Sage Jaratkaru Meets his Pitris

Credits: Image taken on Assi Ghat, Varanasi, by Miraage.Clicks

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Rishi Sahasrapat Regains his Human Form

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Rishi Sahasrapat regained his human form and advised Ruru to be kind toward all creatures. The rishi also mentioned Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. Ruru wanted to know more about why Janamejaya chose to conduct the sacrifice, but Sahasrapat vanished without answering. After searching in vain, Ruru returned home and asked his father (Rishi Pramati) about the snake sacrifice.

As you will remember, all of this was narrated by Ugrasrava Sauti to the ascetics in Naimisha Forest who had just completed attending Saunaka Kulapati’s 12-year yagna. 

After hearing Ruru’s story, Saunaka Kulapati was also curious to find out who Janamejaya was, and why had he conducted the snake sacrifice that took the lives of numerous snakes. Saunaka was also curious to know who Astika was, and why he saved the snakes.

At this point, in the Mahabharata, we are reminded that this narration is also known as a Purana by wise brahmins. We are reminded that Krishna Dwaipayana (Ved Vyasa) originally narrated this story and that Sauti’s wise father (Lomaharshana) was a disciple of Ved Vyasa. Sauti heard the Mahabharata from his father when Lomaharshana was narrating it to the dwellers of Naimisha forest. Coincidentally, now, Sauti was also narrating the Mahabharata in the Naimisha forest.

Sauti assured Saunaka Kulapati that he would narrate the story of Astika exactly as he had heard it from his father, Lomaharshana.

Sauti said to the ascetics, “O listen, as I recite this sin-destroying story in full.”

Astika was the son of a powerful sage called Jaratkaru. Jaratkaru was always engaged in austere devotions. He ate very little and was a brahma-chari with his bodily urges completely under his control. He was a virtuous sage of rigid vows and had great ascetic power. He was also known as a yayavara sage.

Note: ‘Yayavara’ was a term used for wandering sages.

One day, Jaratkaru decided to undertake a long journey over the entire world. He walked during the day and rested at night. Thus, he visited different places and bathed in various sacred waters. 

This great sage practiced austerities that would have been very difficult for ordinary people who did not have the same restraint as he did. On this journey, he did not eat solid food, sustaining himself entirely on air. Because he had also renounced sleep, he rested, without sleeping, at night. Due to his spiritual power, he walked about like a blazing fire.

One day, while traveling, he saw certain beings hanging upside down, on a rope made of virana fibres, in a huge hole. However, that rope had been secretly eaten by all sides by a rat who lived in that same hole. Jaratkaru approached those beings and asked them who they were.

The beings said, “We are rishis of rigid vows. We are known as  Yayavaras. We are troubled and are sinking low into the earth because we do not have descendants. We have a son named Jaratkaru, but that wretch has undertaken a life of austerities. The fool does not think of getting married and raising children. We are afraid that our race will become extinct. That is why we are suspended in this hole, and even though we have possessions, we live like beings who have nothing.”

These hanging rishis asked Jaratkaru, “Who are you, O excellent one, and why are you looking so sad after hearing our story?”

Jaratkaru replied, “O great ones, I am the Jaratkaru you spoke of, and you are my ancestors. Please tell me, how may I serve you?”

Note: In the next post, we will read about what Jaratkaru’s ancestors asked from him.

Next Post: Rishi Jaratkaru Places Some Conditions for Getting Married

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)