The Penitential Yajña
Ceremony of the prince gave great delight to the subjects of the state
as well as the inmates of the palace, and members of the royal
household. But, Yudhisthhira, the eldest of the Pândava brothers
felt that something more had to be done, he was not content with the
joyous festival alone. He called for an assembly the same evening of
all the elders, the scholars, the pundits, the subordinate rulers and
leaders of the people. He prayed that Lord Krishna preside over
the gathering and confer joy on all. The sages Vyâsa and Kripa
Coming to the assembly,
Yudhisthhira stood before the gathering a few seconds in silence,
before he fell at the feet of Lord Krishna and sage Vyâsa.
turned towards the rulers, scholars and leaders and said, "I
was able to defeat the foes through your help, cooperation and best
wishes, as well as the blessing of the Lord who is present here and of
the sages and saints who have installed Him in their hearts. We were
able by means of that victory to win back the kingdom that we had lost. Again, through these blessings,
the light of hope has gleamed in hearts, darkened by despair about the
continuation of this dynasty. The Pândava line will be continued
by the prince who was named today by the Lord as Parîkchit.
While all this delights me, I
must announce before you that I am overwhelmed with sorrow at the
contemplation of another side of the picture. I have committed
countless sins, killing kith and kin. I feel I must do some expiation
for this; or else, there will be no happiness for me or for my dynasty
or for my people. Therefore, I wish to take this opportunity to seek
your advice on this matter. There are among you many who have known the
reality and attained Brahmajñâna; we have also the
great sage Vyâsa here. I expect you to suggest some
expiatory rite by which I can rid myself of this colossal quantity of
sin that I have accumulated as a result of this war."
When Yudhisthhira posed this
problem in great humility and with great contrition, Lord Krishna
said, "Yudhisthhira, you are famous as Dharmaraja and you ought
to know dharma. You know the intricacies of dharma and
morality, of justice, of right and wrong conduct. Therefore, I am
surprised that you are afflicted with grief over this war and this
victory. Do you not know that a kshatriya incurs no sin when he kills a foe who has
come to the battlefield armed with intention to kill? Whatever injury
or pain or loss is inflicted on the battlefield during the fight with
armed foes is free from sin. It is the dharma of a kshatriya to take up
the sword and fight to the very end, without any thought of self, to
save his country. You have only observed your dharma. How can karma
(activity) along the lines of dharma be sinful? It is not
proper to doubt this and give way to despair. Sin cannot touch you,
surround you or bother you. Instead of exulting over the festival of
the naming of the new-born prince, why should you dread imaginary
calamities and seek remedies for non-existent sins? Be calm, be happy."
Vyâsa too rose
from his seat and addressed the King. "Sinful and blame-worthy acts are
inevitable in battle. They should not be the cause for grief. The chief
aim in battle should be the protection of dharma from its foes. If that
is kept before the mind, the sin will not affect the fighters. A putrid
wound has to be treated with the knife; it is not sinful to inflict the
surgery. A doctor who knows the surgery, and knowing, does not save the
man by doing it, incurs sin. So too knowing that the foe is the source
of injustice, cruelty, terror and vice, if these boils are not treated
by the surgeon, knowing the cure, because he is reluctant to use the
knife (the surgeon being the kshatriya), he incurs sin by
remaining quiet, not by using the sword. Dharmaraja, you are speaking
under a delusion. I can understand others less wise being afflicted by
these doubts, but, I wonder how you are worried over this fear of sin?
If however our words do not
carry conviction, I can suggest another remedy too. That will remove
all fear. Some rulers in the past have resorted to it, after the
conclusion of wars, for the removal of the effects of sin. It is the
rite of As'vamedha, the Horse Sacrifice. If you desire, you can
also perform this rite, as an expiatory ceremony. There can be no
obstacle for that. But, believe me, you are innocent of sin even
without any expiation. Since your faith is shaky, I am suggesting this
rite for your satisfaction". After this statement, Vyâsa
resumed his seat.
At this, all the elders,
scholars and leaders rose as one man and applauded the valuable
suggestion given by Vyâsa. They shouted, Jai Jai, in order to
demonstrate their approval and appreciation. They exclaimed, "o! how
auspicious, how significant" and they blessed Dharmaraja in the
endeavor to free himself from the sinful consequences of war. But,
Dharmaraja was still heavy with grief; he was not free from fear. His
eyes were wet with tears.
He pleaded with the assembly,
most piteously. "However much you assert my innocence, I am not
convinced. Somehow, my mind does not accept your argument. Rulers who
were engaged in wars might have cleansed themselves by means of the As'vamedha
yaga. Those were ordinary wars; they were the usual type. But my
case is something very extraordinary. My sins are three times more
sinister, for, (1) I have killed kith and kin (2) I have killed holy
elders like Bhîshma and Drona and (3) I have
killed many crowned heads. Alas, my fate! How monstrous have been my
"No other ruler could have
done so much of iniquity. Not one, but three As'vamedha Yagas
have to be performed to cleanse this quantity. Then, only can I have
peace. Then only can my dynasty be happy and secure. Then only can the
administration of my kingdom be safe and meritorious. This must be
kindly accepted by Vyâsa and other elders and sages."
