"Kasyapa said, 'I go there for wealth, give it unto me, O snake, so that taking thy gold. I may return.' Takshaka replied, 'O best of regenerate ones, even I will give thee more than what thou expectest from that king. Therefore do not go.'
"Sauti continued, 'That best of Brahmanas, Kasyapa, of great prowess and intelligence, hearing those words of Takshaka, sat in yoga meditation over the king. And that foremost of Munis, viz., Kasyapa, of great prowess and gifted with spiritual knowledge, ascertaining that the period of life of that king of the Pandava race had really run out, returned, receiving from Takshaka as much wealth as he desired.
"And upon the illustrious Kasyapa's retracing his steps, Takshaka at the proper time speedily entered the city of Hastinapura. And on his way he heard that the king was living very cautiously, protected by means of poison-neutralising mantras and medicines.'
"Sauti continued, 'The snake thereupon reflected thus, 'The monarch must be deceived by me with power of illusion. But what must be the means?' Then Takshaka sent to the king some snakes in the guise of ascetics taking with them fruits, kusa grass, and water (as presents). And Takshaka, addressing them, said, 'Go ye all to the king, on the pretext of pressing business, without any sign of impatience, as if to make the monarch only accept the fruits and flowers and water (that ye shall carry as presents unto him).'
"Sauti continued, 'Those snakes, thus commanded by Takshaka, acted accordingly. And they took to the king, Kusa grass and water, and fruits. And that foremost of kings, of great prowess, accepted those offerings. And after their business was finished, he said upto them, 'Retire.' Then after those snakes disguised as ascetics had gone away, the king addressed his ministers and friends, saying, 'Eat ye, with me, all these fruits of excellent taste brought by the ascetics.' Impelled by Fate and the words of the Rishi, the king, with his ministers, felt the desire of eating those fruits. The particular fruit, within which Takshaka had entered, was taken by the king himself for eating. And when he was eating it, there appeared, O Saunaka, an ugly insect out of it, of shape scarcely discernible, of eyes black, and of coppery colour. And that foremost of kings, taking that insect, addressed his councillors, saying, 'The sun is setting; today I have no more tear from poison. Therefore, let this insect become Takshaka and bite me, so that my sinful act may be expiated and the words of the ascetic rendered true.' And those councillors also, impelled by Fate, approved of that speech. And then the monarch smiled, losing his senses, his hour having come. And he quickly placed that insect on his neck. And as the king was smiling, Takshaka, who had (in the form of that insect) come out of the fruit that had been offered to the king, coiled himself round the neck of the monarch. And quickly coiling round the king's neck and uttering a tremendous roar, Takshaka, that lord of snakes, bit that protector of the earth.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'Then the councillors beholding the king in the coils of Takshaka, became pale with fear and wept in exceeding grief. And hearing the roar of Takshaka, the ministers all fled. And as they were flying away in great grief, they saw Takshaka, the king of snakes, that wonderful serpent, coursing through the blue sky like a streak of the hue of the lotus, and looking very much like the vermilion-coloured line on a woman's crown dividing the dark masses of her hair in the middle.
"And the mansion in which the king was living blazed up with Takshaka's poison. And the king's councillors, on beholding it, fled away in all directions. And the king himself fell down, as if struck by lightning.
"And when the king was laid low by Takshaka's poison, his councillors with the royal priest—a holy Brahmana—performed all his last rites. All the citizens, assembling together, made the minor son of the deceased monarch their king. And the people called their new king, that slayer of all enemies, that hero of the Kuru race, by the name of Janamejaya. And that best of monarchs, Janamejaya, though a child, was wise in mind. And with his councillors and priest, the eldest son Parikshita, that bull amongst the Kurus, ruled the kingdom like his heroic great-grand-father (Yudhishthira). And the ministers of the youthful monarch, beholding that he could now keep his enemies in check, went to Suvarnavarman, the king of Kasi, and asked him his daughter Vapushtama for a bride. And the king of Kasi, after due inquiries, bestowed with ordained rites, his daughter Vapushtama on that mighty hero of Kuru race. And the latter, receiving his bride, became exceedingly glad. And he gave not his heart at any time to any other woman. And gifted with great energy, he wandered in pursuit of pleasure, with a cheerful heart, on expanses of water and amid woods and flowery fields. And that first of monarchs passed his time in pleasure as Pururavas of old did, on receiving the celestial damsel Urvasi. Herself fairest of the fair, the damsel Vapushtama too, devoted to her lord and celebrated for her beauty having gained a desirable husband, pleased him by the excess of her affection during the period he spent in the pursuit of pleasure.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Meanwhile the great ascetic Jaratkaru wandered over the whole earth making the place where evening fell his home for the night. And gifted with ascetic power, he roamed, practising various vows difficult to be practised by the immature, and bathing also in various sacred waters. And the Muni had air alone for his food and was free from desire of worldly enjoyment. And he became daily emaciated and grew lean-fleshed. And one day he saw the spirits of his ancestors, heads down, in a hole, by a cord of virana roots having only one thread entire. And that even single thread was being gradually eaten away by a large rat dwelling in that hole. And the Pitris in that hole were without food, emaciated, pitiable, and eagerly desirous of salvation. And Jaratkaru, approaching the pitiable one, himself in humble guise, asked them, 'Who are ye hanging by this cord of virana roots? The single weak root that is still left in this cord of virana roots already eaten away by the rat, dwelling in this hole, is itself being gradually eaten away by the same rat with his sharp teeth. The little that remains of that single thread will soon be cut away. It is clear ye shall then have to fall down into this pit with faces downwards. Seeing you with faces downwards, and overtaken by this great calamity, my pity hath been excited. What good can I do to you. Tell me quickly whether this calamity can be averted by a fourth, a third, or even by the sacrifice of a half of this my asceticism, O, relieve yourselves even with the whole of my asceticism. I consent to all this. Do ye as ye please.'
"The Pitris said, 'Venerable Brahmacharin, thou desirest to relieve us. But, O foremost of Brahmanas, thou canst not dispel our affliction by thy asceticism. O child, O first of speakers, we too have the fruits of our asceticism. But, O Brahmana, it is for the loss of children that we are falling down into this unholy hell. The grandsire himself hath said that a son is a great merit. As we are about to be cast in this hole, our ideas are no longer clear. Therefore, O child, we know thee not, although thy manhood is well-known on earth. Venerable thou art and of good fortune, thou who thus from kindness grievest for us worthy of pity and greatly afflicted. O Brahmana, listen, who we are. We are Rishis of the Yayavara sect, of rigid vows. And, O Muni, from loss of children, we have fallen down from a sacred region. Our severe penances have not been destroyed; we have a thread yet. But we have only one thread now. It matters little, however, whether he is or is not. Unfortunate as we are, we have a thread in one, known as Jaratkaru. The unfortunate one has gone through the Vedas and their branches and is practising asceticism alone. He being one with soul under complete control, desires set high, observant of vows, deeply engaged in ascetic penances, and free from greed for the merits or asceticism, we have been reduced to this deplorable state. He hath no wife, no son, no relatives. Therefore, do we hang in this hole, our consciousness lost, like men having none to take care of them. If thou meetest him, O, tell him, from thy kindness to ourselves, Thy Pitris, in sorrow, are hanging with faces downwards in a hole. Holy one, take a wife and beget children. O thou of ascetic wealth, thou art, O amiable one, the only thread that remaineth in the line of thy ancestors. O Brahmana, the cord of virana roots that thou seest we are hanging by, is the cord representing our multiplied race. And, O Brahmana, these threads of the cord of virana roots that thou seest as eaten away, are ourselves who have been eaten up by Time. This root thou seest hath been half-eaten and by which we are hanging in this hole is he that hath adopted asceticism alone. The rat that thou beholdest is Time of infinite strength. And he (Time) is gradually weakening the wretch Jaratkaru engaged in ascetic penances tempted by the merits thereof, but wanting in prudence and heart. O excellent one, his asceticism cannot save us. Behold, our roots being torn, cast down from higher regions, deprived of consciousness by Time, we are going downwards like sinful wretches. And upon our going down into this hole with all our relatives, eaten up by Time, even he shall sink with us into hell. O child, whether it is asceticism, or sacrifice, or whatever else there be of very holy acts, everything is inferior. These cannot count with a son. O child, having seen all, speak unto that Jaratkaru of ascetic wealth. Thou shouldst tell him in detail everything that thou hast beheld. And, O Brahmana, from thy kindness towards us, thou shouldst tell him all that would induce him to take a wife and beget children. Amongst his friends, or of our own race, who art thou, O excellent one, that thus grievest for us all like a friend? We wish to hear who thou art that stayest here.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said. 'Jaratkaru, hearing all this, became excessively dejected. And from sorrow he spoke unto those Pitris in words obstructed by tears.' And Jaratkaru said, 'Ye are even my fathers and grand-fathers gone before. Therefore, tell me what I must do for your welfare. I am that sinful son of yours, Jaratkaru! Punish me for my sinful deeds, a wretch that I am.'
"The Pitris replied, saying, 'O son, by good luck hast thou arrived at this spot in course of thy rambles. O Brahmana, why hast thou not taken a wife?'
