The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa
Kisari Mohan Ganguli (Translator)
Part 3 out of 11
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti continued, 'Garuda then said, 'O Purandara, let there be friendship
between thee and me as thou desirest. My strength, know thou, is hard to
bear. O thou of a thousand sacrifices, the good never approve of speaking
highly of their own strength, nor do they speak of their own merits. But
being made a friend, and asked by thee, O friend, I will answer thee,
although self-praise without reason is ever improper. I can bear, on a
single feather of mine, O Sakra, this Earth, with her mountains and
forests and with the waters of the ocean, and with thee also stationed
thereon. Know thou, my strength is such that I can bear without fatigue
even all the worlds put together, with their mobile and immobile objects.'
"Sauti continued, 'O Saunaka, after Garuda of great courage had thus
spoken, Indra the chief of the gods, the wearer of the (celestial) crown,
ever bent upon the good of the worlds, replied, saying, 'It is as thou
sayest. Everything is possible in thee. Accept now my sincere and hearty
friendship. And if thou hast no concern with the Soma, return it to me.
Those to whom thou wouldst give it would always oppose us.' Garuda
answered, 'There is a certain reason for which the Soma is being carried
by me. I shall not give the Soma to any one for drink. But, O thou of a
thousand eyes, after I have placed it down, thou, O lord of the heavens,
canst then, taking it up, instantly bring it away.' Indra then said, 'O
oviparous one, I am highly gratified with these words now spoken by thee.
O best of all rangers of the skies; accept from me any boon that thou
"Sauti continued, 'Then Garuda, recollecting the sons of Kadru and
remembering also the bondage of his mother caused by an act of deception
owing to the well-known reason (viz., the curse of Aruna), said, 'Although
I have power over all creatures, yet I shall do your bidding. Let, O Sakra,
the mighty snakes become my food.' The slayer of the Danavas having said
unto him, 'Be it so,' then went to Hari, the god of gods, of great soul,
and the lord of Yogins. And the latter sanctioned everything that had been
said by Garuda. And the illustrious lord of heaven again said unto Garuda,
'I shall bring away the Soma when thou placest it down.' And having said
so, he bade farewell to Garuda. And the bird of fair feathers then went to
the presence of his mother with great speed.
"And Garuda in joy then spake unto all the snakes, 'Here have I brought
the Amrita. Let me place it on some Kusa grass. O ye snakes, sitting here,
drink of it after ye have performed your ablutions and religious rites. As
said by you, let my mother become, from this day, free, for I have
accomplished your bidding.' The snakes having said unto Garuda, 'Be it
so,' then went to perform their ablutions. Meanwhile, Sakra taking up the
Amrita, wended back to heaven. The snakes after performing their ablutions,
their daily devotions, and other sacred rites, returned in joy, desirous
of drinking the Amrita. They saw that the bed of kusa grass whereon the
Amrita had been placed was empty, the Amrita itself having been taken away
by a counter-act of deception. And they began to lick with their tongues
the kusa grass, as the Amrita had been placed thereon. And the tongues of
the snakes by that act became divided in twain. And the kusa grass, too,
from the contact with Amrita, became sacred thenceforth. Thus did the
illustrious Garuda bring Amrita (from the heavens) for the snakes, and
thus were the tongues of snakes divided by what Garuda did.
"Then the bird of fair feathers, very much delighted, enjoyed himself in
those woods accompanied by his mother. Of grand achievements, and deeply
reverenced by all rangers of the skies, he gratified his mother by
devouring the snakes.
"That man who would listen to this story, or read it out to an assembly of
good Brahmanas, must surely go to heaven, acquiring great merit from the
recitation of (the feats of) Garuda.'"
And so ends the thirty-fourth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
(Astika Parva continued)
"Saunaka said, 'O son of Suta, thou hast told us the reason why the snakes
were cursed by their mother, and why Vinata also was cursed by her son.
Thou hast also told us about the bestowal of boons, by their husband, on
Kadru and Vinata. Thou hast likewise told us the names of Vinata's sons.
But thou hast not yet recited to us the names of the snakes. We are
anxious to hear the names of the principal ones.'
"Sauti said, O thou whose wealth is asceticism, from fear of being lengthy,
I shall not mention the names of all the snakes. But I will recite the
names of the chief ones. Listen to me!
