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Readings from the Mahabharata
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The Mother of All Riddles
Addressing the Yaksha
Yudhishthira said: virtuous persons never approve that one should applaud his own self (without boasting I shall, therefore, answer your questions, according to my intelligence).
The Yaksha then said: What is it that makes the sun rise? Who keeps him company? Who causes him to set? And in whom is he established?
Yudhishthira answered: Brahman (the Supreme Reality) makes the sun rise: the gods keep him company: Dharma causes him to set: and he is established in truth.
The Yaksha asked: By what does one become learned? By what does he attain what is very great? How can one have a second? And. O king, how can one acquire intelligence?
Yudhishthira answered: It is by the study of the Srutis (Vedas) that a person becomes learned. It is by ascetic austerities that one acquires what is very great. It is by intelligence that a person acquires a second and it is by serving the old that one becomes wise.
[Note: Dhriti means steadiness of intelligence. What Yudhishthira says is that a steady intelligence serves the purposes of a helpful companion.]
The Yaksha asked: What constitutes the divinity of the Brahmanas (Brahmins)? What even is their practice that is like that of the pious? What also is the human attribute of the Brahmanas? And, what practice of theirs is like that of the impious?
Yudhishthira answered: The study of the Vedas constitutes their divinity. Their asceticism constitutes behaviour that is like that of the pious. Their liability to death is their human attribute and slander is their impiety.
The Yaksha asked: What institutes the divinity of the Kshatriyas? What even is their practice that is like that of the pious? What is their human attribute? And what practice of theirs is like that of the impious?
Yudhishthira answered: Arrows and weapons are their divinity. Celebration of sacrifices is that act which is like that of the pious. Liability to fear is their human attribute, and refusal of protection is that act of theirs which is like that of the impious.
The Yaksha asked: What is that which constitutes the Sama of the sacrifice? What the Yajus of the sacrifice? What is that which is the refuge of a sacrifice? And what is that which sacrifice cannot do without?
Yudhishthira answered: Life is the Sama of the sacrifice. The mind is the Yajus of the sacrifice. The Rik is that which is the refuge of the sacrifice, and it is Rik alone which sacrifice cannot do without.
The yaksha asked: What is of the foremost value to those that cultivate? What is of the foremost value to those that sow? What is of the foremost value to those that wish for prosperity in this world? And what is of the foremost value to those that bring forth?
Yudhishthira answered: That which is of the foremost value to those that cultivate is rain. That of the foremost value to those that sow is seed. That of the foremost value to those that bring forth is offspring.
The Yaksha asked: What person enjoying all the objects of the senses, endued with intelligence, regarded by the world and liked by all beings, though breathing, does not offer anything to these five, viz., gods, guests, servants, Pitris and himself?
[Note: A misprint in the translated version has the following words as part of the answer: "though endued with breath, is not yet alive".]
The Yaksha asked: What is weightier than the earth itself? What is higher than the heavens? What is fleeter than the wind? And what is more numerous than grass?
Yudhishthira answered: The mother is more weightier than the earth. The father is higher than the heaven. The mind is fleeter than the wind, and our thoughts are more numerous than grass.
The Yaksha asked: What is that which does not close its eyes while asleep? What is that which does not move after birth? What is that which is without heart, and what is that which swells with its own impetus?
Yudhishthira answered: A fish does not close its eyes while asleep. An egg does not move after birth. A stone is without heart, and a river swells with its own impetus.
The Yaksha asked: Who is the friend of the exile? Who is the friend of the householder? Who is the friend of him that ails? And who is the friend of one about to die?
Yudhishthira answered: The friend of the exile in a distant land is his companion. The friend of the householder is the wife. The friend of him that ails is the physician and the friend of him about to die is charity.
The Yaksha asked: Who is the guest of all creatures? What is the eternal duty? What, O foremost of kings, is Amrita? And what is this entire universe?
Yudhishthira answered: Agni (fire) is the guest of all creatures. The milk of Kine (cow) is amrita. Homa (sacred fire ceremony with ghee or clarified butter derived from milk) is the eternal duty. And this universe consists of air alone.
