Modern replica of utensils and falcon-shaped altar used for Agnicayana, an elaborate Śrauta ritual originating from the Kuru Kingdom 1000 BCE (image contributed by Arayilpdas at Malayalam Wikipedia)

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Janamejaya Inquires About the Circumstances of King Parikshit’s Death

Note: In the previous post, Janamejaya asked his ministers about the circumstances of his father’s death. The ministers related the entire story beginning with King Parikshit going on a hunt, to him being cursed by a brahmin’s son for insulting the brahmin, to Takshaka using deceit to send away Sage Kasyapa, to how Takshaka entered the palace and destroyed Parikshit with his poison.

In this post, we will read about Janamejaya’s response after hearing about the above incidents.

Janamejaya said, “My father would definitely have survived if Rishi Kasyapa had reached Hastinapur. That horrible snake, Takshaka, must have thought that if the king survived his bite then he would be mocked for not being poisonous enough. I’m sure that was the reason why Takshaka convinced the brahmin to turn back. 

Having said this, King Janamejaya became filled with grief. He squeezed his hands and wept. The king who had lotus eyes began to breathe long and hot breaths and shrieked aloud with tears in his eyes. In this state, he touched water and thought carefully as if deciding an important matter in his mind. After some time, when he had achieved clarity about the issue, the angry and grieving king said to his ministers, “I have heard your description of my father’s demise and I have also decided the further course of action. I don’t believe my father died because of Sringin’s curse. It is my belief that Takshaka took advantage of that curse to destroy my father. I cannot understand how Takshaka would have lost anything if my father had lived. It was because of this ill intention that he also made Sage Kasyapa return. The act of giving wealth to the great brahmin, Kasyapa, to prevent him from saving my father was an act of great aggression on Takshaka’s part. Therefore, I will take revenge on Takshaka immediately. Takshaka is unaware of the consequences of my wrath. I will destroy my father’s enemy to bring myself peace of mind and also for the sake of my father’s subjects and Rishi Uttanka.”

Note: Rishi Uttanka was mentioned a long time back in the Paushya (sub) Parva. I’ll briefly describe his story and why Janamejaya mentions him. Rishi Ayodha-Dhaumya had three disciples called Aruni, Apamanyu, and Veda. Even though the rishi was loving and caring, he was very strict with his disciples. When his third disciple, Veda, became a rishi, he decided to be very gentle with his disciples. One of his disciples was Uttanka. Rishi Veda trusted this disciple because of his sincerity. One day, when Rishi Veda had to be away from his home for some work, he entrusted the care of his house to Uttanka. At that time, Rishi Veda’s wife came into the season when a union with a man would produce children. She summoned her husband’s disciple, Uttanka, for a union. Uttanka, however, did not feel such a relationship would be correct and politely declined the lady of the house. When Rishi Veda returned home, he was pleased with Uttanka for his conduct. After Uttanka’s education got over, he requested his teacher to take guru-dakshina. Rishi Veda did not want any dakshina but upon Uttanka’s insistence, he told his disciple to bring whatever would please his wife. Rishi Veda’s wife asked Uttanka to bring her the earrings of King Paushya’s wife. Uttanka succeeded in acquiring the earrings from the King’s wife, however, when he was returning, the serpent king, Takshaka, stole the earrings from Uttanka. He chased the serpent and eventually succeeded in getting the earrings back but Takshaka’s action angered the young sage. After gifting the earrings to his teacher’s wife, Uttanka went to Hastinapur and told Janamejaya how Takshaka had deceitfully killed the king’s father Parikshit. Uttanka also told the king how Takshaka had tried to steal the earrings he had acquired for his teacher’s wife as guru-dakshina. He suggested Janamejaya perform a sacrifice to burn Takshaka to avenge his father’s death and also as a favour to Uttanka.

Janamejaya’s ministers approved of his plans and the king told them about his desire to perform a snake sacrifice.

Having thus decided, Janamejaya called his priest and ritwiks (a person who performs Vedic yagnas) and said, “I want to take revenge on Takshaka, the wretch who killed my father. Do you know how I can cast Takshaka and his relatives into a fire and burn them just as he burned my father with his poison?”

The chief priest said, “Those who are well-versed in the Puranas have spoken about such a sacrifice called the snake sacrifice that was devised by the Gods themselves. However, O king, only you can accomplish that sacrifice.”

Hearing these words, Janamejaya felt certain that Takshaka would perish in the blazing flames of the sacrificial Agni. He said to his priests, “I will make preparations for the sacrifice. Please tell me everything that is necessary for it.”

Seeing their king determined to perform the snake sacrifice, his ritwiks, who were well-versed in the details of the sacrifice, first measured out the land for performing the rituals according to calculations given in the scriptures. Then they created a platform and placed valuable articles along with paddy on it. Finally, they installed the king on the platform for performing the snake sacrifice for the desired aim. 

However, before the sacrifice began, a wise suta who was well-versed in the Puranas, and was also a professional builder, approached the assembly and said, “O king, the time at which the measurements were taken to build the sacrificial platform and the land on which the platform has been erected, indicate that this sacrifice will not be completed successfully. A brahmin will be the cause for the sacrifice’s failure.”

Heeding the wise suta’s words, the king commanded his gatekeepers to be extra vigilant and prevent anyone from entering the sacrificial space without his knowledge.

Note: In the next post, we will read about the snake sacrifice.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: The Snake Sacrifice (Sarpa Satra) Begins