TRANSITION TO POST-VEDIC SOCIAL POLITY
PILGRIMS' PROGRESS (contd)
Spots on the banks of Sarayu; Rama and Subrahmanya
The pilgrim should visit the spot on the banks of Sarayu where Rama of Ayodhya along with his retinue and troops gave up his body. [Did they all perish while trying to cross the river in floods?] Narada told the scion of the Kurus that one who died there would be praised in svargaloka (heaven, in common parlance). Yudhishtira was asked to visit that place associated with Rama and get his conquests represented by asvamedha yajnas approved. At the spot known as one hundred thousand nearby he should gift cows. [The passing away of Rama was then a recent event.] By visiting the cattle farm, Bhartusthana, and meeting its requirements he would get the benefits of his conquests (asvamedha) approved. Nearby, there was a spot associated with the sage and commander, Subrahmanya. Yudhishtira was advised to visit that place and become an influential person (tejasvi).
Academies at Varanasi: Siva
He should then proceed to Varanasi to get his Rajasuya sacrifice that entitled him to the position of an emperor (samrat) approved by worshipping Siva (who flaunted the bull flag). Narada told Yudhishtira that he should reach the spot known as Avimukta (not free) and pray to Siva (who had the status of Devadeva) to get absolved of the charge of slaying a Brahman (judge and scholar). Killing a Brahman, to be precise, character assassination of a Brahman judge was considered to be the worst of the sins, offences against the constitution and laws. Who was the jurist whom Yudhishtira had accused of partiality? It was said that if one died there he would attain salvation (moksha). The pilgrim was advised to visit the sage Markandeyas abode at the confluence of Gomati and Ganga and participate in the seminar on civil laws (agnishtoma). This visit would also protect the clan of that pilgrim from the charge of violation of those laws.
Visit to Gaya
He was asked to go to Gaya next as a celibate and student with his senses restrained and perform asvamedha sacrifice and ensure that the benefits of his conquests would stay with his lineage (kula). Pulastya (Narada) did not present Prayag, Varanasi and Gaya as holy places where one should offer oblations to his ancestors and be free from his debts to them. The pilgrim was asked to make his offerings in memory of his ancestors under the banyan tree at Gaya. [This might have been a later interpolation.]
One who after bathing in the great river there satisfied the elders (pitrs, souls of ancestors as interpreted later) who were in fact retired feudal lords who had the status of devatas, a rank marginally lower than that of the nobles, devas, could be admitted as a member of one of the social worlds (akshaya lokas) which were continually replenishing their membership by accepting new members. If he resided for one night near the Brahma pond in the grove, Dharma Aranya (having been recognised as a properly trained jurist) he would become eligible to visit the academy of the jurists (Brahmaloka).
Gifting a calf
At the Dhenukatirtha, one had to offer in honour of a brown calf that had lost its way in the hills, a calf made of sesame to become pure and be admitted to the intelligentsia of the forest society, which was guided by Soma.
Rudravata and Mahadeva
There was another spot, Rudravata, where the great personage, Mahadeva, resided. The pilgrim was asked to cover his body with ash and observe austerity for twelve years to respect Mahadeva. Not only Brahmans but others also could observe this procedure. Mahadeva did not approve the scheme of social differentiation based on varnas. The pilgrim was asked to then go to the hills where the sun rose and which reverberated with music. It was said that Sarasvati (goddess of knowledge and music) had rested at that place. Brahmans were asked to perform sandhya-vandanam there at least once. [This is probably a later addition.] The chronicler points out that sexual intercourse and procreation of offspring, both girls and boys, being highly important, were to be desired. He rejected the view that the Rudra school of thought wavered on the issue of abstinence from sex.
The Eastern Industrial Belt
Narada advised Yudhishtira to visit the (reddish) river Phalgu, and then Dharmaprastha. If he dug a well there and offered oblations to pitrs and devas there, he would be absolved of all sins by the house of nobles. The pleasant abode of the great saint, Matanga, was there. If one followed the rules prescribed by dharma while he was there he would get his conquests approved by that sage who probably was an erstwhile danava, covetous plutocrat.
In that same region there was a centre of scholars and jurists, Brahmasthana, where the royal pilgrim should seek the approval of Brahma for his Rajasuya and Asvamedha sacrifices. Yudhishtira was asked to visit Rajagrha where the Vedic sage and yaksha (plutocrat), Kakshivan had his residence. A commoner visiting that area should revere the yakshini (a rich lady) who presided over the proceedings of the council of administrators there and get absolved of killing a Brahman (judge).
At Maninaga one should pay his respect to the medicine man and protect himself against poison. He had to stay there for one night and offer cows as gift to that health centre. It is unsound to interpret that yakshas and nagas were undesirable non-human beings. Rajagrha was located in an industrial belt that was controlled by plutocrats (yakshas) and technocrats (nagas). The conqueror who performed rajasuya and asvamedha sacrifices had to gain their support.
The pilgrim was asked to then visit the abode of Brahmarshi Gautama and bathe in the well near the mound dedicated to the memory of Gautamas wife, Ahalya who according to the legends the enraged sage turned into a stone. She must have been returned to her father who was a smith and artisan and reunited with Gautama later at Ramas request. Narada told the king that one who visited Gautamas abode could get his career and personality systemised (atmasampada). Narada pointed out to Yudhishtira who knew the dharmas that his asvamedha yajnas would be approved if he approached that sage.
Yudhishtira was directed to visit the place where Rajarshi Janaka (of Mithila) who was revered by the nobles had dug a well. One who bathed there was eligible to join the cadre of admirers of Vishnu, it was said. At Vinasana, the pilgrim should perform Vajapeya sacrifice to become eligible to join the sober intelligentsia who honoured Soma. He was advised to visit the spot on the banks of Gantaki and secure the benefits accruing from Vajapeya sacrifice and membership of the administrative body (loka) that functioned under the leadership of the Vedic official, Surya. [The eastern Ganga plains were under the influence of rulers belonging to the solar lineage and the western Sindhu-Ganga plains under those belonging to the lunar group.] The centre on the banks of Visalya was noted for the seminars o civil laws (agnishtoma). One who participated in them had access to the social world of privileged nobles. The pilgrim should then go to the forests of the eastern region of Vanga (Bengal) and live in the midst of the miners (guhyakas) who knew several secrets of nature.
Yudhishtira was asked to visit the spot on the banks of Kampana, which was favourite of Siddhas and get the benefit of Paundraka sacrifice (distilling and purifying sugarcane juice, an economic activity popular with the danavas, the lower rungs of plutocrats). He would have access to the nobility (who were given to drinking) through such offering. Narada asked Yudhishtira who had control over the plains (prthvi) of the agrarian core society to visit the fount that was under the jurisdiction of Mahesvara (Mahadeva) in the forests and mountains of the frontier society and get approval for his conquests (asvamedha yajna) and save his clan (kula) from extinction.
Narada told the chief of the free men (naras) that if he reached Pushkarani, the pond of the nobles (devas) and satisfied them he would escape being shunted to the subaltern (naraka, ghetto) for social and economic offences and failure in guarding the interests of clans (kulas) and encouraging the free men (naras) instead. Besides his conquests (asvamedha yajnas) would be approved. By observing the rules of celibacy prescribed for students and by restraining ones senses one could become a member of the intelligentsia of the other society headed by Soma. Soma (disciple of Atri) had a status next to Mahesvara. The aspirant was advised to bathe in a fount under the jurisdiction of Soma (Mahesvara). There were many academic centres (tirthas) where intellectuals attached to the school of Soma conducted sharp discussions (koti).
Kotitirthas: Distant Centres of Debates
A feudal lord (asura) who like a turtle hid his weak organs under his tough shell annexed one of the kotitirthas (centres of debates). Narada told Yudhishtira that Vishnu liberated it. [The chronicler was presenting a rational interpretation of the events that pertained to the liberation of the turtle.] A commoner who offered paundarika sacrifice there would be benefited and could become a follower of Vishnu, he said.
The pilgrim was then directed to go to Salagrama, which was under the jurisdiction of the sage, Narayana. Brahma and other nobles, Adityas, Rudras and Vasus, and sages (rshis) who were engaged in tapas attended the deliberations there, which were conducted by Janardana (Krshna) and was presided over by Vishnu. He was also known as the person in charge of the academic centre and hospital (Salagrama) where both men and animals (women, pasu) were treated as well as the junction of trade routes from different states and place, where confidential notes were exchanged among the sages who were constantly on the move.
The pilgrim was asked to pay obeisance to Vishnu and, the guardian of all the three social worlds (divam, prthvi, antariksham, nobility, and commonalty and forest society) and get his conquests approved. He could become a member of Vishnus retinue (loka) thereby. Narada told Yudhishtira who knew the social laws, dharma, that one who bathed in the well there which was a confluence of streams from all directions would not be consigned to the ghetto (naraka) as a fallen man. To be precise one who was nurtured in all ways of life would be able to select the proper way.
Addressing Yudhishtira as a benevolent charismatic chief (isvara) of commoners Narada said that if he would pay obeisance to Vishnu who was the guardian (natha) of all the three social worlds (lokas) he would shine like Soma freed from the clouds (that then hid his popularity and fortune).
Narada told Yudhishtira that if one bathed in the fount known as Jatismaram he would remember his native traits and previous careers (previous births, in common parlance). The chronicler called for faith in the concept of rebirth. At Vatesvarapura, the town where the benevolent chief (isvara) had his seat under the everlasting tree, he would gain all that he asked for from Vishnu. If he visited the spot nearby that was named after Vamana (identified with Hari, a noble, deva) he would be freed of all sins and would be assured that he would not be consigned to the ghetto (naraka). Hari belonged to the social periphery, the refuge of all fallen men.
Vamana had undertaken the mission to retrieve them and enable them to join the mainstream. (Vamana had crushed the feudal lord, Bali, and exiled him from Janasthana in the Vindhyas.) Narada told Yudhishtira to visit the abode of the saint, Jatamuni Bharata, on the banks of Kausiki to rid himself of all sins, even the major ones. One who was free from all sins would be eligible to enjoy the fruits of his rajasuya sacrifice.
Yudhishtira, who had after rajasuya sacrifice attained the status of a senior king (rajasreshta), should visit Champaka forest and Jyeshtila where he should donate cows. At Jyeshtila, a centre for Saivaite and Sakti (Devi) cults, the senior social leader (purushasreshta) should pay respect to the highly charismatic chief of the entire larger society (visvesvara) and his consort. This ensured that he became eligible to exercise the powers that the two dreaded Vedic officials, Mitra and Varuna, (who acted in unison) had and take into custody any one who violated the socio-political constitution, Brahma. Yudhishtira was advised to attend the seminars held there under the chairmanship of Agni, the civil judge and head of the council (samiti) of scholars of the Vedic core society to debate issues pertaining to civil laws (agnishtoma).
Yudhishtira was advised to observe rigorous austerity while visiting Kanyasamvedya, a centre (tirtha) where Manu the organiser of all social worlds (srshtikarta) had his institute. The pilgrim would come in contact with all the cadres engaged in social reorganisation along the lines pointed out by Manu. According to the austere sages even the smallest amount offered there would prove to be very significant.
The pilgrim was advised to next visit the famous spot, Nirvira, where he could get his conquests (asvamedha yajna) approved and join the cadres of Vishnu. Addressing Yudhishtira as the best (sreshta) among men, Narada said that the commoners (manushyas) who offered logs of wood to that crematorium would be lauded by the house of nobles headed by Indra. [This is probably a later interpolation.] The nobles never underwent sufferings. [Did Narada imply that the conqueror had wiped out all warriors who resisted him and should arrange for the last rites of all those who fell in the battle?]
Yudhishtira was asked to visit the nearby abode of Vasishta and get the benefits of Vajapeya sacrifice. He would get his Rajasuya sacrifice approved and be recognised as an emperor and also would be considered as one functioning in accordance with the socio-economic code (varta) that Brhaspati had outlined. Vasishta himself enjoyed the status of Brhaspati, the chief counsellor of the king on matters pertaining to the commonalty and civil polity (lokayata). Narada said that to obtain approval for ones conquests (asvamedha yajna) one should approach the joint meeting of the nobles (devas) and sages (rshis) who were experts in socio-political constitution (Brahma) and to save his clan from being taken to task for his excesses.