"Jaratkaru said. 'Ye Pitris, this desire hath always existed in my heart that I would, with vital seed drawn up, carry this body to the other world. My mind hath been possessed with the idea that I would not take a wife. But ye grandsires, having seen you hanging like birds, I have diverted my mind from the Brahmacharya mode of life. I will truly do what you like. I will certainly marry, if ever I meet with a maiden of my own name. I shall accept her who, bestowing herself of her own accord, will be as aims unto me, and whom I shall not have to maintain. I shall marry if I get such a one; otherwise, I shall not. This is the truth, ye grandsires! And the offspring that will be begot upon her shall be your salvation. And ye Pitris of mine, ye shall live for ever in blessedness and without fear.'
'Sauti continued, 'The Muni, having said so unto the Pitris, wandered over the earth again. And, O Saunaka, being old, he obtained no wife. And he grieved much that he was not successful. But directed (as before) by his ancestors, he continued the search. And going into the forest, he wept loudly in great grief. And having gone into the forest, the wise one, moved by the desire of doing good to his ancestors, said, 'I will ask for a bride,' distinctly repeating these words thrice. And he said, 'Whatever creatures are here, mobile and immobile, so whoever there be that are invisible, O, hear my words! My ancestors, afflicted with grief, have directed me that am engaged in the most severe penances, saying, 'Marry thou for (the acquisition of) a son.' 'O ye, being directed by my ancestors, I am roaming in poverty and sorrow, over the wide world for wedding a maiden that I may obtain as alms. Let that creature, amongst those I have addressed, who hath a daughter, bestow on me that am roaming far and near. Such a bride as is of same name with me, to be bestowed on me as alms, and whom, besides, I shall not maintain, O bestow on me!' Then those snakes that had been set upon Jaratkaru track, ascertaining his inclination, gave information to Vasuki. And the king of the snakes, hearing their words, took with him that maiden decked with ornaments, and went into the forest unto that Rishi. And, O Brahmana, Vasuki, the king of the snakes, having gone there, offered that maiden as alms unto that high-souled Rishi. But the Rishi did not at once accept her. And the Rishi, thinking her not to be of the same name with himself, and seeing that the question of her maintenance also was unsettled, reflected for a few moments, hesitating to accept her. And then, O son of Bhrigu, he asked Vasuki the maiden's name, and also said unto him, 'I shall not maintain her.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'Then Vasuki spake unto the Rishi Jaratkaru these words, 'O best of Brahmanas, this maiden is of the same name with thee. She is my sister and hath ascetic merit. I will maintain thy wife; accept her. O thou of ascetic wealth, I shall protect her with all my ability. And, O foremost of the great Munis, she hath been reared by me for thee.' And the Rishi replied, 'This is agreed between us that I shall not maintain her; and she shall not do aught that I do not like. If she do, I leave her!'
"Sauti continued, 'When the snake had promised, saying, 'I shall maintain my sister,' Jaratkaru then went to the snake's house. Then that first of mantra-knowing Brahmanas, observing rigid vows, that virtuous and veteran ascetic, took her hand presented to him according to shastric rites. And taking his bride with him, adored by the great Rishi, he entered the delightful chamber set apart for him by the king of the snakes. And in that chamber was a bed-stead covered with very valuable coverlets. And Jaratkaru lived there with his wife. And the excellent Rishi made an agreement with his wife, saying, 'Nothing must ever be done or said by thee that is against my liking. And in case of thy doing any such thing, I will leave thee and no longer continue to stay in thy house. Bear in mind these words that have been spoken by me.'
"And then the sister of the king of the snakes in great anxiety and grieving exceedingly, spoke unto him, saying, 'Be it so.' And moved by the desire of doing good to her relatives, that damsel, of unsullied reputation, began to attend upon her lord with the wakefulness of a dog, the timidity of a deer, and knowledge of signs possessed by the crow. And one day, after the menstrual period, the sister of Vasuki, having purified herself by a bath according to custom, approached her lord the great Muni; And thereupon she conceived. And the embryo was like unto a flame of fire, possessed of great energy, and resplendent as fire itself. And it grew like the moon in the bright fortnight.
"And one day, within a short time, Jaratkaru of great fame, placing his head on the lap of his wife, slept, looking like one fatigued. And as he was sleeping, the sun entered his chambers in the Western mountain and was about to set. And, O Brahmana, as the day was fading, she, the excellent sister of Vasuki, became thoughtful, fearing the loss of her husband's virtue. And she thought, 'What should I now do? Shall I wake my husband or not? He is exacting and punctilious in his religious duties. How can I act as not to offend him? The alternatives are his anger and the loss of virtue of a virtuous man. The loss of virtue, I ween, is the greater of the two evils. Again, if I wake him, he will be angry. But if twilight passeth away without his prayers being said, he shall certainly sustain loss of virtue.'
'And having resolved at last, the sweet-speeched Jaratkaru, the sister of Vasuki, spake softly unto that Rishi resplendent with ascetic penances, and lying prostrate like a flame of fire, 'O thou of great good fortune, awake, the sun is setting. O thou of rigid vows, O illustrious one, do your evening prayer after purifying yourself with water and uttering the name of Vishnu. The time for the evening sacrifice hath come. Twilight, O lord, is even now gently covering the western side.'
"The illustrious Jaratkaru of great ascetic merit, thus addressed, spake unto his wife these words, his upper lip quivering in anger, 'O amiable one of the Naga race, thou hast insulted me. I shall no longer abide with thee, but shall go where I came from. O thou of beautiful thighs, I believe in my heart that the sun hath no power to set in the usual time, if I am asleep. An insulted person should never live where he hath met with the insult, far less should I, a virtuous person, or those that are like me.' Jaratkaru, the sister of Vasuki, thus addressed by her lord, began to quake with terror, and she spake unto him, saying, 'O Brahmana, I have not waked thee from desire of insult; but I have done it so that thy virtue may not sustain any loss.'
"The Rishi Jaratkaru, great in ascetic merit, possessed with anger and desirous of forsaking his spouse, thus addressed, spake unto his wife, saying, O thou fair one, never have I spoken a falsehood. Therefore, go I shall. This was also settled between ourselves. O amiable one, I have passed the time happily with thee. And, O fair one, tell thy brother, when I am gone, that I have left thee. And upon my going away, it behoveth thee not to grieve for me.'
"Thus addressed Jaratkaru, the fair sister of Vasuki, of faultless features, filled with anxiety and sorrow, having mustered sufficient courage and patience, though her heart was still quaking, then spake unto Rishi Jaratkaru. Her words were obstructed with tears and her face was pale with fear. And the palms of her hands were joined together, and her eyes were bathed in tears. And she said, 'It behoveth thee not to leave me without a fault. Thou treadest over the path of virtue. I too have been in the same path, with heart fixed on the good of my relatives. O best of Brahmanas, the object for which I was bestowed on thee hath not been accomplished yet. Unfortunate that I am, what shall Vasuki say unto me? O excellent one, the offspring desired of by my relatives afflicted by a mother's curse, do not yet appear! The welfare of my relatives dependeth on the acquisition of offspring from thee. And in order that my connection with thee may not be fruitless, O illustrious Brahmana, moved by the desire of doing good to my race do I entreat thee. O excellent one, high-souled thou art; so why shall thou leave me who am faultless? This is what is not just clear to me.'
"Thus addressed, the Muni of great ascetic merit spake unto his wife Jaratkaru these words that were proper and suitable to the occasion. And he said, 'O fortunate one, the being thou hast conceived, even like unto Agni himself is a Rishi of soul highly virtuous, and a master of the Vedas and their branches.'
"Having said so, the great Rishi, Jaratkaru of virtuous soul, went away, his heart firmly fixed on practising again the severest penances.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'O thou of ascetic wealth, soon after her lord had left her, Jaratkaru went to her brother. And she told him everything that had happened. And the prince of snakes, hearing the calamitous news, spake unto his miserable sister, himself more miserable still.'
"And he said, 'Thou knowest, 'O amiable one, the purpose of thy bestowal, the reason thereof. If, from that union, for the welfare of the snakes, a son be born, then he, possessed of energy, will save us all from the snake-sacrifice. The Grandsire had said so, of old, in the midst of the gods. O fortunate one, hast thou conceived from thy union with that best of Rishis? My heart's desire is that my bestowal of thee on that wise one may not be fruitless. Truly, it is not proper for me to ask thee about this. But from the gravity of the interests I ask thee this. Knowing also the obstinacy of thy lord, ever engaged in severe penances, I shall not follow him, for he may curse me. Tell me in detail all that thy lord, O amiable one, hath done, and extract that terribly afflicting dart that lies implanted for a long time past in my heart.'
"Jaratkaru, thus addressed, consoling Vasuki, the king of the snakes, at length replied, saying, 'Asked by me about offspring, the high-souled and mighty ascetic said, 'There is,'—and then he went away. I do not remember him to have ever before speak even in jest aught that is false. Why should he, O king, speak a falsehood on such a serious occasion? He said, 'Thou shouldst not grieve, O daughter of the snake race, about the intended result of our union. A son shall be born to thee, resplendent as the blazing sun.' O brother, having said this to me, my husband of ascetic wealth went away—Therefore, let the deep sorrow cherished in thy heart disappear.'
