TRANSITION TO POST-VEDIC SOCIAL POLITY
PILGRIMS' PROGRESS (contd)
The Pandavas who left the resorts on the banks of Kausiki after halting at rest-houses en route reached the confluence of Ganga with the sea. Then along the southeast coast they entered Kalinga provinces. Lomaca told them some of the incidents connected with those lands where the famous river, Vaitarani flowed. Even Dharma, one of the Vedic officials accepted the authority of the nobles (devas) of Kalinga and offered sacrifices to them. In other words, this official who ensured that the social laws, dharma, were obeyed by all, agreed that the legislators were not superior to the aristocracy and that the immunities that the latter traditionally enjoyed would not be called into question. Yama or Dharma (who was later unsoundly visualised as God of Death) acknowledged that though all beings were equally mortal the aristocrats were not to be taken to task by the magistrates of the civil society for violation of any of the prohibitory orders (yamas) in vogue.
Influence of Rudras
The northern banks of that river had been the limit, had been kept clean by the sages for the Brahman jurists to meet and conduct their sessions (yajnas). The sages (rshis) who wanted to move northwards along the plains (follow devayana) used these banks as sacrificial grounds. [The southern path was known as pitryana, the tough path taken by the elders, pitrs, most of whom were retired feudal lords and who had been the rivals of the nobles, devas.] According to a tale when the Brahmans and sages performed sacrifices there, Rudra whose influence was restricted to forests and mountains took hold of the cow as his share (that is, he claimed that the entire pastoral region should be placed under the jurisdiction of the Rudras along with forests and mountains and not under that of the Vasus). [Adityas controlled the agrarian plains and Maruts the moors.]
The nobles appealed to Rudra not to deprive others of their share that was determined by the social laws, dharma. As Rudra was the master and the benefactor at the yajna, sacrifice, he should not destroy the spirit of yajna, voluntary sacrifice. They offered him whatever he wanted (ishti) and he released the cow. Implied in the episode is that Rudras would have unquestioned authority over mountains and forests and the social periphery.
[Later it was interpreted that Rudra (Isvara) could be pleased through animal sacrifice, including human sacrifice but could not be offered cows as sacrifice.] Lomaca explained to Yudhishtira that the nobles (devas) who were afraid of Rudra adopted the practice of offering the best and the newest and the most durable of the gifts received at the sacrifice, to Rudra.
Yudhishtira initiated in his roles in the new commonalty
The waters of Vaitarani where the Pandavas and Draupadi bathed gave them fresh energy and they felt that they had lost the diffidence and exhaustion natural to ordinary men. Yudhishtira was able to see the features of all the social worlds and hear the chants of the Vaikhanasas, the sages of the forests (vanaprasthas) coming from afar. Lomaca said that the sound that they could hear in silence came from the grove where Brahma held his session on interpretation of the constitution, Brahma.
Lomaca explained that Brahma had in that session placed the new commonalty (bhumi) including the mountains and the forests under the charge of Kashyapa. Kashyapa had outlined the concept of an integrated social polity with an enlarged commonalty covering the agro-pastoral core society and the industrial frontier society and the social periphery that lacked organised socio-economic groups.
It was feared that this expanded polity would affect the interests of the people of the agrarian plains (bhumi) adversely resulting in a vast section of its population being shunted to the ghettoes, unable to withstand competition against the industrial proletariat. Bhumidevi, that is, the representative of the agrarian commonalty argued that the new arrangement introduced by the upholders of the socio-political constitution would not benefit that commonalty.
It proposed to treat all members of the enlarged commonalty as prajas and as eligible to be under the protection of Brahma (the head of the constitution bench) as Prajapati (chief of the people, subjects), with their rights secure against violation by the new integrated elite or by the head of the federal society. Kashyapa took care to introduce guarantees against such violation and this led to the agrarian commonalty being placed on a plane above the subaltern and with distinct honour without losing its identity in the concept, prakrti (masses).
Lomaca told Yudhishtira to climb that table (vedi) to assert his authority. Yudhishtira who had been exiled to the forest and separated from the agrarian population was able to emerge as the guardian of the new commonalty after his reaching the seacoast. That commonalty would not be confined to the agrarian plains of the interior. [If a commoner tried to climb it, it would go down in the sea.] Yudhishtira was more than a mere commoner (manushya). Lomaca saluted Yudhishtira who could offer protective cover to the social worlds when they were undergoing massive social change (pralaya) and was superior to them all. Yudhishtira had become a noble who was also a charismatic benefactor (devesa) of the people of the outer periphery (peoples of the littoral regions).
Lomaca asked him to climb the table as the master of the salty seas (apa), from whom both Agni who represented the commonalty and its intellectuals and Surya who represented the political authority of the nobility derived their authority. Yudhishtira would be in the position of the high repository (abhivyakti sthana) for the body politic of the larger society (visualised as omnipresent god, paramatma). He would also be in the position from where he could determine who would all be immune from death (amrta). He should climb that table in the sea uttering such words that would convey this authority and his promise and determination to keep it effective forever (satya vak).
Lomaca asked him to bathe in the sea so that he might be initiated into the new aristocracy from whom Agni (the civil judge) derived his power and the principle of sacrifice (yajna) would be sanctified and the soul given to him by Vishnu would be returned to its source. This status would be a means to attain freedom from all bonds. After uttering the words implying these concepts, Yudhishtira reached the seas and then as directed by Lomaca went towards the Mahendra hills. (Ch.115 Vanaparva)
Parasurama's feats and fall
Lomaca introduced to him meditators (tapasvis) who were engaged in discovering new means and defining new concepts. Many of them were followers of Bhrgu, Angirasa, Vasishta and Kashyapa. Yudhishtira greeted them and asked a companion of the sage Parasurama, when he would be able to meet the latter. He wanted to know meanwhile from that companion who had not inflicted any harm (akrtavrana), an authoritative account of the deeds of Parasurama, son of Jamadagni and a Bhrgu.
Akrtavrana said that Arjuna, king of Haihaya, was killed by Parasurama. Arjuna who had a thousand arms (that is, a personal regiment of a thousand men to protect him) was a devotee of Dattatreya. He had received from that sage a golden canopy (indicating a status equal to that of a rich aristocrat) and became chief of all pranis, living beings at the subsistence level on the earth. None dared to stop the rolling of his chariot through any country. He harassed the aristocrats (devas), plutocrats (yakshas) and sages (rshis) and all living beings (pranis) (especially the weaker sections of the population consigned to the subaltern) in all areas. He teased and insulted Indra and his consort also. The nobles and the sages approached Vishnu who was known for his prowess and protection of the laws based on truth (satya) to slay Arjuna and protect them. These laws were tuned to the concept that right was might and deprecated the earlier laws based on rta that accepted might was right. Vishnu, a noble himself, deliberated with Indra and promised to do all that was expected of him and that would be in the interests of the living beings (pranis), especially the weak and poor.
