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Bhima: “Brutal Rakshasa! Why are you abusing me? All water is for the enjoyment of all creatures. Sages have prescribed bathing in teerthas, which means cleaning the body. So why are you blaming me?”
Suhridaya: “True, bathing in teerthas is one’s duty, but its procedure is to bathe entering a flowing stream and in still waters from the outside unless its waters are not used to bathe deities. Violating this is sinful. Therefore, wicked fool, come out at once. If you are such a slave of your senses, why are you on a pilgrimage at all?”
Bhima: “Whether it be dharma or adharma I cannot step out. Never have I been able to bear hunger and thirst.”
Suhridaya: “Have you not heard king Shibi’s saying that it is better to live but for a moment doing a pure act than to live for an eon committing sins.”
Bhima: “Your cawing is deafening. Lament as much as you wish and die, but I am definitely going to quench my thirst here.”
Suhridaya: “Born in a dharma-protecting Kshatriya family I will not permit you to do evil. Either you come out now, or I will shatter your head with this stone.” Saying this, he threw a stone at Bhima’s head. Avoiding it, Bhima jumped out of the pond and engaged Barbareek.
After fighting for some time Bhima weakened and Barbareek began to throttle him, throwing him to the ground. Bhima fell unconscious and Barbareek began to drag him to the sea to throw him into it. Lord Rudra addressed Barbareek from the sky and asked him to release Bhima for he was his grandfather, whatever he might have done. Hearing this, Barbareek released Bhima and cursed himself repeatedly. Throwing himself at Bhima’s feet he begged forgiveness repeatedly, beating his head on the ground and weeping. Bhima embraced him and said, “Son, we have never met you, nor have you seen us since birth. We heard from Krishna and Ghatotkacha that you live here but our sorrows had made us oblivious of that. Do not grieve, for you are not at fault. The Kshatriya must punish all wrong-doers. I am very pleased and we and our ancestors are blessed that we have so virtuous a grandson.” Barbareek said, “No penance has been prescribed for progeny who do not respect parents. Therefore I shall drown this sinful body that has pained my grandfather in the sea.” Saying this, Barbareek gave a mighty leap and reached the sea shore. Siddhaambikaa and the fourteen goddesses then manifested there with Rudra and embracing Barbareek said, “Valiant one, what is done in ignorance is not sinful. Look, your grandfather is running this way shouting your name. If you give up your body now, so will Bhima and that will lead to your incurring great sin. And if you are bent upon dying, then listen to my words: soon your death is fated at Krishna’s hands. Wait until then. For, being killed by Vishnu brings great fortune.” Barbareek refrained from suicide but complained, “Devi, you know well that Shri Krishna always protects the Pandavas in the interest of getting his work done on earth. You too came to save this Vrikodara.” Devi said, “I shall surely protect my devotee from Krishna. To accomplish my work, Barbareek will undertake a mighty battle and be renowned throughout the world as Chandil.” Saying this, all the deities vanished. Bhima took Barbareek to the Pandavas and narrated everything. Bhima established a linga named Bhimeshvara at the spot where he had been rescued by Rudra. Worshipping it at night after fasting on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of Jaishtha liberates one from all sins.
After halting for seven nights there the Pandavas decided to leave. In the morning after bathing in the sacred waters and worshipping the goddesses and the seven lingas, Yudhishthira recited the hymn to the Devi composed by Krishna that must be recited before commencing a journey: “O dear sister of Krishna, Mahashakti Devi, I take refuge in you with body, mind, heart and spirit. You have gifted Sankarshana freedom from fear. You dazzle like Krishna. O Mahadevi Ekanamsha , Shivey, nurture me as your son. You are formless, it is you who create this world. Knowing this I take shelter with you. Auspicious One, rescue me. Before starting all work I with my followers surrender our souls in you. Knowing this, shower your grace on me.”
