Astika requests Janamejaya to stop the snake sacrifice (Image contributed by B.K. Mitra from The Mahabharata by Ramnarayan Atri)

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Previous Post: Astika Asks For His Boon

Note: In the previous post, Astika asked Janamejaya to end the snake sacrifice. Takshaka was close to the sacrificial fire but had not yet been captured. This put Janamejaya in a dilemma because destroying Takshaka was the chief aim of his sacrifice. 

In this post, we will find out if Janamejaya granted the boon to Astika and what happened to Takshaka

Upon being repeatedly urged by the Sadasyas of the sacrifice, Janamejaya agreed to grant Astika’s boon. He said, “Let the sacrifice end. Let the snakes be safe. May Astika also be satisfied.” Then Janamejaya turned to the suta who had predicted that the sacrifice would be interrupted by a brahmin, and said, “O suta, may your prediction also come true.”

All the Sadasyas were filled with joy when Janamajeya granted Astika’s boon and stopped the sacrifice. The entire sacrificial compound was filled with words of praise for the king. 

Janamejaya also felt pleased with the decision. He gave generous gifts to all the Sadasyas, Ritwiks, and other participants of the sacrifice. He also gave generously to the suta who had predicted that the sacrifice would be interrupted. Along with money, Janamejaya, the king of uncommon kindness, also gave other items of food and clothing to the suta. Janamejaya was very generous at heart and he felt happy after bestowing gifts on everyone present at the sacrifice.

After concluding the sacrifice with proper rites, he gave due respect and gifts to Astika and let the little brahmin return home. Astika himself was also very pleased because he had succeeded in protecting his maternal relatives. Before Astika left, the king said, “O Astika, I will soon conduct an Ashwamedh Sacrifice. You must come there as a Sadasya.” Astika readily agreed and returned home.

Note: The discerning reader might have noticed that Takshaka was almost pulled into the flame when Astika asked for his boon. However, the boon was not granted immediately. Janamejaya urged Astika several times to reconsider the book and ask for something else. This much time was enough for Takshaka, who had already lost his consciousness to fall into the sacrificial fire. But yet he did not. 

In the next post, we will find out how Takshaka was saved from falling into the fire.

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Next Post: How Takshaka Was Saved

Astika asks Janamejaya to stop the snake sacrifice

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Previous Post: Takshaka Appears in the Sky

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Indra deserted Takshaka when he realised the power of sacrifice. Furthermore, once the Hotri started taking Takshaka’s name while pouring the libations, Takshaka lost his senses and was pulled towards the sacrificial fire. When he was pulled near enough to the fire, the Ritwiks urged the king to grant Astika whatever boon he requests.

In this post, we will find out what the child-sage, Astika, asked Janamejaya.

When Takshaka was about to fall into the sacrificial fire, Astika said, “O Janamejaya, if you want to grant me a book then I ask for this sacrifice to end. Let no more snakes fall into the fire.”

Astika’s words surprised and made Janamejaya unhappy. He replied, “O illustrious one, I urge you – please do not ask for this sacrifice to end. Ask for anything else. I will give you as much gold, silver, cattle, or any other possessions you desire.”

Astika replied, “I do not want gold, silver, or cattle. O king, let this sacrifice come to an end so that my maternal relatives may find relief.”

Janamejaya, seeing Astika’s resolve, repeatedly urged him to ask for something else. He said several times, “O best of Brahmanas, ask for some other boon. Be blessed O great one, ask for anything else.”

However, Astika did not change his mind. The only boon he wanted was to stop the sacrifice. After some time, the Sadasyas of the sacrifice, who were all well-versed in the Vedas, said in unison, “Let the Brahmana receive his boon!”

Note: In the next post, we will find out if Janamejaya Grants Astika his boon and what happens to Takshaka.

