The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37
[The Iliad and Odyssey of India]
"The reading of this Mahá-Bhárata destroys all sin and produces virtue; so much so, that the pronunciation of a single shloka is sufficient to wipe away much guilt. Tills Mahá-Bhárata contains the history of the gods, of the Rishis in heaven and those on earth, of the Gandharvas and the Rákshasas. It also contains the life and actions of the one God, holy, immutable, and true, who is Krishna, who is the creator and the ruler of this universe,—who is seeking the welfare of his creation by means of his incomparable and indestructible power; whose actions are celebrated by all sages; who has bound human beings in a chain, of which one end is life and the other death; on whom the Rishis meditate, and a knowledge of whom imparts unalloyed happiness to their hearts, and for whose gratification and favour all the daily devotions are performed by all worshippers. If a man reads the Mahá-Bhárata and has faith in its doctrines, he is free from all sin, and ascends to heaven after his death."
Yet these national poems—the Mahabharat and the Ramayana, the literary palladia of India—remain unknown to Europe, and have never been translated by command of the English Government, as beyond question they should have been. Nothing, in truth, can quite excuse the indifference shown in this default: it is an instance of the want of sympathy in the otherwise grand and admirable administration of British India: but. It is a serious instance, for the task was of necessity one unlikely to be performed—if not impossible of performance—except by the encouragement and with the resources of a powerful Government. The treasures of a foreign literature may safely be left to private learning when they appear of manageable dimensions; but these poems, as we have said, are enormous, overwhelming, colossal. They go beyond the grasp of any single mind, it would be thought, however gifted, to exhaust. The Mahabharat contains some two hundred thousand verses; the Ramayana, about fifty thousand. They are poetical encyclopaedias in fact, and the British Government might surely have explored and surveyed them like a territory of its Râj, ordaining their careful translation by some judiciously chosen committee of scholars, Sanskritists and poets, as a work of actual administrative duty. This would have formed a monument well worthy of page 5 the English name, and the world of science and literature would have been justly grateful; while nothing could have better developed the knowledge of India in England, or reflected greater light upon that mutual origin which is the best hope of future times. All this has not been performed officially; but two men of generous self-devotion and boundless industry have set themselves to the forgotten duty, and their labours have found in the enterprise and liberality of the honourable publishing firm of Messrs. Trübner and Co. the means of seeing light. In justice to this house, which has done so much for the cause of Oriental scholarship, and in order to draw the attention of the Government and the public to the new literary riches that now he unlocked, we intend in this and a following paper to touch in outline upon the two poems which quite deserve the name we have given them of "The Iliad and Odyssey of India."
The Ramayana of Valmiki, answering most to the Odyssey, has just been completed by the single-handed toil of Mr. Ralph Griffith, Principal of the Benares College. The last volume of this amazing piece of faithful labour has just reached our hands, and when it is remembered that the whole of that enormous epic has been thus at last translated by a single English scholar—amid the constant duties, too of a most responsible official position, and under the trying rays of the Indian sun—we must pause here to offer to Mr. Griffith the tribute of a sincere admiration. Apart from the poetical and scholastic merits of the prodigious work—which we shall hereafter consider—we thank him in the name of the British people for taking away the old reproach from our rule in India by transferring—canto by canto, to the number of no less than one hundred and thirty—this second great epic poem of the Hindoos into the language of the Rulers of Hindostan. Such a triumph is at once a masterpiece of intellectual perseverance and an honour to Anglo-Indian scholarship; while, we repeat, that to have undertaken the production of so veritable an opus magnum reflects much credit upon the publishers who have shared in the task.
