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p. 445


(Khandava-daha Parva continued)

"Vaisampayana said, 'Then the inhabitants of the forest of Khandava, the Danavas and Rakshasas and Nagas and wolves and bears and other wild animals, and elephants with rent temples, and tigers, and lions with manes and deer and buffaloes by hundreds, and birds, and various other creatures, frightened at the falling stones and extremely anxious, began to fly in all directions. They saw the forest (burning all around) and Krishna and Arjuna also ready with their weapons. Frightened at the terrible sounds that were audible there those creatures lost their power of movement. Beholding the forest burning in innumerable places and Krishna also ready to smite them down with his weapons, they all set up a frightful roar. With that terrible clamour as also with the roar of fire, the whole welkin resounded, as it were, with the voice of portentous clouds. Kesava of dark hue and mighty arms, in order to compass their destruction, hurled at them his large and fierce discus resplendent with its own energy. The forest-dwellers including the Danavas and the Rakshasas, afflicted by that weapon, were cut in hundreds of pieces and fell unto the mouth of Agni. Mangled by Krishna's discus, the Asuras were besmeared with blood and fat and looked like evening clouds. And, O Bharata, he of the Vrishni race moved able like death itself, slaying Pisachas and birds and Nagas and other creatures by thousands. The discus itself, repeatedly hurled from the hands of Krishna, that slayer of all foes, came back to his hands after slaughtering numberless creatures. The face and form of Krishna that soul of every created thing--became fierce to behold while he was thus employed in the slaughter of the Pisachas, Nagas and Rakshasas. No one among the celestials, who had mustered there could vanquish in battle Krishna and Arjuna. When the celestials saw that they could not protect that forest from the might of Krishna and Arjuna by extinguishing that conflagration, they retired from the scene. Then, O monarch, he of a hundred sacrifices (Indra), beholding the immortals retreat, became filled with joy and applauded Krishna and Arjuna. And when the celestials gave up the fight, an incorporeal voice, deep and loud, addressing him of a hundred sacrifices, said, 'Thy friend Takshaka, that chief of snakes, hath not been slain! Before the conflagration commenced in Khandava he had journeyed to Kurukshetra. Know from my words, O Vasava, that Vasudeva and Arjuna are incapable of being vanquished in battle by any one! They are Nara and Narayana--those gods of old heard of in heaven! Thou knowest what their energy is and what their prowess. Invincible in battle, these best of old Rishis are unconquerable by any one in all the worlds! They deserve the most reverential worship of all the celestials and Asuras; of Yakshas and Rakshasas and Gandharvas, of human beings and Kinnaras and Nagas. Therefore, O

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[paragraph continues] Vasava, it behoveth thee to go hence with all the celestials. The destruction of Khandava hath been ordained by Fate!' Then the chief of the immortals, ascertaining those words to be true abandoned his wrath and jealousy, and went back to heaven. The dwellers in heaven, O monarch, beholding the illustrious Indra abandon the fight, followed him with all their soldiers. Then those heroes, Vasudeva and Arjuna, when they saw the chief of the celestials retreat accompanied by all the gods, set up a leonine roar. And, O monarch, Kesava and Arjuna, after Indra had left the scene, became exceedingly glad. Those heroes then fearlessly assisted at the conflagration of the forest. Arjuna scattered the celestials like the wind scattering the clouds, and slew with showers of his arrows, numberless creatures that dwelt in Khandava. Cut off by Arjuna's arrows, no one amongst the innumerable creatures could escape from the burning forest. Far from fighting with him, none amongst even the strongest creatures mustered there could look at Arjuna whose weapons were never futile. Sometimes piercing hundred creatures with one shaft and sometimes a single creature with hundred shafts, Arjuna moved about in his car. The creatures themselves, deprived of life, began to fall into the mouth of Agni (god of fire), struck down as it were by death itself. On the banks of rivers or on uneven plains or on crematoriums, go where they did, the creatures (dwelling in Khandava) found no ease, for wherever they sought shelter there they were afflicted by the heat. And hosts of creatures roared in pain, and elephants and deer and wolves set up cries of affliction. At that sound the fishes of the Ganges and the sea, and the various tribes of Vidyadharas dwelling in that forest all became frightened. O thou of mighty arms, let alone battling with them, no one, could even gaze at Arjuna and Janardana of dark hue. Hari slew with his discus those Rakshasas and Danavas and Nagas that rushed at him in bands. Of huge bodies, their heads and trunks were cut off by the swift motion of the discus, and deprived of life they fell down into the blazing fire. Gratified with large quantities of flesh, blood, and fat, the flames rose up to a great height without a curling wreath of smoke. Hutasana (fire-god) with blazing and coppery eyes, and flaming tongue and large mouth, and the hair on the crown of his head all fiery, drinking, with the help of Krishna and Arjuna, that nectar-like stream of animal fat, became filled with joy. Gratified greatly, Agni derived much happiness.

"And it so happened that the slayer of Madhu suddenly beheld an Asura of the name of Maya escaping from the abode of Takshaka. Agni having Vayu for his car-driver, assuming a body with matted locks on head, and roaring like the clouds, pursued the Asura, desirous of consuming him. Beholding the Asura, Vasudeva stood with his weapon upraised, ready to smite him down, seeing the discus uplifted and Agni pursuing from behind to burn him, Maya said 'Run to me, O Arjuna, and protect me!' Hearing his affrighted voice Arjuna said, 'Fear not!' That voice of Arjuna, O Bharata, seemed to give Maya his life. As the merciful son of Pritha said unto

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[paragraph continues] Maya that there was nothing to fear, he of the Dasarha race no longer desired to slay Maya who was the brother of Namuchi, and Agni also burned him not.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Protected from Indra by Krishna and Partha, Agni gifted with great intelligence, burned that forest for five and ten days. And while the forest burned Agni spared only six of its dwellers, viz., Aswasena, Maya, and four birds called Sarngakas.'"

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