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Like Karna parva, Mousala parva and Mahaaprasthaanika parva, this parva too has no sub-parvas in it.
'Svarga' means heaven and 'aarohana' means attaining(lit. climbing). This 'Svargaarohana parva', the last of the eighteen books of the great epic, describes how Yudhishthira attains the heaven with his mortal body, how his body and mortal thoughts were cleansed with a bath in divine river Ganga, how he met his brothers and others in the heaven and who coalesced with whom in the end.
Sootha continued to relate to Shounaka and other saints at the Nymisha forest.
Janamejaya heard about Yudhishthira and others ascending to the heaven and asked Vyshampaayana. " Revered Sir! After reaching the heaven, what places and positions did my ancestors, the Paandavas and the Kouravas, attain? I wish to hear this from you. Iam sure you know all that, since the great sage Vyaasa himself endowed you with such inferences."
Vyshampaayana said. " Janamejaya ! Listen what your predecessors did in the heaven. After being taken to the heaven by the gods and divine sages, Yudhishthira in the very first instance beheld Duryodhana, as shiny as the sun,seated effervescent in a grand chair, surrounded by Saadhyas. His very sight made Yudhishthira impatient. He whisked back and shouted in a stentorian tone,"Dear gods! Because of this unwisely greedy fellow, we suffred to the worst level. Our beloved queen too was insulted in the public court right before our elders. We were forced to revenge our insults by killing all our near and dear just due to this covetous rouge. How is he here? I don't like to share any place with him. I don't like even to see him. I wish to go only there where my brothers are, "
Naarada laughed and said, " Yudhishthira! This is not the word. In heaven, no earlier animosities stand. Never say like this about Duryodhana.Listen this. He stood by the kshathriya code f conduct. He was never afraid even where there was a cause to be so. He sacrificed himself in the war and reached heaven. You all too,hence, live with him here. Never think of his unworthy deeds of the past, either in the war or elsewhere. You must understand that earthly enemity has no place in the heaven."
Yudhishthira pondered over for a while and asked about his brothers. "This unjust and unrighteous Duryodhana got these places and honours despite his misbehaviour and recalcitrance that ruined the entire earth with all its rulers,warriors, elephants, horses and wealth, including us who were incised to revenge our inflictions at a great cost. Then which places did my brothers and my friends get? You know that they are all true, valourous and righteous. All of them performed many sacrifices for the gods with grand gifts to the learned. I want to see them. I am also desirous of seeing the great Karna. I am still sad of his fate.I cruelly instigated Arjuna to kill him. I should have stepped back from the war even after seeing his feet which resembled those of my mother.Had we joined him, our combined strength would have been irrestible even to Indra. I wish to see my Bheema,Arjuna, the twins, Droupadi, her five sons and Abhimanyu. Also, where are my dear associates like Viraata, Drupada,Dhrishtadyumna, his sons, Dhrishtakethu, Shikhandi and many other kings and princes that our war consumed for our victory ? Could they attain this place ? If that is the case, I will stay here with them. If otherwise, I cannot enjoy this place without them all. Sans them, what have I to do with the heaven? I tell you the truth, gods, this heaven is not really a heaven for me. The place where they all are, is my real heaven."
The gods replied. " As you wish, king!. Indra ordered us to fulfil your wish. If you want to see your brothers and all, you can go there right now." And they ordered a mesenger to take Yudhishthira to the place where his brothers were. Yudhishthira followed the messenger.
The messenger lead the king through the way. The route he took Yudhishthira was not easy to pass. It was all pitch dark and full of unbearable foul smell. The path was bedded with many detestable things like flesh, blood,bones,hair,fat,marrow, mud and dirt. Heaps of corpses lay all along either side of the path. Gigantic crows and herons of iron beaks were seen perched anf flying around. Flies and mosquitoes densely swarmed around.Insects infeted the place everywhere. Several parts of the body like hands,legs, faces and skulls were scattered at every location. Terrible fire was burning around. Yudhishthira walked along suah a hard path behind the divine messenger, wondering within himself. While passing that way, he came across a river of boiling blood and water, a grove of trees ( Asi-pathra-vanam) with blades in place of leaves, scalding sands, iron-hard rocks, cauldrons of boiling oils and a big (Shaalmali) tree with sharp needdle-like thorns all over it. He also witnessed various torments suffered by the siiners.
