Maha-bharata - The Epic of Ancient India Condensed into English Verse
Author: Anonymous
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Happy is your sainted father; dwells in regions of the sky, Sees nor feels these earthly sorrows gathering on us thick and high!

Happy too is faithful Madri; for she trod the virtuous way, Followed Pandu to the bright sky, and is now his joy and stay!

Ye alone are left to Pritha, dear unto her joyless heart, Mother's hope and widow's treasure, and ye may not, shall not part!

Leave me not alone on wide earth, loving sons, your virtues prove, Dear Draupadi, loving daughter, let a mother's tear-drops move!

Grant me mercy, kind Creator, and my days in mercy close, End my sorrows, kind VIDHATA, end my life with all my woes!

Help me, pious-hearted Krishna, friend of friendless, wipe my pain, All who suffer pray unto thee and they never pray in vain!

Help me, Bhishma, warlike Drona, Kripa ever good and wise, Ye are friends of truth and virtue, righteous truth ye ever prize!

Help me from thy starry mansions, husband, wherefore dost thou wait, Seest thou not thy godlike children exiled by a bitter fate!

Part not, leave me not, my children, seek ye not the trackless way, Stay but one, if one child only, as your mother's hope and stay!

Youngest, gentlest Sahadeva, dearest to this widowed heart, Wilt thou watch beside thy mother, while thy cruel brothers part?"

Whispering words of consolation, Pritha's children wiped her eye, Then unto the pathless jungle turned their steps with bitter sigh!

Kuru dames with fainting Pritha to Vidura's palace hie, Kuru queens for weeping Pritha raise their voice in answering cry,

Kuru maids for fair Draupadi fortune's fitful will upbraid, And their tear-dewed lotus-faces with their streaming fingers shade!

Dhrita-rashtra, ancient monarch, is by sad misgivings pained, Questions oft with anxious bosom what the cruel fates ordained.



(Woman's Love)

True to their word the sons of Pandu went with Draupadi into exile, and passed twelve years in the wilderness; and many were the incidents which checkered their forest life. Krishna, who had stood by Yudhishthir in his prosperity, now came to visit him in his adversity; he consoled Draupadi in her distress, and gave good advice to the brothers. Draupadi with a woman's pride and anger still thought of her wrongs and insults, and urged Yudhishthir to disregard the conditions of exile and recover his kingdom. Bhima too was of the same mind, but Yudhishthir would not be moved from his plighted word.

The great rishi Vyasa came to visit Yudhishthir, and advised Arjun, great archer as he was, to acquire celestial arms by penance and worship. Arjun followed the advice, met the god SIVA in the guise of a hunter, pleased him by his prowess in combat, and obtained his blessings and the pasupata weapon. Arjun then went to INDRA'S heaven and obtained other celestial arms.

In the meanwhile Duryodhan, not content with sending his cousins to exile, wished to humiliate them still more by appearing before them in all his regal power and splendour. Matters how ever turned out differently from what he expected, and he became involved in a quarrel with some gandharvas, a class of aerial beings. Duryodhan was taken captive by them, and it was the Pandav brothers who released him from his captivity, and allowed him to return to his kingdom in peace. This act of generosity rankled in his bosom and deepened his hatred.

Jayadratha, king of the Sindhu or Indus country, and a friend and ally of Duryodhan, came to the woods, and in the absence of the Pandav brothers carried off Draupadi. The Pandavs however pursued the king, chastised him for his misconduct, and rescued Draupadi.

Still more interesting than these various incidents are the tales and legends with which this book is replete. Great saints came to see Yudhishthir in his exile, and narrated to him legends of ancient times and of former kings. One of these beautiful episodes, the tale of Nala and Damayanti, has been translated into graceful English verse by Dean Milman, and is known to many English readers. The legend of Agastya who drained the ocean dry; of Parasu-Rama a Brahman who killed the Kshatriyas of the earth; of Bhagiratha who brought down the Ganges from the skies to the earth; of Manu and the universal deluge; of Vishnu and various other gods; of Rama and his deeds which form the subject of the Epic Ramayana;—these and various other legends have been inter woven in the account of the forest-life of the Pandavs, and make it a veritable storehouse of ancient Hindu tales and traditions.

Among these various legends and tales I have selected one which is singular and striking. The great truth proclaimed under the thin guise of an eastern allegory is that a True Woman's Love is not conquered by Death. The story is known by Hindu women high and low, rich and poor, in all parts of India; and on a certain night in the year millions of Hindu women celebrate a rite in honour of the woman whose love was not conquered by death. Legends like these, though they take away from the unity and conciseness of the Epic, impart a moral instruction to the millions of India the value of which cannot be overestimated.

The portion translated in this Book forms Sections ccxcii. And ccxciii., a part of Section ccxciv. and Sections ccxcv. and ccxcvi. of Book iii. of the original text.


Forest Life

In the dark and pathless forest long the Pandav brothers strayed, In the bosom of the jungle with the fair Draupadi stayed,

And they killed the forest red-deer, hewed the gnarled forest wood, From the stream she fetched the water, cooked the humble daily food,

In the morn she swept the cottage, lit the cheerful fire at eve, But at night in lonesome silence oft her woman's heart would grieve,

Insults rankled in her bosom and her tresses were unbound,— So she vowed,—till fitting vengeance had the base insulters found!

Oft when evening's shades descended, mantling o'er the wood and lea, When Draupadi by the cottage cooked the food beneath the tree,

Rishis came to good Yudhishthir, sat beside his evening fires, Many olden tales recited, legends of our ancient sires.

Markandeya, holy rishi, once unto Yudhishthir came, When his heart was sorrow-laden with the memories of his shame,

"Pardon, rishi!" said Yudhishthir, "if unbidden tears will start, But the woes of fair Draupadi grieve a banished husband's heart,

By her tears the saintly woman broke my bondage worse than death, By my sins she suffers exile and misfortune's freezing breath!

Dost thou, sage and saintly rishi, know of wife or woman born, By such nameless sorrow smitten, by such strange misfortune torn?

Hast thou in thy ancient legends heard of true and faithful wife, With a stronger wife's affection, with a sadder woman's life?"

"Listen, monarch!" said the rishi, "to a tale of ancient date, How Savitri loved and suffered, how she strove and conquered Fate!"


The Tale of Savitri

In the country of the Madras lived a king in days of old, Faithful to the holy BRAHMA, pure in heart and righteous-souled,

He was loved in town and country, in the court and hermit's den, Sacrificer to the bright gods, helper to his brother men,

But the monarch, Aswapati, son or daughter had he none, Old in years and sunk in anguish, and his days were almost done!

Vows he took and holy penance, and with pious rules conformed, Spare in diet as brahmachari many sacred rites performed,

Sang the sacred hymn, savitri, to the gods oblations gave, Through the lifelong day he fasted, uncomplaining, meek and brave!

Year by year he gathered virtue, rose in merit and in might, Till the goddess of savitri smiled upon his sacred rite,

From the fire upon the altar, which a holy radiance flung, In the form of beauteous maiden, goddess of savitri sprung!

And she spake in gentle accents, blessed the monarch good and brave, Blessed his rites and holy penance and a boon unto him gave:

"Penance and thy sacrifices can the powers immortal move, And the pureness of thy conduct doth thy heart's affection prove,

Ask thy boon, king Aswapati, from creation's Ancient Sire, True to virtue's sacred mandate speak thy inmost heart's desire."

"For an offspring brave and kingly," so the saintly king replied, "Holy rites and sacrifices and this penance I have tried,

If these rites and sacrifices move thy favour and thy grace, Grant me offspring, Prayer-Maiden, worthy of my noble race!"

"Have thy object," spake the maiden, "Madra's pious-hearted king, From SWAYMBHU, Self-created, blessings unto thee I bring!

For HE lists to mortal's prayer springing from a heart like thine, And HE wills,—a noble daughter grace thy famed and royal line!

Aswapati, glad and grateful, take the blessing which I bring, Part in joy and part in silence, bow unto Creation's King!"

Vanished then the Prayer-Maiden, and the king of noble fame, Aswapati, Lord of coursers, to his royal city came,

Days of hope and nights of gladness Madra's happy monarch passed, Till his queen of noble offspring gladsome promise gave at last!

As the moon each night increaseth, chasing darksome nightly gloom, Grew the unborn babe in splendour in its happy mother's womb,

And in fulness of the season came a girl with lotus-eye, Father's hope and joy of mother, gift of kindly gods on high!

And the king performed its birth-rites with a glad and grateful mind, And the people blessed the dear one with their wishes good and kind,

As Savitri, Prayer-Maiden, had the beauteous offspring given, Brahmans named the child Savitri, holy gift of bounteous Heaven!

Grew the child in brighter beauty like a goddess from above, And each passing season added fresher sweetness, deeper love,

Came with youth its lovelier graces, as the buds their leaves unfold, Slender waist and rounded bosom, image as of burnished gold,

Deva-Kanya! born a goddess, so they said in all the land, Princely suitors struck with splendour ventured not to seek her hand!

Once upon a time it happened on a bright and festive day, Fresh from bath the beauteous maiden to the altar came to pray,

And with cakes and pure libations duly fed the Sacred Flame, Then like SRI in heavenly radiance to her royal father came,

Bowed unto his feet in silence, sacred flowers beside him laid, And her hands she folded meekly, sweetly her obeisance made,

With a father's pride, upon her gazed the ruler of the land, But a strain of sadness lingered, for no suitor claimed her hand.