The Yaksha asked: What is that which sojourns alone? What is that which is re-born after its birth? What is the remedy against cold? And what is the largest field?
Yudhishthira answered: The sun sojourns alone. The moon takes birth anew. Fire is the remedy against cold, and the earth is the largest field.
The Yaksha asked: What is the highest refuge of virtue? What of fame? What of heaven? And what, of happiness?
Yudhishthira answered: Liberality is the highest refuge of virtue, gift of fame, truth, of heaven, and good behaviour of happiness.
The Yaksha asked: What is the soul of man? Who is that friend bestowed on man by the gods? What is mans chief support? And what also is his chief refuge?
Yudhishthira answered: The son is a mans soul. The wife is the friend bestowed on man by the gods. The clouds are his chief support, and gift is his chief refuge.
The Yaksha asked: What is the best of all laudable things? What is the most valuable of all his possessions? What is the best of all gains? And what is the best of all kinds of happiness?
Yudhishthira answered: The best of all laudable things is skill. The best of all possessions is knowledge. The best of all gains is health, and contentment is the best of all kinds of happiness.
The Yaksha asked: What is the highest duty in the world? What is that virtue which always bears fruit? What is that which if controlled, leads not to regret? And who are they with whom an alliance cannot break?
Yudhishthira answered: The highest of duties is to refrain from injury. The rites
ordained in the three Vedas (Rigveda, Samveda, and Yajurveda) always bear fruit. The mind,
if controlled, leads to no regret, and an alliance with the good never breaks.
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Yudhishthira answered: Pride, if renounced, makes one agreeable. Wrath, if renounced,
leads to no regret. Desire, if renounced, makes one wealthy, and avarice, if renounced,
makes one happy.
The Yaksha asked: For what does one give away to Brahmanas (Brahmins)? For what to mimes and dancers? For what to servants? And for what to king?
Yudhishthira answered: It is for religious merit that one gives away to Brahmanas. It is for fame that one gives away to mimes and dancers. It is for supporting them that one gives away to servants, and it is for obtaining relief from fear that one gives to kings.
The Yaksha asked: With what is the world enveloped? What is that owing to which a thing cannot discover itself? For what are friends forsaken? And for what does one fail to go to heaven?
Yudhishthira answered: The world is enveloped with darkness. Darkness does not permit a thing to show itself. It is from avarice that friends are forsaken, and it is connection with the world for which one fails to go to heaven.
The Yaksha asked: For what may one be considered as dead? For what may a kingdom be considered as dead? For what may a Shraddha be considered as dead? And for what, a sacrifice?
Yudhishthira answered: For want of wealth may a man be regarded as dead. A kingdom for want of a king (head of state) may be regarded as dead. A Shraddha that is performed with the aid of a priest that has no learning may be regarded as dead. And a sacrifice in which there are no gifts to Brahmanas (Brahmins) is dead.
The Yaksha asked: What constitutes the way? What has been spoken of as water? What, as food? And what, as poison? Tell us also what is the proper time of a Shraddha, and then drink (the water) and take away (the water) as much as you like! [Note: The background story relating to this episode will be published in the near future.]
Yudhishthira answered: They that are good constitute the way.
[Note: The word used in the question is dik, literally direction. Obviously, of course, it means in this connection way. Yudhishthira answers that the way, which one is to tread along, is that of the good.]
Space has been spoken of as water. [Note: The Srutis (the Vedas) actually speak of space as water. These are questions to test Yudhishthiras knowledge of the Vedic cosmogony.]
The cow is food. [Note: The Srutis (Vedas) speak of the cow as the only food, in the following sense. The cow gives milk. The milk gives butter. The butter is used in Homa (sacred fire ceremony). The Homa is the cause of the clouds. The clouds give rain. The rain makes the seed to sprout forth and produce food.]
A request is poison, and a Brahmana is regarded as the proper time of a Shraddha.
[Note: What Yudhishthira means to say is that there is no special time for a Shraddha. It is to be performed whenever a good and able priest (Brahmana) may be secured.]
Yudhishthira spoke further: I do not know what you may think of all this, O Yaksha?
