The Mahabharata Home
(Astika Parva continued)
'Sauti continued, 'The ministers said, 'That king of kings then, spent with hunger and exertion, and having placed the snake upon the shoulders of that Muni, came back to his capital. The Muni had a son, born of a cow, of the name of Sringin. He was widely known, possessed of great prowess and energy, and very wrathful. Going (every day) to his
preceptor he was in the habit of worshipping him. Commanded by him, Sringin was returning home, when he heard from a friend of his about the insult of his father by thy parent. And, O tiger among kings, he heard that his father, without having committed any fault, was bearing, motionless like a statue, upon his shoulders a dead snake placed thereon. O king, the Rishi insulted by thy father was severe in ascetic penances, the foremost of Munis, the controller of passions, pure, and ever engaged in wonderful acts. His soul was enlightened with ascetic penances, and his organs and their functions were under complete control. His practices and his speech were both very nice. He was contented and without avarice. He was without meanness of any kind and without envy. He was old and used to observe the vow of silence. And he was the refuge whom all creatures might seek in distress.
"Such was the Rishi insulted by thy father. The son, however, of that Rishi, in wrath, cursed thy father. Though young in years, the powerful one was old in ascetic splendour. Speedily touching water, he spake, burning as it were with spiritual energy and rage, these words in allusion to thy father, 'Behold the power of my asceticism! Directed by my words, the snake Takshaka of powerful energy and virulent poison, shall, within seven nights hence, burn, with his poison the wretch that hath placed the dead snake upon my un-offending father.' And having said this, he went to where his father was. And seeing his father he told him of his curse. The tiger among Rishis thereupon sent to thy father a disciple of his, named Gaurmukha, of amiable manners and possessed of every virtue. And having rested a while (after arrival at court) he told the king everything, saying in the words of his master, 'Thou hast been cursed, O king, by my son. Takshaka shall burn thee with his poison! Therefore, O king, be careful.' O Janamejaya, hearing those terrible words, thy father took every precaution against the powerful snake Takshaka.
"And when the seventh day had arrived, a Brahmana Rishi, named Kasyapa, desired to come to the monarch. But the snake Takshaka saw Kasyapa. And the prince of snakes spake unto Kasyapa without loss of time, saying, 'Where dost thou go so quickly, and what is the business on which thou goest?' Kasyapa replied, saying, 'O Brahmana, I am going whither king Parikshit, that best of the Kurus, is. He shall today be burnt by the poison of the snake Takshaka. I go there quickly in order to cure him, in fact, in order that, protected by me, the snake may not bite him to death.' Takshaka answered, saying, 'Why dost thou seek to revive the king to be bitten by me? I am that Takshaka. O Brahmana, behold the wonderful power of my poison. Thou art incapable of reviving that monarch when bit by me.' So saying, Takshaka, then and there, bit a lord of the forest (a banian tree). And the banian, as soon as it was bit by the snake, was converted into ashes. But Kasyapa, O king, revived it. Takshaka thereupon tempted him, saying, 'Tell me thy desire.' And Kasyapa, too, thus
addressed, spake again unto Takshaka, saying, 'I go there from desire of wealth.' And Takshaka, thus addressed, then spake unto the high-souled Kasyapa in these soft words, 'O sinless one, take from me more wealth than what thou expectest from that monarch, and go back!' And Kasyapa, that foremost of men, thus addressed by the snake, and receiving from him as much wealth as he desired, wended his way back.
"And Kasyapa going back, Takshaka, approaching in disguise, blasted, with the fire of his poison, thy virtuous father, the first of kings, then staying in his mansion with all precautions. And after that, thou wast, O tiger among men, been installed (on the throne). And, O best of monarchs, we have thus told thee all that we have seen and heard, cruel though the account is. And hearing all about the discomfiture of thy royal father, and of the insult to the Rishi Utanka, decide thou that which should follow!
'Sauti continued, 'King Janamejaya, that chastiser of enemies, then spake upto all his ministers. And he said, 'When did ye learn all that happened upon that, banian reduced to ashes by Takshaka, and which, wonderful as it is, was afterwards revived by Kasyapa? Assuredly, my father could not have died, for the poison could have been neutralised by Kasyapa with his mantras. That worst of snakes, of sinful soul, thought within his mind that if Kasyapa resuscitated the king bit by him, he, Takshaka, would be an object of ridicule in the world owing to the neutralisation of his poison. Assuredly, having thought so, he pacified the Brahmana. I have devised a way, however, of inflicting punishment upon him. I like to know, however, what ye saw or heard, what happened in the deep solitude of the forest,--viz., the words of Takshaka and the speeches of Kasyapa. Having known it, I shall devise the means of exterminating the snake race.'
"The ministers said, 'Hear, O monarch of him who told us before of the meeting between that foremost Brahmana and that prince of snakes in the woods. A certain person, O monarch, had climbed up that tree containing some dry branches with the object of breaking them for sacrificial fuel. He was not perceived either by the snake or by the Brahmana. And, O king, that man was reduced to ashes along with the tree itself. And, O king of kings, he was revived with the tree by the power of the Brahmana. That man, a Brahmana's menial, having come to us, represented fully everything as it happened between Takshaka and the Brahmana. Thus have we told thee, O king, all that we have seen and heard. And having heard it, O tiger among kings, ordain that which should follow.'
"Sauti continued, 'King Janamejaya, having listened to the words of his ministers, was sorely afflicted with grief, and began to weep. And the monarch began to squeeze his hands. And the lotus-eyed king began to breathe a long and hot breath, shed tears, and shrieked aloud. And possessed with grief and sorrow, and shedding copious tears, and touching water according to the form, the monarch spake. And reflecting for a moment, as if settling something in his mind, the angry monarch, addressing all
ministers, said these words.
'I have heard your account of my father's ascension to heaven. Know ye now what my fixed resolve is. I think no time must be lost in avenging this injury upon the wretch Takshaka that killed my father. He burnt my father making Sringin only a secondary cause. From malignity alone he made Kasyapa return. If that Brahmana had arrived, my father assuredly would have lived. What would he have lost if the king had revived by the grace of Kasyapa and the precautionary measures of his ministers? From ignorance of the effects of my wrath, he prevented Kasyapa--that excellent of Brahmanas--whom he could not defeat, from coming to my father with the desire of reviving him. The act of aggression is great on the part of the wretch Takshaka who gave wealth unto that Brahmana in order that he might not revive the king. I must now avenge myself on my father's enemy to please myself, the Rishi Utanka and you all.'"
Next: Section LI