"Daughter," whispered Aswapati, "now, methinks, the time is come, Thou shouldst choose a princely suitor, grace a royal husband's home,

Choose thyself a noble husband worthy of thy noble hand, Choose a true and upright monarch, pride and glory of his land,

As thou choosest, gentle daughter, in thy loving heart's desire, Blessing and his free permission will bestow thy happy sire!

For our sacred sastras sanction, holy Brahmans oft relate, That the duty-loving father sees his girl in wedded state,

That the duty-loving husband watches o'er his consort's ways, That the duty-loving offspring tends his mother's widowed days,

Therefore choose a loving husband, daughter of my house and love, So thy father earn no censure or from men or gods above!"

Fair Savitri bowed unto him, and for parting blessings prayed, Then she left her father's palace, and in distant regions strayed,

With her guard and aged courtiers whom her watchful father sent, Mounted on her golden chariot unto sylvan woodlands went.

Then in pleasant woods and jungle wandered she from day to day, Unto asrams, hermitages, pious-hearted held her way,

Oft she stayed in holy tirthas washed by sacred limpid streams, Food she gave unto the hungry, wealth beyond their fondest dreams!

Many days and months are over, and it once did so befall, When the king and rishi Narad sat within the royal hall,

From her journeys near and distant and from places known to fame, Fair Savitri with the courtiers to her father's palace came,

Came and saw her royal father, rishi Narad by his seat, Bent her head in salutation, bowed unto their holy feet.


The Fated Bridegroom

"Whence comes she," so Narad questioned, "whither was Savitri led, Wherefore to a happy husband hath Savitri not been wed?"

"Nay! to choose her lord and husband," so the virtuous monarch said, "Fair Savitri long hath wandered and in holy tirthas stayed,

Maiden! speak unto the rishi, and thy choice and secret tell!" Then a blush suffused her forehead, soft and slow her accents fell!

"Listen, father! Salwa's monarch was of old a king of might, Righteous-hearted Dyumat-sena, feeble now and void of sight,

Foemen robbed him of his kingdom when in age he lost his sight, And from town and spacious empire was the monarch forced to flight,

With his queen and with his infant did the feeble monarch stray, And the jungle was his palace, darksome was his weary way.

Holy vows assumed the monarch and in penance passed his life, In the wild woods nursed his infant and with wild fruits fed his wife,

Years have gone in rigid penance, and that child is now a youth, Him I choose my lord and husband, Satyavan, Soul of Truth!"

Thoughtful was the rishi Narad, doleful were the words he said: "Sad disaster waits Savitri if this royal youth she wed!

Truth-beloving is his father, truthful is the royal dame, Truth and virtue rule his actions, Satyavan is his name,

Steeds he loved in days of boyhood and to paint them was his joy, Hence they called him young Chitraswa, art-beloving gallant boy!

But O pious-hearted monarch! fair Savitri hath in sooth Courted Fate and sad disaster in that noble gallant youth!"

"Tell me," questioned Aswapati, "for I may not guess thy thought, Wherefore is my daughter's action with a sad disaster fraught?

Is the youth of noble lustre, gifted in the gifts of art, Blest with wisdom, prowess, patience daring, dauntless in his heart?"

"SURYA'S lustre in him shineth," so the rishi Narad said, "BRIHASPATI'S wisdom dwelleth in the young Satyavan's head,

Like MAHENDRA in his prowess, and in patience like the Earth, Yet O king! a sad disaster marks the gentle youth from birth!"

"Tell me, rishi, then thy reason," so the anxious monarch cried, "Why to youth so great and gifted may this maid be not allied?

Is Satyavan free in bounty, gentle-hearted, full of grace, Duly versed in sacred knowledge, fair in mind and fair in face?"

"Free in gifts like Rantideva," so the holy rishi said, "Versed in lore like monarch Sivi, who all ancient monarchs led,

Like Yayati open-hearted and like CHANDRA in his grace, Like the handsome heavenly ASVINS fair and radiant in his face,

Meek and graced with patient virtue he controls his noble mind, Modest in his kindly actions, true to friends and ever kind,

And the hermits of the forest praise him for his righteous truth, Nathless, king, thy daughter may not wed this noble-hearted youth!"

"Tell me, rishi," said the monarch, "for thy sense from me is hid, Has this prince some fatal blemish, wherefore is this match forbid?"

"Fatal fault!" exclaimed the rishi, "fault that wipeth all his grace, Fault, that human power nor effort, rite nor penance can efface!

Fatal fault or destined sorrow! for it is decreed on high, On this day, a twelve-month later, this ill-fated prince will die!"

Shook the startled king in terror, and in fear and trembling cried: "Unto short-lived, fated bridegroom ne'er my child shall be allied!

Come, Savitri, dear-loved maiden! choose another happier lord, Rishi Narad speaketh wisdom, list unto his holy word!

Every grace and every virtue is effaced by cruel Fate, On this day, a twelve-month later, leaves the prince his mortal state!"

"Father!" answered thus the maiden, soft and sad her accents fell, "I have heard thy honoured mandate, holy Narad counsels well,

Pardon witless maiden's feelings! but beneath the eye of Heaven, Only once a maiden chooseth, twice her troth may not be given!

Long his life or be it narrow, and his virtues great or none, Brave Satyavan is my husband, he my heart and troth hath won!

What a maiden's heart hath chosen that a maiden's lips confess, True to him, thy poor Savitri goes into the wilderness!"

"Monarch!" uttered then the rishi, "fixed is she in mind and heart, From her troth the true Savitri never, never will depart!

More than mortal's share of virtue unto Satyavan is given, Let the true maid wed her chosen, leave the rest to gracious Heaven!"

"Rishi and preceptor holy!" so the weeping monarch prayed, "Heaven avert all future evils, and thy mandate is obeyed!"

Narad wished him joy and gladness, blessed the loving youth and maid, Forest hermits on their wedding every fervent blessing laid.


Overtaken by Fate

Twelve-month in the darksome forest by her true and chosen lord, Lived Savitri, served his parents by her thought and deed and word,

Bark of tree supplied her garments draped upon her bosom fair, Or the red cloth as in asrams holy women love to wear,

And the aged queen she tended with a fond and filial pride, Served the old and sightless monarch like a daughter by his side,

And with love and gentle sweetness pleased her husband and her lord, But in secret, night and morning, pondered still on Narad's word!

Nearer came the fatal morning by the holy Narad told, Fair Savitri reckoned daily and her heart was still and cold,

Three short days remaining only! and she took a vow severe Of triratra, three nights' penance, holy fasts and vigils drear!

Of Savitri's rigid penance heard the king with anxious woe, Spake to her in loving accents, so the vow she might forgo:

"Hard the penance, gentle daughter, and thy woman's limbs are frail, After three nights' fasts and vigils sure thy tender health may fail!"

"Be not anxious, loving father," meekly thus Savitri prayed, "Penance I have undertaken, will unto the gods be made."

Much misdoubting then the monarch gave his sad and slow assent, Pale with fast and unseen tear-drops, lonesome nights Savitri spent.

Nearer came the fatal morning, and to-morrow he shall die, Dark, dark hours of nightly silence! Tearless, sleepless is her eye!

"Dawns that dread and fated morning!" said Savitri, bloodless, brave, Prayed her fervent prayers in silence, to the Fire oblations gave,

Bowed unto the forest Brahmans, to the parents kind and good, Joined her hands in salutation and in reverent silence stood.

With the usual morning blessing, "Widow may'st thou never be," Anchorites and aged Brahmans blessed Savitri fervently,

O! that blessing fell upon her like the rain on thirsty air, Struggling hope inspired her bosom as she drank those accents fair!

But returned the dark remembrance of the rishi Narad's word, Pale she watched the creeping sunbeams, mused upon her fated lord!

"Daughter, now thy fast is over," so the loving parents said, "Take thy diet after penance, for thy morning prayers are prayed,"

"Pardon, father," said Savitri, "let this other day be done," Unshed tear-drops filled her eyelids, glistened in the morning sun!

Young Satyavan, tall and stately, ponderous axe on shoulder hung, For the distant darksome jungle issued forth serene and strong,

But unto him came Savitri and in sweetest accents prayed, As upon his manly bosom gently she her forehead laid:

"Long I wished to see the jungle where steals not the solar ray, Take me to the darksome forest, husband, let me go to-day!"

"Come not, love," he sweetly answered with a loving husband's care, "Thou art all unused to labour, forest paths thou may'st not dare,

And with recent fasts and vigils pale and bloodless is thy face, And thy steps are weak and feeble, jungle paths thou may'st not trace."

"Fasts and vigils make me stronger," said the wife with wifely pride, "Toil I shall not feel nor languor when my lord is by my side,

For I feel a woman's longing with my lord to trace the way, Grant me, husband ever gracious, with thee let me go to-day!"

Answered then the loving husband, as his hands in hers he wove, "Ask permission from my parents in the trackless woods to rove."

Then Savitri to the monarch urged her longing strange request, After duteous salutation thus her humble prayer addrest:

"To the jungle goes my husband, fuel and the fruit to seek, I would follow if my mother and my loving father speak,

Twelve-month from this narrow asram hath Savitri stepped nor strayed, In this cottage true and faithful ever hath Savitri stayed,

For the sacrificial fuel wends my lord his lonesome way, Please my kind and loving parents, I would follow him to-day."

"Never since her wedding morning," so the loving king replied, "Wish or thought Savitri whispered, for a boon or object sighed,

Daughter, thy request is granted, safely in the forest roam, Safely with thy lord and husband, seek again thy cottage home."

