Years of meditation and austerities in exile had rendered Pandu, the father of the Pandavas a wise and learned man. He had a premonition of his death and instructed his sons –
Years of celibacy and meditation in the forest have given me great knowledge which is embedded in my body. When I die, eat my flesh and all of you will be blessed with great knowledge. That shall be your true inheritance from me.
After Pandu died, his sons cremated his body, but could not bring themselves to follow their father’s instructions. But Sahadeva, the youngest of the sons noticed that ants were carrying a tiny piece of their father’s body before it burnt. Unable to resist himself, he took that piece and put it in his mouth.
In an instant, he knew everything about the world – all that had happened in the past, and all that was going to happen in the future as well.
He started running towards his mother and brothers to tell them about this, when he was stopped by a stranger –
Do you want God as your friend?
Yes said Sahadeva. Then, never voluntarily tell anyone about this wonderful gift of yours. And when any question is asked of you, always reply with another question he was instructed.
Sahadeva immediately realized that he was being addressed to by none other than the Supreme Lord himself. He agreed to these terms and lived a life where he always kept silent despite knowing all the events that were about to transpire and being able to do nothing about them.
As time went on, he realized that the future that he knew about could be deciphered by observing nature and celestial bodies very carefully. He is therefore credited with putting together various occult sciences which help man predict the future.
As for his whole life, Sahadeva kept waiting for people around him, including his brothers to ask the right questions of him and hence was always pictured as a silent, thoughtful person.
Story courtesy: Dr Devdutt Pattanaik’s ‘Jaya : An illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata’
I am just speculating here, but while I always knew about the fact that Sahadeva is credited with coming up with the science of astrology, this is the first time I have read about the story of Pandu and his flesh being consumed by his youngest son.
However, this does give a lot of credibility to the stories and legends that one keeps hearing of people practicing some occult sciences and tantric events consuming human flesh and the like.
One way or the other, this does make for an interesting small little tale from the Mahabharata, doesn’t it.