The sage Vyasa and King Janamejaya

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Previous Post: Rishi Astika is Born

Note: In the previous post, we read about Rishi Astika’s birth and the qualities of the high-souled child.

In this post, Janamejaya asks his ministers to tell him the circumstances in which his father, Parikshit, lost his life.

At the time when Rishi Astika was growing into a wise boy, Janamejaya became interested in finding out all the details of his father’s death. He asked his ministers to tell him everything they knew. Based on what he discovered, he would take action if it was for the benefit of the world, or do nothing, if an action would not benefit the world.

A minister replied, “O king, your father was very virtuous and high-souled. He always protected the people of his kingdom. He was virtue and justice personified. He was a powerful king who protected all the four varnas impartially and they, in turn, performed all their duties. He loved his subjects and kept them contended. Having learnt the science of warfare from Saradwat, he he protected his kingdom and the Goddess Earth. Ever virtuous,no one hated him and he hated no one. He cared for the widows, orphans, maimed, and poor subjects of his kingdom. Not only was the king virtuous, he was also handsome like Chandra Deva. O Janamejaya, your father was very dear to Sri Krishna and loved by everyone.

Your father was born from the womb of Queen Uttara when the Kuru race was almost extinct. That’s how he got the name, Parikshit, which means born in an extinct line.

The virtuous King Parikshit had gained complete control over the six passions. He was intelligent, had an excellent memory, and was well-versed in the treatises of the king’s duties. His sharp mind understood exactly how to interpret the texts. Well-versed with the science of morality and political science, he ruled for 60 years, and when he died, all the people of the kingdom were filled with grief. O Janamejaya, being his son, you were appointed the next monarch, and since then you have also engaged in protecting all creatures.

In response to his minister’s words, Janamejaya said, “All the kings of the Kuru race have cared for their subjects. Not a single king in this noble race was disliked by his subjects. My ancestors, especially, were always engaged in great achievements. I want to know how my father, who was so virtuous, met with his death.”

King Janamejaya’s ministers always spoke words that were helpful to the king. They said, “Even though your father was a great protector and always followed the scriptures, he became addicted to hunting just like your noble ancestor, King Pandu. When your father went hunting, he handed over the responsibility of the kingdom to us.

One day while hunting, he shot a deer which escaped into the forest. Your father pursued the deer deep into the woods on foot with his sword and quiver. However, even after searching everywhere, he could not find the animal.

Being sixty years of age and having lost his youthful strength, he became tired and hungry in the forest. There, seated deep in the forest, he saw a person. Your father asked him if he had seen the deer, but this person did not give any answer. Your father, who was very tired and hungry, suddenly became angry, picked a dead snake from the ground with the end of his bow and put it on the person’s shoulder. Unfortunately, the king did not know he had insulted a very virtuous and high-souled rishi. The great ascetic did not say anything. Feeling no anger towards your father, the rishi forgave your father, and continued sitting in the same posture without even moving to remove the dead snake. After this incident, your father left the forest and returned to his capital city.

The rishi had a son called Sringin who was born from a cow. He was famous for his brahmin prowess and anger. Sringin used to visit his teacher’s ashram everyday to pay his respects to his teacher. That day too, Sringin went to worship his teacher, and after he completed, his teacher commanded Sringin about to return home. 

On the way home, Sringin met a friend who told him about how his father was insulted by the king. Sringin, who was still a boy, was, however, very powerful in his ascetic penances. He was filled with wrath when he heard about his father being insulted, and cursed King Parikshit saying, “Watch the power of my words. Influenced by what I’m about to say, Takshaka, the powerful and venomous snake will burn down the wretch who placed the dead snake on my innocent father’s shoulder.

After uttering the disastrous words, Sringin went to his father and told him everything. The great rishi, immediately sent a virtuous and well-mannered disciple, called Gaurmukha, to the king. Gaurmukha rested for sometime after reaching the palace and informed the king about the curse with the intention of saving the monarch. Hearing Gaurmukha’s words of caution, the king took every precaution to protect himself from Takshaka.