Bowing to her loving parents did the fair Savitri part, Smile upon her pallid features, anguish in her inmost heart!

Round her sylvan green woods blossomed 'neath a cloudless Indian sky, Flocks of pea-fowls gorgeous plumaged flew before her wondering eye,

Woodland rills and crystal nullahs gently roll'd o'er rocky bed, Flower-decked hills in dewy brightness towering glittered overhead,

Birds of song and beauteous feather trilled a note in every grove, Sweeter accents fell upon her, from her husband's lips of love!

Still with thoughtful eye Savitri watched her dear and fated lord, Flail of grief was in her bosom but her pale lips shaped no word,

And she listened to her husband, still on anxious thought intent, Cleft in two her throbbing bosom, as in silence still she went!

Gaily with the gathered wild-fruits did the prince his basket fill, Hewed the interlaced branches with his might and practised skill,

Till the drops stood on his forehead, weary was his aching head, Faint he came unto Savitri and in faltering accents said:

"Cruel ache is on my forehead, fond and ever faithful wife, And I feel a hundred needles pierce me and torment my life,

And my feeble footsteps falter, and my senses seem to reel, Fain would I beside thee linger, for a sleep doth o'er me steal."

With a wild and speechless terror pale Savitri held her lord, On her lap his head she rested as she laid him on the sward,

Narad's fatal words remembered as she watched her husband's head, Burning lip and pallid forehead, and the dark and creeping shade,

Clasped him in her beating bosom, kissed his lips with panting breath, Darker grew the lonesome forest, and he slept the sleep of death!


Triumph over Fate

In the bosom of the shadows rose a Vision dark and dread, Shape of gloom in inky garment, and a crown was on his head!

Gleaming form of sable splendour, blood-red was his sparkling eye, And a fatal noose he carried, grim and godlike, dark and high!

And he stood in solemn silence, looked in silence on the dead, And Savitri on the greensward gently placed her husband's head,

And a tremor shook Savitri, but a woman's love is strong, With her hands upon her bosom thus she spake with quivering tongue:

"More than mortal is thy glory, and a radiant god thou be, Tell me what bright name thou bearest, and thy message unto me."

"Know me," thus responded YAMA, "mighty monarch of the dead, Mortals leaving earthly mansion to my darksome realms are led,

Since with woman's full affection thou hast loved thy husband dear, Hence before thee, faithful woman, YAMA doth in form appear,

But his days and loves are ended, and he leaves his faithful wife, In this noose I bind and carry spark of his immortal life,

Virtue graced his life and action, spotless was his princely heart, Hence for him I came in person, princess, let thy husband part."

YAMA from Satyavan's body, pale and bloodless, cold and dumb, Drew the vital spark, purusha, smaller than the human thumb,

In his noose the spark he fastened, silent went his darksome way, Left the body shorn of lustre to its rigid cold decay.

Southward went the dark-hued YAMA with the youth's immortal life, And, for woman's love abideth, followed still the faithful wife.

"Turn, Savitri," outspake YAMA, "for thy husband loved and lost, Do the rites due unto mortals by their Fate predestined crost,

For thy wifely duty ceases, follow not in fruitless woe, And no farther living creature may with monarch YAMA go!"

"But I may not choose but follow where thou takest my husband's life, For Eternal Law divides not loving man and faithful wife!

For my love and my affection, for a woman's sacred woe, Grant me in thy godlike mercy farther still with him I go!

Fourfold are our human duties: first, to study holy lore; Then to live as good householders, feed the hungry at our door;

Then to pass our days in penance; last to fix our thoughts above; But the final goal of virtue, it is Truth and deathless Love!"

"True and holy are thy precepts," listening YAMA made reply, "And they fill my heart with gladness and with pious purpose high,

I would bless thee, fair Savitri, but the dead come not to life, Ask for other boon and blessing, faithful, true and virtuous wife!"

"Since you so permit me, YAMA," so the good Savitri said, "For my husband's banished father let my dearest suit be made,

Sightless in the darksome forest dwells the monarch faint and weak, Grant him sight and grant him vigour, YAMA, in thy mercy speak!"

"Duteous daughter," YAMA answered, "be thy pious wishes given, And his eyes shall be restored to the cheerful light of heaven,

Turn, Savitri, faint and weary, follow not in fruitless woe, And no farther living creature may with monarch YAMA go!"

"Faint nor weary is Savitri," so the noble princess said, "Since she waits upon her husband, gracious Monarch of the dead,

What befalls the wedded husband still befalls the faithful wife, Where he leads she ever follows, be it death or be it life!

And our sacred writ ordaineth and our pious rishis sing, Transient meeting with the holy doth its countless blessings bring,

Longer friendship with the holy purifies the mortal birth, Lasting union with the holy is the bright sky on the earth!

Union with the pure and holy is immortal heavenly life, For Eternal Law divides not loving man and faithful wife!"

"Blessed are thy words," said YAMA, "blessed is thy pious thought, With a higher purer wisdom are thy holy lessons fraught,

I would bless thee, fair Savitri, but the dead come not to life, Ask for other boon and blessing, faithful, true and virtuous wife!"

"Since you so permit me, YAMA," so the good Savitri said, "Once more for my husband's father be my supplication made,

Lost his kingdom, in the forest dwells the monarch faint and weak, Grant him back his wealth and kingdom, YAMA, in thy mercy speak!"

"Loving daughter!" YAMA answered, "wealth and kingdom I bestow, Turn, Savitri, living mortal may not with King YAMA go!"

Still Savitri, meek and faithful, followed her departed lord, YAMA still with higher wisdom listened to her saintly word,

And the Sable King was vanquished, and he turned on her again, And his words fell on Savitri like the cooling summer rain,

"Noble woman, speak thy wishes, name thy boon and purpose high, What the pious mortal asketh gods in heaven may not deny!"

"Thou hast," so Savitri answered, "granted father's realm and might, To his vain and sightless eyeballs hast restored their blessed sight,

Grant him that the line of monarchs may not all untimely end, That his kingdom to Satyavan's and Savitri's sons descend!"

"Have thy object," answered YAMA, "and thy lord shall live again, He shall live to be a father, and your children too shall reign,

For a woman's troth abideth longer than the fleeting breath, And a woman's love abideth higher than the doom of Death!"


Return Home

Vanished then the Sable Monarch, and Savitri held her way Where in dense and darksome forest still her husband lifeless lay,

And she sat upon the greensward by the cold unconscious dead, On her lap with deeper kindness placed her consort's lifeless head,

And that touch of true affection thrilled him back to waking life, As returned from distant regions gazed the prince upon his wife!

"Have I lain too long and slumbered, sweet Savitri, faithful spouse? But I dreamt a Sable Person, in a noose took forth my life!"

"Pillowed on this lap," she answered, "long upon the earth you lay, And the Sable Person, husband, he hath come and passed away,

Rise and leave this darksome forest if thou feelest light and strong, For the night is on the jungle and our way is dark and long."

Rising as from happy slumber looked the young prince on all around, Saw the wide-extending jungle mantling all the darksome ground,

"Yes," he said, "I now remember, ever loving faithful dame, We in search of fruit and fuel to this lonesome forest came,

As I hewed the gnarled branches, cruel anguish filled my brain, And I laid me on the greensward with a throbbing piercing pain,

Pillowed on thy gentle bosom, solaced by thy gentle love, I was soothed, and drowsy slumber fell on me from skies above.

All was dark and then I witnessed, was it but a fleeting dream, God or Vision, dark and dreadful, in the deepening shadows gleam!

Was this dream my fair Savitri, dost thou of this Vision know? Tell me, for before my eyesight still the Vision seems to glow!"

"Darkness thickens," said Savitri, "and the evening waxeth late, When the morrow's light returneth I shall all these scenes narrate,

Now arise, for darkness gathers, deeper grows the gloomy night, And thy loving anxious parents trembling wait thy welcome sight,

Hark the rangers of the forest! how their voices strike the ear! Prowlers of the darksome jungle! how they fill my breast with fear!

Forest-fire is raging yonder, for I see a distant gleam, And the rising evening breezes help the red and radiant beam,

Let me fetch a burning faggot and prepare a friendly light, With these fallen withered branches chase the shadows of the night,

And if feeble still thy footsteps,—long and weary is our way,— By the fire repose, my husband, and return by light of day."

"For my parents, fondly anxious," Satyavan thus made reply, "Pains my heart and yearns my bosom, let us to their cottage hie,

When I tarried in the jungle or by day or dewy eve, Searching in the hermitages often did my parents grieve,

And with father's soft reproaches and with mother's loving fears, Chid me for my tardy footsteps, dewed me with their gentle tears!

Think then of my father's sorrow, of my mother's woeful plight, If afar in wood and jungle pass we now the livelong night,

Wife beloved, I may not fathom what mishap or load of care, Unknown dangers, unseen sorrows, even now my parents share!"

Gentle drops of filial sorrow trickled down his manly eye, Pond Savitri sweetly speaking softly wiped the tear-drops dry:

"Trust me, husband, if Savitri hath been faithful in her love, If she hath with pious offerings served the righteous gods above,

If she hath a sister's kindness unto brother men performed, If she hath in speech and action unto holy truth conformed,

Unknown blessings, mighty gladness, trust thy ever faithful wife, And not sorrows or disasters wait this eve our parents' life!"

