King Yudhisthira must decide who will be honored first at his great sacrifice.
The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. As the narration continues, Vaisampayana describes the great Rajasuya sacrifice of King Yudhisthira, now emperor of the world.
YUDHISTIRA ROSE to receive his grandfather Bhisma and his teacher Drona, and having respectfully greeted them, he spoke these words to Bhisma, Drona, Krpa, Asvatthama, Duryodhana, and Vivimsati:
"In this sacrifice you must all give me your mercy, for whatever wealth is mine in this world is yours, as am I myself. So all of you, as you desire, please encourage me in this affair without constraint."
After saying this, the first-born son of Pandu was initiated for the rite, and then he engaged all his guests in fitting responsibilities. He gave Duhsasana responsibility for all the food, and he assigned Asvatthama to the reception of brahmanas. He completely entrusted to Sanjaya the task of welcoming kings, and to the great thinkers Bhisma and Drona he gave the job of discerning what was to be done and what was not to be done. King Yudhisthira had Krpa inspect the gold coins, bullion, and jewels and distribute priestly rewards and general charity. And in the same way he assigned the other tigerlike men various duties.
Under Nakula's guidance, Bahlika, Dhrtarastra, Somadatta, and Jayadratha enjoyed themselves like lords in their own estates. Vidura, knower of all righteous principles, took charge of paying all the employees the state had hired for the occasion, and Duryodhana meticulously received the precious gifts brought by guests.
All the world had come there, wishing to enjoy the ultimate reward and desiring to see the assembly hall and King Yudhisthira, the Pandava who was the king of virtue. No one brought less than a thousand presents, and with many jewels the respectable guests enriched Dharmaraja Yudhisthira. "It is especially by my gifts of jewels that Yudhisthira will accomplish the sacrifice!" In this way, rivaling one another, the kings gave riches to Yudhisthira.
The sacrificial area of the great soul Yudhisthira shone with splendor. For the world's rulers there were mansions guarded by armies and rising high with the most excellent palatial domes and turrets; the brahmanas' dwellings resembled heavenly shrines, for they were endowed with assorted jewels and supreme opulence. Monarchs covered with exceeding wealth and opulence further beautified the sacrificial grounds.
Yudhisthira rivaled the god Varuna in opulence. With abundant gifts for the priests, he offered sacrifice with the six-flamed rite. And he fully satisfied all the people with opulent gifts that fulfilled all desires. Provided with ample food in many varieties, that vast gathering was filled with people who had dined to their satisfaction and received appropriate gifts of gems. As the great sages performed the holy rite, the demigods too were satisfied as the priests invoked them by casting refreshing streams of clear butter into the sacred fire to the accompaniment of the learned and skillful intonation of mantras. And as did the demigods, so did the wise brahmanas find satisfaction in the priestly gifts of food and great riches. Indeed, all the social classes found satisfaction in that sacrifice, and they were filled with delight.
Lord Krsna Receives First Worship
Then on a fitting commencement day, the brahmanas, all great sages, entered the sacrificial grounds with the kings to inaugurate the main rite. With Narada at the head, the sages and saintly kings sat together within the holy arena of the exalted Yudhisthira. They all looked handsome and splendid. Assembled like the hosts of demigods in the mansion of the creator Brahma, those godly sages of unmeasured might devotedly sat there, and during the intervals between proceedings they conversed.
"This is the way it is!"
"No, it's not like that!"
"So it is, and not otherwise!"
Thus the many sages passed the time debating. With reasons based solidly on scripture, some turned weak arguments into strong ones, and vibrant arguments into thin ones. In that gathering, brilliant sages demolished arguments well established by other sages, like eagles tearing up their sky-borne prey. There were sages of grand vows, the best of those who know all the Vedas, who took pleasure in narrating topics richly endowed with both religious principles and practical profit.
Filled with demigods, brahmanas, and noble sages, the sacrificial ground appeared like the clear sky filled with stars. Indeed, in those sacrificial precincts, in that dwelling of Yudhisthira, there was not a single uncultured man, nor one who had broken a religious vow.
