Tuesday, 10 September 2013

76. Bharata goes to the hermitage of Bharatwaja.

           After listening Guha about Rama, Bharata approached the foot of the Ingudi tree along with his ministers and gazed on that grass-bed on which Rama had slept. Thereafter, he told all his mothers "It is here that my dear elder brother rested for that night, his limbs pressing the earth. The son of the great and sagacious Dasharatha of an illustrious family, Rama verily does not deserve to sleep on this bare earth! How could Rama the tiger among men, who used to sleep on a couch stuffed with rich cushions covered with superior hairy skins of antelopes, sleep on a bare floor? 
         "This is unbelievable and does not appear true to me. My mind is absolutely bewildered. I wish that it was a dream. It is incredible that Seetha the daughter of the king of videha, lovely as a goddess to look upon and the cherished daughter-in-law of Dasharatha had to sleep on the floor!
          "This is the bed of my elder brother. Here are indeed the blessed marks of his changing sides, in the form of all the blades of Kusa grass, trampled by his limbs on the hard ground. It appears that the godlike and devine Seetha has slept on this bed along with her jewels. I could see that some particles of gold stuck up, here and there. It is very clear that the upper garment of Seetha got entangled with these blades here at that time. That is why, these silk-threads appear stuck to them. I think the bed of her husband is sweet to a woman. Alas! I am a cruel man because on my account, Rama, like an orphan, along with his wife slept on such a bed. How can Rama, born in the race of monarchs, highly honoured by the entire world, beloved of all, having a dark complexion as that of a blue-lotus, having red eyes, lovely to look at, who is entitled for comfort and who is not worthy of suffering, sleep on the ground, abandoning the most excellent kingdom and its concomitant comforts?
           "Lakshmana, having auspicious marks on his body and an exceedingly lucky man, who accompanied his elder brother Rama in times of adversity is no doubt a fortunate man. Seetha, who went together with her husband to the forest, is indeed an accomplished woman. All of us, deprived of the highly virtuous Rama, are an unsettled lot. Dasharatha went to heaven. Rama is dwelling in the forest. The kingdom appears to me as a boat without an helmsman. Despite staying in the forest, Rama protects this earth with the power of his fame. Hence, nobody can think even in his dream, to invade this kingdom. Without guards to watch over its ramparts, with its unrestrained horses and elephants, with its city-gates wide open, without any defenders, denuded of its happy army, plunged in desolation in difficulties and exposed, that royal capital of Ayodhya will be shunned like poisoned food by the enemies, just because of Rama. From today onwards, I shall sleep on the earth or on the grass, with my locks matted, wearing robes of bark and by all means living on fruits and roots.
            "For the rest of his exile, on behalf of Rama, I shall dwell cheerfully in the forest, thereby discharging that promise so that the vows of Rama shall not have been made in vain. Shatrughna will bear company with me, residing in the forest on behalf of Rama. My elder brother, Rama along with Lakshmana will protect Ayodhya. Rama will be enthroned in Ayodhya, by Brahmanas. May the gods grant me this desire. Should Rama not accept the respectful appeals made in every possible way by me, I shall follow the foot steps of Rama for any length of time he roams about in the forest thereafter. He ought not to refuse this grace to me."
          Bharata passed the night in that place on the bank of Ganga. He got up at dawn and told Shatrughna  "Shatrughna! wake up! Please get Guha to convey the army across the river."
         Shatrughna replied "I am not sleeping. Thinking about our brother Rama. I have been wakeful."
         While those two were talking, Guha came and with joined palms, addressed Bharata saying: "Bharata! Did you pass the night comfortably? I hope all is well with your army."
         Bharata replied "The night passed pleasantly for us.  We were treated very hospitably by you. Let your men ferry us across Ganga River on your countless boats."
       Guha agreed and shouted suitable orders to his people.
Within a very short time five hundred boats appeared on the river Ganga. All seemed excellent boats, possessing large bells, marked with Sawstika, well-kept together with appropriate sails and adorned with flags.
          Guha himself brought there his personal boat adorned with Swastika, covered with white canvas, re-echoing with acclamations and was very beautiful. Vasishta, the royal priest and whatever elderly Brahmanas were present there ascended the boat, along with Bharata, Shatrughna, Kausalya and Sumitra. All the royal women who were present also followed and took their seats. 