Then she rose and tied her tresses, gently helped her lord to rise, Walked with him the pathless jungle, looked with love into his eyes,

On her neck his clasping left arm sweetly winds in soft embrace, Round his waist Savitri's right arm doth sweetly interlace,

Thus they walked the darksome jungle, silent stars looked from above, And the hushed and throbbing midnight watched Savitri's deathless love.




The conditions of the banishment of the sons of Pandu were hard. They must pass twelve years in exile, and then they must remain a year in concealment. If they were discovered within this last year, they must go into exile for another twelve years.

Having passed the twelve years of exile in forests, the Pandav brothers disguised themselves and entered into the menial service of Virata, king of the Matsyas, to pass the year of concealment. Yudhishthir presented himself as a Brahman, skilled in dice, and became a courtier of the king. Bhima entered the king's service as cook. For Arjun, who was so well known, a stricter concealment was necessary. He wore conch bangles and earrings and braided his hair, like those unfortunate beings whom nature has debarred from the privileges of men and women, and he lived in the inner apartments of the king. He assumed the name of Brihannala, and taught the inmates of the royal household in music and dancing. Nakula became a keeper of the king's horses, and Sahadeva took charge of the king's cows. Draupadi too disguised herself as a waiting-woman, and served the princess of the Matsya house in that humble capacity.

In these disguises the Pandav brothers safely passed a year in concealment in spite of all search which Duryodhan made after them. At last an incident happened which led to their discovery when the year was out.

Cattle-lifting was a common practice with the kings of ancient India, as with the chiefs of ancient Greece. The king of the Trigartas and the king of the Kurus combined and fell on the king of the Matsyas in order to drive off the numerous herd of fine cattle for which his kingdom was famed. The Trigartas entered the Matsya kingdom from the south-east, and while Virata went out with his troops to meet the foe, Duryodhan with his Kuru forces fell on the kingdom from the north.

When news came that the Kurus had invaded the kingdom, there was no army in the capital to defend it. King Virata had gone out with most of his troops to face the Trigartas in the south-east, and the prince Uttara had no inclination to face the Kurus in the north. The disguised Arjun now came to the rescue in the manner described in this Book. The description of the bows, arrows, and swords of the Pandav brothers which they had concealed in a tree, wrapped like human corpses to frighten away inquisitive travellers, throws some light on the arts and manufacture of ancient times. The portions translated in this Book form Sections xxxv., xxxvi., xl. to xliii., a portion of Section xliv., and Sections liii. and lxxii. of Book iv. of the original text.


Complaint of the Cowherd

Monarch of the mighty Matsyas, brave Virata known to fame, Marched against Trigarta chieftains who from southward regions came,

From the north the proud Duryodhan, stealing onwards day by day, Swooped on Matsya's fattened cattle like the hawk upon its prey!

Bhishma, Drona, peerless Karna, led the Kuru warriors brave, Swept the kingdom of Virata like the ocean's surging wave,

Fell upon the trembling cowherds, chased them from the pasture-field, Sixty thousand head of cattle was the Matsya country's yield!

And the wailing chief of cowherds fled forlorn, fatigued and spent, Speeding on his rapid chariot to the royal city went,

Came inside the city portals, came within the palace gate, Struck his forehead in his anguish and bewailed his luckless fate.

Meeting there the prince Uttara, youth of beauty and of fame, Told him of the Kurus' outrage and lamented Matsya's shame:

"Sixty thousand head of cattle, bred of Matsya's finest breed, To Hastina's distant empire do the Kuru chieftains lead!

Glory of the Matsya nation! save thy father's valued kine, Quick thy footsteps, strong thy valour, vengeance deep and dire be thine!

'Gainst the fierce Trigarta chieftains Matsya's warlike king is gone, Thee we count our lord and saviour as our monarch's gallant son!

Rise, Uttara! beat the Kurus, homeward lead the stolen kine, Like an elephant of jungle, pierce the Kurus' shattered line!

As the Vina speaketh music, by musicians tuned aright, Let thy sounding bow and arrows speak thy deeds of matchless might!

Harness quick thy milk-white coursers to thy sounding battle-car, Hoist thy golden lion-banner, speed thee, prince, unto the war!

And as thunder-wielding INDRA smote asuras fierce and bold, Smite the Kurus with thy arrows winged with plumes of yellow gold!

As the famed and warlike Arjun is the stay of Kuru's race, Thou art refuge of the Matsyas and thy kingdom's pride and grace!"

But the prince went not to battle from the foe to guard the State, To the cowherd answered gaily, sheltered by the palace gate:

"Not unknown to me the usage of the bow and winged dart, Not unknown the warrior's duty or the warrior's noble art,

I would win my father's cattle from the wily foeman's greed, If a skilful chariot-driver could my fiery coursers lead,

For my ancient chariot-driver died on battle's gory plain, Eight and twenty days we wrestled, many warlike chiefs were slain!

Bring me forth a skilful driver who can urge the battle-steed, I will hoist my lion-banner, to the dubious battle speed!

Dashing through the foeman's horses, ranks of elephant and car, I will win the stolen cattle rescued in the field of war!

And like thunder-wielding INDRA, smiting Danu's sons of old, I will smite the Kuru chieftains, drive them to their distant hold!

Bhishma and the proud Duryodhan, archer Karna known to fame, Drona too shall quail before me and retreat in bitter shame!

Do those warriors in my absence Matsya's far-famed cattle steal? But beneath my countless arrows Matsya's vengeance they shall feel!

Bring me forth a chariot-driver, let me speed my battle-car, And in wonder they will question—Is this Arjun famed in war?"


The Disguised Charioteer

Arjun, guised as Brihannala, heard the boast Uttara made, And to try his skill and valour, thus to fair Draupadi prayed:

"Say to him that Brihannala will his battle-chariot lead, That as Arjun's chariot-driver he hath learned to urge the steed,

Say that faithful Brihannala many a dubious war hath seen, And will win his father's cattle in this contest fierce and keen."

Fair Draupadi, guised as menial, Arjun's secret hest obeyed, Humbly stepped before Uttara and in gentle accents prayed:

"Hear me, prince! yon Brihannala will thy battle-chariot lead, He was Arjun's chariot-driver, skilled to urge the flying steed,

Trained in war by mighty Arjun, trained to drive the battle-car, He hath followed helmed Arjun in the glorious field of war,

And when Arjun conquered Khandav, this, Uttara, I have seen, Brihannala drove his chariot, for I served Yudhishthir's queen."

Heard Uttara hesitating, spake his faint and timid mind, "I would trust thee, beauteous maiden, lotus-bosomed, ever kind,

But a poor and sexless creature, can he rein the warlike steed? Can I ask him, worse than woman, in the battle's ranks to lead?"

"Need is none," Draupadi answered, "Brihannala's grace to ask, He is eager like the war-horse for this great and warlike task!

And he waits upon thy sister, she will bid the minion speed, And he wins thy father's cattle, and the victor's glorious meed!"

Matsya's princess spake to Arjun, Arjun led the battle-car, Led the doubting prince Uttara to the dread and dubious war!


Arms and Weapons

Arjun drove the prince of Matsya to a darksome sami tree, Spake unto the timid warrior in his accents bold and free:

"Prince, thy bow and shining arrows, pretty handsome toys are these, Scarcely they beseem a warrior, and a warrior cannot please!

Thou shalt find upon this sami, mark my words which never fail, Stately bows and winged arrows, banners, swords and coats of mail!

And a bow which strongest warriors scarce can in the battle bend, And the limits of a kingdom widen when that bow is strained!

Tall and slender like a palm-tree, worthy of a warrior bold, Smooth the wood of hardened fibre, and the ends are yellow gold!"

Doubting still Uttara answered: "In this sami's gloomy shade Corpses hang since many seasons, in their wrappings duly laid,

Now I mark them all suspended, horrent, in the open air, And to touch the unclean objects, friend, is more than I can dare!"

"Fear not warrior," Arjun answered, "for the tree conceals no dead, Warriors' weapons, cased like corpses, lurk within its gloomy shade,

And I ask thee, prince of Matsya, not to touch an unclean thing, But unto a chief and warrior weapons and his arms to bring!"

Prince Uttara gently lighted, climbed the dark and leafy tree, Arjun from the prince's chariot bade him speed the arms to free,

Then the young prince cut the wrappings and the shining bows appear Twisted, voiced like hissing serpents, like the bright stars glistening clear!

Seized with wonder prince Uttara silently the weapons eyed, And unto his chariot-driver thus in trembling accents cried:

"Whose this bow so tall and stately, speak to me my gentle friend, On the wood are golden bosses, tipped with gold at either end?

Whose this second ponderous weapon stout and massive in the hold, On the staff are worked by artists elephants of burnished gold?

Sure some great and mighty monarch owns this other bow of might, Set with golden glittering insects on its ebon back so bright?

Golden suns of wondrous brightness on this fourth their lustre lend, Who may be the unknown archer who this stately bow can bend?

And the fifth is set with jewels, gems and stones of purest ray, Golden fire-flies glint and sparkle in the yellow light of day!

Who doth own these shining arrows with their heads in gold encased, Thousand arrows bright and feathered, in the golden quivers placed?

Next are these with vulture-feather, golden-yellow in their hue, Made of iron, keen and whetted, whose may be these arrows true?

Next upon this sable quiver jungle tigers worked in gold, And these keen and boar-eared arrows speak some chieftains fierce and bold!

Fourth are these seven hundred arrows, crescent is their shining blade, Thirsting for the blood of foemen, and by cunning artists made!

And the fifth are golden-crested, made of tempered steel and bright, Parrot feathers wing these arrows, whetted and of wondrous might!

