Astika asks to stop the snake sacrifice.

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Previous Post: Astika Returns Home

Note: In the previous post, we read that Astika went home after saving the snakes and shared the news with his family. When his family expressed the desire to give him a boon, he asked for the protection of humans from virulent snakes.

In this post, we will find out the names of the principal snakes who perished in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice.

You’ll recollect that Ugrasrava Sauti narrated the Mahabharata to Saunak Kulapati and the ascetics who attended his 12-year yagna in Naimisha Forest.

After hearing Astika’s story, Saunak Kulapati wanted to know the names of the snakes that fell into the fire.

Sauti said that billions of snakes fell into that fire. Their number was so great that it was impossible to count them, let alone narrate their names. However, Sauti narrated the names of the principal snakes.

The principal snakes from Vasuki’s race that fell into the fire were huge-bodied and possessed deadly poison. They were blue, red, and white in colour. Their names were:

  • Kotisa
  • Manasa
  • Purna
  • Cala
  • Pala
  • Halmaka
  • Pichchala
  • Kaunapa
  • Cakra
  • Kalavega
  • Prakalana
  • Hiranyavahu
  • Carana
  • Kakshaka
  • Kaladantaka

The principal snakes from Takshaka’s race who perished were:

  • Puchchandaka
  • Mandalaka
  • Pindasektri
  • Ravenaka
  • Uchochikha
  • Carava
  • Bhangas
  • Vilwatejas
  • Virohana
  • Sili
  • Salakara
  • Muka
  • Sukumara
  • Pravepana
  • Mudgara
  • Sisuroman
  • Suroman 
  • Mahahanu

The principal snakes who perished from Airavata’s race were:

  • Paravata
  • Parijata
  • Pandara
  • Harina
  • Krisa
  • Vihanga
  • Sarabha
  • Meda
  • Pramoda
  • Sauhatapana

The principal snakes from the Kauravya race were:

  • Eraka
  • Kundala Veni
  • Veniskandha
  • Kumaraka
  • Vahuka
  • Sringavera
  • Dhurtaka
  • Pratara
  • Astaka

The snakes born in Dhritarashtra’s race were highly poisonous and could move at the speed of wind.

  • Sankukarna
  • Pitharaka
  • Kuthara
  • Sukhana
  • Shechaka
  • Purnangada
  • Purnamukha
  • Prahasa
  • Sakuni
  • Dari
  • Amahatha
  • Kumathaka
  • Sushena
  • Vyaya
  • Bhairava
  • Mundavedanga
  • Pisanga
  • Udraparaka
  • Rishabha
  • Vegavat
  • Pindaraka
  • Raktanga
  • Sarvasaranga
  • Samriddha
  • Patha
  • Vasaka
  • Varahaka
  • Viranaka
  • Suchitra
  • Chitravegika
  • Parasara
  • Tarunaka
  • Maniskandha
  • Aruni

“O Brahmana,” Ugrasrava Sauti said to Saunaka Kulapati after naming the snakes, “There were so many snakes who perished. Some had three heads, some had seven, while others had ten. Their poison was terrible and dangerous. It was capable of creating a fire similar to the fire at the end of a yuga. Many snakes had huge bodies that were as large as a mountain summit, and in length, some of them were as long as two yojanas. They could change their form at will, they could move very fast and were immensely strong. All of them were burnt in that fire.”

Sauti continued, “O Brahmanas, O great descendant of Bhrigu’s race, your ancestor, Pramati, had cheerfully narrated this story to his son, Ruru. And now, I have narrated the same history of the learned Astika, exactly as I heard it. I hope this story that increases the listener’s virtue has satisfied you.”

Note: This post ends the Astika (sub) Parva. 

In the next post, we begin the  Adivansavatarana (sub) Parva, which begins with Janamejaya requesting Rishi Vyasa (during the snake sacrifice) to tell him the Bharata: the complete story of the Kuru clan. Rishi Vyasa directs his disciple Vaishampayana to narrate the Bharata. The story of the Kuru race begins from the Adivansavatarana (sub) Parva.