"Sesha was born first, and then Vasuki. (Then were born) Airavata,
Takshaka, Karkotaka, Dhananjaya, Kalakeya, the serpent Mani, Purana,
Pinjaraka, and Elapatra, Vamana, Nila, Anila, Kalmasha, Savala, Aryaka,
Ugra, Kalasapotaka, Suramukha, Dadhimukha, Vimalapindaka, Apta, Karotaka,
Samkha, Valisikha, Nisthanaka, Hemaguha, Nahusha, Pingala, Vahyakarna,
Hastipada, Mudgarapindaka, Kamvala Aswatara, Kaliyaka, Vritta, Samvartaka,
Padma, Mahapadma, Sankhamukha, Kushmandaka, Kshemaka, Pindaraka, Karavira,
Pushpadanshtraka, Vilwaka, Vilwapandara, Mushikada, Sankhasiras,
Purnabhadra, Haridraka, Aparajita, Jyotika, Srivaha, Kauravya,
Dhritarashtra, Sankhapinda, Virajas, Suvahu, Salipinda, Prabhakara,
Hastipinda, Pitharaka, Sumuksha, Kaunapashana, Kuthara, Kunjara, Kumuda,
Kumudaksha, Tittri, Halika, Kardama, Vahumulaka, Karkara, Akarkara,
Kundodara, and Mahodara.
"Thus, O best of regenerate ones, have I said the names of the principal
serpents. From fear of being tedious I do not give names of the rest. O
thou whose wealth is asceticism, the sons of these snakes, with their
grandsons, are innumerable. Reflecting upon this, I shall not name them to
thee. O best ascetics, in this world the number of snakes baffles
calculation, there being many thousands and millions of them."
So ends the thirty-fifth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
(Astika Parva continued)
"Saunaka said, 'O child, thou hast named many of the serpents gifted with
great energy and incapable of being easily overcome. What did they do
after hearing of that curse?'
"Sauti said, 'The illustrious Sesha amongst them, of great renown, leaving
his mother practised hard penances, living upon air and rigidly observing
his vows. He practised these ascetic devotions, repairing to Gandhamadana,
Vadri, Gokarna, the woods of Pushkara, and the foot of Himavat. And he
passed his days in those sacred regions, some of which were sacred for
their water and others for their soil in the rigid observance of his vows,
with singleness of aim, and his passions under complete control. And the
Grandsire of all, Brahma, saw that ascetic with knotted hair, clad in rags,
and his flesh, skin, and sinews dried up owing to the hard penances he was
practising. And the Grandsire addressing him, that penance-practising one
of great fortitude, said, 'What is that thorn doest, O Sesha? Let the
welfare of the creatures of the worlds also engage thy thoughts. O sinless
one, thou art afflicting all creatures by thy hard penances. O Sesha, tell
me the desire implanted in thy breast.'
"And Sesha replied, 'My uterine brothers are all of wicked hearts. I do
not desire to live amongst them. Let this be sanctioned by thee. Like
enemies they are always jealous of one another. I am, therefore, engaged
in ascetic devotions. I will not see them even. They never show any
kindness for Vinata and her son. Indeed, Vinata's son capable of ranging
through the skies, is another brother of ours. They always envy him. And
he, too, is much stronger owing to the bestowal of that boon by our father,
the high-souled Kasyapa. For these, I engaged in ascetic penances, and I
will cast off this body of mine, so that I may avoid companionship with
them, even in another state of life.'
"Unto Sesha who had said so, the Grandsire said, 'O Sesha, I know the
behaviour of all thy brothers and their great danger owing to their
offence against their mother. But O Snake, a remedy (for this) hath been
provided by me even beforehand. It behoveth thee not to grieve for thy
brothers. O Sesha, ask of me the boon thou desirest. I have been highly
gratified with thee and I will grant thee today a boon. O best of snakes,
it is fortunate that thy heart hath been set on virtue. Let thy heart be
more and more firmly set on virtue.'
"Then Sesha replied, 'O divine Grandsire, this is the boon desired by me;
viz., may my heart always delight in virtue and in blessed ascetic
penances, O Lord of all!'
