Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

p. 310


Atonement and the Ascent to Heaven

Draupadi's Sorrow--The Vengeful Maharajah--Bhima is Forgiven--Dead Burned on Battlefield--Atonement for Sin--The Horse Sacrifice--Arjuna's Wanderings--A Woman turned to Stone--The Amazons--Father and Son Conflict--The Wonderful Serpent Jewel--Return of the Horse--The Sacrifice Performed--Maharajah Retires to the Forest--Meeting of Mournful Relatives--The Vision of the Dead--Widows Drown Themselves--A Forest Tragedy--Dwaraka Horrors--End of Krishna and Balarama--City Destroyed by the Sea--Farewell of the Pandavas--The Journey to Heaven--Yudhishthira Tested by Deities--Vision of Hell--The Holy Life.

WHEN it was told to the Pandava brethren that their camp had been raided in darkness by the bloodthirsty Aswatthaman, Yudhishthira exclaimed: "Alas! sorrow upon sorrow crowds upon us, and now the greatest sorrow of all hath fallen. Draupadi mourns the death of her brother and her five sons, and I rear she will perish with grief."

Draupadi came before her husbands and, weeping bitterly, said: "For thirteen cruel years you have endured shame and exile so that your children might prosper. But now that they are all slain, can you desire to have power and kingdom?"

Said Krishna: "O daughter of a rajah, is thy grief so great as is Pritha's and Gandhari's, and as great as those who lament the loss or their husbands on the battlefield? Thou hast less cause than others to wail now."

Draupadi was soothed somewhat, but she turned to

p. 311

[paragraph continues] Bhima and said: "If thou wilt not bring to me the head of Aswatthaman, I will never again look upon thy face."

Said Yudhishthira: "Aswatthaman is a Brahman, and Vishnu, the greatest of the gods, will punish him if he hath done wrong. If we should slay him now, O Draupadi, thy sons and thy brother and thy sire would not be restored unto thee."

Draupadi said: "So be it. But Aswatthaman hath a great jewel which gleams in darkness. Let it be taken from him, for it is as dear unto him as his life."

Then Arjuna went in pursuit of Aswatthaman and found him, and returned with the jewel.

To the battlefield came blind old Dhritarashtra, mourning the death of his hundred sons. And with the weeping maharajah were Queen Gandhari and the wives of the Kaurava princes, who sorrowed aloud. Wives wept for their husbands, their children wailed beside them, and mothers moaned for their sons. Bitter was the anguish of tender-hearted women, and the air was filled with wailing on that blood-red plain of Kurukshetra.

When Queen Gandhari beheld the Pandavas she cried out: "The smell of Duryodhana is upon you all."

Now Dhritarashtra plotted in his weak mind to crush the head of Bhima, the slayer of Duryodhana. When he embraced Yudhishthira he said: "Where is Bhima?" and they placed before him an image of the strong Pandava. Dhritarashtra put forth his arms, and he crushed the image in his embrace and fell back fainting. Then he wailed: "Alas! Bhima was as a son unto me. Although I have slain him, the dead cannot return." Well pleased was the maharajah when it was told to him that Bhima still lived; and he embraced his son's

p. 312

slayer tenderly and with forgiveness, saying: "I have no children now save the sons of Pandu, my brother."

Pritha rejoiced to meet her five sons, and she embraced them one by one. Then she went towards the sorrowing Draupadi, who fainted in her arms. Thereafter they wept together for the dead.

The bodies of the slain rajahs and princes were collected together, and wrapped in perfumed linen and laid each upon a funeral pyre and burned, and the first pyre which was kindled was that of Duryodhana. The Pandavas mourned for their kinsmen. Then they bathed in the holy Ganges, and took up water and sprinkled it in the name of each dead hero. Yudhishthira poured out the oblation for Karna, his brother, and he gave great gifts to his widows and his children. Thereafter all the remaining bodies of the slain were burned on the battlefield. 1

Yudhishthira was proclaimed rajah in the city of Hastinapur, and he wore the great jewel in his crown. A great sacrifice was offered up, and Dhaumya, the family priest of the Pandavas, poured the Homa offering to the gods on the sacred fire. Yudhishthira and Draupadi were anointed with holy water.