Gadhi was a famous ruler of Kanyakubja. When he was residing in the forest he got a daughter who was equal to an apsaras. Rchika, a son of Bhrgu, wanted to marry her. Gadhi stipulated that he should procure for him a thousand white horses each with one black ear if he were to marry that girl. Asking for bride-fees (kanya-sulka) was a valid demand though it was a practice followed by feudal elements, asuras. Rchika approached Varuna, a Vedic official in charge of protection of social contracts, and obtained the horses. In the Vedic social polity, Varuna represented the feudal (asura) culture, Indra the liberal aristocrats (devas) and Kubera the greedy plutocrats (yakshas).
When Rchika married Satyavati, daughter of Gadhi, the nobles stood by the groom for Gadhis demand was asura in type. After the marriage, Bhrgu called on his son, Rchika and his consort. She wanted that sons should be born to her and her mother. Bhrgu advised them each to consume a particular porridge, charu. But they exchanged their porridges and it was said to have resulted in a gentle son, Jamadagni, being born to Rchika and his wife, and an aggressive son, Visvamitra, being born to Gadhi and his consort.
Akrtavrana told the Pandavas that Bhrgu had expected that the pre-natal diet that he had prescribed for Satyavati would enhance the calibre of her offspring by the sage, Rchika, as a sober intellectual, Brahman, and that the one prescribed for her mother would enhance the calibre of her son by Gadhi, an aggressive Kshatriya, as a warrior. But the plan had gone awry. Satyavatis son would be a Brahman by birth but a Kshatriya by his deeds while her mothers son would be a Kshatriya by birth but a Brahman in his outlook. Satyavati insisted on her begetting a gentle son though the son of the latter might be born with any trait.
The story of the exchange of the porridges needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Bhrgu must have toyed with the concept of formation of a new class whose members had the traits of intellectuals as well as those of dynamic administrators-cum-warriors. Such persons might have either gentle mothers or gentle fathers. Inter-varna alliances were expected to lead to the creation of a new leadership that would be at once intellectual and dynamic. This was to be facilitated through proper pre-natal care, as in agriculture where seed and soil were both important.
It would take more than one generation for the fruits of this experiment to be noticed, Bhrgu knew. Jamadagni born to Rchika proved superior to many sages in his mastery over the Vedas. He mastered archery also. Though Brahmans mastered archery and taught it to Kshatriyas, they themselves did not become warriors. Archers were gandharvas from whose ranks both the classes, Brahmans and Kshatriyas emerged.
Jamadagni by his austerity (tapas) won the support of the nobles (devas). He married Renuka, a daughter of King Prasenajit. Parasurama was the fifth of the sons born to Jamadagni and Renuka. Renuka got attracted to Chitraratha, a prominent Gandharva chieftain and ruler of a marshy country. Jamadagni was enraged and asked his sons to kill their mother who was guilty of adultery. Only Parasurama did not hesitate to carry out his fathers orders. According to the story, Parasurama then requested his father to revive her and that Jamadagni did so. It is likely that Jamadagni regretted in time his cruelty and intervened to save her from being killed. Parasurama prayed that he should be made a warrior with no equals. Jamadagni trained him to become so.
Once when all the sons of Jamadagni were away, Kartavirya visited his abode and was received with honour. Kartavirya damaged the trees and took away Jamadagnis holy calf forcibly. When Parasurama returned his father told him about the incident. Parasurama went after Kartavirya and killed him and his men. Kartaviryas sons attacked Jamadagni when Parasurama was away and killed his father. Parasurama was upset when he learnt about the death of his father who was a sage committed to dharma. While performing the last rites for his father, he took the vow to wipe out all Kshatriya clans. He fought alone and killed Kartaviryas sons and their Kshatriya followers. He killed the Kshatriyas twenty-one times and filled the central field, samanta pancaka, with five pools of blood.
Rchika prevented him from offering oblations of Kshatriya blood to his ancestors, pitrs. Parasurama satisfied Indra with huge offerings and gifted all the lands to the Brahman priests. He presented a huge column of gold to Kashyapa who allowed the Brahmans to share it among themselves. After handing over all the lands to Kashyapa, Parasurama went to Mahendra hills to perform tapas, Akrtavrana said. The next day Parasurama presented himself to Dharmaraja Yudhishtira and his brothers and to the Brahmans. This audience must have resulted in Parasurama giving moral support to Yudhishtira and assurance that the great warrior and sage would not favour the Kauravas. The next day the Pandavas left for the areas south of Kalinga.
The southern Pandya territory
Led by Lomaca, Yudhishtira and his companions moved southward along the eastern coast and reached the Godavari delta. Then they reached the Dravida country and on the seacoast they visited the centre established by Agastya. Next they visited the centres of the free women (naris) who as apsarases asserted their rights to move about unmolested. There Yudhishtira heard about Arjunas exploits. He also visited certain spots off the seacoast where in the past the nobles (devas) had performed tapas to discover new systems and means. He also visited a sacrificial table set up by Jamadagni.
(This platform might not have been in the southern Dravida country. The later editors of this epic were not particular about accuracy in chronology of events and geography and even in the names and identities of the participants in those events.) The Pandavas also visited the rest-houses of Saddhyas, Vasus, Siddhas and Maruts and of Asvinidevas and of the Vedic officials, Yama, Aditya, Kubera, Indra, Vishnu, Savita, Bhaga, Soma, Surya, Varuna, Brahma, Pitrs, Rudra and his ganas, Sarasvati, Pushan and other nobles (devas). It was only during the final decades of the long Vedic era that the orientations characteristic of the Vedic social polity had penetrated the southern portions of the Indian peninsula.
Visit to Surashtra and meeting with the Vrshnis
After making munificent gifts to the scholars there, Yudhishtira returned to the windswept country, Surparaka (in Saurashtra). Then they went along the seacoast and reached the famous centre, Prabhasa. They offered oblations to nobles (devas) and ancestors (pitrs) and fasted for twelve days as penance. Hearing about Yudhishtiras severe penance, Balarama, Krshna, Pradyumna, Samba, Satyaki and other Vrshnis went to meet him. Yudhishtira and his brothers, Parthas, paid their respects to them. They were present there as the sons of Prtha (Kunti) rather than as the sons of Pandu. Yudhishtira told Krshna about Arjunas mission to obtain weapons from Indra.
Balarama's doubts on the value of dharma path
Vaishampayana told Janamejaya that when the Vrshnis saw the plight of Yudhishtira and the Pandavas and of Draupadi, Balarama felt that virtuous deeds (dharma) did not appear to lead to good results and that vicious deeds (adharma) did not lead to bad results as indicated by their sufferings and the success of Duryodhana. He said that as there was a hiatus between the codes (sastras) that advocated adherence to dharma and condemned resort to adharma and actual experiences, a doubt had been created which of the two was better, dharma or adharma.
Balarama wondered whether one should follow contentment, sufferings and ethics or pursue material gains. Yudhishtira who was born to Kunti and Dharma (a Vedic official who had the status of a devata, aristocrat) and who was established in social laws (dharma) and who had taken the pledge to abide by the laws based on truth (satya) and who was a great donor might go away from his state and from comforts but would not flourish if he deviated from dharma, Balarama commented.
