Saturday, 28 July 2012

14. Asvamedha Yaga is launched.

     Then after the completion of one year and on regaining the ritual horse, the Emperor Dasharatha commenced his Vedic Ritual on the northern banks of River Sarayu.
     COMMENT: In aswametha yaga, a well-decorated horse will be let out with an insignia on its forehead challenging any king to capture it and face the wrath of the releasing king.  If any one captures the horse, he should be prepared to face the army of the releasing king.  Otherwise, the valour and invincibility of the releasing king are well established and he may proceed with the ritual proper.  Now that the ritual horse released last year by King Dasharatha had come back without being captured by anyone, the invincibility of King Dasharatha  was well established, and as such he can commence the ritual proper.
End Comment.
     Keeping Rishyasringa at the helm of affairs, eminent Brahmans commenced the ashva medha Yaga, the Horse-ritual of the invincible King Dasharatha.
     Day by day those expert Brahmans had performed all ritual works as encouraged by Vashishta and others and as contained in scriptures.
      Three hundred animals were tied to the ritual posts, along with the ritual horse of the King Dasharatha.
      [Many animals were sacrificed in the Horse ritual.  But they would be segregated as wild animals and domestic animals.  In them many of the wild animals would be let off by taking them around the fire on to their right in salutation to fire, 'agni paradakshiNa namaskara'. The domestic animals however, will be sacrificed in the ritual.  Hence it is up to the priests to decide which were to be retained and which were to be let off.]
      Queen Kausalya, with great delight but reverently made circumambulations to the horse, and symbolically killed the horse with three knives.
     [Here Kausalya did not butcher the horse (queens do not butcher animals) in the ritual, but the horse was already sacrificed.  It was a symbolical act of queens to pierce with three golden knives like needles.  The scripture says that all the eligible wives of the performer of ritual have to pierce that way.  So all the three queens had performed that symbolic act by piercing that horse, which was already dead, with golden needle-like knives.]
     The horse-ritual was normally conducted only for three days.  But Dasharatha got it performed for a longer period with more variously connected rituals, in all his eagerness to appease gods for progeny.
     After the successful completion of the yaga, king Dasharata thanked Sage Rishyasringa and told him "Sir, you alone are eligible to perform the ritual for the expansion of my dynasty."
      Rishyasringa nodded to the proposal and told him that the king would get four sons to ennoble his dynasty.  On hearing the sweet words of  Sage Rishyasringa, Dasharatha went into a state of ecstasy and venerated that great soul, Rishyasringa, again.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

13. The Preparations for the Asvamedha Yaga

     King Dasharatha wanted Shanta, whom he loved as if she was his own daughter, to enjoy the winter with her husband, at his kingdom.  At the onset of Spring he desired to perform the Vedic Ritual.
     Then observing all the required formalities in this regard, the King Dasharatha verily beseeched sage Rishyasringa to conduct Vedic ritual on his behalf as he wished to beget progeny for maintaining his family line.  Sage Rishyasringa who by now was highly honoured by the king said  "So it shall be, let the paraphernalia for ritual be garnered and let your ritual horse be released as a prerogative."
     Then King Dasharatha said to Sumantra, "Let the Vedic scholars and ritual conductors like Sages Suyajna, Vaamadeva, Jaabaali, and Kaashyapa, along with the family priest Vashishta, as well as other Vedic Brahmans who are there, may be invited swiftly..."
     Sumantra went and came back with all the vedic personnel and scholars as desired by the king.  The king informed them of his desire to perform the Vedic Horse Ritual for progeny.  He also told them  that he believed his desires would be fulfilled through the divine influence of the Sage Rishyasringa...
     All, including the Sage Vashishta agreed in toto to the proposed course of action informed by the King in this regard.  They also blessed the king that he would get not one, but four sons with boundless valour after the vedic ritual.
     The king was very happy to hear that.  He thanked them and called his ministers concerned and gave them suitable instructions in this regard.
     The performer of such Vedic rituals had to perform preliminary rituals for a period of one year in order to attain eligibility to perform the final one.  On conclusion of the same Dasharatha  entered into the Vedic ritual hall in the springtime of the succeeding year to the one referred to above.
     After the usual greetings and all that, the King told Sage Vashishta "Sir, I desire that the vedic ritual should be conducted strictly as stipulated in our vedic scriptures.  I further desire that it should be conducted in such a way that no obstacle occurs even in its ancillary functions.  You, besides being my very reverent royal priest are friendly and kind-hearted to me, and you alone should shoulder the burden of the commenced ritual in all good faith and credence."
     Vashishta said "I will see to it that whatever that is requested or decided by you, are materialised accordingly."
     Sage Vashishta then summoned elderly Brahman scholars, elderly architects who were all proficient and experts in conducting the construction of the ritual hall etc.,  the construction supervisors, brick-makers, carpenters, earth-diggers, accountants, sculptors, actors, dancers, etc.  Flawless scholars in scriptures and those men who were well read in Veda-s, were also called.  He addressed them all saying, "Performance of the ritual should be organised strictly as per the orders of the king.  Bricks in many thousands be brought quickly and royal palaces as temporary guesthouses be built for royal guests, with all facilities included in them."
     Sage Vasishta continued giving elaborate instructions to all the concered persons.
      Sage Vashishta then told Sumantra that all kings who were righteous be invited.
     He asked Sumantra to personally invite Janaka, the king of Mithila, a valiant one and an advocate of truth, honouring him well and duly bearing in mind that he was a long-time associate of King Dasharatha.  He further informed Sumantra the names of the kings who should be personally invited by him.
     Then Sage Vashishta and other eminent Brahmans keeping the Sage Rishyasringa ahead of them entered the ritual hall, to commence the ritual.  When all had entered the ritual hall as per canons and custom, that glorious king Dasharatha along with his wives undertook vow of ritual.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