"Brahman said, 'O Sesha, I am exceedingly gratified with this thy self-
denial and love of peace. But, at my command, let this act be done by thee
for the good of my creatures. Bear thou, O Sesha, properly and well this
Earth so unsteady with her mountains and forests, her seas and towns and
retreats, so that she may be steady.'
"Sesha said, 'O divine Lord of all creatures, O bestower of boons, O lord
of the Earth, lord of every created thing, lord of the universe, I will,
even as thou sayest hold the Earth steady. Therefore, O lord of all
creatures, place her on my head.'
"Brahman said, 'O best of snakes, go underneath the Earth. She will
herself give thee a crevice to pass through. And, O Sesha, by holding the
Earth, thou shalt certainly do what is prized by me very greatly.'
"Sauti continued, 'Then the elder brother of the king of the snakes,
entering a hole, passed to the other side of the Earth, and holding her,
supported with his head that goddess with her belt of seas passing all
"Brahman said, 'O Sesha, O best of snakes, thou art the god Dharma,
because alone, with thy huge body, thou supportest the Earth with
everything on her, even as I myself, or Valavit (Indra), can.'
"Sauti continued, 'The snake, Sesha, the lord Ananta, of great prowess,
lives underneath the Earth, alone supporting the world at the command of
Brahman. And the illustrious Grandsire, the best of the immortals, then
gave unto Ananta the bird of fair feathers, viz., the son of Vinata, for
So ends the thirty-sixth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'That best of snakes, viz., Vasuki, hearing the curse of his
mother, reflected how to render it abortive. He held a consultation with
all his brothers, Airavata and others, intent upon doing what they deemed
best for themselves.'
"And Vasuki said, 'O ye sinless ones, the object of this curse is known to
you. It behoveth us to strive to neutralise it. Remedies certainly exist
for all curses, but no remedy can avail those cursed by their mother.
Hearing that this curse hath been uttered in the presence of the Immutable,
the Infinite, and the True one, my heart trembleth. Surely, our
annihilation hath come. Otherwise why should not the Immutable Lord
prevent our mother while uttering the curse? Therefore, let us consult
today how we may secure the safety of the snakes. Let us not waste time.
All of you are wise and discerning. We will consult together and find out
the means of deliverance as (did) the gods of yore to regain lost Agni who
had concealed himself within a cave, so that Janamejaya's sacrifice for
the destruction of the snakes may not take place, and so that we may not
meet with destruction.'
"Sauti continued, 'Thus addressed all the offspring of Kadru assembled
together, and, wise in counsels, submitted their opinions to one another.
One party of the serpents said, 'We should assume the guise of superior
Brahmanas, and beseech Janamejaya, saying, 'This (intended) sacrifice of
yours ought not to take place.' Other snakes thinking themselves wise,
said, 'We should all become his favourite counsellors. He will then
certainly ask for our advice in all projects. And we will then give him
such advice that the sacrifice may be obstructed. The king, the foremost
of wise men, thinking us of sterling worth will certainly ask us about his
sacrifice. We will say, 'It must not be!' And pointing to many serious
evils in this and the next worlds, we will take care that the sacrifice
may not take place. Or, let one of the snakes, approaching, bite the
person who, intending the monarch's good, and well-acquainted with the
rites of the snake-sacrifice, may be appointed as the sacrificial priest,
so that he will die. The sacrificial priest dying, the sacrifice will not
be completed. We will also bite all those who, acquainted with the rites
of the snake-sacrifice, may be appointed Ritwiks of the sacrifice, and by
that means attain our object.' Other snakes, more virtuous and kind, said,
'O, this counsel of yours is evil. It is not meet to kill Brahmanas. In
danger, that remedy is proper, which is blessed on the practices of the
righteous. Unrighteousness finally destroyeth the world.' Other serpents
said, 'We will extinguish the blazing sacrificial fire by ourselves
becoming clouds luminous with lightning and pouring down showers.' Other
snakes, the best of their kind, proposed, 'Going, by night, let us steal
away the vessel of Soma juice. That will disturb the rite. Or, at that
sacrifice, let the snakes, by hundreds and thousands, bite the people, and
spread terror around. Or, let the serpents defile the pure food with their
food-defiling urine and dung.' Others said, 'Let us become the king's
Ritwiks, and obstruct his sacrifice by saying at the outset, 'Give us the
sacrificial fee.' He (the king), being placed in our power, will do
whatever we like.' Others there said, 'When the king will sport in the
waters, we will carry him to our home and bind him, so that that sacrifice
will not take place!' Other serpents who deemed themselves wise, said,
'Approaching the king, let us bite him, so that our object will be
accomplished. By his death the root of all evil will be torn up. This is
the final deliberation of us all, O thou who hearest with thy eyes! Then,
do speedily what thou deemest proper.' Having said this, they looked
intently at Vasuki, that best of snakes. And Vasuki also, after reflecting,
answered saying, 'Ye snakes, this final determination of you doth not seem
worthy of adoption. The advice of you all is not to my liking. What shall
I say which would be for your good? I think the grace of the illustrious
Kasyapa (our father) can alone do us good. Ye snakes, my heart doth not
know which of all your suggestions is to be adopted for the welfare of my
race as also of me. That must be done by me which would be to your weal.