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Next Post: Janamejaya Grants Astika’s Boon

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Previous Post: Janamejaya Wants to Give Astika a Boon But the Hotri Wants Him to Wait

Note: In the previous post, we read about Janamejaya’s desire to grant Astika a boon because he was gratified by his words and noticed the positive signs that manifested while Astika was speaking. Janamejaya also found the child brahmin to be wise and filled with splendour. All the Sadasyas of the sacrifice also agreed with Janamejaya, but they wanted him to wait until Takshaka was captured in the sacrificial fire.

In this post, we will read about how Takshaka had to come out of hiding and appeared in the sky due to the power of the sacrifice.

Warned by his Hotri to wait till Takshaka was captured, Janamejaya said to the Ritwiks, “Takshaka is my enemy. Put all your might into the mantras to make Takshaka appear so that the aim of my sacrifice may be fulfilled.”

The Ritwiks replied, “O king, the scriptures tell us that Takshaka is staying in Indra’s abode out of fear from this sacrifice. Lohitaksha, the learned Suta and well-versed in the Puranas, has also confirmed this. Moreover, the sacrificial fire also seems to suggest the same thing.”

Note: The last line, refers to divination with fire which is known as pyromancy in contemporary times. There are many types of pyromancy. One of them involves making interpretations based on the shape of a flame.

The Suta, Lohitaksha, was also present in the sacrifice. Janamejaya asked him if this was true and Lohitaksha confirmed that it was. Indra had granted protection to Takshaka and asked the serpent to stay with him in his abode.

Janamejaya was not pleased with the knowledge that Indra was protecting Takshaka. However, he urged his Hotri to continue. 

As the Hotri continued chanting mantras and offering oblations of clarified butter to the fire, Indra appeared in the sky in his car accompanied by his retinue of clouds, devas, and apsaras. Takshaka was also with Indra but remained hidden in Indra’s upper garment.

Not being able to see Takshaka, angered Janamejaya. Bent upon destroying Takshaka, he said to his Brahmanas, “If Takshaka is under Indra’s protection, then chant your mantras to bring him into the fire along with Indra.”

Urged by the king, the Hotri continued chanting the mantras and offered the libations taking Takshaka’s name as they poured the clarified butter into the fire.

As soon as Takshaka’s name was specifically mentioned in the mantras, Takshaka was forced out of Indra’s upper garment and became visible in the sky along with Indra.

The power of the sacrifice scared Indra. He immediately abandoned Takshaka and returned to his abode. Having lost Indra’s protection, Takshaka was overcome with fear. He lost his senses and started being pulled towards the sacrificial fire by the power of the mantras. 

Once Takshaka was pulled close enough to the flames, the Ritwiks said to Janamejaya, “O king of kings, your sacrifice is proceeding as it should. You may now grant a boon to this deserving brahmin child.”

Janamejaya looked at Astika and said, “O immeasurable brahmin of handsome childlike features, I wish to grant you a worthy boon. Ask for whatever your heart desires. I will grant it to you even if it’s non grantable.”

Meanwhile, Takshaka was being drawn closer and closer to the fire. The Ritwiks said to the Janamejaya, “O king, see, Takshaka is coming under your control. Listen to his terrible cries and loud roar.  The serpent has been forsaken by Indra and your mantras have rendered his body and senses powerless. Look at him rolling in the sky and breathing loudly as he falls from heaven.”

Note: In the next post, we will find out what boon Astika asks for.

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Next Post: Astika Asks For His Boon

Image of Naga worshipped at Nagasthan, a Naag temple at ChandragiriKathmandu during Naga Panchami

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Previous Post: Astika Reaches the Location of the Snake Sacrifice

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Astika reached the location of the snake sacrifice and spoke words of adoration for Janamejaya, the Ritwiks, Sadasyas, and Agni Deva. 

In this post, we will find out how Janamejaya responded to Astika’s words.

After Astika adored and gratified the king and other participants of the sacrifice, positive signs and indications started manifesting all around. Janamejaya noticed these signs and said, “although this boy is still a child, he speaks like a wise old man. I think he’s very wise.”