The Yaksha asked: What has been said to be the sign of asceticism? And what is true restraint? What constitutes forgiveness? And what is shame?
Yudhishthira answered: Staying in ones own religion is asceticism. The restraint of the mind is of all restraints the true one. Forgiveness consists in enduring enmity, and shame, in withdrawing from all unworthy acts.
The Yaksha asked: What, O king, is said to be knowledge? What, tranquillity? What constitutes mercy? And what has been called simplicity?
Yudhishthira answered: True knowledge is that of Divinity. True tranquillity is that of the heart. Mercy consists in wishing happiness to all. And simplicity is equanimity of heart.
The Yaksha asked: What enemy is invincible? What constitutes an incurable disease for man? What sort of a man is called honest and what dishonest?
Yudhishthira answered: Anger is an invincible enemy. Covetousness constitutes an incurable disease. He is honest that desires the weal of all creatures, and he is dishonest who is unmerciful.
The Yaksha asked: What, O king, is ignorance? And what has been spoken of as grief?
Yudhishthira answered: True ignorance consists in not knowing ones duties. Pride is a consciousness of ones being himself an actor or sufferer in life. Idleness consists in not discharging ones duties, and ignorance is grief.
The Yaksha asked: What has steadiness been said by the Rishis (the seers) to be? And what, patience? What also is a real ablution? And what is charity?
Yudhishthira answered: Steadiness consists in ones staying in ones own religion, and true patience consists in the subjugation of the senses. A true bath consists in washing the mind clean of all impurities, and charity consists in protecting all creatures.
The Yaksha asked: What man should be regarded as learned, and who should be called an atheist? Who also is to be called ignorant? What is called desire and what are the sources of desire? And what is envy?
Yudhishthira answered: He is to be called learned who knows his duties. An atheist is he who is ignorant and so also he is ignorant who is an atheist. Desire is due to objects of possession, and envy is nothing else than grief of heart.
The Yaksha asked: What is pride, and what is hypocrisy? What is the grace of the gods, and what is wickedness?
Yudhishthira answered: Stolid ignorance is pride. The setting up of a religious
standard is hypocrisy. The grace of the gods is the fruit of our gifts, and wickedness
consists in speaking ill of others.
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Yudhishthira answered: When a wife and virtue agree with each other, then all the three you have mentioned may exist together.
The Yaksha asked: O bull of the Bharat race, who is he that is condemned to everlasting hell? It behoves you to soon answer the question that I ask!
Yudhishthira answered: He that summons a poor Brahmana promising to make him a gift and then tells him that he has nothing to give, goes to everlasting hell. He also must go to everlasting hell, who imputes falsehood to the Vedas, the scriptures, the Brahmanas, the gods, and the ceremonies in honour of the Pitris. He also goes to everlasting hell that, though in possession of wealth, never gives away nor enjoys himself from avarice, saying, he has none.
The Yaksha asked: By what, O king, birth, behaviour, study, or learning does a person become a Brahmana? Tell us with certitude.
Yudhishthira answered: Listen, O Yaksha! It is neither birth, nor study, nor learning, that is the cause of Brahnmanhood. Without doubt, it is behaviour that constitutes it. Ones behaviour should always be well-guarded, especially by a Brahmana. He who maintains his conduct unimpaired, is never impaired himself. Professors and pupils, in fact, all who study the scriptures, if addicted to wicked habits, are to be regarded as illiterate wretches. He only is learned who performs his religious duties. He even that has studied the four Vedas is to be regarded as a wicked wretch scarcely distinguishable from a Sudra (if his conduct be not correct). He only who performs the Agnihotra (sacred fire ceremony) and has his senses under control, is called a Brahmana!
The Yaksha asked: What does one gain that speaks agreeable words? What does he gain that always acts with judgment? What does he gain that has many friends? And what he, that is devoted to virtue?
Yudhishthira answered: He that speaks agreeable words becomes agreeable to all. He that acts with judgment obtains whatever he seeks. He that has many friends lives happily. And he that is devoted to virtue obtains a happy state (in the next world).