Who doth own this wondrous sabre, shape of toad is on the hilt, On the blade a toad is graven, and the scabbard nobly gilt?

Larger, stouter is this second in its sheath of tiger-skin, Decked with bells and gold-surmounted, and the blade is bright and keen!

Next this scimitar so curious by the skilled nishadas made, Scabbard made of wondrous cowhide sheathes the bright and polished blade!

Fourth, a long and beauteous weapon glittering sable in its hue, With its sheath of softer goat-skin worked with gold on azure blue!

And the fifth is broad and massive over thirty fingers long, Golden-sheathed and gold embossed like a snake or fiery tongue!"

Joyously responded Arjun: "Mark this bow embossed with gold, 'Tis the wondrous bow, gandiva, worthy of a warrior bold!

Gift of heaven! to archer Arjun kindly gods this weapon sent, And the confines of a kingdom widen when the bow is bent!

Next, this mighty ponderous weapon worked with elephants of gold, With this bow the stalwart Bhima hath the tide of conquests rolled!

And the third with golden insects by a cunning hand inlaid, 'Tis Yudhishthir's royal weapon by the noblest artists made!

Next the bow with solar lustre brave Nakula wields in fight, And the fifth is Sahadeva's, decked with gems and jewels bright!

Listen, prince! these thousand arrows, unto Arjun they belong, And the darts whose blades are crescent unto Bhima brave and strong,

Boar-ear shafts are young Nakula's, in the tiger-quiver cased, Sahadeva owns the arrows with the parrot's feather graced,

These three-knotted shining arrows, thick and yellow vulture-plumed, They belong to King Yudhishthir, with their heads by gold illumed.

Listen more! if of these sabres, prince of Matsya, thou wouldst know, Arjun's sword is toad-engraven, ever dreaded by the foe!

And the sword in tiger-scabbard, massive and of mighty strength, None save tiger-waisted Bhima wields that sword of wondrous length!

Next the sabre golden-hilted, sable and with gold embossed, Brave Yudhishthir kept that sabre when the king his kingdom lost!

Yonder sword with goat-skin scabbard brave Nakula wields in war, In the cowhide Sahadeva keeps his shining scimitar!"

"Strange thy accents," spake Uttara, "stranger are the weapons bright, Are they arms of sons of Pandu famed on earth for matchless might?

Where are now those pious princes by a dire misfortune crossed, Warlike Arjun, good Yudhishthir, by his subjects loved and lost?

Where is tiger-waisted Bhima, matchless fighter in the field, And the brave and twin-born brothers skilled the arms of war to wield?

O'er a game they lost their empire, and we heard of them no more, Or perchance they lonesome wander on some wild and distant shore!

And Draupadi noble princess, purest best of womankind, Doth she wander with Yudhishthir, changeless in her heart and mind?"

Proudly answered valiant Arjun, and a smile was on his face, "Not in distant lands the brothers do their wandering footsteps trace!

In thy father's court disguised lives Yudhishthir just and good, Bhima in thy father's palace as a cook prepares the food!

Brave Nakula guards the horses, Sahadeva tends the kine, As thy sister's waiting-woman doth the fair Draupadi shine!

Pardon, prince, these rings and bangles, pardon strange unmanly guise, 'Tis no poor and sexless creature, Arjun greets thy wondering eyes!"


Rescue of the Cattle

Arjun decked his mighty stature in the gleaming arms of war, And with voice of distant thunder rolled the mighty battle-car!

And the Kurus marked with wonder Arjun's standard lifted proud, Heard with dread the deep gandiva sounding oft and sounding loud!

And they knew the wondrous bowman wheeling round the battle-car, And with doubts and grave misgivings whispered Drona skilled in war:

"That is Arjun's monkey-standard, how it greets my ancient eyes! Well the Kurus know the standard like a comet in the skies!

Hear ye not the deep gandiva? How my ear its accents greet! Mark ye not these pointed arrows falling prone before my feet?

By these darts his salutation to his teacher loved of old, Years of exile now completed, Arjun sends with greetings bold!

How the gallant prince advances! Now I mark his form and face, Issuing from his dark concealment with a brighter, haughtier grace,

Well I know his bow and arrows and I know his standard well, And the deep and echoing accents of his far-resounding shell!

In his shining arms accoutred, gleaming in his helmet dread, Shines he like the flame of homa by libations duly fed!"

Arjun marked the Kuru warriors arming for th' impending war, Whispered thus to prince Uttara as he drove the battle-car:

"Stop thy steeds, O prince of Matsya! for too close we may not go, Stop thy chariot whence my arrows reach and slay the distant foe,

Seek we out the Kuru monarch, proud Duryodhan let us meet, If he falls we win the battle, other chieftains will retreat.

There is Drona my preceptor, Drona's warlike son is there, Kripa and the mighty Bhishma, archer Karna, tall and fair,

Them I seek not in this battle, lead, O lead thy chariot far, Midst the chiefs Duryodhan moves not, moves not in the ranks of war!

But to save the pilfered cattle speeds he onward in his fear, While these warriors stay and tarry to defend their monarch's rear,

But I leave these car-borne warriors, other work to-day is mine, Meet Duryodhan in the battle, win thy father's stolen kine!"

Matsya's prince then turned the courses, left behind the war's array, Where Duryodhan with the cattle quickly held his onward way,

Kripa marked the course of Arjun, guessed his inmost thought aright, Thus he spake to brother warriors urging speed and instant fight:

"Mark ye, chieftains, gallant Arjun wheels his sounding battle-car, 'Gainst our prince and proud Duryodhan seeks to turn the tide of war!

Let us fall upon our foeman and our prince and leader save, Few save INDRA, god of battles, conquers Arjun fierce and brave!

What were Matsya's fattened cattle, many thousands though they be, If our monarch sinks in battle like a ship in stormy sea!"

Vain were Kripa's words of wisdom! Arjun drove the chariot fair, While his shafts like countless locusts whistled through the ambient air!

Kuru soldiers struck with panic neither stood and fought, nor fled, Gazed upon the distant Arjun, gazed upon their comrades dead!

Arjun twanged his mighty weapon, blew his far-resounding shell, Strangely spake his monkey-standard, Kuru warriors knew it well!

Sankha's voice, gandiva's accents, and the chariot's booming sound, Filled the air like distant thunder, shook the firm and solid ground!

Kuru soldiers fled in terror, or they slumbered with the dead, And the rescued lowing cattle, with their tails uplifted, fled!


Warrior's Guerdon

Now with joy the king Virata to his royal city came, Saw the rescued herds of cattle, saw Uttara prince of fame,

Marked the great and gallant Arjun, helmet-wearing, armour-cased, Knew Yudhishthir and his brothers now as royal princes dressed,

And he greeted good Yudhishthir, truth-beloving brave and strong, And to valiant Arjun offered Matsya's princess fair and young!

"Pardon, monarch," answered Arjun, "but I may not take as bride, Matsya's young and beauteous princess whom I love with father's pride,

She hath often met me trusting in the inner palace hall, As a daughter on a father waited on my loving call!

I have trained her kokil accents, taught her maiden steps in dance, Watched her skill and varied graces all her native charms enhance!

Pure is she in thought and action, spotless as my hero boy, Grant her to my son, O monarch, as his wedded wife and joy!

Abhimanyu trained in battle, handsome youth of godlike face, Krishna's sister, fair Subhadra, bore the child of princely grace!

Worthy of thy youthful daughter, pure in heart and undefiled, Grant it, sire, my Abhimanyu wed thy young and beauteous child!"

Answered Matsya's noble monarch with a glad and grateful heart: "Words like these befit thy virtue, nobly hast thou done thy part!

Be it as thou sayest, Arjun; unto Pandu's race allied, Matsya's royal line is honoured, Matsya's king is gratified!"


The Wedding

Good Yudhishthir heard the tidings, and he gave his free assent, Unto distant chiefs and monarchs kindly invitations sent,

In the town of Upa-plavya, of fair Matsya's towns the best, Made their home the pious brothers to receive each royal guest.

Came unto them Kasi's monarch and his armed troopers came, And the king of fair Panchala with his sons of warlike fame,

Came the sons of fair Draupadi early trained in art of war, Other chiefs and sacrifices came from regions near and far.

Krishna decked in floral garlands with his elder brother came, And his sister fair Subhadra, Arjun's loved and longing dame,

Arjun's son brave Abhimanyu came upon his flowery car, And with elephants and chargers, troopers trained in art of war.

Vrishnis from the sea-girt Dwarka, bravo Andhakas known to fame, Bhojas from the mighty Chumbal with the righteous Krishna came,

He to gallant sons of Pandu made his presents rich and rare, Gems and gold and costly garments, slaves and damsels passing fair.

With its quaint and festive greetings came at last the bridal day, Matsya maids were merry-hearted and the Pandav brothers gay!

Conch and cymbal, horn and trumpet spake forth music soft and sweet, In Virata's royal palace, in the peopled mart and street!

And they slay the jungle red-deer, and they spread the ample board, And prepare the cooling palm-drink, with the richest viands stored!

Mimes and actors please the people, bards recite the ancient song, Glories of heroic houses minstrels by their lays prolong!

And deep-bosomed dames of Matsya, jasmine-form and lotus-face, With their pearls and golden garlands joyously the bridal grace!

Circled by those royal ladies, though they all are bright and fair, Brightest shines the fair Draupadi with a beauty rich and rare!

Stately dames and merry maidens lead the young and soft-eyed bride, As the queens of gods encircle INDRA'S daughter in her pride!

