The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'Utanka, coming back to king Saudasa who was always well-disposed towards all his friends, solicited him for some sign (to convince Madayanti of the fact of his being really commissioned by the king). That foremost one of Ikshwaku's race then gave him a sign.'
"Saudasa said, 'This my present condition is intolerable. I do not behold any refuge. Knowing this to be my wish, do thou give away the jewelled ear-rings.' 1 Thus addressed by the king, Utanka went back to the queen and reported to her the words of her lord. Hearing those words, the queen gave unto Utanka her jewelled ear-rings. Having obtained the ear-rings, Utanka came back to the king and said unto him, 'I desire to hear, O monarch, what the import is of those mysterious words Which thou saidst as a sign to thy queen.'
"Saudasa said, 'Kshatriyas are seen to honour the Brahmanas from the very beginning of the creation. Towards the Brahmanas, however, many offences arise (on the part of Kshatriyas). As regards myself, I am always bent in humility before them. I am overtaken by a calamity through a Brahmana. Possessed of Madayanti, I do not see any other refuge. Indeed, O foremost of all persons having of a high goal, I do not behold any other refuge for myself in the matter of approaching the gates of Heaven, or in continuing here, O best of regenerate ones. It is impossible for a king that is hostile to Brahmanas to continue living in this world or in attaining to happiness in the next. Hence have I given thee these my jewelled ear-rings which were coveted by thee. 2 Do thou now keep the compact which thou hast made with me today.'
"Utanka said, 'O king, I shall certainly act according to my promise. I shall truly come back and place myself under thy power. There is, however,
a question, O scorcher of foes, which I wish to ask thee.'
"Saudasa said, 'Say, O learned Brahmana, what is in thy mind. I shall certainly reply unto thy words. I shall dispel whatever doubt may be in thy mind. I have no hesitation in this.'
"Utanka said, 'Those who are skilled in the rules of duty say that Brahmanas are of restrained speech. One who behaves wrongly towards friends is regarded as vile as a thief.' 1 Thou, again, O king, hast become my friend today. Do thou then, O foremost of men, give me such counsel as is approved by the wise. As regards myself, I have now obtained the fruition of my wishes. Thou, again, art a cannibal. Is it proper for me to come back to thee or not?'
"Saudasa said, 'If it is proper (for me), O foremost of superior Brahmanas, to say what thou askest, I should then, O best of regenerate ones, tell thee that thou shouldst never come back to me. O perpetuator of Bhrigu's race, by acting even thus, thou wilt attain to what is beneficial to thee. If thou comest back, O learned Brahmana, thou wilt surely meet with death.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed by the intelligent king in respect of what was beneficial for him. Utanka took leave of the monarch and set out for the presence of Ahalya. Desirous of doing what was agreeable to the wife of his preceptor, he took the ear-rings with him and set out with great speed for reaching the retreat of Gautama. Protecting them even in the manner directed by Madayanti, that is, binding them within the folds of his black deer-skin, he proceeded on his way. After he had proceeded for some distance, he became afflicted by hunger. He there beheld a Vilwa tree bent down with the weight of (ripe) fruits. 2 He climbed that tree. Causing his deer-skin, O chastiser of foes, to hang on a branch, that foremost of regenerate persons then began to pluck some fruits. While he was employed in plucking those fruits with eyes directed towards them, some of them fell, O king, on that deerskin in which those ear-rings had been carefully tied by that foremost of Brahmanas. With the strokes of the fruits, the knot became untied. Suddenly that deer-skin, with the ear-rings in it, fell down. When the knot being unfastened, the deer-skin fell down on the ground, a snake who was there beheld those jewelled ear-rings. That snake belonged to the race of Airavata. With great promptness he took up the ear-rings in his mouth and then entered an anthill. Beholding the ear-rings taken away by that snake, Utanka, filled with wrath and in great anxiety of mind, came down from the tree. Taking his staff he began to pierce that anthill. That best of Brahmanas, burning with wrath and the desire for revenge, ceaselessly employed himself for five and thirty days in that task. The goddess Earth, unable to bear the force of Utanka's walking staff and with body torn therewith, became exceedingly anxious. Unto that
regenerate Rishi then, who continued to dig the Earth from desire of making a path to the nether regions inhabited by the Nagas, the chief of the celestials, armed with the thunder, came there, on his car drawn by green horses. Endued with great energy, he beheld that foremost of Brahmanas, as he sat there engaged in his task.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Assuming the garb of a Brahmana afflicted with the sorrow of Utanka, the chief of the celestials addressed him, saying, 'This (purpose of thine) is incapable of being achieved. The regions of the Nagas are thousands of Yojanas removed from this place. I think that thy purpose is not capable of being achieved with thy walking staff.'