The Yaksha asked: Who is truly happy? What is most wonderful? What is the path? And what is the news? Answer these four questions of mine and let the dead brothers revive.
Yudhishthira answered: O amphibious creature, a man who cooks in his own house, on the fifth or the sixth part of the day, with scanty vegetables, but who is not in debt and who stirs not from home, is truly happy. Day after day countless creatures are going to the abode of Yama (god of death), yet those that remain behind believe themselves to be immortal. What can be more wonderful than this? Argument leads to no certain conclusion, the Srutis are different from one another. There is not even one Rishi whose opinion can be accepted by all. The truth about religion and duty is hid in caves. Therefore, that alone is the path along which the great have trod. This world full of ignorance is like a pan. The sun is fire, the days and nights are fuel. The months and the seasons constitute the wooden ladle. Time is the cook that is cooking all creatures in that pan (with such aids); this is the news.
The Yaksha asked: You have, O repressor of foes, truly answered all my questions. Tell us now who is truly a man, and what man truly possesses every kind of wealth?
Yudhishthira answered: The report of ones good action reaches heaven and spreads over the earth. As long as that report lasts, so long is a person to whom the agreeable and the disagreeable, weal and woe, the past and the future, are the same, is said to possess every kind of wealth.
The Yaksha said: You have, O king, answered who is a man and what man possesses every kind of wealth. Therefore, let one only amongst your brothers, whom you may wish, get up with life!
Yuthishthira answered: Let this one that is of darkish hue, whose eyes are red, who is tall like a Sala tree, whose chest is broad and arms long, let this Nakula, O Yaksha, get up with life!
The Yaksha rejoined: This Bhimsena is dear unto you, and this Arjuna also is one upon whom all of you depend! Why, then, O king do you, wish a stepbrother to get up with his life! How can you, forsaking Bhima whose strength is equal to that of ten thousand elephants, wish Nkula to live? People said that this Bhima was dear to you. From what motive then do you wish a stepbrother to revive? Forsaking Arjuna, the might of whose arm is worshipped by all the sons of Pandu, why do you wish Nakula to revive?
Yudhishthira said: If virtue is sacrificed, he that sacrifices it is himself lost. So virtue also cherishes the cherisher. Therefore, taking care that virtue by being sacrificed may not sacrifice us, I never forsake virtue. Abstention from injury is the highest virtue, and is, I think, even higher than the highest object of attainment. I endeavour to practice that virtue. Therefore, let Nakula, O Yaksha, revive! Let men know that the king is always virtuous! I will never depart from my duty. Let Nakula, therefore, revive! My father had two wives, Kunti and Madri. Let both of them have children. This is what I wish. As Kunti is to me, so also is Madri. There is no difference between them in my eye. I desire to act equally towards my mothers. Therefore, let Nakula live.
The Yaksha said: Since abstention from injury is regarded by you as higher than both
profit and pleasure, therefore, let all your brothers live, O bull of Bharata race!
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Vaisampayana said: King Yuthishthira of unfading glory, with his brothers, left the woods of Kamyaka and returned to the delightful and picturesque Dwaitavana abounding in trees and containing delicious fruits and roots. And the sons of Pandu with their wife (Draupadi) began to reside there, living frugally on fruits and practising rigid vows. And while those repressors of foes, the virtuous king Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, and Bhimsena, and Arjuna, and those other sons of Pandu (Sahadeva and Nakula) born of Madri, were dwelling in Dwaitavava, practising rigid vows, they underwent, for the sake of a Brahmana, great trouble, which however, was destined to bring about their future happiness. I will tell you all about the trouble which those foremost of Kurus underwent while living in those woods, and which in the end brought about their happiness. Do listen to it!