"Sauti continued, 'Thus addressed, Vasuki, the king of the snakes, accepted those words of his sister, and in great joy said, 'Be it so!' And the chief of the snakes then adored his sister with his best regards, gift of wealth, and fitting eulogies. Then, O best of Brahmanas, the embryo endued with great splendour, began to develop, like the moon in the heavens in the bright fortnight.
And in due time, the sister of the snakes, O Brahmana, gave birth to a son of the splendour of a celestial child, who became the reliever of the fears of his ancestors and maternal relatives. The child grew up there in the house of the king of the snakes. He studied the Vedas and their branches with the ascetic Chyavana, the son of Bhrigu. And though but a boy, his vows were rigid. And he was gifted with great intelligence, and with the several attributes of virtue, knowledge, freedom from the world's indulgences, and saintliness. And the name by which he was known to the world was Astika. And he was known by the name of Astika (whoever is) because his father had gone to the woods, saying. 'There is', when he was in the womb. Though but a boy, he had great gravity and intelligence. And he was reared with great care in the palace of the snakes. And he was like the illustrious lord of the celestials, Mahadeva of the golden form, the wielder of the trident. And he grew up day by day, the delight of all the snakes.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Saunaka said, 'Tell me again, in detail,—all that king Janamejaya had asked his ministers about his father's ascension to heaven.'
'Sauti said, 'O Brahmana, hear all that the king asked his ministers, and all that they said about the death of Parikshit.'
"Janamejaya asked, 'Know ye all that befell my father. How did that famous king, in time, meet with his death? Hearing from you the incidents of my father's life in detail, I shall ordain something, if it be for the benefit of the world. Otherwise, I shall do nothing.'
'The minister replied, 'Hear, O monarch, what thou hast asked, viz., an account of thy illustrious father's life, and how also that king of kings left this world. Thy father was virtuous and high-souled, and always protected his people. O, hear, how that high-souled one conducted himself on earth. Like unto an impersonation of virtue and justice, the monarch, cognisant of virtue, virtuously protected the four orders, each engaged in the discharge of their specified duties. Of incomparable prowess, and blessed with fortune, he protected the goddess Earth. There was none who hated him and he himself hated none. Like unto Prajapati (Brahma) he was equally disposed towards all creatures. O monarch, Brahmanas and Kshatriyas and Vaisyas and Sudras, all engaged contentedly in the practice of their respective duties, were impartially protected by that king. Widows and orphans, the maimed and the poor, he maintained. Of handsome features, he was unto all creatures like a second Soma. Cherishing his subjects and keeping them contented, blessed with good fortune, truth-telling, of immense prowess, he was the disciple of Saradwat in the science of arms. And, O Janamejaya, thy father was dear unto Govinda. Of great fame, he was loved by all men. And he was born in the womb of Uttara when the Kuru race was almost extinct. And, therefore, the mighty son of Abhimanyu came to be called Parikshit (born in an extinct line). Well-versed in the interpretation of treatises on the duties of kings, he was gifted with every virtue. With passions under complete control, intelligent, possessing a retentive memory, the practiser of all virtues, the conqueror of his six passions of powerful mind, surpassing all, and fully acquainted with the science of morality and political science, the father had ruled over these subjects for sixty years. And he then died, mourned by all his subjects. And, after him, O first of men, thou hast acquired this hereditary kingdom of the Kurus for the last thousand years. Thou wast installed while a child, and art thus protecting every creature.'
"Janamejaya said, 'There hath not been born in our race a king who hath not sought the good of his subjects or been loved by them. Behold especially the conduct of my grandsires ever engaged in great achievements. How did my father, blessed with many virtues, meet with his death? Describe everything to me as it happened. I am desirous of hearing it from you!'
"Sauti continued, 'Thus directed by the monarch, those councillors, ever solicitous of the good of the king, told him everything exactly as it had occurred.'
'And the councillors said, 'O king, that father of thine, that protector of the whole earth, that foremost of all persons obedient to the scriptures, became addicted to the sports of the field, even as Pandu of mighty arms, that foremost of all bearers of the bow in battle. He made over to us all the affairs of state from the most trivial to the most important. One day, going into the forest, he pierced a deer with an arrow. And having pierced it he followed it quickly on foot into the deep woods, armed with sword and quiver. He could not, however, come upon the lost deer. Sixty years of age and decrepit, he was soon fatigued and became hungry. He then saw in the deep woods a high-souled Rishi. The Rishi was then observing the vow of silence. The king asked him about the deer, but, though asked, he made no reply. At last the king, already tired with exertion and hunger, suddenly became angry with that Rishi sitting motionless like a piece of wood in observance of his vow of silence. Indeed, the king knew not that he was a Muni observing the vow of silence. Swayed by anger, thy father insulted him. O excellent one of the Bharata race, the king, thy father taking up from the ground with the end of his bow a dead snake placed it on the shoulders of that Muni of pure soul. But the Muni spake not a word good or bad and was without anger. He continued in the same posture, bearing the dead snake.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
'Sauti continued, 'The ministers said, 'That king of kings then, spent with hunger and exertion, and having placed the snake upon the shoulders of that Muni, came back to his capital. The Muni had a son, born of a cow, of the name of Sringin. He was widely known, possessed of great prowess and energy, and very wrathful. Going (every day) to his preceptor he was in the habit of worshipping him. Commanded by him, Sringin was returning home, when he heard from a friend of his about the insult of his father by thy parent. And, O tiger among kings, he heard that his father, without having committed any fault, was bearing, motionless like a statue, upon his shoulders a dead snake placed thereon. O king, the Rishi insulted by thy father was severe in ascetic penances, the foremost of Munis, the controller of passions, pure, and ever engaged in wonderful acts. His soul was enlightened with ascetic penances, and his organs and their functions were under complete control. His practices and his speech were both very nice. He was contented and without avarice. He was without meanness of any kind and without envy. He was old and used to observe the vow of silence. And he was the refuge whom all creatures might seek in distress.
"Such was the Rishi insulted by thy father. The son, however, of that Rishi, in wrath, cursed thy father. Though young in years, the powerful one was old in ascetic splendour. Speedily touching water, he spake, burning as it were with spiritual energy and rage, these words in allusion to thy father, 'Behold the power of my asceticism! Directed by my words, the snake Takshaka of powerful energy and virulent poison, shall, within seven nights hence, burn, with his poison the wretch that hath placed the dead snake upon my un-offending father.' And having said this, he went to where his father was. And seeing his father he told him of his curse. The tiger among Rishis thereupon sent to thy father a disciple of his, named Gaurmukha, of amiable manners and possessed of every virtue. And having rested a while (after arrival at court) he told the king everything, saying in the words of his master, 'Thou hast been cursed, O king, by my son. Takshaka shall burn thee with his poison! Therefore, O king, be careful.' O Janamejaya, hearing those terrible words, thy father took every precaution against the powerful snake Takshaka.
"And when the seventh day had arrived, a Brahmana Rishi, named Kasyapa, desired to come to the monarch. But the snake Takshaka saw Kasyapa. And the prince of snakes spake unto Kasyapa without loss of time, saying, 'Where dost thou go so quickly, and what is the business on which thou goest?' Kasyapa replied, saying, 'O Brahmana, I am going whither king Parikshit, that best of the Kurus, is. He shall today be burnt by the poison of the snake Takshaka. I go there quickly in order to cure him, in fact, in order that, protected by me, the snake may not bite him to death.' Takshaka answered, saying, 'Why dost thou seek to revive the king to be bitten by me? I am that Takshaka. O Brahmana, behold the wonderful power of my poison. Thou art incapable of reviving that monarch when bit by me.' So saying, Takshaka, then and there, bit a lord of the forest (a banian tree). And the banian, as soon as it was bit by the snake, was converted into ashes. But Kasyapa, O king, revived it. Takshaka thereupon tempted him, saying, 'Tell me thy desire.' And Kasyapa, too, thus addressed, spake again unto Takshaka, saying, 'I go there from desire of wealth.' And Takshaka, thus addressed, then spake unto the high-souled Kasyapa in these soft words, 'O sinless one, take from me more wealth than what thou expectest from that monarch, and go back!' And Kasyapa, that foremost of men, thus addressed by the snake, and receiving from him as much wealth as he desired, wended his way back.
"And Kasyapa going back, Takshaka, approaching in disguise, blasted, with the fire of his poison, thy virtuous father, the first of kings, then staying in his mansion with all precautions. And after that, thou wast, O tiger among men, been installed (on the throne). And, O best of monarchs, we have thus told thee all that we have seen and heard, cruel though the account is. And hearing all about the discomfiture of thy royal father, and of the insult to the Rishi Utanka, decide thou that which should follow!