           Those boats glided speedily. Some were filled with women. Some were loaded with horses and some of them ferried other animals. Goaded on by their mahouts, elephants adorned with their flags, swimming across the river, looked life winged mountains. 
           Some men ascended boats. Some others crossed the river by rafts in the same manner. Some others swam across with the help of big and small earthen vessels. The rest swam with arms. All men, women, animals and supplies were transported safely, efficiently and quickly. Immediately all started without any halt, towards the hermitage of the sage Bharadwaja.
           When he sighted the hermitage of the Sage Bharadwaja, Bharata halted the army there itself to rest, by encamping it according to its inclination and set out along with the priests and king's counsellors to meet Bharadwaja, the foremost of sages. Approaching the hermitage of that Brahmana and the family priest of gods, Bharata saw an extensive and enchanting grove with its leafy huts.
             When they neared Bharadwaja's hermitage, Bharata, leaving his ministers behind at a visible distance, wearing a simple garment, went forwards by foot, preceded by Vasishta, his spiritual preceptor.
          Seeing Vasistha, Bharadwaja the great ascetic rose quickly from his seat, asking his disciples to fetch water to wash the hands of the distinguished guests. Having met Vasishta and greeted by Bharata, Bharadwaja of great splendour recognized him to be a son of Dasharatha. Bharadwaja offering them both, in order of seniority, water to wash their hands and feet and fruits afterwards, made enquiries concerning the welfare of their family.
Subsequently, Bharadwaja made enquires with both of them as to whether all were well in the city of Ayodhya, with the army, with the treasury, friends and counsellors.  As he was aware that the king was no more, he did not speak of the king.
          After the formalities, Bharatwaja asked "May I know the reason for your visit.  I hope you do not intend to do any harm to Rama and his younger brother in order to enjoy the throne without hindrance."
        Bharata with his eyes filled with tears in grief and in a faltering tone, replied "Sir, I cannot conceive of any harm to Rama. Please do not charge me thus. I do not approve of what my mother has done when I was away from home. I am not pleased with her nor do I accept her word in this matter. I, on my part, have come to take back my dear brothers to Ayodhya, after prostrating myself at the feet of Rama and having propitiated him.  Please believe me. I have come to you for a favour. Please tell me where Rama can be found now?"
          Bharatwaja looked at Bharata and was satisfied that he was telling the truth. He told him "Bharata, I was aware of your purpose in your mind. But, I desired to confirm it from your mouth. That is why I asked you, in order to strengthen your fame immeasurably. I know where Rama along with Seetha and Lakshmana are to be found. Your elder brother is staying on the great mountain called Chitrakuta. You may proceed to that place tomorrow. Stay here today along with your ministers."
         Bharata agreed.
        Sage Bharadwaja told his disciples to the effect that Bharata should be given the full honours due to a very distinguished guest. Then, Bharata told Bharadwaja "Have you not presented me with water to wash my hands and feet and offered me fruits thereafter? What more will be more fitting for a guest in this forest?"
        Bharadwaja smilingly replied "I know you possess a friendly disposition and you are pleased with whatever is offered to you. I wish to offer food for your army. You ought to fulfill my satisfaction in every suitable way. Why did you come here, leaving your army at a distance? Why did you not come to my place with your army?"
         Bharata, with joined palms, replied "Sir, I have not come here with my army for the fear of displeasing you. Either the king or the prince should always keep away from the places occupied by ascetics. Spirited horses, men and rare elephants covering an immense area are accompanying me. They may damage the trees, huts and ground and defile the waters of the hermitage. Hence I came alone." Thereafter, Bharata, at the insistence of that great sage, brought the army to the hermitage.
         While the army personnel were settling down in and around the hermitage, Bharadwaja entering the fire-sanctuary (the place where the sacrificial fire is kept), and after the usual chore in this regard, prayed "As I wish to offer hospitality to the guests, I summon Vishwakarma who is also the divine carpenter. Let arrangements be made in that connection for me. I further invoke the three gods Yama, Varuna and Kubera the guardians of the worlds with Indra as their king. I wish to offer hospitality to the guests. Let arrangements be made in this connection for me. Let the rivers which flow towards the east and those which flow towards the west, across the earth and in the aerial region now come together here from all quarters. Let some rivers flow with Maireya (a kind of wine made from date, palms, etc.) some others flow with highly refined spirituous liquor and some others flow with cool water with the taste of sugarcane.