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Next Post: King Janamejaya Requests Rishi Vyasa to Narrate the Story of His Ancestors

The day Astika saved the serpents in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice is celebrated as Naga Panchami. The above is a hand-drawn Naga Panchami poster above the main door of a Nepalese House in USA. The image contributed to the public domain by Regmiparwat.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: How Takshaka Was Protected From Falling Into the Fire

Note: In the previous post, we learnt how Takshaka was saved from falling into the fire. 

In this post, the child-sage Astika returns home after successfully saving his maternal relatives and shares the good news with his mother and uncle.

Astika returned home and touched his mother’s and uncle’s feet and joyfully told them everything that had happened at the yagna.

Vasuki and Jaratkaru were delighted that their relatives were safe. Pleased with Astika, they said, “O learned child, you have gratified us with your actions. Ask for a boon, O child. What can we do for you?”

Astika replied, “Let the snakes never harm those Brahmins and other people who cheerfully read the story of my actions with proper attention.”

Vasuki said, “O nephew, it will be exactly as you say. And let me also say that anyone who calls to mind Astika, Artiman, and Sunitha shall have no fear of snakes.”

Vasuki, however, did not stop with these two boons. He wanted to grant one more boon to bring glory to his nephew. He said, “If anyone accosted by a snake says the following words, the snake will not bite him, and, in case the snake does bite him then that snake’s hood will be split into a hundred pieces like the fruit of a Sinsa tree.” 

The words designated by Vasuki were: “I call to mind the famous Astika, born of Jaratkaru, that Astika who saved the snakes from the snake sacrifice. Therefore O fortunate snakes, it is not correct for you to bite me. May you be blessed O snake of virulent poison. O snake, now leave remembering the words of Astika after the snake sacrifice of Janamejaya.”

Astika was also pleased to hear his uncle’s words. 

The child brahmin had saved his maternal relatives from the sacrifice and also having sought safety for humans who remember him when accosted by a snake. Thus having completed his deeds with snakes and humans, Astika left his relatives and went away to live on his own. When his time on earth came to an end, he ascended to heaven leaving behind sons and grandsons.

Note: According to The Mahabharata, reciting this story removes the fear of snakes.

In the next post, we will find out the names of the snakes who perished in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice.

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Next Post: Names of the Snakes Who Perished in the Sacrifice

The Snake-Sacrifice

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

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

Note: In the previous post, Janamejaya resolved to conduct a snake sacrifice to avenge his father’s death caused by the evil and deceitful Takshaka. 

In this post, we will read about the events that happened after the snake sacrifice began.

The snake sacrifice commenced after Janamejaya was installed as the head of the sacrifice and he commanded his guards to be vigilant and prevent any outsider from entering the sacrificial space.

The priests were dressed in black garments and their eyes were red from contact with the smoke that emanated from the sacrificial fire as they poured clarified butter into it while chanting the appropriate mantras. This yagna was such that the snakes’ hearts trembled with fear.

Very soon, the priests started mentioning the names of specific snakes as they chanted the mantras and offered libations. As their names were mentioned, the snakes were pulled into the sacrificial fire. These snakes called out piteously to each other and intertwined their bodies with their brethren as they fell into the fire. Some of the snakes were old, some were young, some were black, some were blue, while some were white. These snakes were of different sizes too. Some measured a yojana, some a krosa, while some measured a gokarna. Hundreds of thousands of immensely poisonous snakes lost control over their movement and fell into the fire with swollen bodies, breathing hard, and uttering fear-filled cries. 

The snakes fell in such large numbers that after some time, their burnt fat overflowed from the sacrificial altar and started flowing towards the rivers. The whole environment was filled with cries of the snakes who were pulled into the fire and their burnt bodies filled the space with an insufferable stench.

Note: In the next post, we will find out the names of the rishis, priests and ritwika who participated in the sacrifice.