We shall return to this marvellous poem, now at last given to the English people, and shall show how, by its study, they may better understand their Indian fellow-subjects. As for the Mahábhárata, even more vast than the Ramayana, it would seem, as has been said, hopeless to expect that any single mind could address itself to the translation of that almost endless epic. A bare transcript into curt and literal prose would occupy about fifteen ordinary octavo volumes, without a note or comment. But, wonderful to page 6 relate, this, too, has been achieved, or nearly so, by a scholar unknown, yet well deserving fame and public gratitude. When Mr. Talboys Wheeler was recently compiling the first volume of his excellent "History of India," a digest of the Mahabharata and Ramayana formed a necessary introduction to the work. While patiently toiling through the summaries and existing extracts of the enormous poem, Mr. Wheeler sent to the Calcutta Library for a translation indexed there as "The Bhagavat-Gita," a mere episode in the epic. The librarian forwarded back a huge MS., much embrowned by age, worm-eaten and faded, indifferently written, and forming about nine thick volumes folio. To the joy of the historian, this turned out to be not merely the interlude whose title was affixed, but the bulk of the Mahábhárata itself, in English, good, true, and terse: and from that MS. thus casually unearthed, Mr. Talboys Wheeler was able to enrich his first volume with the admirable digest of the Mahábhárata, from which we shall mainly quote. No one knows whose patient and untiring brain and pen produced and bequeathed this splendid secret treasure. There is some reason to believe it was the work of Professor H. H. Wilson, whose command of Sanskrit lore was equalled by his wonderful powers of application and enthusiasm for such toil. But this is conjecture only, and we grieve that we cannot pronounce with certainty the name which so well deserves to be coupled with that of Mr. Ralph Griffith as redeeming the British Râj from the discredit of conquering India, and yet leaving unconquered the two noblest and largest regions of her literature. Thanks to this nameless scholar, whose gentle soul, it may be trusted, reaps unimagined reward elsewhere, "full of the stately repose and the lordly delight of the dead," we possess now a very full conspectus in Mr. Wheeler's History of the Mahábhárata, and in the fair copy which has been made from the old yellow MS. an accurate and almost complete translation. What was wanting in this vast labour, the Baboo Chunder Ghose—an accomplished Sanskritist—translated orally to Mr. Wheeler from the Aryan text; and thus the digest and extracts were fully made which we shall now briefly notice.
The "great war of Bharat" has its first scenes in Hastinapur, an ancient and vanished city, formerly situated about sixty miles north-east of the modern Delhi. The Ganges has washed away even the ruins of this, the metropolis of King Bharat's dominions. The poem opens with a "sacrifice of snakes," but this is a prelude connected merely by a curious legend with the real beginning. That beginning is reached page 7 when the five sons of "King Pandu the pale" and the five sons of "King Dhritarashtra the blind," both of them descendants of Bharat, are being brought up together in the palace. The first were called Pandavas, the last Kauravas and their life-long feud is the main subject of the epic. Yudhishthira, Bhíma, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva are the Pandava Princes. Duryodhana is chief of the Kauravas. They are instructed by one master, Drona, a Brahman, in the arts of war and peace, and learn to manage and brand cattle, hunt wild animals, and tame horses. There is a striking picture in the early portion of an Aryan tournament, wherein the young cousins display their skill, "highly arrayed, amid vast crowds," and Arjuna especially distinguishes himself. Clad in golden mail, he shows amazing feats with sword and bow. He shoots twenty-one arrows into the hollow of a buffalo horn while his chariot whirls along; he throws the "chakra," or sharp quoit, without once missing his victim; and, after winning the prizes, kneels respectfully at the feet of his instructor to receive his crown. The cousins, after this, march out to fight with a neighbouring king, and the Pandavas, who are always the favoured family in the poem, win most of the credit, so that Yudhishthira is elected from among them Yuvaraj, or heir apparent. This incenses Duryodhana, who, by appealing to his father, Dhritarashtra, procures a division of the kingdom, the Pandavas being sent to Vacanavat, now Allahabad. All this part of the story refers obviously to the advances gradually made by the Aryan conquerors of India, into the jungles peopled by aborigines. Forced to quit their new city, the Pandavas hear of the marvellous beauty of Draupadí, whose Swayamvara, or "choice of a suitor," is about to be celebratea at Kampilya. This again furnishes a strange and glittering picture of the old times; vast masses of holiday people, with Rajahs, elephants, troops, jugglers, dancing women, and showmen, are gathered in a gay encampment round the pavilion of the King Drupada, whose lovely daughter is to take for her husband (on the well-understood condition that she approves of him) the fortunate archer who can strike the eye of a golden fish, whirling round upon the top of a tall pole, with an arrow shot from an enormously strong bow. The Princess, adorned with radiant gems, holds a garland of flowers in her hand for the victorious suitor, but none of the Rajahs can bend the bow. Arjuna, disguised as a Brahman, performs the feat with ease, and his youth and grace win the heart of Draupadí more completely than his skill. The Princess henceforth follows the fortunes of the brothers, and, by a strange ancient custom, lives with them page 8 in common. The Pandavas, now allied to the King Drupada and become strong, are so much dreaded by the Kauravas that they are invited back again, for safety's sake, to Hastinapura, and settle near it in the city of Indraprastha, now Delhi. The reign of Yudhishthira and his brothers is very prosperous there; "every subject was pious; there were no liars, thieves, or cheats; no droughts, floods, or locusts; no conflagrations nor invaders, nor parrots to eat up the grain."