King Parikshit remained safe for the first six days. On the seventh day, a Brahma Rishi, called Kasyapa, went to meet the king to cure him in case he was bitten by Takshaka. However, Takshaka saw the rishi going to Hastinapur and immediately asked him where he was going in such a hurry. Kasyapa replied that he was going to King Parikshit to cure him if the deadly snake, Takshaka, bit him. 

“Why do you want to cure the king who I’m going to bite?” Takshaka asked Kasyapa. After saying this, Takshaka unleashed his venom on a nearby banian tree which immediately collapsed into a heap of ashes. Having burnt the tree, Takshaka challenged the rishi to revive it. To Takshaka’s surprise, Kasyapa was able to revive the tree.

Seeing the rishi’s power, Takshaka asked the rishi his true reason and desire for wanting to save Parikshit. Kasyapa replied, “I’m going there for wealth.” Takshaka said in a very well-mannered way to the rishi, “O sinless one, take wealth from me instead. You can return home with more wealth than the king would give you. Kasyapa, took the wealth Takshaka offered, and returned home.

After Kasyapa had left, Takshaka disguised himself, reached King Parikshit’s protected mansion, and burnt the king down with his venom. 

O Janamejaya, being the monarch’s son, you were then crowned the king.”

The minister continued, “I have told you everything there was to know in relation to your father’s demise. Takshaka destroyed your father and insulted Rishi Utanka. With this knowledge, decide the correct course of action.”

After hearing his minister, Janamejaya asked, “How did you know that Takshaka had burnt down a banian tree when he met Rishi Kasyapa and that the rishi had revived it?”

The minister replied, “O king, when Takshaka unleashed his venom on the tree, there was a person standing on the branches of the tree collecting wood for sacrificial rituals. Neither Takshaka nor Kasyapa saw him there. That man was also burnt into ashes with the tree, and when the rishi revived the tree, he too was revived. That person, who was in the service of a brahmin, came and told us about these events.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Janamejaya Decides to Avenge His Father’s Death

Sage Shukadeva narrating the story of Krishna, to Parikshit

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Sage Samika Tries to Help King Parikshit Escape Sringin’s Curse

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Sage Samika felt compassion for the king and sent his disciple, Gaurmukha, as a messenger to forewarn the monarch about the curse.

In this post, we will read about Parikshit’s response to the sage’s message.

Parikshit himself, along with being a king, also practised ascetic penances. He was what we would call a royal sage, and he felt exceedingly sad when he learnt that he had insulted a sage who had undertaken a vow of silence. The anguish he felt because of his past action became even more magnified when he realised that, in spite of the insult, Sage Samika had responded with kindness by trying to save his life through Gaurmukha’s message. The monarch became deeply repentant, and at that moment, as he grieved, not for his own life, but for his conduct towards Rishi Samika, he looked very noble, magnificent, and even divine.

The king asked Gaurmukha to return to Sage Samika saying, “May the worshipful sage be gracious to me.” 

After Gaurmukha had left, the king immediately consulted with his ministers for to decide the future course of action, and in the discussion, the wise king himself decided to ask his artisans to build a house on a single column. 

This house was guarded day and night by soldiers. It was stocked with all the necessary medicines, while physicians, the king’s virtuous ministers, and Brahmanas who were well-versed in healing mantras stayed in that mansion with the king for his well-being. Protected on all sides, the king discharged his duties from that house for six days and six nights.

Note: A few posts back, we read about the incident where Samika explained to his son, Sringin, that Parikshit was a very noble king who discharged his duties well, and did not deserve to be cursed. Here, above, we see that nobility through Parikshit’s words, actions, and emotions.

And then, the sun arose on the seventh and final day of the curse.

Note: In the next post, we will find out what happened on the seventh (last) day of the curse.

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Next Post: Sage Kasyapa Heads to Hastinapur to Help Parikshit

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Did Sringin Regret His Rash Action?

