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(Vaka-vadha Parva continued)

"Vaisampayana said, "On hearing these words of the Brahmana, his wife said, 'Thou shouldst not, O Brahmana, grieve like an ordinary man. Nor is this the time for mourning. Thou hast learning; thou knowest that all men are sure to die; none should grieve for that which is inevitable. Wife, son, and daughter, all these are sought for one's own self. As thou art possessed of a good understanding, kill thou thy sorrows. I will myself go there. This indeed, is the highest and the eternal duty of a woman, viz., that by sacrificing her life she should seek the good of her husband. Such an act done by me will make thee happy, and bring me fame in this world and eternal bliss hereafter. This, indeed, is the highest virtue that I tell thee, and thou mayest, by this, acquire both virtue and happiness. The object for which one desireth a wife hath already been achieved by thee through me. I have borne thee a daughter and a son and thus been freed from the debt I had owed thee. Thou art well able to support and cherish the children, but I however, can never support and cherish them like thee. Thou art my life, wealth, and lord; bereft of thee, how shall these children of tender years--how also shall I myself, exist? Widowed and masterless, with two children depending on me, how shall I, without thee, keep alive the pair, myself leading an honest life? If the daughter of thine is solicited (in marriage) by persons dishonourable and vain and unworthy of contracting an alliance with thee, how shall I be able to protect the girl? Indeed, as birds seek with avidity for meat that hath been thrown away on the ground, so do men solicit a woman that hath lost her husband. O best of Brahmanas, solicited by wicked men, I may waver and may not be able to continue in the path that is desired by all honest men. How shall I be able to place this sole daughter of thy house--this innocent girl--in the way along which her ancestors have always walked? How shall I then be able to impart unto this child every desirable accomplishment to make him virtuous as thyself, in that season of want when I shall become masterless? Overpowering myself who shall be masterless, unworthy persons will demand (the hand

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of) this daughter of thine, like Sudras desiring to hear the Vedas. And if I bestow not upon them this girl possessing thy blood and qualities, they may even take her away by force, like crows carrying away the sacrificial butter. And beholding thy son become so unlike to thee, and thy daughter placed under the control of some unworthy persons, I shall be despised in the world by even persons that are dishonourable, and I will certainly die. These children also, bereft of me and thee, their father, will, I doubt not, perish like fish when the water drieth up. There is no doubt that bereft of thee the three will perish: therefore it behoveth thee to sacrifice me. O Brahmana, persons conversant with morals have said that for women that have borne children, to predecease their lords is an act of the highest merit. Ready am I to abandon this son and this daughter, these my relations, and life itself, for thee. For a woman to be ever employed in doing agreeable offices to her lord is a higher duty than sacrifices, asceticism, vows, and charities of every description. The act, therefore, which I intend to perform is consonant with the highest virtue and is for thy good and that of thy race. The wise have declared that children and relatives and wife and all things held dear are cherished for the purpose of liberating one's self from danger and distress. One must guard one's wealth for freeing one's self from danger, and it is by his wealth that he should cherish and protect his wife. But he must protect his own self both by (means of) his wife and his wealth. The learned have enunciated the truth that one's wife, son, wealth, and house, are acquired with the intention of providing against accidents, foreseen or unforeseen. The wise have also said that all one's relations weighed against one's own self would not be equal unto one's self. Therefore, revered sir, protect thy own self by abandoning me. O, give me leave to sacrifice myself, and cherish thou my children. Those that are conversant with the morals have, in their treatises, said, that women should never be slaughtered and that Rakshasas are not ignorant of the rules of morality. Therefore, while it is certain that the Rakshasa will kill a man, it is doubtful whether he will kill a woman. It behoveth thee, therefore, being conversant with the rules of morality, to place me before the Rakshasa. I have enjoyed much happiness, have obtained much that is agreeable to me, and have also acquired great religious merit. I have also obtained from thee children that are so dear to me. Therefore, it grieveth not me to die. I have borne thee children and have also grown old; I am ever desirous of doing good to thee; remembering all these I have come to this resolution. O revered sir, abandoning me thou mayest obtain another wife. By her thou mayest again acquire religious merit. There is no sin in this. For a man polygamy is an act of merit, but for a woman it is very sinful to betake herself to a second husband after the first. Considering all this, and remembering too that sacrifice of thy own self is censurable, O, liberate today without loss of time thy own self, thy race, and these thy children (by abandoning me).'

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"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed by her, O Bharata, the Brahmana embraced her, and they both began to weep in silence, afflicted with grief.'"

Next: Section CLXI