In the days that followed, Yudhishthira lamented over the carnage of the great war, nor could he be comforted. At length Vyasa, the sage, appeared before him and advised that he should perform the horse sacrifice to atone for his sins.

Then search was made for a moon-white horse with yellow tail and one black ear, and when it was found a plate of gold, inscribed with the name of Yudhishthira, was tied upon its forehead. Thereafter the horse was

p. 313

let loose, and was allowed to wander wheresoever it desired. A great army, which was led by Arjuna, followed the horse.

Now it was the custom in those days that when the sacred horse entered a raj 1, that raj was proclaimed to be subject to the king who performed the ceremony. And if any ruler detained the horse, he was compelled to fight with the army which followed the wandering animal. Should he be overcome in battle, the opposing rajah immediately joined forces with those of the conqueror, and followed the horse from kingdom to kingdom. For a whole year the animal was allowed to wander thus.

The horse was let loose on the night of full moon in the month of Choitro. 2

Arjuna met with many adventures. He fought against a rajah and the son of a rajah, who had a thousand wives in the country of Malwa, and defeated them. But Agni, who had married a daughter of the rajah, came to rescue his kin. He fought against Arjuna with fire, but Arjuna shot celestial arrows which produced water. Then the god made peace, and the rajah who had detained the horse went away with Arjuna. Thereafter the horse came to a rock which was the girl-wife of a Rishi who had been thus transformed because of her wickedness. "So will you remain," her husband had said, "until Yudhishthira performs the Aswa-medha ceremony." The horse was unable to leave the rock. Then Arjuna touched the rock, which immediately became a woman, and the horse was set free.

In time the horse entered the land of Amazons, and the queen detained it, and came forth with her women warriors to fight against Arjuna, who, however, made peace with them and went upon his way. Thereafter

p. 314

the holy steed reached a strange country where men and women and horses and cows and goats grew upon mighty trees like to fruit, and came to maturity and died each day. The rajah came against Arjuna, but was defeated. Then all the army fled to the islands of the sea, for they were Daityas, and Arjuna plundered their dwellings and obtained much treasure.

Once the horse entered a pond, and was cursed by the goddess Parvati, and it became a mare; it entered another pond and became a lion, owing to a Brahman's spell.

In the kingdom of Manipura the horse was seized, and soldiers armed with fire weapons were ready to fight against the Pandavas and their allies. But when the rajah, whose name was Babhru-váhana, discovered that the horse bore the name of Yudhishthira, he said: "Arjuna is my sire;" and he went forth and made obeisance, and put his head under the foot of the Pandava hero. But Arjuna spurned him, saying: "If I were thy sire, thou wouldst have no fear of me."

Then the rajah challenged Arjuna to battle, and was victorious on that day. 1 He took all the great men prisoners, and he severed Arjuna's head from his body with a crescent-bladed arrow. The rajah's mother, Chitrangada, was stricken with sorrow, as was also Ulupi, the daughter of Vasuka, the king of serpents, who had borne a son to Arjuna. But Ulupi remembered that her sire possessed a magic jewel which had power to restore a dead man to life, and she sent the rajah of Manipura to obtain it from the underworld. But the Nagas refused to give up the jewel, whereupon Arjuna's mighty

p. 315

son fought against them with arrows which were transformed into peacocks; and the peacocks devoured the serpents. Then the Naga king delivered up the magic jewel, and the rajah returned with it. He touched the body of Arjuna with the jewel, and the hero came to life again, and all his wounds were healed. When he departed from Manipura city the rajah, his son, accompanied him.