Yudhishthira observed all those horrible scenes and the sickening smell and asked his guide. " How long should we go in this path? Which place of gods is this?"
The messenger returned to him and replied, " This is the place you were ordered to be taken to. I have instructions to leave now. If you feel like tired and wish to return, you may."
Yudhishthira was unable to stand that stink and the horrendous scienes. He made up his mind to return and turned back, sad and dull. The moment he turned togo, he heard several bewailing voices." O saintly king, Yudhishthira! The most righteous and pious ! Please do not go. Your presence here brought us a pleasant air from you that soothed us till now. With youstanding here, these torments do not trouble us. Kindly stay here for us for a while at least."
Yudhishthira felt merciful over the suffering wailers calling out at him from all around. He exclaimed, " What a pitiable state of these creatures!". And he stood there . He heard the same voices again and again. He felt the voices familiar but could not place them. He stood there still and asked, " who are you all? Why did you come here? What happened to tou? "
Answers came from all corners of the terrible place. " I am Karna.", ' I am Bheema."," I am Arjuna.", " I am Nakula.","I am Sahadeva.", "I am Dhrishtadyumna.", I am Droupadi.", " We are Droupadi's sons." and the like. Yudhishthira heard the afflicted tones befitting the place and plunged into thoughts." What an unbecoming deed of the gods! What folly did all these righteous people do? What brought them here to suffer this horrible stay? I couldn't even guess an impious deed from these noble souls. How was it that these were put here? On the other hand, Duryodhana, the worst being on the earth with his followers like him, is taken to the heaven to enjoy all celestial pleasures! Am I awake, or asleep? Is my mind not in my control? Am I verily alive or not? "
Thus the baffled king stood amidst the horrific scene, sad and distressed with the plight of his beloved ones. He felt annoyed at the mismatching evil results awarded to them. He became angry and tainted the gods and dharma itself. He beconed the messenger and said to him, " Go back to your senders. I will not come there at all. Tell them that I stayed here. All my beloved here felt happy and relieved of their torments due to my presence here. I am only glad that I could give that much comfort to them."
The messenger left without a word and reported everything to his master Indra.
And Yudhishthira remained there standing. After a few minutes, Indra along with Yama and other gods manifested before him. No sooner did their resplendent figures appeared there than the darkness and stench ceased. All the omenous birds and insects vanished. The river, sands,rocks, grove and tree disappeared. All the torments were gone. A delighting air blew with a healing touch. Yudhishthira could see before him all the gods and groups of demi-gods; Maruths, Vishvas,Ashvis,Saadhyas,Rudras,Aadithyas and Siddhas beside the divine sahes.
Indra said to Yudhishthira, " Yudhishthira! You proved to be the impeccable. You won the everlasting position in the upper worlds. Don't be annoyed at what you saw here. Every king should pass through the hell before he acquires his position in the heaven. Every living being has two distinct accounts of its good and bad deeds. One with more bad ones than good ones shall first enjoy the heaven and later shall suffer the hell. Those with more good actions and few bad deeds shall firstundergo the hell and later attain the heaven. As such, you are first brought here. Remember how you mislead your old preceptor Drona lying about his son's death. As a result of that small folly on your part, you are made to pass through this loathsome path. So were your beloved ones brought here to undergo this virtual hell. Now they are all free from their sins and have gone to the heaven. You too come there with us and see them all for your fullest satisfaction. You will see the much lamented Karna in his own befitting place. So will you see all your brothers and friends. You can now enjoy the benefits reaped from your performances of sacrifices like Raajasooyam. You will find your place in equality with those ancient kings Harishchandra, Maandhaatha,Bhageeratha,Bharatha and the like. See there. Flows down the divine river Ganga. You shall bathe in it and follow us. A wash in that river will make you shed all the earthly attachments and thoughts."