Note: In the previous post, we learnt that Sage Samika’s wise words did not have much effect on Sringin. 

After explaining to Sringin the importance of keeping his anger under control, the rishi turned his attention to helping the king. 

In this post, we will find out how Rishi Samika tried to help King Parikshit.

Sage Samika said to Sringin, “O child, by forgiveness you can obtain worlds that are beyond the reach of Brahma Deva also. In my own ascetic practice, I have adopted peacefulness and have the desire to do as much good as I possibly can. Therefore, right now, I must do something to help the king.”

The Sage summoned one of his disciples called Gaurmukha who also practised ascetic penances and possessed excellent manners. He explained the recent events to Gaurmukha and advised him to go to the King, inquire about his welfare, and then give the actual message of the danger he faced because of the curse.

When Gaurmukha reached Parikshit’s palace in Hastinapur, he sent a message to the king through a royal servant, to inform the king about his arrival. 

Upon reaching the Parikshit’s court, Gaurmukha was respectfully worshipped by the noble monarch. After resting for some time, Gaurmukha relayed the Sage’s message to the king in the presence of his ministers.

Gaurmukha said, “O king of kings, I have been sent by a rishi called Samika who lives in your kingdom. The rishi practises hard ascetic devotions, has gained control over his passions, and is a peaceful as well as virtuous soul. O tiger among men, when the rishi was observing a vow of silence, a snake was placed on his shoulder by thyself. Even though the sage forgave you, his son, who is young and gets angry very quickly, was unable to forgive you. You have been cursed by the child that Takshaka will cause your death within seven nights. The sage asked his son to save you, but the child is unable to overcome his anger. His words are powerful and there’s nobody who can counter them. Therefore, I have been sent to convey this message for your safety.

Note: I loved Sage Samika’s patience, compassion, courage, and wisdom. He is patient towards his son’s immaturity, he feels compassion for the king and wants to save him, he is fearless in sending a messenger with such a dangerous message to the king, and he is wise because he teaches Gaurmukha the proper protocol and the correct words to use when approaching the king. Through this action, he practises what Sri Krishna taught in the Bhagwat Gita – to perform his duty with love, without fear, and without being attached to the result. 

In the next post, we will find out how Parikshit responded to the sage’s message.

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Next Post: King Parikshit’s Response to Rishi Samika’s Message

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: The Wise Sage is Displeased With Sringin’s Rash Action

Note: In the previous post, we read about why Sringin’s wise father, Sage Samika, was displeased with his son for cursing King Parikshit.

In this post, we will find out if Sage Samika’s words had any effect on Sringin.

After hearing his father’s words, Sringin replied, “O father, regardless of whether my action was rash or not, regardless of whether you like it or dislike it, the words I have spoken will have their effect. I have never uttered a lie, even for fun, and, therefore my words will come true.”

Samika, Sringin’s father, heard his son’s words calmly and replied, “Dear son, I know you are very truthful because of which your words have great power, and what you have spoken will come true, but, my child, I want to tell you something important. A father continues to guide his son even when he becomes mature, so that the son may acquire good qualities and fame (resulting from virtue). When even a mature offspring needs guidance, a child who is very young, like you are, needs even more guidance. My child, you are always engaged in ascetic penances, but even great ascetics who have all the six attributes (of greatness) experience an increase in anger when they perform such penances. That is the reason I feel the need to guide you. It’s because I am aware how strictly you observe your ascetic vows and I’m also aware that you’re still a child and often rash in your actions.”

Note: In the next post, we will see how Sage Samika tries to help King Parikshit escape his fate.

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Next Post: Sage Samika Tries to Help King Parikshit Escape Sringin’s Curse

A temple relief of a rishi

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Sringin’s Wrath

Note: In the previous post, we read about how an angry youth, Sringin, cursed King Parikshit because the monarch had insulted his father.

In this post, we will find out what Sringin’s father told his son when he learned of the curse.

After cursing King Parikshit, Sringin continued on his homeward journey to his father. There, he saw his father sitting in the cow-pen with the dead snake on his shoulder.

