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Chapter 34: Yavakrida's End

YAVAKRIDA studied the Vedas and became learned. He grew vain with the thought that he had acquired the knowledge of the Vedas through the boon of Indra and not through human tutelage.

Bharadwaja did not like this and feared that his son might ruin himself by slighting Raibhya. He thought it necessary to warm him. "The gods," he said, "grant boons to foolish people who persistently practise penances, as intoxicants are sold to fools for money. They lead to loss of self-control, and this leads to the warping of the mind and utter destruction." He illustrated his advice by the ancient tale, which is given below.

In olden times there was a celebrated sage named Baladhi. He had a son whose untimely death plunged him into grief. So, be practised rigorous penance to get a son who would never meet with death.

The gods told the sage that this could never be, for the human race was necessarily mortal, and there need must be a limit to human life. They asked him to name his own limit.

The sage replied: "In that case grant that the life of my son may persist as long as that mountain lasts." The boon was granted to him and he was duly blessed with a son named Medhavi.

Medhavi grew conceited at the thought that he was safe from death forever, since he would live as long as the mountain existed, and he behaved with arrogance towards all.

One day, this vain man showed disrespect to a great sage named Dhanushaksha. At once that sage cursed that he might be turned to ashes, but the curse took no effect on Medhavi who remained in perfect health.

Seeing this, the high-souled sage was puzzled and then remembered the gift Medhavi had been endowed with at birth.

Dhanushaksha took the form of a wild buffalo and by the power of his penances butted at the mountain and broke it to pieces and Medhavi fell down dead.

Bharadwaja concluded the story with this solemn warning to his son: "Learn wisdom from this old story. Be not ruined by vanity. Cultivate self-restraint. Do not transgress the limits of good conduct and do not be disrespectful to the great Raibhya."

It was springtime. The trees and creepers were beautiful with flowers and the whole forest was gorgeous with color and sweet with the song of birds.

The very earth seemed to be under the spell of the god of love. Paravasu's wife was strolling alone in the garden near the hermitage of Raibhya. She appeared more than human, in the sweet union in her of beauty, courage and purity.

At that time Yavakrida came there and was so overwhelmed by her loveliness that he completely lost his sense and selfcontrol and became as a ravening beast with lust.

He accosted her and taking brutal advantage of her fear and shame and bewilderment, he dragged her to a lonely pot and violated her person.

Raibhya returned to his hermitage. He saw his daughter in-law weeping, brokenhearted and inconsolable and learning of the shameful outrage perpetrated on her, he was seized with implacable anger. He plucked a hair from his bead and offered it to the fire reciting a mantra.

At once, a maiden, as beautiful as his daughter-in-law, emerged from the sacrificial fire.

The sage plucked another hair from his knotted lock and offered it as oblation. A terrible ghost rose from the fire. The sage commanded them to kill Yavakrida. Both of them bowed to the order.

While Yavakrida was performing the morning rites, the female spirit went near him and with smiles and allurements put him off his guard and as she ran away with his water-jug, the male ghost rushed on him with uplifted spear.

Yavakrida stood up in fear. Knowing that his mantras would be of no avail until he cleansed himself with water, he looked for his water-jug. When he found it missing, he rushed to a pond for water but the pond was dry. He went to nearby stream, which also dried up at his approach.

There was no water for him anywhere.

The terrible fiend pursued him everywhere and Yavakrida fled for his life, with the demon hot on his heels. His sin had consumed the power of his vigils and fasts. At last, he sought refuge in the sacrificial hall of his father.

The half-blind man who was guarding the hermitage stopped him as be could not recognise Yavakrida as, distorted with mortal fear, he sought to force his way in.

Meanwhile, the fiend overtook him and killed him with his spear.

When Bharadvaja returned to his hermitage, he came upon his son's corpse and concluded that disrespect to Raibhya must have led to this cruel fate.

"Alas! My child, you died of your pride and vanity. Was it not a great mistake that you tried to learn the Vedas in a way not resorted to by any brahmana? Why did you behave so as to be cursed thus? May Raibhya, who caused the death of my only son, be himself killed by one of his sons!"

Thus, carried away by rage and grief the sage cursed Raibhya.

Regaining control soon, he exclaimed in anguish: "Alas! They alone are blessed who have no sons. I have not only lost my only son, but in the madness of my grief I have also cursed my friend and companion. What is the use of continuing my life?" He cremated his son's body and died by throwing himself on the funeral pyre.