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Title: Mârkandeya Purâna, Books VII and VIII
Author: Wortham, B. Hale [Translator]
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  Mârkandeya Purâna

  Books VII and VIII.




  [New Series, Volume XIII]

  [London, Trübner and Company]


  {Scanned and edited by Christopher M. Weimer, May 2002}

  ART. XIII.--__Translation of the Mârka.n.deya Purâ.na.__
  Books VII. VIII.  By the Rev. B. HALE WORTHAM.


  ONCE upon earth there lived a saintly king
  Named Harišchandra; pure in heart and mind,
  In virtue eminent, he ruled the world,
  Guarding mankind from evil.  While he reigned
  No famine raged, nor pain; untimely death
  Ne'er cut men off; nor were the citizens
  Of his fair city lawless.  All their wealth,
  And power, and works of righteousness, ne'er filled
  Their hearts with pride; in everlasting youth
  And loveliness the women passed their days.

  It so fell out, that while this mighty king
  Was hunting in the forest, that he heard
  The sound of female voices raised in cry
  Of supplication.  Then he turned and said,
  Leaving the deer to fly unheeded: "Stop!
  Who art thou, full of tyranny and hate,
  That darest thus oppress the earth; while I,
  The tamer of all evil, live and rule?"
  Then, too, the fierce Ganeša,--he who blinds
  The eyes, and foils the wills of men,--he heard
  The cry, and thus within himself he thought:
  "This surely is the great ascetic's work,
  The mighty Višvâmitra; he whose acts
  Display the fruits of penance hard and sore.
  Upon the sciences he shows his power,
  While they, in patience, discipline of mind,
  And silence perfected, cry out with fear,
  'What shall we do?  The illustrious Kaušika
  Is powerful; and we, compared with him,
  Are feeble.'  Thus they cry.  What shall I do?
  My mind is filled with doubt.  Yet stay; a thought
  Has come across me: Lo! this king who cries
  Unceasingly, 'Fear not!' meeting with him,
  And entering his heart, I will fulfil
  All my desire."  Then filled with Rudra's son--
  Inspired with rage by Vigna Raj--the king
  Spake up and said: "What evil doer is here,
  Binding the fire on his garment's hem,
  While I, his king, in power and arms renowned,
  Resplendent in my glory, pass for nought?
  Surely the never-ending sleep of death
  Shall overtake him, and his limbs shall fail,
  Smitten with darts from my far-reaching bow,
  Whose fame this lower world may scarce contain."
  Hearing the prince's words, the saint was filled
  With wrath o'erpow'ring, and the sciences
  Fell blasted in a moment at his glance.

  But when the king beheld the pious sage
  All-powerful, he quaked exceedingly,
  And trembled like the sacred fig-tree's leaves.
  Then Višvâmitra cried: "Stop, miscreant!"
  And Harišchandra, humbly falling down
  Before the saint, in accents low and meek:
  "O Lord! most holy! most adorable!
  Oh, blame me not!  This is no fault of mine!
  My duty calls," he said, "I must obey."
  "Is it not written in the Holy Law,
  'Alms must be given by a virtuous king;
  His people must be fought for, and be kept
  From every ill'?"  Then Višvâmitra spoke
  And said: "To whom, O king, should'st thou give alms?
  For whom in battle should'st thou fight? and whom
  Should'st thou protect?  Oh, tell me, nor delay,
  But quickly answer, if thou fearest sin."
  "Alms should be given to Brâhmans," said the king:
  "Those who are weak should be protected: foes
  In battle should be met and overcome."

  Then Višvâmitra spoke and said: "O king!
  If thus indeed thou rightly dost perceive
  Thy royal duty, give thine alms to me;
  I am a holy Brâhman, and I seek
  A dwelling-place; moreover I would gain
  A wife: therefore bestow on me thine alms."
  The king, his heart filled with exceeding joy,
  Felt, as it were, his youth return, and said:
  "Fear not! but tell me, son of Kaušika,
  Thy heart's desire; and be it hard to gain,
  Or be it easy, it shall still be thine.
  Say, shall I give thee gold, or wealth, or life?
  Or shall I give thee wife, or child, or land?
  Or my prosperity itself?"  "O king!"
  The sage replied, "thy present I accept;
  But let thine alms, I pray, be granted first,--
  The offering for the kingly sacrifice."
  "O Brâhman!" said the king, "the alms are thine;
  Further than this, whatever be the gift
  Thou mayest desire, freely I give it thee.
  Ask what thou wilt."  Then Višvâmitra spake:
  "Give me the earth, its mountains, seas, and towns,
  With all its kingdoms, chariots, horses, men;
  Its elephants, its treasure-houses too;
  Its treasures vast, and all whate'er beside
  Is recognized as thine: oh! give me all,
  I pray, except thyself, thy wife, thy son,
  And this thy righteousness, that follows close
  Beside thee.  Sinless one! oh thou who art
  Perfect in righteousness! oh give me all--
  All beside these.  What need of further words."