Then Yama said to Yudhishthira. "O king! I am pleased with your stubborn affinity to truth and Dharma. This is my third test to you. It was impossible to make you swerve from the path of justice and truth, when I tested you in the Dvytha forest with my questions and during your renounciation walk in the form of a dog. Now too, by choosing to stay here for your brothers, foregoing the heaven, you proved yourself unmatched in holding to the right path of dharma. Your brothers are not the ones for the hell. All this is a delusory creation by Indra to test and pyrify you.This is all a perfunctory process of making you suffer the hell for which you were to undergo the excecrable stay here for a while. Now go bathe in the holy Ganga and come on."
Yudhishthira was happy at the information. He then walked towards the divine river and bathed in it. His mind and other organs cast off all their earlier human sentiments. His lamentation ceased and his mind became calm and peaceful. He transformed into a celestial form and bowed to the gods . They took him to the heaven to leave him with his brothers and friends.
In the celestial abode, Yudhishthira could see all his beloved ones. At a place, he saw Krishna served by Brahma and surrounded by his personified divine weapons. He also saw Arjuna obediently standing near him. They two greeted and honoured him. At another place, he saw the great Karna with the twelve Aadithyas.At yet another place, he saw Bheema with the Maruths beside Vaayu. He saw his twin brothers with the Ashvis. At some other place, he saw Droupadi, illuminating the entire place with her resplendence. He saw tham all in forms resembling those he was used to see.
Yudhishthira was about to seek clarification about what he saw but Indra himself told him."She is the deity of the heaven's splendour. She was ordained by Lord shiva to take an unumblical birth in Drupada's for your service. Those five Gandharvas are her five sons from you. See that Gandharva chief. He lived on the earth as your father's elder brother Dhritharaashtra. He is your elder brother Karna, Kunthi's first son, but known as Raadha's. See all your yaadavas like Saathyaki, sitting with Saadhyas, Vishvas and Maruths. See your Arjuna's undefeated son Abhimanyu. He is there with the moon. There is your father Paandu who often comes to me by his flier with his two wives Kunthi and Maadri. Your grandfather Bheeshma is there with the Vasus. Your teacher Drona is there with our divine preceptor Brihaspathi. Of your followers, some met with Yakshas, some with gandharvas, some with guhyakas. All these people sacrificed their bodies and lives to win this rellocation in the heaven."
At this point, Janamejaya querried." Sir,you said that all the heroes Bheeshma,Drona,Dhritharaashtra,Dhrishtadyumna,Viraata,Drupada,Shankha, Uththara,Dhrishtakethu, Jayathsena,Sathyajith,Shakuni,Jayadratha, Ghatothkacha and many others mentioned and not mentioned, had gone to the heaven.Is their placement in the heaven a permanent one or will thay have to follow any other course after the end of the fruits of their deeds? If so, what will they happen to become? I wish to know this clearly from you.Your are that able to know and explain this to me."
Sootha's narration continued.
Vyshampaayana then obtained Vyaasa's permission and began to tell Janamejaya in detail.
" Very good question from you, young king. Not all the beings can reach their original source after the end of the fruits of their actions. Only some sparingly noble souls have that possibility of alligning themselves with their basic source. As was told to me by the all-knowing Vyaasa, I will tell you.
"Listen about who alligned with what after end of their fruits. Bheesma merged with Vasus, who are now eight in number.Dhritharaashtra attained the abode of Kubera,alongwith Gaandhaari. Paandu with his two wives went to Indra's place. Krithavarma alligned with Maruths . Pradyumna absorbed with Sanathkumaara. Viraata,Drupada,Dhrishtadyumna,Nishatha , Akroora , Saamba , Bhaanu,Kampa , Vidooratha,Bhoorishravas, Shala, Bhoori, Kamsa, Ugrasena , Vasudeva , Uththara and Shankha got disoved with Vishvas. Abhimanyu, who came from the Moon's son Varchas, coalesced with the Moon himself. Karna absorbed with the Sun. The sons of Dhritharaashtra attained heaven. Yudhishthira coalesced with Yama, So did Vidura too. Balaraama absorbed with the serpent king Anantha and bore the weight of the earth from under it. Krishna absorbed with Vishnu. The sixteen thousand consorts of Krishna became Apsaras and served Vishnu. Ghatothkacha and others coalesced with Yakshas. All the demonic incarnations that supported Duryodhana in the war attained the abodes of Indra, Kubera and Varuna."