So from kingdom to kingdom the horse wandered while the army followed, until a year had expired. Then it returned to Hastinapur.

Yudhishthira had meantime lived a life of purity and self-restraint. Each night he lay upon the ground, and always slept within the city. Beside him lay Draupadi, and a naked sword was ever betwixt them.

Great were the rejoicings of the people when the horse came back: they made glad holiday, and went forth to welcome the army with gifts of fine raiment and jewels and flowers. Money was scattered in the streets, and the poor were made happy, being thus relieved generously in their need.

Yudhishthira embraced Arjuna and kissed him and wept tears of gladness, and welcomed Arjuna's son, Babhru-váhana, Rajah of Manipura, and also the other rajahs who had followed the sacred horse.

Twelve days after the return of Arjuna, and on the day when Magha's full moon marked the close of the winter season, the people assembled in great multitudes from far and near to share Yudhishthira's generous hospitality and witness the Aswa-medha ceremony, which was held upon a green and level portion of consecrated ground. Stately pavilions, glittering with jewels and gold, had been erected for the royal guests, and there were humbler places for the Brahmans. In thrones of

p. 316

gold sat Maharajah Dhritarashtra and Rajah Yudhishthira, and the other rajahs had thrones of sandalwood and gold. The royal ladies were ranged together in their appointed places. Wise Vyasa was there, and he directed the ceremony. And Krishna, the holy one, was there also.

When all the guests were assembled, Yudhishthira and Draupadi bathed together in the sacred waters of the Ganges. Then a portion of ground was measured out, and Yudhishthira ploughed it with a golden plough. Draupadi followed him, and sowed the seeds of every kind which is sown in the kingdom, while all the women and the Brahmans chanted holy mantras. Then a golden altar was erected with four broad layers of golden bricks, and stakes of sacred wood from the forest and from Himalaya, and it was canopied and winged with gold-brocaded silk.

Then eight pits were dug for Homa 1 of milk and butter to be made ready for the sacrificial fire, and in skins were wrapped up portions of every kind of vegetable and curative herb which grew in the kingdom, and these were placed in the Homa pits.

On the ground there were numerous sacrificial stakes, to which were tied countless animals--bulls and buffaloes and steeds, wild beasts from forest and mountain and cave, birds of every kind, fishes from river and lake, and even insects.

The priests offered up animals in sacrifice to each celestial power, and the feasting was beheld by sacred beings. The Gandharvas sang, and the Apsaras, whom the Gandharvas wooed, danced like sunbeams on the grass. Messengers of the gods were also gathered there, and Vyasa and his disciples chanted mantras to celestial music. The people lifted up their voices at the sound

p. 317

of rain drum and the blast of the rain trumpet. Then bright was the lustre of Yudhishthira's fame.

When all the kings and royal ladies and sages took their places to be blessed by the horse sacrifice, Yudhishthira sat on his throne, and in his hand he held the horn of a stag.

Vyasa sent four-and-sixty rajahs with their wives to draw water from the holy Ganges. Many musicians went with them beating drums and blowing trumpets and playing sweet instruments, and girls danced in front, going and returning. And all the rajahs and their wives were given splendid raiment by Yudhishthira, and necklaces of jewels also, and he put betelnut in their mouths one by one. To the Brahmans were gifted much gold and many jewels, and elephants, horses, and kine, and they were well pleased.

Yudhishthira then sat naked in his throne, and each one who had drawn holy water poured a quantity over his head; and they poured what remained over the head of the sacred white horse.

Nákula held the horse's head, and said: "The horse speaketh."

Those who were about him asked in loud voices: "What doth the horse reveal?"

Said Nákula: "Thus speaketh the horse--'In other such ceremonies the horse which is sacrificed departs unto Swarga 1, but I shall rise far above Swarga, because that Krishna is here'."