Arjun from the Matsya monarch takes the princess passing fair, For his son by fair Subhadra, nursed by Krishna's loving care,

With a godlike grace Yudhishthir stands by faithful Arjun's side, As a father takes a daughter, takes the young and beauteous bride,

Joins her hands to Abhimanyu's, and with cake and parched rice, On the altar brightly blazing doth the holy sacrifice.

Matsya's monarch on the bridegroom rich and costly presents pressed, Elephants he gave two hundred, steeds seven thousand of the best,

Poured libations on the altar, on the priests bestowed his gold, Offered to the sons of Pandu rich domain and wealth untold!

With a pious hand Yudhishthir, true in heart and pure in mind, Made his gifts, in gold and garments, kine and wealth of every kind,

Costly chariots, beds of splendour, robes with thread of gold belaced, Viands rich and sweet confection, drinks the richest and the best,

Lands he gave unto the Brahman, bullocks to the labouring swain, Steeds he gave unto the warrior, to the people gifts and grain,

And the city of the Matsyas, teeming with a wealth untold, Shone with festive joy and gladness and with flags and cloth of gold!



(The Preparation)

The term of banishment having expired, Yudhishthir demanded that the kingdom of Indra-prastha should be restored to him. The old Dhrita-rashtra and his queen and the aged and virtuous councillors advised the restoration, but, the jealous Duryodhan hated his cousins with a genuine hatred, and would not cement. All negotiations were therefore futile, and preparations were made on both sides for the most sanguinary and disastrous battle that bad ever been witnessed in Northern India.

The portions translated in this Book are from Sections i., ii. iii., xciv., cxxiv., and cxxvi. of Book v. of the original text.


Krishna's Speech

Mirth and song and nuptial music waked the echoes of the night, Youthful bosoms throbbed with pleasure, love-lit glances sparkled bright,

But when young and white-robed USHAS ope'd the golden gates of day, To Virata's council chamber chieftains thoughtful held their way.

Stones inlaid in arch and pillar glinted in the glittering dawn, Gay festoons and graceful garlands o'er the golden cushions shone!

Matsya's king, Panchala's monarch, foremost seats of honour claim, Krishna too and Valadeva, Dwarka's chiefs of righteous fame!

By them sate the bold Satyaki from the sea-girt western shore, And the godlike sons of Pandu,—days of dark concealment o'er,

Youthful princes in their splendour graced Virata's royal hall, Valiant sons of valiant fathers, brave in war, august and tall!

In their gem-bespangled garments came the warriors proud and high, Till the council chamber glittered like the star-bespangled sky!

Kind the greetings, sweet the converse, soft the golden moments fly, Till intent on graver questions all on Krishna turn their eye,

Krishna with his inner vision then the state of things surveyed, And his thoughts before the monarchs thus in weighty accents laid:

"Known to all, ye mighty monarchs! May your glory ever last! True to plighted word Yudhishthir hath his weary exile passed,

Twelve long years with fair Draupadi in the pathless jungle strayed, And a year in menial service in Virata's palace stayed,

He hath kept his plighted promise, braved affliction, woe and shame, And he begs, assembled monarchs, ye shall now his duty name!

For he swerveth not from duty kingdom of the sky to win, Prizeth hamlet more than empire, so his course be free from sin,

Loss of realm and wealth and glory higher virtues in him prove, Thoughts of peace and not of anger still the good Yudhishthir move!

Mark again the sleepless anger and the unrelenting hate Harboured by the proud Duryodhan driven by his luckless fate,

From a child, by fire or poison, impious guile or trick of dice, He hath compassed dark destruction, by deceit and low device!

Ponder well, ye gracious monarchs, with a just and righteous mind, Help Yudhishthir with your counsel, with your grace and blessings kind,

Should the noble son of Pandu seek his right by open war, Seek the aid of righteous monarchs and of chieftains near and far?

Should he smite his ancient foemen skilled in each deceitful art, Unforgiving in their vengeance, unrelenting in their heart?

Should he rather send a message to the proud unbending foe, And Duryodhan's haughty purpose seek by messenger to know?

Should he send a noble envoy, trained in virtue, true and wise, With his greetings to Duryodhan in a meek and friendly guise?

Ask him to restore the kingdom on the sacred Jumna's shore? Either king may rule his empire as in happy days of yore!"

Krishna uttered words of wisdom pregnant with his peaceful thought, For in peace and not by bloodshed still Yudhishthir's right he sought.


Valadeva's Speech

Krishna's elder Valadeva, stalwart chief who bore the plough, Rose and spake, the blood of Vrishnis mantled o'er his lofty brow:

"Ye have listened, pious monarchs, to my brother's gentle word, Love he bears to good Yudhishthir and to proud Hastina's lord,

For his realm by dark blue Jumna good Yudhishthir held of yore, Brave Duryodhan ruled his kingdom on the ruddy Ganga's shore,

And once more in love and friendship either prince may rule his share, For the lands are broad and fertile, and each realm is rich and fair!

Speed the envoy to Hastina with our love and greetings kind, Let him speak Yudhishthir's wishes, seek to know Duryodhan's mind,

Make obeisance unto Bhishma and to Drona true and bold, Unto Kripa, archer Karna, and to chieftains young and old,

To the sons of Dhrita-rashtra, rulers of the Kuru land, Righteous in their kingly duties, stout of heart and strong of hand,

To the princes and to burghers gathered in the council hall, Let him speak Yudhishthir's wishes, plead Yudhishthir's cause to all.

Speak he not in futile anger, for Duryodhan holds the power, And Yudhishthir's wrath were folly in this sad and luckless hour!

By his dearest friends dissuaded, but by rage or madness driven, He hath played and lost his empire, may his folly be forgiven!

Indra-prastha's spacious empire now Duryodhan deems his own, By his tears and soft entreaty let Yudhishthir seek the throne,

Open war I do not counsel, humbly seek Duryodhan's grace, War will not restore the empire nor the gambler's loss replace!"

Thus with cold and cruel candour stalwart Valadeva cried, Wrathful rose the brave Satyaki, fiercely thus to him replied:


Satyaki's Speech

"Shame unto the halting chieftain who thus pleads Duryodhan's part, Timid counsel, Valadeva, speaks a woman's timid heart!

Oft from warlike stock ariseth weakling chief who bends the knee, As a withered fruitless sapling springeth from a fruitful tree!

From a heart so faint and craven, faint and craven words must flow, Monarchs in their pride and glory list not to such counsel low!

Could'st thou, impious Valadeva, midst these potentates of fame, On Yudhishthir pious-hearted cast this undeserved blame?

Challenged by his wily foeman and by dark misfortune crost, Trusting to their faith Yudhishthir played a righteous game and lost!

Challenge from a crowned monarch can a crowned king decline, Can a Kshatra warrior fathom fraud in sons of royal line?

Nathless he surrendered empire true to faith and plighted word, Lived for years in pathless forests Indra-prastha's mighty lord!

Past his years of weary exile, now he claims his realm of old, Claims it, not as humble suppliant, but as king and warrior bold!

Past his year of dark concealment, bold Yudhishthir claims his own, Proud Duryodhan now must render Indra-prastha's jewelled throne!

Bhishma counsels, Drona urges, Kripa pleads for right in vain, False Duryodhan will not render sinful conquest, fraudful gain!

Open war I therefore counsel, ruthless and relentless war, Grace we seek not when we meet them speeding in our battle-car!

And our weapons, not entreaties, shall our foemen force to yield, Yield Yudhishthir's rightful kingdom or they perish on the field!

False Duryodhan and his forces fall beneath our battle's shock, As beneath the bolt of thunder falls the crushed and riven rock!

Who shall meet the helmed Arjun in the gory field of war, Krishna with his fiery discus mounted on his battle-car?

Who shall face the twin-born brothers by the mighty Bhima led, And the vengeful chief Satyaki with his bow and arrows dread?

Ancient Drupad wields his weapon peerless in the field of fight, And his brave son, born of AGNI, owns an all-consuming might!

Abhimanyu, son of Arjun, whom the fair Subhadra bore, And whose happy nuptials brought us from far Dwarka's sea-girt shore,

Men on earth nor bright immortals can the youthful hero face, When with more than Arjun's prowess Abhimanyu leads the race!

Dhrita-rashtra's sons we conquer and Gandhara's wily son, Vanquish Karna though world-honoured for his deeds of valour done,

Win the fierce-contested battle and redeem Yudhishthir's own, Place the exile pious-hearted on his father's ancient throne!

And no sin Satyaki reckons slaughter of the mortal foe, But to beg a grace of foemen were a mortal sin and woe!

Speed we then unto our duty, let our impious foemen yield, Or the fiery son of Sini meets them on the battle-field!"


Drupad's Speech

Fair Panchala's ancient monarch rose his secret thoughts to tell, From his lips the words of wisdom with a graceful accent fell:

"Much I fear thou speakest truly, hard is Kuru's stubborn race, Vain the hope, the effort futile, to beseech Duryodhan's grace!

Dhrita-rashtra pleadeth vainly, feeble is his fitful star, Ancient Bhishma, righteous Drona, cannot stop this fatal war,

Archer Karna thirsts for battle, moved by jealousy and pride, Deep Sakuni, false and wily, still supports Duryodhan's side!

Vain is Valadeva's counsel, vainly shall our envoy plead, Half his empire proud Duryodhan yields not in his boundless greed,

In his pride he deems our mildness faint and feeble-hearted fear, And our suit will fan his glory and his arrogance will cheer!