Concluding his naration to the wondering Janamejaya, Vyshampaayana said," Young Janamejaya! Thus I related to you,in detail, the great history of the kauravas and the Paandavas as was told by the great sage Vyaasa."
Sootha went on with his narration to the sages.
"Thus devotedly hearing the great story during intervals of the sacrificial performance, king Janamejaya and the members of his assembly felt wondered and happy. And then the performers of the sacrifce made a concluding cermony of it. Aastheeka too was very happy at his success in saving the naagas from the sacrifice. Janamejaya offered great gifts to the participants of the sacrifice. They all blessed him and left for their homes. The young king Janamejaya too dispersed all the Braahmanas and left Thakshashila for his capital Hasthipuram.
" Thus did I, O great sages, could complete the narration of the Mahaabhaaratham as was told by Vyshampaayana with the grace of Vyaasa,to Janamejaya during the latter's serpent sacrifice. This is a holy epic by Vyaasa.He built this great work in three years with devotion and respect to highlight the valour of the kuru warriors. In this, he discoursed on various subjects of knowledge. This work alone is a match to a combined collection of the four vedas, their six appendices,eighteen puraanams and all treatises on the code of life. About all the four ends of human life - Dharma, Artha, Kaama and Moksha , only what occurs in this can be elsewhere, but what is not in this can be nowhere. This compendium is the roar of the lion among the sages, Vyaasa. This epic Mahaabhaaratham is also named Jaya. Termed Mahaabhaaratham due to its greatness in magnitude and depth of subjects dealt with.
He who recites the Mahaabhaaratham will demolish all his sins. So do its listeners too. Braahmanas, Kshathriyas and others shall hear this if they love salvation. The readers and listners will be awarded with whatever justified they desire- wealth, victory or heaven. A pregnant woman by its hearing will get a blessed offspring. One's sins committed during the day will perish by its recital in the evening and those done during night will perish by reading it in the morning. "
The impeccable Vyaasa presented this world with another composition of sixty lakh shlokas and taught it to his choiced disciples. Of that, Naarada propogated thirty lakh verses among the gods, Asitha taught fifteen lakh verses to the pitris, Shuka taught fourteen lakh verses to the yakshas and raakshasaa, while Vyshampaayana taught one lakh shlokas to the mortals on the earth."
Vyaasa taught Shuka ( this bhaaratha-saavithri ) at the end of Mahaabhaaratham ," In this universe of countless worlds, many people were born and will be born. Fathers, sons, mothers and wives existed and ceased and will exist and cease in crores of their crores.Pleasures and fears in their hundreds everyday, can possess only a common morose man, but not the learned one.I shout aloud, ' dharma followed will give you artha and kaama too. Why don't you follow that?'. But none cares that. Never should one deviate from the path of dharma, either due to greed or fear even to life.Dharma is eternal, not the pleasures and fears. The being is eternal, but not its cause ( for its dwelling in a mortal body)." ( This is of four verses,called Bhaaratha Saavithri).
Sootha concluded thus. " Shounaka, great sage! The Mahaabhaaratham is like the sea and the Himavaan in asmuch as it is a treasure of gems. By listening to this Veda of Vyaasa, one is freed from all one's sins and is sure to reach the the ultimate goal of life in the next world. For those who enjoy the Mahaabhaaratham which emanted from Vyaasa, what is the need of going around holy rivers? Recital of this work brings the same pious reward as to one who respectfully donates a hundred gold covered cows to a Braahmana who mastered all vedas. There is no doubt in it.
Enthralled by the exact narration of Sootha, the sages of the Nymisha forest immensely thanked him for the eminent presentaion and honoured him duly.
And thus ends the eigteenth and the last parva of the Mahaabhaaratham of sage Veda Vyaasa.
May all be happy, content and peaceful! May all think good, speak good and do good !
6:14 PM 1/6/2013