Once on a time, as a deer was butting about, it chanced that the two sticks for making fire and a churning staff belonging to a Brahmana (Brahmin) devoted to ascetic austerities, struck fast into its antlers. And, thereupon, O king, that powerful deer of exceeding fleetness with long bounds, speedily went out of the hermitage, taking those articles away. And, O foremost of Kurus, seeing those articles of his thus carried away, the Brahmana, anxious on account of his Agnihotra (sacred fire ceremony), quickly came before the Pandavas. And approaching without loss of time Yudhishthira seated in that forest with his brothers, the Brahmana, in great distress, spoke these words:
The Brahmana said: As a deer was butting about, it happened, O King, that my fire-sticks and churning staff which had been placed against a large tree stuck fast to its antlers. O king, that powerful deer of exceeding fleetness has speedily gone out of the hermitage with long bounds, taking those articles away. Tracking that powerful deer, O king, by its footprints, do ye, ye sons of Pandu, bring back those articles of mine, so that my Agnihotra may not be stopped!
[Note: For the Agnihotra or the sacred fire ceremony, the fire is produced by rubbing fire-sticks].
Hearing these words of the Brahmana, Yudhishthira became exceedingly concerned. And the son of Kunti taking up his bow sallied out with his brothers. And putting on their corselets and equipped with their bows, those bulls among men, intent upon serving the Brahmana, swiftly sallied out in the wake of the deer. And descrying the deer at no great distance, those mighty warriors discharged at it barbed arrows and javelins and darts, but the sons of Pandu could not pierce it by any means. And as they struggled to pursue and slay it, that powerful deer suddenly became invisible. And losing sight of the deer, the noble minded sons of Pandu, fatigued and disappointed and afflicted with hunger and thirst, approached a Banyan tree in that deep forest, and sat down in its cool shade. And when they had sat down, Nakula stricken with sorrow and urged by impatience addressed his eldest brother of the Kuru race.
Nakula said: In our race, O king, virtue has never been sacrificed, nor has there been loss of wealth from insolence. And being asked, we have never said to any creature, Nay! Why then in the present case have we met with this disaster?
Yudhishthira said: There is no limit to calamities. Nor is it possible to ascertain their final or efficient cause. It is the Lord of justice alone who distributes the fruits of both virtue and vice.
Thereupon Bhima said: Surely, this calamity has befallen us, because I did not slay the Pratikamin on the very spot, when he dragged Draupadi as a slave into the assembly.
And Arjuna said: Surely, this calamity has befallen us because I resented not those biting words piercing the very bones, uttered by the Sutas son!
And Sahadeva said: Surely, O Bharata, this calamity has befallen us because I did not slay Sakuni when he defeated you at dice!
Then king Yudhishthira addressed Nakula saying: Do climb this tree, O son of Madri and look around the ten points of the horizon. Do you see whether there is water near us or such trees as grow on watery grounds! O child, these your brothers are all fatigued and thirsty.
Thereupon saying So be it Nakula speedily climbed up a tree, and having looked around, said unto his eldest brother: O king, I see many a tree that grows by the water side and I hear also the cries of cranes. Therefore, without doubt, water must be somewhere here.
Hearing these words, Kuntis son Yudhishthira, firm in truth, said: O amiable one, go and fetch water in these quivers!
Saying So be it, at the command of his eldest brother, Nakula quickly proceeded towards the place where there was water and soon came upon it. And beholding a crystal lake inhabited by cranes he desired to drink of it, when he heard these words from the sky, O child, do not commit this rash act! This lake has already been in my possession. First answer my questions, O son of Madri, and then drink of this water and take away (as much as you require).
Nakula, however, who was exceedingly thirsty, disregarding these words, drank of the cool water, and having drunk of it, dropped down dead. And, O repressor of foes, seeing Nakulas delay, Yudhishthira the son of Kunti said unto Sahadeva, the heroic brother of Nakula: O Sahadeva, it is long since our brother, he who was born immediately before you, has gone from hence! Therefore, go and bring back your uterine brother, together with water.
At this, Sahadeva, saying, So be it, set out in that direction, and coming to the spot, beheld his brother lying dead on the ground. And afflicted at the death of his brother, and suffering severely from thirst, he advanced towards the water, when these words were heard by him, O child, do not commit this rash act! This lake has already been in my possession. First answer my question, and then drink of the water and take away as much as you may require.
Sahadeva, however, who was extremely thirsty, disregarding these words, drank of the water, and having drunk of it, dropped down dead.