Narada advised Yudhishtira who was a king and exercised the financial powers of Indra to visit and stay at the place where Visvamitra, a Kausika, got siddhi, fulfilment of his objective (to become Brahmarshi, a sage entitled to interpret and enforce the provisions of the Atharvan socio-political constitution, Brahma). This was necessary to get his conquests, asvamedha yajnas, approved. Residing in Mahahrada, and offering rich donations to that great reformatory would absolve one of all sins.
Virasrama abode of Subrahmanya
Pulastya (Narada) asked Bhishma (Yudhishtira) to visit Virasrama, the camp of the warriors and offer obeisance to Subrahmanya and get his conquests approved. The pilgrim should attend the agnishtoma seminars held under the aegis of the Vedic official, Agni, at the nearby stream and learn the civil laws.
Yudhishtira might also attend the seminar at the lake near the Himalayas named after the Pitamaha (Brahma) (after paying homage to Mahadeva and Vishnu) and gain knowledge of civil laws as it was in vogue during the Vedic times. [Later chroniclers seem to have had reservations on treating Brahma to be superior to the other two gods of the trinity.] The stream, Kumara, flowed down from the above lake. One felt that he was blessed after bathing in it. (Subrahmanya was referred to as Kumara, the son of Siva and Parvati.) It was a place where one could do penance for and get absolved of the charge of having spoken ill of a Brahman judge (Brahmahati, killing a Brahman, in common parlance).
Gauri Peak in Himalayas
Pulastya (Narada) told Bhishma (Yudhishtira) who knew the social laws (dharmas) and was fond of pilgrimage, to scale the famous Himalayan peak named after Gauri, consort of Mahadeva (Samkara). Yudhishtira, the best among the free men (nara sreshta) was advised to bathe in the founts (that were like the breasts of a woman) and perform Vajapeya sacrifice to get recognised as an emperor and controller of the civil polity along the lines recommended by Brhaspati. He was also told that the two wings of the elite, the elders (pitrs, asuras) and the nobles (devas) would approve his regime and his conquests (asvamedha yajnas).
He would also become a member of the nobility headed by Indra. If he attended the sessions at Tamraruna as a student observing chastity and restraining his mind he would have his conquests and ventures approved and he would become eligible to attend the sessions on the socio-political constitution in the higher academy, Brahmaloka.
If one reached the navel (kupa) of the spot known as Nandini that the nobles (devas) had reached earlier he would be treated as one who as a free man (nara) had used all his talents to rise in the social ladder. The nobles (devas) had regard for social leaders (purushas) and also for free men (naras) who had risen above the level of commoners (manushyas) who were bound by the codes of their clans and communities. These naras manned the rural bureaucracy and the troops. The term, naramedha, like purushamedha, should not be interpreted as implying human sacrifice. (Human sacrifice was never approved.) Yudhishtira was advised to visit the confluence of Kausiki and Aruna and get purified.
Extraordinary experiences in exotic centres
The learned man was asked to go then to the spot, named after Urvasi and visit the institutions named after Soma and Kumbakarna. Training in those institutions of learning located in the forests would make him highly revered in the social world of commoners (bhuloka). One who observed celibacy and restraint and attended the sessions at Gokamukha, a mountain that looked like the face of a cow he would recognise and experience again what he had experienced in his previous births. He would be able to recall the earlier stages of his life. Narada (to be precise, the later chronicler) said that the ancestors were able to recall their previous births. [The concept of reminiscences of previous births has to be handled with caution.] The pilgrim, a scholar and jurist (Brahman), was advised to visit Bhrang where he could unload his mental agonies caused by sins and with a pure soul could mix with nobles headed by Indra. This spot might have been named after a reformed libertine.
The pilgrim was told that at the cleft in the Krounca mounts, he could enter Rshabha province and reach Sarasvati. Then he might reach the institution where the famous sage, Uddalaka, who had many sages as his admirers, had his abode. The king was asked to visit Brahmatirtha where Brahmarshis met and perform vajapeya sacrifice to get approval for the rajasuya sacrifice performed and for his control over the civil polity in accordance with the lines recommended by Brhaspati. Yudhishtira was asked to visit the centre at the source of Bhagirathi and learn how to cause the guilty to suffer socio-economic losses (arta) through penalty imposed (danda). He should gift cows to that centre.
He should then reach Levalika, a health resort visited by siddhas and other blessed persons (punyajana). As recounted later to Yudhishtira by Narada, Pulastya told Bhishma that a commoner (manushya) visiting that centre where all the Vedas were taught could in the evenings attend the discourses on sciences and skills (vidyas). This centre was meant for members of the commonalty engaged in worldly pursuits and had been established by Parasurama. The visitor was requested to donate gold to the institute. At the centre on the banks of Karatoya (in Bengal) one should perform asvamedha yajna after fasting for three days, the head of the academy, Brahma, had prescribed. The asvamedha yajna performed at the confluence of Ganga with the sea was highly beneficial, according to the learned. One who crossed the river and returned after three days would obtain all that he desired, it was said.
Vaitarani and other centres south-east of Ganga
Then he should go to the centre on the banks of Vaitarani (in Orissa) where he would be absolved of all sins. At Viraja he would be able to get the status of a guide (Soma) of the sober intelligentsia and would be admitted to the academy of the blessed people (punyakula). He was asked to donate cows to that institution and purify his clan (kula). At the confluence of Son and Jyotirathi, he should offer oblations to the erstwhile members of the ruling elite, the elders (pitrs) who were indeed reformed feudal lords (asuras) and to the liberal nobles (devas) and participate in the seminars on civil laws (agnishtoma). Pulastya asked Bhishma to visit the spot on the hills lying between Son and Narmada and perform austerities to get his conquests (asvamedha yajnas) approved.
Rshabha centre of Kosala
Narada asked Yudhishtira, chief of free men, to then visit the Rshabha centre in Kosala to secure the advantages of vajapeya sacrifice (recognition of his status as an emperor and controller of the civil polity). A commoner should donate cows to that centre and get his clan (kula) protected. At Kalatirtha in Kosala he should donate eleven bulls to the stud farm. The chronicler asserted that this gift would certainly be useful to the donor. At Pushpavati too an austere commoner should gift cows on behalf of his clan (kula). One who sought a long life and a place in the nobility visited Badarika and Champa. Saints, punyapurushas, visited Lapetika. Pulastya told Bhishma that one who performed vajapeya sacrifice there would be recognised as emperor and controller of the civil polity and would be held in esteem by all the nobles.
Mahendra mountain: Kalinga resort of Parasurama
From there the king on pilgrimage should go to the Mahendra mount of Parasurama, son of Jamadagni (in Kalinga). He should visit Parasuramas centre and get the approval of that sage for his conquests (asvamedha yajnas). In Kedara in those mountains Matanga had his abode. Bhishma was asked to donate cows for the cattle-farm there. The pilgrim was required to visit Srisailam, a centre where Mahadeva had his court attended by the nobles and Brahma, the head of the intelligentsia. If one paid obeisance to them after bathing in their lake, he would get his conquests and ventures (asvamedha yajnas) approved and his clan insulated against the consequences of his excesses.
It may be noted that the Atharvan norm of a nobility (divam) headed by Indra and intelligentsia of the commonalty (prthvi, manushyas) headed by Agni had given way in many places to a governing elite (devas) headed by Mahadeva and a council of scholars and jurists headed by Brahma.
Rshabha mount of the south Kaveri and Kanyakumari
The royal pilgrim should then go to the Rshabha mount held in veneration by the Pandya kings and get his status as an emperor (samrat) and control over the civil polity endorsed. He would also be admitted to the ranks of the nobility. The commoner pilgrim was advised to bathe in the Kaveri, a place where apsarases, free women who were talented in various arts, gathered and to offer them cows. The royal pilgrim was asked to reach Kanyakumari the coastal centre of virgins, kanyas who were spinsters, where by bathing in the sea he would be absolved of all sins.
Gokarna in the west coast
He was asked to then go along the seacoast and reach Gokarna, an island off the coast (south of Goa). It was a place where Brahma and other nobles (devas), sages (rshis) who were engaged in tapas (to discover new knowledge), and other cadres of the social periphery and the forest society (known as punyajana), discrete individuals (bhutas), plutocrats (yakshas), counter-intelligentsia (pisacas), free men (kinnaras) functioning as entertainers and messengers of the plutocrats, the great technocrats (maha uragas) who were on the move, the siddhas who had through tapas achieved their objectives, the mobile scouts and explorers (charanas), cadres of free intelligentsia and warriors (gandharvas) and miners and divers (pannagas) and also commoners (manushyas) worshipped their charismatic chief (Isana), Mahadeva, consort of Uma. A commoner who honoured Mahadeva would get his conquests and ventures (asvamedha yajnas) approved and become the chief of pramadaganas, joyous gangs for whom no task was difficult.
The pilgrim was asked to do penance there for twelve days and get absolved of all sins and become pure. At Gokarna he should visit a spot known as Gayatri, which was held in esteem by all the three social worlds, and stay there for three days and gift cows. [It must have been then a noted cattle farm.] Narada answered a doubt raised by Yudhishtira, chief of free men, naras, (on their behalf) whether there were restrictions about who could chant the holy Gayatri hymn. He said that the Brahmans (jurists) had answered the question explicitly with examples. Those who were born in groups of mixed social origin might be able to pronounce it correctly but they often could not follow its musical rhythm. Hence only the Brahmans who were trained should lead the gatherings in reciting it. Else there was no ban on any one studying or reciting it. The issue pertaining to throwing open Gayatri to all was raised at the Gokarna conclave attended by Narada.
Godavari Basin Centres
The pilgrim went northwards from Gokarna visiting confluences on the banks of Krshna and Godavari. The confluence of Vena and Godavari appears to have been a bird sanctuary. One of the resorts on the banks of Godavari was visited by siddhas. The royal pilgrim was asked to gift cows to that centre. This centre was under the jurisdiction of Vasuki, a mariner (naga), attached to the Vasus, one of the four groups of traditional nobles. The pilgrim would come in contact with Vasukis group of bargemen and reach Varada, a tributary of Godavari. He should gift cows there. At an academy known as Brahmasthana one might gift cows and be recognised as eligible to enter the social world of aristocrats (svargaloka).
The pilgrim might stay for three days at the forest academy, Kusaplavana observing celibacy and controlling his senses to gain approval for his successes and ventures (asvamedha yajnas). If in that forest he reached the lake created by the nobles to store the waters of Krshnavena and bathed in it and in the pond, Jatismara, he could recall his childhood experiences (previous births, in common parlance) clearly. There he could attend the seminars on civil laws of the Vedic times (agnishtoma). He should gift cows to the institute (beside a pond) that was open to all. Those who desired to pay homage to elders (pitrs, asuras) and nobles (devas), two sections of the ruling elite might visit the highly beneficial (mahapunya) well and the river, Payoshni, and gift cows. The pilgrim would then reach the great reformatory, the forest to which the guilty were exiled (Dandakaranya). He was asked to bathe in any river there and get purified. He might gift cows to the reformatories there.
Home for the Handicapped
The pilgrim was advised to visit the home for the deformed and handicapped (sarabha-anga) run by the large-hearted personage (mahatma), Sukha. He was assured that this visit would ensure that he was not declared to be a wayward and cruel person not subordinate to social codes (dharmas), and hence liable to be consigned to mines where life was hell (naraka). His clan (kula) too would be exonerated of the charge that it had failed to keep its member restrained.
Parasurama's academy at Surparaka
The royal pilgrim was asked to then visit Surparaka, (a windy place) where Parasurama, son of Jamadagni, had established an academy (tirtha) to winnow and propagate his views, and donate gold to it. Pulastya (Narada) asked the pilgrim to be disciplined in his routine and diet and visit Saptagodavara where he could attain the status of a member of the nobility (devapada). He would be declared as one equal to an aspirant who had attended the seminars prescribed for aristocrats (devasatra). [This spot might have been one where Godavari had waters received from seven tributaries.]
