The vItihotras and kashirAjas

Now we shall narrate the great AkhyAnaM of the vItihotras and the kAshirAjas.
The vItahavya the descendent of sahasrArjuna, had restored the glory of the haihayas after it was destroyed by rAmo bhArgava. He and his numerous sons the vItahavyas were well-versed in the vedas and the science of weapons, and were fierce warriors. They planned a great raid on the kingdom of kAshI, when haryashva was its ruler. Having forded the yamuna, vItahavya and his sons swept into the territory of the kAshis by surprise. haryashva was caught with a small division and surrounded by the vitihotras. In the battle that followed they surrounded haryashva and riddled him with arrows killing him. Having collected a large booty of wealth and cattle they returned to haihaya territory. haryashva’s son sudeva ascended the throne and a righteous ruler restored the glory of kAshi after a while. But this only attracted the vItahavyas to invade the kashi realms again. In the battle that followed, the haihayas slew sudeva and having laid waste to his capital itself returned to their domains in the vatsa country [the region developed by the bhArgavas, the erstwhile priests of the haihayas, before the dattAtreyas]. Realizing the threat from the vItahavya and his brother tAlajangha’s sons the next king of the kAshis built elaborate fortifications in his revived capital named vArANasi, with the help of the great indra. Under divodAsa’s reign the kingdom teemed with prosperity and trade.

A son of the king divodAsa, dhanvantrI, became a great physician and brought good health to his citizens. He promulgated a great school of medicine and taught a great medical text to punarvasu Atreya. Seeing the growing power of the kAshirAja and the wealth of his kingdom, the vItahavyas and tAlajanghas prepared for war again. The haihayas with their tremendous military abilities cut through the kAshI defenses and besieged their capital at vArANasi. divodAsa defended it for 3.5 years relentless, at the end of which he was hard-pressed due to losses of men and animals. His treasury was also empty and unable to prosecute the war further, he simply retreated to payU bharadvAja’s abode. The vItahavyas conquered vArANasi and annexed the kAshI kingdom.

He piteously appealed to the A~Ngiras for help. The bharadvAja said to divodAsa that he would perform a yAga by which divodAsa would have a smashing son, a great rAjarShi, who would revive the fortunes of his clan. After this the bharadvAja performed a sacrifice with the objective of bestowing a mighty son to divodAsa. divodAsa’s son was named pratardana, which means one who smashes his enemies to pieces. He was taught the mantras and the science of weapons by the bharadvAja and he mastered this lore by the time he was 13 years of age. Then the A~Ngiras summoned him and put on a special armor charmed by the yuddha sUktaM on him and gave him a mighty bow and sword. With this the prince ascended his chariot and with a sword on his waist, shield in arm, he shone like the star of day. He was praised by the brAhmaNas and mAgadhas.

Thus, he went to the presence of his father, who believing his enemies were already dead divodAsa installed his son as the yuvarAja and asked him to raise a force to destroy the vItihotras. pratardana soon revived the kAshi army and reorganized it into a mighty fighting force. He suddenly forded the ga~Nga in the height of summer and attacked the vItahavya outposts. Having destroyed and set fire to them he advanced past the yamuna and attacked the haihaya kingdom itself. The haihayas issued forth from their capital in their thousands like ants from a nest. They surrounded pratardana with their many chariots and archers poured arrows on him like torrents. The showers of haihayas arrows were like various clouds pouring rain on the breast of the himavat mountains. Never since the days of kArtavIrya had the haihayas fought with such fury. The kAshI warriors were shaken by the shower, but pratardana was unmoved and discharged the weapon known as the lighting fire of indra. Storms of arrows broke forth and destroyed the weapons of the haihayas. The pratardana assailed them with numerous bhAllas. Each bhAlla beheaded a vitihotra and drove them in confusion. pratardana continuing to assail them slew thousands of haihayas, and the field was strewn with beheaded corpses of the tAlAjangha and vItahavya princes. pratardana’s army surrounded the haihayas and killed each one of them and the who field was like a forest of kiMsuka trees devastated by wood-cutters.

A single vItahavya prince escaped from the carnage and ran pell-mell towards the ashrama of his old enemies the bhArgavas. The bhArgava R^iShi agni-aurva sheltered him and included him his clan by marriage as he was great knower of the veda. pratardana noticed the foot-prints of the vItahavya and followed them to the bhArgava’s abode. He asked the bhArgava’s students to call their teacher. The bhR^igu came out and gave the prince the due ceremonial reverance and asked him the purpose of his visit. He asked for the vItahavya and said that by killing him he would avenge the past entirely. The bhR^igu said there is no kShatriya in his Ashrama. pratardana touched the bhR^igu’s feet and said: “By this I am definitely successful because the last vItahavya has been rid of his very varNa by the force of my attack”. The bhR^igu declared that was indeed the case and agreed to invoke the devas on behalf of the kAshis and dismissed the prince. vItahavya’s descendents became the kevala bhArgava-s. Many great brAhmaNas arose in his clan — gR^itsamada, shaunaka, yAska and others.

pratardana daivodAsi went to the sattra of the naimiShIyas and asked the following question:
“If a ritualist seated in the sadas should call attention to a flaw in the ritual that was passed over or if one of the priests himself noted this later then how can one correct the flaw?” They were silent; alIkayu vAchaspatya was their brahmA priest and he said that “I do not know that but I will ask the aged jAtUkarNya, teacher of the ritualists of the past” . He asked jAtUkarNya if it could be corrected by an oblation or by repetition of the mantra. He replied “the mantra should be recited again”. alIkayu asked again “should one recite in full the whole shastra, nigada or the yAjya recitation?” jAtUkarNya replied “so much as is erroneous only need be repeated, a R^icha, or an ardharchaM, or a pAda, or pada or varNaM.”

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