Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mahabharata Ch 6-10, Adi Parva, Pouloma Parva

[Ch 1,2,3,45 « Ch 6,7,8,9,10 » Ch 11,12,13,14,15]
Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Pouloma; Chapter:6Shlokas:13

Puloman carried away Puloma, but this angered her unborn son, still in her womb. He fell down, and thus got the name Chyavana ("The word means to be deprived of, or perishing."). Puloman let go of Puloma, but himself fell down and was burnt to ashes. As a weeping Puloma carried Chyavana, a river of tears followed in her footsteps. Brahma named the river Vadhusara.

An enraged Bhrigu wanted to know from Puloma who had told the rakshasa Puloman about her. On hearing Puloma's account, Bhrigu "cursed Agni that he would be an omnivore."

Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Pouloma; Chapter:7Shlokas:26

Thus cursed by Bhrigu, an indignant Agni asks Bhrigu what his fault was, and why he should be cursed for speaking the truth. "A witness who is asked and knows the facts, but testifies to that which is false, dooms both his ancestors and his descendants for seven generations. And he who knows the truth about an action, but knowingly does not speak, is certainly tainted by the same sin."
"पृष्टो हि साक्षी यः साक्ष्यं जानमानोऽन्यथा वदेत्
स पूर्वानात्मनः सप्त कुले हन्यात्तथा परान्  [1.7.3] 
यश्च कार्यार्थतत्त्वज्ञो जानमानो न भाषते
सोऽपि तेनैव पापेन लिप्यते नात्र संशयः " [1.7.4]
Thereafter Agni tells Bhrigu where he is present - everywhere, and that it is the gods themselves who are "fed through my mouth the ghee that is offered to me. If I am their mouth, how can I become an omnivore?" And thus Agni "withdrew himself from everywhere". Anxious sages went to the gods, who then went to Brahma, who after listening to the gods summons Agni. After being pacified by Brahma, Agni relented, and thus ends the story of the curse on Agni.

Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Pouloma; Chapter:8Shlokas:22

Continuing the story of Shaunaka's ancestors, Souti recounted that Sage Chyavana later had a son named Pramati, through his wife Sukanya (the story of Sukanya will be told in a later Parva). Pramati had a son named Ruru, from Ghritachi, who in turn had a son named Shounaka from his wife Pramadvara ('the most beautiful'). The story of Pramadvara is recounted - she was the child born to the apsara Menaka and the king of the Gandharvas, named Vishvavasu. She left Pramadvara near the hermitage of the great Brahamana Sthulkesha, who adopted her.

When Ruru saw the grown up Pramadvara, he fell in love with her, and upon his request Pramati spoke with Sthulkesha and got the two engaged. However, "[A] few days before the date fixed for the wedding" Pramadvara was bitten by a snake. Even as all the sages assembled there, Ruru left, unable to bear the sight.
The act of a snake here is no coincidence - this much the reader has grasped by now. We know that this act will have a bearing on Janamejaya's snake sacrifice. How, remains to be seen in the next chapters.

Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Pouloma; Chapter:9; Shlokas:22
Ruru left the lifeless Pramadvara and went into the deep forest to lament piteously and asked that his beloved be restored to life. Hearing his lamentations, a messenger of the gods (devdoot देवदूत) reminded Ruru that one "whose mortal times on this earth has run out, cannot come back to life again." However, he also had an "antidote" that the "great gods"  had devised ("उपायश्चात्र विहितः पूर्वं देवैर्महात्मभिः"), which Ruru couldn't wait to hear. The devdoot asked Ruru to give half his life to Pramadvara, to which Ruru readily agreed. Before this could happen, however, they had to go and get the permission of Dharmaraja - Yama, the god of death. Dharmaraja agreed, and Pramadvara "arose as if from a slumber, endowed with half of Ruru's life" and the two were married on the appointed day.
This incident however made Ruru take a vow and thereafter, whenever he saw a snake, "he always killed it with a weapon."
Thus it came to pass that he once struck a non-poisonous snake (a dundubha - डुण्डुभ), who asked the brahamana why he had inflicted this violence on him, who had done him no harm.

Parva: Adi; Upa-parva: Pouloma; Chapter:10; Shlokas:8
Ruru told the dundubha why he had taken to killing snakes where he saw them. The dundubha replied that he was a snake "only by smell", and that while they (the dundubhas) shared "the same misfortune" (of being snakes), "they did not share the same good fortune" (of having poison to defend themselves, I assume).

Ruru consented to not kill the dundubha, because he "was scared and thought it might be a rishi." On being asked, the dundubha told Ruru that he had earlier been a rishi named Sahasrapata who had been turned into a snake through a brahmana's curse. Ruru asked why he had been thus cursed and how long would he continue as a snake.

These chapter summaries are based on the unabridged translation of the Mahabharata done by Dr Bibek Debroy, and published by Penguin Books India, and which I have been reviewing on my blog. The Sanskrit shlokas are from the electronic text of the Mahabharata - based on John Smith's revision of Prof. Muneo Tokunaga's version of the Mahabharata Critical Edition of the text from and copyright of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.

© 2013, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.