As Yudhishthira said all this with folded hands Bhima, irritated, said, “O king, I see that people are wrong in pointing you out as ‘Yudhishthira the all-knowing’. For, you know nothing at all. Despite being the first among the wise and expert in all branches of knowledge will a person ever take shelter with a foolish female? You know very well, and it is so stated in all scriptures, that Prakriti who shrouds the world in illusion is inanimate and stupid. The wise call Prakriti ignorant and Purusha conscious. Prakriti is Purusha’s wife. Vain is your learning, Partha, for despite being yourself a purusha you are bowing down to that Prakriti. It makes me laugh. Sandals are not fit to cover the head. Rather, the foolish person who worships a goddess is like the man who places sandals on his head. If you needs must endlessly chant paeans like bards, then why not do so in honour of triple-city destroyer Mahadeva? Or, if you cannot praise him as he cannot be seen, why not chant a paean to the perfect purusha Dasharha Krishna by whose grace we have obtained Draupadi, you have ruled in Indraprastha and conducted the Rajasuya, Arjuna has obtained the Gandiva bow, I have slain Jarasandha and even now we wish to recover our lost kingdom from the Kauravas? Instead of that Krishna a god-like one like you is singing another’s praises! How terrible! And if you feel that being born in the superior Kuru dynasty you cannot chant the praises of the lower in status Yadava, then why don’t you praise Arjuna who has pierced the target in Draupadi’s svayamvara, defeated heroes like Karna, burnt Khandava forest, defeated kings for the Rajasuya sacrifice, by his prowess won over Mahesha and even lived in heaven? Or, if you are unwilling to praise him because you feel that despite being able to do so Arjuna did not win back the kingdom for you, then why not sing my praises, who rescued you from the flaming house of lac, felled the Madra king with a log and threw him into a dry river bed, killed the king-of-kings Jarasandha, conquered the East, killed the mighty Rakshasas Hidimb and Baka earlier and recently Kirmira. All the time it is I who constantly protect you, so why not chant my praises? Never have I seen her, whom you were praising, protect you. And should you not wish to praise me, considering me a glutton, cruel and reckless, then proceed uttering the Pranava ‘Om’ punctiliously. Wasteful speech is a fault and invites evil spirits into the body because of which that person is repeatedly prompted to talk irrelevantly. Whatever such a person eats or does goes to satisfy evil spirits, so say the scriptures. He cannot gain comfort in this world, let alone the next. I am reminding you that the wise always avoid unnecessary speech. Should you still continue talking irrelevantly, it will be our duty to treat you with various medicines.”
Having listened to Bhima’s huge speech—spread out like a bale of cloth—Yudhishthira laughed and said, “Definitely you are without intelligence and have studied the Vedas in vain, for you are not respecting Ambikaa the mother of all creatures. Why are you slighting her for being a woman? Our mother Kunti is a woman too. In what way does she not deserve respect? If Mahamaya, worshipped even by Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, were not there, how could this body of yours be formed? Even the Supreme Lord cannot do without her, for even he depends on her. Vasudeva too worships that transcendent Shakti daily. If I need medical treatment, then so does he. Out of stupidity, do not repeat such words about Maheshvari. If you have any desire at all for happiness, then fall supine on the ground and take refuge in her.”
Bhima said, “Flatterers use every means to bring men under their influence and in such cases not to converse with them is the best medicine. Everyone strives to achieve his own goal. Therefore we too will do only what we wish. With the strength of a thousand elephants, son of Pavana, this Bhimasena will never take refuge with any woman.” Saying this, he began to follow Yudhishthira who went ahead muttering, “This is not good, this is not good.”
After a while Bhima began to stagger and called out, “O best of kings, most wise Dharmaraja! See, I cannot see anymore. What has happened to me?” The king replied, “Bhima, definitely the goddess Maheshvari is angry with you and that is why your sight is destroyed. Therefore, mentally take refuge in her at once. Then, being pleased, she might restore your sight.” Bhima said, “O great king, I know that none can compare to the Devi, but it is to obtain sight of her that I abuse her constantly. Therefore I am now witnessing her power and lying supine, with heart, mind, speech I take refuge in that mother and sing her praises.”
Pleased by the paean he chanted, the goddess who was as dark as Krishna and lovely, appeared before Bhima holding sword, shield, pike and cup in her four hands. Bhima regained his sight and worshipped her, begging her to be pleased with him. The goddess placed Yudhishthira and Bhima in her lap and said, “Do not abuse me again. I know why you did it and although Krishna does not like my expressing anger, I did so because it was necessary. Whenever dharma declines, Hari manifests on earth and so do I to help him. At present he has taken birth as Vasudeva’s son and I have appeared as Nandagopa’s daughter Ekanamsha. Since you brothers represent Krishna’s spirit, you are also my brothers and I shall be known as “Bhima-bhagini,” Bhima’s sister. When you fight in the great war, I will dwell in your arms to destroy the Dhartarashtras. After ruling for thirty-six years you shall leave the world. Then at this pilgrimage spot a mighty demon named Loha will try to kill you, noticing that you are unarmed. I will then blind him while you will proceed to cross the snows and finally sink into the sands. Yudhishthira alone will reach heaven with his body. Where Loha falls a city named Lohana will come up and a portion of me shall dwell there restoring sight to the blind if they worship me on the seventh day of the bright fortnight. In Kali Yuga a devotee of mine named Kela will be born and I shall be called Keleshvari after him. Another excellent devotee of mine named Bailaaka will appear and because of him I shall be renowned in that era in particular. It is here that I shall destroy the demon Durgama and therefore be known as Durgaa. To protect you all I shall dwell in the eastern side of Dharmaaranya. In Kali Yuga one of your descendants, the king of Vatsa shall please me and I shall be known after him as Vatseshvari. By my grace that king shall slay a demoness named Attalaya and a village named Attaalaja shall come up at that spot. There an image of Vatseshvari shall be established. Later Loha shall be reborn and be invincible. Then Vishnu shall incarnate as Budha and destroy him. At that spot a village named Lohaati shall be founded. Another demon named Gaya will be made into a eunuch by me and a village named Gayataada will come up with an image of mine so named worshipped there by eunuchs. Remember me as your sister whenever you face danger. You are as dear to me as Krishna Now proceed to visit all the sacred pilgrimage spots.” Saying this, the goddess vanished. Telling Barbareek to meet them after the exile was over, the Pandavas left to visit the teerthas.