Sarasvata's Reorientation courses at Tungaka institute
According to the chronicler, earlier Rshi Sarasvata who was a disciple of Angirasa and a celibate and had restrained his senses reached the forest, Tungaka, and delivered reorientation courses in Vedas (to the scholars) there. These scholars who had already learnt Vedas had forgotten them. He taught them how to pronounce the holy syllable Omkara correctly. At that centre, the sages (rshis) and nobles (devas) and the Vedic officials, Varuna, Agni and Prajapati, and Hari who belonged to the school of Rshi Narayana, Mahadeva and Brahma, the head of the academy (bhagavan) had a yajna performed under the supervision of Bhrgu.
Rshi Sarasvata as the head of this centre taught all the sages the new methods for performing rites as prescribed in the codes (sastras). The post-Vedic social polity could be ushered in only after requiring the scholars to reorient their outlooks and methods. Such reorientation courses were organised in the centres located in the southern peninsula. Pulastya told Bhishma that all men and women were absolved of their sins when they entered that centre. One had to reside there for one month to get trained and become a member of the assembly of scholars and jurists (Brahmaloka). His clan (kula) too would be absolved of all sins. He should satisfy the elders (pitrs, asuras) and the nobles (devas), the two wings of the ruling nobility by his expertise. He would be declared eligible to be a judge after he attended the seminar (agnishtoma) on civil laws. He would also regain mastery over his memory. The Vedic culture was reinvented at the centres on the banks of Tunga, the chronicler implied.
Centres south of Ganga
After leaving the peninsula, the pilgrim entered the area south of Ganga. He was advised to visit Kalanjara mount where sages and ascetics met at a spot near a pond dug by nobles (devas). He was asked to donate cows to this centre and get praised by the nobles. The king who protected his subjects (prajas) should then visit the hills, Chitrakuta (the centre where the great sage, Atri, had his abode). There he should bathe in the stream, Mandakini, and be purified.
One who offered obeisance to the two wings of the elite, the elders (pitrs, asuras) and the nobles (devas) would get the fruits of his conquests and ventures (asvamedha yajnas) approved by them. He would rise to the highest level. Bhishma belonged to the stage when the feudal lords (asuras) had retired from active power struggle and were respected as elder statesmen (pitrs) who however did not totally give up their authoritarian style of social control.
The royal pilgrim was advised to visit Bhartristhana nearby, where Subrahmanya had his permanent camp for his huge army. One got his objectives fulfilled by mere visiting of that camp. The chronicler implied that the pilgrim might not be able to meet the saint-cum-general but his wishes would be fulfilled.
Narada asked Yudhishtira to bathe in the main tank (kotitirtha) there, gift cows and worship Mahadeva at the Jyeshtasthana. This centre too accommodated the retired feudal lords who demanded that their seniority over the liberal nobles (devas) should be recognised. [This centre was near Balis Janasthana.] Narada was referring to the seat of Soma, the eldest of the sons of Atri. [Soma was often identified with the school of Mahadeva and Surya with that of Narayana.] Pulastya (Narada) told Bhishma (Yudhishtira), who would not yield in war that one who bathed in the well at Kotitirtha (which had subterranean streams flowing from all the four directions as far as the seas) and paid obeisance to the elders (pitrs) and the nobles (devas) with dedication and restraining his mind, would reach the highest level in the society.
The king was advised to go to Sringaberapura on the northern side of Ganga where Rama, son of Dasaratha, crossed the river after he was exiled from Ayodhya. According to Pulastya (Narada) one who bathed in the Ganga there was absolved of all sins and would be eligible for all the benefits accruing from performing vajapeya sacrifice. The intellectual should get his head shaven and worship Mahadeva at his resort, Munchavata on the banks of Ganga, so that he might become chief of the ganas, organised groups of Mahadevas devotees.
Narada advised the king to then visit Prayaga. It was a centre where the nobles (devas) headed by Brahma, the peoples of the provinces in the different directions and their guardians, the guardians of the social worlds (lokas), saddhyas, the elders (pitrs) who were highly respected by the commoners, great sages like Sanatkumara, Angirasa and other Brahmarshis, technocrats (nagas), ascetics who dressed in leaves (suparnas), siddhas, Surya and other officials under him, gandharvas and apsarases, and Hari who was held in esteem by Brahma met for deliberations.
The three pits of Agni (the Vedic official in charge of administration of civil laws), which were considered to be the most revered centres of culture, were at the spot where Ganga emerged out of the confluence at Prayaga. It was the spot where Yamuna (daughter of Surya and a revered lady, devi) who was popular in all the three social worlds (lokas) merged with Ganga. [The midpoint between Ganga and Yamuna was described as the cleft in the buttocks (jaghana) of the girl, Bhumi. The sages described Prayaga as the vagina of that girl. This description might have been a later interpolation.] Narada told the king (a bold warrior) that Prayaga including Pratishthana was a place where sacrifices were offered to Brahma. It was a place where the scholars who taught Veda, the priests who officiated at sacrifices (yajnas), those who performed tapas, sages (rshis), nobles (devas) and kings who had become emperors (chakravarti) performed sacrifices (yajnas).
The chronicler, eulogising Prayaga, said that it was more purified than any other centre (kshetra) in the three social worlds (loka). Kings were required to perform rajasuya and asvamedha sacrifices there to get their ventures sanctified and their ambitions fulfilled. The nobles (devas) maintained that centre of sacrifice in good repair. Both Vedas and folklore extolled death at Prayaga. A commoner by bathing in that confluence gained as much merit as one who was learned in the four Vedas and one who adhered to the rule that he should at all costs speak the truth did. The mariner, Vasuki, had established the centre for enjoyment known as Bhogavati, at Prayaga. Hamsaprapatana and Dasasvamedhika were two other centres of education at Prayaga. These were equal to Kurukshetra in importance.
The yugas (epochs) and the centres
Earlier, during the stage of formation of distinct and lasting cultural orientations (krtayuga), all centres were considered to be equally important. As social and cultural differentiation set in (during the treta yuga) with the concept of three social worlds (lokas) and three social universes (jagats) and three sources of wealth (vistapas) and three sectors of commonalty based on the three traits (gunas, sattva, rajas and tamas), Pushkara (the seat of Brahma, chief of the intellectuals) came to the fore.
During the period (dvapara yuga) when there were clear divisions between the core society led by liberal nobles and the other society led by covetous plutocrats and between the ruling elite and the subordinate masses and the concept of two opposite orientations, dharma and adharma, joy and sorrow, came to the fore, Kurukshetra where the battles between the two opposed orientations were fought out, became important. In the next stage (kali yuga) when the concept of inevitability to overcome destiny was emphasised, the importance of the Ganga basin as Siddhi kshetra, place of fulfilment of objectives, came to the fore, according to the chronicler.
Vaishampayana was narrating the history of the Bharata lineage to Janamejaya who succeeded Parikshit. Parikshits reign marked the end of Dvapara epoch and the beginning of Kali epoch. Most of the eulogy of the Ganga basin belongs to the post-Upanishadic age of decadence, which may be treated as the early period of medieval times. This period tended to ignore the southern peninsula and also the Sindhu basin and the Sarasvati-Drshadvati basin, the areas west of Yamuna and western India in general, which had developed many new centres of training. The new orientations tuned to the system of four social classes (varnas) were not all rational as this eulogy indicates.
But the chronicler would advise the commoner to visit all the centres of culture and knowledge, whether in the north or in the south, in the east or in the west of the subcontinent, whether old or new. He pointed out that they were visited by Vasus, Saddhyas, Adityas and Maruts and Asvinidevas and by sages (rshis) who were equal to nobles (devas) in status. Narada, recounting Pulastyas advice to Bhishma, told Yudhishtira who belonged to the Kurus that the rulers personal merit (punya) should be improved through meritorious deeds (punya). The scholars had tried to find out the intents (artha) of the social codes (sastras) and with sincerity and faith in the existence of the Eternal Power had presented the thoughts embedded in the Vedas. Narada advised Yudhishtira to visit these centres of the Vedic and post-Vedic periods along with such scholars (Brahmans).
The impure and the crooked and antisocial and criminal elements like thieves would not visit those centres of education and culture. But one whose conduct was good and who followed the socio-cultural (dharma) and politico-economic (artha) codes (sastras) would visit these centres to absolve his ancestors of all sins. They and the nobles (devas) who were associated with the sages (rshis) and were guided by the views of the chief of the judiciary (Brahma) should be pleased through his commitment to the socio-cultural laws (dharma), Pulastya counselled Bhishma. Narada conveyed this counsel to Yudhishtira.
Pulastya told Bhishma who was equal to Indra, the head of the house of nobles and who belonged to the group of Vasus (by virtue of his being born to Ganga by a Vasu) who controlled that house then, that he would be reunited with that group if he visited all those centres mentioned by him and that he would also obtain eternal glory amongst the commoners (bhuloka). Narada told Yudhishtira that he would become more revered than Bhishma as an exponent of dharma if he followed these directions and took the sages (rshis) along with him and completed his pilgrimage at Prayaga. Bhishmas thesis on dharma gave prominence to the duties of the king, rajadharma. Narada expected Yudhishtira to adopt a holistic approach to dharma rather than the socio-political approach that Bhishma adopted. Naradas account gave importance to the contributions of sages (rshis) and nobles (devas) to the emergence of the different centres of education and culture.
Narada asked Yudhishtira to meet the expectations of Valmiki, Kashyapa, Atreya, Kundajathara, Visvamitra, Gautama, Asita, Devala, Markandeya, Galava, Bharadvaja, Vasishta, Uddalaka, Saunaka, Vyasa, Durvasa and Jabali and visit their educational centres (kshetras). These sages, some of whom were junior to Pulastya, did not all think alike. Yudhishtira would be able to adopt a holistic approach only by visiting all these centres. Narada suggested that he should follow the instructions of the sage, Lomaca, for this purpose. Narada (to be precise, the chronicler, Vaishampayana) expected that Yudhishtira would become famous like Santanu, Yayati, Pururavas, Bhagiratha and Rama, Manu (Vaivasvata), Ikshvaku, Puru and Prthu and Kartavirya Arjuna. [Many scholars had reservations about Kartavirya.] Yudhishtira was impressed by this account and told the sages who accompanied him about his desire to visit those centres along with them. (Ch.83 Vanaparva)
DHOUMYA and LOMACA on IMPORTANT CENTRES (TIRTHAS)
Yudhishtira realised that his brothers preferred to follow Naradas counsel and go on pilgrimage to the various centres of education and culture rather than being confined to Kamyaka grove. But he had sent Arjuna on an important mission to procure valuable weapons from the nobles (devas) so that they might face boldly Bhishma, Drona, Asvattama, Krpa, Karna and other supporters of Duryodhana. He did not want to take any decision in the absence of Arjuna and at the same time did not want to stay in that grove without him. According to the chronicler, Yudhishtira, like Narada, held that Arjuna and Vasudeva Krshna had a status similar to the one that the two sages, Nara and Narayana had. Yudhishtira requested his counsellor, Dhoumya, who had the calibre of a jurist who knew the socio-political constitution, Brahma, to advise him on what he should do. He requested Dhoumya to tell him more about the abodes, lakes and mountains that they should visit. (Ch.84 Vanaparva)
Dhoumya who had the status of Brhaspati in Yudhishtiras state in exile offered to tell him about the centres that the Brahmans, scholars and jurists had approved. Like Narada, Dhoumya too preferred to address Yudhishtira as a leading free man (nara sreshta). He would first refer to the centres (kshetras) in the east. Among the centres that the nobles (devas) had set up separately, the most important was the great academy in the Naimisha forest which sages and nobles attended. Dhoumya also referred to Girivara, which was beyond the river Gomati, which sages and nobles revered and the sacrificial spot of Vaivasvata (Yama, son of Surya) and the spot known as Brahmasaras where nobles and sages met.