Seeing his father in that state, Sringin was once again filled with anger and grief. With tear-filled eyes, he said to his father, “O father, I was informed about how that wicked king, Parikshit, insulted you. It filled me with anger and I cursed that king. He very well deserves to be thus cursed. Within seven days, the powerful snake, Takshaka, will send that king to the abode of death.

Hearing Sringin’s angry words, his father, the wise sage, said, “My child, I am not pleased with your action. Ascetics should not act like this. We live in King Parikshit’s kingdom. He is a righteous monarch who always protects us. A reigning (and righteous) king should always be forgiven by ascetics. My child, if you destroy dharma, then dharma will destroy you. We depend on the king’s protection to perform our ascetic practices without being disturbed by outlaws. It is because of his protection that we earn the merit from our ascetic practices. Therefore, the king also deserves a share of our merit.”

The sage continued, “O Sringin, Parikshit is very similar to his great-grandfather (King Pandu). He performs his duties well and cares for us like a king should care for his subjects. He made the mistake of putting a dead snake on my shoulder because he was hungry and tired. O child, a country without a king has to suffer many difficulties. The king maintains law and order by punishing offenders. The fear of punishment results in peace and peace ensures that the righteous can perform their duties and rites without being disturbed. This way the king establishes dharma and the way of heaven on earth. Because of the king’s protection, we are able to conduct yagnas and sacrifices. These please the devas, and the devas cause rain. The rains help in the production of grains and herbs which are very useful to humans. Manu says that a good king who rules over the destinies of humans is equal, in dignity, to ten priests who have studied the Vedas. The noble king committed this mistake due to hunger and fatigue. Why then have you cursed the king, O Sringin? Your action is childish, rash, and unrighteous. O son, the king has not done anything wrong to deserve a curse from us.”

Note: In the next post, we will find out if Sringin regrets his rash action, after hearing his father’s words.

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Next Post: Did Sringin Regret His Rash Action?

An image of Rishyashringi’s (most likely Rishi Sringi) hermitage

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: King Parikshit Commits the Mistake of Insulting a Noble Sage

Note: In the previous post, we saw how King Parikshit, in a state of hunger, thirst, and exhaustion, made the mistake of insulting a Brahmin.

In this post, we will read about the repercussion of that mistake.

The sage whom King Parikshit had insulted had a son called Sringin. He was young and a bit immature, but he sincerely practised strict ascetic penances. Sringin also had an angry disposition and was difficult to please.

Sringin studied with a guru whose hermitage was not too far from where his father stayed. Commanded by his teacher, Sringin was going home when a fellow student called Krisa met him on the way. Krisa told Sringin in a playful way, “O Sringin, you are very proud of your asceticism and energy but I have heard that your father is sitting with a dead snake on his shoulder. Where was your manliness when the snake was placed on him? Henceforth, don’t show-off or talk rudely to students like us who also have knowledge of the truth. We have not done anything to deserve such treatment from you just as your father had done no wrong to deserve such an insult. I feel sad because of the insult your father had to suffer. 

Hearing Krisa’s words made Sringin burn with anger. However, he spoke softly to Krisa and asked, “Please tell me, why is my father bearing a dead snake on his shoulders?”

Krisa replied, “King Parikshit was in this region for the purpose of hunting. He placed the dead snake on your father’s shoulder.”

“Did my father commit any mistake?” Sringin asked, “what wrong did he do to that wicked king? O Krisa tell me the details and witness the power of my asceticism.”

Krisa said, “King Parikshit, the son of Abhimanyu, wounded a deer while hunting. The deer ran into the forest. King Parikshit pursued it but the deer managed to escape. He saw your father in the forest and asked him if he had seen the deer. Your father did not reply because he was observing a vow of silence. In a state of hunger, exhaustion, and thirst, the king asked your father again and again about the deer, but received no reply. That’s when, the king picked up a dead snake with his bow and put it on your father’s shoulders. Your father was in a state of deep devotion at that time, because of which he did not remove the snake. King Parikshit has returned to his capital, Hastinapur, and your father is still sitting with the snake on his shoulder.”