Then Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, said unto Arjuna, O Arjuna, it is long since your two brothers have gone, O repressor of foes! May the Lords blessings be upon you! Do bring them back, together with water. You are, O child, the refuge of us all when plunged in distress!
Thus addressed, the intelligent Arjuna, taking his bow and arrows and also his naked sword, set out for that lake of waters. And reaching that spot, he whose car was drawn by white steeds beheld those tigers among men, his two younger brothers who had come to fetch water, lying dead there. And seeing them as if asleep, that lion among men, exceedingly aggrieved, raised his bow and began to look around that wood. But he found none in that mighty forest. And, being fatigued, he who was capable of drawing the bow by his left hand as well, rushed in the direction of water. And as he was rushing (towards the water), he heard these words from the sky, Why do you approach this water? You shall not be able to drink of it by force. If you, O son of Kunti, answer the question I will put to you, then only shall you drink of the water and take away as much as you require, O Bharata!
Thus forbidden, the son of Pritha (Arjuna) said: Do you forbid me by appearing before me! And when you shall be sorely pierced with my arrows, you will not then again speak in this way!
Having said this, Arjuna covered all sides with arrows inspired by Mantras. And he also displayed his skill in shooting at an invisible mark by sound alone. And sorely afflicted with thirst, he discharged barbed darts and javelins and iron arrows, and showered on the sky innumerable shafts incapable of being baffled.
Thereupon, the invisible Yaksha said: What need of all this trouble, O son of Pritha? Drink only after answering my questions! If you drink, however, without answering my questions, you shall die immediately after.
Thus addressed, Pritha son Arjuna, capable of drawing the bow with his left hand
as well, disregarding those words, drank of the water, and immediately after dropped down
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And (seeing Arjunas delay) Kuntis son Yudhishthira addressed Bhimasena, saying: O repressor of foes, it is long while that Nakula and Sahadeva and Arjuna have gone to fetch water, and they have not come yet, O Bharata! Good betide you! Go and bring them back, together with water!
Thereupon saying, So be it, Bhimsena set out for that place where those tigers among men, his brothers, lay dead. And beholding them, Bhima, afflicted though he was with thirst, was exceedingly distressed. And that mighty armed hero thought all that to have been the act of some Yaksha or Rakshasa (demon). And Prithas son Bhimsena thought. I shall surely have to fight today. Let me, therefore, first appease my thirst, Then that bull of the Bharata race rushed forward with the intention of drinking.
Thereupon the Yaksha said: O child, do not commit this rash act! This lake has already been in my possession. First answer my questions, and then drink and take away as much water as you require!
Vaisampayan continued: Thus addressed by that Yaksha of immeasurable energy, Bhima, without answering his questions, drank of the water. And as soon as he drank, he fell down dead on the spot.
Then thinking that his brothers had left him long since, Yudhidhthira waited for some time. And the king said unto himself again and again, Why is it that the two sons of Madri are delaying? And does the wielder also of the Gandiva (Arjunas bow) delay? And why does Bhima too, endued with great strength, delay? I shall go to search for them!
And resolved to do this, the mighty armed Yudhishthira then rose up, his heart burning in grief. And that bull among men, the royal son of Kunti thought within himself, Is this forest under some malign influence? Or, is it infested by some wicked beasts? Or, have they all fallen, in consequence of having disregarded some mighty being? Or, not finding water in the spot where those heroes had first repaired, they have spent all this time in search through the forest? What is that reason for which those bulls among men do not come back?
And speaking in this strain, that foremost of monarchs, the illustrious Yudhishthira, entered into that mighty forest where no human sound was heard and which was inhabited by deer and bears and birds, and which was adorned with trees that were bright and green, and which echoed with the hum of the black-bee and the notes of winged warblers. As he was proceeding along, he beheld that beautiful lake which looked as if it had been made by the celestial artificer himself. And it was adorned with flowers of a golden hue and with lotuses and Sindhuvars. And it abounded with cranes and Ketakas and Karaviras and Pippalas, and fatigued with toil, Yudhishthira saw that lake and was struck with wonder.