He condemned Bhishma, Krpa, Drona, Dhrtarashtra and other evil-minded chiefs of the Bharata lineage. Balarama while condemning Dhrtarashtra for exiling Yudhishtira and his brothers to the forest had great expectations from Bhimasena. He admired Sahadeva and Nakula also. He wondered how Draupadi put up with all the hardships she was subjected to. He was sad that the sons of the nobles, Dharma, Vayu, Indra and Asvinidevas, and their wife and attendants had to suffer in the forests while Duryodhana flourished. (Ch.120 Vanaparva)
Krshna rejects Satyaki's proposal
Satyaki, a prominent Vrshni leader proposed that without expecting the Pandavas to fight against the sons of Dhrtarashtra, the Vrshnis should proceed against the latter and kill them and install Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna and Subhadra as regent until the Pandavas returned from their exile. Satyaki was particularly against Karna and was confident that he, Pradyumna, Aniruddha, Samba and others with the support of Balarama and Krshna could defeat the sons of Dhrtarashtra and their supporters like Bhishma, Drona and Krpa.
But Vasudeva Krshna told him that Yudhishtira would not accept any land that he had not personally won and that he would not give up his adherence to dharma, out of lust or fear or greed. Bhima and other Pandavas and Draupadi too would react in the same manner. It was necessary that Vrshnis, Kekayas and Kings of Cedi and Panchala should all join together to get rid of the enemies, Krshna pointed out. Yudhishtira told Satyaki that the war should be started only when Krshna declared that the opportune time had come for that. After sending home Satyaki and other Vrshnis, Yudhishtira, along with his brothers, Draupadi and Lomaca moved towards the centres on the banks of Payoshni which had been developed by the king of Vidarbha. There too he lived only on Soma juice diluted by its water.
Lomaca told Yudhishtira that the rich king of Gaya who was noted for his great sacrifices had performed one on the banks of Payoshni. Gaya had given away most of his agricultural lands (bhumi) in gift to the deserving. With whatever remained after these donations he gained the traits that merited his being admitted to the status of a liberal noble (deva). Lomaca advised Yudhishtira to (bathe in its waters and) get initiated in methods of enriching oneself only to give away all that he had earned to others and rise to the level of an aristocrat.
Then the Pandavas went to the Vaidurya hills amidst which Narmada flowed. Lomaca told Yudhishtira, a prominent free man (nara sreshta) that those hills were the border between two social systems, treta and dvapara, that of the southern peninsula full of forests where the three social worlds (divam, prthvi and antariksham) remained aloof from one another and that of the northern plains which had developed the new system of an integrated elite presiding over an enlarged commonalty (thereby dissolving the separate identity of the third social world, antariksham). Until the sages like Agastya penetrated the forests of the southern peninsula, the south too like the north had three distinct social worlds (lokas) and two distinct societies, agrarian and industrial.
What Pulastya and then Agastya introduced was the concept and system of an integrated society with every sector maintaining its autonomy. The south had remained tuned to the concept of isolated social groups for a longer period than the north did. Meanwhile the society in the north was being tuned to the neo-Vedic socio-political constitution as recommended by Badarayana and other Upanishadic sages calling for integrated and inclusive janapadas with the concept of four types of prajas or domiciles (as pointed out earlier) replacing the narrow concept of jana, sons of the soil.
Chyavana's hermitage and clinic
Lomaca told him that the hermitage of the great physician, Chyavana was at that spot. Once Indra had accompanied the two Asvinidevas (who were noted for their mastery over herbs and medicine) to meet Chyavana. The sage did not like Indras intrusion into his hermitage and laboratory and made him stand still. This sage had married Sukanya, daughter of the famous king, Saryati and had received and initiated Asvinidevas into the company of the intellectuals of the forest society by offering them the Soma juice. Yudhishtira was eager to know more about these events. (Ch.122 Vanaparva)
According to the legends, Chyavana, a son of Bhrgu, who sat for a long time in meditation, got covered by a mound of termites. Once Sukanya, the lone young daughter off Saryati playfully poked a twig into his eyes thinking that they were glow-worms. Chyavana got angry and caused trouble to Saryatis horses. When the king learnt about his daughters pranks and the annoyance of the sage he sought his pardon. He offered his daughter in marriage to the aged physician. But the two nobles, Asvinidevas too wanted to marry her. However Sukanya opted to marry Chyavana and serve him. Though the Asvinidevas offered her a place in the social world of nobles if she married them, she stuck to her decision. The chronicler said that they were pleased with her decision and used their medical powers to make Chyavana see again. This pleased Saryati. Chyavana conducted a sacrifice for that king.
In return for the help they gave him Chyavana offered to present the Asvinidevas the Soma juice which entitled them to a place in the intelligentsia of the forest society who followed Soma. But Indra, the chief of the house of nobles objected to this step. Asvinidevas had a status equal to Shudras and were not eligible to take the vow to abide by truth. They were nasatyas and their words did not carry weight. It implied that the physicians did not enjoy a high status in society. But Chyavana overlooked Indras objections and offered the Asvinidevas the Soma juice that entitled them to a place in the cultural aristocracy.
When Indra tried to stop Chyavanas hands offering that juice, Chyavana paralysed his movements. The sage created a ghost that threatened to kill Indra. As Indra sought pardon, Chyavana withdrew that ghost and dissolved it. The ghost stood for the four evil trends, drinking, womanising, gambling and hunting. Lomaca introduced the Pandavas to several other centres in that region. (Ch.123 to 126 Vanaparva)
Mamdhata to be emulated
He took them to the banks of Yamuna where Mamdhata and Somaka had performed sacrifices. Yudhishtira wanted to know from him how Mamdhata, son of Yuvanasva, became famous for his influence over all the three social worlds (lokas) and why he got that name. Yuvanasva, a great devotee of dharma, performed many costly asvamedha sacrifices but he had no son. He handed over his kingdom to his ministers and went to reside in the forest. As one who was sonless could not continue to remain in power, he approached a disciple of Bhrgu for help. That sage conducted a sacrifice that would make the queen conceive and produce a child who would be equal to Indra in status and influence. Yuvanasva who was thirsty drank the water in a pot that was kept for a special purpose. He confessed that he had done so.
Bhrgu told him that the water was meant to produce a person who would be able to cause the death of even Indra. It was impossible to procure such medicated water again. Bhrgu felt that the nobles might have intended that Yuvanasva should consume that water. According to the story, Yuvanasva himself conceived a powerful son as a result! The child might die as it did not get mothers milk, it was feared. Indra himself brought up that child making it suck his thumb. The nobles hence named the child as Mamdhata, one for whom Indra or Dhata (liberal donor) acted as mother. Mamdhata was taught all sciences including archery. Indra gave him a special bow and personally crowned him as king. As he performed several virtuous deeds (dharma), Mamdhata was allowed to share Indras seat.
Under his orders, all towns and lands up to the seas were conquered in a single day, it was said. The entire country was called yajnabhumi, the sacrificial land, as he gave thousands of cows to the Brahmans. When the rains failed for twelve years, his prolonged sacrifice brought down rains even while Indra watched, according to the legends. Mamdhata who belonged to the solar lineage killed the powerful ruler of Gandhara who belonged to the lunar group.
