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The Story of Sunda and Upasunda

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  1. The Story of Sunda and Upasunda
  2. ===============================
  3.  
  4. (Extract from 'The Mahabharata' of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa BOOK 1 "Adi-parva"
  5.  
  6. Translated into English Prose from the Original Sanskrit Text
  7.  
  8. by Kisari Mohan Ganguli [1883-1896]
  9. ========================
  10.  
  11. "The illustrious Narada, pronouncing various
  12. benedictions on her, commanded the princess to retire. After Krishna had
  13. retired, the illustrious Rishi, addressing in private all the Pandavas
  14. with Yudhishthira at their head, said, 'The renowned princess of Panchala
  15. is the wedded wife of you all. Establish a rule amongst yourselves so
  16. that disunion may not arise amongst you. There were, in former days,
  17. celebrated throughout the three worlds, two brothers named Sunda and
  18. Upasunda living together and incapable of being slain by anybody unless
  19. each slew the other. They ruled the same kingdom, lived in the same
  20. house, slept on the same bed, sat on the same seat, and ate from the same
  21. dish. And yet they killed each for the sake of Tilottama. Therefore, O
  22. Yudhishthira, preserve your friendship for one another and do that which
  23. may not produce disunion amongst you.'
  24.  
  25. "On hearing this, Yudhishthira asked, 'O great Muni, whose sons were
  26. Asuras called Sunda and Upasunda? Whence arose that dissension amongst
  27. them, and why did they slay each other? Whose daughter also was this
  28. Tilottama for whose love the maddened brothers killed each other? Was she
  29. an Apsara (water nymph) or the daughter of any celestial? O thou whose
  30. wealth is asceticism, we desire, O Brahmana, to hear in detail everything
  31. as it happened. Indeed, our curiosity hath become great.'"
  32.  
  33. "Vaisampayana said, 'Hearing these words of Yudhishthira, Narada replied,
  34. 'O son of Pritha, listen with thy brothers to me as I recite this old
  35. story, O Yudhishthira, exactly as everything happened. In olden days, a
  36. mighty Daitya named Nikumbha, endued with great energy and strength was
  37. born in the race of the great Asura, Hiranyakasipu. Unto this Nikumbha,
  38. were born two sons called Sunda and Upasunda. Both of them were mighty
  39. Asuras endued with great energy and terrible prowess. The brothers were
  40. both fierce and possessed of wicked hearts. And those Daityas were both
  41. of the same resolution, and ever engaged in achieving the same tasks and
  42. ends. They were ever sharers with each other in happiness as well as in
  43. woe. Each speaking and doing what was agreeable to the other, the
  44. brothers never were unless they were together, and never went anywhere
  45. unless together. Of exactly the same disposition and habits, they seemed
  46. to be one individual divided into two parts. Endued with great energy and
  47. ever of the same resolution in everything they undertook, the brothers
  48. gradually grew up. Always entertaining the same purpose, desirous of
  49. subjugating the three worlds, the brothers, after due initiation, went to
  50. the mountains of Vindhya. And severe were the ascetic penances they
  51. performed there. Exhausted with hunger and thirst, with matted locks on
  52. their heads and attired in barks of trees, they acquired sufficient
  53. ascetic merit at length. Besmearing themselves with dirt from head to
  54. foot, living upon air alone, standing on their toes, they threw pieces of
  55. the flesh of their bodies into the fire. Their arms upraised, and eye
  56. fixed, long was the period for which they observed their vows. And during
  57. the course of their ascetic penances, a wonderful incident occurred
  58. there. For the mountains of Vindhya, heated for a long course of years by
  59. the power of their ascetic austerities, began to emit vapour from every
  60. part of their bodies. And beholding the severity of their austerities,
  61. the celestials became alarmed. The gods began to cause numerous
  62. obstructions to impede the progress of their asceticism. The celestials
  63. repeatedly tempted the brothers by means of every precious possession and
  64. the most beautiful girls. The brothers broke not their vows. Then the
  65. celestials once more manifested, before the illustrious brothers, their
  66. powers of illusion. For it seemed their sisters, mothers, wives, and
  67. other relatives, with disordered hair and ornaments and robes, were
  68. running towards them in terror, pursued and struck by a Rakshasa with a
  69. lance in hand. And it seemed that the women implored the help of the
  70. brothers crying, 'O save us!' But all this went for nothing, for firmly
  71. wedded thereto, the brothers did not still break their vows. And when it
  72. was found that all this produced not the slightest impression on any of
  73. the two, both the women and the Rakshasa vanished from sight. At last the
  74. Grandsire himself, the Supreme Lord ever seeking the welfare of all, came
  75. unto those great Asuras and asked them to solicit the boon they desired.
