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IV. The Penitential Yajna

The Namakaranam ceremony of the prince gave great delight to the subjects of the state as well as the inmates of the palace, and members of the royal household. But, Yudhishtira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers, felt that something more had to be done; he was not content with the joyous festival alone. He called for an assembly the same evening of all the elders, the scholars, the Pundits, the subordinate rulers and leaders of the people; he prayed that Lord Krishna preside over the gathering and confer joy on all. The sages Vyasa and Kripa also attended.

Coming to the assembly, Yudhishtira stood before the gathering a few seconds in silence, before he fell at the feet of Lord Krishna and the sage Vyasa. He then turned towards the rulers, scholars and leaders and said, "I was able to defeat the foes through your help, co-operation and best wishes, as well as the blessing of the Lord who is present here and of the sages and saints who have installed Him in their hearts. We were able by means of that victory to win back the kingdom that we had lost. Again, through these blessings the light of hope has gleamed in our hearts darkened by despair about the continuation of this dynasty. The Pandava line will be continued by the prince who was named today by the Lord as Parikshith.

"While all this delights me, I must announce before you that I am overwhelmed with sorrow at the contemplation of another side of the picture. I have committed countless sins, killing kith and kin. I feel I must do some expiation for this; or else, there will be no happiness for me or for my dynasty or for my people. Therefore, I wish to take this opportunity to seek your advice on this matter. There are among you many who have known the reality and attained Brahmajnana; we have also the great sage Vyasa here. I expect you to suggest some expiatory rite by which I can rid myself of this colossal mountain of sin that I have accumulated as a result of this war."

When Yudhishtira posed this problem in great humility and with great contrition, Lord Krishna said, "Yudhishtira, you are famous as Dharmaraja and you ought to know the Dharma. You know the intricacies of Dharma and morality, of justice, of right and wrong conduct. Therefore, I am surprised that you are afflicted with grief over this war and this victory. Do you not know that a Kshatriya incurs no sin when he kills a foe who has come to the battlefield armed with intention to kill? Whatever injury or pain or loss is inflicted on the battlefield during the fight with armed foes is free from sin. It is the Dharma of a Kshatriya to take up the sword and fight to the very end, without any thought of self, to save his country. You have only observed your Dharma. How can Karma (activity) along the lines of Dharma be sinful? It is not proper to doubt this and give way to despair. Sin cannot touch you, surround you or bother you. Instead of exulting over the festival of the naming of the new-born prince, why should you dread imaginary calamities and seek remedies for non-existent sins? Be calm; be happy."