SHRIMAD DEVI BHAGAVATAM | BOOK 7 CHAPTER 17

THE SEVENTH BOOK

Chapter XVII

On the freeing of Śunahśepha and the curing of Hariśchandra

1-6. Vyāsa said:

 O King! When Viśvāmitra saw that the boy was crying very pitifully, he went to him with a merciful heart and said:

“O Child! I am giving you the Varuṇa Mantra; recollect this within your mind and if you go on repeating that Mantra silently, you will certainly fare well.”

The sorrowful Śunahśepha, hearing thus from Viśvāmitra, began to repeat silently in his mind the above Mantra, clearly pronouncing each letter.

O King! No sooner Śunahśepha repeated that Mantra than the kind-hearted Varuṇa came suddenly before the boy, greatly pleased with him.

Everyone in the assembly became thoroughly surprised to see Varuṇa Deva come there and they all became glad and chanted hymns in honour of him.

The diseased Hariśchandra was also thoroughly surprised, fell to his feet, and with folded palms began to sing hymns to Varuṇa, standing before him.

7-14. Hariśchandra said:

“O Deva of the Devas! I am very vicious; my intellect is much defiled; I am a sinner before you; O Merciful One! Now show your mercy and sanctify this humble self.

I was very much troubled on not having a son; so I had disregarded your words; now show your mercy on me; what offence can cling to him whose intellect is already out of order?

A beggar does not see his own faults; I am also in want of a son; so I could not see my defects.

O Lord! Being afraid of the terrors of hell, I have deceived you. Those, who are sonless, cannot find rest anywhere. Especially he is barred from the Heavens. Being terrified by this dictate of Śāstra, I have shown disregard to your words.

O Lord! You are wise and I am ignorant; especially I am extremely afflicted by this terrible disease; I am also deprived of my son; so you ought not to take any notice of my faults.

O Lord! I do not know where my son has gone; O merciful One! Perhaps he, being afraid of his life, has fled away to some forest.

For your satisfaction, I have now commenced your sacrifice with this purchased boy; I gave an equivalent value and I have purchased this boy.

O Deva of the Devas! Your sight only has taken away my infinite troubles; now if you be pleased, I can be free of my this disease dropsy and my troubles will all be over.”

Vyāsa said:

O King! Hearing thus the words of that diseased King, Varuṇa, the Deva of the Devas, took pity on him and thus spoke:

15-22. Varuṇa said:

“O King! Śunahśepha is uttering hymns of praise to me; he has become very distressed; so quit him. Your sacrifice, too, is now completed; now let you be free from your present disease.”

Thus saying, Varuṇa freed the King of his disease in the presence of all his councillors; the King became possessed of a beautiful body and got himself completely cured and shone bright before the assembly.

Shouts of victory arose from the midst of the sacrificial ground when the Brāhmin boy was freed of his bonds of rope, by the mercy of the high-souled Deva Varuṇa.

The King became very glad on his being recovered immediately from his disease and Śunahśepha, too, became free from his anxiety and pacified when he got himself liberated from his being immolated on the sacrificial post. Then the King Hariśchandra completed his sacrifice with great modesty.

Afterwards Śunahśepha addressed the councillors with folded palms and said:

O Councillors! You know well the Dharma; O Speakers of truth! Kindly specify according to the dictates of the Vedas. O Omniscient ones! Whose son am I now? Who is my most respectful father? Please deliver your judgment and I will take his refuge.

23-34. When Śunahśepha spoke thus, the members of the assembly began to speak to each other:

“The boy must be of Ajigarta; whose else can he be? This boy is born of the limbs of Ajigarta; and he has nursed him according to his might. So he must be his son; who else’s can he be?”

Vāma Deva then told the people of the assembly:

“The father of the boy sold his son for money; the King purchased him. So he can be said as the son of the King; or he may be called the son of Varuṇa, in as much as he freed him from his rope bondage.

For, he who nourishes another with food, who saves one from one’s fear, who protects one by giving money, who bestows learning to anybody and he who gives birth to any of the above five classes of persons can be called his father.”

O King! Thus someone turned out to be in favour of Ajigarta, some other in favour of the King; but nobody came to any definite conclusion.