The academy of scholars and jurists which was guided by the seventh Manu, Vaivasvata met at this spot beside a pond. While Dhoumya knew about and recognised its importance, Pulastya who was associated with the first Manu, Svayambhuva and his immediate successors would not have been aware of them. Narada who was junior to Pulastya and was associated with Surya Savarni who was patronised by Parikshit refrained from referring to Vaivasvata who was held in esteem by the rulers of the Solar lineages of the east.
Manu Vaivasvata who proclaimed the social code of rights and duties, dharma, of individuals in different positions and stages of life held a position similar to that of the Vedic official, Yama, who implemented the orders prohibiting certain acts and functioned under the supervision of Surya (Aditya), the head of the administrative body for the commonalty set up by the nobles. [In later times, Yama came to be identified as the God of Death.] Manu Vaivasvata had his headquarters at Gaya, which was under the rule of a king who was held in esteem by Rajarshis.
The orientation that one should marry and procreate a number of sons of whom at least one would on their behalf visit Gaya and pay oblations to the ancestors so that the ten previous generations of the clan would be absolved of their sins and so too the succeeding ten generations would be freed from guilt of having ignored their ancestors had not yet come to the fore then. It may be noted that in those times, a girl was given in marriage before she attained puberty and parents longed for at least one son who would discharge their debts to the ancestors. Dhoumya told Yudhishtira that Rajarshi Gaya had his capital at the place where there was a banyan tree on the banks of the river Phalgu beside which people offered oblations to the deceased ancestors. Bhagiratha made rich offerings to the nobles on the banks of Ganga.
According to Dhoumya, Visvamitra obtained the powers of a Brahman jurist on the banks of Kausiki. The river, Utpalavata, where Visvamitra, a Kausika, performed a sacrifice along with Indra was said to be in Pancala. At Kanyakubja, Parasurama, the head of an academy (bhagavan), sang in praise of Visvamitra whose sovereign power (aisvarya) exceeded that of the commonalty for there he sat on par with Indra. Dhoumya said that Visvamitra as a king had secured an authority equal to that of Indra, the head of the nobility and more than that of Brhaspati, the head of the civil polity under the Indra-Brhaspati agreement. Vasishta had the status of Brhaspati.
After attaining that authority, Visvamitra withdrew from his position as a sovereign and took up his new position as a Brahman jurist, a position that was superior to that of King, Indra, Brhaspati and other Vedic officials. The rise of Visvamitra from the status of a Kshatriya ruler (who was hemmed in between the nobility and the commonalty) to that of the head of the independent and superior judiciary (Brahma) must be presented in the proper light. Parasuramas role as a champion of that judiciary of Brahmans and his campaign to keep the state deprived of its military wing (Kshatriya) and coercive powers too needs proper appraisal.
Dhoumya who drew the attention of Yudhishtira to the issues pertaining to socio-political constitutions that he had inherited then referred to the importance of Prayaga, the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna. Brahma, the chief of the judiciary, who had also the status of a noble (deva), was earlier visualised as voicing the views and protecting the interests and meeting the needs of the discrete individuals (bhutas) of the social periphery who were not members of any social group, clan or community.
The session of sacrifice that Brahma conducted at Prayaga was attended by sages (rshis). It was highly authoritative (pavitra) and protected the interests of all individuals by enabling every individual to rise in social ladder without being required to join a particular social group or leaving another (loosely interpreted as birth and death). This session led to the flourishing of the importance and influence of the social laws, dharma. It also freed those individuals who were pushed to the periphery for violation of social codes from the stigma that they were under. In other words, this constitution, Brahma, absolved them of their sins and allowed them to be taken back by their respective social groups.
Dhoumya then told Yudhishtira about the existence at Prayaga of an abode of Agastya and also of a mountain, Hiranyabindu where that great sage stayed. He also drew attention to the forest named after Tamasa, the fourth Manu, where many sages resided. He referred to the Mahendra mount where Parasurama resided. Even before Parasurama established himself there, Brahmadeva had performed a sacrifice there. It was already a centre of studies in socio-political constitution.
It would appear that Mahadeva who promulgated a new socio-political constitution for the core society (vide Ch.15 Atharvaveda) might have held his seminar there and redefined the powers of the nobles (devas) and the commoners (manushyas) and Brahmans and Kshatriyas. Parasurama tried to undo certain features of that constitution by abolishing the class of Kshatriyas and disbanding armies and paving way for an anarchist society.
There was a hall known as Brahmasala on the banks of Bhagirathi in the Himalayas where scholars, especially jurists met. The abode of Matanga at Kedara was to be visited. So too Kundoda, a mountain where the river Nanda had his source was to be visited. A king who had been outcast (nishada) had visited that remote spot where sages lived in a grove belonging to the nobles, and benefited, Dhoumya said. Would the Pandavas who were in exile attempt to reach that spot? (Ch.85 Vanaparva)
Dhoumya might not have visited the places in the southern region that he mentioned to Yudhishtira. [Even in the east he had visited only a few important centres.] He knew that scholars (tapasvis) who made strenuous efforts to discover new areas and obtain new knowledge had gone to the areas beyond Godavari. Vena, Bhima and other rivers had on their banks the abodes of these tapasvis set in the midst of animals and birds. They were far away from human habitation.
Payoshni and Nrga
Brahman scholars had reached Payoshni, a river under the jurisdiction of Rajarshi Nrga. The great yogi and chronicler, Markandeya was said to have sung the story of Nrgas ancestors in the presence of that king who had the status of Bhupati (ruler of the plains) at one of his yajnas. Indra, with other members of the nobility attended that assembly of Brahman scholars at Varaha. Nrga honoured Indra with Soma drink, indicating that he was welcome to the assembly of the sober intelligentsia stationed in the forests. He also offered gifts to the Brahman scholars. Nrga was a free man who moved from place to place.
Nrgas were also known to sing melodiously like rivers. They formed the lower rung of the Maruts, a group of traditional nobles, who belonged to the windy moors. Maruts came forward to serve food to the guests at that assembly. Lomaca said that the water of Payoshni absolved one of all sins and (being medicated) removed ones fear of dying as a sinner. Lomaca said that the spot where Sivas wealth, vishana (snake-poison?) was kept (as pure native medicine) for purposes of revival should be visited as Sivas abode. Hence a visit to Payoshni was considered to be more useful than visits to other rivers, according to Dhoumya.
Dhoumya referred to the monastery of Parasuramas disciple, Mathara, set in a grove. There the ascetics lived on roots and fruits. On one of the hills there, Varuna, the Vedic official and ombudsman, sat to hear disputes. On the northern banks of Praveni, there was an abode of the sage, Kanva, and the hermitages (aranya) of tapasvis. Dhoumya referred to Jamadagnis sacrificial spot and abodes of sages in the beautiful windy country, Surparaka. Lomaca drew attention to the academic centres named after Agastya and Varuna and Kumari in the southern Pandya country. He also referred to the southern river, Tamraparni.
The pilgrim should then proceed to Gokarna (on the west coast, south of Goa). Dhoumya said that the nobles (devas) who wanted to enjoy the fruits of liberation (moksha) from worldly duties and obligations performed tapas beside a pond there. Commoners (manushyas) who had not controlled their senses could not reach that pond (near Gokarna island). On the hill known as Devasaha, there was an abode of a disciple of Agastya. It must have been maintained with the help of nobles. Close by on Vaidurya hill there was an abode of Agastya himself. The sages in these abodes lived only on roots and fruits and water.
Surashtra Centres and Krshna
Dhoumya then offered to tell Yudhishtira about the importance of the centres in Surashtra. Scholars referred to the tank created by breaking the rocks (Samasa-udbhedana) and Prabhasa. Dhoumya referred to Pindaraka, an abode for tapasvis, and to the mountain, Ujjayanta praised by Narada. Dhoumya then mentioned how Krshna (Narayana) and Balarama (Adisesha) had left Mathura and reached Dwaraka. According to Lomaca, Govinda (Vasudeva) advocated Sanatana Dharma. The chronicler notes that Brahmans had access to the Vedas while the commoners had access only to Vedanta (Upanishads). Dhoumya would praise him as the ancient Pundarikaksha (an auspicious aquatic bird); Krshna had his seat in an island as Deva of Devas (nobles). He noted how Krshna was referred to as Kshetrajna, one who knew the field of his activity, as Paramesvara, a great charismatic benevolent chief, as one whose real form could not be visualised, as killer of Madhu, a feudal lord and as Hari. (Ch.86 Vanaparva)
Dhoumya proceeded to refer to the centres in the western region. The Narmada flows westward in Avanti. The chiefs of the centres and sanctuaries, forests and mountains in that area along with nobles (devas) including Brahmadeva, siddhas, rshis and charanas who were known as blessed people (punyajana) used to visit the academic (holy) centres on the banks of the Narmada. In that region there was a peak named after Vidura (?). The home of the sage, Visrava, where Kubera was born was situated on that mountain. Visrava, a disciple of Pulastya, must have been godfather of the plutocrat, that is, a patron of the plutocratic culture.
Dhoumya told Yudhishtira who was a chief of the plains (bhupati) that nobles (devas), sages (rshis) and the free intellectuals (gandharvas) could visit the lotus pond on that peak. That sector of the river, Narmada, belonged to a Rajarshi. It was believed that Yayati, son of Nahusha, had been sent back to the pious (sadhus) as he was not fit to be treated as a noble (deva). Yayati reached the institutions on the banks of this river and attended reorientation courses on sasvata dharma, the social laws that had been newly legislated for all times.
Central Indian centres
Dhoumya drew attention to the Mainaka and Asita mounts there (named after the apsaras, Menaka, and Asita, a sarparshi). There was also the abode of Rajarshi Kakshasena and that of the great physician, Chyavana. Even a little effort (tapas) there would help a commoner (manushya) achieve perfection (siddhi), it was claimed. At Jambumarga, a sanctuary for birds and animals there was an abode of sages (rshis). Ketumala, Medhya, Gangadvara and Sindhu aranya (forest) were other places in this region where sages had their centres of education and culture.
Pushkara, the tank by which Brahma, the head of the academy of scholars and jurists had his seat was also there. At Pushkara there was an academy for Vaikhanasas, retired senior citizens (vanaprasthas) who had attained perfection (siddhi) in their fields and who were treated as sages (rshis). Lomaca advised Yudhishtira to visit these lakes and the academies there which were under the jurisdiction of Brahma who determined who could be accepted as a subject of the social polity (praja) though not a native of the land (jana). (Ch.87 Vanaparva)
Dhoumya then mentioned the importance of Sarasvati and Yamuna on whose banks Sahadeva, son of Srnjaya, had offered huge gifts to priests and Bharata had performed numerous asvamedha yajnas to mark his conquests. Lomaca also referred to Sarabhangas abode and to where the Valakhilyas (short-stature Vedic sages) had offered sacrifices on the banks of Sarasvati in the past. He also referred to Drshadvati on whose banks Nyakrodha, a Pancala sage, and Dalbhya resided. [When Dhoumya recounted the importance of these centres, Sarasvati had disappeared in the sands but Drshadvati was still flowing.] Suvrata had his abode on the plains there. It was also a spot where scholars who knew the subtleties of the Vedas had their sessions. The two sages, Nara and Narayana, too had performed sacrifices there. Jamadagni too had performed sacrifices there with waters brought from all rivers as the gandharva chief, Visvavasu, sang.
Dhoumya told Yudhishtira about the spot where Ganga originated breaking the mountains. It was a spot visited by gandharvas, apsarases, yakshas, rakshas and kinnaras and by the Himalayan mountain tribes, kiratas. Brahmarshis held it in reverence and so too Sanatkumara. Pururavas had visited those mountains. Bhrgu had his abode on one of the mountains there. Narayanas abode was near Badari. It was a place where devarshis and siddhas had resided to perform tapas. Vasus, Saddhyas, Adityas, Maruts and Asvinidevas, who were nobles and others who were equal to nobles (devas), and sages used to visit this spot. Dhoumya said. He exhorted the Pandavas to visit these places.