  76. Then the brothers Sunda and Upasunda, both of great prowess, beholding
  77. the Grandsire, rose from their seats and waited with joined palms. And
  78. the brothers both said unto the God, 'O Grandsire, if thou hast been
  79. pleased with these our ascetic austerities, and art, O lord, propitious
  80. unto us, then let us have knowledge of all weapons and of all powers of
  81. illusion. Let us be endued with great strength, and let us be able to
  82. assume any form at will. And last of all, let us also be immortal.'
  83. Hearing these words of theirs, Brahman said, 'Except the immortality you
  84. ask for, you shall be given all that you desire. Solicit you some form of
  85. death by which you may still be equal unto the immortals. And since you
  86. have undergone these severe ascetic austerities from desire of
  87. sovereignty alone I cannot confer on you the boon of immortality. You
  88. have performed your ascetic penances even for the subjugation of the
  89. three worlds. It is for this, O mighty Daityas, that I cannot grant you
  90. what you desire.'
  91.  
  92. "Narada continued, 'Hearing these words of Brahman, Sunda and Upasunda
  93. said, 'O Grandsire, let us have no fear then from any created thing,
  94. mobile or immobile, in the three worlds, except only from each other!'
  95. The Grandsire then said, 'I grant you what you have asked for, even this
  96. your desire'. And granting them this boon, the Grandsire made them desist
  97. from their asceticism, and returned to his own region. Then the brothers,
  98. those mighty Daityas, having received those several boons became
  99. incapable of being slain by anybody in the universe. They then returned
  100. to their own abode. All their friends and relatives, beholding those
  101. Daityas of great intelligence, crowned with success in the matter of the
  102. boons they had obtained, became exceedingly glad. And Sunda and Upasunda
  103. then cut off their matted locks and wore coronets on their heads. Attired
  104. in costly robes and ornaments, they looked exceedingly handsome. They
  105. caused the moon to rise over their city every night even out of his
  106. season. And friends and relatives gave themselves up to joy and merriment
  107. with happy hearts. Eat, feed, give, make merry, sing, drink--these were
  108. the sounds heard everyday in every house. And here and there arose loud
  109. uproars of hilarity mixed with clappings of hands which filled the whole
  110. city of the Daityas, who being capable of assuming any form at will, were
  111. engaged in every kind of amusement and sport and scarcely noticed the
  112. flight of time, even regarding a whole year as a single day.'"
  113.  
  114. 'Narada continued, 'As soon as those festivities came to an end, the
  115. brothers Sunda and Upasunda, desirous of the Sovereignty of the three
  116. worlds, took counsel and commanded their forces to be arranged. Obtaining
  117. the assent of their friends and relatives, of the elders of the Daitya
  118. race and of their ministers of state, and performing the preliminary
  119. rites of departure, they set out in the night when the constellation
  120. Magha was in the ascendant. The brothers set out with a large Daitya
  121. force clad in mail and armed with maces and axes and lances and clubs.