Sringin was filled with anger when he heard Krisa’s account of what had happened. His eyes enlarged and became red. He touched water and cursed the king in the following words, “That sinful wretch of a king who placed a snake on my old father’s shoulder, that insultee of Brahmins and tarnisher of the fame of kurus, will be taken to the abode of Yama within seven nights by Takshaka, the king of the serpents. The power of my words will stimulate Takshaka to perform this act.”

Note: In the next post, we will find out how Sringin’s father reacted when he heard about Sringin’s curse to the king.

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Next Post: The Wise Sage is Displeased With Sringin’s Rash Action

Image of Naga couple at the Hoysala temple

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Previous Post: Elapatra’s Suggestion to His Snake Brothers

Note: In the previous post, we read about Elapatra’s advice to his snake brothers. Elapatra had heard the conversation between Brahma Deva and other devas about how only the sinful snakes would perish in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice and how the virtuous snakes would be saved.

Even though these words gave some relief to Vasuki, they did not remove his anxiety completely because the future still felt uncertain. 

In this post, we will find out how the devas sought help from Brahma Deva for Vasuki.

A very important cosmic event took place soon after Elapatra’s advice to his snake brothers. It was the Samudra Manthan where the devas and asuras got together to churn the ocean.

Vasuki, the chief of serpents who was gifted with great strength, offered to become the churning cord. After the Churning was over, Vasuki presented himself to Brahma Deva. The devas also went with Vasuki and told Brahma Deva that Vasuki was constantly concerned about the fate of  the serpent race. He suffered from great anxiety because of his mother’s curse. The devas represented Vasuki as their friend and someone who had helped them. They requested Brahma Deva to be gracious to Vasuki and remove the root cause of his sorrow.

Note: I like this story because it shows the devas asking for help from one of the Tri-Devas for a friend. The devas tend to be grateful for the kindness and friendship they receive and repay it accordingly.

Brahma Deva replied to the devas, “O immortals, I have thought about the solution. Let the chief of snakes do what his brother Elapatra suggested. Rishi Jaratkaru has been born and is engaging in hard penances. Let Vasuki bestow his sister to the sage at the right time. What Elapatra said about the son born of the union of Vasuki’s sister and the sage is true. He will be a wise Brahmin full of energy and will stop the snake sacrifice as soon as the sinful serpents have perished. No virtuous serpent will be harmed in the sacrifice.”

Hearing Brahma Deva’s words, Vasuki immediately commanded all the serpents to watch rishi Jaratkaru and notify him as soon as he came looking for a wife.

Note: In the next post, we will find out how rishi Jaratkaru got his name.

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Next Post: The Meaning of the Name Jaratkaru

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Strategies Proposed by Various Serpents for Their Welfare

Note: In the previous post, we read about the suggestions given by various snakes who had gathered to find a way to protect themselves from perishing in Janamajeya’s snake sacrifice.

In this post, we will read the solution Elapatra, a wise serpent who also knew something about the curse that his brothers didn’t, suggested to protect himself and his brothers.

Elapatra spoke the last, after hearing all the snakes including Vasuki. He said, “We cannot prevent Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. Further, Janamejaya is not the real cause of the danger we face. The real cause of our fear is ‘fate’ and a person who is afflicted by fate cannot find a solution for his problems in anything other than fate. Therefore, let us seek refuge in fate itself.”

Elapatra explained to his brothers that when their mother, Kadru, had uttered the curse, he lay crouching on her lap filled with fear. At that time, he heard the devas tell Brahma Deva about how cruelly Kadru had behaved with her dear sons. The devas were surprised that instead of opposing Kadru’s curse, Brahma Deva approved of it by saying, “So be it.” The devas wanted to know why Brahma Deva did not prevent the curse from taking effect. Brahma Deva explained that there were many reasons why he had approved Kadru’s curse: the snakes’ population had increased a lot; they were cruel and highly poisonous; and they were terrible in form. Brahma Deva explained that his actions were for the good of other creatures. He also promised the devas that only the sinful and cruel serpents who bit other creatures without reason would perish due to the curse. The harmless and virtuous snakes would remain safe. 