Janamejaya turned to the Ritwiks and Sadasyas and said, “I Brahmanas, I wish to give this wise child a boon. Please give me the permission to do so.”

The Sadasyas replied, “A brahmana, even if he’s a boy, deserves the respect of kings, and his learned child deserves it even more so. This boy certainly deserves to have his desires fulfilled by you, but not before this sacrificial fire captures Takshaka.”

But Janamejaya, who was very keen on giving the child a boon, ignored the brahmanas’ advice and said to Astika, “Ask for a boon.”

The Hotri of the sacrifice was very displeased and immediately said, “Takshaka has not yet been captured in the sacrificial fire.”

Note: On a surface level it might seem that Janamejaya’s ego was gratified by Astika’s praise and he decided to give the child a boon. But that wasn’t the case. Janamejaya had sufficient control over his ego. He paid attention to the positive signs (Nimitas) that manifested around him and also saw the nobility, wisdom, and splendour of the little sage. 

The Mahabharata doesn’t mention the Nimitas, but they could be signs like a sudden cool breeze, a sudden appearance of a certain bird or animal, maybe a flower or fruit falling when the child was speaking, perhaps a sweet smell that seems to come out of nowhere, or other similar signs. I have not read the Atharva Veda personally, but I’ve been told that it describes various positive and negative Nimitas. While we’re on the topic of Nimitas, I’d also like to add something I heard from a wise sadhaka. He said that one should pay attention to Nimitas only after one’s consciousness has become sufficiently elevated and one’s will-power is strong. In this case, the Nimitas work as helpful signs, but if a person who doesn’t have a well-developed will power and an elevated consciousness pays excessive attention to Nimitas then there’s a good chance they will become even weaker and fall into a state of confusion.

In the next post, we will find out if Takshaka is pulled into the sacrificial fire or is saved.

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Next Post: Takshaka Appears in the Sky

Image of Agni, the deity of fire, who has a very prominent place in the RigVeda.

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Previous Post: Astika is Asked to Save the Serpents

Note: In the previous post, we read how Vasuki and his sister reached out to her son, Astika, to stop the snake sacrifice.

In this post, we will find out what Astika does when he reaches the location of the snake sacrifice.

After bringing peace to Vasuki’s heart with his words, Asika hastened to Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice where he saw the excellent compound in which it was being conducted. He also saw the Sadasyas who looked bright like the Sun itself. 

However, when Astika tried to enter the compound, the guards stopped him as commanded by the king. Astika, who was determined to meet the king, gratified the guards and convinced them to allow him to enter the location of the sacrifice.

Once Astika entered the sacrificial compound, he spoke words of adoration to Janamejaya, the Ritwiks, Sadasyas, and the sacrificial fire.

Astika said, “In ancient times, Soma, Varuna, and Prajapati performed sacrifices in Prayaga. But your snake sacrifice, O best king of Bharata’s race, is as good as those ancient sacrifices. O king, let those who are dear to us be blessed.

Indra performed a hundred sacrifices, but this sacrifice of yours, O son of Parikshit, is equal to ten thousand sacrifices of Indra. O king, let those who are dear to us be blessed.

Your sacrifice is like the sacrifices performed by Yama, or Harimedha, or Rantideva. O king, let those who are dear to us be blessed.

When King Yudhishthira, the son of a Deva and also of the Ajamida race, conducted a sacrifice, it became known even in the heavens. Your sacrifice is like King Yudhishthira’s sacrifice. O son of Parikshit, let those who are dear to us be blessed.

Your sacrifice is akin to the sacrifice of Krishna-Dwaipayana (Ved Vyasa of the Mahabharata) where he himself was the chief priest. O son of Parikshit, let those who are dear to us be blessed.

These Ritwiks and Sadasyas who are engaged in this sacrifice are like the slayer of Vritra (Indra). They are as bright as the Sun and all-knowing. Gifts made to them become inexhaustible in merit. Your Ritwika Dwaipayana is unequalled in this world. His disciples too are competent in their duties as Ritwiks And travel throughout the world to perform sacrifices. 