It is this that makes me so anxious, for the credit or the discredit (of
the measure) is mine alone.'"
So ends the thirty-seventh section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'Hearing the respective speeches of all the snakes, and
hearing also the words of Vasuki, Elapatra began to address them, saying,
'That sacrifice is not one that can be prevented. Nor is king Janamejaya
of the Pandava race from whom this fear proceedeth, such that he can be
hindered. The person, O king, who is afflicted by fate hath recourse to
fate alone; nothing else can be his refuge. Ye best of snakes, this fear
of ours hath fate for its root. Fate alone must be our refuge in this.
Listen to what I say. When that curse was uttered, ye best of snakes, in
fear I lay crouching on the lap of our mother. Ye best of snakes, and O
lord (Vasuki) of great splendour, from that place I heard the words the
sorrowing gods spake unto the Grandsire. The gods said, 'O Grandsire, thou
god of gods who else than the cruel Kadru could thus, after getting such
dear children, curse them so, even in thy presence? And, O Grandsire, by
thee also hath been spoken, with reference to those words of hers, 'Be it
so.' We wish to know the reason why thou didst not prevent her.' Brahman
replied, 'The snakes have multiplied. They are cruel, terrible in form and
highly poisonous. From desire of the good of my creatures, I did not
prevent Kadru then. Those poisonous serpents and others who are sinful,
biting others for no faults, shall, indeed, be destroyed, but not they who
are harmless and virtuous. And hear also, how, when the hour comes, the
snakes may escape this dreadful calamity. There shall be born in the race
of the Yayavaras a great Rishi known by the name of Jaratkaru, intelligent,
with passions under complete control. That Jaratkaru shall have a son of
the name of Astika. He shall put a stop to that sacrifice. And those
snakes who shall be virtuous shall escape therefrom.' The gods said, 'O
thou truth-knowing one, on whom will Jaratkaru, that foremost Muni, gifted
with great energy and asceticism, beget that illustrious son?' Brahma
answered, 'Gifted with great energy, that best Brahmana shall beget a son
possessed of great energy on a wife of the same name as his. Vasuki, the
king of the snakes, hath a sister of the name of Jaratkaru; the son, of
whom I speak, shall be born of her, and he shall liberate the snakes.'
"Elapatra continued, 'The gods then said unto the Grandsire, 'Be it so.'
And the lord Brahman, having said so unto the gods, went to heaven. O
Vasuki, I see before me that sister of thine known by the name of
Jaratkaru. For relieving us from fear, give her as alms unto him (i.e.,
the Rishi), Jaratkaru, of excellent vows, who shall roam abegging for a
bride. This means of release hath been heard of by me!'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'O best of regenerate ones, hearing these words of Elapatra,
all the serpents, in great delight, exclaimed, 'Well said, well said!' And
from that time Vasuki set about carefully bringing up that maiden, viz.,
his sister Jaratkaru. And he took great delight in rearing her.
"And much time did not elapse from this, when the gods and the Asuras,
assembling together, churned the abode of Varuna. And Vasuki, the foremost
of all gifted with strength, became the churning-cord. And directly the
work was over, the king of the snakes presented himself before the
Grandsire. And the gods, accompanied by Vasuki, addressed the Grandsire,
saying, 'O lord, Vasuki is suffering great affliction from fear of (his
mother's curse). It behoveth thee to root out the sorrow, begotten of the
curse of his mother, that hath pierced the heart of Vasuki desirous of the
weal of his race. The king of the snakes is ever our friend and benefactor.