Mamdhata protected all the four classes of subjects (prajas), the integrated intelligentsia (Brahmans), the commonalty of the core society (manushyas), the workers (sarpas) of the frontier society and the discrete individuals (bhutas) of the social periphery. It was a stage when the system of four classes (varnas) had not yet come into force. Mamdhata conducted a prolonged sacrifice at Kurukshetra. Yudhishtira should perform virtuous deeds (dharma) and protect the people even as Mamdhata did. (Ch.127 Vanaparva)
Somaka and sonlessness
Somaka, grandson of the famous ruler, Srnjaya, had several wives but could not procreate any child on them. Perhaps he was infertile. But late in his life, a child was born to his queen. Once an ant had bitten that boy who began to cry aloud and Somaka rushed to console him. He told his counsellors that it was better not to have any children than to have only one child. He wondered how he could beget a hundred sons by his hundred wives. The priest said that if his only son was offered as cow in a sacrifice he could beget a hundred children and that boy would be reborn to the same mother. According to the story he did so and a hundred children were born to him.
Soon that priest (guide and teacher) went to the other world and was to be punished for his fault in misguiding the king to take an unusual step of sacrificing a living child. Somaka prayed to the judge, Yama, Dharmaraja, to punish him instead of his teacher. But the judge said that every one had to suffer for his fault and that the punishment could not fall on another person.
Somaka pleaded that he wanted to share the punishment with his teacher who was an advocate of the constitution (Brahmavadi). He implied that the head of the state was as much responsible for the errors in state affairs as the political counsellor was. Yama accepted that argument and allowed him to undergo the penalty along with his political guide and both could be discharged together after that. Lomaca told Yudhishtira that one who stayed for six days at the abode of Somaka who stood by his guide would have a bright future. (Ch. 128, 129 Vanaparva)
Visit to Markandeya's resort
Lomaca then escorted the Pandavas to the forest resort of the great sage and chronicler, Markandeya, who had begun meditating on higher objectives (tapasvi), even when he was very young. While he was engaged in severe and prolonged tapas, the region where his abode was located was afflicted by serious drought and the sages and all sections of the population took refuge in his resort that was set in a beautiful valley. According to the story he pitied them and prayed to Siva and the river, Ganga, to come to their succour. They obliged and it also rained leading to growth of crops and roots and fruits. The people were saved from a great tragedy. Markandeya performed tapas again to thank Paramesvara.
Pleased with his unselfish strenuous endeavour to help the suffering, Mahadeva, the great charismatic benefactor, and consort of Uma, who was held in esteem by Brahma and Vishnu, and the nobles (devas), the perfect yogis (siddhas), the young and adventurous scholars (vidyadharas), the mobile technocrats (uragas), the free warriors and intellectuals (gandharvas), the plutocrats (yakshas), the free men (kinnaras) of the frontier society who followed the yakshas, and the messengers (suparnas), appeared before Markandeya who paid obeisance to him. The sage prayed that he should be enabled to be ever and exclusively devoted to Mahadeva. Mahadeva recalled that Mrkanda, father of Markandeya, had preferred to have a son who would have all noble traits but would live only for sixteen years, to one whose character was ignoble but would live for a hundred years.
Mahadeva assured Markandeya that the latter would have a long life and would not be harmed by Mrtyu (god of death, in common parlance), as he was free from the bad traits of the commonalty that made them liable for disciplinary action by the Vedic official, designated as Mrtyu. Lomaca told Yudhishtira that persons who stayed in Markandeyas resort even for one day became exempt from disciplinary action by Mrtyu, that is, death penalty for even the worst crime. The Vedic official, Mrtyu, had jurisdiction over the commonalty (bhumi). Lomaca advised Yudhishtira who ruled over the enlarged commonalty (bhumi) to stay in that abode following its discipline though Markandeya was not there then. (Ch.130 Vanaparva)
Lomaca then escorted the Pandava king to several other centres. He introduced the king to where Brahma personally conducted a long session where one could get done what he desired (ishtikrta). Lomaca implied that not every happening was as predetermined by Brahma. The constitution gave ample scope for the individual to pursue his personal desires and get them fulfilled. The famous ruler, Ambarisha, son of Nabhaga (a protg of Manu Vaivasvata who had voluntarily forgone all shares in his hereditary property) had performed a sacrifice on the banks of Yamuna and he gave away all his huge wealth to those who attended it. He got perfection (siddhi) in his endeavours (tapas) by his sacrifices.
Lomaca then escorted Yudhishtira to the country where Yayati, son of Nahusha, had ruled. Yayati too had performed sacrifices and virtuous deeds and ruled over the entire commonalty (loka). Lomaca pointed out to him the rich sacrificial spot which made Yayati a rival of Indra, the head of the rich aristocracy. Lomaca also drew attention to the rest-houses established by Parasurama, to Narayanas abode and to the spot where Jamadagni, son of Rchika, had treaded.
He also told the king about a spot where a member of the counter-intelligentsia of the social periphery (a pisaca) told a woman who had come with her son to bathe in the waters about the advantages of staying for a night or two there. (Was the scholar misguiding that woman?) It was the entrance to Kurukshetra where Yayati had performed a rich sacrifice and was admired by Indra. Lomaca also showed the king where the Brahmans of the Sarasvati basin performed sacrifices and conducted their academic sessions. He also pointed out to the spots where Bharata performed many asvamedha yajnas to commemorate his victories.
Lomaca pointed out where Chakravarti Marutta performed a rich sacrifice guided by Samvarta (brother of Brhaspati). He asked Yudhishtira to bathe in the waters there. He was exhorting the Pandava to identify himself with the great rulers who were his predecessors. From that spot Yudhishtira was able to observe all the social worlds and also where Arjuna was. Lomaca said that he was able to see them, as bathing in those rivers and undergoing reorientation had enabled him to perceive what commoners could not notice.
He said that the Sarasvata Brahmans had ordained devarshis, brahmarshis and rajarshis on the banks of Sarasvati. In other words,some of the sages had been granted place in the cultural aristocracy (devas), some on the judiciary and some as heads of states. It was the raised place where Brahma, the interpreter of the socio-political constitution had conducted his session. Lomaca also showed them where the great scholar, Brhaspati performed yajna. (Ch.131 Vanaparva)
Commoners in thousands went to that spot in the hope that the visit would entitle them to a place in the social world of nobles. Lomaca was drawing attention to the influence that Brhaspati, the administrator of the civil polity of commoners had over the governing elite of nobles. In the past the highly influential chief of the people, Daksha, had approved such social ascent for the commoners of the Sarasvati basin.
Sarasvati had disappeared at Vinasana in the country of the Nishadas. Lomaca showed the Pandavas Vinasana and also the track where Sarasvati was yet visible. He also pointed out to them the place on the banks of Sindhu where Lopamudra married Agastya. He then showed to them Prabhasa sanctified to the Vedic official, Surya, and the place noted as the seat of Vishnu. Vasishta who had lost his son tried to drown himself in Sindhu there but was rescued.