Vaisampayan said: Yudhishthira saw his brothers, each possessed of the glory of Indra (king of gods) himself, lying dead like the Regents of the world dropped from their spheres at the end of the Yuga. And beholding Arjuna lying dead with his bow and arrows dropped on the ground, and also Bhimasena and the twins motionless and deprived of life, the king breathed a hot and long sigh and was bathed in tears of grief. And beholding his brothers lying dead, the mighty armed son of Dharma (righteousness) with heart racked in anxiety, began to lament profusely, saying:
You had, O mighty armed Bhimsena, vowed, saying,- I shall with mace smash the
thighs of Duryodhana in battle! O enhancer of the glory of the Kurus, in your death, O
mighty-armed and high-souled one, all that has become fruitless now! The promises of men
may be ineffectual but we have the words of the gods uttered in respect of you been thus
fruitless? O Arjuna, while you were in your mothers lying-in-room, the gods had
said, - O Kunti, this son shall not be inferior to him of a thousand eyes! - And in the
northern Paripatra mountains, all beings had sung, saying, - The prosperity (of this
race), robbed by foes will be recovered by this one without delay. No one will be able to
vanquish him in battle, while there will be none whom he will not be able to vanquish. -
Why then has that Arjuna endued with great strength been subjected to death? Oh, who does
that Arjuna, relying on whom we had hitherto endured all this misery, lie on the ground
blighting all my hopes!
And it was thus that that highly intelligent one gave way to diverse reflections. He did not believe that water to have been tainted with poison, for though dead no corpse-like pallor was on them. The colour on the faces of these my brothers has not faded! And it was thus that Yudhishthira thought. And the king continued, 'Each of these foremost of men was like unto a mighty cataract. Who, therefore, save Yama (god of death) himself who in due time brings about the end of all things, could have baffled them thus.
And having concluded this for certain, he began to perform his ablutions in that lake. And while he descended into it, he heard these words from the sky, uttered by the Yaksha:
I am a crane, living on tiny fish. It is by me that your younger brothers have been brought under the sway of the lord of departed spirits. If you, O prince answer not the questions put by me, even you shall number the fifth corpse. Do not, O child, act rashly! This lake has already been in my possession. Having answered my questions first, O Kuntis son, drink and carry away (as much as you require)!
Hearing these words, Yudhishthira said: Are you the foremost of the Rudras, or of the Vasus, or of the Marutas?
I ask, what god are you? This could not have been done by a bird! Who is it that has overthrown the four mighty mountains, viz., the Himavat, the Paripatra, the Vindhya, and the Malaya? Great is the feat done by you, you foremost of strong persons! Those, whom neither gods, nor Gandharvas nor Asuras, nor Rakshasas could endure in mighty conflict, have been slain by you! Therefore, exceedingly wonderful is the deed done by you! I do not know what your business may be, nor do I know your purpose. Therefore, great is the curiosity and fear also that have taken possession of me. My mind is greatly agitated, and my head also is aching, I ask you, therefore, O worshipful one, who are you that stays here?
Hearing these words the Yaksha said: I am, good betide you, a Yaksha, and not an amphibious bird. It is by me that all these brothers of yours, endued with mighty prowess, have been slain!
Vaisampayana continued: Hearing these accursed words couched in harsh syllabus, Yudhishthira, O king, approaching the Yaksha who had spoken then, stood there. And that bull among the Bharatas then beheld that Yaksha of unusual eyes and huge body tall like a Palmyra palm and looking like fire or the sun, and irresistible and gigantic like a mountain, staying on a tree, and uttering a loud roar deep as that of the clouds. And the Yaksha said: These your brothers, O king, repeatedly forbidden by me, would forcibly take away water. It is for this that they have been slain by me! He that wishes to live, should not, O king, drink this water! O son of Pritha, act not rashly! This lake has already been in my possession. First answer my questions, O son of Kunti, and then take away as much as you like!
Yudhishthira said: I do not, O Yaksha, covet, what is already in your possession! O
bull among male beings, virtuous persons never approve that one should applaud his own
self (without boasting, I shall therefore, answer your questions, according to my