O Lord of the gods, be gracious unto him and assuage his mind's fever.'
"Brahman replied, 'O ye immortals, I have thought, in my mind, of what ye
have said. Let the king of the snakes do that which hath been communicated
to him before by Elapatra. The time hath arrived. Those only shall be
destroyed that are wicked, not those that are virtuous. Jaratkaru hath
been born, and that Brahmana is engaged in hard ascetic penances. Let
Vasuki, at the proper time, bestow on him his sister. Ye gods, what hath
been spoken by the snake Elapatra for the weal of the snakes is true and
"Sauti continued, 'Then the king of the snakes, Vasuki, afflicted with the
curse of his mother, hearing these words of the Grandsire, and intending
to bestow his sister of the Rishi Jaratkaru, commanded all the serpents, a
large numbers of whom were ever attentive to their duties, to watch the
Rishi Jaratkaru, saying, 'When the lord Jaratkaru will ask for a wife,
come immediately and inform me of it. The weal of our race depends upon
(Astika Parva continued)
"Saunaka said, 'O son of Suta, I desire to know the reason why the
illustrious Rishi whom thou hast named Jaratkaru came to be so called on
earth. It behoveth thee to tell us the etymology of the name Jaratkaru.'
"Sauti said, 'Jara is said to mean waste, and Karu implies huge. This
Rishi's body had been huge, and he gradually reduced it by severe ascetic
penances. For the same reason, O Brahmanas, the sister of Vasuki was
The virtuous Saunaka, when he heard this, smiled and addressing Ugrasravas
said, 'It is even so.'
Saunaka then said, 'I have heard all that thou hast before recited. I
desire to know how Astika was born.'
Sauti, on hearing these words, began to relate according to what was
written in the Sastras.
"Sauti said, 'Vasuki, desirous of bestowing his sister upon the Rishi
Jaratkaru, gave the snakes (necessary) orders. But days went on, yet that
wise Muni of rigid vows, deeply engaged in ascetic devotions, did not seek
for a wife. That high-souled Rishi, engaged in studies and deeply devoted
to asceticism, his vital seed under full control, fearlessly wandered over
the whole earth and had no wish for a wife.
"Afterwards, once upon a time, there was a king, O Brahmana, of the name
of Parikshit, born in the race of the Kauravas. And, like his great-
grandfather Pandu of old, he was of mighty arms, the first of all bearers
of bows in battle, and fond of hunting. And the monarch wandered about,
hunting deer, and wild boars, and wolves, and buffaloes and various other
kinds of wild animals. One day, having pierced a deer with a sharp arrow
and slung his bow on his back, he penetrated into the deep forest,
searching for the animal here and there, like the illustrious Rudra
himself of old pursuing in the heavens, bow in hand, the deer which was
Sacrifice, itself turned into that shape, after the piercing. No deer that
was pierced by Parikshit had ever escaped in the wood with life. This deer,
however wounded as before, fled with speed, as the (proximate) cause of
the king's attainment to heaven. And the deer that Parikshit--that king of
men--had pierced was lost to his gaze and drew the monarch far away into
the forest. And fatigued and thirsty, he came across a Muni, in the forest,
seated in a cow-pen and drinking to his fill the froth oozing out of the
mouths of calves sucking the milk of their dams. And approaching him
hastily, the monarch, hungry and fatigued, and raising his bow, asked that
Muni of rigid vows, saying, 'O Brahmana, I am king Parikshit, the son of
Abhimanyu. A deer pierced by me hath been lost. Hast thou seen it?' But
that Muni observing then the vow of silence, spoke not unto him a word.
And the king in anger thereupon placed upon his shoulder a dead snake,
taking it up with the end of his bow. The Muni suffered him to do it
without protest. And he spoke not a word, good or bad. And the king seeing
him in that state, cast off his anger and became sorry. And he returned to
his capital but the Rishi continued in the same state. The forgiving Muni,
knowing that the monarch who was a tiger amongst kings was true to the
duties of his order, cursed him not, though insulted. That tiger amongst
monarchs, that foremost one of Bharata's race, also did not know that the
person whom he had so insulted was a virtuous Rishi. It was for this that
he had so insulted him.