After the exile was over and the armies assembled at Kurukshetra, Arjuna was boasting to apprehensive Yudhishthira that by himself he could rout the enemies in a single day when Barbareek spoke. He said, “One who has performed ascesis and pleased the goddesses in their secret abode Guptakshetra, hear of that person’s incomparable prowess. O kings, not out of mere arrogance, but speaking the truth about my valour, I say that I am not satisfied with the time-span that worshipful Arjuna has mentioned, for it is an unnecessary waste of time. All of you stay here with Arjuna and Keshava while I alone will despatch Bhishma and all the Kauravas in a moment to Yama’s abode. When I am present, no other warrior need take up arms. Should I die, then let others fight. Look upon the might I have obtained by worshipping the goddess and realise the greatness of Guptakshetra and my devotion towards the Pandavas. See, here are my terrible bow, inexhaustible twin quivers and sword gifted by the goddess, because of which I have spoken thus.”
All the warriors present were amazed. Somewhat embarrassed, Arjuna glanced at Krishna who supported Barbareek, “He has spoken justly. In the past, one hears that he had destroyed innumerable demons along with the danava Palaashi in but a moment. But tell us, grandson of Bhima, exactly how do you propose to demolish the Kauravas in a moment, protected as they are by Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Ashvatthama, Karna, Duryodhana and others, so that we can repose faith in your words.”
“O heroes, if you wish to witness the means, I shall show you. Let Keshava and all present watch.” Saying this, Barbareek swiftly placed one of the vermillion-tinted arrows on his bowstring and shot it. From the arrow-tip crimson ash fell on the fatal spots of both armies—Bhishma’s hair-follicles, Drona, Karna, Shakuni, Dhrishtadyumna and Bhagadatta’s necks, Duryodhana’s thighs, Shalya’s chest, the soles of Krishna’s feet, Shikhandi’s waist, and so on. Only Ashvatthama and the five Pandavas were left untouched. “Now,” said Barbareek, “you have all seen that I have marked the mortal spot of everyone. Next I shall shoot sharp arrows at those spots and by those infallible goddess-gifted arrows they shall fall into the maw of death in a trice. None of you should take up arms. In but a moment I shall demolish all these enemies.”
Amazed, Yudhishthira and all the kings present loudly applauded. But Vasudeva was angered and forthwith beheaded Barbareek with his razor-sharp discuss, to the horror of all present. The Pandavas lamented. Ghatotkacha, crying out, “Alas my son!” collapsed unconscious on the corpse. Meanwhile fourteen goddesses manifested there: Siddhaambikaa, Krodamaataa, Kapaalee, Taaraa, Suvarnaa, Trailokyavijayaa, Bhaaneshvaree, Charchikaa, Ekaveeraa, Yogeshvaree, Chandikaa, Tripuraa, Bhutaambikaa and Harasiddhi. Consoling Ghatotkacha, Chandikaa said, “O Kings! Hear why omniscient Krishna has slain Barbareek. In the past, the earth had approached the gods on Mount Meru complaining of being unbearably burdened. Then at Brahma’s request Vishnu agreed to descend on earth along with the gods to remove Prithvi’s burden. At that time the Yaksha chief Suryavarchaa had lifted up his arms and said, ‘Listen, O gods, I am the storehouse of many flaws, hence when I exist, why should any of you descend on earth? Remain here with Vishnu while I by myself relieve the earth of its burden. I swear in the name of Dharma that there is no need for any of you to incarnate on earth.’ At this, Brahma said in anger, ‘Wicked Yaksha chieftain! What is difficult even for the gods you have boasted arrogantly as achievable by you alone. Fool, because of this you deserve to be cursed. He who boasts of his prowess before his superiors without judging his own and others’ strength and weakness deserves punishment. Therefore, at the time of the commencement of the war to relieve the earth’s burden, Krishna will kill you.’ Thus cursed by Brahma, that Yaksha chief prayed to Vishnu that from birth his mind be set on ascesis for achieving salvation. Keshava granted this and said, ‘Worshippers of the goddess will adore your head as well.’ That Suryavarchaa is this slain Barbareek, you all are the gods, and Krishna is that Hari who has merely fructified Brahma’s curse. Therefore, Krishna should not be held guilty by you for this act.” Krishna confirmed the goddess’ words, adding that he had advised Barbareek in Guptakshetra to worship the goddess because that is the boon he had been given in the presence of the gods.