[It may be noted that Dhoumya did not deal with the areas in Gandhara and beyond and in Pamirs and in the outer Himalayas or areas in the northeast region or in the Deccan plateau, Dandakaranya which was then an impenetrable forest. He had moved to the southernmost point of the subcontinent along the east coast and then moved northwards along the west coast.] (Ch.88 Vanaparva)
Arjuna's message to Yudhishtira
While Dhoumya was exhorting the Pandavas to visit the different centres of education and culture in the country, Lomaca, a great sage who had travelled widely met Yudhishtira and told him how he had been sent by Indra who was training Arjuna in his palace. Lomaca said that Arjuna had succeeded in getting the famous missile of Rudra and had learnt how to use it and also how to retrieve it. Arjuna had also obtained from Yama, Kubera, Varuna and Indra, their weapons, that is, the knowledge how to use the powers that those Vedic officials had. He had also learnt music and dancing from the son of Visvavasu, a great Gandharva chieftain. Indra had asked Lomaca to tell Yudhishtira that the former was impressed with Karnas abilities as a warrior but was sure that Arjuna was superior to him. Indra had asked Lomaca, a sage who knew the socio-political constitution, a Brahmarshi, to convey to Yudhishtira the advantages of rigorous training (tapas) at the different centres (tirthas). (Ch.89 Vanaparva)
Lomaca's advice to Yudhishtira on his tour
Arjuna wanted that Yudhishtira should visit all the centres along with the sage, Lomaca and hoped that his presence would deter the forest guards (rakshas) from harming his brothers even as Dadhichi protected Indra and Angiras protected Surya (Aditya). Lomaca had already visited those centres twice and would be visiting them again with Yudhishtira and his brothers. Lomaca said that Rajarshis like Manu (Vaivasvata) had prescribed this arduous tour of important centres to remove fear of the unknown. He noticed that Yudhishtira was like Bhagiratha, Gaya and Yayati, committed to dharma.
He advised the Pandava not to move about with a huge retinue. Yudhishtira hence advised the Brahmans and the citizens and the selfless activists (yatis), servants and others who accompanied him to return to Hastinapura and seek Dhrtarashtras protection and support or to go to Pancala. Dhrtarashtra did receive them well. After staying for three days more in Kamyaka grove, the Pandavas and Lomaca began their pilgrimage. (Ch.90 Vanaparva)
Some of the Brahman scholars who were living in their forest abodes were eager to visit the various centres mentioned by Narada, Dhoumya and Lomaca, along with the Pandavas and under their protection. They hoped that Yudhishtira by visiting these centres would attain the status that Kartavirya, Rajarshi Ashtaka, Romapada and Bharata had attained in the past. They wanted to visit centres like Prabhasa, rivers like Ganga and mountains like Mahendra.
Pandavas and rules prescribed for commoners and nobles
The Pandavas agreed to their request and took them along. Before they left that grove, Vyasa, Narada and Parvata came to meet them and see them off. They told the Pandavas and Draupadi to observe rigorous physical discipline and maintain an intellect (buddhi) pure in thinking (manas), known as austerity expected of commoners (manushya vrata) and the one of nobles (daiva vrata). They took the necessary pledge and after paying obeisance to the sages some of whom had access to nobles (devarshis) and some to commoners only (manushya rshis) they embarked on their trek.
Yudhishtira exhorted to follow only dharma
Yudhishtira wanted to know why though he had all good traits he had to suffer while his enemies who lacked these good traits and did not follow the rules of dharma were able to flourish in the social world (loka) of commonalty. Lomaca told him not to feel upset by people who liked pursuits other than dharma (that is, artha and kama) benefiting in those fields. It was true that a commoner flourished because of such economic (artha) pursuits and enjoyed by his pursuits of joy (kama). But after that he got ruined totally. Where kings flourished by adhering to the social and moral laws (dharma) and destroyed all enemies, their states flourished.
Lomaca on the traits of the dharmavijayi
Lomaca was for the concept of dharmavijayi. He told Yudhishtira that he had witnessed the cruel feudal chieftains (daityas) and the covetous plutocrats (danavas) flourishing and then getting ruined. He had witnessed these when he was as a devarshi in the company of the nobles. The nobles (devas) because they were for dharma reached the centres of culture and education while the feudal lords (asuras) because of their arrogance and because they had given up adherence to those laws could not reach those centres. Arrogance led them to egotism (ahamkara) and egotism to rage (krodha). This made the covetous persons and hedonists resort without shame to despicable acts. As the feudal lords (asuras) frittered away their wealth, lost their patience with their pursuits proving profitless and deviated from their personal duties (svadharma), the wealthy took refuge under the nobles (devas) and only the poor stayed in their areas. The arrogant feudal lords (daityas) and the greedy plutocrats (danavas) fell on evil days (kali).
Lomaca told Yudhishtira that the nobles (devas) who were by nature devoted to dharma went to the centres besides seas, rivers and tanks and practised tapas and performed sacrifices and offered gifts to the needy and got rid of all sins. [Later when the nobles were admitted to the three higher classes, varnas, these three duties were made obligatory for all the members of those three classes, dvijas, twiceborn.] Lomaca advised the Pandavas to follow the same methods and visit all the training centres and regain their wealth. This was the way prescribed by the permanent legislation, sasvata dharma, he said. He asked Yudhishtira to follow the footsteps of great personages like Sibi of Usinara, Bhagiratha, Vasumanas, Gaya, Puru, Pururavas, Ikshvaku, Muchukunda, Mamdhata, Marutta and devarshis. Lomaca was sure that the sons of Dhrtarashtra who had fallen victim to lure of wealth and lust (that is, to adharma) and to ignorance (ajnana) would soon be destroyed as the asuras were.
Naimisha forest academy
Vaishampayana told Janamejaya who was a protector of the plains (bhumi) that the Pandavas who were warriors stayed together while roaming in the forests. They reached the academy of scholars in the Naimisha forest near the river Gomati. At the Gomati centres they gifted cows and wealth to the deserving scholars. They pleased the nobles (devas) and the elders (pitrs, asuras), the two wings of the traditional ruling elite and the scholars-cum-jurists (Brahmans). After visiting various centres there they reached Prayaga and performed tapas at the spot where the nobles (devas) used to perform sacrifices (yajnas). Along with the Brahmans they reached the sacrificial spot of Brahmadeva.
Manu Vaivasvata's mountain academy
Lomaca led the Pandavas to Gayasiras, a mountain peak named after the highly revered Rajarshi, Gaya, patron of Manu Vaivasvata. In the same area there was a peak known as Brahmasiras, which was visited by sages (rshis). There the sage, Agastya, took instructions from Manu Vaivasvata. The Pandavas reached the mountain academy that was held in esteem by Rajarshi Gaya who learnt the social laws (dharmas) directly from that Manu.
Yudhishtira and Sanatana Dharma
Dharmaraja who upheld the ancient social laws, sanatana dharma had his seat on the ridge where all the streams had their source. The chronicler implied that Yudhishtira took inspiration from the earlier version of dharmasastra rather than from the later one that was approved by Manu Vaivasvata and Agastya and which became the permanent legislation, sasvata dharma. It was a spot where Mahadeva, the great charismatic chief (paramesvara) who was revered by Brahma, the head of the academy of scholars and jurists, had his abode.
The socio-political constitution that was outlined by Mahadeva for the core society was accepted by the constitution bench headed by Brahma. It envisaged four classes, aristocrats (devas), intellectuals and jurists (brahmans), administrators and warriors (kshatriyas) and commoners (prthvi, manushyas, vis). Sanatana Dharma could not have advocated the four-fold division, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras, which was provided for in the new legislation by Manu Vaivasvata as Sasvata Dharma. Yudhishtira adhered to Sanatana Dharma.
Kaumara Vrata, Pledge to remain a celibate
The chronicler described Mahadeva as a benefactor who rewarded the deserving who pursued the four values of life, purusharthas, dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Those who sought liberation from all worldly bonds got their objective fulfilled (siddhi) there. The Pandavas spent the holy period of four months there attending the sacrifices performed by the sages and listened to their deliberations. One of the scholars had opted for Kaumara vrata, a pledge to stay unmarried throughout life and to be engaged in mass education.
Rajarshi Gaya, son of Athurtarajas, seems to have donated all his wealth to commoners as he had taken the above pledge and did not have any offspring. Those who did not have natural heirs, especially sons, were not eligible to hold any personal property or positions of power. Gaya who had inherited huge wealth and increased it opted to distribute that wealth during his lifetime among the commoners (manushyas) and the people of the subaltern (pranis) (Ch.93 Vanaparva)
Why Agastya killed Vatapi
Lomaca then led Yudhishtira and the other Pandavas to the town where the sage, Agastya, had destroyed Vatapi, a feudal warlord. Vatapi was known to have fulfilled the requirements of the commoners. Why did Agastya get angry with him, Yudhishtira wanted to know. Vatapi was the younger brother of Ilvala, a feudal lord (asura) who wanted his son to be equal to Indra, the head of the house of nobles (devas). But the Brahman jurists declared that the post of Indra could not be occupied by a feudal lord (asura) or his descendants. Ilvala got angry and asked his brother Vatapi to get those jurists (Brahmans) killed.
Agastya once saw his elders (pitrs) who were Brahmavadis, socio-political ideologues following Atharvaveda performing tapas in extraordinary stances. They asked him to marry and procreate a son so that their mission might be continued. But Agastya did not find any girl suitable enough to be his wife. He arranged that the king of Vidarbha should procreate on one of his wives a girl who would be perfect in all respects. The king who wanted a son was delighted to have that daughter instead. As it had been let known that Lopamudra was to marry Agastya no one dared to seek her hands.
Agastya took away the princess to his abode and required her to stay there dressed in simple saffron clothes without ornaments befitting the wife of a sage. Lopamudra would not have sex with him unless both wore rich ornaments befitting her status as a girl from a royal family. She said that marriage was not meant only for procreating children. Agastya agreed and went in search of a rich person from whom he could receive wealth. He told one of the rich kings whom he met that he would receive gifts only if that king could give his surplus wealth without causing hardship to anyone. But he found that the kings income were equal to his expenses and refused to receive any gift from him. It was so in the case of two other kings too. The three kings who ruled justly and without any attempt to earn more than what was required suggested that they might approach the feudal lord (asura), Ilvala, who was very rich. (Ch.95, 96 Vanaparva)
Ilvala while entertaining Agastya plotted to get him killed by his brother, Vatapi. But Agastya guessed his move and pre-empted Ilvala by killing the assassin. Agastya demanded that Ilvala should pay the three kings a large number of cattle and gold. He asked Ilvala for his golden chariot. Ilvala was not prepared to lose it and attempted to kill Agastya but failed. Ilvala was burnt to ashes. Agastya returned to Lopamudra with the wealth she asked for. The son born to them later emerged as a great scholar. Lomaca regretted that Vatapi who was a descendant of Prahlada proved to be a cruel killer of innocent Brahmans.
Why Parasurama visited Bhrgu's academy
Lomaca then escorted Yudhishtira and others to Bhrgus academy where Parasurama regained the social powers and authority that he had lost to Dasaratha Rama. Lomaca asked them to bathe in the waters there and similarly regain their status. Dharmaraja, son of Pandu, wanted to know why Parasurama was deprived of his power and how it was restored. Lomaca narrated to him how Parasurama wanted to test Ramas prowess and challenged him to string the bow of the former and aim the arrow. Rama, according to this version was sent by his father to welcome Parasurama to his country. Rama not only met Parasuramas expectations but also made the latter regret his arrogance.
When Parasurama realised that Rama had the support of all the cadres of nobles (devas) and gandharvas, elders (pitrs) and asuras and social controllers and sages like the Valakhilyas and officials like Agni and all scholars, he surrendered and returned to Mahendra hills where he was in exile. He was advised by the elders to visit Bhrgus academy and regain his influence. Parasurama needed reorientation on the rights and duties of the individuals in accordance with their class affiliation as outlined by Bhrgu, chief editor of Manava Dharmasastra. (Ch.98 Vanaparva)
The battles against Vrtra and the Kalakeyas
Yudhishtira wanted to learn more about the exploits of Agastya. Lomaca told him that during the early times of social organisation based on ones natural tendencies, the cruel feudal lords were united. Supporting Vrtra they attacked Mahendra and other nobles. To kill Vrtra, the nobles who were surrounded in all directions by the feudal lords sought the help of Brahma, that is, they needed the sanction of the constitution. While the city was governed by the liberal nobles, the surrounding rural areas had come under the control of the feudal lords. The then constitution granted autonomy for the rural areas and the city administration was weak and helpless. It could not raise troops from the rural areas or collect taxes or tributes from the villagers.