  122. The Daitya heroes set out on their expedition with joyous hearts, the
  123. charanas (bards) chanting auspicious panegyrics indicative of their
  124. future triumphs. Furious in war, the Daitya brothers, capable of going
  125. everywhere at will, ascended the skies and went to the region of the
  126. celestials. The celestials knowing they were coming and acquainted also
  127. with the boons granted unto them by the Supreme Deity left heaven and
  128. sought refuge in the region of Brahman. Endued with fierce prowess, the
  129. Daitya heroes soon subjugated the region of Indra, and vanquishing the
  130. diverse tribes of Yakshas and Rakshasas and every creature ranging the
  131. skies, came away. Those mighty car-warriors next subjugated the Nagas of
  132. the nether region, and then the inmates of the ocean and then all the
  133. tribes of the Mlechchhas. Desirous next of subjugating the whole earth,
  134. those heroes of irresistible sway, summoning their soldiers, issued these
  135. cruel commands, 'Brahmanas and royal sages (on earth) with their
  136. libations and other food offered at grand sacrifices, increase the energy
  137. and strength of the gods, as also their prosperity. Engaged in such acts,
  138. they are the enemies of the Asuras. All of us, therefore, mustering
  139. together should completely slaughter them off the face of the earth!'
  140. Ordering their soldiers thus on the eastern shore of the great ocean, and
  141. entertaining such a cruel resolution, the Asura brothers set out in all
  142. directions. And those that were performing sacrifices and the Brahmanas
  143. that were assisting at those sacrifices, the mighty brothers instantly
  144. slew. And slaughtering them with violence they departed for some other
  145. place. Whilst their soldiers threw into the water the sacrificial fires
  146. that were in the asylums of Munis with souls under complete control, the
  147. curses uttered by the illustrious Rishis in wrath, rendered abortive by
  148. the boons granted (by Brahman), affected not the Asura brothers. When the
  149. Brahmanas saw that their curses produced not the slightest effect like
  150. shafts shot at stones they fled in all directions, forsaking their rites
  151. and vows. Even those Rishis on earth that were crowned with ascetic
  152. success, and had their passions under complete control and were wholly
  153. engrossed in meditation of the Deity, from fear of the Asura brothers,
  154. fled like snakes at the approach of Vinata's son (Garuda the
  155. snake-eater). The sacred asylums were all trodden down and broken. The
  156. sacrificial jars and vessels being broken, their (sacred) contents were
  157. scattered over the ground. The whole universe became empty, as if its
  158. creatures had all been stricken down during the season of general
  159. dissolution. And, O king, after the Rishis had all disappeared and made
  160. themselves invisible both the great Asuras, resolved upon their
  161. destruction, began to assume various forms. Assuming the forms of
  162. maddened elephants with temples rent from excess of juice, the Asura
  163. pair, searching out the Rishis who had sheltered themselves in caves,
  164. sent them to the region of Yama. Sometimes becoming as lions and again as
  165. tigers and disappearing the next moment, by these and other methods the
  166. cruel couple, seeing the Rishis, slew them instantly. Sacrifice and study
  167. ceased, and kings and Brahmanas were exterminated. The earth became
  168. utterly destitute of sacrifices and festivals. And the terrified people
  169. uttered cries of Oh and Alas and all buying and selling were stopped. All
  170. religious rites ceased, and the earth became destitute of sacred
  171. ceremonies and marriages. Agriculture was neglected and cattle were no
  172. longer tended. Towns and asylums became desolate. And scattered over with
  173. bones and skeletons, the earth assumed a frightful aspect. All ceremonies
  174. in honour of the Pitris were suspended, and the sacred sound of Vashat
  175. and the whole circle of auspicious rites ceased. The earth became
  176. frightful to behold. The Sun and the Moon, the Planets and Stars, and
  177. Constellations, and the other dwellers in the firmament, witnessing these
  178. acts of Sunda and Upasunda, grieved deeply. Subjugating all the points of
  179. heaven by means of such cruel acts, the Asura brothers took up their
  180. abode in Kurukshetra, without a single rival.'"
  181.  