Chandikaa then poured the nectar of immortality on her devotee’s skull, whereby it became unaging and immortal for all time. That Rahu-like head then saluted everyone and said, “I wish to witness this war. Kindly permit that.” In a thunderous voice Krishna roared, “So long as this earth, the constellations, the sun and the moon exist, you, dear one, will be worshipped in the three worlds. In all the realms of the goddesses you shall be honoured like them. The illnesses suffered by children will disappear on worshipping you. Now be placed atop this hill and witness the war.”
Barbareek’s body was cremated, but his head remained on top of the hill. After the war was over, Yudhishthira praised Krishna for having enabled them to be victorious. This irritated Bhima who said, “It is I, Bhima, who has destroyed the Dhartarashtras. Ignoring me, like a fool why you are singing paeans to Krishna calling him ‘Purushottama’. O Pandava, Dhrishtadyumna, Arjuna, Satyaki, myself—ignoring us you are praising a charioteer. Shame on you!” Arjuna replied, “No, Bhima, do not say this. You do not know Janardana. Neither you, nor I nor anyone else has slain the enemy. During battle I always noticed that before me some person was advancing slaying the enemy. I do not know who that man was.” Bhima said, “There was no other enemy-killer, Partha. Surely you are hallucinating. However, if you do not believe me, let us ask my grandson on the hill who killed the enemy.” Bhima put this question to Barbareek who answered, “I saw but one man fight. On his left he had five faces and on his right only one. The left side of his body had ten hands holding weapons and the right side had four with the discuss etc. The heads on the left were crowned with matted hair; that on the right had a glowing crown. The left body was covered in ashes; the right was smeared with sandal paste. The left had a crescent moon, the right the Kaustabha gem. I was terrified. I have never seen such a man.” A shower of flowers fell from the sky with shouts of “Excellent, excellent!” Astounded, the Pandavas touched Krishna’s feet. Bhima hung his head in embarrassment. Krishna said to Barbareek, “O Suhridaya, roam the worlds, fulfilling the prayers of all. Everyone shall worship you. Never abandon this Guptakshetra for it is the best among all sacred places. And also stay in Dehasthali, freeing your worshippers from sin.”
Ashamed, Bhima drew deep painful sighs. Krishna seized his hand and saying, “O Kuru-tiger, come!” took him up on Garuda’s back and flew southwards. Crossing the southern sea and Suvela (Trikuta) mountain, they reached Lanka. Pointing out a lake there, Krishna said to Bhima, “O Kuru-tiger, see this twelve yojanas span of water. If you are a hero, bring up earth from its bottom.” Valiant Bhima immediately jumped from Garuda’s back into the lake and with wind-like speed dove beyond a yojana but failed to find its bottom. Rising from the lake frustrated, he said, “O Krishna, this vast lake is bottomless. Several mighty beasts in it tried to devour me and I have escaped somehow with great difficulty.” Hearing this, Krishna laughed and with his toe upturned that huge lake and told the astonished Bhima, “In the past there was a rakshasa named Kumbhakarna whose head was sliced off by Rama’s arrow. It is the palate of that skull that has taken the form of a lake. Being ancient, it has broken into pieces on my overturning it. Those who attacked you were the Sarogeya gods who are enemies of this world and it was necessary to destroy them cunningly thus. Now they have been shattered against the rocks of Trikuta mountain. Now let us return to the Pandavas who are being threatened by Drona’s son.” Bhima begged Krishna’s pardon for his rude words, which was granted.
Barbareek is worshipped on the new moon day of Shravana and the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight of Vaishakha by lighting a hundred lamps, chanting a hymn in his honour and offering purika cakes.
Continued to: Khaatu Shyam