Then Dhaumya, having washed the horse, gave a scimitar to Bhima with which to strike off the head at a single blow. But ere this was done, Dhaumya pressed an ear of the holy animal, and milk flowed forth. Then he said to Bhima: "Pure indeed is the horse; verily the

p. 318

gods will accept the sacrifice. Strike now, O strong one."

Bhima raised the scimitar and severed the head, which immediately ascended unto heaven and vanished from before the eyes of all. Great was the wonder and the joy of the assembled multitude.

Krishna and other rajahs and sages then cut open the horse's body, from which a bright light issued forth. They found that the animal was pure, and Krishna said unto Yudhishthira: "This, thy sacrifice, is acceptable unto Vishnu."

Draupadi was made Queen of the Sacrifice, and mantras were chanted, and she was adored and given rich offerings, because of her virtue and her wisdom.

The body of the slain steed was divided, and the flesh gave forth the odour of camphor. Priests lifted portions in their ladles and placed these on the sacrificial fire, and they made Soma. And Rajah Yudhishthira and all his brethren stood in the sin-cleansing smoke and breathed its fragrance.

Dhaumya cried out, as he laid a piece of flesh on the altar fire: "O Indra, accept thou this flesh which hath turned to camphor."

When he had uttered these words, Indra, accompanied by many gods, appeared before the people, who made obeisance with fear and secret joy. Indra took from Vyasa portions of the flesh and gave these to each of the gods. Then he vanished from sight with all his companions.

Vyasa blessed Yudhishthira, and Krishna embraced him.

Said Krishna: "Thy fame will endure for ever." Yudhishthira made answer: "Unto thee do I owe all these blessings."

p. 319

Thereafter Krishna and the rajahs poured holy water over the heads of Yudhishthira and Draupadi.

All the fragments of the herbs which had been provided for Homa were then ground into powder. And Yudhishthira gave balls of the powder to each one present, so that they might eat of the sacred herbs and share in the blessings of the Aswa-medha. He ate his own portion last of all. The fragments of the offerings which remained were burnt on the altar.

Then Pritha and all the maidens who were with her made merry, while the musicians played gladsome airs.

Yudhishthira distributed more gifts. Unto Vyasa he assigned an estate, and bestowed upon the Brahmans who officiated many animals and pearls and slaves. To the rajahs he gave war elephants and steeds and money, and to the rajahs' wives bridal-night gifts of raiment and jewels and gold.

Bhima feasted all the Brahmans, and Yudhishthira wept as he bade farewell to Krishna, his friend in peace and in war, who departed in his chariot unto sea-washed Dwaraka.

There was prosperity in the kingdom under Yudhishthira's wise and just government; but blind old Dhritarashtra never ceased to mourn the death of Duryodhana, his first-born, and at length he retired to live in a humble dwelling in the jungle. With him went Queen Gandhari, and Pritha, the mother of the Pandavas, and Vidura, and others who were of great age.

Years went past, and a day came when Yudhishthira and his brethren and their wife Draupadi journeyed to the dwelling-place of their elders. They found them all there save Vidura, who had departed to a sacred place on the banks of the Ganges to undergo penance and wait for the coming of Yama, god of the dead. Then all the

p. 320

kinsfolk, young and old, went forth to find Vidura; but when they came to him he was wasted with hunger and great age, nor could he speak unto them. They waited beside him until he died, and then they mourned together. This new sorrow awakened old-time grief, and they spoke of all those who had fallen in the great war. Fathers and mothers lamented for their sons, and wives for their husbands. . . .

While they wept and moaned together, the great sage Vyasa came nigh and spoke, saying: "Verily, I will soothe all your sorrows. . . . Let each one bathe at sunset in the holy waters of the Ganges, and when night falls your lost ones will return to you once again."

Then they all sat waiting on the river bank until evening came on. Slowly passed the day; it seemed to be as long as a year.

At length the sun went down, and they chanted mantras and went into the Ganges. Vyasa bathed beside the old Maharajah Dhritarashtra and Yudhishthira. . . . Then all came out and stood on the bank.

