"Yudhishthira said, 'Thou hast, O grandsire, discoursed to me on the gift of kine that is fraught with great merit. In the case of kings observant of their duties, that gift is most meritorious. Sovereignty is always painful. It is incapable of being borne by persons of uncleansed souls. In the generality of cases, kings fail to attain to auspicious ends. By always making, however, gifts of earth, they succeed in cleansing themselves (of all their sins). Thou hast, O prince of Kuru's race, discoursed to me on many duties. Thou hast discoursed to me on the gifts of kine made by king Nriga in days of old. The Rishi Nachiketa, in ancient times, had
discoursed on the merits of this act. The Vedas and the Upanishads also have laid down that in all sacrifices,--in fact, in all kinds of religious acts,--the Dakshina should be earth or kine or gold. The Srutis, however, declare that in all Dakshinas, gold is superior and is, indeed, the best. I desire, O grandsire, to hear thee discourse truly on this topic. What is gold? How did it spring up? When did it come into existence? What is its essence? Who is its presiding deity? What are its fruits? Why is it regarded as the foremost of all things? For what reason do men of wisdom applaud the gift of gold? For what reason is gold regarded as the best Dakshinas in all sacrifices? Why also is gold regarded as a cleanser superior to earth itself and kine? Why, indeed, is it regarded so superior as a Dakshina? Do thou, O grandsire, discourse to me on all this!'
"Bhishma said, Listen, O king, with concentrated attention to me as I recite to thee in detail the circumstances connected with the origin of gold as understood by me. When my father Santanu of great energy departed from this world, I proceeded to Gangadwara for performing his Sraddha. Arrived there, I commenced the Sraddha of my father. My mother Jahnavi, coming there, rendered me great help. Inviting many ascetics crowned with success and causing them to take their seats before me, I commenced the preliminary rites consisting of gifts of water and of other things. Having with a concentrated mind performed all preliminary rites as laid down in the scriptures, I set myself to duly offer the obsequial cake. I then saw, O king, that a handsome arm, adorned with Angadas and other ornaments, rose up, piercing the ground, through the blades of Kusa grass which I had spread. Beholding that arm rise from the ground, I became filled with wonder. Indeed, O chief of Bharata's race, I thought that my father had come himself for accepting the cake I was about to offer. Reflecting then, by the light of the scriptures, the conviction soon came upon me that the ordinance does occur in the Vedas that the cake should not be presented into the hand of him whose Sraddha is performed. Even this was the conviction that took possession of my mind, viz., that the obsequial cake should never be presented in this world by a man into the visible hand of the man whose obsequial rites are performed. The Pitris do not come in their visible forms for taking the cake. On the other hand, the ordinance provides that it should be presented on the blades of Kusa grass spread on the earth for the purpose. I then, disregarding that hand which constituted an indication of my father's presence, and recollecting the true ordinance depending upon the authority of the scriptures respecting the mode of presenting the cake, offered the entire cake, O chief of the Bharatas, upon those blades of Kusa grass that were spread before me. Know, O prince of men, that what I did was perfectly consistent with the scriptural ordinance. After this, the arm of my sire, O monarch, vanished in our very sight. On that night as I slept, the Pitris appeared to me in a dream. Gratified with me they said, O chief of Bharata's race, even these words, 'We have been pleased with thee, for the indication thou hast afforded today of thy
adherence to the ordinance. It has pleased us to see that thou hast not swerved from the injunctions of the scriptures. The scriptural ordinance, having been followed by thee, has become more authoritative, O king. By such conduct thou hast honoured and maintained the authority of thyself, the scriptures, the auditions of the Vedas, the Pitris and the Rishis, the Grandsire Brahman himself, and those seniors, viz., the Prajapatis. Adherence to the scriptures has been maintained. Thou hast today, O chief of the Bharatas, acted very properly. Thou hast made gifts of earth and kine. Do thou make gifts of gold. The gifts of gold is very cleansing. O thou that art well-conversant with duties, know that by such acts of thine, both ourselves and our forefathers will all be cleansed of all our sins. Such gifts rescue both ancestors and descendants to the tenth degree of the person who makes them.' Even these were the words that my ancestors, appearing unto me in a dream, said unto me, I then awoke, O king, and became filled with wonder. Indeed, O chief of Bharata's race, I set my heart then upon making gifts of gold. Listen now, monarch, to this old history. It is highly praiseworthy and it extends the period of his life who listens to it. It was first recited to Rama, the son of Jamadagni In former days Jamadagni's