(Astika Parva continued)
"Meanwhile the great ascetic Jaratkaru wandered over the whole earth making the place where evening fell his home for the night. And gifted with ascetic power, he roamed, practising various vows difficult to be practised by the immature, and bathing also in various sacred waters. And the Muni had air alone for his food and was free from desire of worldly enjoyment. And he became daily emaciated and grew lean-fleshed. And one day he saw the spirits of his ancestors, heads down, in a hole, by a cord of virana roots having only one thread entire. And that even single thread was being gradually eaten away by a large rat dwelling in that hole. And the Pitris in that hole were without food, emaciated, pitiable, and eagerly desirous of salvation. And Jaratkaru, approaching the pitiable one, himself in humble guise, asked them, 'Who are ye hanging by this cord of virana roots? The single weak root that is still left in this cord of virana roots already eaten away by the rat, dwelling in this hole, is itself being gradually eaten away by the same rat with his sharp teeth. The little that remains of that single thread will soon be cut away. It is clear ye shall then have to fall down into this pit with faces downwards. Seeing you with faces downwards, and overtaken by this great calamity, my pity hath been excited. What good can I do to you. Tell me quickly whether this calamity can be averted by a fourth, a third, or even by the sacrifice of a half of this my asceticism, O, relieve yourselves even with the whole of my asceticism. I consent to all this. Do ye as ye please.'
"The Pitris said, 'Venerable Brahmacharin, thou desirest to relieve us. But, O foremost of Brahmanas, thou canst not dispel our affliction by thy asceticism. O child, O first of speakers, we too have the fruits of our asceticism. But, O Brahmana, it is for the loss of children that we are falling down into this unholy hell. The grandsire himself hath said that a son is a great merit. As we are about to be cast in this hole, our ideas are no longer clear. Therefore, O child, we know thee not, although thy manhood is well-known on earth. Venerable thou art and of good fortune, thou who thus from kindness grievest for us worthy of pity and greatly afflicted. O Brahmana, listen, who we are. We are Rishis of the Yayavara sect, of rigid vows. And, O Muni, from loss of children, we have fallen down from a sacred region. Our severe penances have not been destroyed; we have a thread yet. But we have only one thread now. It matters little, however, whether he is or is not. Unfortunate as we are, we have a thread in one, known as Jaratkaru. The unfortunate one has gone through the Vedas and their branches and is practising asceticism alone. He being one with soul under complete control, desires set high, observant of vows, deeply engaged in ascetic penances, and free from greed for the merits
or asceticism, we have been reduced to this deplorable state. He hath no wife, no son, no relatives. Therefore, do we hang in this hole, our consciousness lost, like men having none to take care of them. If thou meetest him, O, tell him, from thy kindness to ourselves, Thy Pitris, in sorrow, are hanging with faces downwards in a hole. Holy one, take a wife and beget children. O thou of ascetic wealth, thou art, O amiable one, the only thread that remaineth in the line of thy ancestors. O Brahmana, the cord of virana roots that thou seest we are hanging by, is the cord representing our multiplied race. And, O Brahmana, these threads of the cord of virana roots that thou seest as eaten away, are ourselves who have been eaten up by Time. This root thou seest hath been half-eaten and by which we are hanging in this hole is he that hath adopted asceticism alone. The rat that thou beholdest is Time of infinite strength. And he (Time) is gradually weakening the wretch Jaratkaru engaged in ascetic penances tempted by the merits thereof, but wanting in prudence and heart. O excellent one, his asceticism cannot save us. Behold, our roots being torn, cast down from higher regions, deprived of consciousness by Time, we are going downwards like sinful wretches. And upon our going down into this hole with all our relatives, eaten up by Time, even he shall sink with us into hell. O child, whether it is asceticism, or sacrifice, or whatever else there be of very holy acts, everything is inferior. These cannot count with a son. O child, having seen all, speak unto that Jaratkaru of ascetic wealth. Thou shouldst tell him in detail everything that thou hast beheld. And, O Brahmana, from thy kindness towards us, thou shouldst tell him all that would induce him to take a wife and beget children. Amongst his friends, or of our own race, who art thou, O excellent one, that thus grievest for us all like a friend? We wish to hear who thou art that stayest here.'"