12. Prelude to Asvamedha Yaga.

     Sumantra continued "Your Majesty, let me tell you what more
Sanatkumara predicted.
     "He predicted that you will befriend the king of Anga and the king of Anga will beget a fortunate girl named Shanta.
     "He predicted that you would approach the king of Anga, known as Romapaada, (also known as Chitraratha), and tell him 'My friend, I am childless and hence I intend to perform a Vedic ritual.   Let the husband of your daughter  Shanta, viz. Sage Rishyasringa, preside over that Vedic ritual at your behest, for the sake of progeny in my dynasty'.
     "On hearing those words the benevolent Romapaada would most willingly agree to send the one who endows progeny by rituals, namely Sage Rishyasringa, his son-in-law.
     "Sage Sanatkumara  further added that there will be four sons to king Dasharatha who will abound with valour, enrich dynasty's reputation and will be renowned among all beings.
     "Your Majesty, as predicted by the Sage Sanatkumara, I suggest that you approach the King of Anga personally."
     King Dasharatha took the advice of his well-wisher.   As Brahmarishi Vasishta was his Rajaguru, he was the one who was to perform all rituals for the king.  To invite someone else to do it would be a gross violation of protocol.  However, in view of the extenuating  circumstances, the king felt that the Sage Vasishta would agree for Sage Rishyasringa, if he (Vasihta) was told about the extenuating  circumstances.  He, therefore asked Sumantra to tell Sage Vasishta whatever he (Sumantra) told him (Dasharata).  On hearing the same, Sage Vasishta gladly consented for the Sage Rishyasringa to perform the ritual.  After that, Dasharata went to the Anga Kingdom.  There king Romapada was immensely pleased to see his friend and paid excellent respects to king Dasharatha as a great mighty king and as a dear friend.  Then Romapada informed the wise sage Rishyasringa about the friendship and relation with Dasharatha, and then that sage worshipped king Dasharatha in return.
     Thus well received by king Romapada, king Dasharatha spent about a week with him.  Then he told the king Romapaada  "Oh, my friend, I desire that your daughter, Princess Shanta go over to my city Ayodhya along with her husband Rishyasringa, as I am contemplating to perform a great Vedic ritual."
     King Romapada agreed to the request of king Dasharatha.
     King Dasharatha thanked him and started for Ayodhya with the Sage Rishyasringa and his wife Shantha.  Before starting for Ayodhya, King Dasaratha sent a messenger to his ministers to inform them in advance of the arrival of the king along with the Sage Rishyasringa and his wife Shanta.
     All the citizens of Ayodhya were very happy to see that Brahman, Sage Rishyasringa, who was well honoured and led  into the city by their king Dasharatha, as has been done once by Indra when he entered with sage Kaashyapa's son Vamana, the dwarfish boy and the incarnation of Vishnu, into heavens, and thus those citizens felt that their human lord Dasharatha vied with divine lord Indra.
     Dasharatha led the sage into the palace chambers and worshipped him there as ordained in the scriptures, and in bringing the Sage here into his country, king Dasharatha believed that his desire would be fulfilled.  His wife Shanta was treated by one and all as their princess who had come on a visit to her parents' place with her husband.  Shanta was thus being admired by one and all of them, and in an exceptional manner by Dasharatha, comfortably resided there along with her husband, the Vedic scholar Rishyasringa.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

