Markandeya Puranam

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THE BIRDS said: – Formerly in the Treta age, there was a royal saint by name Harishchandra: that ruler of the earth was virtuous, renowned for good deeds and of a handsome person. (1) During his rule there was no famine or disease or untimely death amongst men; nor his citizens used to take delight in impious deeds. (2) They were not proud of their riches, prowess and asceticism; and no woman ever gave birth to children before she attained her youth. (3) Once on a time it so happened, that as that mighty-armed one was engaged in pursuing a deer in the forest he heard the cries of “Save me” coming from a certain women. (4) Then leaving the deer the king said “No fear; what wicked person is engaged in doing wrong during my regime?” (3) He (then) proceeded to the direction of cries; in the interval, the dreadful Deity of impediments, who puts in obstacles in the beginning of every thing, thought (6): “Carrying on unequalled devout penances the highly powerful

Vishwamitra observing a vow, is striving to acquire various learnings of Bhava and others never before acquired by any. (7) They, being accomplished by the ascetic, endued with forgiveness, silence and self-control, and assailed by fear, are (now) crying. What should I do now? (8) The foremost of Kousikas is energetic and we are greatly weak: assailed with fear they are crying; this appears as incomprehensible to me. (9) I have got here the king exclaiming for the moment, ‘Do not fear.’ Entering into his body I shall accomplish what I desire.” (10) Thinking thus, the dreadful Deity of impediments possessed the king who wrathfully said (11): “Who is this simple man who ties up the fire with the ends of his cloth, while I, the king, burning with strength and energy, am present here? (12) Who, to-day, pierced all over with shafts discharged from my bow, lighting up all quarters, shall enter into a long sleep?” (13) Thereupon hearing the words of the king, Vishwamitra was enraged; and that foremost of Rishis having been exercised with anger, all those forms of learning immediately disappeared. (14) Beholding all on a sudden the ascetic Vishwamitra, the king, stricken with fear, began to tremble like a leaf of an Asoka tree. (15) When the ascetic said “Stay! O wicked-minded man,” the king, bowing down with humility, said. (16) “O reverend Sir, this is my duty! O lord! there is no folly of mine. O ascetic, you should not be angry with me who have followed my own duties. (17) A virtuous king should perform charities and protect (people); and in pursuance of scripture he should fight lifting up his bow.” (18)

VISHWAMITRA said: – “Whom should you confer upon (a thing), whom should you protect and with whom should you fight, O King? Tell me this speedily, if you fear unrighteousness.”


Harishchandra said: “Gifts should be made to the foremost of Vipras and those whose business does not pay them; those that are afraid should be protected and robbers should always be fought with.” (20)

Vishwamitra said: – “If, O king, you observe fully all the duties of a king, I appear before you as a Brahmana desirous of begging something: give me my desired-for gift.” (21)

The birds said: – Hearing those words, the king, having his inner heart filled with delight, considered himself to have been born again and said to Kousika. (22)

Harishchandra said: “Tell me freely, O reverend Sir, what I shall have to give you, and even it be difficult to procure know it as already given to you, (23) – be it silver, gold, son, wife, body, life, kingdom, fortune or any other thing that you may like to have.” (24)

Vishwamitra said: – “Consider, O king, what you have said as accepted by me. First give me the Dakshina of the Rajashuya sacrifice.” (25)

The king said: – “I shall confer this Dakshina upon you, O Brahman. Tell me foremost of the twice-born, what it is that I shall give you.” Whereto Vishwamitra replied: – “This earth with its seas, lands and cities, all your kingdom, O hero, consisting of cars, steeds and elephants, your treasury with all your wealth and whatever else of which you are the owner, except your wife, son and your own body, O sinless one, even your piety, O you conversant with all virtues, that follows one after his death – what is the use of speaking more – you give me all this.” (26-29)

THE BIRDS said: – Hearing the words of the Rishi, the king, without any change on his countenance and with a delighted heart, said “so be it” with joined hands. (30)

VISHWAMITRA said: – “If, O royal saint, you have given away to me your kingdom, earth and forces who then is the king of them all, myself being engaged in austerities?” (31)

Harishchandra said: – “From the time I have given over to you this earth with kingdom, you are the lord and king of the earth, O reverend Sir.” (32)

Vishwamitra said: – “If you have conferred upon me, O king, the entire earth and if this be my property, then do you, leaving off all your ornaments, the thread round your waist and wearing bark, go out from this place with your wife and son.” (33-34)