'Sauti continued, 'King Janamejaya, that chastiser of enemies, then spake upto all his ministers. And he said, 'When did ye learn all that happened upon that, banian reduced to ashes by Takshaka, and which, wonderful as it is, was afterwards revived by Kasyapa? Assuredly, my father could not have died, for the poison could have been neutralised by Kasyapa with his mantras. That worst of snakes, of sinful soul, thought within his mind that if Kasyapa resuscitated the king bit by him, he, Takshaka, would be an object of ridicule in the world owing to the neutralisation of his poison. Assuredly, having thought so, he pacified the Brahmana. I have devised a way, however, of inflicting punishment upon him. I like to know, however, what ye saw or heard, what happened in the deep solitude of the forest,—viz., the words of Takshaka and the speeches of Kasyapa. Having known it, I shall devise the means of exterminating the snake race.'
"The ministers said, 'Hear, O monarch of him who told us before of the meeting between that foremost Brahmana and that prince of snakes in the woods. A certain person, O monarch, had climbed up that tree containing some dry branches with the object of breaking them for sacrificial fuel. He was not perceived either by the snake or by the Brahmana. And, O king, that man was reduced to ashes along with the tree itself. And, O king of kings, he was revived with the tree by the power of the Brahmana. That man, a Brahmana's menial, having come to us, represented fully everything as it happened between Takshaka and the Brahmana. Thus have we told thee, O king, all that we have seen and heard. And having heard it, O tiger among kings, ordain that which should follow.'
"Sauti continued, 'King Janamejaya, having listened to the words of his ministers, was sorely afflicted with grief, and began to weep. And the monarch began to squeeze his hands. And the lotus-eyed king began to breathe a long and hot breath, shed tears, and shrieked aloud. And possessed with grief and sorrow, and shedding copious tears, and touching water according to the form, the monarch spake. And reflecting for a moment, as if settling something in his mind, the angry monarch, addressing all ministers, said these words.
'I have heard your account of my father's ascension to heaven. Know ye now what my fixed resolve is. I think no time must be lost in avenging this injury upon the wretch Takshaka that killed my father. He burnt my father making Sringin only a secondary cause. From malignity alone he made Kasyapa return. If that Brahmana had arrived, my father assuredly would have lived. What would he have lost if the king had revived by the grace of Kasyapa and the precautionary measures of his ministers? From ignorance of the effects of my wrath, he prevented Kasyapa—that excellent of Brahmanas—whom he could not defeat, from coming to my father with the desire of reviving him. The act of aggression is great on the part of the wretch Takshaka who gave wealth unto that Brahmana in order that he might not revive the king. I must now avenge myself on my father's enemy to please myself, the Rishi Utanka and you all.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
'Sauti said, 'King Janamejaya having said so, his ministers expressed their approbation. And the monarch then expressed his determination to perform a snake-sacrifice. And that lord of the Earth—that tiger of the Bharata race—the son of Parikshit, then called his priest and Ritwiks. And accomplished in speech, he spake unto them these words relating to the accomplishment of his great task. 'I must avenge myself on the wretch Takshaka who killed my father. Tell me what I must do. Do you know any act by which I may cast into the blazing fire the snake Takshaka with his relatives? I desire to burn that wretch even as he burnt, of yore, by the fire of his poison, my father.'
'The chief priest answered, 'There is, O king, a great sacrifice for thee devised by the gods themselves. It is known as the snake-sacrifice, and is read of in the Puranas. O king, thou alone canst accomplish it, and no one else. Men versed in the Puranas have told us, there is such a sacrifice.'
"Sauti continued, 'Thus addressed, the king, O excellent one, thought Takshaka to be already burnt and thrown into the blazing mouth of Agni, the eater of the sacrificial butter. The king then said unto those Brahmanas versed in mantras, 'I shall make preparations for that sacrifice. Tell me the things that are necessary.' And the king's Ritwiks, O excellent Brahmana, versed in the Vedas and acquainted with the rites of that sacrifice measured, according to the scriptures, the land for the sacrificial platform. And the platform was decked with valuable articles and with Brahmanas. And it was full of precious things and paddy. And the Ritwika sat upon it at ease. And after the sacrificial platform had been thus constructed according to rule and as desired, they installed the king at the snake-sacrifice for the attainment of its object. And before the commencement of the snake-Sacrifice that was to come, there occurred this very important incident foreboding obstruction to the sacrifice. For when the sacrificial platform was being constructed, a professional builder of great intelligence and well-versed in the knowledge of laying foundations, a Suta by caste, well-acquainted with the Puranas, said, 'The soil upon which and the time at which the measurement for the sacrificial platform has been made, indicate that this sacrifice will not be completed, a Brahmana becoming the reason thereof.' Hearing this, the king, before his installation, gave orders to his gate-keepers not to admit anybody without his knowledge."
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'The snake-sacrifice then commenced according to due form. And the sacrificial priests, competent in their respective duties according to the ordinance, clad in black garments and their eyes red from contact with smoke, poured clarified butter into the blazing fire, uttering the appropriate mantras. And causing the hearts of all the snakes to tremble with fear, they poured clarified butter into the mouth of Agni uttering the names of the snakes. And the snakes thereupon began to fall into the blazing fire, benumbed and piteously calling upon one another. And swollen and breathing hard, and twining each other with their heads and tails, they came in large numbers and fell into the fire. The white, the black, the blue, the old and the young—all fell alike into the fire, uttering various cries. Those measuring a krosa, and those measuring a yojana, and those of the measure of a gokarna, fell continuously with great violence into that first of all fires. And hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of snakes, deprived of all control over their limbs, perished on that occasion. And amongst those that perished, there were some that were like horses, other like trunks of elephants, and others of huge bodies and strength like maddened elephants Of various colours and virulent poison, terrible and looking like maces furnished with iron-spikes, of great strength, ever inclined to bite, the snakes, afflicted with their mother's curse, fell into the fire.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Saunaka asked, 'What great Rishis became the Ritwiks at the snake-sacrifice of the wise king Janamejaya of the Pandava line? Who also became the Sadasyas in that terrible snake-sacrifice, so frightful to the snakes, and begetting such sorrow in them? It behoveth thee to describe all these in detail, so that, O son of Suta, we may know who were acquainted with the rituals of the snake-sacrifice.'
"Sauti replied, 'I will recite the names of those wise ones who became the monarch's Ritwiks and Sadasyas. The Brahmana Chandabhargava became the Hotri in that sacrifice. He was of great reputation, and was born in the race of Chyavana and was the foremost of those acquainted with the Vedas. The learned old Brahmana, Kautsa, became the Udgatri, the chanter of the Vedic hymns. Jaimini became the Brahmana, and Sarngarva and Pingala the Adhvaryus, Vyasa with his son and disciples, and Uddalaka, Pramataka, Swetaketu, Pingala, Asita, Devala, Narada, Parvata, Atreya, Kundajathara, the Brahmana Kalaghata, Vatsya, old Srutasravas ever engaged in japa and the study of the Vedas. Kohala Devasarman, Maudgalya, Samasaurava, and many other Brahmanas who had got through the Vedas became the Sadasyas at that sacrifice of the son of Parikshit.
"When the Ritwiks in that snake-sacrifice began to pour clarified butter into the fire, terrible snakes, striking fear into every creature, began to fall into it. And the fat and the marrow of the snakes thus falling into the fire began to flow in rivers. And the atmosphere was filled with an insufferable stench owing to the incessant burning of the snakes. And incessant also were the cries of the snakes fallen into the fire and those in the air about to fall into it.
'Meanwhile, Takshaka, that prince of snakes, as soon as he heard that king Janamejaya was engaged in the sacrifice, went to the palace of Purandara (Indra). And that best of snakes, having represented all that had taken place, sought in terror the protection of Indra after having acknowledged his fault. And Indra, gratified, told him, 'O prince of snakes, O Takshaka, here thou hast no fear from that snake-sacrifice. The Grandsire was pacified by me for thy sake. Therefore, thou hast no fear. Let this fear of thy heart be allayed.'
Sauti continued, 'Thus encouraged by him, that best of snakes began to dwell in Indra's abode in joy and happiness. But Vasuki, seeing that the snakes were incessantly falling into the fire and that his family was reduced to only a few, became exceedingly sorry. And the king of the snakes was afflicted with great grief, and his heart was about to break. And summoning his sister, he spake unto her, saying, 'O amiable one, my limbs are burning and I no longer see the points of the heavens. I am about to fall down from loss of consciousness. My mind is turning, my sight is falling and my heart is breaking. Benumbed, I may fall today into that blazing fire! This sacrifice of the son of Parikshit is for the extermination of our race. It is evident I also shall have to go to the abode of the king of the dead. The time is come, O my sister, on account of which thou wert bestowed by me on Jaratkaru to protect us with our relatives. O best of the women of the snake race, Astika will put an end to the sacrifice that is going on. The Grandsire told me this of old. Therefore, O child, solicit thy dear son who is fully conversant with the Vedas and regarded even by the old, for the protection of myself and also of those dependent on me."'
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'Then the snake-dame Jaratkaru, calling her own son, told him the following words according to the directions of Vasuki, the king of the snakes. 'O son, the time is come for the accomplishment of that object for which I was bestowed on thy father by my brother. Therefore, do thou that which should be done.'
"Astika asked, 'Why wert thou, O mother, bestowed on my father by my uncle? Tell me all truly so that on hearing it, I may do what is proper.'