Suddenly the waters began to heave and foam, and Vyasa muttered holy words and called out the names of the dead one by one. . . . Soon all the heroes who had been slain arose one by one. In chariots they came, and on horseback and riding upon lordly elephants. They all uttered triumphant cries; drums were sounded and trumpets were blown; and it seemed as if the armies of the Pandavas and Kauravas were once again assembled for battle, for they swept over the river like a mighty tempest.

Many of the onlookers trembled with fear, until they beheld Bhishma and Drona, clad in armour, standing aloft in their chariots in splendour and in pride; then came Arjuna's son, the noble Abhimanyu, and Bhima's Asura,


THE RETURN OF THE HEROES SLAIN IN BATTLE<br> <i>From the painting by Warwick Goble</i>.
Click to enlarge

From the painting by Warwick Goble.


p. 321

son. Soon Gandhari beheld Duryodhana and all his brethren, while Pritha looked with glad eyes upon Karna, and Draupadi welcomed her brother Dhrishta-dyumna and her five children who had all been slain by vengeful Aswatthaman. All the warriors who had fallen in battle returned again on that night of wonder.

With the host came minstrels who sang of the deeds of the heroes, and beautiful girls who danced before them. All strife had ended between kinsmen and old-time rivals; in death there was peace and sweet companionship.

The ghostly warriors crossed the Ganges and were welcomed by those who waited on the bank around Vyasa. It was a night of supreme and heart-stirring gladness. Fathers and mothers found their sons, widows clung to their husbands, sisters embraced their brothers, and all wept tears of joy. The elders who were living conversed with those who were dead; the burdens of grief and despair fell from all hearts after lone years of mourning; the past was suddenly forgotten in the rapture of beholding those who had died.

Swiftly passed the night as if it had endured but for an hour. Then when dawn began to break, the dead men returned to their chariots and their horses and their elephants and bade farewells. . . .

Vyasa spoke to the widows and said that those of them who desired to be with their husbands could depart with them. Then the Kaurava princesses and other high- born ladies, who never ceased to mourn for their own, kissed the feet of the Maharajah Dhritarashtra and Queen Gandhari and plunged into the Ganges with the departing hosts. . . . Vyasa chanted mantras, and all the drowned widows were transported to heaven with their husbands. . . .

The Pandavas returned to Hastinapur, and when two years had gone past a new sorrow fell upon them. One

p. 322

day Narada, the sage, stood before Yudhishthira and told that a great fire had swept through the jungle, and that Dhritarashtra, and Gandhari, and Pritha, and all who were with them, had perished.

Soon afterwards the Pandavas came to know, by reason of dread omens which appeared, that a great calamity was drawing nigh, but no man could tell what it was or when it would take place.

Ere long it became known that the city of Dwaraka was doomed to be destroyed. A horror in human shape was beheld in the night; it was coloured yellow and black, its head was bald and its limbs misshapen, and men said it was Yama, god of the dead. . . . Visions of headless men contending in battle were beheld at sunset. . . . The moon was eclipsed, a dread tempest ravaged the land, and a plague of rats afflicted the city.

Krishna forbade all the people, on pain of death, to drink wine, and commanded them to perform devotions on the seashore. . . .

Then the night was haunted by a black woman with yellow teeth who grinned horribly at house doors. All the inhabitants of the city were stricken with terror. . . . Evil spirits came also and robbed the jewels of the women and the weapons of the men. . . . At length the chakra 1 of Krishna went up to heaven, and his chariot and horses followed it. . . . The end of the Yádavas was not afar off, and the day came when Apsaras called out of heaven: "Depart from hence," and all the people heard them.