11. The story of Rishyasringa.

     The brothers Kusha and Lava started the ballad by describing the capital viz. Ayodhya of Emperor Dasharatha.  The pomp and glory of his capital was depicted along with its town planning and grandeur of the city, and its residents.  The riches and happiness enjoyed by the people, under the rein of Emperor Dasharatha, along with the details of its valiant heroes, elephants, horses and the town planning were narrated.
     The truthful and upright characters of the ministers of Dasharatha, who made the rulership meaningful with their virtuous, skilful and efficient administration were portrayed.  Along with the political ministers, the religious ministry was also portrayed.
     King Dasharatha had everything except children; he did not have a single child, male or female.  He started wondering whether he would get a child by performing an Aswametha Yagam.
     King Dasharatha was a very able, learned, very intelligent, etc. king, but he was not an autocrat.  As such he collected his ministers and eminent and knowledgeable clerics like Suyajna, Vaama Deva, Jaabala, Kashyapa, and of course his rajaguru Sage Vashishta, and also many other eminent Brahmans who were Vedic scholars.
     He asked their opinion about his performing Aswametha Vedic Horse Ritual for progeny.  All agreed that it was an excellent idea.  On hearing their agreement with his idea, he then ordered his ministers to make arrangements in the northern banks of the River Sarayu which would be the ritual ground.
     One Sumantra was one of the ministers of King Dasharatha.  He was said to be very knowledgeable and highly devoted to the King Dasharatha.  Because of this he became a confidant to the King.  He generally acted as a charioteer to the king and the members of the royal family.  He approached the king and told him in confidence that he wanted to tell something to him (i.e. the king).  He naturally got the 'go ahead' signal.  He then said "Your Majesty, I want you to listen to this legend I heard quite a long time ago.
     "Do you remember that as a part of your education, highly renowned vedic, erudite and godly persons were invited to give you advice.  What I am going to tell you is a part of the advice given to you by Sage Sanatkumara.
     "Sage Sanatkumara has once narrated in the presence of other sages an account about the arrival of your sons.  He said 'Sage Kashyapa has a son known as Vibhaandaka, and his son will be the renowned Sage Rishyasringa, and that Sage Rishyasringa will grow up in forests, and will always be dwelling in forest...'".
     Sage Rishyasringa got the name by the very fact that he was born with a horn on the crown of his head.  In sanskrit 'Rishi' means Sage and 'Sringa' means horn.
     Sumantra (in Valmiki Ramayana) was telling the King about Rishyasinga in the 'future tense', since the same thing was told as a prediction by Sage Sanatkumara long back.  But as the prediction had already come true at that point of time when Sumantra was telling Dasharatha about it, I have changed it to 'past tense'; I thought that to say something that has already happened, in 'future tense' may confuse the reader.
     Sumantra continued "Rishyasringa was truly his papa's most obedient son.  Whatever his dad said, Rishyasringa followed it implicitly.  In the hermitage where Rishyasringa was living did not have any female.  In fact, there was no female around the place/hermitage where he was living.  He, therefore did not know that there were two sexes.  He became renowned for his celibacy; but he did not know that he was observing celibacy!
     "During this period there was a famous, very strong and valiant king called Romapaada in Anga country.  But due to some wrong doing by that king, there was a shocking and devastating famine in that country.  While the famine was besetting, the king Roamapaada was afflicted with grimness.  He, therefore summoned wise Brahmans and learned scholars and sought their advice in this regard.
     "The scholarly Brahmans and Vedic scholars, after consulting per se, told the king that the son of Sage Vibhaandaka, namely Rishyasringa, should be brought to the kingdom, somehow.  If the  Sage Rishyasringa was honoured well with good care, and  his (i.e. King's) daughter, Shanta, married to him, the problem would surely automatically be solved.
     "On listening them the king, in consultation with his able and wise ministers, ordered a few selected clergymen and ministers to get the Sage.  But they were utterly scared of sage Vibhaandaka, father of Rishyasringa.  After discussing the matter per se, they got an idea as to how to bring that sage without any problem (at least for them).
     "According to that idea, sage Rishyasringa was brought to the kingdom and the presiding deity for rains started showering rains, and Shanta was given in marriage to that sage...
     "Sage Rishyasringa, son-in-law of the King of Anga, Romapaada and as well as to you, if invited to our kingdom he will bless you to beget sons."