"Utanka said, 'If, O Brahmana, the ear-rings be not recovered by me from the regions of the Nagas, I shall cast off my life-breaths before thy eyes, O foremost of regenerate persons!'
"Vaisampayana said, 'When the thunder-armed Indra failed to divert Utanka from his purpose, he united the latter's walking staff with the force of thunder. Then, O Janamejaya, the Earth, opening with those strokes having the force of thunder, yielded a way to the (nether) regions inhabited by the Nagas. By that path Utanka entered the world of Nagas. He saw that that region lay extended thousands of Yojanas on all sides. Indeed, O blessed one, it was equipt with many walls made of pure gold and decked with jewels and gems. There were many fine tanks of water furnished with flights of stair-cases made of pure crystal, and many rivers of clear and transparent water. He saw also many trees with diverse species of birds perching on them. That perpetuator of Bhrigu's race behold the gate of that region which was full five Yojanas high and a hundred Yojanas in width. Beholding the region of the Nagas, Utanka became very cheerless. Indeed, he, despaired of getting back the earrings. Then there appeared unto him a black steed with a white tail. His face and eyes were of a coppery hue, O thou of Kuru's race, and he seemed to blaze forth with energy. Addressing Utanka, he said, 'Do thou blow into the Apana duct of my body. Thou wilt then, O learned Brahmana, get back thy ear-rings which have been taken away by a descendant of Airavata's race! Do not loathe to do my bidding, O son. Thou didst it often at the retreat of Gautama in former days.'
"Utanka said, 'How did I know thee in the retreat of my preceptor? Indeed, I wish to hear how I did in those days what thou biddest me do now.'
"The steed said, 'Know, O learned Brahmana, that I am the preceptor of thy preceptor, for I am the blazing Jatavedas (deity of fire). By thee I was often worshipped for the sake of thy preceptor, O child of Bhrigu's race, duly and with a pure heart and body. For that reason I shall accomplish what is for thy good. Do my bidding without delay.' Thus addressed by the deity of fire, Utanka did as he was directed. The deity then, gratified with him, blazed up for consuming everything. From the pores of his body, O Bharata, in consequence of his very nature, a thick smoke issued threatening terrors to the world of Nagas. With that mighty and wide-spreading smoke, O Bharata, everything became enveloped in gloom, so that nothing, O king, could any longer be seen in the world of the Nagas. Cries of woe were heard throughout the mansions
of the Airavatas, uttered by the Nagas headed by Vasuki, O Janamejaya. Enveloped by that smoke, the palaces could no longer be seen, O Bharata. These resembled woods and hill overwhelmed by a thick forest. With eyes that were red in consequence of that smoke, and afflicted by the energy of the deity of fire, the Nagas came out of their mansions to the high-souled son of Bhrigu's race for ascertaining what was the matter. Having heard what the matter was from that ascetic of immeasurable energy, all the Nagas, with fear depicted on their eyes, offered him their worship according to due forms. Indeed, all the Nagas placing the old and the young one's before them, bowed unto him with their heads and joining their hands addressed him, saying, 'Be gratified with us, O holy one!' Having gratified that Brahmana and offered him water to wash his feet and the ingredients of the Arghya (for honouring him), the Nagas gave him those celestial and highly-adored ear-rings. Thus honoured by them, Utanka of great prowess, circumambulating the deity of fire, started for the retreat of his preceptor. Indeed, repairing quickly to Gautama's asylum, O king, he presented those ear-rings unto the wife of his preceptor, O sinless one. That best of Brahmanas also told his preceptor everything about Vasuki and the other Nagas that had occurred. It was even thus, O Janamejaya, that the high-souled Utanka, having wandered through the three worlds, fetched those jewelled ear-rings (for his preceptor's wife). Of such prowess, O chief of Bharata's race, was the ascetic Utanka. So austere were the penances with which he was endued. I have thus told thee what thou hadst asked me.'"
103:1 These words of the king are intended to be reported to his queen who would understand the allusion. The sense is this: cursed by Vasishtha, I have become a cannibal. My condition is intolerable. By this gift of the ear-rings to a deserving Brahmana, much merit may arise. That merit may relieve me.
103:2 This also is an allusion to the dreadful curse of Vasishtha. The king refers to Madayanti as his only refuge. She may save him by doing an act or special merit, viz., giving away her costly ear-rings to a truly deserving Brahmana.
104:1 The sense is this: a Brahmana is never loose of tongue. He is truthful. Hence, having passed my word to thee about my return, thou mayst be sure that I would keep my word. One, again, that acts improperly towards a friend, comes to be regarded as a thief. By this, Utanka reminds the king that he should not inflict any wrong on him by carrying out his intention of eating him up.
104:2 Vilwa is the Aegle marmalos.
Next: Section LIX