Therefore let our many heralds travel near and travel far, Seek alliance of all monarchs in the great impending war,

Unto brave and noble chieftains, unto nations east and west, North and south to warlike races speed our message and request!

Meanwhile peace and offered friendship we before Duryodhan place, And my priest will seek Hastina, strive to win Duryodhan's grace,

If he renders Indra-prastha, peace will crown the happy land, Or our troops will shake the empire from the east to western strand!"

Vainly were Panchala's Brahmans sent with messages of peace, Vainly urged Hastina's elders that the fatal feud should cease,

Proud Duryodhan to his kinsmen would not yield their proper share, Pandu's sons would not surrender, for they had the will to dare!

Fatal war and dire destruction did the mighty gods ordain, Till the kings and armed nations strewed the red and reeking plain!

Krishna in his righteous effort sought for wisdom from above, Strove to stop the war of nations and to end the feud in love!

And to far Hastina's palace Krishna went to sue for peace, Raised his voice against the slaughter, begged that strife and feud should cease!


Krishna's Speech at Hastina

Silent sat the listening chieftains in Hastina's council hall, With the voice of rolling thunder Krishna spake unto them all:

"Listen, mighty Dhrita-rashtra, Kuru's great and ancient king, Seek not war and death of kinsmen, word of peace and love I bring!

'Midst the wide earth's many nations Bharats in their worth excel, Love and kindness, spotless virtue, in the Kuru-elders dwell,

Father of the noble nation, now retired from life's turmoil, Ill beseems that sin or untruth should thy ancient bosom soil!

For thy sons in impious anger seek to do their kinsmen wrong, And withhold the throne and kingdom which by right to them belong,

And a danger thus ariseth like the comet's baleful fire, Slaughtered kinsmen, bleeding nations, soon shall feed its fatal ire!

Stretch thy hands, O Kuru monarch! prove thy truth and holy grace, Man of peace! avert the slaughter and preserve thy ancient race.

Yet restrain thy fiery children, for thy mandates they obey, I with sweet and soft persuasion Pandu's truthful sons will sway.

'Tis thy profit, Kuru monarch! that the fatal feud should cease, Brave Duryodhan, good Yudhishthir, rule in unmolested peace,

Pandu's sons are strong in valour, mighty in their armed hand, INDRA shall not shake thy empire when they guard the Kuru land!

Bhishma is thy kingdom's bulwark, doughty Drona rules the war, Karna matchless with his arrows, Kripa peerless in his car,

Let Yudhishthir and stout Bhima by these noble warriors stand, And let helmet-wearing Arjun guard the sacred Kuru land,

Who shall then contest thy prowess from the sea to farthest sea, Ruler of a world-wide empire, king of kings and nations free?

Sons and grandsons, friends and kinsmen, will surround thee in a ring, And a race of loving heroes guard their ancient hero-king!

Dhrita-rashtra's lofty edicts will proclaim his boundless sway, Nations work his righteous mandates and the kings his will obey!

If this concord be rejected and the lust of war prevail, Soon within these ancient chambers will resound the sound of wail!

Grant thy children be victorious and the sons of Pandu slain, Dear to thee are Pandu's children, and their death must cause thee pain!

But the Pandavs skilled in warfare are renowned both near and far, And thy race and children's slaughter will methinks pollute this war,

Sons and grandsons, loving princes, thou shalt never see again, Kinsmen brave and car-borne chieftains will bedeck the gory plain!

Ponder yet, O ancient monarch! Rulers of each distant State, Nations from the farthest regions gather thick to court their fate,

Father of a righteous nation! Save the princes of the land, On the armed and fated nations stretch, old man, thy saving hand!

Say the word, and at thy bidding leaders of each hostile race Not the gory field of battle, but the festive board will grace,

Robed in jewels, decked in garlands, they will quaff the ruddy wine, Greet their foes in mutual kindness, bless thy holy name and thine!

Think, O man of many seasons! When good Pandu left this throne, And his helpless loving orphans thou didst cherish as thine own,

'Twas thy helping steadying fingers taught their infant steps to frame, 'Twas thy loving gentle accents taught their lips to lisp each name,

As thine own they grew and blossomed, dear to thee they yet remain, Take them back unto thy bosom, be a father once again!

Unto thee, O Dhrita-rashtra! Pandu's sons in homage bend, And a loving peaceful message through my willing lips they send:

Tell our monarch, more than father, by his sacred stern command We have lived in pathless jungle, wandered far from land to land,

True unto our plighted promise, for we ever felt and knew, To his promise Dhrita-rashtra cannot, will not be untrue!

Years of anxious toil are over and of woe and bitterness, Years of waiting and of watching, years of danger and distress.

Like a dark unending midnight hung on us this age forlorn, Streaks of hope and dawning brightness usher now the radiant morn!

Be unto us as a father, loving not inspired by wrath, Be unto us as preceptor, pointing us the righteous path,

If perchance astray we wander, thy strong arm shall lead aright, If our feeble bosom fainteth, help us with a father's might!

This, O king! the soft entreaty Pandu's sons to thee have made, These are words the sons of Pandu unto Kuru's king have said,

Take their love, O gracious monarch! Let thy closing days be fair, Let Duryodhan keep his kingdom, let the Pandavs have their share.

Call to mind their noble suffering, for the tale is dark and long Of the outrage they have suffered, of the insult and the wrong!

Exiled into Varnavata, destined unto death by flame, For the gods assist the righteous, they with added prowess came!

Exiled into Indra-prastha, by their toil and by their might Cleared a forest, built a city, did the rajasuya rite!

Cheated of their realm and empire and of all they called their own, In the jungle they have wandered and in Matsya lived unknown,

Once more quelling every evil they are stout of heart and hand, Now redeem thy plighted promise and restore their throne and land!

Trust me, mighty Dhrita-rashtra! trust me, lords who grace this hall, Krishna pleads for peace and virtue, blessings unto you and all!

Slaughter not the armed nations, slaughter not thy kith and kin, Mark not, king, thy closing winters with the bloody stain of sin!

Let thy sons and Pandu's children stand beside thy ancient throne, Cherish peace and cherish virtue, for thy days are almost done!"


Bhishma's Speech

From the monarch's ancient bosom sighs and sobs convulsive broke, Bhishma wiped his manly eyelids and to proud Duryodhan spoke:

"Listen, prince! for righteous Krishna counsels love and holy peace, Listen, youth! and may thy fortune with thy passing years increase!

Yield to Krishna's words of wisdom, for thy weal he nobly strives, Yield and save thy friends and kinsmen, save thy cherished subjects' lives!

Foremost race in all this wide earth is Hastina's royal line, Bring not on them dire destruction by a sinful act of thine!

Sons and fathers, friends and brothers, shall in mutual conflict die, Kinsmen slain by dearest kinsmen shall upon the red field lie!

Hearken unto Krishna's counsel, unto wise Vidura's word, Be thy mother's fond entreaty and thy father's mandate heard!

Tempt not devas' fiery vengeance on thy old heroic race, Tread not in the path of darkness, seek the path of light and grace!

Listen to thy king and father, he hath Kuru's empire graced, Listen to thy queen and mother, she hath nursed thee on her breast!"


Drona's Speech

Out spake Drona priest and warrior, and his words were few and high, Clouded was Duryodhan's forehead, wrathful was Duryodhan's eye:

"Thou hast heard the holy counsel which the righteous Krishna said, Ancient Bhishma's voice of warning thou hast in thy bosom weighed,

Peerless in their godlike wisdom are these chiefs in peace or strife, Truest friends to thee, Duryodhan, pure and sinless in their life,

Take their counsel, and thy kinsmen fasten in the bonds of peace, May the empire of the Kurus and their warlike fame increase!

List unto thy old preceptor! Faithless is thy fitful star, False they feed with hopes thy bosom, those who urge and counsel war!

Crowned kings and armed nations, they will strive for thee in vain, Vainly brothers, sons, and kinsmen will for thee their life-blood drain,

For the victor's crown and glory never, never can be thine, Krishna conquers, and brave Arjun! mark these deathless words of mine!

I have trained the youthful Arjun, seen him bend the warlike bow, Marked him charge the hostile forces, marked him smite the scattered foe!

Fiery son of Jamadagni owned no greater, loftier might, Breathes on earth no mortal warrior conquers Arjun in the fight!

Krishna too, in war resistless, comes from Dwarka's distant shore, And the bright-gods quake before him whom the fair Devaki bore!

These are foes thou may'st not conquer, take an ancient warrior's word, Act thou as thy heart decideth, thou art Kuru's king and lord!"


Vidura's Speech

Then in gentler voice Vidura sought his pensive mind to tell, From his lips serene and softly words of woe and anguish fell:

"Not for thee I grieve, Duryodhan, slain by vengeance fierce and keen, For thy father weeps my bosom and the aged Kuru queen!

Sons and grandsons, friends and kinsmen slaughtered in this fatal war, Homeless, cheerless, on this wide earth they shall wander long and far!

Friendless, kinless, on this wide earth whither shall they turn and fly? Like some bird bereft of plumage, they shall pine awhile and die!

Of their race and sad survivors, they shall wander o'er the earth, Curse the fatal day, Duryodhan, saw thy sad and woeful birth!"


Dhrita-rashtra's Speech

Tear-drops filled his sightless eyeballs, anguish shook his aged frame, As the monarch soothed Duryodhan by each fond endearing name:

"Listen, dearest son, Duryodhan, shun this dark and fatal strife, Cast not grief and death's black shadows on thy parents' closing life!