"Then Jaratkaru, the sister of the king of the snakes, herself unmoved by the general distress, and even desirous of the welfare of her relatives, said unto him, 'O son, it is said that the mother of all the snakes is Kadru. Know thou why she cursed in anger her sons.' Addressing the snakes she said, 'As ye have refused to falsely represent Uchchaihsravas, the prince of horses, for bringing about Vinata's bondage according to the wager, therefore, shall he whose charioteer is Vayu burn you all in Janamejaya's sacrifice. And perishing in that sacrifice, ye shall go to the region of the unredeemed spirits.' The Grandsire of all the worlds spake unto her while uttering this curse, 'Be it so,' and thus approved of her speech. Vasuki, having heard that curse and then the words of the Grandsire, sought the protection of the gods, O child, on the occasion when the amrita was being churned for. And the gods, their object fulfilled, for they had obtained the excellent amrita, with Vasuki ahead, approached the Grandsire. And all the gods, with king Vasuki, sought to incline Him who was born of the lotus to be propitious, so that the curse might be made abortive.'
"And the gods said, 'O Lord, Vasuki, the king of the snakes, is sorry on account of his relatives. How may his mother's curse prove abortive?'
"Brahman thereupon replied, saying, 'Jaratkaru will take unto himself a wife of the name of Jaratkaru; the Brahmana born of her will relieve the snakes.'
"Vasuki, the best of snakes, hearing those words, bestowed me, O thou of godlike looks, on thy high-souled father some time before the commencement of the sacrifice. And from that marriage thou art born of me. That time has come. It behoveth thee to protect us from this danger. It behoveth thee to protect my brother and myself from the fire, so that the object, viz., our relief, for which I was bestowed on thy wise father, may not be unfulfilled. What dost thou think, O son?'
"Sauti continued, 'Thus addressed, Astika said unto his mother, 'Yes, I will.' And he then addressed the afflicted Vasuki, and as if infusing life into him, said, 'O Vasuki, thou best of snakes, thou great being, truly do I say, I shall relieve thee from that curse. Be easy, O snake! There is no fear any longer. I shall strive earnestly so that good may come! Nobody hath ever said that my speech, even in jest, hath proved false. Hence on serious occasions like this, I need not say anything more, O uncle, going thither today I shall gratify, with words mixed with blessings, the monarch Janamejaya installed at the sacrifice, so that, O excellent one, the sacrifice may stop. O highminded one, O king of the snakes, believe all that I say. Believe me, my resolve can never be unfulfilled.'
"And Vasuki then said, 'O Astika, my head swims and my heart breaks. I cannot discern the points of the earth, as I am afflicted with a mother's curse.'
"And Astika said, 'Thou best of snakes, it behoveth thee not to grieve any longer. I shall dispel this fear of thine from the blazing fire. This terrible punishment, capable of burning like the fire at the end of the Yuga, I shall extinguish. Nurse not thy fear any longer.'
"Sauti continued, 'Then that best of Brahmanas, Astika, quelling the terrible fear of the Vasuki's heart, and taking it, as it were, on himself, wended, for the relief of the king of the snakes, with speed to Janamejaya's sacrifice blessed with every merit. And Astika having gone thither, beheld the excellent sacrificial compound with numerous Sadasyas on it whose splendour was like unto that of the Sun or Agni. But that best of Brahmanas was refused admittance by the door-keepers. And the mighty ascetic gratified them, being desirous of entering the sacrificial compound. And that best of Brahmanas, that foremost of all virtuous men, having entered the excellent sacrificial compound, began to adore the king of infinite achievements, Ritwiks, the Sadasyas, and also the sacred fire.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Astika said, 'Soma and Varuna and Prajapati performed sacrifices of old in Prayaga. But thy sacrifice, O foremost one of Bharata's race, O son of Parikshit, is not inferior to any of those. Let those dear unto us be blessed! Sakra performed a hundred sacrifices. But this sacrifice of thine, O foremost one of Bharata's race, O son of Parikshit, is fully equal to ten thousand sacrifices of Sakra. Let those dear unto us be blessed! Like the sacrifice of Yama, of Harimedha, or of king Rantideva, is the sacrifice of thine, O foremost one of Bharata's race, O son of Parikshit. Let those dear unto us be blessed! Like the sacrifice of Maya, of king Sasavindu, or of king Vaisravana, is this sacrifice of thine, O foremost one of Bharata's race, O son of Satyavati, in which he himself was the chief priest, is this sacrifice of Nriga, of Ajamida, of the son of Dasaratha, is this sacrifice of thine, O foremost one of Bharata's race, O son of Parikshit. Let those dear unto us be blessed! Like the sacrifice of king Yudhishthira, the son of a god and belonging to Ajamida race, heard of (even) in the heavens, is this sacrifice of thine. O foremost one of Bharata's race, O son of Parikshit, let those dear unto us be blessed! Like the sacrifice of Krishna (Dwaipayana), the son of Satyavati, in which he himself was the chief priest, is this sacrifice of thine, O foremost one of Bharata's race, O son of Parikshit Let those dear unto us be blessed! These (Ritwiks and Sadasyas) that are here engaged in making thy sacrifice, like unto that of the slayer of Vritra, are of splendour equal to that of the sun. There now remains nothing for them to know, and gifts made to them become inexhaustible (in merit). It is my conviction that there is no Ritwik in all the worlds who is equal to thy Ritwik, Dwaipayana. His disciples, becoming Ritwiks, competent for their duties, travel over the earth. The high-souled bearer of libation (viz., Agni), called also Vibhavasu and Chitrabhanu, having gold for his vital seed and having his path, marked by black smoke, blazing up with flames inclined to the right, beareth these thy libations of clarified butter to the gods. In this world of men there is no other monarch equal to thee in the protection of subjects. I am ever well-pleased with thy abstinence. Indeed, thou art either Varuna, or Yama, the god of Justice. Like Sakra himself, thunderbolt in hand, thou art, in this world, the protector of all creatures. In this earth there is no man so great as thou and no monarch who is thy equal in sacrifice. Thou art like Khatwanga, Nabhaga, and Dilipa. In prowess thou art like Yayati and Mandhatri. In splendour equal to the sun, and of excellent vows, thou art O monarch, like Bhishma! Like Valmiki thou art of energy concealed. Like Vasishtha thou hast controlled thy wrath. Like Indra is thy lordship. Thy splendour also shines like that of Narayana. Like Yama art thou conversant with the dispensation of justice. Thou art like Krishna adorned with every virtue. Thou art the home of the good fortune that belongs to the Vasus. Thou art also the refuge of the sacrifices. In strength thou art equal to Damvodbhava. Like Rama (the son of Jamadagni) thou art conversant with the scriptures and arms. In energy thou art equal to Aurva and Trita. Thou inspirest terror by thy looks like Bhagiratha.'
"Sauti said, 'Astika, having thus adored them, gratified them all, viz., the king, the Sadasyas, the Ritwiks and the sacrificial fire. And king Janamejaya beholding the signs and indications manifested all around, addressed them as follows.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
Janamejaya said, 'Though this one is but a boy, he speaks yet like a wise old man. He is not a boy but one wise and old. I think, I desire to bestow on him a boon. Therefore, ye Brahmanas, give me the necessary permission.'
"The Sadasyas said, 'A Brahmana, though a boy, deserves the respect of kings. The learned ones do more so. This boy deserves every desire of his being fulfilled by thee, but not before Takshaka comes with speed.'
"Sauti continued, 'The king, being inclined to grant the Brahmana a boon, said 'Ask thou a boon.' The Hotri, however, being rather displeased, said, 'Takshaka hath not come as yet into this sacrifice.'
"Janamejaya replied, 'Exert ye to the best of your might, so that this sacrifice of mine may attain completion, and Takshaka also may soon come here. He is my enemy.'
"The Ritwiks replied, 'As the scriptures declare unto us, and as the fire also saith, O monarch, (it seems that) Takshaka is now staying in the abode of Indra, afflicted with fear.'
"Sauti continued, 'The illustrious Suta named Lohitaksha also, conversant with the Puranas, had said so before.
"Asked by the king on the present occasion he again told the monarch, 'Sire, it is even so as the Brahmanas have said—Knowing the Puranas, I say, O monarch, that Indra hath granted him this boon, saying, 'Dwell with me in concealment, and Agni shall not burn thee.'
'Sauti continued, 'Hearing this, the king installed in the sacrifice became very sorry and urged the Hotri to do his duty. And as the Hotri, with mantras, began to pour clarified butter into the fire Indra himself appeared on the scene. And the illustrious one came in his car, adorned by all the gods standing around, followed by masses of clouds, celestial singers, and the several bevies of celestial dancing girls. And Takshaka anxious with fear, hid himself in the upper garment of Indra and was not visible. Then the king in his anger again said unto his mantra-knowing Brahmanas these words, bent upon the destruction of Takshaka, 'If the snake Takshaka be in the abode of Indra, cast him into the fire with Indra himself.'
'Sauti continued, 'Urged thus by the king Janamejaya about Takshaka, the Hotri poured libations, naming that snake then staying there. And even as the libations were poured, Takshaka, with Purandara himself, anxious and afflicted, became visible in a moment in the skies. Then Purandara, seeing that sacrifice, became much alarmed, and quickly casting Takshaka off, went back to his own abode. After Indra had gone away, Takshaka, the prince of snakes, insensible with fear, was by virtue of the mantras, brought near enough the flames of the sacrificial fire.'