  The king, with heart rejoicing, and unchanged
  In countenance, hearing the sage's words,
  Said, humbly bowing down before the saint,
  "So be thy wish fulfilled."  "O saintly king,"
  Said Višvâmitra, "if the world is mine,
  And power, and wealth, I pray you who shall reign,
  Since in this kingdom as a devotee
  I dwell?"  Then Harišchandra said: "'Ere this,
  Before the world was thine by my free gift,
  Thou wast the lord of all; how much more now?
  Thy right is doubly sure."  Then said the sage:
  "If this indeed be so,--if the whole world
  Be truly mine, and all its sovereignty,
  Then should'st thou not remain, nor leave thyself
  Aught of that kingdom which thou hast renounced,
  But, casting off thy royal ornaments,
  Thou should'st depart, clothed in a dress of bark."
  The king, obedient to the sage's word,
  Stripped off his royal dress, and, with his wife
  And son, made haste to go.  Then said the saint:
  "Stop, Harišchandra!  Hast thou then forgot
  The offering for the kingly sacrifice
  That thou hast promised us?"  Replied the king:
  "O mighty saint! the kingdom now is __thine__;
  All have I given to __thee__: and as for me,
  What have I left?--nought! save myself,
  My wife, my son!"  "Thou sayest the truth, indeed,"
  Answered the sage; "but yet there still remains
  The offering for the kingly sacrifice.
  And this know well:  A vow to Brâhmans made,
  If unfulfilled, works special woe to him
  Who made the vow.  For in this sacrifice
  Must offerings of worth be freely made
  To Brâhmans;--offerings until they cry
  Hold! that suffices for us!  Therefore pay
  Thy promised vow, nor longer hesitate.
  'Alms are for Brâhmans,' thou thyself hast said,
  'Those who are weak must be protected: foes
  In battle must be met and overcome.'"
  "O saintly priest!" answered the king, "my wealth
  Is all departed: nothing now remains
  For me to give: yet grant me time I pray,
  And I will pay the offering!"  "Noble king,"
  Said Višvâmitra, "speak I pray thee!  Say
  What time dost thou appoint that I should wait?
  Speak! no delay! or else my curse of fire
  Shall burn thee up."  Then Harišchandra said:
  "Most holy Brâhman! when a month has past
  The money for the offering shall be thine.
  Now I have nothing.  Oh! be pleased to grant
  Remission for the present."  Said the sage,
  "Go! go! most noble prince! maintain thy faith!
  And may'st thou prosper! may no enemies
  Harass thy road."  Commanded thus, the king
  Departed as an outcast;--he, the king
  Of all the earth, an exile with his wife
  Unused to go afoot, and with his son
  Went forth: while cries and lamentations rose
  On every side: "Our hearts are filled with pain,
  Why dost thou leave us thus?  O virtuous king!
  Show mercy to thy subjects.  Righteousness
  Indeed shines forth in thee; if thou art full
  Of mercy, may it overflow on us.
  Stay!  Mighty Prince! one moment, while we gaze
  With lover's eyes upon thy beauteous form.
  Alas! our Prince!  Shall we ne'er see thee more?
  How changed thy princely state!  Thou, who did'st once
  Go forth, surrounded by attendant kings,
  Who marched on foot; while stately elephants
  Bore e'en thy ministers.  Now, Lord of Kings!
  Thyself art driven forth on foot.  Yet, stay!
  Think, Harišchandra! how wilt thou endure
  The dust, the heat, the toil?  Stay, mighty prince,
  Nor cast thy duty off.  Oh, show to us
  Some mercy, for herein thy duty lies.
  Behold, we cast off all for thee!  Our wives,
  Our wealth, our children, our possessions, all
  Have we relinquished; like thy shadow,
  We would follow thee.  Oh leave us not!
  For wheresoe'er thou art is happiness,
  And heaven itself would be no heaven to us
  Without our prince."  Then, overwhelmed with grief
  At these laments, the king stayed on his course,
  In pity for his loving citizens.
  Then Višvâmitra, filled with rage, his eyes
  Rolling with wrath, exclaimed: "Shame on thee! shame!
  O full of falsehood, and of wickedness.
  How! would'st thou, then, speaker of lies!
  Resume the gifts that thou hast freely made,
  And reinstate thee in thy kingdom?"  "Sir!
  I go!" replied the king to these rude words,
  And trembling crept away in haste, his wife
  Holding him by the hand.  And, as she went,
  Her fragile form o'ercome with weariness,
  The Brâhman smote her fiercely with his stick.
  Then Harišchandra, pained with inmost grief,
  Seeing the stroke, said meekly, "Sir! I go!"
  Nor further spoke.  Filled with compassion then,
  The Višvadevas said: "What sin is this?
  What torments shall indeed suffice for him
  By whom this pious king--the offerer
  Of prayer, and sacrifice, has been cast forth.
  Who now will sanctify the Soma-juice
  With prayers and hymns, at the great sacrifice,
  That we may drink it with rejoicing hearts?"

  Then, having heard these words, the Brâhman turned
  Upon the Višvedevâs; and, in wrath
  Exceeding hot, he spake a fearful curse:
  "You shall be cast down from the height of heaven,
  And live as men."  The curse had hardly passed
  His lips, when filled with pity for their fate,
  The sage yet further added: "you shall live
  Indeed as men, but yet, there shall be born
  To you no son, nor shall you know the state
  Of marriage.  Envy, love, and wrath shall ne'er
  Hold sway o'er you: and when the appointed time
  Has past, you shall re-enter once again
  The courts of heaven, and wear again the form
  Which you had lost."  The Višvedevâs then
  Came down from heaven, and, clothed in human form,
  Were born as men, the sons of Pritha, wife
  Of Pa.n.du.  Therefore those five Pâ.n.davas--
  Mighty in war--by Višvâmitra cursed,
  Knew not the state of marriage.  Thou hast heard
  The tale of Pa.n.du's sons; thy question, too,
  Of fourfold import has been answered.
  I pray thee, say, what further would'st thou hear?