Then Yudhishthira and Sakuni sat down to play, and whatever Yudhishthira laid as stakes, Duryodhana laid something of equal value; but Yudhishthira lost every game. He first lost a very beautiful pearl; next a thousand "bags each containing a thousand pieces of gold; next a piece of gold so pure that it was as soft as wax; next a chariot set with jewels, and hung all round with golden bells; next a thousand war" elephants with golden howdahs set with diamonds; next a lakh of slaves all dressed in good garments; next a lakh of beautiful slave girls, adorned from head to foot with golden ornaments; next all the remainder of his goods; next all his cattle; and then the whole of his Raj, excepting only the lands which had been granted to the Bráhmans.
After this tremendous run of ill-luck, he madly stakes Draupadí the beautiful, and loses her. The Princess is dragged away by the hair, and Duryodhana mockingly bids her come and sit upon his knee, for which Bhíma the Pandava swears that he will some day break his thigh-bone, a vow which is duly kept. But the blind old King rebukes this fierce elation of the winner, restores Draupadí, and declares that they must throw another main to decide who page 9 shall leave Hastinapura. The cheating Sakuni cogs the dice again, and the Pandavas must now go away into the forest, and let no man know them by name for thirteen years. They depart, Draupadí unbinding her long black hair, and vowing never to fasten it again till the hands of Bhíma, the strong man among the Pandavas, are red with the punishment of the Kauravas. "Then he shall tie my tresses up again, when his fingers are dripping with Duhsusana's blood."
When Bhíma had thus promised to chastise Kíchaka, Draupadí was filled with joy, and agreed to act according to his words; and when the night was over she returned to the apartments of the women, and did her duty as she was accustomed. Now it so happened that after a while Kfchaka paid another visit to his sister the Ráni; and he began, as his custom was, to set himself off in the presence of Draupadí, and he said to Draupadí, "Raja Viráta cannot interfere with me, for all his affairs are in my hands; if, therefore, you refuse any longer to become my wife, I shall carry you away by my own power, and the Raja will say no more to me to-day than he did yesterday. But if you will accept me as a husband, and enter my house, I will do you no harm; and I will give you a hundred pieces of gold every day, and a hundred slaves and slave girls to wait upon you and "a chariot, drawn by mules to be always at your command And Draupadí answered: "How can I refuse such generosity? but I yield on one condition only. I know that you admit many friends into the apartments of your women, and if my consent should be known unto them, it may bring both you and me to shame Moreover, I have five invisible Gandharvas who watch over me; and should they discover this matter they will slay you." So it was agreed between them that at midnight Draupadí should grant a meeting to Kíchaka in the dancing-room.
Kíchaka then left the palace, and went to his own house, and his heart was filled with delight; but he was so impatient to meet Draupadí that the remaining half of the day appeared to him like half a year; and when it was night he arrayed himself page 10 in new garments, and perfumed himself with the choicest odours, and he was more replendent than he had ever been before, in the same way that a lamp becomes most brilliant just before it goes out. Meanwhile Draupadí had gone to Bhíma, and told him all that she had done, and Bhíma said that he would slay Kíchaka in such a fashion that no man should discover who had done it. So when the hour of midnight arrived, Kíchaka went in all joy and expectation to the dancing-room, and, seeing in the darkness that somebody was there, he thought it Draupadí, and put out his hand to take hold of her; but at that moment Bhíma arose from the gloom in great wrath and seized him by the hair of his head, and would have dragged him to the ground, but his locks were oiled, and he slipped through the fingers of Bhíma. Now Kíchaka was a warrior of great valour and exceeding strength, and he so fell upon Bníma that they struggled mightily together, and they fought with their clenched fists, and tore each other with their nails, and strove to throw each other to the ground. And Bhíma was brought to the earth; but he put forth all his strength, and seizing hold of Kíchaka, he whirled him swiftly round his head, and dashed him against the ground and he put his knee upon the breast of Kíchaka, and kneaded him as a baker kneads bread, and pommelled him until the soul of Kíchaka departed out of his body, and Bhíma broke every one of his bones into the smallest pieces, and formed his body into a mere ball of flesh. Bhíma then lighted a lamp, and brought in Draupadí, and showed her all that he had clone, saying, "This will I do unto any man that offends you." And Draupadí rejoiced greatly, for she saw that she had been fully avenged.
