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.

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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

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.

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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.

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Next Post: Astika Reaches the Location of the Snake Sacrifice

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

Note: In the previous post, we read the names of the Hotri, Adhvaryu, Brahmana, and the Udgatri who officiated and the Sadasyas who participated in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. We also learned the meaning of these roles.

In this post, we will read about what Takshaka did when he found out that
snakes were perishing in the sacrifice.

As soon as Takshaka heard about King Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice, he went straight to the palace of Indra and sought refuge from the king of the devas after acknowledging his fault (of killing King Parikshit by deceit).

Indra, the king of the devas, and Takshaka, the king of the serpents, were close friends. Indra was gratified when he heard Takshaka acknowledge his fault and ask for protection. He immediately consoled his friend saying, “O Takshaka, do not be afraid. I have already pacified Brahma Deva on your behalf. You do not need to have any fear from the sacrifice.”

Encouraged and protected by the king of devas, Takshaka stayed joyfully in Indra’s abode. 

While Takshaka stayed happily in heaven, Vasuki became filled with sorrow seeing the multitude of snakes falling into the sacrificial fire. Heartbroken seeing the serpent family being destroyed, he called out to his sister for help.

Note: The difference in how Takshaka and Vasuki responded to the danger is striking. Takshaka cared only for his own safety while Vasuki’s heart broke seeing the plight of the serpents.
An interesting detail about both, Takshaka and Vasuki, is that they are mentioned (in Tibetan Buddhism) as two of the eight great dragon kings who attended Shakyamuni Buddha’s preaching of the Lotus Sutra.

In the next post, we will read about Vasuki asking his sister’s son, Astika, to save the serpents.

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Next Post: Astika is Asked to Save the Serpents

A Brahmin family, 9th century. Prambanan, Indonesia

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Previous Post: Vasuki is Anxious About the Future of the Serpents After Jaratkaru Leaves his Sister

Note: In the previous post, we read about Vasuki’s anxiety when the rishi left his sister. Vasuki was concerned about the future of the serpents because it was prophesied by Brahma Deva that the son born of the union of Rishi Jaratkaru and his sister would save the serpents in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. His anxiety was reduced when his sister assured him that before leaving the rishi had said there was an embryo growing in her womb who was born from their union.

In this post, we will read about that child’s birth.

In due time, Vasuki’s sister gave birth to a son who was resplendent like a celestial child. His birth came as a relief to his paternal ancestors (Jaratkaru’s Pitris who were hanging upside-down on a single cord of root) and maternal relatives (the serpents he would save in the future).

The child grew up in Vasuki’s house and studied the Vedas and their branches under the tutelage of Sage Chyavana (Bhrigu’s son). This child-sage observed rigid vows from a young age. He was also intelligent, virtuous, saintly, knowledgeable, and unattached to worldly indulgences.

This child was named Astika, which means “whoever is,” because his father, (Rishi Jaratkaru) had said “there is” in reference to an embryo in his wife’s womb before leaving for the forest.

Even though he was still a child, Astika was very different from the other boys. He possessed the maturity and intelligence of a much older person. Being raised with great love and care in the palace of the serpents, the young brahmin looked like the illustrious lord of the celestials, the golden Mahadeva, and the serpents delighted in watching the noble child grow.

Note: The next post adds one more link to the impending snake sacrifice, in the form of King Janamejaya finding out the details of his father’s death and vowing to avenge it.

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

Vasuki wound around Lord Shiva’s neck

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Previous Post: Jaratkaru Leaves His Wife

Note: In the previous post, we read about how rishi Jaratkaru found a completely insignificant occasion to get displeased with his wife and leave. Without taking sides, I’ll simply say why he acted with such callousness. The marriage between him and Vasuki’s sister was for a specific reason. Once the reason was fulfilled, he wanted to release bondage to the material world and return to his penances. Therefore, he found a reason to get offended which would help him leave.

In this post, we will read about the discussion an anxious Vasuki has with his sister after the rishi left.

After Jaratkaru left, his wife immediately went to her brother, Vasuki, and told him everything that had happened. Hearing this made Vasuki feel even more miserable than his sister.

Vasuki said, “O sister, you know the reason for your marriage to the high-souled rishi. A son born from this union will save us all in the snake sacrifice. Brahma Deva, himself, had said this in the presence of all the gods. O sister, have you conceived as a result of the marriage with the great rishi?”

Vasuki was uncomfortable asking these questions to his sister, but, considering the welfare of the snakes, he had no other choice. He said, “O amiable sister, I know it’s improper for me to ask you this question, but the gravity of the situation is such that I have to ask. Tell me in detail everything that has happened in the relationship between you and the high-souled rishi. Tell me everything and remove the affliction that troubles my heart. 

The Naga princess consoled her brother and said, “When I asked the rishi about offspring, he said, ‘There is,’ and went away. He has never spoken a lie even for fun, so I don’t think he would say something that’s not true on such a serious occasion. He told me not to grieve about the result of our union. He said that a son, resembling a blazing fire, will be born. Therefore, O brother, release the deep sorrow from your heart.”