  Said Jaimîni: An answer ye have found
  To all my questions; and indeed have filled
  Me full of deepest interest.  Oh! I long
  To hear yet more!  Alas! that saintly king!
  What grief he suffered!  Did he e'er attain
  To any comfort answering to his woe?
  Noblest of Birds!  Oh tell me this, I pray.

  The Holy Birds continued:  Then the king,
  O'ercome with grief and pain, hearing the words
  Of Višvâmitra, with his wife and son
  Journeyed along, dragging his weary steps.
  At length the holy place appeared in view--
  The shrine of Šiva; thus within himself,
  He said: "Benares, sacred to the god,
  Lies now before me; there shall I find rest,
  For there man has no power."  The king approached
  The gates on foot: lo! at the entry stood
  The Brâhman Višvâmitra.  Mighty Saint!
  The king, his hands in supplication joined,
  With humble reverence, said:  "Here is my life,
  My wife, my son, I offer all to thee;
  Accept, I pray, the offering! or choose
  Whatever else thou wouldest!"  But the sage
  Replied: "The month is past! most saintly king!
  Give me the present for the sacrifice--
  The offering thou hast promised."  "One half-day
  As yet remains before the month be past,
  Oh Brâhman of surpassing piety,
  And penances unfading.  Wait, I pray,
  A few short hours."  Then Višvâmitra said:
  "So be it, king! once more I will return,
  But if the offering be not duly paid,
  Before the sinking of this evening's sun,
  My curse shall smite thee."  And the priest
  Departed, while the king, in anxious thought,
  Debated thus: "How shall I make the gift?
  The promised gift? where are my friends? my wealth?
  I may not beg for alms; how can I then
  Fulfil my vow?  Nor even in the world
  Beyond shall I find rest.  Destruction waits,
  If with my promise unfulfilled, I pass
  From hence.  A robber of the holy saints;
  I shall become the lowest of the low.
  Nay, I will sell myself! and, as a slave,
  Redeem my promise."  Then the queen, in tears
  Bewildered, and afflicted, lost in thought,
  With face cast down, "Maintain thy truth," she said,
  "Most mighty prince!  Oh! let not doubt prevail!
  The man devoid of truth is to be shunned
  Like contact with the dead.  The highest law
  Declares, that inward truth and faithfulness
  Must be maintained.  Burnt sacrifices, alms,
  The study of the scriptures, penances,
  Are counted not for righteousness to him
  Whose word is faithless.  Listen! noble prince!
  Is it not written in the sacred law:
  'The wise attain Salvation through the truth,
  While lies and falsehood are destruction's way
  To men of low and evil minds.'  There lived,
  'Tis said, a king upon the earth, by whom
  The kingly sacrifice--burnt offerings too,
  Were offered in abundance.  That same king
  Fell once from truthfulness, and by that fall,
  He lost his righteousness, and forfeited
  His place in heaven.  Prince! I have borne a son"--
  Her utterance failed her, issuing forth in nought
  But sighs and lamentations.  Then the king,
  With eyes o'erflowing, said, "Behold thy son!
  He stands beside thee! cast away thy grief!
  Tell me what presses on thee."  Said the queen,
  "Prince, I have borne a son; and sons are born
  To none but worthy women.  This my son
  Shall take me--he shall offer me for sale--
  Then with the money gained, pay thou the priest
  The promised offering."  Hearing these words,
  He fell down fainting.  When his sense returned,
  Filled with exceeding pain, the king burst forth,
  Lamenting: "This, alas! most loving one!
  Is hardly to be framed in words, much less
  Be carried out in deed.  Alas! alas!"--
  His spirit fled again, and to the earth
  He fell unconscious.  Overcome with grief,
  The queen exclaimed, filled with compassion: "King!
  How art thou fallen from thy high estate!
  The ground is now thy resting-place, whom once
  A gorgeous couch received.  Lo! this my lord,
  By whom wealth, honour, power, are freely given
  An offering to the Brâhman--see, he lies
  Insensate on the ground.  Ye gods of heaven!
  Tell me, I pray you, has this noble king,
  Equal to gods in rank, committed sin
  Against you, that he lies thus overcome
  With woe?"  Then fell the queen, bereft of sense
  Upon the earth, o'erwhelmed with grief and pain,
  Seeing her husband's misery.  When the boy
  Beheld his parents lying on the ground,
  He cried in terror: "Father! give me food!
  Mother! my tongue is parched with thirst!"  Meanwhile
  Upon the scene the mighty Brâhman came;
  And when he saw the king lie senseless, "King!"--
  Sprinkling cold water on his face--he said,
  "Rise up! rise up! Pay me the promised vow;
  For this thy misery from day to day
  Increases, and will yet increase, until
  The debt be paid."  The water's cooling touch
  Refreshed the king; his consciousness returned;
  But when he saw the Brâhman, faintness seized
  His limbs again.  Then overpowering rage
  Seized Višvâmitra; but before he left,
  The best of Brâhmans said: "If what is just,
  Or right, or true, enters thy mind, O king!
  Give me the present.  Lo! by truth divine
  The sun sends forth his vivifying rays
  Upon the earth.  By truth this mighty world