Brahma, the chief judge, told them to approach Dadhichi, a highly generous sage, and request him to give his bones for the good of all the three social worlds (lokas). The nobles could make the strong weapon, vajra, out of those bones. Indra could use it to kill Vrtra, Brahma suggested. The nobles led by Narayana then went to Dadhichis abode and requested him to help them. The sage offered to die so that they might take his bones and make the required weapon, vajra. Tvashta, an artisan, made that weapon for Indra so that the latter might rule the social world of nobility (devaloka) without being required to share power with the feudal lords (asuras). (Ch.99 Vanaparva)
Indra then dared Vrtra who was surrounded by the powerful chiefs, Kalakeyas. The nobles could not withstand the attack launched by them and even Purandara swooned. But he was revived and enthused by Vishnu to attack Vrtra and cast his vajra on him. The death of Vrtra unnerved the other feudal lords who hid themselves in the seas. And from there they began to plan how to destroy all the three social worlds (divam, prthvi and antariksham, nobility, commonalty and frontier society). They would destroy the scholars and tapasvis first, as all the social worlds (lokas) were dependent on the strenuous labour put in by the tapasvis to discover new knowledge and new methods. The tapasvis and those who were experts in dharma should be destroyed first to destroy civilised life, they decided.
The Kaleyas from their hide-outs in the seas targeted the abodes of the sages and killed them or emaciated them. The commoners on the lands could not identify these enemies. Their lives were disturbed and they fled in different directions for safety. Some brave warriors tried to locate the asuras but failed. The nobles found the entire social order disturbed and they appealed to Madhusudana (Narayana) for protection. They reminded him of his exploits as Varaha, Narasimha and Vamana and his destroying Jamba, a powerful feudal lord. As Varaha, Vishnu had retrieved the plains of the commonalty from the sea and as Narasimha he had killed the daitya, Hiranyakasipu, and as Vamana, he had retrieved all the three social worlds from the invincible feudal warlord, Bali. They appealed to him intervene in the interests of all the social worlds (lokas) and the nobles (devas) and Indra.
Vishnu's outline of the new commonalty (prajas)
The nobles (devas) were being maintained in the new scheme by four types of subjects (prajas) who were flourishing because of the policy outlined by Vishnu. The chronicler implied that all the members admitted to the new commonalty (after the collapse of the feudal order caused by the steps that Vamana took) as prajas had been classified as commoners (manushyas) who were organised as clans and communities, free men (naras) who had walked out of these bodies, discrete individuals (bhutas) of the periphery who had originally belonged to such organised bodies but had been forced out of them and the people of the other society (itara jana) many of whom had consented to be governed by the laws of the integrated social polity.
Threat to the new commonalty of the enlarged social polity
Their economy had improved and they were in a position to maintain the non-economic cadres like nobles (devas), sages (rshis) and the elders (pitrs). Similarly the social worlds (lokas) too were able to flourish through mutual dependence. Vishnu had arranged for their security also. To be precise, Krshna (Vishnu) who had taken charge of the administration of the territories retrieved from Bali had introduced the concept and system of interdependent but independent social worlds.
Threat to the Intelligentsia
But they were facing a great threat from a mysterious source. Brahman scholars were being killed and decline of the intelligentsia would result in the decline of the agro-pastoral commonalty (bhumi) they feared. If the commonalty declined it would result in the decline of the nobility too. They appealed to Vishnu who was the chief of the social universes (jagats) of unorganised and large mobile populations to ensure that all the organised and settled social worlds (lokas) were protected against the new threat.
Weaknesses in the Vaivasvata Constitution
Vishnu told the nobles that he knew what had caused the decline of the subjects (prajas) of their polity. The intellectuals and the blessed peoples (punyajana) had refused to give up their rights of freedom of movement and pursuits and become subjects of the new expanded state. They did not pay taxes and hence the civil state did not consider it its duty to protect them. Most of these intellectuals, rshis, tapasvis, Brahmans, siddhas etc. stayed in forests or beside rivers and they were being killed mercilessly by the Kalakeyas leading to the social, cultural and economic decline of the new commonalty. Vishnu was aware of this weakness in the concept of a contractual state introduced by Manu Vaivasvata which refrained from compelling these intellectuals to submit themselves to state control in return for state protection.
The new state had jurisdiction over lands, rivers and ponds, moors, forests and mountains but not over the seas offshore. The Kalakeyas had hidden in the islands and from their hide-outs in the off-shore islands raided the abodes of the sages and scholars without impunity and without fear of any state troops locating them. The assault on the intelligentsia led to the decline of the new integrated polity headed by the nobles.
Vishnu did not know how to flush out the Kalakeyas from their hideouts in the sea and so too Brahma, the head of the judiciary. The nobles then approached Agastya to dredge out the waters and get the brigands exposed so that they might be easily spotted and killed. In the socio-political constitution of the Vedic times, Varuna was the official in charge of the seas and had been authorised to keep in his custody in the galleons those who had failed to fulfil their socio-economic obligations. That constitution was still in force.
Agastya intervenes to save the intelligentsia
The Kalakeyas were acting against the intelligentsia which had rejected the concept of a sovereign state and exterminating it slowly and neither the civil state nor the nobility nor the judiciary was in a position to bring them to justice as they were under the jurisdiction of Varuna who himself was a powerful juridical authority. Agastya was claimed to be a son of Varuna. He had in the past unseated Nahusha from his position as Indra. [The legends claimed that when the people of the Vindhyas tried to stop the movement of Surya across its states, they were restrained by Agastya who had cultural jurisdiction over the Vindhyas and the areas south of it.]
Even the Vedic official, Mrtyu (often interpreted as god of death), who harassed the subjects (prajas) was taken to task by him. In the Vedic constitution, the commonalty was guided by Agni, the civil judge. When it came under the jurisdiction of Brhaspati, Agni was placed in charge of the distant social groups along with Mrtyu. When the expanded society came into position, Mrtyu took charge of the prajas (the four groups mentioned earlier) and coerced them to submit to its political economy or be left to fend for themselves. Agastya disapproved this harsh approach of Mrtyu in imposing economic sanctions against those intellectuals who stood apart from the organised society and its state. He asserted the right of every group to its sources of livelihood. The nobles requested him to come to their rescue.
Agastya spreads new cultural orientations in the south
Myths and legends need to be interpreted rationally if we are to outline the social changes correctly. Yudhishtira wanted to know why the peoples of the Vindhyas got angry and blocked the path of Surya, the chief administrator of the later Vedic times. Lomaca pointed out that the people north of the Vindhyas gave pre-eminence to Surya and that official too held them in esteem. [Surya circum-ambulated the golden Meru peak in the Himalayas.] The people of the Vindhyas were sore that they were not given the same importance as those of the northern areas in the social and cultural orientations and refused to accept the social system in which Surya (Aditya) represented the Kshatriya administrative order, Soma the intelligentsia of the integrated society and Na-kshatras the non-combatant masses (vis). The quazi-feudal (asura) culture that was propped up in the Vindhyas by Bali with the support of its people (jana) had to be penetrated.
Agastya, a disciple of Pulastya, was prevailed on by the nobles to put a stop to the rise of this undesirable culture and to facilitate the flow of the orientations that had developed in the region south of the Himalayas to the regions south of the Vindhyas. The people of the southern peninsula had remained for long untouched by the high culture that had developed in the north. Only a few sages had till then moved into the forests and coastal areas of the south. The latter had been victims of harassment by the cruel Kalakeyas and had to be rescued if they could be harbingers of a new culture and civilisation enveloping the entire subcontinent. Agastya cleverly won safe passage through the Vindhyas for his mission and established his centres of education and culture at different places in the south.
The reformed daityas of the Vindhyas kept open the corridor, as they respected Agastya and were assured that they could follow their ways of life. Agastya spent his entire life in the acculturation of the people of the south. The nobles headed by Purandara Indra requested Agastya to help in flushing out the Kalakeyas who were the enemies of the intelligentsia and the cultural aristocracy. Agastya went to the seacoast along with the nobles, sages, tapasvis, siddhas, commoners (manushyas), technocrats (uragas), gandharvas, kimpurushas and charanas and social controllers.
The claim that Agastya drank the entire ocean defies credulity. Agastya, the worried nobles and sages and commoners and gandharvas, must have reached a creek on the seacoast where the Kalakeyas had their hideout. With their help he drained the water of the creek back into the sea and exposed the intransigent brigands who were thereupon easily killed by the nobles. Some of them might have escaped death. The issue next was how to fill the creek back with water. Agastya advised them to find out a method to restore the damage done to the coast. All the subjects (prajas) who had accompanied the nobles to meet Agastya returned to their places. The epic does not state where this event did take place. (Ch.104 Vanaparva)
Lomaca on the roles of Sagara and Bhagiratha
The nobles led by Vishnu met Brahma, the head of the judiciary, to find out a solution to the problem of undoing the harm done to ecology of the coast. Brahma asked them to wait until Bhagiratha filled the sea with the waters of the rivers. Yudhishtira wanted to know from Lomaca how this took place. Lomaca traced the career of Sagara, a ruler belonging to the Ikshvaku lineage. Sagara prayed to Paramasiva (Mahadeva) to help him beget children (prajas). According to the legend sixty thousand children were born to him in a strange way. To be rational Sagara was asked to treat the sixty thousand citizens of his country as his own children (prajas). (Ch.105 Vanaparva)
He trained them as soldiers but they however proved to be unregulated and undisciplined volunteers fit only to be a land army. They harassed the nobles (devas) and the feudal lords (asuras), the free intelligentsia-cum-warriors (gandharvas) and commoners (manushyas), the four sectors of the larger core society. Sagara used them as troops for his conquests. He sent his sacrificial horse with them to establish his invincibility. They lost track of that horse near the dry seacoast and returned to the king to report it.
Sagara sent them back to search for it. The land army followed the path of the canal that they were digging and reached the creek and dug there too. They discovered only the mutilated bodies of the feudal lords (asuras) and their associates. Then they came across that horse and the great sage, Kapila and were surprised. [This version presumes that Kapila had his abode on the sea-coast in Bengal.] (Ch.106 Vanaparva)
They ignored him and tried to lead away the horse. According to the chronicler the incensed sage burnt them to ashes. Narada who learnt of the event reported it to Sagara who remembered the warning given to him earlier by Sthanu (Mahadeva) about his subjects and followers. Sagara then deputed Amsuman, son of Asamanja to retrieve the horse. Sagara to protect dharma and to satisfy the people of his capital had disinherited and exiled his sadist son, Asamanja. Amsuman entered Kapilas abode through the artificial creek and told the sage of his mission.
Kapila was pleased with him and gave him his horse and said that the grandson of Amsuman would please Mahesvara and bring Ganga to the earth. [This promise is not to be taken literally.] Bhagiratha, one of Sagaras successors would succeed in deepening the path of Ganga up to its estuary. Sagara, Amsuman and his successor, Dilipa, could not complete this project. Bhagiratha who was devoted to the liberal social laws based on dharma and to the puritanical laws based on truth (satya) and was not jealous of others who led an easy life spent all his wealth on and energy on completing this project. (Ch.107 Vanaparva)
Bhagiratha handed over the administration of his country to his ministers and went to the Himalayas on his mission to bring the Ganga down to the plains. He located the source of the mighty river and was told that its force could be kept in check only by Mahesvara (Samkara). He went to the latters abode in the Himalayas and pleased him and got his help. [The different descriptions regarding this episode are obviously later interpolations and fail to touch the core of the theme.] Kapilas abode was in the Ganga-Yamuna doab. The de-silting of the Ganga was necessary to ensure that its waters were used fully for irrigation. It was also necessary to prevent floods.
