70. Dushyanta enters Ashram

“Vaishampaayana said, ‘Then the king (Dushyanta) with his followers, having killed thousands of animals, entered another forest with a view to hunting. Attended by a single follower and tired with hunger and thirst, he came upon a large desert on the frontiers of the forest. Having crossed this grassless plain, the king came upon another forest full of the retreats of Rishis, beautiful to look at, delightful to the heart and of cool agreeable breezes. It was full of trees covered with blossoms, the soil overgrown with the softest and greenest grass, extending for many miles around, and echoing with the sweet notes of winged warblers.

“It resounded with the notes of the male Kokila and of the shrill cicala. It was full of magnificent trees with outstretched branches forming a shady cover overhead. The bees hovered over flowery creepers all around. There were beautiful bowers in every place. There was no tree without fruits, none that had prickles on it, none that had no bees swarming around it. The whole forest resounded with the melody of winged singers. It was decked with the flowers of every season. There were refreshing shades of blossoming trees.

“Such was the delicious and excellent forest that the great bowman (Dushyanta) entered. Trees with branches beautified with clusters began to wave gently at the soft breeze and rain their flowers over the monarch’s head. The trees, dressed in their flowery attires of all colours, with sweet-throated warblers perched on them, stood there in rows with heads touching the very heavens. Around their branches hanging down with the weight of flowers the bees tempted by the honey hummed in sweet chorus. The king, endued with great energy, seeing innumerable spots covered with bowers of creepers decked with clusters of flowers, from excess of gladness, became very much charmed. The forest was exceedingly beautiful in consequence of those trees ranged around with flowery branches twining with each other and looking like so many rainbows for gaudiness and variety of colour.

“It was the resort of groups of Siddhas, of the Charanas, of tribes of Gandharvas, and Apsaras, of monkeys and Kinnaras drunk with delight. Delicious cool, and fragrant breezes, conveying the fragrance from fresh flowers, blew in all directions as if they had come there to sport with the trees. The king saw that charming forest gifted with such beauties. It was situated in a delta of the river, and the cluster of high trees standing together lent the place the look of a gaudy pole erected to (Lord) Indra’s honour.

“In that forest which was the resort of ever cheerful birds, the monarch (Dushyanta) saw a delightful and charming retreat of Rishis. There were many trees around it. The sacred Agni was burning within it. The king worshipped that unrivalled retreat. He saw seated in it numerous Yotis, Valakhilyas and other Munis. It was adorned with many chambers containing sacrificial Agni. The flowers dropping from the trees had formed a thick carpet spread over the ground. The spot looked exceedingly beautiful with those tall trees of large trunks. O king (Janamejaya), by it flowed the sacred and transparent Malini (river) with every species of water-fowl playing on its bosom. That stream infused gladness into the hearts of Rishis who resorted to it for purposes of ablutions. The king saw on its banks many innocent animals of the deer species and was exceedingly delighted with all that he saw.

“The monarch, the path of whose chariot no enemy could obstruct, then entered that ashrama which was like to Devaloka, being exceedingly beautiful all over. The king saw that it stood on the margin of the sacred stream (Malini river) which was like the mother of all the living creatures residing in its vicinity. On its bank sported the Chakravaka, and waves of milkwhite foam. There also stood the habitations of Kinnaras. Monkeys and bears too diverted themselves in numbers. There lived also holy Rishis engaged in studies and meditation. There could be seen also elephants, tigers and snakes. It was on the banks of that (Malini) stream that the excellent ashrama of the illustrious Kaashyapa stood, offering a home to numerous Rishis of great Tapas merit. Seeing that (Malini) river, and also the ashrama washed by that river which was studded with many islands and which possessed banks of so much beauty — an ashrama like to that of Nara and Narayana washed by the water of the Ganga — the king (Dushyanta) resolved to enter into that sacred abode. That bull among men, desirous of seeing the great Rishi of ascetic wealth, the illustrious Kanwa of the race of Kaashyapa, one who possessed every Dharma and who, for his splendour, could be gazed at with difficulty, approached that forest resounding with the notes of maddened peacocks and like to the gardens of the great Gandharva, Chitraratha, himself. Halting his army consisting of flags, cavalry, infantry, and elephants at the entrance of the forest, the monarch spoke as follows, ‘I shall go to see the mighty Rishi of Kaashyapa’s race (Rishi Kanwa), one who is without darkness. You stay here until my return!’

“The king (Dushyanta) having entered that forest which was like to (Lord) Indra’s garden, soon forgot his hunger and thirst. He was pleased beyond measure. The monarch, laying aside all signs of royalty, entered that excellent ashrama with but his minister and his priest, desirous of seeing that Rishi (Kanwa) who was an indestructible mass of Tapas merit. The king saw that the ashrama was like to Brahmaloka. Here were bees sweetly humming and there were winged warblers of various species pouring forth their melodies. At particular places that tiger among men (Dushyanta), heard the chanting of Rig hymns by first-rate Brahmanas according to the just rules of intonation.

“Other places again were graced with Brahmanas familiar with ordinances of yagnas, of the Angas and of the hymns of the Yajurveda. Other places again were filled with the harmonious strains of Sama hymns sung by vow-observing Rishis. At other places the ashrama was decked with Brahmanas learned in the Atharva Veda. At other places again Brahmanas learned in the Atharva Veda and those capable of chanting the yagna hymns of the Sama were reciting the Samhitas according to the just rules of voice.

“At other places again, other Brahmanas well-acquainted with the science of correct pronunciation were reciting mantras of other kinds. In fact, that sacred retreat resounding with these holy notes was like to a second Brahmaloka itself. There were many Brahmanas skilled in the art of making yagnakund and in the rules of Krama in yagnas, familiar with logic and the mental sciences, and possessing a complete knowledge of the Vedas. There were those also who were fully familiar with the meanings of all kinds of expressions; those that were familiar with all special rites, those also that were followers of Moksha-Dharma; those again that were well-skilled in establishing propositions; rejecting superfluous causes, and drawing right conclusions. There were those having a knowledge of the science of words (grammar), of patterns of rhythm, of Nirukta; those again that were familiar with Jyotisha and learned in the properties of matter and the fruits of yagna rites, possessing a knowledge of causes and effects, capable of understanding the cries of birds and monkeys, well-read in large Shastras, and skilled in various sciences.

“The king (Dushyanta), as he proceeded, heard their voices. The retreat resounded also with voice of men capable of charming human hearts. The slayer of hostile heroes also saw around him learned Brahmanas of rigid vows engaged in Japa and Homa. The king wondered much on seeing the beautiful carpets which those Brahmanas offered to him respectfully. That best of monarchs (Dushyanta), at the sight of the rites with which those Brahmanas worshipped Devas and Maharishis, thought within himself that he was in Brahmaloka. The more the king saw that auspicious and sacred ashrama of Kaashyapa protected by that Rishi’s strict Dharma and possessing all the requisites of a holy retreat, the more he desired to see it. In fact, he was not satisfied with his short survey. The slayer of heroes (Dushyanta) at last, accompanied by his minister and his priest, entered that charming and sacred retreat of Kaashyapa inhabited all around by Rishis of Tapas wealth and noble vows.'”

Author: Prasanna TG on