  Stands firm and steadfast.  Truth all law excels.
  By truth the very heaven itself exists.
  Wert thou to weigh the truth, and in the scale
  Opposing, wert to place burnt-offerings,
  And sacrifices countless, still the truth
  Would far outweigh them all.  Why need I waste
  My words of loving-kindness upon thee--
  An ill-intentioned, false, ignoble man.
  Thou art a king,--so should the truth prevail
  With thee.  Yet hear me;--if the offering
  Be still unpaid when th' evening's sun has sunk
  Behind the western mountain to his rest,
  My curse shall smite thee."  Speaking words like these
  The Brâhman left him; and the king, o'ercome
  With fear--a fugitive--robbed of his wealth--
  Degraded to unfathomable depths--
  The victim of his evil creditor--
  Heard once again the counsel of his wife:
  "O king! sell __me__! nor let the fiery curse
  Dissolve thy being!"  Urged repeatedly,
  The king at length replied: "Most loving one!
  What the most wicked man could hardly do,
  That same will I:--and I will sell my wife.
  Alas! that I should utter such a word!"
  And going with his wife into the town--
  Eyes dimmed with tears, voice choked with grief--he cried:
  "Come hither, townsmen! hearken unto me!
  A wretch! inhuman! savage as a fiend!
  I offer here my wife for sale, and yet
  I live!  Here is a female slave!  Who buys?
  Make haste and speak."  "The female slave is mine!"
  (So spake an ancient Brâhman to the king.)
  "Money I have in heaps, and I will pay
  You well for her.  My wife is delicate;
  Her household duties are beyond her strength;
  I want a slave, and therefore I will give
  A price proportioned to the woman's skill
  And temper; nor will I o'erlook her youth
  And beauty.  What you think is fair and right,
  That will I pay."  Struck dumb with grief, the king
  Stood mute, nor answered aught.  And then the priest,
  Tying the price in the king's garment-hem--
  His bark-cloth garment--roughly grasped the queen,
  And dragged her off.  But when the loving child
  Beheld his mother led away, he seized
  Her by her garment.  And the queen exclaimed:
  "If only for a moment, noble sir!
  Oh! let me go! that I may gaze once more
  Upon my child, whom I shall never see,
  And never touch again!  My child, behold
  Thy mother, now a slave! And thou--a prince!
  Oh, touch me not!  My lot of servitude
  Forbids that thou should'st touch me."  But the child,
  His eyes bedewed with tears, ran after her,
  Calling her "Mother!"  As the boy came near,
  The Brâhman spurned him with his foot; but he
  Still following close would not be torn from her,
  Calling her "Mother!"  "Oh, my lord!  I pray,
  Be gracious to me!" said the queen.  "Oh, buy
  My son with me; divide us not!  For I
  Without him shall be nought of use to you.
  Be gracious, O my lord!"  Then said the priest:
  "Here! take the money! give the boy to me!
  The saints, who know the scriptures, have ordained
  The right and lawful sum.  Take it!"  He tied
  The money in the king's bark dress, and led
  Them both away--the mother and the child--
  Together bound.  But when the king beheld
  Himself bereft of both his wife and son,
  He burst forth: "Ah! my wife! whom neither sun,
  Nor moon, nor air have ever seen I who hast
  Been kept from vulgar gaze!  Alas I a slave
  Hast thou become!  Alas! thou, too, my son!--
  A scion of the noble dynasty,
  Sprung from the sun! disgrace has seized on thee,
  And--shame upon me!--thou too art a slave!
  Ye have become a sacrifice; ye, through my fault,
  Have fallen.  Would that I were dead!"  Thus spoke
  The king.  Meanwhile the Brâhman hastily
  Entered the grove wherein his dwelling stood,
  And vanished with his slaves.  Then met the king
  The Brâhman Višvâmitra.  "Prince!" he said,
  Pay me the offering!"  Harišchandra gave
  The money gainèd by the shameful sale
  Of wife and child.  And when the priest beheld
  The money, overcome with wrath, he said:
  "How canst thou mock me with this paltry sum!
  Base Kshatriya!  And thinkest thou that this
  Suffices for a sacrificial gift
  Such as I would accept?  But if thy mind
  Thus far misleads thee, thou shalt feel my power--
  Power transcendant, gained by penances,
  And scripture meditation.  Yes! the power
  Of my pure Brâhmanhood shall show itself
  On thee."  "More will I give thee," said the king,
  "But wait, most noble saint!  Nought have I left!
  Even my wife and child are sold."  Replied
  The Brâhman: "Hold! be silent!  Further time
  Than the remaining fourth part of to-day
  I grant thee not."  Enraged, he turned away,
  Departing with the money.  And the king,
  Immersed in grief and fear, with face cast down,
  Cried out: "If there be any one of you
  Who wants a slave, let him make haste and speak
  While day remains."  Then Dharma, putting on
  The form of a Cha.n.dâla, hastily
  Came forward, taking pity on the king.
  His countenance was fearful,--black, with tusks
  Projecting; savage in his words; his smell
  Was foul and horrible; a crowd of dogs
  Came after him.  "Tell me thy price," he said;
  "Be quick; and whether it be large or small