Then Bhíma departed out of the palace and went to the cook-room, and fell asleep; but Draupadí went and called the watchmen of the palace, saying, "Kíchaka forced me to grant him a meeting in the dancing-room, notwithstanding all my warnings that the invisible Gandharvas would slay him; and behold, when he came to me, the Gandharvas, who are my defenders, fell upon him and slew him, and his dead body is lying there." So the watchmen lighted a lamp and went in," and they beheld the dead body of Kíchaka like a ball of flesh, and they said one to the other, "Surely, no man hath done this. It must be the Gandharvas." And as soon as it was morning there was a great uproar amongst the people, and the whole city was in commotion, for it was said that the mighty Kíchaka, who commanded all the soldiers of the Raja, had been put to death by the Gandharvas, out of his love for a woman. And the brothers of Kíchaka hastened to the spot, and saw the dead body, and desired to take it away to the place of burning; and when they saw all the women of the palace gathered together. Their eves fell upon Draupadí, and they said one to the other: "This is the woman on whose account our brother has been murdered—we cannot kill her, because it is not proper to kill a woman. Let us then burn her with the dead body of Kíchaka, and since he died out of love for her, let him espouse her in the world of Ghosts "
They then went into the presence of the Raja, saying, "We page 11 wish to burn the waiting maid, who caused the death of Kíchaka, along with the corpse of our brother." And the Raja was in awe of his wife's brethren, and dared not forbid them; for it is an old proverb that the brother-in-law is master of the house. So they seized Draupadí by force, and bound her with cords, and threw her upon the bier of Kíchaka, and went out of the city to burn her alive, together with the dead body. And Draupadí, seeing that her life was in mortal peril, shrieked and screamed in piteous tones, and the air was filled with her cries. All this while Bhíma was lying asleep in the cook-room, when he was awakened by the cry of Draupadí; and he rose up and hastened out of the palace to follow her to the burning ground; and he went to the city wall and threw himself from the ramparts, for he would not go through the city gate lest he should be known.
Then Bhíma drew his hair over his face, so that no man could discover him, and tore up a large tree by the roots, and carried it on his shoulders as a club, and went with all speed to the place of burning. And as he came near. Draupadí saw him, and knew who he was; and when the brethren of Kíchaka beheld Bhíma approaching them, they were seized with trembling, and said, "This is the Gandharva; let us fly and leave this woman, who is the cause of all our sorrows." Thus saying, they left Draupadí and the dead body of Kíchaka, and fled towards the city, and Bhíma returned to Draupadí and released her; and they went back to the city by different ways, so that no one might know that the Raja's cook was the terrible Gandharva.
After all these evidences of prowess and the help afforded in the battle, the King of Virata discovers the princely rank of the Pandavas, and gives his daughter in marriage to the son of Arjuna. A great council is then held to consider the question of declaring war on the Kauravas, at which the speeches are quite Homeric, the god Krishna taking part. The decision is to prepare for war, but to send an embassy first. Meantime Duryodhana and Arjuna have a singular contest to obtain the aid of Krishna, whom both of them seek out. This celestial hero is asleep when they arrive, and the proud Kaurava, as Lord of Indraprastha, sits down at his head—Arjuna more reverently takes a place at his feet. Krishna, awaking, offers to give his vast army to one of them, and himself as councillor to the other; and Arjuna gladly allows Duryodhana to take the army, which turns out much the worse bargain. The embassy, meantime, is badly received; but it is determined to reply by a counter message, while warlike preparations continue. There is a great deal of useless negotiation, against which Draupadí protests, like another Constance, saying, "War, war! no peace! peace is to me a war!" Krishna consoles her with the words, "Weep not! the time has nearly come when the Kauravas will be slain, both great and small, and their wives will mourn as page 12 you have been mourning." The ferocity of the Chief of the Kauravas prevails over the wise counsels of the blind old king and the warnings of Krishna, so that the fatal conflict must now begin upon the plain of Kurukshetra.