"That Rishi had a son by name Sringin, of tender years, gifted with great
energy, deep in ascetic penances, severe in his vows, very wrathful, and
difficult to be appeased. At times, he worshipped with great attention and
respect his preceptor seated with ease on his seat and ever engaged in the
good of creatures.
"And commanded by his preceptor, he was coming home when, O best of
Brahmanas, a companion of his, a Rishi's son named Krisa in a playful mood
laughingly spoke unto him. And Sringin, wrathful and like unto poison
itself, hearing these words in reference to his father, blazed up in rage.
"And Krisa said, 'Be not proud, O Sringin, for ascetic as thou art and
possessed of energy, thy father bears on his shoulders a dead snake.
Henceforth speak not a word to sons of Rishis like ourselves who have
knowledge of the truth, are deep in ascetic penances, and have attained
success. Where is that manliness of thine, those high words of thine
begotten of pride, when thou must have to behold thy father bearing a dead
snake? O best of all the Munis, thy father too had done nothing to deserve
this treatment, and it is for this that I am particularly sorry as if the
punishment were mine.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'Being thus addressed, and hearing that his sire was bearing
a dead snake, the powerful Sringin burned with wrath. And looking at Krisa,
and speaking softly, he asked him, 'Pray, why doth my father bear today a
dead snake?' And Krisa replied, 'Even as king Parikshit was roving, for
purpose of hunting, O dear one, he placed the dead snake on the shoulder
of thy sire.'
"And Sringin asked, 'What wrong was done to that wicked monarch by my
father? O Krisa, tell me this, and witness the power of my asceticism.'
"And Krisa answered, 'King Parikshit, the son of Abhimanyu, while hunting,
had wounded a fleet stag with an arrow and chased it alone. And the king
lost sight of the animal in that extensive wilderness. Seeing then thy
sire, he immediately accosted him. Thy sire was then observing the vow of
silence. Oppressed by hunger, thirst and labour, the prince again and
again asked thy sire sitting motionless, about the missing deer. The sage,
being under the vow of silence, returned no reply. The king thereupon
placed the snake on thy sire's shoulder with the end of his bow. O Sringin,
thy sire engaged in devotion is in the same posture still. And the king
also hath gone to his capital which is named after the elephant!'
"Sauti continued, 'Having heard of a dead snake placed upon his (father's)
shoulders, the son of the Rishi, his eyes reddened with anger, blazed up
with rage. And possessed by anger, the puissant Rishi then cursed the king,
touching water and overcome with wrath.'
"And Sringin said, 'That sinful wretch of a monarch who hath placed a dead
snake on the shoulders of my lean and old parent, that insulter of
Brahmanas and tarnisher of the fame of the Kurus, shall be taken within
seven nights hence to the regions of Yama (Death) by the snake Takshaka,
the powerful king of serpents, stimulated thereto by the strength of my
"Sauti continued, 'And having thus cursed (the king) from anger, Sringin
went to his father, and saw the sage sitting in the cow-pen, bearing the
dead snake. And seeing his parent in that plight, he was again inflamed
with ire. And he shed tears of grief, and addressed his sire, saying,
'Father, having been informed of this thy disgrace at the hands of that
wicked wretch, king Parikshit, I have from anger even cursed him; and that
worst of Kurus hath richly deserved my potent curse. Seven days hence,
Takshaka, the lord of snakes, shall take the sinful king to the horrible
abode of Death.' And the father said to the enraged son, 'Child, I am not
pleased with thee. Ascetics should not act thus. We live in the domains of
that great king. We are protected by him righteously. In all he does, the
reigning king should by the like of us forgiven. If thou destroy Dharma,
verily Dharma will destroy thee. If the king do not properly protect us,
we fare very ill; we cannot perform our religious rites according to our
desire. But protected by righteous sovereigns, we attain immense merit,
and they are entitled to a share thereof. Therefore, reigning royalty is
by all means to be forgiven. And Parikshit like unto his great-grandsire,
protecteth us as a king should protect his subjects. That penance-
practising monarch was fatigued and oppressed with hunger. Ignorant of my
vow (of silence) he did this. A kingless country always suffereth from
evils. The king punisheth offenders, and fear of punishments to peace;
and people do their duties and perform their rites undisturbed. The king
establisheth religion--establisheth the kingdom of heaven. The king
protecteth sacrifices from disturbance, and sacrifices to please the gods.