  I care not, so I have thee as my slave:"
  The king, beholding such a loathsome form,
  Of mien revolting--"What art thou?" he said.
  "Men call me a Cha.n.dâla," he replied.
  I dwell in this same city--in a part
  Of evil fame.  As of a murderer
  Condemned to death, such is my infamy.
  My calling is a robber of the dead."
  "I will not be a slave," exclaimed the king,
  "To thee, a base Cha.n.dâla.  Better far
  That I should perish by the fiery curse."
  The words were scarcely uttered, when the saint
  Returned, his countenance with rage
  Distorted; and he thus addressed the king:
  "The sum is fair; why dost thou not accept
  The offer?  Then indeed thou mightest pay
  The gift thou owest for the sacrifice."
  "O son of Kušika!" replied the king,
  "Consider this, I pray!--my noble race!
  Truly am I descended from the sun!
  How can I then become, though sore in want,
  Lowest of creatures--a Cha.n.dâla's slave?"
  "Delay no more," the Brâhman said, "but pay
  The gift at once, and sell thyself a slave
  To the Cha.n.dâla--or assuredly
  I curse thee."  "Saintly priest, be merciful!"
  The king entreated; and, immersed in care,
  He seized the Brâhman's feet, exclaiming thus:
  "What am I but a slave, o'erwhelmed with grief!
  Fear holds me!  Saintly priest, be merciful!
  Protect me, mighty saint!  Save me, I pray,
  From this most horrible Cha.n.dâla.  Sir!
  Most noble saint! hereafter shall thy will
  Be all the object of my life!  To serve
  Thy lightest wish shall be my highest joy!
  Thus will I make the offering--I will be
  Thy __slave__!" Replied the Brahman: "If thou art
  My slave, then will I sell thee as a slave
  To the Cha.n.dâla."  Then, filled with delight,
  Paying the money, the Švapâka bound
  His lately-purchased slave, and striking him,
  Led hill away.  Parted from all his friends;
  In utmost grief; in the Cha.n.dâla's house
  Abiding--morning, noon, and eventide,
  And night, the king thus made lament:
  "Alas! my tender wife, overwhelmed with pain,
  Looking upon her son in misery,
  Bewails her lot.  But yet she says: 'The king
  Will surely ransom us, for he has gained
  By now more money than the Brâhman paid
  For us;' and all the time she little knows
  My fate--worse than her own.  For I have passed
  From woe to woe--kingdom and friends--my wife,
  My son, have passed from me, and now the state
  Of a Cha.n.dâla holds me."  While he dwelt
  A slave in the Cha.n.dâla's house, the forms
  Of those he loved were still before his eyes--
  Were ever in his mind.  Meanwhile the king,
  Obedient to his master's will, became
  A robber of the dead; and night and day
  He watched for plunder.  "One part of the spoil
  Is for the king, three for thy master, two
  For thee.  Go to the city's southern part,
  Where is the dwelling of the dead, there wait."
  Obeying the Cha.n.dâla, to the place
  Of burial he went;--an awful place,
  Filled full of fearful sounds and loathsome sights--
  Of evil smells, and smoke, and locks of hair
  Fallen from the dead; while troops of fiends and ghouls,
  Vampires and demons, wandered to and fro.
  Vultures and jackals prowled, and spirit forms'
  Of evil hovered o'er.  The ground was strewn
  With heaps of bones; and wailing, sharp and shrill,
  Re-echoed from the mourners of the dead.
  The bodies on the funeral piles, half burnt,
  Crackled and hissed; showing their shining teeth,
  They grinned, as if in sport; while all the time
  The howl of demons and the wail of fiends
  Were mingled with the roar of flames--a sound
  Of fearful import, such as ushers in
  The day of doom.  The sights, and sounds, and smells--
  The heaps of ashes, and the piles of bones,
  Blackened with filth--the smoke, the shouts,
  The yells--struck fear on fear into the heart.
  The burial-place resembled nought but hell.
  Such was the place appointed for the king.
  "Priests! Brâhmans! Counsellors! how have I fallen
  From all my royal state!  Alas! my queen!
  Alas! my son!  Oh! miserable fate!
  We have been torn asunder by the power
  Of Višvâmitra."  Thoughts like these possessed
  His inmost mind; while foul, unshorn, unwashed,
  He served his master.  Running here and there,
  Armed with a jagged club, he sought the dead,
  From whom he gained his wages.  So he lived,
  Degraded from his caste.  Old knotted rags
  Served as his dress; his face and arms and feet
  With dust and ashes from the funeral piles
  Begrimed; his hands defiled with putrid flesh
  From contact with the bodies of the dead.
  So neither day nor night he ceased from toil.
  And twelve months passed--twelve weary months, which seemed
  To his grief-stricken mind a hundred years;
  And then at last, worn out, the best of kings
  Lay down to rest; and as upon his couch
  All motionless in sleep he lay, he saw
  A wondrous vision.  By the power divine
  He seemed to wear another form,--a form
  Both new and strange,--and in that form to pay
  The vow.  Twelve years of expiation passed
  With difficulty.  Then within himself
  King Harišchandra thought: "So too will I,
  When I am freed from hence, perform my vows
  With generous freedom."  Forthwith he was born
