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(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'O thou of ascetic wealth, soon after her lord had left her, Jaratkaru went to her brother. And she told him everything that had happened. And the prince of snakes, hearing the calamitous news, spake unto his miserable sister, himself more miserable still.'
"And he said, 'Thou knowest, 'O amiable one, the purpose of thy bestowal, the reason thereof. If, from that union, for the welfare of the snakes, a son be born, then he, possessed of energy, will save us all from the snake-sacrifice. The Grandsire had said so, of old, in the midst of the gods. O fortunate one, hast thou conceived from thy union with that best of Rishis? My heart's desire is that my bestowal of thee on that wise one may not be fruitless. Truly, it is not proper for me to ask thee about this. But from the gravity of the interests I ask thee this. Knowing also the obstinacy of thy lord, ever engaged in severe penances, I shall not follow him, for he may curse me. Tell me in detail all that thy lord, O amiable one, hath done, and extract that terribly afflicting dart that lies implanted for a long time past in my heart.'
"Jaratkaru, thus addressed, consoling Vasuki, the king of the snakes, at length replied, saying, 'Asked by me about offspring, the high-souled and mighty ascetic said, 'There is,'--and then he went away. I do not remember him to have ever before speak even in jest aught that is false. Why should he, O king, speak a falsehood on such a serious occasion? He said, 'Thou shouldst not grieve, O daughter of the snake race, about the intended result of our union. A son shall be born to thee, resplendent as the blazing sun.' O brother, having said this to me, my husband of ascetic wealth went away--Therefore, let the deep sorrow cherished in thy heart disappear.'
"Sauti continued, 'Thus addressed, Vasuki, the king of the snakes, accepted those words of his sister, and in great joy said, 'Be it so!' And the chief of the snakes then adored his sister with his best regards, gift of wealth, and fitting eulogies. Then, O best of Brahmanas, the embryo endued with great splendour, began to develop, like the moon in the heavens in the bright fortnight.
And in due time, the sister of the snakes, O Brahmana, gave birth to a son of the splendour of a celestial child, who became the reliever of the fears of his ancestors and maternal relatives. The child grew up there in the house of the king of the snakes. He studied the Vedas and their branches with the ascetic Chyavana, the son of Bhrigu. And though but a boy, his vows were rigid. And he was gifted with great intelligence, and with the several attributes of virtue, knowledge, freedom from the world's indulgences, and saintliness. And the name by which he was known to the
world was Astika. And he was known by the name of Astika (whoever is) because his father had gone to the woods, saying. 'There is', when he was in the womb. Though but a boy, he had great gravity and intelligence. And he was reared with great care in the palace of the snakes. And he was like the illustrious lord of the celestials, Mahadeva of the golden form, the wielder of the trident. And he grew up day by day, the delight of all the snakes.'"
Next: Section XLIX