  182. "Narada continued, 'Then the celestial Rishis, the Siddhas, and the
  183. high-souled Rishis possessing the attributes of tranquillity and
  184. self-restraint, beholding that act of universal slaughter, were afflicted
  185. with great grief. With passions and senses and souls under complete
  186. control, they then went to the abode of the Grandsire, moved by
  187. compassion for the universe. Arrived there, they beheld the Grandsire
  188. seated with gods, Siddhas, and Brahmarshis around him. There were present
  189. that God of gods, viz., Mahadeva, and Agni, accompanied by Vayu, and Soma
  190. and Surya and Sakra, and Rishis devoted to the contemplation of Brahma,
  191. and the Vaikhanasas, the Valakhilyas, the Vanaprasthas, the Marichipas,
  192. the Ajas, the Avimudas, and other ascetics of great energy. All those
  193. Rishis were sitting with the Grandsire, when the celestial and other
  194. Rishis, approaching Brahman with sorrowful hearts, represented unto him
  195. all the acts of Sunda and Upasunda. And they told the Grandsire in detail
  196. everything that the Asura brothers had done, and how they had done it,
  197. and in what order. Then all the celestials and the great Rishis pressed
  198. the matter before the Grandsire. The Grandsire, hearing everything they
  199. said, reflected for a moment and settled in his mind what he should do.
  200. Resolving to compass the destruction of the Asura brothers, he summoned
  201. Viswakarman (the celestial architect). Seeing Viswakarman before him, the
  202. Grandsire possessed of supreme ascetic merit commanded him, saying,
  203. 'Create thou a damsel capable of captivating all hearts.' Bowing down
  204. unto the Grandsire and receiving his command with reverence, the great
  205. artificer of the universe created a celestial maiden with careful
  206. attention. Viswakrit first collected all handsome features upon the body
  207. of the damsel he created. Indeed, the celestial maiden that he created
  208. was almost a mass of gems. And created with great care by Viswakarman,
  209. the damsel, in beauty, became unrivalled among the women of the three
  210. worlds. There was not even a minute part of her body which by its wealth
  211. of beauty could not attract the gaze of beholders. And like unto the
  212. embodied Sri herself, that damsel of extraordinary beauty captivated the
  213. eyes and hearts of every creature. And because she had been created with
  214. portions of every gem taken in minute measures, the Grandsire bestowed
  215. upon her the name of Tilottama. And as soon as he started it into life,
  216. the damsel bowed to Brahman and with joined palms said, 'Lord of every
  217. created thing, what task am I to accomplish and what have I been created
  218. for?' The Grandsire answered, 'Go, O Tilottama, unto the Asuras, Sunda
  219. and Upasunda. O amiable one, tempt them with thy captivating beauty. And,
  220. O damsel, conduct thyself there in such a way that the Asura brothers
  221. may, in consequence of the wealth of thy beauty, quarrel with each other
  222. as soon as they cast their eyes upon thee.'
  223.  
  224. "Narada continued, 'Bowing unto the Grandsire and saying, 'So be
  225. it,'--the damsel walked round the celestial conclave. The illustrious
  226. Brahman was then sitting with face turned eastwards, and Mahadeva with
  227. face also towards the east, and all the celestials with faces northwards,
  228. and the Rishis with faces towards all directions. While Tilottama walked
  229. round the conclave of the celestials, Indra and the illustrious Sthanu
  230. (Mahadeva) were the only ones that succeeded in preserving their
  231. tranquillity of mind. But exceedingly desirous as Mahadeva was (of
  232. beholding Tilottama) when the damsel (in her progress round the celestial
  233. conclave) was at his side, another face like a full-blown lotus appeared
  234. on the southern side of his body. And when she was behind him, another
  235. face appeared on the west. And when the damsel was on the northern side
  236. of the great god, a fourth face appeared on the northern side of his
  237. body. Mahadeva (who was eager to behold the damsel) came also to have a
  238. thousand eyes, each large and slightly reddish, before, behind and on his
  239. flanks. And it was thus that Sthanu the great god came to have four
  240. faces, and the slayer of Vala, a thousand eyes. And as regards the mass
  241. of the celestials and the Rishis, they turned their faces towards all
  242. directions as Tilottama walked round them. Except the divine Grandsire
  243. himself, the glances of those illustrious personages, even of all of them
  244. fell upon Tilottama's body. And when Tilottama set out (for the city of
  245. the Asuras) with the wealth of her beauty, all regarded the task as
  246. already accomplished. After Tilottama had gone away, the great god who
  247. was the First Cause of the Universe, dismissed all the celestials and the
  248. Rishis.'"
  249.  