  As a Pukkasa; while a place was found
  For him among the dead, and funeral rites
  Were ordered as his task.  Thus seven years
  Were passed; then to the burying-place was brought
  A Brâhman seeking sepulture: in life
  He had been poor, but honest; and the king,
  Though he knew this--the dead man's poverty
  And his uprightness--pressed his friends to pay
  The funeral dues.  "Enforce thy right," they said,
  "And do this evil deed; yet know thou this:
  Once upon earth there was a mighty king
  Named Harišchandra; though he but disturbed
  A Brâhman's sleep, through that offence he lost
  His merit, and by Višvâmitra's curse
  Became a base Pukkasa."  "Yet the king
  Spared not the dead man's friends, but still required
  His fee.  Therefore they cursed him in their rage--
  "Go!--go!--thou most degraded of mankind--
  Go to the lowest hell!"  Then in his dream
  The king beheld the messengers of death.
  Fearful to look at, armed with heavy chains,
  They seized him, and they bound him hand and foot,
  And bore him off.  And then, in fear and pain,
  Headlong he fell into the bath of oil
  In Nâraka.  There, torn with instruments
  Sharp-edged as razors, fed on putrid blood,
  He saw himself.  For seven years in hell--
  Now burnt from day to day, now tossed and torn,
  Now cut by knives, and now by icy winds
  Frozen and numbed--a dead Pukkasa's fate
  He underwent.  Each day in Nâraka,
  A hundred years of mortal reckoning--
  So count the demons who inhabit hell.
  Then he beheld himself cast up to earth,
  His spirit entering a filthy dog;
  Feeding on things all foul and horrible--
  Consumed by cold.  A month thus passed away.
  His spirit changed its dwelling, and he saw
  Himself an ass; and after that an ox,
  A cow, a goat, a sheep, a bird, a worm.
  So day by day he saw his spirit change
  Its outward shape.  A multitude of forms--
  Some moving, others rooted to the ground--
  Received his soul.  And when the hundred years
  Were passed and gone, he saw himself again
  Re-occupy his pristine human form--
  Once more a king.  And then he seemed to lose
  His kingdom, casting it away in games
  Of chance.  Turned from his home a wanderer
  Into the forest with his wife and child:
  Devoured by a ravening beast, but raised
  To life again on earth, he sore bewailed
  His wife: "Alas! why hast thou left me thus?
  Alas!  O Saivya! where hast thou gone?"
  Then in his dream he seemed to see his wife
  And son lamenting: "What hast thou to do
  With gambling?  Oh protect us, mighty king!"
  The vision faded, and he saw no more
  The cherished forms.  And then the dream returned
  By power divine.  And Harišchandra stood
  In heaven, and he beheld his wife on earth,
  With flowing hair, dragged forcibly along--
  Stripped of her clothes: the cry came to his ear,
  "Protect us, king of men!"  Then, snatched away,
  The demons hurried him before the judge;
  And Harišchandra seemed to hear the words:
  "Go forth! return once more to earth!  Thy grief
  Is well nigh past and ended; joy ere long
  Shall come to thee.  The sorrows that remain
  Endure."  The king, then driven from the sky
  By Yama's messengers, falling through space--
  Senseless in fear and terror, filled with pain
  Yet more exceeding--thought within himself,
  "How shall I suffer all these torments sore!--
  The changes manifold of form--the pain
  In Nâraka."  Then Harišchandra sought
  Aid from the gods: "O mighty lords," he said,
  "Protect me!  O protect my wife and child!
  O mighty Dharma, thee I worship!  Thee,
  O Krish.na, the Creator!  Faultless ones,
  Both far and near, before you now I come,
  A suppliant.  On thee, O lord of prayer,
  I call! on thee, O Indra too! to thee
  O ancient one! I pray--immutable!"
  The vision fled, the king arose from sleep.
  His tangled hair, his body black and grimed,
  Recalled to him his state--the plunderer
  Of dead men's clothes.  His recollection gone,
  He thought not of his sorrowing wife and child,
  For reason failed.  The loss of kingdom, wealth,
  And friends, his dwelling-place among the tombs,
  Had overthrown his senses, and destroyed
  His mind.  Then to the burying-place the queen
  Came, bearing the dead body of her son--
  Pale and distracted.  "My beloved son!
  My child!" she kept exclaiming, while she threw
  Dust on her head.  "Alas! alas! O king!
  O that thou could'st behold thy child," she said--
  "Thy child now lying dead upon the earth,
  Killed by a serpent's bite.  Alas! my son!
  So lovely! so delightful!" Then the king,
  Rearing the sounds of mourning, went in haste
  To rob the dead: nor did he recognize
  His wife, in that sad mourner, changed by grief
  As if into another.  And the queen
  Knew not the form that stood before her, clothed
  In rags, with matted hair, withered and foul.
  Then recollection dawned upon the king,
  Seeing the dead child's princely form, the thought
  Of his own son came o'er him.  "Ah! my child!
  What evil chance," he said, "has brought thee here!
  A child of princely race thou seemest.  He, my son,
  Long lost to me through my accursed fate,
  Would have been even such as thou in age."
