That man who having fasted for seven and twenty days eats a single meal on the twenty-eighth day and bears himself in this way for a full year, with soul and senses under perfect control, acquires very great merit, which, in fact, is equal to what is acquired by the celestial Rishis. Possessed of every article of enjoyment, and endued with great energy, he blazes with the effulgence of the midday sun. Sportive damsels of the most delicate features and endued with splendour of complexion, having deep bosoms, tapering thighs and full and round hips, decked with celestial ornaments, gladden him with their company while he rides on a delightful and excellent car possessed of the effulgence of the sun and equipped with every article of enjoyment, for thousands and thousands of Kalpas. That
man who having fasted for eight and twenty days eats a single meal on the twenty-ninth day, and bears himself in this way for a full year, adhering all the while to truthfulness of speech, attains to auspicious regions of great happiness that are worshipped by celestial Rishis and royal sages. The car he obtains is endued with the effulgence of the sun and the moon; made of pure gold and adorned with every kind of gem, ridden by Apsaras and Gandharvas singing melodiously. Thereon he is attained by auspicious damsels adorned with celestial ornaments of every kind. Possessed of sweet dispositions and agreeable features, and endued with great energy, these gladden him with their company. Endued with every article of enjoyment and with great energy, and possessed of the splendour of a blazing fire, he shines like a celestial, with a celestial form having every excellence. The regions he attains are those of the Vasus and the Maruts, of the Sadhyas and the Aswins, of the Rudras and of Brahman himself. That man who having fasted for a full month takes a single meal on the first day of the following month and bears himself in this way for a full year, looking on all things with an equal eye attains to the regions of Brahman himself. There he subsists upon the succulence of ambrosia. Endued with a form of great beauty and highly agreeable to all, he shines with energy and prosperity like the sun himself of a thousand rays. Devoted to Yoga and adorned with celestial robes and garlands and smeared with celestial perfumes and unguents, he passes his time in great happiness, unacquainted with the least sorrow. He shines on his car attended by damsels that blaze forth with effulgence emitted by themselves. Those damsels, the daughters of the celestial Rishis and the Rudras, adore him with veneration. Capable of assuming diverse forms that are highly delightful and highly agreeable, their speech is characterised by diverse kinds of sweetness, and they are able to gladden the person they wait upon in diverse kinds of ways. While performing his journeys, he rides on a car that looks like the firmament itself in colour (for subtlety of the material that compose it). In his rear are cars that look like the moon; before him are those that resemble the clouds; on his right are vehicles that are red; below him are those that are blue; and above him are those that are of variegated hue. He is always adored by those that wait upon him. Endued with great wisdom, he lives in the region of Brahman for as many years as are measured by the drops of rain that fall in course of a thousand years on that division of the earth which is called Jamvudwipa. Verily, possessed of the effulgence of a deity, he lives in that region of unalloyed felicity for as many years as the drops of rain that fall upon the earth in the season of showers. The man who, having fasted for a whole month, eats on the first day of the following month, and bears himself in this way for ten years, attains to the status of a great Rishi. He was not to undergo any change of form while proceeding to heaven for enjoying the rewards of his acts in his life. Verily, even this is the status to which one attains by restraining speech, practising self-denial, subjugating wrath, sexual appetite, and the
desire to eat, pouring libations on the sacred fire, and regularly adoring the two twilights. That man who purifies himself by the observance of these and similar vows and practices, and who eats in this way, becomes as stainless as ether and endued with effulgence like that of the sun himself. 1 Such a man, O king, proceeding to haven in even his own carnal form, enjoys all the felicity that is there like a deity at his will.
'I have thus told thee, O chief of the Bharatas, what the excellent ordinances are in respect of sacrifices, one after another, as dependent upon the fruits of fasts. 2 Poor men, O son of Pritha (who are unable to perform sacrifices) may; nevertheless, acquire the fruits thereof (by the observance of fasts). Verily, by observing these fasts, even a poor man may attain to the highest end, O foremost one of Bharata's race, attending all the while, besides, to the worship of the deities and the Brahmanas I have thus recited to thee in detail the ordinances in respect of fasts. Do not harbour any doubt in respect of those men that are so observant of vows, that are so heedful and pure and high-souled, that are so freed from pride and contentions of every kind, that are endued with such devoted understandings, and that pursue their end with such steadiness and fixity of purpose without ever deviating from their path.'"
213:1 In verse 3, Avaguna means Nirguna; Ekatma means alone and asamhta implies without associates i.e., helpless.
214:1 A Padma is a very large number. Instead of rendering such words exactly, have, in some of the preceding verses, following the sense, put down 'millions upon millions of years.'
214:2 Avartanani means years. Four and twelve make sixteen, Sara is arrow. The arrows are five in number as possessed by Kama, the deity of love. The number of fires also is seven. The compound saragniparimana, therefore, implies five and thirty. Adding this to sixteen, the total comes up to one and fifty.
215:1 A countless number almost.
215:2 Here the exact number of years is not stated.
215:3 Some of the most beautiful ladies in Indian mythology and history have been of dark complexion. Draupadi, the queen of the Pandavas, was dark in colour and was called Krishna. As to women called Syamas, the description given is that their bodies are warm in winter and cold in summer, and their complexion is like that of heated gold.
216:1 A very large figure is given.
216:2 This sacrifice consisted of the slaughter of a human being.
217:1 The exact number of years is given, consisting of a fabulous figure.
221:1 Abhravakasasila is explained by Nilakantha as having the attribute of the Avakasa or place of Abhra or the clouds. Hence, as stainless as the ether, which, of course, is the purest of all the elements.
221:2 Sacrifices have for their soul either the actual rites laid down in the scriptures or fasts of several kinds. The observance of fasts is equal to the performance of sacrifices, for the merits of both are equal.
Next: Section CVIII