The gods cause rain, and rain produceth grains and herbs, which are always
useful to man. Manu sayeth, a ruler of the destinies of men is equal (in
dignity) to ten Veda-studying priests. Fatigued and oppressed with hunger,
that penance-practising prince hath done this through ignorance of my vow.
Why then hast thou rashly done this unrighteous action through
childishness? O son, in no way doth the king deserve a curse from us.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'And Sringin then replied to his father, saying, 'Whether
this be an act of rashness, O father, or an improper act that I have done,
whether thou likest it or dislikest it, the words spoken by me shall never
be in vain. O father, I tell thee (a curse) can never be otherwise. I have
never spoken a lie even in jest.'
"And Samika said, 'Dear child, I know that thou art of great prowess, and
truthful in speech. Thou hast never spoken falsehood before, so that thy
curse shall never be falsified. The son, even when he attaineth to age,
should yet be always counselled by the father, so that crowned with good
qualities he may acquire great renown. A child as thou art, how much more
dost thou stand in need of counsel? Thou art ever engaged in ascetic
penances. The wrath of even the illustrious ones possessing the six
attributes increaseth greatly. O thou foremost of ordinance-observing
persons, seeing that thou art my son and a minor too, and beholding also
thy rashness, I see that I must counsel thee. Live thou, O son, inclined
to peace and eating fruits and roots of the forest. Kill this thy anger
and destroy not the fruit of thy ascetic acts in this way. Wrath surely
decreaseth the virtue that ascetics acquire with great pains. And then for
those deprived of virtue, the blessed state existeth not. Peacefulness
ever giveth success to forgiving ascetics. Therefore, becoming forgiving
in thy temper and conquering thy passions, shouldst thou always live. By
forgiveness shalt thou obtain worlds that are beyond the reach of Brahman
himself. Having adopted peacefulness myself, and with a desire also for
doing good as much as lies in my power, I must do something; even must I
send to that king, telling him, 'O monarch, thou hast been cursed by my
son of tender years and undeveloped intellect, in wrath, at seeing thy act
of disrespect towards myself.'
"Sauti continued, 'And that great ascetic, observer of vows, moved by
kindness, sent with proper instructions a disciple of his to king
Parikshit. And he sent his disciple Gaurmukha of good manners and engaged
also in ascetic penances, instructing him to first enquire about the
welfare of the king and then to communicate the real message. And that
disciple soon approached that monarch, the head of the Kuru race. And he
entered the king's palace having first sent notice of his arrival through
the servant in attendance at the gate.
"And the twice-born Gaurmukha was duly worshipped by the monarch. And
after resting for a while, he detailed fully to the king, in the presence
of his ministers, the words of Samika, of cruel import, exactly as he had
"And Gaurmukha said, 'O king of kings, there is a Rishi, Samika, by name,
of virtuous soul, his passions under control, peaceful, and given up to
hard ascetic devotions, living in thy dominions! By thee, O tiger among
men, was placed on the shoulders of that Rishi observing at present the
vow of silence, a dead snake, with the end of thy bow! He himself forgave
thee that act. But his son could not. And by the latter hast thou today
been cursed, O king of kings, without the knowledge of his father, to the
effect that within seven nights hence, shall (the snake) Takshaka cause
thy death. And Samika repeatedly asked his son to save thee, but there is
none to falsify his son's curse. And because he hath been unable to pacify
his son possessed by anger, therefore have I been sent to thee, O king,
for thy good!'
"And that king of the Kuru race, himself engaged in ascetic practices,
having heard these cruel words and recollecting his own sinful act, became
exceedingly sorry. And the king, learning that foremost of Rishis in the
forest had been observing the vow of silence, was doubly afflicted with
sorrow and seeing the kindness of the Rishi Samika, and considering his
own sinful act towards him, the king became very repentant. And the king
looking like a very god, did not grieve so much for hearing of his death
as for having done that act to the Rishi.'