Krishna's heart is pure and spotless, true and wise the words he said, We may win a world-wide empire with the noble Krishna's aid!

Seek the friendship of Yudhishthir, loved of righteous gods above, And unite the scattered Kurus by the lasting tie of love!

Now at full is tide of fortune, never may it come again, Strive and win! or ever after all repentance may be vain!

Peace is righteous Krishna's counsel, and he offers loving peace, Take the offered boon, Duryodhan! Let all strife and hatred cease!"


Duryodhan's Speech

Silent sat the proud Duryodhan, wrathful in the council hall, Spake to mighty-armed Krishna and to Kuru warriors all:

"Ill becomes thee, Dwarka's chieftain, in the paths of sin to move, Bear for me a secret hatred, for the Pandavs secret love!

And my father, wise Vidura, ancient Bhishma, Drona bold, Join thee in this bitter hatred, turn on me their glances cold!

What great crime or darkening sorrow shadows o'er my bitter fate, That ye chiefs and Kuru's monarch mark Duryodhan for your hate?

Speak, what nameless guilt or folly, secret sin to me unknown, Turns from me your sweet affection, father's love that was my own?

If Yudhishthir, fond of gambling, played a heedless, reckless game, Lost his empire and his freedom, was it then Duryodhan's blame?

And if freed from shame and bondage in his folly played again, Lost again and went to exile, wherefore doth he now complain?

Weak are they in friends and forces, feeble is their fitful star, Wherefore then in pride and folly seek with us unequal war?

Shall we, who to mighty INDRA scarce will do the homage due, Bow to homeless sons of Pandu and their comrades faint and few?

Bow to them while warlike Drona leads us as in days of old, Bhishma greater than the bright-gods, archer Karna true and bold?

If in dubious game of battle we should forfeit fame and life, Heaven will ope its golden portals for the Kshatra slain in strife!

If unbending to our foemen we should press the gory plain, Stingless is the bed of arrows, death for us will have no pain!

For the Kshatra knows no terror of his foeman in the field, Breaks like hardened forest timber, bonds not, knows not how to yield!

So the ancient sage Matanga of the warlike Kshatra said, Save to priest and sage preceptor unto none he bends his head!

Indra-prastha which my father weakly to Yudhishthir gave, Nevermore shall go unto him while I live and brothers brave!

Kuru's undivided kingdom Dhrita-rashtra rules alone, Let us sheathe our swords in friendship and the monarch's empire own!

If in past in thoughtless folly once the realm was broke in twain, Kuru-land is re-united, never shall be split again!

Take my message to my kinsmen, for Duryodhan's words are plain, Portion of the Kuru empire sons of Pandu seek in vain!

Town nor village, mart nor hamlet, help us righteous gods in heaven, Spot that needle's point can cover not unto them be given!"



(Fall of Bhishma)

All negotiations for a peaceful partition of the Kuru kingdom having failed, both parties now prepared for a battle, perhaps the most sanguinary that was fought on the plains of India in the ancient times. It was a battle of nations, for all warlike races in Northern India took a share in it.

Duryodhan's army consisted of his own division, as well as the divisions of ten allied kings. Each allied power is said to have brought one akshauhini troops, and if we reduce this fabulous number to the moderate figure of ten thousand, including horse and foot, cars and elephants, Duryodhan's army including his own division was over a hundred thousand strong.

Yudhishthir had a smaller army, said to have been seven akshauhinis in number, which we may by a similar reduction reckon to be seventy thousand. His father-in-law the king of the Panchalas, and Arjun's relative the king of the Matsyas, were his principal allies. Krishna joined him as his friend and adviser, and as the charioteer of Arjun, but the Vrishnis as a nation had joined Duryodhan.

When the two armies were drawn up in array and faced each other, and Arjun saw his revered elders and dear friends and relations among his foes, he was unwilling to fight. It was on this occasion that Krishna explained to him the great principles of Duty in that memorable work called the Bhagavat-gita which has been translated into so many European languages. Belief in one Supreme Deity is the underlying thought of this work, and ever and anon, as Professor Garbe remarks, "does Krishna revert to the doctrine that for every man, no matter to what caste he may belong, the zealous performance of his duty and the discharge of his obligations is his most important work."

Duryodhan chose the grand old fighter Bhishma as the commander-in-chief of his army, and for ten days Bhishma held his own and inflicted serious loss on Yudhishthir's army. The principal incidents of these ten days, ending with the fall of Bhishma, are narrated in this Book.

This Book is an abridgment of Book vi. of the original text.


Pandavs routed by Bhishma

Ushas with her crimson fingers oped the portals of the day, Nations armed for mortal combat in the field of battle lay!

Beat of drum and blare of trumpet and the sankha's lofty sound, By the answering cloud repeated, shook the hills and tented ground,

And the voice of sounding weapons which the warlike archers drew, And the neigh of battle chargers as the armed horsemen flew,

Mingled with the rolling thunder of each swiftly-speeding car, And with pealing bells proclaiming mighty elephants of war!

Bhishma led the Kuru forces, strong as Death's resistless flail, Human chiefs nor bright Immortals could against his might prevail,

Helmet-wearing, gallant Arjun came in pride and mighty wrath, Held aloft his famed gandiva, strove to cross the chieftain's path!

Abhimanyu, son of Arjun, whom the fair Subhadra bore, Drove against Kosala's monarch famed in arms and holy lore,

Hurling down Kosala's standard he the dubious combat won, Barely escaped with life the monarch from the fiery Arjun's son!

With his fated foe Duryodhan, Bhima strove in deathful war, And against the proud Duhsasan brave Nakula drove his car,

Sahadeva, mighty bowman, then the fierce Durmukha sought, And the righteous king Yudhishthir with the car-borne Salya fought,

Ancient feud and deathless hatred fired the Brahman warrior bold, Drona with the proud Panchalas fought once more his feud of old!

Nations from the Eastern regions 'gainst the bold Virata pressed, Kripa met the wild Kaikeyas hailing from the furthest West,

Drupad, proud and peerless monarch, with his cohorts onward bore 'Gainst the warlike Jayadratha, chief of Sindhu's sounding shore,

Chedis and the valiant Matsyas, nations gathered from afar, Bhojas and the fierce Kambojas mingled in the dubious war!

Through the day the battle lasted, and no mortal tongue can tell What unnumbered chieftains perished and what countless soldiers fell,

And the son knew not his father, and the sire knew not his son, Brother fought against his brother, strange the deeds of valour done!

Horses fell, and shafts of chariots shivered in resistless shock, Hurled against the foreman's chariots, speeding like the rolling rock,

Elephants by mahuts driven furiously each other tore, Trumpeting with trunks uplifted on the serried soldiers bore!

Ceaseless plied the gallant troopers, with a stern unyielding might, Pikes and axes, clubs and maces, swords and spears and lances bright,

Horsemen flew as forked lightning, heroes fought in shining mail, Archers poured their feathered arrows like the bright and glistening hail!

Bhishma, leader of the Kurus, as declined the dreadful day, Through the shattered Pandav legions forced his all-resistless way,

Onward went his palm-tree standard through the hostile ranks of war, Matsyas, Kasis, nor Panchalas faced the mighty Bhishma's car!

But the fiery son of Arjun, filled with shame and bitter wrath, Turned his car and tawny coursers to obstruct the chieftain's path,

Vainly fought the youthful warrior, though his darts were pointed well, And dissevered from his chariot Bhishma's palm-tree standard fell,

Anger stirred the ancient Bhishma, and he rose in all his might, Abhimanyu, pierced with arrows, fell and fainted in the fight!

Then to save the son of Arjun, Matsya's gallant princes came, Brave Uttara, noble Sweta, youthful warriors known to fame,

Ah! too early fell the warriors in that sad and fatal strife, Matsya's dames and dark-eyed maidens wept the princes' shortened life!

Slain by cruel fate, untimely, fell two brothers young and good, Dauntless still the youngest brother, proud and gallant Sankha stood!

But the helmet-wearing Arjun came to stop the victor's path, And to save the fearless Sankha from the ancient Bhishma's wrath,

Drupad too, Panchala's monarch, swiftly rushed into the fray, Strove to shield the broken Pandavs and to stop the victor's way,

But as fire consumes the forest, wrathful Bhishma slew the foe, None could face his sounding chariot and his ever-circled bow!

And the fainting Pandav warriors marked the foe, resistless, bold, Shook like unprotected cattle tethered in the blighting cold!

Onward came the mighty Bhishma and the slaughter fiercer grew, From his bow like hissing serpents still the glistening arrows flew!

Onward came the ancient warrior, and his path was strewn with dead, And the broken Pandav forces, crushed and driven, scattered fled!

Friendly night and gathering darkness closed the slaughter of the day, To their tents the sons of Pandu held their sad and weary way!


Kurus routed by Arjun

Grieved at heart the good Yudhishthir wept the losses of the day, Sought the aid of gallant Krishna for the morning's fresh array,

And when from the eastern mountains SURYA drove his fiery car, Bhishma and the helmed Arjun strove to turn the tide of war!

Bhishma's glorious palm-tree standard o'er the field of battle rose, Arjun's monkey-standard glittered cleaving through the serried foes,

Devas from their cloud-borne chariots, and gandharvas from the sky, Gazed in mute and speechless wonder on the human chiefs from high!

While with dauntless valour Arjun still the mighty Bhishma sought, Warlike prince of fair Panchala with the doughty Drona fought,

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