The Mahabharata Home
"Janamejaya said, 'If, O illustrious one, Heaven is the fruit of wealth acquired by lawful means, do thou discourse to me fully on it. Thou art well-conversant with the subject and therefore, it behoveth thee to explain it. O regenerate one, thou hast said unto me what the high fruit was that accrued unto that Brahmana, who lived according to the Unccha mode, through his gift of powdered barley. Without doubt, all thou hast said is true. In what way, however, was the attainment held certain of the highest end in all sacrifices? O foremost of regenerate persons, it behoveth thee to expound this to me in all its details.'
"Vaisampayana said, 'In this connection is cited this old narrative, O chastiser of foes, of what occurred in former days in the great sacrifice of Agastya. In olden days, O king, Agastya of great energy, devoted to the good of all creatures, entered into a Diksha extending for twelve years. 1 In that sacrifice of the high-souled Rishi many Hotris were engaged that resembled blazing fires in the splendour of their bodies. Among them were men that
subsisted upon roots or fruits, or that used two pieces of stone only for husking their corn, or that were supported by only the rays (of the moon). Among them were also men who never took any food unless it was placed before them by others solicitous of feeding them, and those who never ate anything without having first served the deities, the Pitris, and guests, and those who never washed the food which they took. There were also Yatis and Bikshus among them, O king. All of them were men who had obtained a sight of the deity of Righteousness in his embodied form. They had subjugated wrath and acquired a complete mastery over all their senses. Living in the observance of self-restraint, they were freed from pride and the desire of injuring others. They were always observant of a pure conduct and were never obstructed (in the prosecution of their purposes) by their senses. Those great Rishis attended that sacrifice and accomplished its various rites. The illustrious Rishi (Agastya) acquired the food that was collected in that sacrifice and that came up to the required measure, by lawful means according to the best of his power. Numerous other ascetics at that time performed large sacrifices. As Agastya, however, was engaged in that sacrifice of his, the thousand-eyed Indra, O best of the Bharatas, ceased to pour rain (on the Earth). At the intervals, O king, of the sacrificial rites, this talk occurred among those Rishis of cleansed souls about the high-souled Agastya, viz., 'This Agastya, engaged in sacrifice, is making gifts of food with heart purged of pride and vanity. The deity of the clouds, however, has ceased to pour rain. How, indeed, will food grow? This sacrifice of the Rishi, ye Brahmanas, is great and extends for twelve years. The deity will not pour rain for these twelve years. Reflecting on this, it behoveth you to do some favour unto this Rishi of great intelligence, viz., Agastya of severe penances.' When these words were said, Agastya of great prowess, gratifying those ascetics by bending his head, said, 'If Vasava does not pour rain for those twelve years, I shall then perform the mental sacrifice. Even this is the eternal ordinance. If Vasava does not pour rain for these twelve years, I shall then perform the Touch-sacrifice. Even this is the eternal sacrifice. If Vasava does not pour rain for these twelve years, I shall then, putting forth all my exertion, make arrangements for other sacrifices characterised by the observance of the most difficult and severe vows. This present sacrifice of mine, with seeds, has been arranged for by me with labour extending for many years. 1 I shall, with seeds, accomplish much good. No impediment will arise. This my sacrifice is incapable of being baffled. It matters little whether the deity pours rains or no downpours happen. Indeed, if Indra does not, of his own will, show any regard for me, I shall, in that case, transform myself into Indra and keep all creatures alive. Every creature, on whatever food he has been nourished, will continue to be nourished on it as before. I can even repeatedly create a different order of things. Let gold and whatever else of wealth there is, come to this place today. Let all the wealth that occurs in the
three worlds come here today of its own accord. Let all the tribes of celestial Apsaras, all the Gandharvas along with the Kinnaras, and Viswavasu, and others there are (of that order), approach this sacrifice of mine. Let all the wealth that exists among the Northern Kurus, come of their own accord to these sacrifices. Let Heaven, and all those who have Heaven for their home, and Dharma himself, come hither.'--After the ascetic had uttered these words, everything happened as he wished, in consequence of his penances, for Agastya was endued with a mind that resembled a blazing fire and was possessed of extraordinary energy. The Rishis who were there beheld the power of penances with rejoicing hearts. Filled with wonder they then said these words of grave import.'