All is henceforth martial and stormy in the "parvas" that ensue. The two enormous hosts march to the field, Generalissimos are selected, and defiances of the most violent and abusive sort exchanged. Yet there are traces of a singular civilization in the rules which the leaders draw up to be observed in the war. Thus, no stratagems are to be used; the fighting men are to fraternize, if they will, after each combat; none may slay the flier, the unarmed, the charioteer, or the beater of the drum; horsemen are not to attack footmen, and nobody is to fling a spear till the preliminary challenges are finished; nor may any third man interfere when two combatants are engaged. These curious regulations—which would certainly much embarrass Moltke—are, sooth to say, not very strictly observed, and, no doubt, were inserted at a later age in the body of the poem by its Brahman editors. Those same interpolators have overloaded the account of the eighteen days of terrific battle which follow with many episodes and interruptions, some very eloquent and philosophic; indeed, the whole Bhagavad-Gita comes in hereabouts as a religious interlude. Essays on laws, morals, and the sciences are grafted, with lavish indifference to the continuous flow of the narrative, upon its most important portions; but there is enough of solid and tremendous fighting, notwithstanding, to pale the crimson pages of the Iliad itself. The field glitters, indeed, with Kings and Princes in panoply of gold and jewels, who engage in mighty and varied combats till the earth swims in blood, and the heavens themselves are obscured with dust and flying weapons. One by one the Kaurava chiefs are slain, and Bhíma, the Giant, at last meets in arms Duhsusana, the Kaurava Prince who had dragged Draupadí by the hair. He strikes him down with the terrible mace of iron, after which he cuts off his head, and drinks of his blood, saying, "Never have I tasted a draught so delicious as this. So furious now becomes the war that even the just and mild Arjuna commits two breaches of Aryan chivalry, killing an enemy while engaged with a third man, and shooting Karna dead while he is extricating his chariot-wheel and without a weapon. At last none are left of the Kauravas except Duryodhana, who retires from the field and hides in a chamber under a table. The Pandavas find him out, and heap such reproaches on him that the surly warrior comes page 13 forth at length, and agrees to fight with Bhíma. The duel proves of a tremendous nature, and is decided by an act of treachery; for Arjuna, standing by, reminds Bhíma by a gesture of his oath to break the thigh of Duryodhana, because he had bidden Draupadí sit on his knee. The giant takes the hint, and strikes a foul blow, which cripples the Kaurava hero, and he falls helpless to earth. After this the Pandava Princes are declared victorious, and Yudhishthira is proclaimed King.
The great poem now softens its martial music into a pathetic strain. The dead have to be burned, and the living reconciled to their new lords; while afterwards King Yudhishthira is installed in high state with "chámaras, golden umbrellas, elephants, and singing." He is enthroned towards the East, and touches rice, flowers, earth, gold, silver, and jewels, in token of owning all the products of his realm. Being thus firmly seated on his throne with his cousins round him, the Rajah prepares to celebrate the most magnificent of ancient Hindoo rites, the Aswamedha or Sacrifice of the Horse. It is difficult to raise the thoughts of a modern and Western public to the solemnity, majesty, and marvel of this antique Oriental rite, as viewed by Hindoos. The monarch who was powerful enough to perform it chose a horse of pure white colour, "like the moon," with a saffron tail, and a black right ear; or the animal might be all black, without a speck of colour. This steed, wearing a gold plate on its forehead, with the royal name inscribed, was turned loose, and during a whole year the king's army was bound to follow its wanderings. Whithersoever it went the ruler of the invaded territory must either pay homage to the King, and join him with his warriors, or accept battle; but whether conquered or peacefully submitting, all these Princes must follow the horse, and at the end of the year assist at the sacrifice of the consecrated animal. Moreover, during the whole year the King must restrain all passion, live a perfectly purified life, and sleep on the bare ground. The white horse could not be loosened until the night of the full moon in Choitro, which answers to the latter half of March and the first half of April—in fact, at Easter-time; and it may be observed here that this is not the only strange coincidence in the sacrifice. It was thus an adventure of romantic conquest mingled with deep religion and arrogant ostentation, and the entire description of the Aswamedha is most interesting. The horse is found, adorned with the golden plate, and turned loose, wandering into distant regions, where the army of Arjuna, for it was he who led Yudhishthira's forces, goes through twelve amazing ad- page 14 ventures. They come, for instance, to a land of Amazons, all of wonderful beauty, wearing armour of pearls and gold, and equally fatal either to love or to fight with. These dazzling enemies, however, finally submit, as also the Rajah of the rich city of Babhru-váhand, which possessed wails of solid silver, and was lighted with precious jewels for lamps. The serpent people, in the same way, who live beneath the earth in the city of Vasuki, yields, after combat, to Arjuna. A hundred thousand million snakemen dwelt there, with wives of consummate loveliness, possessing in their realm gems which would restore dead men to life, as well as a fountain of perpetual youth. Finally, Arjuna's host marches back in great glory, and with a vast train of vanquished monarchs, to the city of Hastinapur, where all the subject Kings have audience of Yudhishthira, and the immense preparations begin for the sacrifice of the snow-white horse. This is a passage which, although not perhaps of equal antiquity with much of the epic, may be quoted, for its strange minuteness of ritual and old-world interest.
