Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

The Rajasooya


This episode is from [Maha:2.32-2.36].

With all the Kings either allied with him, or acknowledging his overlordship by paying him tribute, Yudhishtra was now eligible to conduct the great sacrifice known as the Rajasooya. His treasure was overflowing with the plundered wealth from the conquests of his brothers. His ministers approached him and said, "O King, It is now time for you to begin preparations for conducting the Rajasooya Yagna. You should appoint suitable Ritwiks and issue orders to invite all your friends to witness this ceremony. Let there not be any further delay."

While they were talking thus, Krishna arrived at Indrprasta, bearing untold wealth as gifts from the Vrishnis to his dear Pandavas. Yudhishtra received his cousin with affection and enquired about the welfare of his family. Once Krishna had been seated, and the rest of the Pandavas, accompanied by their priest Dhaumya and the sage Dwaipayana (Vyasa) also present at the court, Yudhishtra said to Krishna said, "Dear cousin, O jewel of the Vrishnis, it is by your grace that I have obtained this vast wealth. I wish to give away my treasures according to the manner prescribed in the scriptures to deserving Brahmanas and to those who offer sacrificial libations. Grant me permission to perform the Rajasooya Yagna. I humbly request you to assist me in its conduct."

Krishna replied, "Dear King, You deserve all the imperial dignity that you command. Let, therefore, the great sacrifice be performed by you. I will gladly assist you in its conduct. Appoint me to some office, and I shall discharge my duties diligently, obeying your commands with alacrity."

Having obtained the consent of his well-wisher Krishna, the eldest son of Pandu then collected the materials for the performance of the Rajasooya sacrifice, with the help of his brothers. He then summoned Sahadeva and said, "Let persons be appointed to collect all those articles which the Brahmanas deem as necessary for the performance of this sacrifice. Consult with our priest Dhaumya to find out all that is needed."

Sahadeva did the King's bidding. Yudhishtra then went to sage Vyasa and said, "Sir, you are best qualified to appoint the Ritwiks for the Yagna. There is nothing that you do not know about conducting rituals, please choose the suitable priests for this ceremony."

With the help of Vyasa, the Ritwiks and other sacrificial officers were chosen. Vyasa himself became the Brahma priest of the ceremony. A learned Brahmana named Susaman became the chanter of the Vedic hymns. Yagnavalky became the Adhyaryu priest, and another named Paila became the Hotri. The sons of these illustrious priests became the Hotragts. [Note: These are the various classes of priests for the Vedic ritual. I will soon have an article explaining their roles.]

The King then bade Sahadeva to dispatch messengers to invite all the Kings to the ritual. In addition to the Kings, well known Brahmanas, wealthy merchants and virtuos peasants were also invited to the ceremony. Next, skilled architects constructed the central sacrificial hall, the ancilliary halls and the pavilions for the specators. When the preparations were complete, Yudhishtra then sent Nakula to Hastinapura, to personally invite Bhishma, Dhritharashtra and rest of the Kuru personages to participate in the Rajasooya.

The logistical challenges involved were immense. All the Kings and other illustrious persons had to housed suitably and entertained while they were in Indraprasta. Escorts had to be arranged to make sure that all the people were comfortable. Just providing suitable food to all these people alone consumed a vast sum of money.

Yudhishtra respectfully received the Kuru elders and said to them, "Sir, all the treasure that is mine, is also yours. Consult with each other and spend it as you deem fit. Conducting this Rajasooya sacrifice in a proper manner will bring glory to our clan, so it will be yours as much it shall be mine."

Having said that, he appointed every one of them to suitable office. Dushasana was asked to look after the food department. Ashwatthama was given the task of attending on the Brahmanas. Sanjaya was given the task of looking after the kings. Bhishma and Drona were appointed supervisors. Kripa was asked to distribute gifts to the Brahmanas. Vidura became the disburser. Duryodhana received the tributes on Yudhishtra's behalf. Krishna offered worship to the Brahmanas.

None of the Kings came to visit the sacrifice without offering tribute of less than a thousand (in number, weight or measure.) Many costly and rare gifts were exchanged. Finally, Yudhishtra took the oath, and became the Yajaman of the sacrifice. Six sacrificial fires were raised, and oblations were constantly being poured into them. The Gods were gratified at the sacrifce by offerings of clarified butters and libations, poured into sacrificial fire accompanied by Vedic incantations by the priests. The sacrifice continued for many days in this fashion.

On the last day of the sacrifice, when the King would be sprinkled with sacrificial water, all the Kings and other spectators assembled in the central sacrificial hall. Even the divine sages, led by Narada, were seated, waiting for the culmination of the ceremony. In the outer halls, many scholarly debates were taking place.

Bhishma got up and said, "O Yudhishtra, it is time for you to offer Arghya (ceremonial worship, offered after washing the feet of the person being worshipped), to those deserving of it. You should offer it to your elders, to the learned Brahmanas, your friends, and your perceptor."

Yudhishtra said, "Dear Grandfather, tell me who should be worshipped first? To whom shall I offer the first Arghya?"

Bhishma, the illustrious son of Shantanu said, "As Surya is foremost among luminous objects, Krishna is the foremost in this assembly. He is worthy of your first worship."

Thus commanded by the Grandsire, Yudhishtra ordered the materials for the Arghya to be brought. He then washed the feet of Krishna and offered him worship. Smiling, Krishna accepted it. All the onlookers felt that this was just and proper.

All that is, except for Shishupala, the King of Chedi. He was related to Krishna, but hated the Vrishni hero with all his heart. He stood up and spoke in an angry voice, "O Yudhishtra, this wretch of the Vrishni race does not deserve royal worship as if he were a king, especially when all these illustrious monarchs are present. O son of Pandu, you have little knowledge on the rules of worship. This Bhishma, the son of Ganga is old in years, but is still lacking knowledge. How is it that you are worshipping someone who is not a King before other Kings? You have not considered him worthy of worship due to his age, for his aged father Vasudeva is present here. How is he deserving of worship before your perceptors Drona and Kripa? He is not the Ritwik of your sacrifice, for the great Vyasa is present. Here is Duryodhana, he of great might, to whom you might have offered this worship. You might have worshipped Kripa, who was your first teacher. You might have worshipped Ashwatthama, with the unique jewel on his head proclaiming his worth. If you wanted to honor warriors, how could you have overlooked Karna, Ekalavya, and Salya? Or it would have been acceptable for you to have worshipped even Bhishma, the oldest of your clan. Ignoring all these worthy of the first worship, you have chosen a cowherd, a coward, one who associates with low persons to honor with the first worship! All of you, listen to me! I have not paid tribute to Yudhishtra because of fear of him. I have acknowledged him as my overlord, out of affection for the Pandavas. And he repays my trust with this insult! O Krishna, how can you calmly sit here and accept this worship, of which you are not worthy? Like a dog that laps the sacrificial butter, you are revelling in the Arghya which ought not have been offered to you. O Krishna, as a wife is to one who is impotent, as a fine show is to one who is blind, so is this worship to you who are not a king."

Having uttered these cutting words in rage, Shishupala left the assembly. Many of his allies also accompanied him.

Prev | Next

Last Modified At: Mon Nov 29 23:17:32 2004