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Chapter 2 - The Birth of a Bhagavata

 

Mahârâja Parîkchit was the very self of Abhimanyu, who had attained the heavenly abode of heroes. When Parîkchit was an embryo, growing in the womb of Uttarâ, he saw the sharp arrow let off by As'vatthâmâ flying towards him, emitting sparks of fury and terror, bent on his destruction. But, at that very moment, he saw also, a person of brilliant charm armed with a terrific wheel, breaking that death-dealing arrow into a hundred pieces. The royal foetus was filled with wonder and gratitude. (See also S.B. 1.12).

He pondered  deep on the identity of his savior. "Who is He? He must also be dwelling in this womb, with me, because he could see the arrow at the very moment I saw it! But, he has such intrepidity and skill that he could destroy it before it reached me. Can he be a uterine brother? How could he get hold of that wheel? If he is endowed with a wheel, how did I miss having it? No, he is no mortal." He argued thus for a long time within himself.

He could not forget that face, that form. He was a boy, with the splendor of a million suns. He was benign, blissful, blue like the clear sky. After saving him so dramatically and so mercifully, he had disappeared. He had the form always before him, for, he was seeking to see it again. Whomsoever he saw, he examined to find out whether that form corresponded with the form he had reverentially fixed in his mind.

Thus he grew in the womb, contemplating that form. That contemplation transformed him into a splendor-filled baby. When at the end of the period of gestation he was born into the world, the lying-in-room was lit by a strange light. The female attendants of Uttarâ were dazzled by the brilliance. Their wits were overcome by wonder.

Recovering herself, Subhadrâ the mother of Abhimanyu sent word to Yudhisthhira, the eldest of the Pândavas announcing the birth. The Pândava brothers were overwhelmed with joy, when they heard the glad tidings for which they were waiting anxiously. They ordered that bands play, and guns be fired, in honor of the event, for, a scion had been born for the royal family, a successor to the Pândava throne.

The people heard the peal of guns and sought the reason for the joy. They rushed towards Indraprastha in large masses of enthusiasm. Every corner of the kingdom gushed with joy at this event. Within minutes, the city was transformed into a heavenly garden, fit for Gods to give audience to men. Yudhisthhira distributed several varieties of sweets to all who came. He granted several cows as gifts to brahmins. He instructed the ladies of the court to give golden caskets full of saffron and kumkum to women. Brahmins were awarded silk clothes and precious gems. Citizens were transported with joy, for the dynasty had now secured an heir. Night and day, they reveled in hilarious exultation.


Next day, Yudhisthhira called the family priest, Kripâcârya and performed the rite of jatha-karma (first cleansing) to the infant. He satisfied the brahmins by gifts of various costly jewels. The scholars and priests blessed the child and returned home.

On the third day, Yudhisthhira called to his presence renowned astrologers as well as famous palmists and soothsayers, for, he was very eager to know whether the fair name of the kingdom and its culture would be safe in the hands of the prince who had come to carry the burden of the state. Yudhisthhira received them at the palace with traditional hospitality; they were given appropriate seats in the hall and they were offered scents and silks.

The king bowed before them and joining his palms in reverential adoration, he prostrated before them, and prayed, "0, wise men, who know the past, present and future, examine the horoscope of the infant that is born, calculate the positions of stars and constellations, and the planetary influences that will guide his life and tell me how the future will be shaped." He noted the exact time of birth and placed the note on a golden plate, before them.

The pundits took that note and drew up the plan of planetary positions, and studied it with great care. They communicated to one another their increasing joy as they began to draw conclusions; they were in great joy themselves; they could not get words to express their amazement.

The doyen of the group, a great pundit, at last rose and addressed King Yudhisthhira thus. "Mahârâja! I have till this day examined well nine thousands of horoscopes and prepared concerned plans of the zodiacs and constellations. But, I must admit I have never yet come across a more auspicious grouping than is indicated in this horoscope. Here, all the signs of good augury have assembled in one moment, the moment of this prince's birth. The moment indicates the state of Vishnu Himself! All the virtues will gather in this child. Why describe each glory separately? The great Manu has again come into your dynasty".