When the people gathered on the seashore they held a feast, and being allowed to drink wine for one day, they drank heavily and began to quarrel. At length Satyaki slew Kritavarman, who had gone to the Pandava camp with Drona's son on the night of slaughter. Then

p. 323

[paragraph continues] Kritavarman's friends killed Satyaki and one of Krishna's sons. Krishna slew the rebels, but he could not quell the tumult and the fighting which ensued; fathers slew their sons, and sons their fathers, and kinsmen contended fiercely against kinsmen.

Then Krishna and Balarama left the city, and both died in the jungle. From Balarama's mouth issued a mighty snake, for he was the incarnation of the world serpent. . . . Krishna was mistaken for a gazelle by a hunter, who shot an arrow which pierced his foot at the only spot where he could be mortally wounded. He then departed to his heaven, which is called Goloka.

Ere Krishna had left Dwaraka he caused messengers to hasten for Arjuna, who came speedily, to find the women wailing for the dead. Then Vasudeva, father of Krishna, died, and Arjuna laid the body of the old man upon the pyre, and he was burned with four of his widows, who no longer desired to live. The bodies of Krishna and Balarama were cremated also.

Arjuna then set forth towards Indra-prastha with a remnant of the people; and when they had left Dwaraka, the sea rose up and swallowed the whole city, with those who had refused to depart from it. . . . Such was the end of the power of the Yadavas.

Deep gloom fell upon the Pandavas after this, and Vyasa, the sage, appeared before them, and revealed that their time had come to depart from the world.

Then Yudhishthira divided the kingdom. He made Parikshit, son of Abhimanyu, Rajah of Hastinapur; and Yuyutsu, the half-brother of Duryodhana, who had joined the Pandava army on the first day of the great war, was made Rajah of Hastinapur. He counselled them to live at peace one with another.

The Pandavas afterwards cast off their royal garments

p. 324

and their jewels and put on the garb of hermits, and the bright-eyed and faithful Draupadi did likewise. Yudhishthira departed first of all, and his brethren walked behind him one by one, and Draupadi went last of all, followed by a hound. They all walked towards the rising sun, and by the long circuitous path which leads to Mount Meru, through forests and over streams and across the burning plains, never again to return.

One by one they fell by the way, all save Yudhishthira. Draupadi was the first to sink down, and Bhima cried: "Why hath she fallen who hath never done wrong?"

Said Yudhishthira: "Her heart was bound up in Arjuna, and she hath her reward."

Sahadeva was next to fall, and then Nakula. At length Yudhishthira heard the voice of Bhima crying in distress: "Lo! now the noble Arjuna hath fallen. What sin hath he committed?"

Said Yudhishthira: "He boasted confidently that he could destroy all his enemies in one day, and because he failed in his vow he hath fallen by the way."

The two surviving brothers walked on in silence; but the time came when mighty Bhima sank down. He cried: "O Yudhishthira say, if thou canst tell, why I have fallen now.

Said Yudhishthira: "O wolf-bellied one, because of thy cursing and gluttony and thy pride thou hast fallen by the way."

Yudhishthira walked on, calm and unmoved, followed by his faithful hound. When he drew nigh to sacred Mount Meru, the world-spine, Indra, king of the gods, carne forth to welcome him, saying: "Ascend, O resolute prince."

Said Yudhishthira: "Let my brethren who have fallen

p. 325

by the way come with me also. I cannot enter heaven without them, O king of the gods. Let the fair and gentle princess come too; Draupadi hath been a faithful wife, and is worthy of bliss. Hear my prayer, O Indra, and have mercy."

Said Indra: "Thy brethren and Draupadi have gone before thee."

Then Yudhishthira pleaded that his faithful hound should enter heaven also; but Indra said: "Heaven is no place for those who are followed by hounds. Knowest thou not that demons rob religious ordinances of their virtues when dogs are nigh?"

Said Yudhishthira: "No evil can come from the noble. I cannot have joy if I desert this faithful friend."

Indra said: "Thou didst leave behind thy brethren and Draupadi. Why, therefore, canst thou not abandon thine hound?"