            "I invoke the celestials and celestial musicians Vishvavasu, Haha and Huhu as also Apsaras (nymphs) belonging to the celestials and celestial musicians' race from all regions. I invoke the celestial nymphs called ghritachi, Vishvachi, Mishra Kesi, Alambusa, Nagadanta and Hema as also Hima who have abodes made in mountains.
            "I invoke the fair women who are attending on Brahma the Lord of creation - all of them with their external appendages (like musical instruments) along with their teacher. Let that beautiful garden in the region of northern Kuru, presided over by Kubera (the god of riches) always with its leaves which serve as raiment and ornaments, with its fruits in the form of heavenly damsels appear in this place. May the blessed moon-god furnish me at this place, excellent food of every variety, confections, sweets, sauces and syrups. May the blessed moon-god furnish me many-coloured flowers which have just fallen from the flower-plants or trees, the drinks like wine and others as also various kinds of meat."
         The prayer of the Sage was conceded by all the divinities. While that sage Bharadwaja was meditating with absorption in the east, all those celestials came one by one. Then, a pleasant, comfortable and gracious breeze, passing over the mountains of Malaya and Dardura, began to blow, removing sweat by its influence. Thereafter wonderful clouds let loose a rain of flowers, while the sound of divine gongs could be heard on every side.
            Troops of Apsaras (divine nymphs) danced to the melodious rustling of the wind. The clestials and the celestial musicians sang. Vinas and other stringed musical instruments transmitted their tunes. Sweet and harmonious sounds emitted smoothly, entered the sky, earth and the ears of all beings. Those celestial melodies were so pleasingly heard by the human ears, Bharata's army saw the wonderful and enchanting creations of Viswakarma.
            A levelled land of approximately twenty miles on all sides, became covered by many carpets of grass, dark as emerald. At that place, Bilva, Kapittha, Panasa, Citron Amalaki and Mango Trees laden with fruit appeared. A forest of divine enjoyments from the territory of northern Kuru's along with a river with various trees on its banks appeared there.
           Splendid square mansions with stables for elephants and horses as well as resplendent gates with watch-towers flanked by turrets were seen. A royal palace emerged, dazzling as a cloud, pierced by splendid arches, hung with white garlands, filled with fragrance of celestial perfumes, forming a perfect quadrangle, spacious, furnished with couches, seats and palanquins, supplied with ambrosial drinks of every kind as well as magnificent attire and food of every variety, well-prepared eatables of every description in cleaned vessels and all kinds of seats arranged in order looked charming with superb couches duly covered with rich carpets.
            Bharata, all the ministers together with the priests entered that excellent palace, were filled with delight and amazement.
           Bharata along with his ministers went clock-wise round the excellent royal throne, whisk and the royal umbrella kept there, as if they were utilized by a king. They paid reverence to the royal seat, bowing before it, as if Rama was sitting thereon and thereafter Bharata, taking hold of the whisk, sat down on the seat meant for the chief minister.
            All the ministers and priests sat down in the order of precedence. Thereafter, the chief of the army and at last the officer-in-charge of the encampment occupied their seats. Then, in an instant, by the orders of Bharadwaja, streams having milk thickened with rice in the place of mud, flowed towards Bharata. On both the banks of those streams, enchanting celestial houses plastered with white clay born out of the grace of Brahma the Lord of creation, appeared.
            At that moment itself, twenty thousand women adorned with beautiful ornaments, sent by Brahma, arrived. Twenty thousand more women, who were radiant and adorned with gold, gems, pearls and corals came from the region of Kubera. A particular company of Apsaras who sent any man who looked at any one or more of them into a daze as though seized with insanity, came from Nandana grove.
          Those most excellent among celestial musicians - Narada and Gopa whose radiance was like that of the sun, began to sing in front of Bharata. Then, on the command of Bharadwaja, Alambusa, MishraKesi and Vamana started dancing in the presence of Bharata. By the command of Bharadwaja, wreaths of flowers which were the beloved of the gods or those which grew in the woods of Chaitraratha were seen at Prayaga.
          By the command of Bharadwaja, Bel trees assumed the form of drummers, Vibhitaka trees assumed the form of cymbalists and Peepul trees assumed the form of dancers. Then, palmyras and Tilaka trees along with Tamala trees transformed into hunch backs and dwarfs and joyfully arrived there.