  Then raised the queen her voice, and thus she spoke:
  "Alas! has some unexpiated crime
  Brought upon us, my child! this endless woe.
  My absent lord! since thou did'st not console
  My grief in times gone by, how can the pain
  I suffer now assuage?  Did'st thou not lose
  Thy kingdom? did'st thou not desert thy friends?
  Did'st thou not sell thy wife and child?"  The king
  Heard her lament, and as he heard, the wail
  Fell from his eyes,--he recognized again
  His wife and son--and saying but the words,
  "Ah! Saivya!  Ah! my beloved child!"
  He fainting fell to earth.  Then, too, the queen,
  Hearing her husband's voice, o'ercome with grief,
  Insensate fell.  Returning consciousness
  Brought to them both affliction's heaviest weight
  And mutual lamentations.  "Ah! my son!"
  Thus mourned the king, "my inmost heart is torn,
  When I behold thy form so delicate:
  My child! embracing thee in tend'rest love,
  Words of affection I will speak, that rise
  Unbidden to my lips.  Alas! thy limbs
  Will be defiled by my embrace; the dust
  That clings about my garments will pollute
  Thy lovely form!  Alas! my child, thou had'st
  An evil father!  He who should have kept
  All dangers from thee, he it was who sold
  Thee as a slave! and yet in heart and mind
  First of all things I love thee.  Ah! my child!
  Thy father's realm--my heaped-up wealth--all this
  By lawful right was thine inheritance,
  And now thou liest slain!  Ah me! the tears
  Rise to my eyes in blinding force: thy form,
  In grace and beauty like the lotus flower,
  Fades from my sight."  He spoke, and faltering
  With grief embraced his son.  The queen exclaimed:
  "This is indeed my lord--I know his voice!
  I know his form! this is the mighty king.
  The wisest of all beings.  But how changed!
  What fate is this?  Ah what a dreadful place
  For him, the lord of men.  This grief yet more
  Is added to the mourning for my son--
  My husband's fate--for as a slave he serves
  A base Cha.n.dâla.  Curséd be that god,
  Or demon foul, through whom a godlike king
  Has fallen to this degraded state; the lot
  Of a Švapâka.  Ah! most noble prince,
  My mind is filled with grief, when I recall
  Thy regal state, thy past magnificence.
  No kingly ensigns go before thee now,
  No captive kings, brought down to slavery,
  Humbly precede thee, casting in the way
  Their garments, lest the dust should soil thy feet.
  But now!  O king! alas, thyself a slave,
  Thou livest in this fearful place, begrimed
  With filth; thy sacred cord concealed, thy hair
  Tangled and long, plunder of dead men's clothes
  Thy livelihood.  Ah! king! and is thy life
  Spent in this awful wise?"  So spake the queen,
  And falling on his neck, embraced her lord:
  While she, sprung from a king herself, bewailed
  Her sorrows endless.  "King! I pray thee speak!
  Is this a dream?  If it be real and true,
  Then justice, truth, and righteousness have fled
  And gone from earth: nor aught avails mankind,
  Of sacrifice, or reverence, to gods
  Or priests!  'Tis vain to follow innocence
  If thou, most perfect, purest of mankind,
  Art brought to such a depth of infamy."
  Then spoke the king, and told his sorrowing wife
  How he had fallen to this wretched state,--
  The state of a Cha.n.dâla.  She, in turn,
  Weeping, with many sighs, poured out her tale,
  Telling him how the serpent's bite had killed
  Their child.  "Beloved one! I suffer not
  These evils," said the king, "by mine own will--
  Thou seest what I endure; my evil fate
  Depends not on myself.  I am a slave,
  And if I fly from the Cha.n.dâla's bonds,
  The fiery torment in the depths of hell
  Will overtake me, and I shall become
  A slave again.  My doom is fixed! lo! hell
  Is my abode hereafter; and in forms,
  Creeping and loathsome, shall my soul abide.
  Yet from this miserable life on earth
  There is one only refuge.  He! my son!
  My hope! my stay! is dead; drowned by the sea
  Of my misfortunes.  But I am a slave!
  I am dependent on another's will!
  Can I give up my wife?  Yes! even so!
  For know thou this: one who is steeped in woe
  Cares not for evil chances; not the state
  Of the most loathsome beast, nor yet the wood
  Of sword-leaved plants, nor even hell's dread stream,
  Could add the smallest fraction to the pain
  I have already borne.  My son is dead!
  Who then will make atonement for my sins?
  Yet listen to my words, beloved one,
  If I have offered sacrifice, and paid
  Due reverence to the saints; if I have given
  Alms to the needy--may we meet again
  Hereafter, in the world to come, and find
  The refuge for our woes denied us here.
  Let us together follow in the path
  By which our son has gone.  Our hopeless fate
  Can never alter here.  Whatever words
  I may have uttered, thoughtlessly, in jest,
  These, when I pray for pardon, shall receive
  Fullest forgiveness.  Thou must not despise
  Thy lord: nor pride thee on thy queenly state
  Now passed and gone."  The prince's wife replied:
  "I am prepared to tread that path with thee,
  O king, most saintly! and with thee that world
  To enter."  While she spoke these words, the king