Brahma Deva also explained how he would safeguard the virtuous snakes. He said that a great rishi called Jaratkaru would be born in the Yayavara race. He would marry a maiden from the race of the serpents whose name would also be Jaratkaru. Their son, Astika, would stop Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice after it had destroyed the sinful serpents, thus giving the virtuous serpents a chance to escape. Brahma Deva also explained that the maiden called Jaratkaru, would be none other than the snake chief, Vasuki’s, sister.

Elapatra then turned to his brother, Vasuki, and said that rishi Jaratkaru would wander begging for a bride. He urged Vasuki to give his sister in marriage to the rishi to ensure the welfare of the serpents. 

Hearing Elapatra’s words, all the serpents delightfully exclaimed, “Well said! Well said!”

After this meeting, Vasuki took great care in raising his sister.

Note: In the next post, we will read about when the devas approached Brahma Deva, once again, to request him to help the serpent, Vasuki.

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Next Post: The Devas Request Brahma Deva to Help Vasuki

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Vasuki Convenes a Meeting of Serpents to Find a Way to Neautralize Kadru’s Curse

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Vasuki called for a meeting with his serpent brothers to find a way to protect themselves and their race from their mother’s curse.

In this post, we will read about the strategies proposed by various

One group of serpents suggested that they should approach Janamejaya disguised as superior Brahmins and convince him to cancel the snake sacrifice.

Another group of snakes, who considered themselves very wise, gave an alternate suggestion. A better way out, according to them, was to become Janamejaya’s favourite counsellors. Since the king would have a high regard for them, he would certainly ask for their advice before conducting the snake sacrifice. The snakes posing as the king’s counsellors, would convince him against the snake sacrifice by pointing out the evil that would happen in this life as well as the next as a result of the sacrifice.

Another suggestion which was proposed was to bite the person who was appointed to conduct the sacrifice. Not only that person, but everyone who knew the rites of the snake sacrifice, so with their demise, there wouldn’t be anyone to conduct the sacrifice.

Some of the more nobler snakes did not agree with people who knew how to perform the sacrifice. They said, “It is not correct to kill brahmins. In times of danger, let us find a righteous solution because unrighteousness eventually destroys the world.” 

In response to this objection, some snakes suggested that they should become clouds and pour rain onto the sacrificial fire and extinguish it to prevent the sacrifice. Another alternative suggested was to prevent the sacrifice by stealing the Soma juice which was necessary for the sacrifice.

This wave of virtue did not last long since another group of snakes immediately suggested that they bite the people who would attend the sacrifice thus spreading terror all along. Other snakes suggested that they prevent the sacrifice by defiling the food with urine and dung.

Others suggested that they should become the king’s Ritwika and demand their fee before the sacrifice and somehow prevent the king from performing the sacrifice.

Some snakes suggested binding the king when he stepped into a lake, while yet another group of snakes said they should bite and kill the king and thus destroy the root cause of the sacrifice.

After making all these suggestions, the snakes turned to Vasuki and said, “O you who hears with his eyes, we have given you our suggestions. Now do what you feel is best.”

After reflecting on all the proposed ideas, Vasuki said, “I don’t think these ideas are virtuous. I am responsible for ensuring the welfare of the snakes, therefore, I will have to bear the final credit or discredit that comes upon us because of the way we carry out our task. I think we should meet our illustrious father, Sage Kasyapa. He is the only person who can help us.

Note: There was one more snake in the group, called Elapatra, who was privy to some additional knowledge about the sacrifice. In the next post, we will read about his suggestion for the welfare of the snakes.