Agni, also known as Vibhavasu and Chitrabhanu accepts the libations of this sacrifice. He has gold as his vital seed, his path is marked by black smoke, and his flames blaze slightly to the right. He takes the libations offered by you and delivers them to the Gods. O king, there is no other monarch on earth comparable to you in the protection of his subjects.

O king, I am very pleased with your abstinence. You are either Varuna, or Yama, the God of justice. You are like Indra, who wields the thunderbolt to protect all creatures. That is no man on earth comparable to you and no king who is your equal in sacrifice. You are like Khatwanga, Nabhanga, and Dilipa. In prowess, you are like Yayati and Mandhatri. You are bright like the Sun. In your vows, you are like Bhishma. You keep your great energy concealed like Valmiki and you have controlled your anger like Vashishtha. You are like Indra in lordship and splendorous like Vishnu. You have deep knowledge of justice like Yama does and you have every virtue like Krishna. The good fortune that belongs to the Vasus has its home in you. You are the refuge of sacrifices. You have the strength of Damvodbhava and you are knowledgeable of the scriptures and weapons like Parshuram. Your energy is as great as Aurva and Trita and your fierce look is akin to Bhagiratha.

Note: In this post, we read how Astika praised and adored King Janamejaya, the Ritwiks, and Sadasyas, and the sacrificial fire (Agni).

In the next post, we will find out how Janamejaya responds to Astika’s words.

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Next Post: Janamejaya Wants to Give Astika a Boon But the Hotri Wants Him to Wait

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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

Typical sacrificial space used in Vedic yajnas with officiants

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Previous Post: The Snake Sacrifice Begins

Note: In the previous post, we read about how various virulent snakes were pulled into the sacrificial fire as the Ritwika chanted mantras while taking their names.

In this post, we will find out the names of the priests who participated in the yagna. This information was given by Ugrasrava Sauti in response to a question by Saunaka Kulapati (the ascetic in Naimisha Forest). The ascetic asked this question because he wanted to know the names of the priests who knew how to perform this particular ritual.

A brahmin called Chandrabhargava was the hotri (a rishi who is an expert of the Rig Veda) of the sacrifice. He was a reputed brahmin, well acquainted with the Vedas and a descendant of Rishi Chyavana.

A learned old Brahmin called Kautsa was the Udgatri (the person who chants the Vedic hymns and an expert of the Sama Veda) of the sacrifice.

Jaimini was the Brahmana (an expert of the Atharva Veda), while Sarngava and Pingala were the Adhvaryus (an expert of the Yajur Veda).

The sacrifice had several Sadasyas such as Vyasa, his son’s and disciples, Uddalaka, Pramataka, Swetaketu, Pingala, Asita, Devala, Narada, Parvata, Atreya, Kundajathara, Kalaghata, Vatsya, Srutaravas, Kohala Devasarman, Maudgalya, Samasaurava, and many other Brahmins who were learned in the Vedas.

Note: In the next post, we’ll read about Takshaka seeking Indra’s protection from the danger of the snake sacrifice.

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Next Post: Takshaka Seeks Indra’s Protection

The Snake-Sacrifice

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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

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)

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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.

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Next Post: The Snake Sacrifice (Sarpa Satra) Begins

Indra is usually the guardian deity of the eastern direction in a Hindu temple (This image was contributed by Nomu420 on a Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, license)

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Previous Post: Indra’s Past Mistake That Created Karmic Disturbances in Heaven

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Indra’s rude words infuriated the Valakhilya Rishis and they performed a sacrifice where they wished for a second Indra who would be more powerful than the current Indra and would strike fear in his heart. When Indra heard about Valakhilya Rishi’s prayer, he was scared of losing his position of power and went to Sage Kasyapa for help.

In this post, we will read about what Sage Kasyapa does regarding the matter of a second Indra.