Lomaca then led them to Kashmir where the sages of the north had disputations with Yayati and the official of the civil judiciary designated as Agni and with Kashyapa. Then they went to the lake, Manassarovar at the foot of Kailasa and to where Parasurama had one of his residential schools. It was north of Videha. It was reported that Rudra visited that spot with his consort, Uma, and his retinue (ganas) whose members could complete any task easily (pramada). At Manassarovar, Sivas trident, Pinaki was worshipped during the sessions conducted in the Citra month.
Lomaca pointed out to the Pandavas the spot beside the river where Subrahmanya and Vasishta, consort of Arundati, experienced peace of mind. He also showed them the abode where Rukmini, consort of Krshna, controlled her anger and experienced peace. He showed them the famous Bhrgu range and the river, Vitasta, the resort of the great sages. (Vitasta was a centre on the banks of a river where merchants conducted their transactions.) He also showed them the two rivulets in the Yamuna track where the king of Usinara performed a great sacrifice and became more popular than Indra. Then he narrated to them the story of the falcon that chased a dove and about the dove being protected by Sibi.
Sibi and the two officials, Indra and Agni
The falcon argued that the dove was its food and by keeping that dove away from it, Sibi would be only forcing it and its children to die of hunger. It would be against the principles of dharma. Sibi argued that it was his duty to protect the Brahmans and the cows and those who sought refuge with him. The falcon argued that Sibi in his eagerness to protect one life, that of the dove, had failed to protect many lives. The dharma that did not help the many could not be construed as dharma. The falcon represented the school of thought that called for the good of the many as the ideal policy to be followed in administration rather than protection of the interests of every individual. This policy led to the neglect of the interests of the weaker sections of the society. Sibi whose valour was being committed to the protection of the laws based on truth (satya) (followed during the middle Vedic period) was required to solve a social dilemma caused by his action.
The laws based on satya refuted the claim that the concepts of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest advocated by the earlier laws based on natural rights (rta) were valid. They expected the state to protect the weak and the pious against the mighty and the cruel and claimed that right alone should win. Both the laws based on rta, natural rights, and the laws based on truth, satya, were amended by the newer scheme, dharma. That social law (dharma) alone, which did not conflict with the dharmas (rights and duties) of others, could be deemed to be valid law (dharma), the school of thought represented by the falcon posited.
It advised Sibi to examine which ones were more harmful and which one were the least harmful among the conflicting social laws (dharmas) and to adopt those laws which were least harmful. He could not afford to adopt an idealistic approach, according to Indra, the chief of the ruling aristocracy. The laws which were the most beneficial should be followed while deciding what action should be taken and what policy was to be adopted while determining that an act was within the framework of dharma (dharmaniscaya). Sibi realised that the falcon like garuda, the king of birds, was putting forth his views in an authoritarian and effective way. He however did not agree that it was proper to abandon one who sought his protection. He advised the falcon to instead feed on bulls, pigs, deer or bison. The king himself would arrange for the availability of meat.
But the falcon rejected the offer claiming that he would eat only that food which the constitutional authority, the nobles, had permitted it to survive on. This spokesman of natural rights denied that the king could amend or deviate from the laws that had been in the past framed by the nobles (devas). The falcon was free to feed on weak birds and should not be required to feed on animals whether they were strong or weak. Traditional practices should not be upset by the king, he claimed. He advised the king not to be attached to laws (dharma) which lacked deep roots and essential traits. Sibi realised that he was trapped and offered the king of birds his entire country but refused to lift his protection for the dove. The falcon asked for the kings flesh which he readily offered to give. Then the falcon introduced himself as Indra and the dove as Agni.
Indra was the head of the nobility and Agni that of the commonalty. Sibi had stood for the rights of the commonalty to exist without fear and had withstood the pressure that the nobles had exerted for free exploitation of the masses. The two officials of the Vedic polity lauded him for defending the weak and upholding dharma. Lomaca told Yudhishtira that the fame that Sibi had gained on account of his defence of the rights of the weak would never be forgotten. He said that virtuous Brahmans belonging to the free intelligentsia were always able to notice the presence of nobles (devas) and the ancient sages (rshis) in Sibis palace. (Ch.133 Vanaparva)
Ashtavakra on the Janaka polity
Lomaca then escorted Yudhishtira to the hermitage of Svetaketu, son of Uddalaka. According to Lomaca it was the spot where Svetaketu saw Sarasvati (consort of Brahma who had the status of an aristocrat, deva) in the form of a commoner (manushya). Svetaketu took part in a disputation began by Sarasvati over what was valid speech (vak). Kahola, a scholar, had been defeated in a disputation on the provisions of the socio-political constitution, Brahma, conducted in the presence of the great scholar-cum-ruler, Rajarshi Janaka of Videha by the spokesman of the scholars in the court of Janaka. Kahola had married a sister of Svetaketu. Kahola and Ashtavakra, a son of Kahola, went to Videha and challenged and defeated that spokesman in a disputation. Yudhishtira was curious to know more about that scholar, Ashtavakra and that debate.
Lomaca said that Kahola, disciple of Uddalaka, was always teased by other disciples of that great scholar. Knowing this, Uddalaka gave his daughter, Sujata, in marriage to make them realise that he had special interest in Kahola. But his son (even when in his mothers womb) had criticised his father for his errors in speech. It was said that Kahola had pronounced that his son would be born physically crooked. Hence the son was known as Ashtavakra, one with eight crooked corners. Ashtavakra did not know that his father had been drowned after being defeated in the debate. He treated Uddalaka as his father and Svetaketu as his brother. When he learnt the truth about his fathers death, Ashtavakra, a child prodigy, asked Svetaketu to accompany him to Janakas court to defeat his scholars in debate. On the way he met Janaka who asked him to yield way. Ashtavakra took offence at that command. (Ch.134 Vanaparva)
Ashtavakra pointed out that every one had to yield way to the blind and the deaf and to women. As long as the Brahman was coming close to him, the king had the right of way. But if the Brahman came close, the king had to yield way to him. Janaka yielded way to him but only for that occasion and allowed him to go in whatever direction he wanted. He said that even Indra saluted the Brahmans (scholars-cum-jurists) every day. Though Ashtavakra was young, he deserved respect as a scholar (Agni). Svetaketu and Ashtavakra went to the hall where Janaka was scheduled to perform a sacrifice but were stopped by the sentry. Ashtavakra told the gatekeeper that they had come to attend the sacrifice performed by the Janaka, son of Indradyumna, and participate in the debate and asked him to inform the compere about their arrival.
But the gatekeeper told him that the compere would permit only elderly scholars and not boys like him. Ashtavakra claimed that they were elders as they performed the rites as prescribed and had studied the Vedas and Vedanta. The gatekeeper found that Ashtavakra was not bragging but indeed putting forth his views like an experienced scholar though he was young. Ashtavakra said that he had come to debate certain issues with the royal compere in the presence of the scholars. The sentry was impressed and suggested how he could attract the attention of the king. He was sure that the king would grant his request.
