Monday, September 11, 2017

37. A Kshatriya Becomes A Brahmin!

After listening to the story of Tapati and Samvarana, Arjuna wanted to know the reason for Vasishta’s confrontation with Viswamitra. The Gandharva narrated the story to him.

Viswamitra was born to Gadhi, the king of Kanyakubja. Gadhi was the son of Kusika. Thus, Viswamitra was also known as Kousika (meaning the descendant of Kusika).

Viswamitra had a huge army. He also possessed a large number of animals. He would often roam in the forest along with his ministers and soldiers, hunting for deer and wild boars

Once Viswamitra and his men were exhausted after hunting. They were thirsty and hungry. Viswamitra arrived at the hermitage of Sage Vasishta.

Vasishta welcomed Viswamitra and offered him and his men fruits and water. Viswamitra was amazed to see that Vasishta asked his cow for various food items like fruits, milk, grains etc. And the cow instantly yielded whatever was asked for.  Viswamitra learnt that the cow with a majestic appearance was named Nandini.

Viswamitra requested Vasishta to give him Nandini and offered to give him anything, including his kingdom, in exchange.

Vasishta said “I am keeping this cow for making offerings to the gods, the pitrus (the deceased ancestors) and guests and for performing sacrifices. So, I can’t  part with Nandini for anything you may offer in exchange.”

Viswamitra said, “You are a Brahmin. You are ordained to live an ascetic way of life. I am a King. The cow will be more useful to me for providing for my people. I will offer you 10,000 cows in exchange. But if you don’t accept my offer, I will take this cow by force.”

Vasishta said, “You are a powerful monarch. You have a mighty army. If you want to do something in haste without considering the propriety of your action, it is your choice.”

Viswamitra’s men, at his behest, seized the cow and tied her with stripes. The cow went to Vasishta and looked at him, looking for his support.

Vasishta told Nandini, “I can feel your suffering. But what can I do when you are being taken away forcibly by Viswamitra’s men? I am a Brahmin with a forgiving nature.”

Nandini asked Vasishta  “Why are you indifferent to my suffering? Am I without a master?”

Vasishta replied “The might of a Kshatriya may lie in his physical strength. But the Brahmin’s greatness lies in forgiveness. Go with them, Nandini, if you choose to.”

Nandini said, “Oh sage! Tell me you have abandoned me. Then I will go. But if you don’t abandon me, I cannot be taken by force.”

Vasishta said, "Nandini! I am not abandoning you. If you don't want to go, then stay.”

Hearing Vasishta’s words, the cow raised its head and began to attack Viswamitra’s troops. Blazing with rage, she became terrible to look at. From her tail, she rained showers of burning coal. An army of Palhavas emerged from her tail, while an army of Dravidas and Sakas came out of her udders. From her womb, an army of Yavanas were released. And various other armies were released from other parts of her body. All these armies attacked Viswamitra’s men, using various weapons.

Viswamitra’s army, unable to withstand the attack, soon began to break up and flee in all directions. However, not a single soldier of Viswamitra was killed. Nandini only caused them to be defeated and driven out. Viswamitra’s troops were driven to a distance of twenty seven miles from the hermitage.

Witnessing this in awe, Viswamitra exclaimed "Kshatriya prowess is nothing. Only the Brahmana prowess is true prowess! Asceticism is true power.”

Viswamitra immediately gave up his kingdom and undertook a penance. As a result of his austere penance, he became a Brahmin.

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