  250. "Narada continued, 'Meanwhile the Asura brothers having subjugated the
  251. earth were without a rival. The fatigue of exertion gone, they, having
  252. brought the three worlds under equal sway, regarded themselves as persons
  253. that had nothing more to do. Having brought all the treasures of the
  254. gods, the Gandharvas, the Yakshas, the Nagas, the Rakshasas, and the
  255. kings of the earth, the brothers began to pass their days in great
  256. happiness. When they saw they had no rivals (in the three worlds), they
  257. gave up all exertion and devoted their time to pleasure and merriment,
  258. like the celestials. They experienced great happiness by giving
  259. themselves up to every kind of enjoyment, such as women, and perfumes and
  260. floral wreaths and viands, and drinks and many other agreeable objects
  261. all in profusion. In houses and woods and gardens, on hills and in
  262. forests, wherever they liked they passed their time in pleasure and
  263. amusement, like the immortals. And it so happened that one day they went
  264. for purposes of pleasure to a tableland of the Vindhya range, perfectly
  265. level and stony, and overgrown with blossoming trees. After every object
  266. of desire, all of the most agreeable kind, had been brought, the brothers
  267. sat on an excellent seat, with happy hearts and accompanied by handsome
  268. women. And those damsels, desirous of pleasing the brothers, commenced a
  269. dance in accompaniment to music, and sweetly chanted many a song in
  270. praise of the mighty pair.'
  271.  
  272. "Meanwhile Tilottama attired in a single piece of red silk that exposed
  273. all her charms, came along, plucking wild flowers on her way. She
  274. advanced slowly to where those mighty Asuras were. The Asura brothers,
  275. intoxicated with the large portions they had imbibed, were smitten upon
  276. beholding that maiden of transcendent beauty. Leaving their seats they
  277. went quickly to where the damsel was. Both of them being under the
  278. influence of lust, each sought the maiden for himself. And Sunda seized
  279. that maid of fair brows by her right hand. Intoxicated with the boons
  280. they had obtained, with physical might, with the wealth and gems they had
  281. gathered from every quarter, and with the wine they had drunk, maddened
  282. with all these, and influenced by wishful desire, they addressed each
  283. other, each contracting his bow in anger, 'She is my wife, and therefore
  284. your superior,' said Sunda. 'She is my wife, and therefore your
  285. sister-in-law', replied Upasunda. And they said unto each other, 'She is
  286. mine not yours.' And soon they were under the influence of rage. Maddened
  287. by the beauty of the damsel, they soon forgot their love and affection
  288. for each other. Both of them, deprived of reason by passion, then took up
  289. their fierce maces. Each repeating, I was the first, I was the first,'
  290. (in taking her hand) struck the other. And the fierce Asuras, struck by
  291. each other with the mace, fell down upon the ground, their bodies bathed
  292. in blood, like two suns dislodged from the firmament. And beholding this,
  293. the women that had come there, and the other Asuras there present, all
  294. fled away trembling in grief and fear, and took refuge in the nether
  295. regions. The Grandsire himself of pure soul, then came there, accompanied
  296. by the celestials, and the great Rishis. And the illustrious Grandsire
  297. applauded Tilottama and expressed his wish of granting her a boon. The
  298. Supreme Deity, before Tilottama spoke, desirous of granting her a boon,
  299. cheerfully said, 'O beautiful damsel, thou shalt roam in the region of
  300. the Adityas. Thy splendour shall be so great that nobody will ever be
  301. able to look at thee for any length of time!' The Grandsire of all
  302. creatures, granting this boon unto her, establishing the three worlds in
  303. Indra as before, returned to his own region.'
  304.  
  305. "Narada continued, 'It was thus that Asuras, ever united and inspired by
  306. the same purpose slew each other in wrath for the sake of Tilottama.
  307. Therefore, from affection I tell you, ye foremost ones of Bharata's line,
  308. that if you desire to do anything agreeable to me, make some such
  309. arrangements that you may not quarrel with one another for the sake of
  310. Draupadi.'
  311.  
  312. ==========================