"The Ritwiks then said, 'O king of kings, the sacrifice of thine is being performed duly. It behoveth thee, O Lord, to grant a boon now to this first of Brahmanas.'
"Janamejaya then said, 'Thou immeasurable one of such handsome and child-like features, I desire to grant thee a worthy boon. Therefore, ask thou that which thou desirest in thy heart. I promise thee, that I will grant it even if it be ungrantable.'
'The Ritwiks said, 'O monarch, behold, Takshaka is soon coming under thy control! His terrible cries, and loud roar is being heard. Assuredly, the snake hath been forsaken by the wielder of thunder. His body being disabled by your mantras, he is falling from heaven. Even now, rolling in the skies, and deprived of consciousness, the prince of snakes cometh, breathing loudly.'
'Sauti continued, 'While Takshaka, the prince of snakes was about to fall into the sacrificial fire, during those few moments Astika spoke as follows, 'O Janamejaya, if thou wouldst grant me a boon, let this sacrifice of thine come to an end and let no more snakes fall into the fire.'
'O Brahmana, the son of Parikshit, being thus addressed by Astika, became exceedingly sorry and replied unto Astika thus, 'O illustrious one, gold, silver, kine, whatever other possessions thou desirest I shall give unto thee. But let not my sacrifice come to an end.'
"Astika thereupon replied, 'Gold, silver or kine, I do not ask of thee, O monarch! But let thy sacrifice be ended so that my maternal relations be relieved.'
"Sauti continued, 'The son of Parikshit, being thus addressed by Astika, repeatedly said this unto that foremost of speakers, 'Best of the Brahmanas, ask some other boon. O, blessed be thou!' But, O thou of Bhrigu's race, he did not beg any other boon. Then all the Sadasyas conversant with the Vedas told the king in one voice, 'Let the Brahmana receive his boon!'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Saunaka said, 'O son of a Suta, I desire to hear the names of all those snakes that fell into the fire of this snake-sacrifice!'
"Sauti replied, 'Many thousands and tens of thousands and billions of snakes fell into the fire. O most excellent Brahmana, so great is the number that I am unable to count them all. So far, however, as I remember, hear the names I mention of the principal snakes cast into the fire. Hear first the names of the principal ones of Vasuki's race alone, of colour blue, red and white of terrible form and huge body and deadly poison. Helpless and miserable and afflicted with their mother's curse, they fell into the sacrificial fire like libations of butter.
"Kotisa, Manasa, Purna, Cala, Pala Halmaka, Pichchala, Kaunapa, Cakra, Kalavega, Prakalana, Hiranyavahu, Carana, Kakshaka, Kaladantaka—these snakes born of Vasuki, fell into the fire. And, O Brahmana, numerous other snakes well-born, and of terrible form and great strength, were burnt in the blazing fire. I shall now mention those born in the race of Takshaka. Hear thou their names. Puchchandaka, Mandalaka, Pindasektri, Ravenaka; Uchochikha, Carava, Bhangas, Vilwatejas, Virohana; Sili, Salakara, Muka, Sukumara, Pravepana, Mudgara and Sisuroman, Suroman and Mahahanu. These snakes born of Takshaka fell into the fire. And Paravata, Parijata, Pandara, Harina, Krisa, Vihanga, Sarabha, Meda, Pramoda, Sauhatapana—these born in the race of Airavata fell into the fire. Now hear, O best of Brahmanas, the names of the snakes I mention born in the race of Kauravya: Eraka, Kundala Veni, Veniskandha, Kumaraka, Vahuka, Sringavera, Dhurtaka, Pratara and Astaka. There born in the race of Kauravya fell into the fire. Now hear the names I mention, in order, of those snakes endued with the speed of the wind and with virulent poison, born in the race of Dhritarashtra: Sankukarna, Pitharaka, Kuthara, Sukhana, and Shechaka; Purnangada, Purnamukha, Prahasa, Sakuni, Dari, Amahatha, Kumathaka, Sushena, Vyaya, Bhairava, Mundavedanga, Pisanga, Udraparaka, Rishabha, Vegavat, Pindaraka; Raktanga, Sarvasaranga, Samriddha, Patha and Vasaka; Varahaka, Viranaka, Suchitra, Chitravegika, Parasara, Tarunaka, Maniskandha and Aruni.
"O Brahmana, thus I have recited the names of the principal snakes known widely for their achievements—I have not been able to name all, the number being countless. The sons of these snakes, the sons of those sons, that were burnt having fallen into the fire, I am unable to mention. They are so many! Some of three heads, some of seven, others of ten, of poison like unto the fire at the end of the yuga and terrible in form,—they were burnt by thousands!
"Many others, of huge bodies, of great speed, tall as mountain summits, of the length of a yama, of a yojana, and of two yojanas, capable of assuming at will any form and of mastering at will any degree of strength, of poison like unto blazing fire, afflicted by the curse of a mother, were burnt in that great 'sacrifice.'"
(Astika Parva, continued)
"Sauti said, 'Listen now to another very wonderful incident in connection with Astika. When king Janamejaya was about to gratify Astika by granting the boon, the snake (Takshaka), thrown off Indra's hands, remained in mid air without actually falling. King Janamejaya thereupon became curious, for Takshaka, afflicted with fear, did not at once fall into the fire although libations were poured in proper form into the blazing sacrificial Agni in his name.'
"Saunaka said, 'Was it, O Suta, that the mantras of those wise Brahmanas were not potent; since Takshaka did not fall into the fire?'
"Sauti replied, 'Unto the unconscious Takshaka, that best of snakes, after he had been cast off Indra's hands, Astika had thrice said, 'Stay,' 'Stay,' 'Stay.' And he succeeded in staying in the skies, with afflicted heart, like a person somehow staying between the welkin and the earth.
"The king then, on being repeatedly urged by his Sadasyas, said, 'Let it be done as Astika hath said. Let the sacrifice be ended, let the snakes be safe, let this Astika also be gratified, O Suta, thy words also be true.' When the boon was granted to Astika, plaudits expressive of joy rang through the air. Thus the sacrifice of the son of Parikshit—that king of the Pandava race—came to an end. The king Janamejaya of the Bharata race was himself pleased, and on the Ritwiks with the Sadasyas, and on all who had come there, the king, bestowed money by hundreds and thousands. And unto Suta Lohitaksha—conversant with the rules of building and foundations—who had at the commencement said that a Brahmana would be the cause of the interruption of the snake-sacrifice, the king gave much wealth. The king, of uncommon kindness, also gave him various things, with food and wearing apparel, according to his desire, and became very much pleased. Then he concluded his sacrifice according to the prescribed rites, and after treating him with every respect, the king in joy sent home the wise Astika exceedingly gratified, for he had attained his object. And the king said unto him, 'Thou must come again to become a Sadasya in my great Horse-sacrifice.' And Astika said, 'yes' and then returned home in great joy, having achieved his great end after gratifying the monarch. And returning in joy to his uncle and mother and touching their feet, he recounted to them everything as it had happened.'
"Sauti continued, 'Hearing all he had said, the snakes that had come thither became very much delighted, and their fears were allayed. They were much pleased with Astika and asked him to solicit a boon, saying, 'O learned one, what good shall we do unto thee? We have been very much gratified, having been all saved by thee. What shall we accomplish for thee, O child!'
"Astika said, 'Let those Brahmanas, and other men, who shall, in the morning or in the evening, cheerfully and with attention, read the sacred account of this my act, have no fear from any of you.' And the snakes in joy thereupon said, 'O nephew, in the nature of thy boon, let it be exactly as thou sayest. That which thou askest we all shall cheerfully do, O nephew! And those also that call to mind Astika, Artiman and Sunitha, in the day or in the night, shall have no fear of snakes. He again shall have no fear of snakes who will say, 'I call to mind the famous Astika born of Jaratkaru, that Astika who saved the snakes from the snake-sacrifice. Therefore, ye snakes of great good fortune, it behoveth you not to bite me. But go ye away, blessed be ye, or go away thou snake of virulent poison, and remember the words of Astika after the snake sacrifice of Janamejaya. That snake who does not cease from biting after hearing such mention of Astika, shall have his hood divided a hundredfold like the fruit of Sinsa tree.'
"Sauti continued, 'That first of Brahmanas, thus addressed by the foremost of the chief snakes assembled together, was very much gratified. And the high-souled one then set his heart upon going away.
"And that best of Brahmanas, having saved the snakes from the snake-sacrifice, ascended to heaven when his time came, leaving sons and grandsons behind him.
'Thus have I recited to thee this history of Astika exactly as it happened. Indeed, the recitation of this history dispelleth all fear of snakes'
'Sauti continued, 'O Brahmanas, O foremost one of Bhrigu's race, as thy ancestor Pramati had cheerfully narrated unto his inquiring son Ruru, and as I had heard it, thus have I recited this blessed history, from the beginning, of the learned Astika. And, O Brahmana, O oppressor of all enemies, having heard this holy history of Astika that increaseth virtue, and which thou hadst asked me about after hearing the story of the Dundubha, let thy ardent curiosity be satisfied.'"