Said Yudhishthira: "I have no power to bring back to life those who have fallen by the way: there can be no abandonment of the dead."

As he spake, the hound was transformed, and behold Dharma, god of justice, stood by the rajah's side.

Dharma said: "O Yudhishthira, thou art indeed mine own son. Thou wouldst not abandon me, thy hound, because that I was faithful unto thee. Thine equal cannot he found in heaven."

Then Yudhishthira was transported to the city of eternal bliss, and there he beheld Duryodhana seated upon a throne. All the Kauravas were in heaven also, but the rajah could not find his brethren or fair Draupadi.

Said Indra: "Here thou shalt dwell, O Yudhishthira, in eternal bliss. Forget all earthly ties and attain to perfection; thy brethren have fallen short, therefore they sank by the way."

p. 326

Yudhishthira said: "I cannot remain here with the Kauravas who have done me great wrong. Where my brethren are, there would I be also with our wife Draupadi."

Then a celestial being conducted Yudhishthira to the abode of his brethren and the Princess of Panchala. He entered the forest of the nether regions, where the leaves were like to sharp weapons and the path was covered with knives. Darkness hung heavily, and the way was miry with blood and strewn with foul and mutilated corpses. Shapes of horror flitted round about like to shadows; fierce birds of prey feasted upon human flesh. The damned were burning in everlasting fires, and the air reeked with foul odours. A boiling river went past, and Yudhishthira saw the place of torture with thorns, and the desert of fiery sand: he gazed mutely upon each horror that was unfolded before his eyes.

Fain would Yudhishthira have turned back, but he heard in the darkness the voices of his brethren and Draupadi bidding him to stay a little while to comfort them while they suffered torment.

Then Yudhishthira said to the celestial being: "Depart now from me, for I must remain here to assuage the sufferings of my brethren and Draupadi."

As he spake the gods appeared, and the scene of horror vanished from before the eyes of Yudhishthira, for it was an illusion conjured up to test his constancy.

Then Yudhishthira was led to the heavenly Ganges, and having bathed in its sacred waters, he cast off his mortal body and became a celestial. Then, rejoicing, he entered Swarga, the celestial city of Indra, and was welcomed by Krishna in all his divine glory, and by his brethren and by Draupadi, and all whom he had loved upon earth.

p. 327

Indra spoke and said: "This is the beautiful and immortal one, who sprang from the altar to be thy wife, and these bright beings are her five children. Here is Dhritarashtra, who is now the king of the Gandharvas; there is Karna, son of Surya, the peerless archer who was slain by Arjuna. Here cometh towards thee Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna; he is now the star-bright companion of the lord of night. . . . Here are Pandu, thy sire, and Pritha, thy mother, now united in heaven. Behold! also, Yudhishthira, the wise Bhishma, whose place is with the Vasus round my throne: Drona sits with Dharma, god of wisdom. Here are all the peerless warriors who fell in battle and have won heaven by their valour and their constancy. So may all mortals rise to eternal bliss, casting off their mortal bodies and entering by the shining door of the celestial city, by doing kindly deeds, by uttering gentle words, and by enduring all suffering with patience. The holy life is prepared for all the sons of men."

Thus ends sublimely the story of the Great War of the Bharatas.


312:1 No widows were burned with their husbands, for the Satí (or Suttee) ceremony had not yet become general in India; nor did the Brahmans officiate at the pyres.

313:1 Royal territory.

313:2 The Easter full moon.

314:1 Here we meet with the familiar father-and-son-combat theme of which the stories of the Persian Sohrab and Rustem, the Germanic Hildebrand and Hadubrand, and the Celtic Cuchullin and Conlaoch are representative variants. Arjuna had effected a temporary exogamous marriage according to matriarchal customs.

316:1 Offerings.

317:1 Indra's heaven.

322:1 Celestial weapon.

Next: Chapter XX. Nala and Damayantí