son Rama, filled with great wrath, exterminated the Kshatriyas from off the face of the earth for thrice seven times. Having subjugated the entire earth the heroic Rama of eyes like lotus-petals began to make preparations for performing a Horse-sacrifice, O king, that is praised by all Brahmanas and Kshatriyas and that is capable of granting the fruition of every wish. That sacrifice cleanses all creatures and enhances the energy and splendour of those who succeed in performing it. Endued with great energy, Rama, by the performance of that sacrifice became purified. Having, however, performed that foremost of sacrifices, the high-souled Rama failed yet to attain to perfect lightness of heart. Repairing unto Rishis conversant with every branch of learning as also the deities, Rama of Bhrigu's race questioned them. Filled with repentance and compassion, he addressed them, saying, 'Ye highly blessed ones, do ye declare that which is more cleansing still for men engaged in fierce deeds.' Thus addressed by him, those great Rishis, fully acquainted with the Vedas and the scriptures, answered him, saying, 'O Rama, guided by the authority of the Vedas, do thou honour all learned Brahmanas. Following this conduct for some time do thou once more ask the regenerate Rishis as to what should be done by thee for cleansing thyself. Follow the advice which those persons of great wisdom give.' Repairing then to Vasishtha and Agastya and Kasyapa, that delighter of the Bhrigus, endued with great energy, asked them that question, 'Ye foremost of Brahmanas, even this is the wish that has arisen in my heart. How, indeed, may I succeed in cleansing myself? By what acts and rites may this be brought about? Or, if by gifts, what is that article by giving away which this wish of mine may be accomplished? Ye foremost or righteous persons, if your minds be inclined to do me a favour, then do tell me, ye that are endued with wealth of asceticism,
what is that by which I may succeed in cleansing myself.'
"The Rishis said, 'O delighter of the Bhrigus, the mortal that has sinned becomes cleansed by making gifts of kine, of earth, and of wealth. Even this is what we have heard. There is another gift that is regarded as a great cleanser. Listen to us, O regenerate Rishi, as we discourse on it. That article is excellent and is endued with wonderful aspect and is, besides, the offspring of Fire. In days of yore, the god Agni burnt all the world. It has been heard by us that from his seed sprung gold of bright complexion. It came to be celebrated under the name of good complexioned. By making gifts of gold thou art sure to have thy wish crowned with fruition. Then the illustrious Vasishtha in especial, of rigid vows, addressing him, said, 'Hear, O Rama, how gold, which has the splendour of fire sprang into existence. That gold will confer merit on thee. In matters of gifts, gold is highly applauded. I shall also tell thee what is gold, whence it has come, and how it has come to be invested with superior attributes. Listen to me, O thou of mighty arms, as I discourse upon these topics. Know this as certain that gold is of the essence of Fire and Soma. The goat is Fire (for it given, it leads to the region of the deity of fire); the sheep is Varuna (for if leads to the region of Varuna the lord of waters); the horse is Surya (for if leads to the region of Surya); elephants are Nagas (for they lead to the world of Nagas); buffaloes are Asuras (for they lead to the region of Asuras); cocks and boars are Rakshasas (for they lead to the regions of the Rakshasas), O delighter of the Bhrigus; earth is sacrifice, kine, water, and Soma (for it leads to the merits of sacrifice, and to the region of kine, of the lord of waters and of Soma). Even these are the declarations of the Smritis. Churning the entire universe, a mass of energy was found. That energy is gold. Hence, O regenerate Rishi, compared to all these objects (which I have named above) gold is certainly superior. It is a precious thing, high and excellent.' 1 It is for this reason that the deities and Gandharvas and Uragas and Rakshasas and human beings and Pisachas hold it with care. All these beings, O son of Bhrigu's race, shine in splendour, with the aid of gold, after converting it into crowns and armlets and diverse kinds of ornaments. It is also for this reason that gold is regarded as the most cleansing of all cleansing things such as earth and kine and all other kinds of wealth, O prince of men. The gift of gold, O puissant king, is the highest gift. It is distinguished above the gifts of earth, of kine, and of all other things, O thou that art endued with the effulgence of an immortal, gold is an eternal cleanser. Do thou make gifts of it unto the foremost of Brahmanas as it is the foremost of cleansing things. Of all kinds of Dakshina, gold is the best. They who make gifts of gold are said to be givers of all things. Indeed, they who make gifts of gold come to be regarded as givers of deities. Agni is all the deities in one, and gold has
[paragraph continues] Agni for its essence. Hence it is that the person who makes gifts of gold gives away all the deities. Hence, O chief of men, there is no gift higher than the gift of gold.'