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Next Post: Elapatra’s Suggestion to His Snake Brothers

Statue of Vasuki in Kumortali (Image contributed by Kritzolina in the public domain on a Creative Commons licence).

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Sesha Naga Becomes the Earth’s Axis

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Sesha Naga stabilized the earth and also moved away from his vile siblings.

In this post, we will read about the noble serpent, Vasuki, and how he convened a meeting of all his siblings to find a remedy for Kadru’s curse (that all the snakes would perish in raja Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice).

Just in case you’ve forgotten, Janamajeya was Parikshit’s son, Uttara & Abhimanyu’s  grandson, and Subhadra & Arjun’s great-grandson.

Vasuki, another noble son of Kadru, had spent much time deliberating over how to ensure the welfare of all the snakes by neautralizing his mother’s curse. One day, he convened a meeting with his brothers (Airavata and others) to discuss the best course of action.

Addressing his brothers, Vasuki said, “O sinless ones, you already know that the result of this curse will be the destruction of all the snakes when Janamajeya conducts his snake sacrifice. It is our duty to find a remedy to this problem.”

Vasuki explained to his brothers that all curses had a remedy, but a curse that was uttered in the presence of the eternal was difficult to neautralize.

In a state of dejection, he said, “Surely, the time for our species to perish has come. Why else would the almighty allow our mother to utter such words?”

Note: I’d like to point out here that when we are wronged by another person, we often respond like Vasuki did. We assume that since the almighty allowed a certain event to happen, it must be in our destiny or karma to suffer. This may or may not be true. However, to assume the worst, is, in my opinion, unwise. A better course of action is to find the reason why the difficult event might have happened, to find the lesson that the almighty might be giving us. And then to learn from the event, change ourselves, and put effort for our continued welfare. 

The fatalistic attitude of surrendering to everything that happens in life is not always the wisest course of action, especially not in Kaliyuga when virtuous people face additional difficulties due to the very nature of this yuga where virtue is oppressed and vice is empowered.

Recovering from the dejection, Vasuki continued, “But, in any case, it is our duty to ensure our safety. Therefore, without wasting any more time, let us discuss various solutions and find a way to free ourselves from this curse. Let us act like the devas in ancient times who found a way to pacify Agni when he had shunned the world and retreated into a cave after Sage Bhrigu cursed him for speaking the truth to a rakshasa

Note: In the next post, we will read about the strategies proposed by various snakes.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Strategies Proposed by Various Serpents for Their Welfare

Image of Kaurava warrior Bhagadatta seated on another elephant also called Supratika during the Kurukshetra war (Chennakesava Temple, Belur)

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Previous Post: Garuda Meets His Father

Note: In the previous post, we read about the interaction between Sage Kasyapa and Garuda. When Garuda expressed that he needed to eat more food before he could fight the gods for the amrit, Kasyapa suggested that he eat a violent elephant and tortoise who lived in a sacred lake.

In this post, we will find out the identity of that elephant and tortoise and why they constantly fought with each other.

Sage Kasyapa said to Garuda, “O son, now I will tell you who this violent elephant and tortoise were in their past lives.”

There was once a great but wrathful rishi called Vibhavasu. He had a younger brother called Supritika.

These brothers had inherited wealth which they managed jointly. However, Supritika did not like keeping his share of the wealth jointly with Vibhavasu. Therefore, at every opportunity, he would insist upon partitioning the wealth so he could get full ownership of his share.

Annoyed by his continuous insistence, Vibhavasu told Supritika, “It is due to foolishness that people who are blinded by wealth wish to partition their inheritance. Such deluded people continue to fight with each other even after they have taken their share. Moreover, there are people in society who are enemies in the guise of friends. Such people will create further quarrels between siblings after they’ve separated. Such siblings, once separated, stop following the shastras and live in constant fear of each other. Eventually, the separated family faces absolute ruin. That is the reason wise people do not approve of partitioning ancestral wealth.”

As Vibhavasu spoke, he became angrier and cursed Supritika saying, “O Supritika, but you always insist on partitioning your share of the wealth. Therefore, you shall become an elephant.”

