The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, "Thus addressed, king Arjuna remained silent. The god of wind once more spoke to him, 'Listen now, O king, to the story of the greatness of the Brahmana Agastya. Once on a time, the gods were
subjugated by the Asuras upon which they became very cheerless. The sacrifices of the deities were all seized, and the Swadha of the Pitris was also misappropriated. Indeed, O Chief of the Haihayas, all the religious acts and observances of human beings also were suspended by the Danavas. Divested of their prosperity, the deities wandered over the earth as we have heard. One day, in course of their wandering they met Agastya of high vows, that Brahmana, O king, who was endued with great energy and splendour which was as blazing as that of the sun. Saluting him duly, the deities made the usual enquiries of politeness. They then, O King, said these words unto that high-souled one, 'We have been defeated by the Danavas in battle and have, therefore, fallen off from affluence and prosperity. Do thou, therefore, O foremost of ascetics, rescue us from this situation of great fear.' Thus informed of the plight to which the deities had been reduced, Agastya became highly incensed (with the Danavas). Possessed of great energy, he at once blazed forth like the all-consuming fire at the time of the universal dissolution. With the blazing rays that then emanated from the Rishi, the Danavas began to be burnt. Indeed, O king, thousands of them began to drop down from the sky. Burning with the energy of Agastya, the Danavas, abandoning both heaven and earth, fled towards the southern direction. At that time the Danava king Vali was performing a Horse-sacrifice in the nether regions. Those great Asuras who were with him in those regions or who were dwelling in the bowels of the earth, were not burnt. The deities, upon the destruction of their foes, then regained their own regions, their fears entirely dispelled. Encouraged by what he accomplished for them, they then solicited the Rishi to destroy those Asuras who had taken refuge within the bowels of the earth or in the nether regions. Thus solicited by the gods, Agastya replied unto them, saying, 'Yes, I am fully competent to consume those Asuras that are dwelling underneath the earth; but if I achieve such a feat, my penances will suffer a diminution. Hence, I shall not exert my power.' Even thus, O king, were the Danavas consumed by the illustrious Rishi with his own energy. Even thus did Agastya of cleansed soul, O monarch, accomplish that feat with the aid of his penances. O sinless one, even so was Agastya as described by me! Shall I continue? Or, will you say anything in reply? Is there any Kshatriya who is greater than Agastya?'
"Bhishma continued, 'Thus addressed, king Arjuna remained silent. The god of wind once more said, 'Hear, O king, one of the great feats of the illustrious Vasishtha. Once on a time the deities were engaged in performing a sacrifice on the shores of the lake Vaikhanasa. Knowing of his puissance, the sacrificing gods thought of Vasishtha and made him their priest in imagination. Meanwhile, seeing the gods reduced and emaciated in consequence of the Diksha they were undergoing, a race of Danavas, of the name of Khalins, of statures as gigantic as mountains, desired to slay them. Those amongst the Danavas that were either
disabled or slain in the fight were plunged into the waters of the Manasa lake and in consequence of the boon of the Grandsire they instantly came back to vigour and life. Taking up huge and terrible mountain summits and maces and trees, they agitated the waters of the lake, causing them to swell up to the height of a hundred yojanas. They then ran against the deities numbering ten thousand. Afflicted by the Danavas, the gods then sought the protection of their chief, Vasava-Sakra, however, was soon afflicted by them. In his distress he sought the protection of Vasishtha. At this, the holy Rishi Vasishtha assured the deities, dispelling their fears. Understanding that the gods had become exceedingly cheerless, the ascetic did this through compassion. He put forth his energy and burnt, without any exertion, those Danavas called Khalins. Possessed of wealth of penances, the Rishi brought the River Ganga, who had gone to Kailasa, to that spot. Indeed, Ganga appeared, piercing through the waters of the lake. The lake was penetrated by that river. And as that celestial stream, piercing through the waters of the lake, appeared, it flowed on, under the name of Sarayu. The place whereon those Danavas fell came to be called after them. Even thus were the denizens of Heaven, with Indra at their head, rescued from great distress by Vasishtha, It was thus that those Danavas, who had received boons from Brahman, were slain by that high-souled Rishi. O sinless one, I have narrated to thee the feat which Vasishtha accomplished. Shall I go on? Or, will you say anything! Was there a Kshatriya who could be said to surpass the Brahmana Vasishtha?'
Next: Section CLVI