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Next Post: Names of the Rishis, Priests, and Ritwika Who Participated in the Snake Sacrifice

Image of Saw-Scaled Viper by Shantanu Kuveskar , shared in the public domain.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Garuda Frees His Mother From Slavery

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Garuda freed his mother from slavery without allowing the snakes to drink the amrit.

In this post, we will find out the names of the principal snakes involved in the adventure with Garuda. You will undoubtedly recognise some of them, while others may be unfamiliar. But I’m sure you will enjoy reading the names you are already familiar with and also enjoy getting acquainted with more names.

As you will recall, the Mahabharata was narrated by Ugrasrava Sauti to the ascetics in Naimisha Forest headed by Saunaka Kulapati. After hearing Garuda’s story, Saunaka Kulapati said, “O Sauti, you have told us why the snakes were cursed by Kadru, you have told us why Vinata was cursed by her elder son, and you have told us about Sage Kasyapa’s boons to Kadru and Vinata. You have also told us the names of Vinata’s two sons, however, you have not told us the names of Kadru’s sons. We are eager to learn the names of the principal snakes.”

Sauti replied, “O great one whose wealth is asceticism, I’m afraid the list of the snakes is very long. I will tell you the names of the chief snakes.”

Sauti told the ascetics the following names:

  1. Shesha was the first snake to be born.
  2. The second snake was Vasuki.
  3. The snakes born after Vasuki were, Airavata
  4. Takshaka
  5. Karkotaka
  6. Dhananjaya
  7. Kalakeya
  8. Mani
  9. Purana
  10. Pinjaraka
  11. Elapatra
  12. Vamana
  13. Nila
  14. Anila
  15. Kalmasha
  16. Savala
  17. Aryaka
  18. Ugra
  19. Kalasapotaka
  20. Suramukha
  21. Dadhimukha
  22. Vimalapindaka
  23. Apta
  24. Karotaka
  25. Samkha
  26. Valisikha
  27. Nisthanaka
  28. Hemaguha
  29. Nahusha
  30. Pingala
  31. Vahyakarna
  32. Hastipada
  33. Mudgarapindaka
  34. Kamvala
  35. Aswatara
  36. Kaliyaka
  37. Vritta
  38. Samvartaka
  39. Padma
  40. Mahapadma
  41. Sankhamukha
  42. Kushmandaka
  43. Kshemaka
  44. Pindaraka
  45. Karavira
  46. Pushpadanshtraka
  47. Vilwaka
  48. Vilwapandara
  49. Mushikada
  50. Sankhasiras
  51. Purnabhadra
  52. Haridraka
  53. Aparajita
  54. Jyotika
  55. Srivaha
  56. Kauravya
  57. Dhritarashtra
  58. Sankhapinda
  59. Virajas
  60. Suvahu
  61. Salipinda
  62. Prabhakara
  63. Hastipinda
  64. Pitharaka
  65. Sumuksha
  66. Kaunapashana
  67. Kuthara
  68. Kunjara
  69. Kumuda
  70. Kumudaksha
  71. Tittri
  72. Halika
  73. Kardama
  74. Vahumulaka
  75. Karkara
  76. Akarkara
  77. Kundodara
  78. and Mahodara.

After naming the chief serpents, Sauti said, “O best of ascetics, I am not naming the other snakes because it will be very tedious for you to hear so many names. All the snakes including the sons and grandsons of Kadru’s children are innumerable. There are millions of snakes in this world.”

Note: In the next post, we will find out how Kadru’s eldest son, Shesha, came to support the earth on his hood. As you will soon read, the description of Shesha supporting earth is uncannily similar to the earth’s axis. 

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Next Post: Shesha Naga Performs Ascetic Penances to Get Away From His Siblings

The victorious Garuda

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Previous Post: How the Snakes Became Garuda’s Natural Food

Note: In the previous post, we read how the snakes became Garuda’s natural food.

In this post, we will find out how Garuda frees his mother from slavery.

Upon reaching the island with the pot of amrit in his claws, Garuda addressed the snakes joyfully in the following words, “Here, I have brought the amrit for you. I’ll place it on a bed of kusa grass. O snakes, sit here and drink the amrit after performing your ablutions and religious rites.”

