"Yudhishthira said, 'I desire, O chief of the Bharatas, to hear from thee what the rewards are which are attached, O best of the Kurus, to the planting of trees and the digging of tanks.'
"Bhishma said, 'A piece of land that is agreeable to the sight, fertile, situate in the midst of delightful scenes adorned with diverse kinds of metals, and inhabited by all sorts of creatures, is regarded as the foremost of sports. A particular portion of such land should be selected for digging a tank. I shall tell thee, in due order, about the different kinds of tanks. I shall also tell thee what the merits also are that attach to the digging of tanks (with the view of drawing water for the benefit of all creatures). The man who causes a tank to be dug becomes entitled to the respect and worship of the three worlds. A tank full of water is as agreeable and beneficial as the house of a friend. It is gratifying to Surya himself. It also contributes to growth to the deities. It is the foremost of all things that lead to fame (with respect to the person who causes it to be excavated). The wise have said that the excavation of a tank contributes to the aggregate of three, Righteousness, Wealth and Pleasure. A tank is
said to be properly excavated, if it is made on a piece of land that is inhabited by respectable persons. A tank is said to be subservient to all the four purposes of living creatures. Tanks, again, are regarded as constituting the excellent beauty of a country. The deities and human beings and Gandharvas and Pitris and Uragas and Rakshasas and even immobile beings--all resort to a tank full of water as their refuge. I shall, therefore, tell thee what the merits are that have been said by great Rishis to be attached to tanks, and what the rewards are that are attainable by persons that cause them to be excavated. The wise have said that that man reaps the merit of an Agnihotra sacrifice in whose tank water is held in the season of the rains. The high reward in the world that is reaped by the person who makes a gift of a thousand kine is won by that man in whose tank water is held in the season of autumn. The person in whose tank water occurs in the cold season acquires the merit of one who performs a sacrifice with plentiful gifts of gold. That person in whose tanks water occurs in the season of dew, wins, the wise have said, the merits of an Agnishtoma sacrifice. That man in whose well-made tank water occurs in the season of spring acquires the merit of the Atiratra sacrifice. That man in whose tank water occurs in the season of summer acquires, the Rishis say, the merits that attach to a horse-sacrifice. That man rescues all his race in whose tank kine are seen to allay their thirst and from which righteous men draw their water. That man in whose tank kine slake their thirst as also other animals and birds, and human beings, acquires the merits of a horse-sacrifice. Whatever measure of water is drunk from one's tank and whatever measure is taken therefrom by others for purposes of bathing, all become stored for the benefit of the excavator of the tank and he enjoys the same for unending days in the next world. Water, especially in the other world, is difficult to obtain, O son. A gift of drink produces eternal happiness. Make gifts of sesame here. Make gifts of water. Do thou also give lamps (for lighting dark places.) While alive and awake, do thou sport in happiness with kinsmen. These are acts which thou shalt not be able to achieve in the other world. 1 The gift of drink, O chief of men, is superior to every other gift. In point of merit it is distinguished above all other gifts. Therefore, do thou make gifts of water. Even thus have the Rishis declared what the high merits of the excavation of tanks are I shall now discourse to thee on the planting of trees. Of immobile objects six classes have been spoken of. They are Vrikshas, Gulmas, Latas, Vallis, Twaksaras, and Trinas of diverse kinds. 2 These are the several kinds of vegetables. Listen now to the merit that attaches to their planting. By
planting trees one acquires fame in the world of men and auspicious rewards in the world hereafter. Such a man is applauded and reverenced in the world of the Pitris. Such a man's name does not perish even when he becomes a citizen of the world of deities. The man who plants trees rescues the ancestors and descendants of both his paternal and maternal lines. Do thou, therefore, plant trees, O Yudhishthira! The trees that a man plants become the planter's children. There is no doubt about this. Departing from this world, such a man ascends to Heaven. Verily many eternal regions of bliss become his. Trees gratify the deities by their flowers; the Pitris by their fruits; and all guests and strangers by the shadow they give. Kinnaras and Uragas and Rakshasas and deities and Gandharvas and human beings, as also Rishis, all have recourse to trees as their refuge. Trees that bear flowers and fruits gratify all men. The planter of trees is rescued in the next world by the trees he plants like children rescuing their own father. Therefore, the man that is desirous of achieving his own good, should plant trees by the side of tanks and cherish them like his own children. The trees that a man plants are, according to both reason and the scriptures, the children of the planter. That Brahmana who excavates a tank, and he that plants trees, and he that performs sacrifices, are all worshipped in heaven even as men that are devoted to truthfulness of speech. Hence one should cause tanks to be excavated and trees to be planted, worship the deities in diverse sacrifices, and speak the truth.'"
59:1 Heaven and Hell are places of only enjoyment and endurance. There can be no acts there leading to merit or demerit. This world is the only place which is called the field of acts.
59:2 Vrikshas are large or small trees generally. Gulma is a shrub, or bushy plant. Lata is a creeper, which cannot grow without a support. Talli is of the same variety, with this difference, perhaps, that its stems are more tree-like than those of creepers. Twaksara is the bamboo. Trina includes all kinds of grass.