     Comment: Sage Rishyasringa was also said to be a son-in-law to King Dasharatha.  Princess Shanta, in a distant way was a daughter to King Dasharatha in relation and the adopted daughter of Romapaada, the King of Anga. Thus Sumantra's saying son-in-law 'as well as to you'  means Dasharatha's son-in-law also, besides Romapada’s.
End Comment.
     King Dasharatha, after hearing Sumantra, wanted to know as to how Rishyasringa was brought to the Anga kingdom.
     Sumantra continued his tale "The ministers along with clergymen approached the King Romapaada and told him that instead of them, it would be better that some very beautiful court-dancers were sent for bringing Sage Rishyasringa.  They explained that Sage Rishyasringa was all along living in a forest and had never seen any female;  and as a matter of fact he was not aware of the existence of women, or of worldly-matters or of even worldly-pleasures...  They added that beautiful and well decorated courtesans would definitely achieve the objective of bringing the Sage to the Kingdom by tempting with many a feint, and the courtesans be tempted with ample gifts...
     "The king thought over their suggestion and agreed to it.
     "Sage Rishyasringa was absolutely satified to be in the hermitage; he never had the desire nor inclination to explore and probe out of that hermitage.  Therefore, he had not seen any female, or a male, or even any other objects of pleasure, either of city or of countryside from the time of birth onwards...
     "Then at one time Rishyasringa came out of his hermitage to get some flowers for offering to Gods, saw those comely females.  Those lustful court dancers were amazingly attired and singing melodious tunes.  They were waiting for the Sage Rishyasringa to come out and see them. They approached the Sage and  cooed to him  coyly with very sweet and melodious voices 'Who you are?  Why you move lonely in these deep and desolate forests; why you conduct yourself like this? Oh! Brahman, we are interested to know... please tell us...'
     "Those women were in most desirable form and hitherto he had not seen such forms in that forest.  Consequently a kind of friendship spouted, with which he was inclined to detail about his father... 'My father is Sage Vibhaandaka.  I am known as Rishyasringa.  Our hermitage is here only, oh, august ones, I wish to perform scripturally worship to you all verily there..'
     "The women were waiting for this and therefore, all of them accompanied him to his hermitage.  On going there, the Sage's son performed worship saying 'Here is our hand-wash, here is our feet-wash, here are our tuber fruits, here are the juicy fruits of ours... '
     [This portrays the exclusion of the sage's son from the rest of the world by his father.  He worshipped the courtesans, as he would worship some super-natural deities by saying the above words, which will usually be used in ritual worship of Hindu deities.  He being a fruitarian had offered the courtesans the tuber fruits like sweet potatoes etc., which were ridiculous to urbanites, that too to the pleasure-taking courtesans.]
     "All of them accepted that kind of worship much enthusiastically, but dread at the arrival of the sage Vibhaandaka.  They made-up their mind to leave the place as early as possibe.  'Take these important fruits of ours, oh, Brahman, you be safe, oh, holy one... eat them before long....' said the courtesans to Rishyasringa.  Then all the courtesans embraced him with a kind of mirthfulness in the offing,  presented sweet-balls and other varieties of best sweetmeats to him.
     "The resplendent sage accepted them as he supposed them to be fruits only.  As he was always forest-bound he had not tasted sweets earlier.  He relished the fruits(sweets).
     "On the pretence that they also had to perform devotional duties, the courtesans departed, while they were actually afraid of the arrival of Rishyasringa's father who may hurl curses on them on his arrival... After the departure of all the courtesans, Rishyasringa, the grandson of Sage Kashyapa, was disturbed at heart and behaved sadly...
     "On the next day Rishyasringa, the prosperous sage with ascetic power could not help going to the place where he met the court dancers on the previous day, saw the well-decorated and delightful courtesans.  On seeing him, all the courtesans welcomed him very enthusiastically to their hermitage.
     "He obliged them.  He didn't know what happened, but he was entering the Anga Kingdom with the women.
     "On his very first step into Anga Kingdom, the Rain-god quickly showered rain in Anga kingdom to the delight of all.   He was welcomed most warmly by the King himself with all the  customary dedication and formalities. The king, then almost begged Rishyasringa to save him from the fury of his father, Sage Vibhaandaka.
     "On entering the palace, princess Shanta was given to Rishyasringa in customary marriage.
     "Now the great fulgent Rishyasringa lives in Anga kingdom along with his wife Shanta, and with all his desires fulfilled and also well worshipped".
      Thus Sumantra said the legend of Rishyasringa to King Dasharatha.