After praising Janaka as one equal to Yayati in performance of great sacrifices, Ashtavakra said that he had come to challenge the kings official spokesman who defeated other scholars and drowned them in the waters. Janaka advised the boy not to attempt to challenge his spokesman who had defeated many scholars in the past. Ashtavakra said that because that official spokesman had not faced till then one like him who knew the meanings of the Vedic hymns and the works known as Vedanta, the concluding portions of the Vedas that he (the spokesman) was being treated as one who knew all the works. He warned that the official spokesman would fall like a cart whose axle had collapsed on the way. Ashtavakra implied that the views of the spokesman of Janaka were obsolete as he was not aware of the new interpretations of the Vedas provided by the Upanishads and the formulas known as Vedanta-sutras.
Janaka announced that only one who knew the use of the wheel with three hundred radials, twenty-four rims, twelve hubs and six axles could be considered as poet laureate. Ashtavakra said that he prayed that such a wheel of time should protect the king forever. Janaka asked him whether he knew which two persons, equivalent to the two mares that drew the chariot a noble procreated. The young challenger said that such things should not be born either in the house of that king or that of his foe. He was implying the thunder and lightning (sorrow and death) that were produced by the clouds. He hoped that the nobles would not express their displeasure over political conflicts by destroying both the rivals.
Janaka asked whether he knew which being slept without closing its eyes and which being at birth was motionless and which had no heart and which flourished because of speed. Ashtavakra answered that fish (the soul of man) was alert even while sleeping and that the egg (cosmos, Brahmanda) was motionless at birth. He answered that the body had no heart. He implied that heart was associated with the soul and not with the body of man. He added that the river (cittam, will) gained speed as its waters increased. Janaka allowed him entry as he was an intellectual aristocrat (deva) and not a mere commoner (manushya).
Ashtavakra said that in that assembly of administrative kings (rajans) he did not want to be introduced to any one except the official spokesman, even as the debaters who spoke amidst the senior representatives of the people (mahajana) on the constitution, Brahma, did not need to know other topics. He warned that official to take a definitive stand on the topic he proposed to discuss. That official cautioned him against provoking him. Ashtavakra, extolling the king, asked him to direct that official to present himself for debate. Ashtavakra asked that official to answer his question and promised that he would answer the latters.
The official spokesman claimed that according to the constitution, the civil judge, Agni, alone was resorted to in different ways by different sections of the population, and that the official, Surya, alone had jurisdiction over the entire commonalty. He also claimed that Indra, the king of the nobles (devaraja) was a warrior and could kill the enemies by himself. He claimed that Yama alone was the head of the council of elders (pitrs). He was explaining the structure of the administration of Videha which retained only four officials, Agni, Surya, Indra and Yama and ensured that they had exclusive control over their respective fields. While Agni, that is, the civil judiciary did not impose uniform laws over the diverse sections of the population, Surya (Aditya) applied the same rules while administering the different sectors of the populace.
The civilians were not entitled to join the army. Surya was not the commander of the army in Videha. It was controlled by the nobles headed by Indra. Videha was guided by a council of elders (pitrs) headed by the magistrate, Yama. Ashtavakra rejected this system and claimed that the earlier authorised version of the socio-political constitution (Brahma) visualised dual control. Indra and Agni, that is, nobles and commoners, functioned together and as friends rather than as rivals presiding over the sabha and the samiti, the two wings of the legislature, even as the two devarshis, Narada and Parvata went about together and the Asvinidevas, Nasatya and Dasra, functioned together. Brahmadeva, the chief of the constituent assembly (Brahma) had envisaged the concept of dyarchy, two wheels of the chariot moving together, like husband and wife functioning together, Ashtavakra claimed.
Janaka's official spokesman claimed that the dichotomy proposed by Ashtavakra though it rejected the concept of two opposing sectors, the ruling elite and subordinate commonalty, did not accord with the reality. Among the subjects (prajas) one could identify three sections, he said. He was referring to the division of the commonalty on the basis of the three traits, sattva, rajas and tamas, the sober intellectuals (Brahmans), the assertive governors and warriors (Kshatriyas) and the ignorant masses (manushyas). The three Vedas governed the activities (karma) of all social groups, he asserted. He also referred to the concept of three classes, varnas, entitled to perform sacrifices (yajnas). He claimed that there were three social worlds (divam, prthvi, antariksham, nobility, commonalty and frontier society) guided by the three lights (officials), Surya, Agni and Soma (sun, fire and moon in common parlance).
The official spokesman was drawing attention to the structure of the Vedic society and was overlooking the importance of the fourth Veda, Atharva. He did not take into account the existence of the fourth class, Shudras. Ashtavakra drew the attention of the audience to the concept of varnasrama dharma which recognised four social classes (varnas) and four stages of life (asramas). The scholars (vid) who had mastered the socio-political constitution, Brahma, would obtain jnana, the necessary knowledge by growing through these four stages of life, he said. All the four classes were entitled to take part in that session being conducted by Janaka, he pointed out. Ashtavakra rejected the dichotomy between the twice-born (dvijas) who were entitled to study the three Vedas and perform the sacrifices and the ekajatis who were not entitled to these. The later annotator draws attention to the concept of four forms of God, four syllables in aumkara, and four aspects of a pronouncement (vak).
The official spokesman then drew attention to the concept of five agnis, five feet of a meter, five types of sacrifices, five sense-organs, five basic elements, bhutas (apa, agni, prthvi, vayu, akasa), and five activities involved in coming to a conclusion, (pramana, viparyaya, vikalpa, nidra, smrti). He also drew attention to the flow of five physical experiences. Ashtavakra without running them down pointed out that the scholars had at times resorted to the concept of six features, like six seasons and six organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin and mind) that contributed to knowledge and the Vedic concept of six special sacrifices. The spokesman then raised the issue of seven sages and seven musical notes and seven conductors of a sacrifice.
Ashtavakra then cited where eight-fold classification had been indicated like eight Vasus. The spokesman claimed that there were nine fields in certain cases. Ashtavakra spoke of ten directions and ten who deserved honour as recipients of philosophical knowledge. The spokesman spoke of eleven Rudras and Ashtavakra of twelve Adityas. The former drew attention to the thirteen regions of the earth. Ashtavakra pointed out that a better example would be the thirteen, five senses, five organs of motion, intellect (buddhi), mind (manas) and ego or personal identity (ahamkara). As Ashtavakra drew attention to the importance of the thirteen sources of experiences, he silenced the spokesman and made him bow down his head in shame. The audience were upset by this unusual incident, the spokesman and poet laureate being trounced in debate by a young and ugly lad. Then the scholars (Brahmans) came forward to salute Ashtavakra.
As Ashtavakra asked the king to drown the spokesman in waters even as he did in the case of other defeated scholars, the spokesman pleaded to be excused. He was the son of an official who held the rank of Varuna. He said that he had deputed many scholars to attend the session that was then being conducted for twelve long years in the assembly presided over by the ombudsman, Varuna.
He saw them returning to escort the deviant son to his father for correction and punishment. He thought it proper to surrender before Ashtavakra and seek his pardon than be subjected to severe punishment by his father, Varuna. Ashtavakra advised the Brahman scholars to realise that what the earlier scholars who had been drowned by that official spokesman had said was correct and that they might note that he had rescued them from ignominy. The pious (satpurushas) always searched for the hidden meaning in what the boys and others who could not express themselves freely said.