"Saunaka said, 'O son, thou hast narrated to me this extensive and great history commencing from the progeny of Bhrigu. O son of Suta, I have been much gratified with thee. I ask thee again, to recite to me, O son of a Suta, the history composed by Vyasa. The varied and wonderful narrations that were recited amongst those illustrious Sadasyas assembled at the sacrifice, in the intervals of their duties of that long-extending ceremony, and the objects also of those narrations, I desire to hear from thee, O son of a Suta! Recite therefore, all those to me fully.'
'Sauti said, 'The Brahmanas, in the intervals of the duties, spoke of many things founded upon the Vedas. But Vyasa recited the wonderful and great history called the Bharata.'
"Saunaka said, 'That sacred history called the Mahabharata, spreading the fame of the Pandavas, which Krishna-Dwaipayana, asked by Janamejaya, caused to be duly recited after the completion of the sacrifice. I desire to hear duly. That history hath been born of the ocean-like mind of the great Rishi of soul purified by yoga. Thou foremost of good men, recite it unto me, for, O son of a Suta, my thirst hath not been appeased by all thou hast said.'
'Sauti said, 'I shall recite to thee from the beginning of that great and excellent history called the Mahabharata composed by Vyasa. O Brahmana, listen to it in full, as I recite it. I myself feel a great pleasure in reciting it.'"
(Adivansavatarana Parva continued)
'Sauti said, 'Hearing that Janamejaya was installed in the snake-sacrifice, the learned Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana went thither on the occasion. And he, the grand-father of the Pandavas, was born in an island of the Yamuna, of the virgin Kali by Sakti's son, Parasara. And the illustrious one developed by his will alone his body as soon as he was born, and mastered the Vedas with their branches, and all the histories. And he readily obtained that which no one could obtain by asceticism, by the study of the Vedas, by vows, by fasts, by progeny, and by sacrifice. And the first of Veda-knowing ones, he divided the Vedas into four parts. And the Brahmana Rishi had knowledge of the supreme Brahma, knew the past by intuition, was holy, and cherished truth. Of sacred deeds and great fame, he begot Pandu and Dhritarashtra and Vidura in order to continue the line of Santanu.
"And the high-souled Rishi, with his disciples all conversant with the Vedas and their branches, entered the sacrificial pavilion of the royal sage, Janamejaya. And he saw that the king Janamejaya was seated in the sacrificial region like the god Indra, surrounded by numerous Sadasyas, by kings of various countries whose coronal locks had undergone the sacred bath, and by competent Ritwiks like unto Brahman himself. And that foremost one of Bharata's race, the royal sage Janamejaya, beholding the Rishi come, advanced quickly with his followers and relatives in great joy. And the king with the approval of his Sadasyas, gave the Rishi a golden seat as Indra did to Vrihaspati. And when the Rishi, capable of granting boons and adored by the celestial Rishis themselves, had been seated, the king of kings worshipped him according to the rites of the scriptures. And the king then offered him—his grandfather Krishna—who fully deserved them, water to wash his feet and mouth, and the Arghya, and kine. And accepting those offerings from the Pandava Janamejaya and ordering the kine also not to be slain, Vyasa became much gratified. And the king, after those adorations bowed to his great-grandfather, and sitting in joy asked him about his welfare. And the illustrious Rishi also, casting his eyes upon him and asking him about his welfare, worshipped the Sadasyas, having been before worshipped by them all. And after all this, Janamejaya with all his Sadasyas, questioned that first of Brahmanas, with joined palms as follows:
'O Brahmana, thou hast seen with thy own eyes the acts of the Kurus and the Pandavas. I am desirous of hearing thee recite their history. What was the cause of the disunion amongst them that was fruitful of such extraordinary deeds? Why also did that great battle, which caused the death of countless creatures occur between all my grandfathers—their clear sense over-clouded by fate? O excellent Brahmana, tell me all this in full as everything had happened.'
"Hearing those words of Janamejaya, Krishna-Dwaipayana directed his disciple Vaisampayana seated by his side, saying, 'The discord that happened between the Kurus and the Pandavas of old, narrate all to the king even as thou hast heard from me.'
"Then that blessed Brahmana, at the command of his preceptor recited the whole of that history unto the king, the Sadasyas, and all the chieftains there assembled. And he told them all about the hostility and the utter extinction of the Kurus and the Pandavas.'"
(Adivansavatarana Parva continued)
"Vaisampayana said, 'Bowing down in the first place to my preceptor with the eight parts of my body touching the ground, with devotion and reverence, and with all my heart, worshipping the whole assembly of Brahmanas and other learned persons, I shall recite in full what I have heard from the high-souled and great Rishi Vyasa, the first of intelligent men in the three worlds. And having got it within thy reach, O monarch, thou also art a fit person to hear the composition called Bharata. Encouraged by the command of my preceptor my heart feeleth no fear.
"Hear, O monarch, why that disunion occurred between the Kurus and the Pandavas, and why also that exile into the woods immediately proceeding from the game at dice prompted by the desire (of the Kurus) for rule. I shall relate all to thee who askest it thou best of the Bharata race!
"On the death of their father those heroes (the Pandavas) came to their own home. And within a short time they became well-versed in archery. And the Kurus beholding the Pandavas gifted with physical strength, energy, and power of mind, popular also with the citizens, and blessed with good fortune, became very jealous. Then the crookedminded Duryodhana, and Karna, with (the former's uncle) the son of Suvala began to persecute them and devise means for their exile. Then the wicked Duryodhana, guided by the counsels of Sakuni (his maternal uncle), persecuted the Pandavas in various ways for the acquirement of undisputed sovereignty. The wicked son of Dhritarashtra gave poison to Bhima, but Bhima of the stomach of the wolf digested the poison with the food. Then the wretch again tied the sleeping Bhima on the margin of the Ganges and, casting him into the water, went away. But when Bhimasena of strong arms, the son of Kunti woke, he tore the strings with which he had been tied and came up, his pains all gone. And while asleep and in the water black snakes of virulent poison bit him in every part of his body. But that slayer of foes did not still perish. And in all those persecutions of the Pandavas by their cousins, the Kurus, the high-minded Vidura attentively engaged himself neutralising those evil designs and rescuing the persecuted ones. And as Sakra from the heavens keeps in happiness the world of men, so did Vidura always keep the Pandavas from evil.
"When Duryodhana, with various means, both secret and open, found himself incapable of destroying the Pandavas who were protected by the fates and kept alive for grave future purposes (such as the extermination of the Kuru race), then called together his counsellors consisting of Vrisha (Karna), Duhsasana and others, and with the knowledge of Dhritarashtra caused a house of lac to be constructed. And king Dhritarashtra, from affection for his children, and prompted by the desire of sovereignty, sent the Pandavas tactfully into Varanavata. And the Pandavas then went away with their mother from Hastinapura. And when they were leaving the city, Vidura gave them some idea of impending danger and how they could come out of it.
'The sons of Kunti reached the town of Varanavata and lived there with their mother. And, agreeably to the command of Dhritarashtra, those illustrious slayers of all enemies lived in the palace of lac, while in that town. And they lived in that place for one year, protecting themselves from Purochana very wakefully. And causing a subterranean passage to be constructed, acting according to the directions of Vidura, they set fire to that house of lac and burnt Purochana (their enemy and the spy of Duryodhana) to death. Those slayers of all enemies, anxious with fear, then fled with their mother. In the woods beside a fountain they saw a Rakshasa. But, alarmed at the risk they ran of exposure by such an act the Pandavas fled in the darkness, out of fear from the sons of Dhritarashtra. It was here that Bhima gained Hidimva (the sister of the Rakshasa he slew) for a wife, and it was of her that Ghatotkacha was born. Then the Pandavas, of rigid vows, and conversant with the Vedas wended to a town of the name of Ekachakra and dwelt there in the guise of Brahmacharins. And those bulls among men dwelt in that town in the house of a Brahmana for some time, with temperance and abstinence. And it was here that Bhima of mighty arms came upon a hungry and mighty and man-eating Rakshasa of the name of Vaka. And Bhima, the son of Pandu, that tiger among men, slew him speedily with the strength of his arms and made the citizens safe and free from fear. Then they heard of Krishna (the princess of Panchala) having become disposed to select a husband from among the assembled princes. And, hearing of it, they went to Panchala, and there they obtained the maiden. And having obtained Draupadi (as their common wife) they then dwelt there for a year. And after they became known, those chastisers of all enemies went back to Hastinapura. And they were then told by king Dhritarashtra and the son of Santanu (Bhishma) as follows: 'In order, O dear ones, dissensions may not take place between you and your cousins, we have settled that Khandavaprastha should be your abode. Therefore, go ye, casting off all jealousy, to Khandavaprastha which contains many towns served by many broad roads, for dwelling there.' And accordingly the Pandavas went, with all their friends and followers, to Khandavaprastha taking with them many jewels and precious stones. And the sons of Pritha dwelt there for many years. And they brought, by force of arms, many a prince under their subjection. And thus, setting their hearts on virtue and firmly adhering to truth, unruffled by affluence, calm in deportment, and putting down numerous evils, the Pandavas gradually rose to power. And Bhima of great reputation subjugated the East, the heroic Arjuna, the North, Nakula, the West; Sahadeva that slayer of all hostile heroes, the South. And this having been done, their domination was spread over the whole world. And with the five Pandavas, each like unto the Sun, the Earth looked as if she had six Suns.
