Śrīmad Devi Bhāgavatam | Book 7 Chapter 16



Chapter XVI

On the story of Śunahśepha

1-4. Vyāsa said:

O King! When Varuṇa went away, the King was very much laid down with that dropsy and daily his pains began to increase and he began to suffer extreme pains.

O King! The prince, on the other hand, heard, in the forest, of the illness of his father and filled with affection, wanted to go to his father. A year had passed away and the prince desired very gladly to go to his father and see him.

Knowing this, Indra came there. He came instantly in the form of a Brāhmin and with favourable arguments desisted the prince, who was about to go to his father.

5-31. Indra said:

“O Prince! It seems you are silly; you know nothing of the difficult state policies. Therefore it is that you are ready to go, out of sheer ignorance, to your father.

O Fortunate One! If you go there, your father will get his sacrifice, where a human victim is to be offered, performed by the Vedic Brāhmaṇas and your flesh will be offered as oblations to the blazing Fire.

O Child! The souls of all the beings are very dear; it is for that reason, for the sake of soul, that sons, wife, wealth and jewels are all dear.

Therefore, though you are his dear son, like his son, yet he will certainly have you killed and get Homas offered, to free himself from the disease.

O Prince! You ought not to go home now; rather when your father dies, you would certainly go there and inherit your Kingdom.”

O King! Thus hindered by Vāsava, the prince remained in that forest for one year more.

But when the prince again heard of the severe illness of his father, he wanted again to go to his father, resolved to court the death of himself.

Indra also came there in the form of a Brāhman and, with reasonable words, repeatedly advised him not to go there.

Here, on the other hand, the King Hariśchandra became very much distressed and troubled by the disease and asked his family priest Vaṣiṣṭha Deva:

“O Brāhmaṇa! What is the sure remedy for the cure of the disease?”

Vaṣiṣṭha, the Brahmā’s son, said:

“O King! Purchase one son by giving his value; then perform the sacrifice with that purchased son and you will be free from the curse.

O King! The Brāhmins, versed in the Vedas, say that sons are of ten kinds, of whom the son, purchased by paying its proper value, is one of them.

So buy one son. There will very probably be within your kingdom a Brāhmin who might sell out of avarice, his son. In that case Varuṇa Deva will certainly be pleased and grant your happiness.”

Hearing these words of the high-souled Vaṣiṣṭha, the King became glad and ordered his minister to look after such a son.

There lived in that King’s dominion one Brāhmin, named Ajigarta, very poor; he had three sons. The minister spoke to him to purchase his son:

“I will give you one hundred cows; give one son of yours for the sacrifice. You have three sons named respectively Śunahpuchcha, Śunahśepha and Śunolangula. Give me out of them one son and I will give you one hundred cows as his value.”

Ajigarta was very much distressed for want of food; so when he heard the proposal, he expressed his desire to sell his son.

He thought that his eldest son was the rightful person to perform funeral obsequies and offer Piṇḍa and he therefore did not spare him. The youngest son, too, he did not spare also, as he considered that his own.

At last, he sold his second son for the price of one hundred cows. The King then bought him and made him the victim for the sacrifice.

When that boy was fastened to the sacrificial post, he began to tremble and very much distressed with sorrow began to cry.

Seeing this, the Munis cried out in a very pitiful tone.

When the King gave permission for the immolation of that boy, the slaughterer did not take weapons to slaughter him. He told that he would never be able to kill the boy, since he is crying in a very pitiful tone.

When he thus withdrew himself from his work, the King then asked his councillors:

O Devas! What ought to be done now?

Śunahśepha then began to cry in a very pitiful voice; the people present there began to discuss and there arose a great noise on the affair.

Then Ajigarta stood up in the midst of the assembly and spoke:

“O King! Be patient; I will fulfil your desire. I am desirous of wealth and if you give me double the amount, I will slay immediately the victim; and you can complete early your sacrifice.”