When matters stood in this doubtful condition, the omniscient all-respected Vaṣiṣṭha Deva addressed the disputing members thus:

“O high-souled Ones! Kindly hear what the Śrutis say on this point. When the father has cut off his filial attachment and has sold his son, his fatherly connection has ceased then.

No doubt this boy was purchased by the King Hariśchandra. But when the King fastened him to the sacrificial post, he cannot be called as the father.

Again when this boy singing hymns in honour of Varuṇa, he being glad freed him of his bondage, so Varuṇa cannot be called his father.

For whoever praises a god by the great Mantra, that Deva becomes pleased with him and gives him wealth, life, cattle, kingdom and even final emancipation.

Rather Viśvāmitra saved the boy by giving him in his critical moment the powerful great Mantra of Varuṇa; hence the boy can be called as the son of Viśvāmitra and of none else.”

35-40. Vyāsa said:

O King! Hearing the words of Vaṣiṣṭha, all the members of the assembly gave their unanimous consent and Viśvāmitra with his heart filled with love, exclaimed:

“O Son! Come to my house.” And caught hold of his right hand.

Śunahśepha, too, accompanied him and went away. Varuṇa also went to his own abode with a gladdened heart. The councillors, too, departed.

Freed from his disease, the King gladly began to govern his subjects.

At this time his son Rohitā heard all about Varuṇa and became very glad and leaving the impassable forest passes and mountains, returned home. The messengers informed the King of the arrival of the prince; the King heard and his heart overflowed with love and he gladly came there with no delay.

41-48. Seeing the father coming, Rohitāśva became filled with love and overpowered with sorrow for long separation began to shed tears and fell prostrate at his feet.

The King raised him up and embraced him gladly and smelling his head enquired of his welfare.

When the King was thus asking his son, taking him on his lap, the hot tears of joy flowed from his eyes and fell on the head of the prince. The King and the prince then began to govern together his kingdom.

The King described in detail all the events of the sacrifice where human victims are immolated.

He started next the Rājasūya sacrifice, the best of all sacrifices, and duly worshipping the Muni Vaṣiṣṭha, made him the Hotā in that sacrifice. When this grand sacrifice was finished, the King respected the Muni Vaṣiṣṭha with abundant wealth.

Once, on a time, the Muni Vaṣiṣṭha went gladly to the romantic Heaven of Indra; and Viśvāmitra, too, went there also and both the Munis then met with each other.

The two Mahāṛṣis took their seats in that Heaven.

But Viśvāmitra was astonished to see Vaṣiṣṭha greatly respected in Indra’s hall of assembly and asked him, thus:

49. “O Muni! Where have you received this great honour and worship? O Highly Fortunate One! Who has worshipped you thus? Speak out truly.”

50-53. Vaṣiṣṭha said:

“O Muni! There is a King named Hariśchandra; he is very powerful and my client; that King performed the great Rājasūya sacrifice with abundant Dakṣiṇās.

There is no other King truthful like him; he is virtuous, charitable, and ever ready in governing his subjects. O Son of Kauśika! I have got my worship and honour in his sacrifice.

O best of Dvījas! Are you telling me to speak truly? Again I speak truly to you that there never was a King truthful, heroic, charitable, and very religious like him nor there will be such a one.”

54. Vyāsa said:

O King! Hearing such words, the Viśvāmitra, of a very angry temper, spoke to him with his reddened eyes:

55-59. “O Vaṣiṣṭha! Hariśchandra obtained a boon from Varuṇa when he made a certain promise; then he cheated Varuṇa with deceitful words. So he is a liar and cheat. Why are you praising then that King?

O Intelligent One! Let us now stake all our virtues that we have earned since our birth by our asceticism and studies.

You have praised exceedingly that King who is a great cheat; but if I cannot prove him to be a liar of the first order, I will lose all my virtues from my birth; but if it be otherwise, then all your virtues will be destroyed. ”

Thus the two Munis quarrelled with each other and making this stake, departed from the Heavens and went to their respective Āśramas.

Here ends the Seventeenth Chapter in the Seventh Book on the freeing of Śunahśepha and the curing of Hariśchandra in the Mahāpurāṇam Śrīmad Devī Bhāgavatam, of 18,000 verses by Mahāṛṣi Veda Vyāsa.