MAHABHARATA – BOOK 14 - ASWAMEDHA PARVA KISARI MOHAN GANGULI
This book, one of the concluding portions of the Mahabharata, is notablefor several reasons.The first is a long interposed section of Upanishadic material, known theas Anugita. This occupies a large part of this book; Arjuna asks Krishnato repeat his battlefield discourse (the Bhaghavad Gita in Book 6). Whatfollows is a somewhat disjointed metaphysical treatise which wasprobably composed at a much later date than the main narrative.Following the Anugita is the story of Utanka, a disciple of Krishna whoundergoes a fairy-tale-like journey involving a cannibal king, magicearrings and a journey to the underworld.Finally there is the story of the great Horse Sacrifice of Yudhishthira, which resumes the main narrative of the Mahabharata. The HorseSacrifice was the premiere ceremony of the Yajur-Veda, a scapegoat-likeexpiatory ritual of unmatched extravagance. A magnificent wild black horse is set loose from Hastinapur, the Kuru capital. In hot pursuit is theKuru army, let by Arjuna. They must follow this horse, wherever it may lead. They are required to engage in ritual combat with the Kshatria(military caste) of whatever territory it enters, without killing the leaderof the opposing force. Then they invite the trespassed nation to thesacrifice. In the course of this journey they settle some old scores.The horse returns to the capital city, and the ritual starts; amidst apavilion of pure gold the horse is sacrificed. However, at the lastmoment, a mongoose with a gold head pops out of the ground and statesthat the Horse Sacrifice is of less meaning than a Brahman whosacrificed a handful of barley during a famine. With this bizarreanticlimax the book--and possibly the original narrative of theMahabharata--ends.--John Bruno Hare, January 16, 2004.