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(Chaitraratha Parva continued)

"Arjuna asked, 'What for, O Gandharva, did king Kalmashapada command his queen to go unto that foremost of all persons conversant with the Vedas--the master Vasishtha? Why also did that illustrious and great Rishi Vasishtha himself who was acquainted with every rule of morality know a woman he should not have known? O friend, was this an act of sin on the part of Vasishtha? It behoveth thee to remove the doubts I entertain and refer to thee for solution.'

"The Gandharva replied, saying, 'O irrepressible Dhananjaya, listen to me as I answer the question thou hast asked in respect of Vasishtha and king Kalmashapada that cherisher of friends. O thou best of the Bharatas, I have told thee all about the curse of king Kalmashapada by Saktri, the illustrious son of Vasishtha. Brought under the influence of the curse, that smiter of all foes--king Kalmashapada--with eyes whirling in anger went out of his capital accompanied by his wife. And entering with his wife the solitary woods the king began to wander about. And one day while the king under the influence of the curse was wandering through that forest abounding in several kinds of deer and various other animals and overgrown with numerous large trees and shrubs and creepers and resounding with terrible cries, he became exceedingly hungry. And the monarch thereupon began to search for some food. Pinched with hunger, the king at last saw, in a very solitary part of the woods, a Brahmana and his wife enjoying each other. Alarmed at beholding the monarch the couple ran away, their desire ungratified. Pursuing the retreating pair, the king forcibly seized the Brahmana. Then the Brahmani, beholding her lord seized, addressed the monarch, saying, 'Listen to what I say, O monarch of excellent vows! It is known all over the world that thou art born in the solar race, and that thou art ever vigilant in the practice of morality and devoted to the service of thy superiors. It behoveth thee not to commit sin, O thou irrepressible one, deprived though thou hast been of thy senses by (the Rishi's) curse. My season hath come, and wishful of my husband's company I was connected with him. I have not been gratified yet. Be propitious unto us, O thou best of kings! Liberate my husband.' The monarch, however, without listening

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to her cries cruelly devoured her husband like a tiger devouring its desirable prey. Possessed with wrath at this sight, the tears that that woman shed blazed up like fire and consumed everything in that place. Afflicted with grief at the calamity that overtook her lord, the Brahmani in anger cursed the royal sage Kalmashapada, 'Vile wretch, since thou hast today cruelly devoured under my very nose my illustrious husband dear unto me, even before my desires have been gratified, therefore shall thou, O wicked one afflicted by my curse, meet with instant death when thou goest in for thy wife in season. And thy wife, O wretch, shall bring forth a son uniting herself with that Rishi Vasishtha whose children have been devoured by thee. And that child, O worst of kings, shall be the perpetuator of thy race.' And cursing the monarch thus, that lady of Angira's house bearing every auspicious mark, entered the blazing fire in the very sight of the monarch. And, O thou oppressor of all foes, the illustrious and exalted Vasishtha by his ascetic power and spiritual insight immediately knew all. And long after this, when the king became freed from his curse, he approached his wife Madayanati when her season came. But Madayanati softly sent him away. Under the influence of passion the monarch had no recollection of that curse. Hearing, however, the words of his wife, the best of kings became terribly alarmed. And recollecting the curse he repented bitterly of what he had done. It was for this reason, O thou best of men, that the monarch infected with the Brahmani's curse, appointed Vasishtha to beget a son upon his queen.'"

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