When Yudhisthhira spoke thus,
tears dropped on his cheeks; his lips quivered with sorrow; his body
was bent with remorse. Seeing this, the heart of every sage melted with
pity. The subjects of the King were moved in sympathy. Vyâsa
and even Vâsudeva were affected. Many pundits shed tears,
without being aware of it. The assembly was struck dumb with
astonishment. All knew in a flash how soft the heart of Dharmaraja was.
The brothers too, Bhîma, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva
were standing with folded palms, in reverential humility, awaiting the
word that will assure relief, from the Lord who was in the Presidential
Then, the assembly, with one
voice, approved the three As'vamedha Yagas, to relieve the
distress of Dharmaraja. One sage gave expression to the opinion of the
assembly. He said, "We shall not stand in the way of your desire. We
accept it whole-heartedly. We shall celebrate the Yagas in the
best sastric way, until the final rites. For, we seek peace of
mind for you, more than anything else. We are prepared to do anything
which will give you satisfaction." This was acclaimed by every one in
Hearing this, Dharmaraja
said; "I am indeed blessed; I am blessed indeed. He gave his grateful
thanks for the promised cooperation. He walked towards the place where Krishna
and Vyâsa were seated and he fell at their feet. He held
the feet of Krishna and pleaded, "0 Madhusûdana! (killer
of Madhu) name of Krishna as the one who kills the demons) Didn't you
hear my prayer? Didn't you witness my grief? I pray that you grant us
your Divine presence at the coming Yaga, that you ensure me the
fruit thereof and save me from this burden of sin."
Krishna smiled and
lifted him up from the ground before Him. He said, "Dharmaraja! I shall
certainly answer your prayer. But, you have taken upon your shoulders a
burden as heavy as a range of mountains. This Yaga is no small
affair. Moreover, the performer is the celebrated King, Dharmaraja!
That means, it has to be celebrated on a scale befitting your status. I
know that you have no where-withal for this very expensive undertaking.
Kings derive money only from their subjects. To spend on a Yaga,
squeezed out of them is not desirable. Only well earned money
can be used for such holy rites; else it will bring evil instead of
good. Nor can your subordinate rulers come to your help, for they too
have been miserably impoverished by the late war. It is clear they have
nothing to spare. Aware of all this, how could you accept to celebrate
three As'vamedhas in a row? I wonder how you found such
audacity in spite of these adverse conditions. And, you have already
announced it publicly in this great and distinguished gathering. You
did not give Me even a hint about this costly idea. Then, we could have
thought out some plan. Well, it is not too late. We shall take a
decision after some more deliberation. It does not matter if some delay
Dharmaraja listened to these
words of the Lord and laughed a hearty laugh! "Lord, you are playing a
drama with me, I know. I have never decided upon an act without
deliberation. Nor have I ever worried about money or the wherewithal.
When we have as our guardian, You with Your inexhaustible Grace, why
should I worry about anything? When I have the Kalpatharu
(wishfulfilling tree) in my garden, why should I worry, seeking roots
and tubers? The all-powerful Lord, who has been guarding us all these
terrible years as the eyelids guard the eye, will not give us up, at
For You who can whiff huge
mountains into dust, this little pebble is no problem at all. You are
my Treasure, my treasury. You are the Very Breath. Whatever You may
say, I will not hesitate. All my strength, all my wealth is You and You
alone. I place all my burdens, including the burden of state and this
new burden of the three Yagas on Your Feet. You can do anything
you like. You may value my word and carry out my intention or You may
discard it and cancel the Yagas. I have no concern. I am
equally happy, whatever You do. It is Your Will, not mine."
Of course, with the Lord who
resides in the heart, no special pleading is needed. The Lord melted;
He lifted Dharmaraja and helped him to stand. "No, I spoke in jest to
test your faith and devotion. I wanted to demonstrate to these subjects
of yours how strong is your faith in Me. You need have no worry on any
score. Your wish will be fulfilled. If you follow My instructions, you
can procure very easily the money needed for the celebration of the Yagas.
get it without harassing the rulers and squeezing the subjects."
On hearing this, Dharmaraja
was delighted. He said, "Lord, we shall honor Your command." Then
Krishna said, "Listen. In bygone times, a ruler named Maruth
performed a yaga, in a style that no one since then could
approach. The hall where the yaga was celebrated along with
every item connected with it were of gold. Gold bricks were given away,
as gifts to the priests who officiated; golden images of cows were
given instead of cows and plates of gold were distributed instead of
lands! The brahmins were not able to carry them home and so, they took
only as much as they could lift or carry. The rest they just cast away.
Those pieces of gold are now available in large quantities, for your
yagas. You can collect them."
Dharmaraja did not agree; he
had qualms about it. He said, "Lord, that is the property of those to
whom it was given. How can I make use of it, without their permission?"
Krishna replied, "They have cast it away, fully conscious of what they
were doing and what they were discarding. They are not alive today.
Their children know nothing about the existence of this treasure. It is
now under the earth. Remember that all treasure inside the earth, which
has no master or owner, belongs to the king of that realm. When the
king wants to take possession of it, no one has the right to object.
Bring that treasure soon and prepare for the celebration of the Yagas,"
Krishna [see also S.B. 10.72: 7-14].
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The picture is titled 'Yudhishthir' and is of Nanda Lâl Bose.
Source: 'Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists', Ballantine Press, Oct.