The Mahabharata Home
(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 called Jaratkaru.'
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.'"
Next: Section XLI