In Bali, Hindu Brahmins are called Pedandas and Brahmin priests are called Sulinggih. Both men and women can be a Sulinggih. The image above shows a woman – a Brahmin priestess.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Takshaka Seeks Indra’s Protection

Note: In the previous post, we read about the difference between how Takshaka and Vasuki responded to the threat of Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. Takshaka sought personal protection from Indra, while Vasuki, wanting to save his family and race, called out to his sister, Jaratkaru, for help.

In this post, we’ll read about how they asked Jaratkaru’s son, Astika, to bring an end to the snake sacrifice.

Calling his sister, Vasuki said, “O sister, my legs are burning and I can’t see anything clearly. I’m about to lose consciousness. I’m feeling numb and heartbroken, I think I too might fall into the sacrificial fire created to exterminate our race. O sister, O best of women from the race of the serpents, your marriage with Rishi Jaratkaru was performed to save our family and race. Your son, Astika, has been designated by Brahma Deva himself to put an end to Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. It is time, dear sister, to request Astika, who is learned in the Vedas and respected by the noble sages, to perform his role and save the serpents.”

Jaratkaru, the serpent lady, called her son and said, “O child, my brother bestowed me in marriage to your father for a special purpose. The time has come to fulfil that purpose. O son, you must do what needs to be done.”

Astika replied, “O mother, please tell me the reason why you were married to my father. I want to understand everything and take the correct actions.”

Jaratkaru, the great serpent lady, remained calm and steady even though she was aware that snakes were perishing in thousands and explained everything to her son. She said, “O son, a long time ago, Kadru, the mother of the snakes commanded her sons to make the tail of the celestial horse (Uchchaisravas) appear black because she wanted to win a bet with Vinata. However, her sons refused to do her bidding and she cursed them in anger. She cursed them saying they would perish in a sacrifice performed by King Janamejaya and would then go to the realm of unredeemed spirits. Brahma Deva himself assented to the curse as soon as it was uttered.” 

Then Jaratkaru told her son how her brother, Vasuki, played an important role in the churning of the ocean. After the ocean had been churned and the devas gratified by drinking the amrit, Vasuki approached them for help to save the serpents from perishing due to Kadru’s curse. The devas accomplished Vasuki to Brahma Deva to request him to nullify the curse and save the serpents.

Brahma Deva assured Vasuki that, in the future, a sage called Jaratkaru would marry a maiden by the same name and their brahmin son would bring relief to the snakes.

After explaining the background events to her son, Jaratkaru said, “Hearing Brahma Deva’s words, my brother Vasuki, the best of snakes, bestowed me in marriage to the high-souled sage, Jaratkaru, sometime before the snake sacrifice began. O son, O child of godlike looks, you were born from that marriage and now the time has come for you to protect us from this danger. O son, what are your thoughts on this matter?” 

Astika immediately replied, “Yes I will protect the serpents.” Then he spoke to his uncle, Vasuki, saying, “O great being, O best of snakes, please do not be overcome by worry. I will relieve you and the serpents from this curse. I have never uttered a lie even in fun, so nothing more needs to be said. I will go immediately and convince Janamejaya, with proper words and blessings, to stop the sacrifice.”

Before leaving, Astika assured his uncle that his resolve would not go unfulfilled.

However, Vasuki, being afflicted by the curse (and maybe also the sacrifice) said, “O child, my head is swimming and my heart is sinking. I’m not even able to distinguish the different points in the space around me.”

Hearing his uncle’s words, Astika once again assured him saying, “O best of snakes, please do not worry about the fire of this yagna which, right now, looks like the fire that blazes at the end of a yuga. Please be assured that I will extinguish it.”

Note: In the next post, we will find out what happens when Astika reaches the site of the snake sacrifice.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Astika Reaches the Location of the Snake Sacrifice

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.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Elapatra’s Suggestion to His Snake Brothers

Garuda at Srivilliputur Temple, Tamil Nadu, India

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: An Island Called Ramanayika

Note: In the previous post, we read about the island called Ramanayika that the creator (Brahma) had dedicated to the Makaras (crocodiles). Kadru and her snake sons had commanded Vinata and Garuda to take them to the beautiful island on their backs.

In this post, we will find out what happened when the snakes made further demands of Garuda.

The snakes began to enjoy themselves after arriving in the forest in Ramanikiya. After they had satisfied themselves, they commanded Garuda once again.