A golden throne was set up in a high place for Maharaja Dhritarashtra, and beneath that was another throne for Raja Yudhishthira; and thrones of gold and sandal-wood were arranged for all the other lianas and chieftains according to their several qualities and dignities; and the Maharaja and all the Rajas and chieftains took their seats upon the thrones. And all the wives and other ladies of the Rajas came to the assembly and were arranged and seated on their own side, each one in the place appointed for her. And when all assembled were seated, Raja Yudhishthira and Draupadí bathed themselves; and the space of ground required for the sacrifice was duly measured out, and a golden plough was brought, and two bullocks were harnessed to the plough Then Raja Yudhishthira rose up, and with his own hand drove the bullocks and ploughed that space; and Draupadí followed the Raja and carried a parcel of all the different grains which were grown in the Râj-Bharata, and sprinkled the grains as fast as the Raja ploughed. And the Br. Ihmans sat along with the ladies, and whilst the Raja ploughed, both the Bráhmans and the ladies offered up prayers in his behalf with a loud voice. The space of ground was then covered with four hundred golden bricks, and the sage Vyása, accompanied by Vasishtha and Nárada and other Rishis, seated themselves on the golden pavement. The Raja then commanded that eight pillars should be set up round that golden pavement, and a roof covered with gold was set over the pavement, and a banner was fixed on the top of each pillar. Then eight large pits were dug, in order that the homa of milk, curds, and clarified butter might be prepared therein, and eight large sacrificial ladles were furnished for casting the homa on the sacrificial fire, and large cloths of skin were sown together, on which was' placed a portion of every vegetable which is food lor man and a portion of every medicinal herb which was produced in that page 15 Râj, and the whole was put into the homa, and Vyása was appointed to be President of all the Bráhmans, who were to obey his orders as to the performance of the homa. And all the most famous Rishis were present at that sacrifice, and they selected the most distinguished persons to sit side by side of the place where the homa was performed. And Raja Yudhishthira sat with a deer's horn in his hand, and Vyása desired him to command that sixty-four of the principal Rajas and Rishis in the assembly should go with their wives to the banks of the Ganges, and that both they and their wives should fill pitchers with the Ganges water, and bring it to the place of the sacrifice. And Krishna, and Arjuna, and Bhíma, with a great party of Rajas and Rishis, each one accompanied by his wife, proceeded to the banks of the Ganges, all with pitchers on their heads; and along with them went a company of musicians with drums and trumpets and other musical instruments, and many dancing girls likewise danced before them And when those who had gone to the banks of the Ganges for water had filled all their pitchers, they took the pitchers on their heads and returned to the place of the sacrifice, preceded by the musicians and singers and the dancing girls. Then Raja Yudhishthira commanded that splendid dresses should be brought for all those who had carried the water, and he caused both the Rajas and their wives to be dressed therewith, and he put a chain of choice jewels on each of their necks, and put a betel nut into each of their mouths, and he ordered fires to be lighted in the pits that were dug for the homa, and the various ingredients to be presented to the fire. Then the Raja's brethren and kinsmen brought loads of gold and jewels and clothes, together with many elephants, horses, and cows, and gave to each Brahman in such quantities that they were all fully satisfied and contented.