Garuda continued, “Since I have brought the amrit, free my mother as you had promised.” 

The snakes said to Garuda, “So be it,” and went to perform their ablutions so they could drink the amrit.

As soon as the snakes went to perform their ablutions, Indra came to that spot, quickly took the amrit, and returned to heaven. 

The snakes returned after completing their ablutions, but, to their dismay, the bed of Kusa grass was empty. The amrit was no longer there.

Note: Here, Vyasa Muni mentions the plan that Garuda and Indra had made, as a counter-act of deceit.

Disappointed and saddened at not finding the amrit, the snakes began to lick the kusa grass on which the amrit was placed. Licking the kusa grass caused the initial part of the snakes’ tongues to become split into two parts.

From that day onwards, having come in contact with amrit, kusa grass became sacred.

Thus, the illustrious Garuda brought the amrit by battling the devas, freed his mother, did not allow the snakes to take the amrit, and also caused the snakes’ tongues to be split.

Garuda, that bird of fair feathers, roamed the beautiful woods of that island with his mother. He also gratifiedehis mother by devouring the snakes.

It is said that great merit is acquired by the person who listens to this story or recites it to an assembly of good brahmanas.

Reading or reciting this story of Garuda’s feats creates the conditions for a person to go to heaven.

Note: It’s worth contemplating on Garuda’s decisions of not battling the snakes but, instead, battling the devas to seize the amrit, and then, eventually supporting Indra and not allowing the snakes to drink the amrit, and finally, devouring the snakes after freeing his mother. 

In the next post, we will find out the names of the principle snakes involved in this tryst with Garuda.

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Next Post: Names of the Principal Snakes Involved in the Tryst With Garuda

Grass snake – Natrix natrix. Pic taken by the Tiefen See or Grubensee, Storkow (Mark), Brandenburg, Germany.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Sage Ruru and Pramadvara — A Beautiful Love Story

Note: In the previous post, we read about the beautiful love story of Sage Ruru and Pramadvara. In this post, we will read about how Ruru’s anger toward snakes was calmed by an old Dundubha snake.

Ruru was very happy to have a wife like Pramadvara. She was beautiful, bright, and gentle like the filaments of a lotus flower. She was the kind of woman who was extremely hard to find. 

However, even after Pramadvara came back to life, Ruru was unable to forgive the snake for biting his beloved. Consequently, he made a vow to destroy the entire serpent race. Whenever he saw a serpent, he would be filled with anger and would destroy it with a weapon.

One day, Ruru entered a deep forest. There, he saw an old serpent of the Dundubha species on the ground. He immediately picked up his stick to strike the serpent. But before Ruru could strike the serpent, it said to Ruru, “O brahmana, why are you trying to slay me? I have not harmed you in any way.”

Ruru replied, “A snake once bit my wife who is as dear to me as my own life. After that, I took a vow that I would destroy every snake I came across. Therefore, I will strike and destroy you too.”

The Dundubha replied, “O brahmana, I am a snake of the Dundubha species. We do not bite humans. We are serpents only in name. We do not enjoy the things that serpents enjoy, but, unfortunately, we are subject to human anger just like the other poisonous serpents. Humans do not understand this. Therefore, O brahmana, Dundubha snakes should not be slain.”

When Ruru heard these words, he also noticed that the old Dundubha snake was indeed afraid of being hit by Ruru. The brahmana decided not to hit the snake. He first comforted the snake and then asked him, “O snake, tell me, who are you in reality?”

The snake answered, “I used to be a rishi. My name was Sahasrapat. However, I was transformed into a snake because of a brahmana’s curse.”

Ruru asked, “O best of snakes, why did the brahmana curse you? How long will you have to remain as a snake?”

Note: A Dundubha is a non-poisonous water snake.

In the next post, we will find out why rishi Sahasrapat was cursed to become a snake and how long he would have to remain in that form.

Next Post: Rishi Sahasrapat Regains his Human Form

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