Mahabharata Stories: 17 – Smallness versus Greatness

We all want to be good. That is man’s inherent nature. However, there are several other forces, some known and others unknown, which come into play and interfere with our behaviour. To transcend these forces is called The Triumph of Good over Evil. This is not an easy task for us. We are able to conquer negative nature at certain times and under certain circumstances, while at others, we find ourselves at a loss. The one who is able to do it at the most adverse of times is the one who has known truth.

Sage Lomasa accompanied the Pandavas in their wanderings during their exile. They reached the hermitage of Sage Raibhya by the river Ganga. Lomasa related to them the story of the place: Sage Raibhya had two learned sons, named Paravasu and Arvavasu. King Brihadyumna, a disciple of Raibhya, once performed a great sacrifice for which he requested the sage to let his sons take charge. The sage happily consented and the two of them went to perform the sacrificial rites.

As preparations were under way for the sacrifice, Paravasu, one day, felt an urge to go back to the hermitage to see his wife. As he was nearing the hermitage, he saw in the faint light of dawn, what seemed to be a wild creature. He hurled a bludgeon at it, killing it. But, to his anguish, he discovered that he had killed his own father who was clad in skins.


This, Paravasu realised, was the effect of sage Bharadwaja’s curse. For an offence committed by Yavakrida, Bharadwaja’s son, Raibhya had killed him. In the agony of having lost his son, Bharadwaja cursed Raibhya saying that he would be killed by his own son.

Paravasu hurriedly performed the funeral rites, went to Arvavasu and told him of the mishap. He then said: Fortunately, there is redemption for sin committed in ignorance. I have to perform expiatory rites for our father. The king’s sacrifice should, however, take place without a hitch. I can conduct the sacrifice unaided, which you cannot. So, will you please take my place and perform the expiatory rites?

Arvavasu unquestioningly agreed to perform the rites on his brother’s behalf. Paravasu began performing the sacrifice. Arvavasu returned to join his brother after performing the expiatory rites for his father. However, Paravasu’s sin had not been cleansed as the rites performed by proxy under the circumstances were not valid. He had grown jealous of the glow on his good brother’s face and held wicked designs. He said for all to hear: Here comes the one who has killed our father! How can anyone permit one as unholy as this to enter this sacred hall?

Arvavasu pleaded innocence, but as it was not the norm for a substitute to perform expiatory rites, none believed his words. He was unceremoniously thrown out of the hall.

Accused of a crime he never committed and publicised as a liar for a lie he never uttered, Arvavasu was indignant. He went deep into a forest and immersed himself in austere penances. Much in tune with his own nature, in course of time, the resentment in his heart faded away. He reached great spiritual planes. The gods asked of him what he wished for. The great Arvavasu humbly prayed: Please grant that my father be restored to life. Also that my brother be freed of his bad nature and the sins he has committed.

The gods blessed him and granted his prayer.



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