  Made up the funeral pile, and placed thereon
  His son, himself ascending with his wife.
  And then, in meditation wrapt, he thought
  Upon Nârâyana, the lord supreme,
  And Vâsudeva, lord of deities,
  Šiva, and Brâhma the eternal god,
  And Krish.na clothed in glory.  As the king
  Was meditating, all the gods from heaven
  Came down headed by Dharma.  And they said:
  "Hear us, O king! hear us, O lord! The gods--
  Even the mighty gods have come to earth,
  And at their head is Dharma.  Gods, and saints,
  And heroes--yea, and Višvâmitra too,
  The sage implacable,--all summon thee--
  Ascend! to heaven: receive the due reward,
  That thou hast gained.  O king! slay not thyself!
  I, perfect Righteousness, I summon thee
  To enter now the heaven that thou hast gained
  By thy transcendant virtues, self-control,
  Patience, and truth." Then Indra spoke, and said:--
  "O Harišchandra! King, most eminent!
  In virtue! lo! before you Indra stands--
  For I am he.  The everlasting world
  Thou hast attained: together with thy wife,
  And son, ascend to heaven;--to that third heav'n--
  So difficult to be attained by men--
  The heav'n that thou hast won."  Then Indra rained
  Life-giving am.rit from the sky, and flowers
  That blossomed in the heavenly courts: while sounds
  Of music filled the air, and round him stood
  The gods, a vast assembly.  Then the son
  Of Harišchandra rose, restored to life,
  And health, his mind and senses whole, his form
  More beautiful than ever: and the king
  Embraced his wife and son, with perfect joy
  Filled to o'erflowing, crowned with heavenly wreaths.
  Then Indra said: "Thou, with thy wife, and son,
  Shalt dwell in bliss supreme: bliss that thyself
  Hast purchased, by thy virtues and thy toils."
  Then spoke the king: "Hear me! most holy gods!
  Unbidden by my master, will I not
  To heaven itself ascend."  Then Dharma spoke:
  "I am thy master.  I assumed the form
  Of a Cha.n.dâla.  All thy pain and woe
  Was brought upon thee by my magic power,
  And thou wast made a slave!  I have beheld
  Thy truth, and thy uprightness.  Saintly king!
  The highest place that heaven accords to men,
  Whose virtue has been tried and proved:--to that
  Ascend!"  But Harišchandra answering, said:
  "Receive, most mighty lord! my words of praise
  And thanksgiving.  I offer them to thee
  Full of affection.  Lo! my people stand
  With grieving hearts, longing for my return.
  Can I ascend to heav'n while they on earth
  Lament for me?  If they have ever slain,
  Brâhmans, or teachers of the holy law,--
  If lust or avarice have ruled their hearts,--
  Then may my labours and my toils atone,
  For these their sins.  I may not leave my friends.
  For neither here, nor in the world to come,
  Can there be peace to one who casts aside
  The friend whose love is pure and true--the friend
  Who serves him from the heart.  Return!
  Return! to heaven!  O Indra! If thou grant
  My friends to rise with me, to heav'n will I
  Ascend; if not, with them will I descend
  To Nâraka."  "O king! thy prayer is heard!
  Thy people's sins are pardoned: even for them,
  Hard though it be, thy toils and pains have gained
  A place in heaven."  Thus mighty Indra spoke.
  Replied the king: "Indra! I will not leave
  My kinsmen.  By his kinsmen's help a king
  His kingdom rules; by them he offers up
  The kingly sacrifice, and for himself
  Lays up a store of meritorious deeds.
  So have my kinsmen too enabled me
  To work whate'er I may of righteousness.
  My actions virtuous, my granted prayers,
  Truly I owe to them, for by their aid
  Have these been possible.  May the reward
  Thou grantest me, I pray, be shared with them.
  My kinsmen, though I should ascend to heaven,
  I will not leave."  "So be it!" Indra said;
  "So be it!" said the Brâhman; Dharma, too,
  Gave his assent; and then, in countless hosts,
  Appeared the heavenly chariots.  Indra said:
  "Men of Ayodhya, ascend to heaven."
  The saintly Brâhman, having heard with joy
  The words of Indra, poured the sacred oil
  Upon the prince, and with the perfect ones,
  The sages, and the gods, anointed him
  "Son of the mighty king."  Then all the throng--
  The king, his wife, his son, his followers--
  Filled with rejoicing and delight, ascend
  To heaven, surrounding, as they go, the king
  Borne in his chariot.  He, too, filled with joy--
  The mighty father, who eternal bliss
  Both for his people and himself had gained,
  Once more in form and mien a king--reposed,
  Resting from all his toils, his faithful friends
  Surrounding him with a protecting wall.
  And Indra spoke and said: "Upon this earth
  Great Harišchandra's equal has not been
  Nor shall be.  Whosoe'er may hear his life,
  His toils, his sorrows, and in sympathy
  For him lament, transcendant happiness
  Shall he attain, and all his heart's desire
  Shall be accomplished.  Is his prayer a wife,
  Or son, or kingdom, he shall gain them all,
  E'en heaven itself.  And he who imitates
  The truth, and steadfastness, of that great king,
  Like him shall enter everlasting rest.

  Mârkandeya Purâna

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