"Janamejaya said, 'With what penances was the high-souled Utanka endued so that he entertained the wish to denounce a curse on Vishnu himself, who is the source of all puissance?'
"Vaisampayana said, 'O Janamejaya, Utanka was endued with austere penances. He was devoted to his preceptor. Endued with great energy, he abstained from worshipping anybody else. All the children of the Rishis O Bharata, entertained even this wish, viz., that their devotion to preceptors should be as great as that of Utanka. Gautama's gratification with and affection for Utanka, among his numerous disciples, were very great, O Janamejaya. Indeed, Gautama was highly pleased with the self-restraint and purity of behaviour that characterised Utanka, and with his acts of prowess and the services he rendered to him. One after another, thousands of disciples received the preceptor's permission to return home (after the completion of their pupilage). In consequence, however, of his great affection for Utanka, Gautama could not permit him to leave his retreat. Gradually, in course of time, O son, decrepitude overtook Utanka, that great ascetic. The ascetic, however, in consequence of his devotion to his preceptor, was not conscious of it. One day, he set out, O monarch, for fetching fuel for his preceptor. Soon after Utanka brought a heavy load of fuel. Toil-worn and hungry and afflicted by the load he bore on his head, O chastiser of foes, he threw the load down on the Earth, O king. One of his matted locks, white as silver, had become entangled with the load. Accordingly, when the load was thrown down, with it fell on the earth that matted lock of hair. Oppressed as he had been by that load and overcome by hunger, O Bharata, Utanka, beholding that sign of old age, began to indulge in loud lamentations from excess of sorrow. Conversant
with every duty, the daughter of his preceptor the, who was possessed of eyes that resembled the petals of the lotus, and of hips that were full and round, at the command of her sire, sought, with downcast face, to hold Utanka's tears in her hands. Her hands seemed to burn with those tear-drops that she held. Unable, accordingly, to hold them longer, she was obliged to throw them down on the Earth. The Earth herself was unable to hold those tear-drops of Utanka. With a gratified heart, Gautama then said unto the regenerate Utanka,--Why, O son, is thy mind so afflicted with grief today? Tell me calmly and quietly, O learned Rishi, for I wish to hear it in detail.'
"Utanka said, 'With mind entirely devoted to thee, and wholly bent upon doing what is agreeable to thee, with my, heart's devotion turned to thee, and with thoughts entirely dwelling on thee, (I have resided here till) decrepitude has come upon me without my knowing it at all. I have not, again, known any happiness. Though I have dwelt with thee for a hundred years, yet thou hast not granted me permission to depart. Many disciples of thine, that were my juniors, have, however, been permitted by thee to return. Indeed, hundreds and thousands of foremost Brahmanas have, equipt with knowledge, been permitted by thee (to depart from thy retreat and set themselves up as teachers)!'
"Gautama said, 'Through my love and affection for thee, and in consequence of thy dutiful services to me, a long time has elapsed without my knowing it, O foremost of Brahmanas. If, however, O thou of Bhrigu's race, the desire is entertained by thee of leaving this place, do thou go without delay, receiving my permission.'
"Utanka said. 'What shall I present to my preceptor? Tell me this, O best of regenerate persons. Having brought it, I shall go hence, O lord, with thy permission.'
"Gautama said. 'The good that the gratification of the preceptor is the final fee. 1 Without doubt, O regenerate one. I have been highly gratified with thy conduct. Know, O perpetuator of Bhrigu's race, that I have been exceedingly gratified with thee for this. If thou becomest a young man today of sixteen years, I shall bestow on thee, O regenerate one, this my own daughter for becoming thy wife. No other woman save this one is capable of waiting upon thy energy.' At these words of Gautama, Utanka once again became a youth and accepted that famous maiden for his wife. Receiving the permission of his preceptor, he then addressed his preceptor's wife, saying,--'What shall I give thee as final fee for my preceptor? Do thou command me. I desire to accomplish, with wealth or even my life, what is agreeable and beneficial to thee. Whatever gem, exceedingly wonderful and of great value, exists in this
world, I shall bring for thee with the aid of my penances. I have no doubt in this.'
"Ahalya said, 'I am highly gratified with thee, O learned Brahmana, with thy unintermitting devotion, O sinless one. This is enough. Blessed be thou, go whithersoever thou likest.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Utanka, however, O monarch, once more, said these words,--Do thou command me, O mother. It is meet that I should do something that is agreeable to thee.'
"Ahalya said, 'Blessed be thou, bring for me those celestial ear-rings that are worn by the wife of Saudasa. That which is due to thy preceptor will then be well-discharged.' Replying unto her 'So be it,'--Utanka departed, O Janamejaya, resolved to bring those ear-rings for doing what was agreeable to his preceptor's wife. That foremost of Brahmanas, Utanka, proceeded without any loss of time to Saudasa who had (through the curse of Vasishtha) become a cannibal, in order to solicit the ear-rings from him. Gautama meanwhile said unto his wife,--'Utanka is not to be seen today.' Thus addressed, she informed him how he had departed for fetching the jewelled ear-rings (of Saudasa's queen). At this, Gautama said,--'Thou hast not acted wisely. Cursed (by Vasishtha), that king (who has been transformed into a man-eater) will verily slay Utanka.'
"Ahalya said, 'Without knowing this, O holy one, I have set Utanka to this task. He shall not, however, incur any danger through thy grace. Thus addressed by her, Gautama said,--'Let it be so!' Meanwhile, Utanka met king Saudasa in a deserted forest.'"