"And then the king sent away Gaurmukha, saying, 'Let the worshipful one
(Samika) be gracious to me!' And when Gaurmukha had gone away, the king,
in great anxiety, without loss of time, consulted his ministers. And
having consulted them, the king, himself wise in counsels, caused a
mansion to be erected upon one solitary column. It was well-guarded day
and night. And for its protection were placed there physicians and
medicines, and Brahmanas skilled in mantras all around. And the monarch,
protected on all sides, discharged his kingly duties from that place
surrounded by his virtuous ministers. And no one could approach that best
of kings there. The air even could not go there, being prevented from
"And when the seventh day had arrived, that best of Brahmanas, the learned
Kasyapa was coming (towards the king's residence), desirous of treating
the king (after the snake-bite). He had heard all that had taken place,
viz., that Takshaka, that first of snakes, would send that best of
monarchs to the presence of Yama (Death). And he thought, I would cure the
monarch after he is bit by that first of snakes. By that I may have wealth
and may acquire virtue also.' But that prince of snakes, Takshaka, in the
form of an old Brahmana, saw Kasyapa approaching on his way, his heart set
upon curing the king. And the prince of snakes then spake unto that bull
among Munis, Kasyapa, saying, 'Whither dost thou go with such speed? What,
besides, is the business upon which thou art intent?'
"And Kasyapa, thus addressed, replied, 'Takshaka, by his poison, will
today burn king Parikshit of the Kuru race, that oppressor of all enemies.
I go with speed, O amiable one, to cure, without loss of time, the king of
immeasurable prowess, the sole representative of the Pandava race, after
he is bit by the same Takshaka like to Agni himself in energy.' And
Takshaka answered, 'I am that Takshaka, O Brahmana, who shall burn that
lord of the earth. Stop, for thou art unable to cure one bit by me.' And
Kasyapa rejoined, 'I am sure that, possessed (that I am) of the power of
learning, going thither I shall cure that monarch bit by thee.'"
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'And Takshaka, after this, answered, 'If, indeed, thou art
able to cure any creature bitten by me, then, O Kasyapa, revive thou this
tree bit by me. O best of Brahmanas, I burn this banian in thy sight. Try
thy best and show me that skill in mantras of which thou hast spoken.'
"And Kasyapa said, If thou art so minded, bite thou then, O king of snakes,
this tree. O snake, I shall revive it, though bit by thee.
"Sauti continued, 'That king of snakes, thus addressed by the illustrious
Kasyapa, bit then that banian tree. And that tree, bit by the illustrious
snake, and penetrated by the poison of the serpent, blazed up all around.
And having burnt the banian so, the snake then spake again unto Kasyapa,
saying, 'O first of Brahmanas, try thy best and revive this lord of the
"Sauti continued, 'The tree was reduced to ashes by the poison of that
king of snakes. But taking up those ashes, Kasyapa spoke these words. 'O
king of snakes, behold the power of my knowledge as applied to this lord
of the forest! O snake, under thy very nose I shall revive it.' And then
that best of Brahmanas, the illustrious and learned Kasyapa, revived, by
his vidya, that tree which had been reduced to a heap of ashes. And first
he created the sprout, then he furnished it with two leaves, and then he
made the stem, and then the branches, and then the full-grown tree with
leaves and all. And Takshaka, seeing the tree revived by the illustrious
Kasyapa, said unto him, 'It is not wonderful in thee that thou shouldst
destroy my poison or that of any one else like myself. O thou whose wealth
is asceticism, desirous of what wealth, goest thou thither? The reward
thou hopest to have from that best of monarchs, even I will give thee,
however difficult it may be to obtain it. Decked with fame as thou art,
thy success may be doubtful on that king affected by a Brahmana's curse
and whose span of life itself hath been shortened. In that case, this
blazing fame of thine that hath overspread the three worlds will disappear
like the Sun when deprived of his splendour (on the occasion of the
"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
"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 fear 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
(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
(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
"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
(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
"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
(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
"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
"Sauti continued, 'Thus directed by the monarch, those councillors, ever
solicitous of the good of the king, told him everything exactly as it had
'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 hast, 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
'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
(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
"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
"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
(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
"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,
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
(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
"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
"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
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