"Then, for some reason, Yudhishthira the just, gifted with great energy and prowess, sent his brother Arjuna who was capable of drawing the bow with the left hand, dearer unto him than life itself, into the woods. And Arjuna, that tiger among men, of firm soul, and gifted with every virtue, lived in the woods for eleven years and months. And during this period, on a certain occasion, Arjuna went to Krishna in Dwaravati. And Vibhatsu (Arjuna) there obtained for a wife the lotus-eyed and sweet-speeched younger sister of Vasudeva, Subhadra by name. And she became united, in gladness, with Arjuna, the son of Pandu, like Sachi with the great Indra, or Sri with Krishna himself. And then, O best of monarchs, Arjuna, the son of Kunti, with Vasudeva, gratified Agni; the carrier of the sacrificial butter, in the forest of Khandava (by burning the medicinal plants in that woods to cure Agni of his indigestion). And to Arjuna, assisted as he was by Kesava, the task did not at all appear heavy even as nothing is heavy to Vishnu with immense design and resources in the matter of destroying his enemies. And Agni gave unto the son of Pritha the excellent bow Gandiva and a quiver that was inexhaustible, and a war-chariot bearing the figure of Garuda on its standard. And it was on this occasion that Arjuna relieved the great Asura (Maya) from fear (of being consumed in the fire). And Maya, in gratitude, built (for the Pandavas) a celestial palace decked with every sort of jewels and precious stones. And the wicked Duryodhana, beholding that building, was tempted with the desire of possessing it. And deceiving Yudhishthira by means of the dice played through the hands of the son of Suvala, Duryodhana sent the Pandavas into the woods for twelve years and one additional year to be passed in concealment, thus making the period full thirteen.
"And the fourteenth year, O monarch, when the Pandavas returned and claimed their property, they did not obtain it. And thereupon war was declared, and the Pandavas, after exterminating the whole race of Kshatriyas and slaying king Duryodhana, obtained back their devastated kingdom.
"This is the history of the Pandavas who never acted under the influence of evil passions; and this the account, O first of victorious monarchs of the disunion that ended in the loss of their kingdom by the Kurus and the victory of the Pandavas.'"
(Adivansavatarana Parva continued)
"Janamejaya said, 'O excellent Brahmana, thou hast, indeed, told me, in brief, the history, called Mahabharata, of the great acts of the Kurus. But, O thou of ascetic wealth, recite now that wonderful narration fully. I feel a great curiosity to hear it. It behoveth thee to recite it, therefore, in full. I am not satisfied with hearing in a nutshell the great history. That could never have been a trifling cause for which the virtuous ones could slay those whom they should not have slain, and for which they are yet applauded by men. Why also did those tigers among men, innocent and capable of avenging themselves upon their enemies, calmly suffer the persecution of the wicked Kurus? Why also, O best of Brahmanas, did Bhima of mighty arms and of the strength of ten thousand elephants, control his anger, though wronged? Why also did the chaste Krishna, the daughter of Drupada, wronged by those wretches and able to burn them, not burn the sons of Dhritarashtra with her wrathful eyes? Why also did the two other sons of Pritha (Bhima and Arjuna) and the two sons of Madri (Nakula and Sahadeva), themselves injured by the wretched Kurus, follow Yudhishthira who was greatly addicted to the evil habit of gambling? Why also did Yudhishthira, that foremost of all virtuous men, the son of Dharma himself, fully acquainted with all duties, suffer that excess of affliction? Why also did the Pandava Dhananjaya, having Krishna for his charioteer, who by his arrows sent to the other world that dauntless host of fighting men (suffer such persecution)? O thou of ascetic wealth, speak to me of all these as they took place, and everything that those mighty charioteers achieved.'
"Vaisampayana said, 'O monarch, appoint thou a time for hearing it. This history told by Krishna-Dwaipayana is very extensive. This is but the beginning. I shall recite it. I shall repeat the whole of the composition in full, of the illustrious and great Rishi Vyasa of immeasurable mental power, and worshipped in all the worlds. This Bharata consists of a hundred thousand sacred slokas composed by the son of Satyavati, of immeasurable mental power. He that reads it to others, and they that hear it read, attain to the world of Brahman and become equal to the very gods. This Bharata is equal unto the Vedas, is holy and excellent; is the worthiest of all to be listened to, and is a Purana worshipped by the Rishis. It contains much useful instruction on Artha and Kama (profit and pleasure). This sacred history maketh the heart desire for salvation. Learned persons by reciting this Veda of Krishna-Dwaipayana to those that are liberal, truthful and believing, earn much wealth. Sins, such as killing the embryo in the womb, are destroyed assuredly by this. A person, however cruel and sinful, by hearing this history, escapes from all his sins like the Sun from Rahu (after the eclipse is over). This history is called Jaya. It should be heard by those desirous of victory. A king by hearing it may bring the whole world under subjection and conquer all his foes. This history in itself is a mighty act of propitiation, a mighty sacrifice productive of blessed fruit. It should always be heard by a young monarch with his queen, for then they beget a heroic son or a daughter to occupy a throne. This history is the high and sacred science of Dharma, Artha, and also of Moksha; it hath been so said by Vyasa himself of mind that is immeasurable. This history is recited in the present age and will be recited in the future. They that hear it, read, have sons and servants always obedient to them and doing their behests. All sins that are committed by body, word, or mind, immediately leave them that hear this history. They who hear, without the spirit of fault finding, the story of the birth of the Bharata princes, can have no fear of maladies, let alone the fear of the other world.
"For extending the fame of the high-souled Pandavas and of other Kshatriyas versed in all branches of knowledge, high spirited, and already known in the world for their achievements, Krishna-Dwaipayana, guided also by the desire of doing good to the world, hath composed this work. It is excellent, productive of fame, grants length of life, is sacred and heavenly. He who, from desire of acquiring religious merit, causeth this history to be heard by sacred Brahmanas, acquireth great merit and virtue that is inexhaustible. He that reciteth the famous generation of the Kurus becometh immediately purified and acquireth a large family himself, and becometh respected in the world. That Brahmana who regularly studies this sacred Bharata for the four months of the rainy season, is cleansed from all his sins. He that has read the Bharata may be regarded as one acquainted with the Vedas.
"This work presents an account of the gods and royal sages and sacred regenerate Rishis, the sinless Kesava; the god of gods, Mahadeva and the goddess Parvati; the birth of Kartikeya who sprang from union of Parvati with Mahadeva and was reared by many mothers; the greatness of Brahmanas and of kine. This Bharata is a collection of all the Srutis, and is fit to be heard by every virtuous person. That learned man who reciteth it to Brahmanas during the sacred lunations, becometh cleansed of all sins, and, not caring for heaven as it were, attaineth to a union with Brahma. He that causeth even a single foot of this poem to be heard by Brahmanas during the performance of a Sraddha, maketh that Sraddha inexhaustible, the Pitris becoming ever gratified with the articles once presented to them. The sins that are committed daily by our senses or the mind, those that are committed knowingly or unknowingly by any man, are all destroyed by hearing the Mahabharata. The history of the exalted birth of the Bharata princes is called the Mahabharata. He who knoweth this etymology of the name is cleansed of all his sins. And as this history of the Bharata race is so wonderful, that, when recited, it assuredly purifieth mortals from all sins. The sage Krishna-Dwaipayana completed his work in three years. Rising daily and purifying himself and performing his ascetic devotions, he composed this Mahabharata. Therefore, this should be heard by Brahmanas with the formality of a vow. He who reciteth this holy narration composed by Krishna (Vyasa) for the hearing of others, and they who hear it, in whatever state he or they may be, can never be affected by the fruit of deeds, good or bad. The man desirous of acquiring virtue should hear it all. This is equivalent to all histories, and he that heareth it always attaineth to purity of heart. The gratification that one deriveth from attaining to heaven is scarcely equal to that which one deriveth from hearing this holy history. The virtuous man who with reverence heareth it or causeth it to be heard, obtaineth the fruit of the Rajasuya and the horse-sacrifice. The Bharata is said to be as much a mine of gems as the vast Ocean or the great mountain Meru. This history is sacred and excellent, and is equivalent to the Vedas, worthy of being heard, pleasing to the ear, sin-cleansing, and virtue-increasing. O monarch, he that giveth a copy of the Bharata to one that asketh for it doth indeed make a present of the whole earth with her belt of seas. O son of Parikshit, this pleasant narration that giveth virtue and victory I am about to recite in its entirety: listen to it. The sage Krishna-Dwaipayana regularly rising for three years, composed this wonderful history called Mahabharata. O bull amongst the Bharata monarchs, whatever is spoken about virtue, wealth, pleasure, and salvation may be seen elsewhere; but whatever is not contained in this is not to be found anywhere.'"