Learned Yudhisthira was a king of virtue, and the fortune of that lucky man was born of the performance of sacrifice. Seeing this, the sage Narada was satisfied. O monarch of men, as Narada looked upon all the royal warriors who had assembled there, he went deep into thought. He remembered the discussion that had taken place in the abode of Brahma, the very discussion that concerned the incarnation of empowered expansions of the demigods and of the Supreme Lord Himself. Understanding that he was seeing an assembly of the demigods, he recalled the lotus-eyed Lord Krsna, the almighty Lord Narayana Himself. The omniscient conqueror of the cities of His enemies, and the slayer of the enemies of His appointed agents the demigods, now keeping His promise, had taken birth as a prince of the earth. He was the maker of all creatures, the Lord Himself who in the past had instructed the demigods, "Having defeated one another, you will regain your worlds."
Lord Krsna took birth on the earth in the House of Yadu, as the best of aristocrats, in the dynasty of the Andhakas and Vrsnis. He shone with supreme opulence, as the moon, sovereign of the stars, shines in their midst. Indra and all the other demigods worship the strength of His arms, and now He Himself is staying on the earth as if a human being, and He is smashing the enemies of the world.
"What an extraordinary fact this is! The self-existing Lord Himself will reclaim the royal order with all its armed might."
Thus Narada, knower of right, thought in this way, realizing that it is the Lord, Narayana, who is to be worshiped by all sacrifices. There in the magnificent sacrificial arena of Yudhisthira, the wise king of justice, the greatly intelligent Narada remained. Narada is the recipient of much honor, for he is the very best of those who know justice.
Then Bhisma said to Dharmaraja Yudhisthira, "O Bharata, let the worthy kings be glorified properly. Authorities say, O Yudhisthira, that the king, the teacher, the priest, the relative, the dear friend, and a brahmana who has completed his studies :these six are worthy of being honored with the gift of arghya. * (A beverage made of auspicious ingredients that is offered to highly respected persons.) When these persons have come to visit and have dwelled with their guest for one year, they then deserve such worship. These people came to us a considerable time ago. O king, let the arghya be brought and presented to them one by one; indeed, let it be brought at first to the very best of them."
Yudhisthira said, "O grandfather, son of the Kurus, please tell me whom you consider best suited to receive this honorable gift, now being brought."
At that time Bhisma, son of Santanu, reaching his conclusion with keen intelligence, concluded that Krsna of the Vrsni dynasty was the most honorable person on the earth.
"By His splendor, strength, and heroic deeds He blazes forth among all those assembled here, like the luminous sun amidst the stars. It is certainly Krsna who has illumined and engladdened this assembly, like the sun appearing in a sunless region or a breeze blowing in a windless place."
And so, with direct permission of Bhisma, the fierce Sahadeva rightfully offered the supreme honors to Lord Krsna, who accepted them, following the procedure directed in scripture.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, who holds a Ph.D. in Indology from Harvard University, occasionally teaches at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and has been a visiting lecturer at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Characters in This Episode
Asvatthama : The son of Drona
Bahlika : The brother of King Santanu (Bhisma's father)
Bhisma : The grand-uncle of the Pandavas (though usually referred to as their grandfather)
Dhrtarastra : The uncle of the Pandavas whose blindness disqualified him from ascending the throne
Drona : The military teacher of the Pandavas and the Kurus
Duhsasana : The second eldest Kuru (the sons of Dhrtarastra)
Duryodhana : The eldest Kuru
Jayadratha : An ally of the Kuru's married to their sister, Duhsala
Krpa : A great brahmana who became a general in the Kuru army
Nakula : One of the five Pandava brothers (a twin)
Narada : A liberated sage and great devotee of Krsna who freely travels the universe
Sahadeva : One of the five Pandavas (a twin)
Sanjaya :Dhrtarastra's secretary
Somadatta : The son of Bahlika
Vidura : Dhrtarastra's brother and a saintly well-wisher of the Pandavas
Vivimsati : One of Dhrtarastra's one hundred sons
Yudhisthira : The eldest of the Pandava brothers