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(Vaka-vadha Parva continued)

'Kunti said, 'I desire to learn from you the cause of this grief, for I will remove it, if possible.'

"The Brahmana replied, 'O thou of ascetic wealth, thy speech is, indeed worthy of thee. But this grief is incapable of being removed by any human being. Not far from this town, there liveth a Rakshasa of the name of Vaka, which cannibal is the lord of this country and town. Thriving on human flesh, that wretched Rakshasa endued with great strength ruleth this country. He being the chief of the Asuras, this town and the country in which it is situate are protected by his might. We have no fear from the machinations of any enemy, or indeed from any living soul. The fee, however, fixed for that cannibal is his food, which consists of a cart-load of rice, two buffaloes, and a human being who conveyeth them unto him. One after another, the house-holders have to send him this food. The turn, however, cometh to a particular family at intervals of many long years. If there are any that seek to avoid it, the Rakshasa slayeth them with their children and wives and devoureth them all. There is, in this country, a city called Vetrakiya, where liveth the king of these territories. He is ignorant of the science of government, and possessed of little intelligence, he adopts not with care any measure by which these territories may be rendered safe for all time to come. But we certainly deserve it all, inasmuch as we live within the dominion of that wretched and weak monarch in perpetual anxiety. Brahmanas can never be made to dwell permanently within the dominions of any one, for they are dependent on nobody, they live rather like birds ranging all countries in perfect freedom. It hath been said that one must secure a (good) king, then a wife, and then wealth. It is by the acquisition of these three that one can rescue his relatives and sons. But as regards the acquisition of these three, the course of my actions hath been the reverse. Hence, plunged into a sea of danger,

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am suffering sorely. That turn, destructive of one's family, hath now devolved upon me. I shall have to give unto the Rakshasa as his fee the food of the aforesaid description and one human being to boot. I have no wealth to buy a man with. I cannot by any means consent to part with any one of my family, nor do I see any way of escape from (the clutches of) that Rakshasa. I am now sunk in an ocean of grief from which there is no escape. I shall go to that Rakshasa today, attended by all my family in order that that wretch might devour us all at once'"

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