"The Rishis said, 'We have been highly gratified with the words thou hast uttered. We do not, however, wish that thy penances should suffer any diminution. Those sacrifices are approved by us which are performed by lawful means. Indeed, we desire duly those sacrifices which rest on lawful means. 1 Earning our food by lawful means and observant of our respective duties, we shall seek to go through sacrificial initiations and the pouring of libations on the sacred fire and the other religious rites. We should adore the deities, practising Brahmacharyya by lawful means. Completing the period of Brahmacharyya we have come out of our abode, observing lawful methods. That understanding, which is freed from the desire of inflicting any kind of injury on others, is approved by us. Thou shouldst always, O puissant one, command such abstention from injury in all sacrifices. We shall then be highly gratified, O foremast of regenerate ones. After the completion of thy sacrifice, when dismissed by thee, we shall then, leaving this place, go away.' As they were saying these words, Purandara, the chief of the deities, endued with great energy, beholding the power of Agastya's penances, poured rain. Indeed, O Janamejaya, till the completion of the sacrifice of that Rishi of immeasurable prowess, the deity of rain poured rain that met the wishes of men in respect of both quantity and time. Placing Vrihaspati before him, the chief of the deities came there, O royal sage, and gratified the Rishi Agastya. On the completion of that sacrifice, Agastya, filled with joy, worshipped those great Rishis duly and then dismissed them all.'
"Janamejaya said, 'Who was that mongoose with a golden head, that said all those words in a human voice? Asked by me, do thou tell me this.'
"Vaisampayana said, 'Thou didst not ask me before and, therefore, I did not tell thee. Hear as I tell thee who that mongoose was and why he could assume a human voice. In former times, the Rishi Jamadagni proposed to perform a Sraddha. His Homa cow came to him and the Rishi milked her himself. He then placed the milk in a vessel that was new, durable and pure. The deity Dharma, assuming the form of Anger, entered that vessel of milk. Indeed, Dharma was desirous of ascertaining what that foremost of Rishis
would do when seeing some injury done to him. Having reflected thus, Dharma spoiled that milk. Knowing that the spoiler of his milk was Anger, the ascetic was not at all enraged with him. Anger, then, assuming the form of a Brahmana lady, showed himself to the Rishi. Indeed, Anger, finding that he had been conquered by that foremost one of Bhrigu's race, addressed him, saying, 'O chief of Bhrigu's race, I have been conquered by thee. There is a saying among men that the Bhrigus are very wrathful. I now find that that saying is false, since I have been subdued by thee. Thou art possessed of a mighty soul. Thou art endued with forgiveness. I stand here today, owning thy sway. I fear thy penances, O righteous one. Do thou, O puissant Rishi, show me favour.'
"Jamadagni said, 'I have seen thee, O Anger, in thy embodied form. Go thou whithersoever thou likest, without any anxiety. Thou hast not done me any injury today. I have no grudge against thee. Those for whom I had kept this milk are the highly blessed Pitris. Present thyself before them and ascertain their intentions.' Thus addressed, penetrated with fear, Anger vanished from the sight of the Rishi. Through the curse of the Pitris he became a mongoose. He then began to gratify the Pitris in order to bring about an end of his curse. By them he was told these words, 'By speaking disrespectfully of Dharma thou shalt attain to the end of thy curse.' Thus addressed by them he wandered over places where sacrifices were performed and over other sacred places, employed in censuring great sacrifices. It was he that came to the great sacrifice of king Yudhishthira. Dispraising the son of Dharma by a reference to the prastha of powdered barley, Anger became freed from his curse, for Yudhishthira (as Dharma's son) was Dharma's self. Even this is what occurred in the sacrifice of that high-souled king. Mongoose disappeared there in our very sight.'" 1
The end of Aswamedha Parva
164:1 The Diksha consists of the initiatory rites undergone by one desirous of performing a particular sacrifice or completing a particular vow. Some auspicious day is selected. Mantras are uttered and the purpose is expressed in words. There were many long-extending sacrifices which were partly of the nature of vows. Till their completion the performer or observer is said to undergo the period of Diksha.
165:1 The first line of 20 is differently read in the Bombay text. It runs,--'steadfastly observing my vow, I shall make arrangements for many sacrifices, creating the articles I want by thought alone (or fiats of my will).'
166:1 Probably, the sense is this: If a Brahmana produced extraordinary results by his penances, a portion of his penances was supposed to be destroyed. The Rishis did not like that any portion of Agastya's penances should be spent for completing his sacrifice.
167:1 It is difficult to resist the conviction that as much of this section as relates to the mongoose is an interpolation. The Brahmanas could not bear the idea of a sacrifice with such profusion of gifts, as that of Yudhishthira, being censurable. Hence the invention about the transformation of the mongoose. Truly speaking, the doctrine is noble of the gift of a small quantity of barley made under the circumstances being superior in point of merit to even a Horse-sacrifice performed by a king with gifts in profusion made to the Brahmanas.