The project undertaken by Sagara to deepen the river in its last stretch did not yield the necessary benefits. The force of the river coming down the Himalayas had to be increased moderately, Bhagiratha realised. With the help of Samkara, a great socio-political thinker, Bhagiratha completed this project. One of Bhagirathas daughters was Bhishmas mother and guide and another was Dushyantas wife and Janamejayas mother. Bhagiratha was guided in his project by Jahnu, a son of Kuru. It would be irrational to hold that Bhagiratha brought Ganga from heaven to earth. The pictures of later medieval times should not be allowed to hide a significant measure that Bhagiratha took to tame Ganga. (Ch.108, 109 Vanaparva)
Lomaca then escorted Yudhishtira and his brothers to the silent valley near the rivers Nanda and Aparananda where the sage Rshabha had commanded that none, not even the wind should disturb the silence that he needed for meditation. The silent peaks that men did not dare to even see could be scaled only by the nobles (devas) and the sages, Lomaca said. Then he took the Pandavas towards Kausiki, the river on whose banks Visvamitra had meditated. It also had the abode of Vibhandaka, a disciple of Kashyapa.
Rsysrnga, son of Vibhandaka had married Santa, daughter of Romapada, ruler of Anga. Yudhishtira wanted to know how Rsyasrnga could have been born to a Kashyapa by a doe. The antler-like growth on Rsysrngas forehead should have inspired this incredible tale. It needs to be left alone without any attempt to answer the question whether the Kashyapa was guilty of sodomy. Rsyasrnga was born to that sage by an apsaras, Urvasi, and was brought up in the forest. He had not seen any human being except his father and was to remain a celibate.
Lomaca told Yudhishtira that Romapada, friend of Dasaratha, had failed to keep his word to Brahman jurists though he knew the social laws, dharma, and hence Indra and other nobles did not come to his rescue when his country suffered from failure of rains. Romapada appears to have followed the provisions of the liberal laws enshrined in Dharmasastra but was however seen to disregard the views of the judiciary that stood by the constitution, Brahma, rather than the new legislation, dharma.
Dharmasastra recognised several means of acquiring a successor to ones property and position. But the constitution, Brahma, did not consider any of those means to be valid as it did not treat kingship to be a position that could be passed on to ones son or the state to be the personal property of the king. What might be a valid procedure amongst the landlords and the rich (vaisyas) was not applicable to the intelligentsia (brahmans) and the rulers (rajanyas) and the administrators (kshatriyas). One of the sages suggested that he should invite Rsyasrnga to his country and request him to bring rains believed to have been caused by failure to abide by the directions issued by the judiciary. Romapada deliberated with his ministers who knew the subtle purposes of the codes (sastras) and the policy sciences (niti).
They suggested that prostitutes be sent to entice Rsyasrnga and bring him to Anga. But they were not bold to face that sages anger. However, one of the senior female attendants of the king offered to attempt to bring him. She succeeded in making her daughter entice that sage while Rsyasrngas father was away. Rsyasrnga tried to explain away the incident by pretending that he was attracted by a handsome bachelor and told his father that he wanted to move about with that friend. Vibhandaka warned Rsyasrnga against falling victim to elements that distracted him. But Romapadas prostitutes prevailed on Rsyasrnga and took him away in their boat. Vibhandaka realised that the king had instigated the move to entice his son and disciple. But when he found Rsyasrnga in the company of Santa, he told him to return to the forest abode after procreating a son on her. Rsyasrnga agreed and returned to the abode with her.
A note on Romapadas dilemma is necessary here. Dharmasastra recognised only sons (including adopted sons or those born by niyoga) and their sons as eligible to inherit the property, status and vocation of the family. But the constitution, Brahma, prepared earlier during the Vedic times did not recognise the concept of right to personal property and to succession to ancestral vocation and wealth. When it permitted such rights, it did not discriminate between granddaughters and grandsons. Santas son could inherit Romapadas (her foster-fathers) property and status or her fathers (Dasarathas) and even both. Santa should be recognised as Rsyasrngas wife, Vibhandaka insisted.
Munchavata- Sthanu's camp-- Five Graves and Parasurama
He should then go to Munchavata, a camp of Sthanu and stay there for a night and obtain control over his gangs (ganas). He was asked to meet a yaksha (plutocrat) lady there and obtain from her whatever he needed. That spot was at the entrance to the lake at Kurukshetra. It had a status equal to Pushkara, the headquarters of Brahma, from where the pilgrim began his circum-ambulation of the country. One had to restrain his senses and after bathing in that lake should present his offerings to his ancestors. Parasurama, son of the sage, Jamadagni, had dug that lake. [It must have been dug only recently then. Parasurama and Bhishma were contemporaries.]
Pulastya said that Parasurama had killed the Kshatriyas in Kurukshetra and buried their bodies in five mass graves there. Parasurama was said to have pacified his ancestors with the blood of those Kshatriyas . Parasurama who had acted in anger prayed that he should once again be able to become a tapasvi and scholar in Vedas.
Those graves were later converted into small founts so that all traces of that gory event were wiped out. According to Pulastya, The senior members of Parasuramas family claimed that Parasurama killed the Kshatriyas because of their faults. To be precise Parasuramas followers claimed so. Those founts have later been treated as holy spots.
The chronicler then noted that the pilgrim should visit those spots where he could get his physical ailments treated. He was not dealing only with the spots that were holy and where he could get rid of his sins or the ones where he could get his ambitions and desires fulfilled.
The pilgrim was advised to visit the spot where his remote ancestors lived and where his lineage was founded. The pilgrim to whichever social world he belonged should visit the place where Vishnu had raised the status of all the three social worlds (lokas). This visit would help him to adopt a broad and optimistic outlook, the chronicler implied. It would help him to be humble and honour the reformed powerful warlords (pitrs, asuras) and also the liberal nobles (devas) the two wingsof the ruling elite.
Pulastya did not refer to the events pertaining to the victory of the nobles over the warlords, while explaining the importance of the different holy places. Pulastya told Bhishma to visit the abode of Kapila where a commoner was expected to honour the above two groups and donate tawny (kapila) cows. (It is too simplistic to assume that the term, pitrs invariably meant everywhere, spirits of the dead ancestors.)
Kapila, an expounder of samkhya dialectics, was not an advocate of irrational beliefs in the existence of or in the immortality of the soul.He was for social integration through recognition for both the antagonistic approaches, daiva and asura,and striving for compromise between the two approaches.
Pulastya advised Bhishma to visit the spot which was sacred for Surya and after honouring the pitrs and the devas, the two wings of the ruling elite, take part in the academic seminar (agnishtoma) on civil laws conducted there. Aditya (Surya) as the chief official representing the authority of the nobles came to the fore during the Upanishadic times after the authority of Indra declined as a result of the latter tending to act on his own breaking the provisions of the triple entente, Trisamdhi, and the Indra-Brhaspati agreement.
Learning Civil Laws of the Plutocratic society
The pilgrim was asked to visit the gopavana, a cattle farm, and donate cows to it. He was advised to visit Sankhini, a spot where he could get a beautiful form. [Sankhini was an apsaras who was treated as a powerful (sakti) lady.] Then he should visit a spot on the banks of Sarasvati, which was under the control of a plutocratic ruler (yaksharaja). After entering it with the permission of the gatekeepers the commoner (manushya) should attend the seminars (agnishtoma) conducted there. After learning the stands of the plutocrats (yakshas) on civil laws, the leading (rich, sreshta) commoner (manushya) who however did not have the status and privileges of either a noble (deva) or a plutocrat (yaksha), should go to Brahmavarta, the Sarasvati-Drshadvati basin, to learn from its scholars and jurists of the academy of intellectuals (Brahmaloka) whether the stands of the rich plutocrats accorded with those outlined by those jurists. [It is obvious that later chroniclers have missed the implications of the counsel that Pulastya and Narada gave to their royal students.]
The king(raja)who as Indra had control over the treasury also was asked to visit the highly revered Sutirtha where former authoritarian chiefs of the feudal order(pitrs, asuras)held sway along with the yakshas (plutocrats)who had the status of devatas,a rank marginally lower than that of the aristocrats(devas). Sutirtha was a centre where the faults in the two approaches, authoritarian and plutocratic were corrected. A commoner king who visited that centre would learn to honour instead the combine of pitrs (asuras)and devas,the two wings of the governing elite of the core society.
He would get his conquests (asvamedha yajnas) approved by that elite and would then retire and join the cadre (pitrloka) of former warlords and patriarchs (pitrs, asuras). [It is irrational to hold that pitrloka referred to the place where the souls of the ancestors stayed until they were satisfied through sraddha rites by their descendants.] The conqueror was asked to retire after achieving his goal of becoming an emperor. As one got this instruction and a new orientation at Sutirtha (centre of reformation) it was held in esteem by Pulastya. Pulastya was a patron of the plutocrats (yakshas), who were neither as liberal as the aristocrats (devas) were or as harsh as the feudal lords(pitrs, asuras) were.They were pragmatic.
Pulastya advocated that the pilgrim should visit all centres of the benevolent plutocrats and guardians of the treasury (kosesvara) and become free from ailments. Such a person was revered in Brahmaloka, the academy of scholars, he said. Pulastya was not for intellectuals being kept as a cadre of poor and ailing celibates. He wanted these intellectuals to have healthy offspring and also wealth.
It was only after going through the grhastha stage of life, procreating children and earning wealth that the commoner should retire to his forest abode in hills with cool breeze (sitavana) where he would lead a rigorously austere but calm life living on roots.
Sitavana- a cool and calm grove for purification
Addressing Bhishma (Yudhishtira) as the chief of free men (naras), Pulastya (Narada) said that a free man although he had separated from it had a duty to his clan though not to his entire society. He had to get rid of the undesirable tendencies and elements that had crept into it. He had to purify himself even if he did not want to get immersed in its affairs. At that forest abode, sitavana,one shed his hair through pranayama while bathing in the cataract, the learned scholars (brahmans) held. Did Bharata, according to Pulastya, become an ascetic there after giving up all his possessions including hair? Narada told Yudhishtira that near that spot there was a spring where a commoner (manushya) king who had performed ten asvamedha yajnas should get purified to attain a higher status.
Manushatirtha; Recruitment to the Commonalty
Narada introduced to him a pond known as manusha tirtha, where it was said some black bucks that were surrounded by a hunter fell and were transformed into men. Such imagery is found in many episodes. The innocent and timid sections of the forest society were accepted into the fold of the commonalty (manushyas) of the plains. A commoner who observed celibacy and controlled his senses would become free from all sins by bathing in that pond and would be lauded by the nobles (devas), he said.
Apaga and abode of siddhas:
Resolution of enigmas
To the east of that pond was river Apaga beside which famous siddhas had their abode. The commoner was asked to feed a Brahman there withraw rice and please the pitrs and devas,the reformed authoritarian feudal lords and liberal nobles who functioned within the provisions of the constitution, Brahma. The pilgrim was asked to stay there overnight and attend the agnishtoma seminar there and benefit from the views expressed by the pitrs and devatas. The pilgrim, a king belonging to the Bharata lineage, was asked to go then to the wide plains known as Brahma-udumbhara,a banyan tree under which the Brahman jurists sat to deliberate on and pronounce solutions to enigmas in the laws. These were obviously what arose from the deliberations at the manusha tirtha.
Kedara and Kapinjalas academy:
Addressing Yudhishtira as a rich and leading free man (nara sreshta)and as a king who had the financial powers of Indra, Naradaasked him to then visit the wells of the seven sages and of the great sage, Kapinjala,a Vidyadhara (a scholar who was always on the move upholding the power and influence of formal studies on disciplining all), at Kedara and get purified, that is, get his views free from doubts.Then he would be able to exercise an invisible influence over all. He would thereafter reach the academy of scholars (Brahmaloka). The free man(nara) would also be able to meet the cadres who followed Samkara (Rudra who flaunted the bull on his flag) and then the nobles.
While visiting the various founts in Samkaras terrain, he would come in contact with the devatas and pitrs,the reformed sections of the plutocracy and feudal elements and he would not decline in his status through violation of the differing social codes and would not land in naraka,the subaltern.He would instead benefit from participation in the academic seminars held there.