After this, a throne made of sandal-wood, covered with gold, was brought for Raja Yudhishthira. And the Raja sat thereon, and those around him took off his clothes, and all those persons who had brought water from the Ganges took up their pitchers and poured the water over the Raja's head. The horse was then brought, and the remainder of the water with which the Raja had been bathed was poured upon the horse's head. Then Nâkula opened the mouth of the horse and said: "The horse is speaking!" and those around him cried out: "What does the horse say?" Nákula replied: "The horse says: 'In other yagas wherein a horse is sacrificed, he goes to Swarga, which is the heaven of Indra; but I shall go far above Swarga.'" Then the horse was washed, and the scimitar was brought, and Daumya put the scimitar into the hands of Bhíma, and bade him slay the horse. And Bhíma lifted up the scimitar to give the horse a blow, when Daumya said: "O Bhíma, have patience a moment while I try the horse." So Daumya took hold of the horse's ear and pressed it, when suddenly milk ran out to the astonishment of all present. Daumya then said to Bhíma: "I see that the horse is pure, and I am certain this sacrifice is acceptable and will be accepted. Now strike!" So Bhíma struck a blow and cut off the head of the horse, and no sooner was the head severed from the body than it mounted towards the sky and soared out page 16 of sight, and the body fell down upon the spot. Then Krishna and the other Rajas and the Rishis came up and opened the horse's belly. And when they divided it a light came out of it, and Krishna said: "O Raja Yudhishthira, I have never beheld so clean and pure a horse, and I am now assured that this sacrifice of yours has reached the heaven of Vishnu."
After Bhíma had opened the belly of the horse, the flesh began to smell of camphor, and Daumya took out the camphor-like flesh with the sacrificial ladles, and cast it upon the fire and made homa of it, and said: "Indra, take this flesh, which has become camphor." At that moment Indra, with a crowd of gods, entered the assembly. All present then paid their respects to Indra, who came up to Vyasa and took the remainder of the flesh, and gave a portion of it to each of the gods, and the smoke that rose from that fire was all perfumed.
Then Krishna arose and embraced Raja Yudhishthira, and gave him joy of his sacrifice, and said, "Be the sacrifice prosperous; for no one has ever performed the like, and the fame of it will last as long as the world endures." Raja Yudhishthira replied: "All that has come to me has been entirely by your favour." Then Krishna, with all the Rajas and principal Rishis, poured pitchers of water over Yudhishthira and Draupadí, and bathed them. Then all that remained of the medicinal herbs that had been brought to make the homa was reduced to powder, and a ball of it was given to each of the persons present to eat; and by so doing Raja Yudhishthira gave to each one a share of the merit of that aswamcdha and last of all Raja Yudhishthira partook of it himself. Then all the musical instruments struck up a symphony of rejoicing for the close of the yaga: and Kunti, with all her maidens and dependents, manifested every sign of joy, and bestowed great quantities of goods in gratitude to the gods who had enabled her son to perform so great a yaga, and had accepted the sacrifice. And all the materials for the homa were collected into one place, and the Bráhmans uttered blessings over them and threw them all at once into the fire. And when the Raja had finished bestowing his largesses upon the Bráhmans, he turned to the Rajas and gave to each a thousand horses of the first quality and a hundred war elephants and one crore of gold coin, and to each of the Rajas' wives he gave everything that was necessary for a bride on her wedding night, including gold and precious jewels and splendid clothes. Yudhishthira then gave to each of the sons and kinsmen and friends of Krishna twice as much as he had given to the Rajas; and the next day Krishna took leave and set off for Dwaraka, and all the other Rajas took leave in like manner, and set off for their respective countries.