Yudhisthhira was happy that the dynasty had such good fortune. He was indeed overpowered by joy. He folded his palms and bent low before the scholars who had given him such good news. "This family is lucky to claim such a gem as its scion, through the blessings of elders and of pundits like you as well as the blessings of the Lord, who is our guardian. You say that the boy will develop all virtues and will accumulate fame. But of what use is all that, if he has not acquired the quality of reverence towards pundits, sadhus and brahmins? Please look into the horoscope once again and tell me whether he will have that reverence."

The leader of the group of astrologers replied: "You need entertain no doubt on that score. He will revere and serve the gods and the brahmins. He will perform many yajñas and yagas, prescribed in the ancient texts. He will earn the glory that your ancestor Bharatha won. He will celebrate even the As'vamedha. He will spread the fame of this line all over the world. He will win all things that gods or men covet. He will outdistance all those who have gone before him." They extolled him thus in various ways to their hearts' content. They stopped because they were nervous to recount all the excellences; they feared they might be charged with exaggeration and flattery if they continued to detail the conclusions they had drawn from the horoscope of the baby.

Yudhisthhira was not satisfied; he wanted to hear more from them of the excellences of the character of the prince. Pundits were encouraged by this yearning. They said, "0 King, you seem to be eager to know about some more aspects of the child's fortune. We shall only be too glad to answer any specific question that you may feel inclined to put us."

Noting their enthusiasm, Yudhisthhira came forward and asked them, "During the regime of this prince, will there be any great war? If war is inevitable, will he achieve victory? 'No', said the pundits, He will not be pestered by any foe. He knows no failure or defeat in any undertaking of his. This is absolutely true, an unshakable truth."

Hearing this, Yudhisthhira and the brothers Bhîma, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva looked at each other and shared great joy.

Meanwhile, Yudhisthhira began to speak. He had said, "If that is so...", but, before he could complete the sentence, he hung his head and was plunged in thought. The pundits noticed it; they said, "You seem to be anxious to know something more. You have only to ask, we shall readily answer all questions." "Of course, I am happy at all the answers you have given. He will be virtuous, famous, triumphant over all, loving and kind, treating all equally; he will perform many yajñas and yagas; he will have no enemies; he will bring honor to the dynasty and restore its reputation. All this gives me great joy. But,... I would like to know also, how he will meet his end." The brothers saw Yudhisthhira getting rather upset at the anxiety which agitated him over this problem. His voice had faltered a bit, when he put the question.

The pundits consoled him and said, "Why worry about that at this stage? The end has to come some day, some way. It is something that cannot be avoided. Something will cause it; some circumstance will bring it about. Birth involves the contingency of death. We are afraid the extreme joy of this incident has queered your line of thought a bit. We think this much is enough. We shall leave the rest, in the realm of doubt; let us not probe further. Let us leave it to God."

But, Yudhisthhira could not somehow give up his desire to know how such a virtuous ideal prince would end his career on earth. He imagined it must be a truly wondrous finale to a glorious life. So, he wanted the astrologers to tell him about it.

The scholars set about the calculations again and took a pretty long time over it. Watching this, the King became excited; he hastened them and pressed for a quick answer. They gave the reply, "This prince will give up his kingdom as the result of a sage's curse." Yudhisthhira wondered how such a paragon of virtue can ever invoke upon himself the curse of a sage. He was shocked at the possibility.

Meanwhile, the pundits said, "Our calculations show that he will be bitten by a serpent." Yudhisthhira lost heart at this news. All his joy evaporated in a moment. He became very sad and dispirited.

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The image showing birthday celebrations is titled:
"Scenes from the Life of Krishna: Celebrations in Honor of Krishna's Birth"
Central India, 1680-90. Source: Virginia Museum of Fine Art.