Naradas Academy at Ajananda
Pulastya introduced Bhishma to the famous spring, Ajananda connected withNarada.A commoner who visited that spot was enabled by Naradas teachings to rise to higher social ranks after giving up his association with his clan and community.
Pundarika centres of Rudra and Skanda
Pulastya and Narada then recommended that the pilgrim should visit Pundarika and Vaitarani at Trivishtapa (which was a centre of Rudra) and Balakivana (a bird sanctuary where nobles, devas, were engaged in tapas for several years to obtain new powers)and Drshadvati (where commoners were permitted to attend the prolonged and shorter seminars, agnishtoma and atiratra, conducted under the auspices of devatas, nobles of the frontier society). A commoner might gift cows at the spot visited by all nobles (devas) and attend the above seminars at Panighata. At the latter spot his rajasuya sacrifice could be got applauded. He could mingle among the cadres of sages there. [Skanda might have visited this spot.]
Vyasavana and Sakti centre
The two sages recommended that the pilgrim should visit the spot where Vyasa brought together two rivers for the benefit of the scholars who had camped there.He should also visit Vyasavana,a grove and gifts cows to the dairy there.Nearby there was a spot sacred to Devi (Sakti) where he should pay tributes to pitrs and devas (former feudal lords and liberal nobles) and gift cows. At the spot where Kausiki joined Drshadvati,Vyasa had once tried to end his life after his son had died but was saved by nobles, the pilgrim should donate cows.Pulastya told Bhishma who was bearing all responsibilities on behalf of the Kurus to go to Kindatta, a well at Vyasasthali and gift forty-eight fistfuls of gingili and be free from all debts to his ancestors. The pilgrim was asked to gift cows at Vedi and go to the two spots, Ahas and Sudina, where he could be granted the status of a general (Surya).
Deer forest of Mahadeva
The pilgrim was advised to move thereafter to the deer forest on the banks of Ganga and pay homage to Mahadeva and get that great charismatic personage approve his conquests (asvamedha yajnas). He was also asked to donate cows at the spot sacred for his consort (devi).
The pilgrim should then go to the spot honoured by Vamana, the dwarfish scholar (Brahman) who trounced the feudal warlord, Bali,and retrieved all the three social worlds (lokas) from him. By performing the rites prescribed for honouring Vamana who had the status of Vishnu,one could be admitted to the cadre (loka) of the followers of Vishnu. The pilgrim, a commoner (manushya) who had parted company with his kinsmen should then bathe at the spot known as Kulampuna and get reunited with his reformed clan (kula).
The centre in Maru land
Pulastya told Bhishma, a prominent social leader (purushasreshta) that a pilgrim who reached the spot, often visited by Maruts (one of the four groups of traditional nobles) and exposed to winds (pavana), and bathed in its waters would be revered by the cadres around Vishnu. If he reached the spot visited by nobles (amaras) and revered Indra, the chief of the nobles, he would be received in the social world of nobles (svarga) with respect. The pilgrim was advised to visit the cattle pound of Salihotra (a veterinarian) and donate it cows.
Srikunja seminar for Civil Laws
Narada asked Yudhishtira,a Bharata and a prominent social leader,to attend the seminar at Srikunja on the banks of Sarasvati and learn the civil laws.He told the king who carried on his shoulders the responsibility to continue the traditions of the Kurus to visit Kurukshetra that the sages of Naimisha forest visited in the past. This visit would give validity to his conquests, asvamedha yajnas.
Kanya Tirtha: Offering cows and accepting a Virgin
On the banks of Sarasvati, near Kurukshetra, there was a bigger meeting place (kunja) for the sages. A commoner who bathed there was eligible to attend their deliberations on civil laws (agnishtoma). Narada told Yudhishtira who knew the social laws, dharma, that from there he should go to the place of virgins (kanya tirtha) and offer cows (for godana had the same merit as kanyadana had). It was not necessary for a commoner to give away his daughter in marriage as a virgin. But he might give a cow to a sage and receive from him a virgin under his care as a groom and as a deserving Brahman. [This practice was known as Arsha marriage but many sages did not approve it as it resembled Asura marriage where bride-money was paid to secure a girl for marriage.]
Higher education for Commoners: Brahmatirtha, Somatirtha
Narada told the king that at the highly revered Brahmatirtha nearby even a commoner (manushya) who belonged to a lower class (varna) was initiated into the knowledge that Brahmans were eligible to gain and the practices that they were eligible to follow. A Brahman too could get re-initiated in his duties and rise to a higher level. Somatirtha was adjacent to the Brahmatirtha. There a commoner of a higher standard who belonged to the agro-pastoral core society could get initiated into the sober intelligentsia of the other society of the forests and mountains.
Sapta Sarasvata centre and Mahadeva
It was a period when new social relations were established in these centres of culture. Narada recounted to Yudhishtira what Pulastya had told Bhishma about the different centres of culture. One of them was known as Sapta Sarasvata. It was connected with the experiences that a scholar, Mankhanaka who scratched his finger and found that the blood that came out was like the juice of a plant. He was elated that he had discovered that human beings were not different from plants. His elation it was said made the plants and animals and even inanimate objects too dance in elation! The other sages (rshis) and scholars (tapasvis) who were trying hard to find out the secrets of nature and liberal nobles (devas) and sociopolitical ideologues (brahmavadis) who were also social activists and followed the Atharvaveda felt that that scholars findings had far-reaching implications for the social order.
They requested Mahadeva to remove their fears. Mahadeva asked him what he had discovered that elated him. When the sage told him about his experience, Mahadeva showed him how he could produce ash by scratching his thumb. The sage realised that Mahadeva the creator, protector and destroyer of all systems had put him to shame. Pulastya implied that a scholar should try to learn from nature its secrets but should be humble and not claim that he was different from or superior to others. Mahadeva comforted that Brahmarshi and said that he too would stay at the centre of knowledge, Sarasvat, and guide all. Mankhanaka only requested that he be permitted to stay there and pursue his studies.
Pulastya asked Bhishma to then visit the academy of Usanas, a great political thinker and son of Bhrgu. Brahma (the head of the judiciary that upheld the Atharvan socio-political constitution) and other nobles and sages who were engaged in outlining Arthasastra, the science of principles of gaining wealth and political power, and the influential sage, Subrahmanya (identified with Skanda, Sanatkumara and often referred to as Kartikeya, the general, Senapati), belonging to the Saivaite schools used to visit this academy. It was famous among all the three social worlds (lokas), aristocracy (divam), commonalty (prthvi) and the frontier society(antariksham).
Kapalamocanam: Centre for highest freedom
Pulastya advised Bhishma, a prominent (sreshta) social leader (purusha) to visit Kapalamocanam, a place where death would give one the highest freedom, freedom from all sins (committed in the course of leadership). [The life going out of the body through the apex of the skull was considered to be the best form of death.]
Agnitirtha and Agniloka: Academy of Civil Laws
Narada following Pulastya advised Yudhishtira, a prominent free individual (nara sreshta) (who was not bound to any social group) to visit the centre known as Agnitirtha. There he would learn the civil laws applicable to the commonalty (of the Vedic times) and become a member of the civil judiciary (agniloka) and would free the members of his faculty (kula) from the dilemmas they found themselves in.
Visvamitras Academy for Jurists
Yudhishtira was advised to visit the nearby centre named after Visvamitra. Training there would help a king (rajan) to become a leading free individual (nara sreshta) and then obtain the eligibility to function as a sage and jurist, who had mastered the sociopolitical constitution, Brahma. Narada noted that a Rajarshi (a sage who was also the head of the state) could not be directly elevated as a Brahmarshi (a sage heading the judiciary) or hold both the positions.
After becoming eligible to be appointed as a judge of the Atharvan constitution bench, he had to visit as a reputed free man (nara sreshta) with no attachment to his social group, the centre known as Brahmayoni where he would be formally initiated to the cadre of scholars (Brahma) who were also jurists and admitted to the cadre of such scholars-cum-jurists (Brahmaloka). He would thereupon be freed from all personal liabilities to seven generations of his clan (his own, three preceding his and three succeeding his). Narada advised Yudhishtira not to entertain doubts about this privilege that a Brahman had. No ruler hence should dare to infringe on this immunities of a judge. It is not proper to interpret that all who were born to Brahman parents were immune from state control and action by the judiciary.
Narada told Yudhishtira that he should then visit Bhrudutaka, (a centre where confidential information was collected and transmitted to the concerned persons) which was controlled by Subrahmanya, and was famous in all the three social worlds. The king was asked to enter it after bathing in the pond there, for it was said that all the sins committed by a man or woman out of ignorance or wantonly would be cleansed by it. He would become entitled to enjoy the benefits of conquests, asvamedha yajnas. He would also become eligible to attend the proceedings of the house of nobles (svargaloka). That centre was considered to be more holy than Kuukshetra and the centres on the banks of Sarasvati. [One who died there, would have no rebirth, it was said later.]
It was a centre where confidential notes were exchanged under conditions of immunity. Sanatkumara (also known as Skanda) and Vyasahad extolled the centre, Bhrudutaka. Sanatkumara must have belonged to the school of Subrahmanya (known as Kumara, Skanda, Senapati and Kartikeya). These might have been different personages belonging to a common school of thought that was closer to the Rudra school of socio-political thought of the later Vedic times. Narada urged Yudhishtira, a nara sreshta, to visit that place. Sinners could enter the abodes of the nobles after getting purified there. Narada asked the king to then visit Madhusrava and gift cows there.
Sakti centre on banks of Sarasvati
He should visit a Sakti (devi) centre(tirtha) at the confluence of Sarasvati and Aruna and get exonerated of the sin of killing a Brahman,to be precise, the offence of challenging the verdicts given by or indulging in character assassination of judges. Aruna was a Vedic official who acted on behalf of Varuna, the upholder of the Vedic constitution, Brahma,and guided Aditya, the chief administrator and general. [Later, Sarasvati, the goddess of knowledge, was held to be the consort of Brahma, the god who was omniscient.] Narada told the king that a commoner (manushya) should attend the seminars, agnishtoma and atiratra,held there and learn the civil laws.This education would exonerate him and his clan (for seven generations) of all offences.
Narada urged the king to visit Avadirna (creek) founded in the name of Sarangi (spotted doe) that was saved byBrahman sages who took pity on the wounded deer. It was a place where new entrants to schools were initiated (with upanayana) and religious rites were performed. The chronicler asserted that the ancients had experienced that bathing in that creek and getting trained there was highly beneficial for gaining the ability to learn all knowledge. The waters of all the four seas were brought there. Narada, addressing Yudhishtira as nara sreshta said that one would not be consigned as a fallen nara (free man) to the ghetto (naraka) if he learnt the best way of living by attending the seminars there. He was asked to gift cows to that centre. The king was advised two other spots known as thousand and ten thousands and then reach the spot where Renuka (wife of Jamadagni) atoned for her sins.
Pancavati: Yoga centre of Sthanu
After conquering his senses and observing rigorous celibacy he should reach Pancavati (on the banks of Godavari) where the charismatic and benevolent chief (Isvara) Sthanu (Rudra with the Rshabha flag) sat in the yoga posture. Association with that great yogi and chief of the nobles would help him to attain perfection (siddhi) in his undertakings.
Taijasa centre and Subrahmanya
Narada advised him to go then to the spot known as Taijasa and which was under the control of Varuna,the severe Vedic official who would not brook violation of civic and civil codes. Taijasa must have been on the west coast. Varuna was in charge of the western region. It was at that spot Subrahmanya was appointed by Brahma and other nobles and sages (rshis) whose only wealth was their endeavour to discover new ideas and methods (tapas),as commander (senapati) of the army of the nobles.
Pulastya (Narada) told Bhishma (Yudhishtira) a great general who belonged to the Kurus that there was a spot in that region that was highly esteemed by the Kurus. Kuru was born to Samvarana who belonged to the Bharatas and was exiled, and to a princess of Tapati. Then he could reach the entrance gates of the enclave of the nobles (devas). Pancavati is south of the river, Tapati. After observing celibacy and controlling his senses one should bathe at that spot and free himself of all sins.He would then be eligible to join the academy of scholars and jurists (Brahmaloka).