THE BIRDS said: – Saying ‘so be it’ the king addressed himself for departure along with his wife Saivya and his son – a boy. (35) As he was going away he (Vishwamitra) obstructing his path said to the king – “Where do you go without giving me the Dakshina of Rajashuya?” (36)

Harishchandra said: “O reverend Sir, I have conferred upon you this kingdom freed of all thorns and I have reserved to me, O Brahman, these three bodies of mine.” (37)

Vishwamitra said: – “Still you should confer upon me the sacrificial Dakshina; if what has been promised to the Brahmanas in particular be not given every thing is destroyed. (38) As long as the Brahmanas are not satisfied in the Rajashuya sacrifice, O king, so long gifts of Rajashuya should be given. (39) You had promised before that you would give what you promised, fight with the robbers and protect the distressed.” (40)

Harishchandra said: – “O reverend Sir, I have nothing at present but I shall give you in time; favour me, O Brahmana saint, cherishing good feelings towards me.” (41)

Vishwamitra said: – “How long shall I wait, O lord of men; tell me speedily or the fire of imprecation shall consume you.” (42)

Harishchandra said: – “Within a month I shall confer upon you the Dakshina, O Brahmana saint: at present I have nothing; you should permit me (therefore).” (43)

Vishwamitra said: – “Go! go! O foremost of men and satisfy your duties; may you fare well on the way and may not the robbers disturb you.” (44)

THE BIRDS said: – Then permitted with saying ‘go’ that foremost of royal saints, the lord of the earth, having his mind possessed by wonderment, departed. His wife, unused to walking, followed him. (45) Beholding that foremost of kings issue out of the city with his wife and son, the citizens following, began to lament: (46) – “O lord, why do you leave us distressed and oppressed by others? O king, you have always acted piously and been kind to the citizens. If you observe virtue, O royal saint, take us (also with you). (47) Wait for a moment, O best of kings, we shall drink your lotus countenance with these black bees of eyes! When shall we see you again? (48) The wife, taking the boy son (with her) follows him, whom, when going before, the kings used to follow. (49) The self-same Harishchandra, the foremost of kings, whose servants mounted on elephants used to precede him, is now going on foot. (50) O king, how shall your beautiful face, having a fair nose and eye-brows, be sullied with dust on your way? (51) Wait! wait! O best of kings, satisfy your own duty; compassion is the best of virtues especially for the Kshatryas. (52) Of what avail are the wives and the sons? What is the use of riches and corns? Leaving all these we will follow you like your shadow. (53) O lord! O great king! O master! why do you renounce us? Wherever you will be we will go; wherever you live there is our happiness; wherever you reside there is our city – where the king is there is our heaven.” (54) Hearing the bewailing of the citizens, the king, possessed by sorrow and having compassion, stopped on the way. (55) Seeing him agitated by the words of the citizens and approaching there Vishwamitra, having his eyes expanded with anger and indignation, said:

(56) “Fie on you! who are wicked, speak false and utter untruths; having given your kingdom to me you wish to take it back.” (57) Thus addressed by him with harsh words he began to tremble and saying “I go” he speedily went away taking his wife by the hand. (58) While his tender wife, exhausted with fatigue, was thus drawn, Vishwamitra all on a sudden struck her with a chastising rod. (59) Beholding her thus struck, Harishchandra, the lord of the earth, stricken with grief, said “I am going” and did not utter any thing else. (60) Seeing Harishchandra, the lord of men, thus circumstanced, the five Vishwadevas, moved with pity, said: -(61) “To what region this greatly sinful Vishwamitra attain by whom this one, the foremost of those performing sacrifices, has been deprived of his own kingdom? (62) And drinking whose Soma sanctified by reverence and offered in great sacrifice with Mantras shall we attain to great delight?” (63) Hearing those their words, the son of Kusika, filled with great anger, imprecated them, saying “Do you all become human beings.” (64) Being propitiated by them the great ascetic again said: – “Although born as men you will not, get children nor wives, nor there will be ill-feeling for you. Being shorn of lust and anger you shall again become celestials.” (65-66) Thereupon all those deities, with their own virtues, were incarnated in the house of the Kurus as the five sons of the Pandavas sprung from the womb

of Draupadi. (67) It is for this reason by the imprecation of the great ascetic the mighty car-warriors, the sons of the Pandavas, did not obtain wives. (68) Thus we have described to you every thing relating to the history of the sons of the Pandavas and the four questions. What more do you wish to hear? (69)