          Shimshapas (Ashoka trees), Amalakis (Emblic myrobalan), Jambus (rose-apple trees), Malati, Mallika Jati and other creepers in the forest had been changed into dancing girls in the hermitage of Bharadwaja and they cooed sweetly  "O, wine-bibbers! Drink the wine, however much you desire! O troops stricken with hunger! Let milk thickened with rice and the meats which are very much fresh, be eaten as much as you want."
           Seven or eight young women bathed every single man on the beautiful river-banks, after massaging his body with oil. Women with charming eyes came running and shampooed his limbs. Lovely women likewise wiped off the moisture on the body with towels and gave him beverages to drink.
           The keepers of animals fed horses, elephants, donkeys, camels and bullocks (the offspring of Surabhi the divine cow) with their preferred feed. The animals, belonging to the exceedingly strong and illustrious warriors, the descendents of Ikshvaku, were fed with pieces of sugarcane and roasted grain soaked in honey, duly cajoling them to eat.
           The groom did not recognize his horse. The elephant-keeper did not recognize his elephant. That army there appeared intoxicated, maddened and enraptured on that spot. With all their desires gratified, their bodies anointed with red-sandal paste, and surrounded by a company of Apsaras, those soldiers exclaimed "We shall not go either to Ayodhya or to Dandaka forest. Let Bharata be well! Likewise, let Rama too be at ease!"
          After that dazzling hospitality, the infantry, the cavalry as well as those mounted on elephants and their keepers too, no longer acknowledging their leaders. In the height of joy, those men in thousands there of the retinue of Bharata cried out "This is heaven!"
         The soldiers in thousands, wreathed in flowers danced, laughed, sang and ran hither and thither. To those soldiers who had partaken that food which was as sweet as ambrosia, wanted to have some more of it whenever they saw again those fresh dishes.
         Thousands of servants, slaves, youthful women and those in the army on every side, clad in new raiment, became very much contented. Elephants, donkeys, camels, bullocks, horses, animals and birds there were suitably well-fed. Hence, one did not afflict the other. There was no one seen in soiled attire or hungry or unkempt or with any dusty hair.
        Dishes of goat and boar with delicious sauces were there and condiments that were spicy, fragrant and succulent, cooked in fruit juices; vessels of rare metals filled with rice, decorated with flowers, were offered to the thousands of those soldiers there. The soldiers saw the wonder on all sides. The wells in all the sides of the forest surrounding Bharadwaja's hermitage have their mud transformed into milk in which rice was cooked. All the animals in the region were transformed into cows of plenty and the trees dripped honey.
             Some ponds there were endowed with full of wine and some were filled with assortment of various dressed meats pertaining to deer, peacocks and wild cocks, cooked in hot pans. There were thousands of portable furnaces, lacs of culinary utensils, ten crores of golden vessels, well-cleaned bowls filled with curds, small water-jars and a wide variety of dishes.
            Lakes full of fresh curds, shining fragrant and in the colour of a wood-apple, curds mixed with sugar and spices, some other lakes filled with white curds, some others filled with milk soaked in rice as well as sugar and some other lakes with a mixture of barley and sugar were formed.
              Those soldiers saw jellies, powders and syrups made of fruits and various kinds of accessories used in bathing, kept stored in vessels, on the banks of the rivers. Those soldiers saw there heaps of twigs used for cleaning the teeth with white brushes at their tips, white sandal pastes stored in caskets, polished mirrors, piles of clothes, thousands of pairs of shoes and sandals, caskets containing collyrium for the eyes; combs, brushes, raiments, bows, protectors of vitals, strange couches and seats, drinking ponds for donkeys, camels, elephants and horses, lakes with good stairs for descent having water-lilies and lotuses with sky-blue colour, with clear water offering a comfortable bath and soft grasses having the colour of Nipa tree and of cat's eye gems useful for feeding animals.
         Seeing such a wonderful and dreamlike hospitality offered by the great sage Bharadwaja, all those men were amazed and speechless. While they were enjoying thus in that charming hermitage of Bharadwaja, in the same manner as celestials enjoy in the garden of Nandna, that night had elapsed. Having been permitted by Bharadwaja, those rivers, the celestial musicians and all those beautiful women went back in the same way they came. The soldiers, intoxicated with spirituous liquor, were likewise excited with joy. Likewise, the men were drenched in charming aloes and sandal paste. Various kinds of excellent and charming garlands were there, crushed and scattered at distances, likewise.

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