Again the spring with genial heat
Returning made the year complete.
To win him sons, without delay
His vow the king resolved to pay:
And to Vas'ishtha, saintly man,
In modest words this speech began:
'Prepare the rite with all things fit
As is ordained in Holy Writ,
And keep with utmost care afar
Whate'er its sacred forms might mar.
Thou art, my lord, my trustiest guide,
Kind-hearted, and my friend beside;
So is it meet thou undertake
This heavy task for duty's sake.'
Then he, of twice-born men the best,
His glad assent at once expressed:
'Fain will I do whate'er may be
Desired, O honoured King, by thee.'
To ancient priests he spoke, who, trained
In holy rites, deep skill had gained:
'Here guards be stationed, good and sage
Religious men of trusted age.
And various workmen send and call,
Who frame the door and build the wall:
With men of every art and trade,
Who read the stars and ply the spade,
And mimes and minstrels hither bring,
And damsels trained to dance and sing.'
Then to the learned men he said,
In many a page of Scripture read:
'Be yours each rite performed to see
According to the king's decree.
And stranger Bráhmans quickly call
To this great rite that welcomes all.
Pavilions for the princes, decked
With art and ornament, erect,
And handsome booths by thousands made
The Bráhman visitors to shade,
Arranged in order side by side,
With meat and drink and all supplied.
And ample stables we shall need
For many an elephant and steed:
And chambers where the men may lie,
And vast apartments, broad and high,
Fit to receive the countless bands
Of warriors come from distant lands.
For our own people too provide
Sufficient tents, extended wide,
And stores of meat and drink prepare,
And all that can be needed there.
And food in plenty must be found
For guests from all the country round.
Of various viands presents make,
For honour, not for pity's sake,
That fit regard and worship be
Paid to each caste in due degree.
And let not wish or wrath excite
Your hearts the meanest guest to slight;
But still observe with special grace
Those who obtain the foremost place,
Whether for happier skill in art
Or bearing in the rite their part.
Do you, I pray, with friendly mind
Perform the task to you assigned,
And work the rite, as bids the law,
Without omission, slip, or flaw'
They answered: 'As thou seest fit
So will we do and naught omit.'
The sage Vas'ishtha then addressed
Sumantra called at his behest:
'The princes of the earth invite,
And famous lords who guard the rite,
Priest, Warrior, Merchant, lowly thrall,
In countless thousands summon all.
Where'er their home be, far or near,
Gather the good with honour here,
And Janak, whose imperial sway
The men of Míthilá 1 obey.
The firm of vow, the dread of foes,
Who all the lore of Scripture knows,
Invite him here with honour high,
King Das'aratha's old ally.
And Kás'i's 1b lord of gentle speech,
Who finds a pleasant word for each,
In length of days our monarch's peer,
Illustrious king, invite him here.
The father of our ruler's bride,
Known for his virtues far and wide,
The king whom Kekaya's 2b realms obey,
Him with his son invite, I pray.
And Lomapád the Angas' king,
True to his vows and godlike, bring.
For be thine invitations sent
To west and south and orient.
Call those who rule Suráshtra's 3b land,
Suvíra's 4b realm and Sindhu's strand,
And all the kings of earth beside
In friendship's bonds with us allied:
Invite them all to hasten in
With retinue and kith and kin.'
Vas'ishtha's speech without delay
Sumantra bent him to obey.
And sent his trusty envoys forth
Eastward and westward, south and north.
Obedient to the saint's request
Himself he hurried forth, and pressed
Each nobler chief and lord and king
To hasten to the gathering.
Before the saint Vas'ishtha stood
All those who wrought with stone and wood,
And showed the work which every one
In furtherance of the rite had done,
Rejoiced their ready zeal to see,
Thus to the craftsmen all said he:
'I charge ye, masters, see to this,
That there be nothing done amiss,
And this, I pray, in mind be borne,
That not one gift ye give in scorn:
Whenever scorn a gift attends
Great sin is his who thus offends.'
And now some days and nights had past,
And kings began to gather fast,
And precious gems in liberal store
As gifts to Das'aratha bore.
Then joy thrilled through Vas'ishtha's breast
As thus the monarch he addressed:
'Obedient to thy high decree
The kings, my lord, are come to thee.
And it has been my care to greet
And honour all with reverence meet.
Thy servants' task is ended quite,
And all is ready for the rite.
Come forth then to the sacred ground
Where all in order will be found.'
Then Rishyas'ring confirmed the tale:
Nor did their words to move him fail.
The stars propitious influence lent
When forth the world's great ruler went.
Then by the sage Vas'ishtha led
The priest begun to speed
Those glorious rites wherein is shed
The lifeblood of the steed.
21:1 Called also Vidcha, later Tirabhukti, corrupted into the modern Tirhut, a province bounded on the west and east by the Gaudakí and Kaus'ikí rivers, on the south by the Ganges, and on the north by the skirts of the Himálayas.
21:1b The celebrated city of Benares. See Dr. Hall's learned and exhaustive Monograph in the Sacred City of the Hindus, by the Rev. M. A. Sherring.
21:2b Kekaya is supposed to have been in the Panjáb. The name of the king was As'vapati (Lord of Horses), father of Das'aratha's wife Kaikeyi.
21:4b Apparently in the west of India not far from the Indus.