"Vasishtha continued, 'Hear once more, O regenerate Rishi, as I discourse upon it, the pre-eminence of gold, O foremost of all wielders of weapons. I heard this formerly in the Purana, O son of Bhrigu's race. I represent the speech of Prajapati himself. After the wedding was over of the illustrious and high-souled Rudra armed with the trident, O son of Bhrigu's race, with the goddess who became his spouse, on the breast of that foremost of mountains, viz., Himavat, the illustrious and high-souled deity wished to unite himself with the goddess. Thereupon all the deities, penetrated with anxiety, approached Rudra. Bending their heads with reverence and gratifying Mahadeva and his boon giving spouse Uma, both of whom were seated together, they addressed Rudra, O perpetuator of Bhrigu's race, saying, 'This union, O illustrious and sinless one, of thine with the goddess, is a union of one endued with penances with another of penances as severe! Verily, it is the union, O lord, of one possessed of very great energy with another whose energy is scarcely less! Thou, O illustrious one, art of energy that is irresistible. The goddess Uma, also is possessed of energy that is equally irresistible. The offspring that will result from a union like this, will, without doubt, O illustrious deity, be endued with very great might. Verily, O puissant lord, that offspring will consume all things in the three worlds without leaving a remnant. Do thou then, O lord of all the universe, O thou of large eyes, grant unto these deities prostrated before thee, a boon from desire of benefiting the three worlds! Do thou, O puissant one, restrain this high energy of thine which may become the seed of offspring. Verily, that energy is the essence of all forces in the three worlds. Ye two, by an act of congress, are sure to scorch the universe! The offspring that will be born of you two will certainly be able to afflict the deities! Neither the goddess Earth, nor the Firmament, nor Heaven, O puissant one, nor all of them together, will be able to bear thy energy, we firmly believe. The entire universe is certain to be burnt through the force of thy energy. It behoveth thee, O puissant one, to show us favour, O illustrious deity. That favour consists in thy not begetting a son, O foremost of the deities, upon the goddess Uma. Do thou, with patience, restrain thy fiery and puissant energy!' Unto the deities that said so the holy Mahadeva having the bull for his sign, O regenerate Rishi, answered, saying, 'So be it!' Having said so, the deity that has the bull for his vehicle, drew up his vital seed. From that time he came to be called by the name, of Urdhvaretas (one that has drawn up the vital seed). The spouse of Rudra, however, at this endeavour of the deities to stop procreation, became highly incensed. In consequence of her being of the opposite sex (and, therefore, endued with little control upon her temper) she used harsh words, thus, 'Since ye have opposed my lord in the matter of procreating a child when he was desirous of procreating one upon me, as the consequence of this
act, ye deities, ye all shall become sonless. Verily, since ye have opposed the birth of issue from me, therefore, ye shall have no offspring of your own.' At the time this curse was denounced, O perpetuator of Bhrigu's race, the deity of fire was not there. It is in consequence of this curse of the goddess that the deities have become childless. Rudra, solicited by them, held in himself his energy of incomparable puissance. A small quantity, however, that came out of his body fell down on the earth. That seed, falling on the earth, leaped into a blazing fire and there began to grow (in size and power) most wonderfully. The energy of Rudra, coming in contact with another energy of great puissance, became identified with it in respect of essence. Meanwhile, all the deities having Sakra at their head, were scorched a good deal by the Asura named Taraka. The Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, the Maruts, the Aswins, and the Sadhyas all became exceedingly afflicted in consequence of the prowess of that son of Diti. All the regions of the deities, their beautiful cars, and their palatial mansions, and the retreats of the Rishis, were snatched away by the Asuras. Then the deities and the Rishis, with cheerless hearts, sought the protection of the illustrious and puissant Brahman of unfading glory.'"
128:1 The commentator explains that hence, by making gifts of gold, one comes to be regarded as making gifts of the entire universe.