Ashtavakra pointed out to Janaka that the latter had allowed himself to be instigated by that spokesman and hence had failed to realise what the former meant in his statements. Janaka acknowledged that Ashtavakra had said what commoners were incapable of understanding and that it had the form of a pronouncement made by the aristocrats (devas). He handed over that spokesman to Ashtavakra to be dealt with as the latter deemed fit. But the spokesman did not fear being drowned as he was the son of Varuna. He however declared that Ashtavakra would be able to see his father, Kahola. All those scholars including Kahola who had been sent to the custody of Varuna were released by the latter, according to the chronicler. Lomaca told Yudhishtira that Ashtavakra had by his skill in debate retrieved his father and other scholars. He asked the king to bathe in the waters there and benefit. (Ch.135, 136 Vanaparva)
Mainaka mount, Bharadvaja, Raibhya and Yavakrita
Lomaca then escorted Yudhishtira to the spot where the Mainaka mount had vanished into the earth. It had been in existence even a few decades earlier. It was a spot where Sanatkumara had obtained success (siddhi) in his strenuous search (tapas) for certain new concepts. Lomaca then led him to the abode of Raibhya where Yavakrita, the purchased son of Bharadvaja met with disaster. Yudhishtira was eager to know about how Bharadvaja became a great sage and why his son suffered. Bharadvaja was a researcher (tapasvi) and his friend, Raibhya, was a scholar. Raibhya had two disciples, Paravasu and Arvavasu.
Yavakrita was sore that the Brahmans (jurists) respected Raibhya but ignored Bharadvaja though the latter was a sage. He performed severe tapas to understand the meanings of the Vedic hymns which had not all been processed and included in the Vedic anthologies. [Bharadvaja himself was like Vasishta, Visvamitra (Kausika) and Vamadeva one of the major contributors to Rgveda.] Yavakritas efforts pleased Indra, who was born among the Kusikas. This Indra however advised him to follow his teacher, Bharadvaja, rather than attempt to compile a new anthology that made him torture his body.
But Yavakrita ignored his advice and continued his project which seemed to have no end. Indra told him to stop the project as even his father would not be able to delve into the meanings of many of the older hymns. Yavakrita threatened to immolate himself if Indra did not help him. To make him realise the foolishness of his endeavour, Indra pretended to build a bridge of sand across Ganga to help the people to cross the river. Yavakrita prayed that he and his father should be able to understand the Vedas without effort. As Indra agreed to help them, Yavakrita became arrogant. He was pulled up by his father, Bharadvaja.
Bharadvaja then narrated to him the story of a sage whose son though a scholar proved to be an arrogant youth going about insulting the sages. That youth was under the impression that he was deathless like the mountains. The sage decided to destroy the mountain to make his son realise that his life too would be cut short. When the father began to weep on the death of his son, the other sages consoled him saying that no commoner would be able to undo what the nobles (devas) had prescribed for him. Bharadvaja advised his son to avoid quarrelling with Raibhya and his sons who were equally good scholars. Yavakrita avoided Raibhya and his sons but went about harassing other scholars. (Ch.137 Vanaparva)
Yavakrita once entered the resort of Raibhya during the absence of the latter and misbehaved with his daughter-in-law who belonged to the cadre of free men and women (kinnaras) of the other society. When Raibhya learnt about the incident he was enraged and sent a girl who belonged to the paisacas, counter-intelligentsia of the periphery with a forest guard (raksha) to kill that youth. Yavakrita ran to his fathers abode to save himself but was stopped at the entrance by a servant. Raibhyas guard caught hold of him and killed him with his spear. Raibhya was satisfied and permitted that guard (rakshasa) to live with that paisaca girl.
When Bharadvaja learnt about the incident from his servant, he wept for his son. He did not know about his sons escapades. He admired his son for his mastery over Vedic hymns not known to others and as one who respected and helped Brahman scholars. He did not believe that his son could have harmed any being. He blamed Raibhya for having caused the death of Yavakrita and cursed that Raibhya would be killed by his elder son. Bharadvaja performed the last rites of his son and then tried to immolate himself. (Ch.137, 138 Vanaparva)
Brahmahati, killing of a Brahman
Meanwhile Brhadyumna, a king, arranged for a huge sacrifice and invited Raibhyas sons to conduct it. Paravasu one night went to his fathers abode to meet his wife. While going through the forest he mistook his father who was clad in animal skin to be an animal and killed him. When he realised his mistake he asked his brother, Arvavasu to perform on his behalf the necessary atonement for the killing of a Brahman while Paravasu himself went to conduct the kings sacrifice. When Arvavasu came back after performing the necessary rites, Paravasu accused him of having killed his father, a Brahman and asked the servants to chase him away. No one heeded Arvavasus protests that he was innocent and that he had performed atonement for the crime committed by his brother.
Arvavasu performed severe meditation (tapas) on Surya (Aditya) and pleased the nobles (devas). Agni, the head of the nobles (devas) and civil judge granted his prayers that his father should be revived. Brahmahati meant assassination of the character of a judge, rather than physical elimination of one born as a Brahman. Paravasu was guilty of having indicted his father for misbehaving with the wife of his son. He did not kill his father, a Brahman. Besides he did not know the enormity of his crime. Arvavasu hence wanted that Paravasu should be exonerated. He also wanted that Bharadvaja and Yavakrita should be saved from death. He also prayed that the Vedic hymns devoted to Aditya (Surya) discovered and explained by Yavakrita should be made immortal. The nobles who constituted the court of appeal agreed to his requests.
Formal education under qualified teachers obligatory
Yavakrita wanted to know from the nobles (devas) headed by Agni, the civil judge, why Raibhya attempted to kill him who had studied Vedas and was a tapasvi and had performed all rites. The nobles pointed out that Yavakrita had studied Vedas without a teacher and this was taken exception to by Raibhya who had attained scholarship after several years of study under teachers and after pleasing them. They did not approve bypassing the established practice of studying Vedas under recognised teachers. Intuition was not an adequate alternative to formal training and laborious study of Vedas. Yavakrita had to spend forty-eight years to go through the grill of Vedic studies. Lomaca thus described to Yudhishtira the importance of Yavakrita episode. (Ch.139, 140 Vanaparva)
Himalayan centres and the other society
Lomaca then inspired Yudhishtira to visit the Kailasa mount in the Himalayas. En route he would be visiting Sveta and Mantara mounts. They were the residence of free intelligentsia (gandharvas), independent leaders of the forests and mountains (kimpurushas) and plutocrats (yakshas) and of the rich chiefs of the plutocrats, Manibhadra and Kubera. Lomaca said that the powerful plutocrats (yakshas) were capable of making even Indra, the ruler of the nobles (devaraja), nervous. Those mounts were guarded by rakshas. Lomaca advised Yudhishtira to be prepared to face the powerful yakshas and their guards, rakshas. Kailasa where the nobles (devas) gathered was beyond those mounts. Innumerable yakshas, rakshas, kinnaras, nagas, suparnas and gandharvas lived in Kuberas palace, Lomaca said.