O King! He who is hankering after money, can always entertain feelings of enmity even towards his own son. There is no doubt in this.

32-35. Vyāsa said:

O King! Hearing those words of Ajigarta, Hariśchandra gladly spoke to him:

“I will immediately give you another hundred excellent cows.”

Hearing thus, the son’s father, avaricious of wealth, immediately resolved and became ready to slay his son.

All the councillors seeing the father ready to slay his son, were struck with sorrow and began to lament exclaiming:

“Alas! This wretch, a disgrace to his family, is now ready to kill his own son. Oh! We never saw before such a cruel vicious person. This Brāhmin must be a Demon in a Brāhmin body!

36-38. Fie on you! O Chāṇḍāla! What a vicious work are you now going to do? What happiness do you derive by slaying the son, the jewel of jewels, only to get some wealth?

O Sinner! It is stated in the Vedas that the soul takes its birth from one’s body; so how are you going to slay your soul! ”

When the hue and cry arose in the assembly, Viśvāmitra, the son of Kauśika, went to the King and, out of pity, said:

39-56. O King! Śunahśepha is very piteously crying; so let him be free; and then your sacrifice will be complete and you will be free of your disease. There is no virtue like mercy and there is no vice like killing (Himsā).

What is written about killing animals in the sacrifice, is only meant for the persons inclined to sensual objects and to give them a stimulus in that direction.

O King! He who wants his own welfare and who wants to preserve his own body ought not to cut another’s body. He who pities equally all the beings, gets contended with a trivial gain and subdues all his senses; God is soon pleased with him.

O King! You should treat all the Jīvas like yourself and thus always spend your life, so dear to all.

You desire to preserve your body by taking away the life of this boy; similarly why would he not try to preserve his own body, the receptacle of happiness and pleasures.

O King! You have desired to kill this innocent Brāhmin boy; but he will never overlook this enmity of yours done in previous lives.

If anybody kills another willingly, though he has got no enmity with him, then the one that is killed will certainly kill afterwards the slayer.

His father, out of greed for money, is deprived of intellect and so has sold away his son. The Brāhmin is certainly very cruel and sinful. There is no doubt in this.

When one goes to Gayā or one performs an Aśva Medhā sacrifice or when one offers a blue bull (Nila Vriṣabha), one does so for the consideration that one would desire to have many sons.

Moreover the King has to suffer for one-sixth of the sins committed by anyone in his Kingdom. There is no doubt in this.

Therefore the King ought certainly to prohibit any man when he wants to do a sinful act. Why then did you not prevent this man when he desired to sell his son?

O King! You are the son of Triśanku; especially you are born in the Solar line of Kings. So how have you desired, being born an Āryā, to do an act becoming non- Āryā (non- Āryan).

If you take my word and quickly free this Brāhmin boy, you will certainly derive virtue in your body.

Your father was converted into a Chāṇḍāla by a curse but I sent him in his very body to the Heavens. And you are well acquainted with this fact.

Therefore, O King! Keep my word out of your love for that. This boy is very pitifully crying; so free him. I pray this from you in this your Rājasūya sacrifice and if you do not keep my word, you will incur the sin of not keeping my word. Do you not realise this?

O King! You will have to give anything that a man wants from you in this sacrifice; but if you do otherwise, sin will attack you, no doubt.

57-59. Vyāsa said:

O King! Hearing these words of Kauśika, the King Hariśchandra spoke thus:

O son of Gādhi! I am suffering very much from the dropsy; I will not be able therefore to free him. You can pray for some other thing. You ought not to throw obstacles in this my sacrifice.

Viśvāmitra became very angry at this, and seeing the Brāhmin boy very distressed, became sorrowful and mourned very much.

Here ends the Sixteenth Chapter in the Seventh Book on the story of Śunahśepha in the Mahāpurāṇam Śrīmad Devī Bhāgavatam of 18,000 verses, by Mahāṛṣi Veda Vyāsa.