After all these stately celebrations, it might be expected that the great poem would conclude with the established glories of the ancient dynasty. But, if the martial part of the colossal epic is "Kshatriyau," and the religious episodes "Brahmanic,' the conclusion breathes the spirit of Buddhism. Yudhishthira sits grandly on the throne, but earthly greatness does not content the soul of man, nor can riches render weary page 17 hearts happy. A wonderful scene, which reads like a rebuke from the dead addressed to the living upon the madness of all war, occurs in this part of the poem. The Pandavas and the old King Dhritarashtra being together by the banks of the Ganges, the great saint Vyasa undertakes to bring back to them all the dead, slain in their fraternal conflict. The spectacle is at once terrible and tender. "They all went," says the Mahábhárat:
And the day passed away so slowly that it seemed like a whole year to them, and at last the sun went down, and they all bathed in the river by command of Vyása, and said their prayers, and Raja Yudhishthira and his brethren were on the side of Vyása, and Maharaja Dhritaraslitra stood before them, and everybody else stood where places could be found. Vyása then went into the water, and prayed and bathed; and he then came out and stood by Dhritaráshtra, and called upon the names of each of the persons who had been slain, one by one. At that moment the river began to foam and boil, and a great noise was heard rising out of the waters, as though all the slain men were once again alive, and as though they and their elephants and their Hones were bursting into loud cries, and all the drums and trumpets and other instruments of music of both armies were striking up together. The whole assembly were astonished at this mighty tempest, and some were smitten with a terrible fear, when suddenly they saw Bhishma and Drona in full armour seated in their chariots and ascending out of the waters, and all their armies arrayed as they were on the first day of the Mahá-Bhárata. Next came forth Abhimanyu, the heroic son of Arjuna, and the five sons of Draupadí, and the son of Bhíma with his army of Asuras. After these came Kama, and Duryodhana, and Sakuni, and Duhsasana, and the other sons of Dhritaráshtra, all in full parade, seated upon their chariots, together with many other warriors and Rajas who had been slain. All appeared in great glory and splendour, and more beautiful than when they were alive, and all came with their own horses and chariots, and banners, and arms, and every one was in perfect friendship with each other, for enmity had departed from among them, and each one was preceded by his bard and eulogists who sang his praises, and very many singing men and dancing girls appeared with them. Now, when these warriors had come out of the river, their widows, and orphans, and kinsfolk were overjoyed, and not a trace of grief remained among them; the widows went to their husbands, and the daughters to their fathers, and mothers to their sons, and sisters to their brothers, and all the fifteen years of sorrow which had passed since the war of the Mahá Bhárata were forgotten in the ecstacy of seeing each other again. Thus the night passed away in the fulness of joy, but when the morning had dawned all the dead mounted their chariots and horses and disappeared, and those who had gathered together to behold them prepared to depart. And Vyása the sage, said that the widows who wished to rejoin the dead husbands might do so; and all the widows went and bathed in the Ganges and came out of the water again, and kissed, one by one, the feet of page 18 Dhritarashtra, and then went and drowned themselves in the river; and through the prayers of Vyása they all went to the loved ones they wished, and obtained their several desires.
But this revealing of the invisible world deepens the discontent of the Princes, and when the sage Vyása tells them that their prosperity is at an end, they determine to leave their kingdom to younger Princes, and to set out with their faces towards Mount Meru, where is Indra's Heaven. If, haply, they may reach it living, there will be an end of this world's joys and sorrows, and "union with the Infinite" will be obtained. We shall imitate, in our last quotations, the shloke or anushtup verse of sixteen syllables, in which the original "Mahábhárata" is mainly composed—
With Draupadí and the Princes the King went from the city gate,
The high-souled sons of Pandu and the famous Princess following them
For life eternal longing, and worldly things all abandoning.
To many lands they wandered, and hill and wilderness traversed they.
In the front walked Yudhishthira, and next him masterful Bhíma came.
After Bhíma the mild Arjuna, and Nakula and Sahadeva then,
And sixth came sweetest Draupadí, dark browed and with loveliest lotus-eyes,
And last came Yudhishthira's dog.
The gate of heaven opens to none alone.
Save thou one soul, and it shall save thine own.
The good Pandava King has passed all dangers safely, and stands secure, but alone, upon the summit of the holy hill. Suddenly a strain of celestial melody rings through the golden air, and Indra appears in his chariot. "Ascend," the God cries; "my Heaven awaits thee;" but the King replies:
Oh, mighty Indra I yonder there he joyless all my brothers true;
I cannot enter Heaven and leave those dear lives fallen away from me,
And Draupadí, the sweet-faced one, a king's child, fair and virtuous,
If I go she must enter too. Oh, Indra, have pity on those I loved.