His sister’s words brought peace to Vasuki’s heart, and he said, “So be it,” and the chief of the snakes adored his sister with his best regards, wealthy gifts, and beautiful eulogies.

Meanwhile, the embryo in the Naga princess’ womb began to develop with light like the waxing moon.

Note: In the next post, we will read about rishi Astika, the son of Vasuki’s sister and the high-souled rishi, Jaratkaru.

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Next Post: Rishi Astika is Born

Manasa Devi with husband, Jaratkaru, and son, Astika, flanked by Nagas

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Previous Post: Jaratkaru Finds His Wife

Note: Note: In the previous post, we read about how Jaratkaru cried out to the beings of the forest for a wife and how the chief of the serpents, Vasuki, offered his sister’s hand in marriage to the rishi.

In this post, we will read about the marriage of Jaratkaru and Vasuki’s sister.

Convinced by Vasuki’s promise to maintain (financially) his sister, Jaratkaru, the excellent brahmana of rigid vows, well-versed in mantras, married Vasuki’s sister according to shastric rites. 

Vasuki had prepared a special room for his sister and the rishi. It was a delightful room that had a bed covered with expensive sheets. Vasuki’s sister, adored by the rishi, entered the room where they took up residence.

Soon after marriage, Jaratkaru made an agreement with his wife. He said, “You must not say or do anything that displeased me. If such a thing happens, I will leave you and this house, immediately.”

The rishi’s words made his wife sad and anxious. However, she agreed, saying, “So be it,” because she wanted to help her serpent relatives. That maiden of pure reputation attended to the rishi day and night. Her care for the rishi is compared to the wakefulness of a dog, the timidity of a deer, and the knowledge of interpreting signs like a crow.

One day, after her menstrual period, she purified herself by bathing according to custom, and approached the rishi. She conceived that day, and the embryo was resplendent like fire and, filled with immense energy, it grew like the waxing moon.

Note: Note: In the next post, we will read about the rishi, Jaratkaru, leaving his wife

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Next Post: Jaratkaru Leaves His Wife

Devi Manasa (also known as Jaratkaru). Image credit: By anonymous –, CC0,

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Previous Post: Jaratkaru Places a Condition for Marriage

Note: In the previous post, we read how Jaratkaru felt great compassion for his pitris but also placed a condition for getting married.

In this post, we will find out how Jaratkaru found his wife.

After assuring his Pitris that he would try his best to find a wife and also having explained his conditions for marriage, Jaratkaru wandered to different places to find a wife, but being old, he could not find any woman who was willing to marry him. This failure to find a woman who would marry him gave Jaratkaru much grief. So great was his grief that he went into a forest and wept loudly. However, he also felt immense compassion for his pitris, and from this desire to do something good for them, he said three times, “I will ask for a bride. I will ask for a bride. I will ask for a bride.” 

Jaratkaru looked around and said, “O creatures who lives here, whether mobile or immobile, visible or invisible, please hear my words. My ancestors are grief-stricken and have instructed me to marry for the sake of extending the lineage. I have roamed in poverty and sorrow to different places to obtain a wife who is bestowed on me as alms. O creatures, if any of you have a daughter, bestow her on me as a wife. I will only marry a maiden who has the same name as me and I tell you, (now itself), that I will not be able to maintain her.”

“O creatures,” Jaratkaru cried aloud again, “bestow such a maiden and let her be my wife.”

Note: You might remember, from a previous post, that Vasuki had convened a meeting of the serpents to find a way to neutralize Kadru’s curse. At that time, one of the serpents called Elapatra narrated what he had heard from Brahma Deva when he sat shivering after being cursed. He had heard that an ascetic called Jaratkaru would marry Vasuki’s sister (who was also called Jaratkaru) and their son would protect the snakes in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. At that time, Vasuki had asked a group of serpents to follow the ascetic and inform Vasuki when he set out in search of a wife.

When Jaratkaru cried out for a wife in the forest, the serpents Vasuki had deployed to follow him, immediately went to Vasuki and informed him about Jaratkaru’s inclination and arrival in the forest. 

Upon hearing this information, Vasuki asked his sister to get ready. She decked herself with ornaments and they both went to the forest to meet Rishi Jaratkaru. Vasuki, the chief of the snakes, offered his sister as alms to the high-souled rishi. 

When Jaratkaru heard Vasuki’s words, he paused and reflected before giving an answer. First, he asked Vasuki his sister’s name and told him that he would not be able to care for her needs.

Vasuki replied, “O best of brahmanas, my sister’s name is also Jaratkaru, the same as yours, and she has ascetic merit as well. Moreover, do not worry about maintaining her because I will take care of her and also protect her with all my powers. O great ascetic, I have raised my sister to marry you.”

Jaratkaru replied, “Alright, then I will marry her on the condition that she does not do anything to displease me. If she does such a thing, then I will leave immediately.”

Note: In the next post, we will read about Jaratkaru’s marriage and the birth of Astika.

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Next Post: Jaratkaru Marries Vasuki’s Sister

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

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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

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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

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