According to this version, the gandharvas who constituted a loose social universe (jagat) that was not part of any of the three organised social worlds (lokas, divam, prthvi and antariksham) had preferred to place themselves under the protection of Kubera, the plutocrat who headed the frontier society of forests and mountains, rather than under Indra, the head of the core society of the plains headed by the liberal aristocrats. Yudhishtira was required to note this feature of the social polity of his times when the move to reorganise the commonalty (prthvi) on the basis of four classes (varnas) had resulted in the coming together of all the cadres other than the nobles and the commoners and also the nobles (devas) opting to stay away from the affairs of the commonalty.
The feudal lords (asuras) who had been convincingly put down by the liberal aristocracy preferred to come to terms with the latter rather than join the above conglomeration of cadres of the industrial frontier society. Only the tapasvis from among the commonalty, who made strenuous efforts to discover new concepts and new means enjoyed access to the frontier society. Yudhishtira might get passage through the areas under the industrial society only if he went about in the guise of a tapasvi.
Lomaca advised Yudhishtira to go there guarded by Bhimasena and control his senses as a tapasvi. He would be helped by Varuna and Yama and the guardians of Ganga and Yamuna and of the people of the mountains and by Asvinidevas and Maruts who guarded the mountain herbs. Varuna as the ombudsman of the Vedic society would exonerate him of all sins and defaults in discharging ones duties. Yama would ensure that the commoner abided by all the provisions of the code of conduct. If Yudhishtira was permitted by these two officials he would be eligible to enter the terrain of the nobles in the Kailasa range.
Asvinidevas and Maruts, the officials in charge of medicinal herbs that grew in mountains, forests and moors had to be convinced that the visitor to the Himalayas would not disturb its ecology and flora. He would be protected by nobles (devas) as well as feudal chiefs (asuras) and by Vasus who belonged to the core society of the plains. He asked the Pandavas to bathe in Ganga before climbing the mountain. Yudhishtira advised Bhima to protect Draupadi and encouraged his younger brothers to climb the mountain without fear. (Ch.141 Vanaparva)
Subahu looks after the weak Brahmans
As the climb became steep and rough, Yudhishtira asked Bhima to stay back with Draupadi and Sahadeva, Dhoumya and other Brahmans and attendants while, he, Nakula and Lomaca alone would go towards the Kailasa mount. But Bhima rejected the suggestion and offered to carry Draupadi and even his younger brothers on his shoulders. Brahmans and the attendants might return home as suggested by Yudhishtira, he said. All the Pandavas and Draupadi were eager to meet Arjuna, he said. They reached the country of Kulindas ruled by their friend, Subahu. It had huge elephants and horses and was inhabited by Kiratas, mountain-tribes and Tanganas who were hunters of the upper Sarayu tracts. It was often visited by nobles (devas). Yudhishtira asked the Brahmans and attendants to stay in that area under the protection of Subahu while the Pandavas and Draupadi and Lomaca continued the ascent. (Ch.142 )
Mountain Mandara and Gandhamadana range
Yudhishtira and others decided to climb the Gandhamadana range to locate Arjuna whom he extolled highly for his feats. On the way they would visit the abode of the two sages, Nara and Narayana, near Badari. They would have to walk to reach the stream on whose banks Kubera had his palace. After that they could reach that range full of aromatic plants. Lomaca took them to Mandara mounts first. It was visited by the nobles and sages and Valakhilyas (who were sages with short-stature) and the gandharvas. Indra accompanied by other nobles and Asvinidevas and Saddhyas used to visit the great river there, Lomaca said. It was the spot where Siva restricted the flow of Ganga (by his tresses), he said. He asked the Pandavas to restrain their mind and pay respect to Ganga.
Why Naraka was punished
As the Pandavas who were respected (sreshta) free men (naras) went ahead they saw the pile of bones of Naraka. Lomaca told them that to protect the interests of Indra (the head of the nobility) Vishnu had destroyed that powerful feudal chieftain (asura). Lomaca took care to address Yudhishtira as purushasreshta to point out that he ranked higher than a free man (nara) and was in fact a prominent (sreshta) social leader (purusha). [Naras ranked higher than the commoners, manushyas. Most of the dynamic social leaders (purushas) rose from their ranks. Purushas were on the threshold of aristocracy.]
Naraka had studied Vedas for several years and through his strenuous endeavour (tapas) obtained the qualities necessary to be the chief of the nobles (devas). None dared to insult him while he was contemptuous of all. Indra, Agni and other nobles and sages approached Vishnu for help to get rid of Naraka whom they feared. Vishnu agreed that Naraka deserved the status of Indra but promised to help the nobles. With bare hands and through illusion he brought down Naraka. This version does not refer to the claim that Naraka was only sent to the subaltern and was not killed. Naraka meant a fallen man.
Note on Varaha (Boar) feat of Vishnu
Lomaca also recalled another feat of Vishnu. Vishnu had as Varaha lifted the earth up from the sea. Yudhishtira wanted to know under whose influence the social world of commonalty (bhumi) which sustained all living beings and was stable and immobile (achara), that is, was composed of settled communities was pushed down economically and culturally to the lowest level of the subaltern (patala). Why was Vishnu required to show his entire prowess in retrieving it?
Lomaca said that earlier during the epoch of constructive activity (krtayuga), the first and most ancient (puratana) head of the nobility (Adideva) implemented the rules (yamas) prohibiting actions contrary to the prescriptions (niyamas). The later annotator details the prescriptions and recommendations as non-violence (ahimsa), truth (satya), non-stealing (asteya), code of celibacy while studying (brahmacharya), non-acquisition of the wealth of others (aparigraha). When that head of the nobility implemented the rules (yamas) banning certain deeds, as part of the code of duties (yoga) no living being (prani) died of starvation.
The people of the subaltern were not neglected by the governing elite. There was no struggle for existence and all the species could coexist. No sector of the population, no species, vanished while all the species increased in number through procreation. The unregulated increase in population of the various species resulted in economic decline of the commonalty. The representative of the commonalty (bhumi) in the governing elite appealed to Narayana to intervene and save the commonalty from the burden of excess of population over availability of means of livelihood.
He appeared as a unicorn (varaha) and lifted the earth from the mire into which it was steadily sinking. This did result in a temporary disorder among the ranks of the different social worlds (divam, prthvi and antariksham) and cadres. Neither the nobles (devas) nor the commoners (manushyas) were in a stable position. Then the sages and most of the nobles met Brahma, the chief interpreter of the socio-political constitution, and asked him what had caused the social unrest that had stupefied them. They suspected that the feudal warlords who had caused the economic and social decline of the commonalty must have been engaged in pulling down from their positions the cultural and intellectual aristocracies (devas and rshis) too. Brahma who knew the above developments assured them that there was no threat to their positions from the feudal elements (asuras).
He said that Vishnu was engaged in pulling up the sinking commonalty and what they were experiencing were minor tremors associated with that effort. The nobles wanted to see the place where the earth was lifted up by Varaha. But Brahma, the chief of the bench of constitution advised them to meet Narayana.