Jaratkaru Meets His Pitris

Wandering sage

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Parikshit’s Son Janamejaya is Crowned the Next King

Note: In the previous post, we read about the coronation and marriage of Janamejaya.

In this post, we return to Rishi Jaratkaru’s story. The Astika Parva began with the incident of Rishi Jaratkaru meeting his Pitris. We circle back to the same incident (but with a little additional information) in this post. This is Vyas Muni’s way of telling us that the diversion has ended and we are back on the main story line.

Meanwhile, the great ascetic Jaratkaru roamed wide and far. He walked during the day, and when the sun was about to set, he stopped and stayed in that place for the night. Blessed with great ascetic power, he practised different vows that were difficult to practice for normal people not sufficiently matured on the spiritual path. His only sustenance was air and sunlight and he bathed in various holy waters. Jaratkaru had already gained freedom from the desire of worldy pleasures. Not having any food emaciated his body which became very lean.

One day, while wandering, Jaratkaru saw the spirits of his ancestors hanging upside down in a hole by a single cord of Virana root. That single thread which supported his ancestors was also being eaten away by a large rat who stayed in that hole. Jaratkaru noticed that his pitris (ancestors) did not have any food because of which they had become emaciated. They were in a sad condition and eager for release from the earthly plane.

Jaratkaru approached them humbly and asked, “Who are you all and why are you hanging on this single cord of Virana root? Much of this cord has been eaten by a rat and the little thread that remains will soon buckle causing you will fall into the hole with your faces downwards.” 

Great compassion arose within Jaratkaru when he saw his pitris in this pitiable and dangerous state. Once again he addressed his ancestors saying, “What can I do for you? Tell me please if this calamity that awaits you can be removed by my asceticism. I will give up one-fourth of the virtue I have gained through my asceticism to save you. Why one-fourth, I will give up one-third, or half, or even all the fruits of my asceticism to relieve you from this calamity. Take my entire asceticism and do whatever needs to be done to come out of this dangerous situation.”

The pitris replied, “O great ascetic, you want to help us but our troubles cannot be relieved by asceticism. We also have the fruits of our prior asceticism, but Brahma Deva himself had once said that a son (child?) is of great merit, far more than asceticism. That’s the reason we are falling into this hole. It’s because we are unable to see our line of descendants grow. O noble one, we do not know who you are, but we know that you are a venerable ascetic who feels sad seeing us in this condition.”

Note: In the next post, the Pitris will inform Jaratkaru about their background.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: The Pitris Explain Their Background and Suffering to Jaratkaru