“O Garuda, ranger of the skies, you must have seen many beautiful regions while flying. Now take us to another excellent island that has pure water.” The snakes said to Garuda.

When Garuda was thus commanded for the second time, he reflected for a moment and asked his mother, Vinata, “Mother, why do I have to obey the snakes?”

Vinata looked at her son who had been blessed with immense energy, strength, and every virtue. She said, “The snakes committed an act of deception and caused me to lose a bet because of which I was enslaved by my co-wife, Kadru.”

A word of thanks to the sponsor of this page: Shri Srinivas Solapurkar.

I met Srinivas Ji at Sri Aurobindo Nivas in Vadodara. He was very generous in sharing his spiritual knowledge and wisdom about the “Guru Charitra Granth — A text about the Leela of Shri Bhagwan Dattatreya.

Along with yoga and naturopathy guidance, he also offers services as a Heritage Tour Guide in Vadodara.

Garuda became dejected after hearing his mother’s story. He was filled with sadness. Wanting to find a way out of slavery, he asked the snakes, “Tell me O snakes, how can we gain freedom from this bondage to you? Do you desire an object or some knowledge? I can bring them for you to win our freedom. If you desire, I can do an act that requires immense strength. Tell me, what can I do to acquire freedom?”

The snakes replied, “O great bird, bring us the amrit from the gods, even by force, if you must. You and your mother will be freed if you can do this for us.”

Note: The next few posts contain the adventures of Garuda as he goes to heaven and battles with the devas for the amrit.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Garuda Begins his Quest for the Amrit

Image by Meursault2004, Own Work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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)

Next Post: Garuda’s Splendor

Seven-Headed Uchchaihsravas

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: The Battle Between Danavas and Devas After Samudra Manthan

Note: In the previous post, we read about the battle between the devas and the asuras after the Churning of the Ocean, and how Nara and Narayana defeated the asuras.

In today’s post, we will return to the story of Vinata and Kadru, and learn about the bet they wagered that eventually led to Vinata becoming Kadru’s slave.

After narrating the story of Samudra Manthan, Sauti said to the ascetics in Naimisha Forest, “I have told you the whole story of how the amrit was obtained and when the celestial horse, Uchchaihsravas, emerged from the ocean.”

After that, Sauti returned to the earlier story of Vinata and Kadru. After speaking about the celestial horse, Kadru said to Vinata, “Tell me, sister, what do you think is the color of Uchchaihsravas?”

Vinata answered, “The celestial horse is most certainly white in color. What do you think, sister? Let’s place a bet on its color.”

Kadru replied, “In that case, I think its tail is black in colot. O beautiful sister, let us place a bet that the person who loses will have to serve the winner as a slave.”

After agreeing on the terms of the bet, Vinata and Kadru returned home and decided to visit Uchchaihsravas, the next day, to verify its color.

Determined to win the bet by deceit, Kadru commanded her thousand snake sons to transform themselves into black hair and quickly cover Uchchaihsravas’ tail so it would appear black. Her sons, however, refused to follow her order. Angered by their refusal, Kadru cursed her thousand sons with the following words, “A wise king called Janamejaya, of Pandava race, will perform a snake sacrifice one day, and, in that sacrifice, the fire god, Agni, will consume all of you!”

Lord Brahma heard these cruel words that Kadru had uttered to her sons, but he knew that these words were influenced by destiny. The population of snakes had increased a lot and had created an imbalance in the ecosystem. The snakes were strong and poisonous and they were always bent upon biting and persecuting other creatures.

Lord Brahma, driven by compassion for the suffering creatures, did not intervene in this issue. The snakes had inflicted immense harm to other creatures and something had to be done to stop their suffering.

When the other gods discussed this matter, they also agreed that fate always punished creatures who harmed others. Therefore, they supported Kadru’s curse because they considered it in line with fate.

Even though the destiny of the snakes was sealed, Lord Brahma felt sorry for their father, Sage Kasyapa. Therefore, Brahma called the noble sage to his abode and explained that his snake children had been cursed by their mother and that he should not grieve about it because it was preordained by destiny. After comforting Sage Kasyapa, Lord Brahma taught him the science of neutralizing snake poison.

Note: In the next post, we will read about Vinata and Kadru going to check the color of Uchchaihsravas’ tail.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

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