"Yudhishthira said, 'When the great king Vasu was so wholly devoted to Narayana, for what reason then did he fall down from heaven and why again had he to sink beneath the surface of the Earth?"
'Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited an old narrative, O Bharata, of a discourse between the Rishis and the gods. The gods, once on a time, addressing many foremost of Brahmanas, said unto them that sacrifices should be performed by offering up Ajas as victims. By the word Aja should be understood the goat and no other animal.'
The Rishis said, The Vedic Sruti declares that in sacrifices the offerings should consist of (vegetable) seeds. Seeds are called Ajas. It behoveth you not to slay goats. Ye deities, that cannot be the religion of good and righteous people in which slaughter of animals is laid down. This, again, is the Krita age. How can animals be slaughtered in this epoch of righteousness?'
"Bhishma continued, While this discourse was going between the Rishis and the deities, that foremost of kings, viz., Vasu, was seen to come that way. Endued with great prosperity, the king was coming through the welkin, accompanied by his troops and vehicles and animals. Beholding king Vasu coming to that spot through the skies, the Brahmanas addressing the deities, said,--This one will remove our doubts. He performs sacrifices. He is liberal in making gifts. He always seeks the good of all creatures. How, indeed, will the great Vasu, speak otherwise,--Having thus spoken unto each other, the deities and the Rishis quickly approached king Vasu and questioned him, saying,--O king, with what should one perform sacrifices? Should one sacrifice with the goat or with herbs and plants? Do thou dispel this doubt of ours. We constitute thee our judge in this matter.--Thus addressed by them, Vasu joined his hands in humility and said unto them.--Tell me truly, ye foremost of Brahmanas, what opinion is entertained by you in this matter?
"'The Rishis said, The opinion entertained by us, O king, is that sacrifices should be performed with grain. The deities, however, maintain that sacrifices should be performed with animals. Do thou judge between us and tell us which of these opinions is correct.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Learning what the opinion was that was entertained by the deities, Vasu, moved by partiality for them, said that sacrifices should be performed with animals. At this answer, all the Rishis, endued with the splendour of the Sun, became very angry. Addressing Vasu who was seated on his car and who had (wrongly) taken up the side of the deities, they said unto him,--Since thou hast (wrongly) taken up the side of the deities, do thou fall down from heaven. From this day, O monarch, thou shalt lose the power of journeying through the sky. Through our course, thou shalt sink deep below the surface of the Earth. After the Rishis had said these words, king Uparichara immediately fell down, O monarch, and went down a hole in Earth. At the command, however, of Narayana, Vasu's memory did not leave him. To the good fortune of Vasu, the deities, pained at the course denounced on him by the Brahmanas, began to think anxiously as to how that course might be neutralised. They said, This high-souled king hath been cursed for our sake. We, denizens of heaven, should unite together for doing what is good to him in return for that which he has done to us. Having quickly settled this in their minds with the aid of reflection, the deities proceeded to the spot where the king Uparichara was. Arrived, at his presence, they addressed him, saying, Thou art devoted to the great God of the Brahmanas (viz., Narayana). That great Lord of both the deities and the Asuras, gratified with thee, will rescue thee from the course that has been denounced upon thee. It is proper, however, that the high-souled Brahmanas should be honoured. Verily, O best of kings, their penances should fructify. 1 Indeed, thou hast already fallen down
from the sky on the Earth. We desire, however, O best of kings, to show thee a favour in one respect. As long as thou, O sinless one, shalt dwell in his hole, so long shalt thou receive (due sustenance, through our boon)! Those streaks of clarified butter which Brahmans with concentrated minds pour in sacrifices in accompaniment with sacred mantras, and which are called by the name of Vasudhara, shall be thine, through our care for thee! Indeed weakness or distress shall not touch thee. 1 While dwelling, O king of kings, in the hole of the Earth, neither hunger nor thirst shall afflict thee for thou shalt drink those streaks of clarified butter called Vasudhara. Thy energy also shall continue unabated. In consequence also of this our boon that we grant thee, the God of gods, viz., Narayana will be gratified with thee, and He will bear thee hence to the region of Brahman!--Having granted these boons unto the king, the denizens of heaven, as also all those Rishis possessed of wealth of penances, returned each to his respective place. Then Vasu, O Bharata, began to adore the Creator of the universe and to recite in silence those sacred mantras that had come out of Narayana's mouth in days of yore. 2 Although dwelling in a pit of the Earth, the king still worshipped Hari, the Lord of all the deities, in the well-known five sacrifices that are performed five times every day, O slayer of foes! In consequence of these adorations, Narayana, otherwise called Hari, became highly pleased with him who thus showed himself to be entirely devoted to Him, by wholly relying upon Him as his sole refuge, and who had completely subjugated his senses. The illustrious Vishnu, that giver of boons, then addressing Garuda of great speed, that foremost of birds, who waited upon Him as his servant, said these desirable words:--O foremost of birds, O thou that art highly blessed, listen to what I say! There is a great king of the name of Vasu who is of righteous soul and rigid vows. Through the wrath of the Brahmanas, he has fallen into a pit of the Earth. The Brahmans, have been sufficiently honoured (for their curse has fructified). Do thou go to that king now. At my command, O Garuda, go to that foremost of kings, viz., Uparichara who is now dwelling in a whole of the Earth and incapable of any longer sailing through the sky, and bring him up without delay into the welkin. Hearing these words of Vishnu, Garuda, spreading his wings and rushing with the speed of the wind, entered that hole in the Earth in which king Vasu was living. Suddenly taking the king up, the son of Vinata soared into the sky and there released the king from his beaks. At that moment, king Uparichara once more acquired his celestial form and re-entered the
region of Brahman. It was in this way, O son of Kunti, that great king first fell down through the curse of the Brahmanas for a fault of speech, and once more ascended to heaven at the command of the great God (Vishnu). Only the puissant Lord Hari, that foremost of all Beings, was devoutly worshipped by him. It was for this devout worship that the king succeeded very soon in escaping from the curse denounced upon him by the Brahmanas and in regaining the felicitous regions of Brahman.
"Bhishma continued, 'I have thus told thee everything respecting the origin of the spiritual sons of Brahman. Listen to me with undivided attention, for I shall now narrate to thee how the celestial Rishi Narada proceeded in days of yore to White Island.'"
127:1 i.e., when they have cursed thee, their curse should fructify. Thou shouldst not do anything that may have the effect of nullifying that curse.
128:1 To this day, in many religious rites, these streaks of ghee are poured with mantras recited the while. They are called Vasudhara and are poured along the surface of a wall. First, a waving line of red is drawn horizontally on the wall. Then seven spots are made under that line. Then with the sacrificial ladle, Ghee is poured from each of the spots in such a way that a thick streak is poured along the wall. The length of those streaks is generally 3 to 4 feet and their breadth about half an inch.
128:2 The mantras recited by Vasu were Vedic mantras.