Hearing his brother’s words, Supritika also cursed Vibhavasu. He said, “Then you shall become a tortoise who lives in water.”

Sage Kasyapa explained to Garuda how, because of their anger, Supritika and Vibhavasu became inferior animals and, proud of their strength, still continue to fight with each other.

“Look there!” Kasyapa once again pointed to the lake. 

Garuda saw a huge elephant roaring with anger. Hearing the loud voice of the elephant, the tortoise, who lived deep within the lake, came to the surface and moved his feet wildly to create turbulence in the water. Following the tortoise, the elephant also curled his trunk and began to agitate the water with his curled trunk and feet.

These two animals were huge. The elephant’s height was six yojanas and his overall circumference was twelve yojanas. The tortoise was three yojanas in height and ten yojanas in circumference. Both animals rushed toward the other, with their heads raised, for an encounter, bent upon killing each other.

Sage Kasyapa said, “O Garuda, eat these fierce animals, and then, accomplish your task of bringing the amrit.”

Note: In the next post, we will read about how Garuda seized the violent brothers (who had become animals) and went in search of a place where he could eat them. However, due to a certain incident, Garuda had to take a detour to protect a group of tiny, thumb-sized rishis, called Valakhilya rishis.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Garuda Takes a Detour to Protect the Valakhilya Rishis

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Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Vinata and Kadru cross the great ocean to see Uchchaihsravas

Note: In the previous post, Vinata and Kadru flew across the great ocean to check the color of Uchchaihsravas’ tail. 

The description of the great ocean (the ocean of desires and illusions) was allegorical to the illusory world and all the creatures that inhabited it were symbols for various aspects of the material reality that have to be transcended to attain freedom from the illusion. I hesitate to equate that ‘freedom’ to moksha because on the other side of the ocean was the celestial horse, so the freedom that is referred to here might be freedom from the gross material reality of earth and an entry into the subtler celestial regions. This is only a hypothesis. I do not speak as an expert. Having said that, I will reach out to experts and request them to comment on the allegorical meaning of “the ocean and it’s inhabitants.” Their thoughts will appear in the comments section at the end of the post.

In this post, we will find out how Vinata became Kadru’s slave.

Meanwhile, as Vinata and Kadru crossed the great ocean, Kadru’s snake children, whom she had recently cursed, were terrified of the cruel destiny that awaited them. The snakes consulted with each other and came to the conclusion that it would be best to obey their mother. They were afraid she might completely withdraw her affection towards them if they disobeyed her, while, on the other hand, if they followed her instructions, she might be pleased and free them from the curse. Having made that decision, they turned themselves into black hair and covered the celestial horse’s tail.

After crossing the ocean (as if flying over it), the sisters came down to the place where the celestial horse stood. They saw the great steed. Its body was as white as the moon but its tail had black hair.

Kadru won the bet and her dejected sister, Vinata, was immediately enslaved.

Note: If you remember, a few posts back, we had read about how Vinata was jealous because her sister’s thousand snake children were born before her two sons. In her impatience, she had poked open one of her eggs causing her first son to be born malformed in the lower half of the body. In anger, he cursed his mother that she would become a slave. 

Coming back to the bet, we may be horrified by Kadru’s behavior. She cursed her own children with a terrible fate because they refused to participate in her deception and then she enslaved Vinata by that very deception. We aren’t privy to Kadru’s inner thoughts and what caused her to perform these adharmic actions. In all likelihood, she might have been a vicious woman and would suffer the consequences of her actions in the future, but, in the present moment, her viciousness set into motion events that were aligned with destiny. Thus the great wheel of time moved ahead bringing karmic fruit to Vinata because her son was born malformed due to her impatience. Kadru’s actions also set the stage for the snakes to suffer the karmic results of their own viciousness towards other creatures since she did not take back her curse even though they eventually obeyed her command and covered the horse’s tail with black hair.

In the next post, we will read about the greatness of Vinata’s second child – Garuda.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

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