After hearing Indra’s concerns, Sage Kasyapa (who was also one of the Prajapatis) went to the Valakhilya Rishis and asked them if their sacrifice was successful. The truth-speaking Valakhilya Rishis said, “O Kasyapa, may its success depend on your wish.”

Sage Kasyapa then pacified the Valakhilya Rishis and explained that the current Indra had been appointed by Brahma Deva and that creating another Indra would nullify Brahma Deva’s word. However, Sage Kasyapa did not want the Valakhilya Rishi’s sacrifice to go in vain. He found a way out by requesting the Valakhilya Rishis in the following words:

“O excellent ones, be gracious to Indra who is now bowing before you for forgiveness, and let the being who is born as a result of your sacrifice be the king of birds. This second Indra, who will be the king of winged creatures, will be born with all the qualities you have asked for.”

The Valakhilya’s replied, “O Prajapati Kasyapa, we performed this sacrifice for two reasons: a second Indra and also for a son who will be born to you. We now leave the final decision to you. Do what is proper in this situation.”

Note: You might remember from a few posts back that Sage Kasyapa had offered a boon to both his wives: Kadru and Vinata. Kadru had asked for a thousand splendid serpent sons and Vinata had asked for two sons who would surpass Kadru’s thousand. However, only one part of the details was revealed to us at that time. We learned that, very soon, Kadru received a thousand eggs and Vinata received two. Back then, we did not know about Sage Kasyapa’s sacrifice for begetting children and about the conflict between Indra and the Valakhilya Rishis. The story narrated in this post is the piece of the jigsaw puzzle that would fit between the time Vinata asked for two sons from Sage Kasyapa and the time she conceived.

At the time when this conversation was going on between Sage Kasyapa and the Valakhilya Sages, Vinata completed her ascetic penances and purified herself by having a bath. Her body was in the fertile period when a sexual relationship would be fruitful to have children. She approached Sage Kasyapa. 

The Sage said to Vinata, “O respected one, the sacrifice I did for children has been successful. You will be the mother of two heroic sons. By the penances of the Valakhilya Rishis and by the desire with which I began the sacrifice, these sons will be very fortunate and will rule over the three worlds. Bear the auspicious seed with care for your sons will be the chiefs of all birds and will be respected by everyone. They will also have the power to assume any form at will.”

Sage Kasyapa, happy with the result of all the events that took place, addressed Indra saying, “O Indra, you will soon have two brothers of great strength and power. They will help you and not injure you in any way. Do not be sad, you will continue to be the king of the devas. But, be careful to never mock those who are engaged in ascetic practices and whose very words are like the thunderbolt.”

Sage Kasyapa’s words gave relief to Indra who subsequently returned to heaven.

Vinata was also very happy to have her wishes granted. Eventually, she gave birth to two sons: Aruna and Garuda. Aruna, whose body was underdeveloped, became the forerunner of the Sun and Garuda became the king of the birds.

Note: In the next post, we will read about how Garuda vanquished the devas in the battle for the amrit.

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Next Post: Garuda’s Fierce Battle With the Devas

Indra with Indrani — 12th-century image at Hoysaleshwara Temple, Karnataka. Image by Ms. Sarah Welch, contributed on a Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: The Devas Get Ready For a Battle With Garuda

Note: If you recollect, the Mahabharata that you’re reading was narrated by Ugrasrava Sauti to Saunaka Kulapati and the ascetics who had attended his 12-year sacrifice.

After listening to how the devas got themselves ready for the battle with Garuda, Saunaka Kulapati interrupted Sauti and asked him about Indra’s mistake that caused Garuda to attack heaven.

In this post, we will find out what mistake Indra committed in the past that caused Garuda to attack heaven for the amrit.

Saunaka Kulapati asked Sauti, “O son of Suta, what was Indra’s fault? What careless action did he do? Why was Garuda born as a result of the penance of the Valakhilyas? Why did Sage Kasyapa have a bird as a son? Why was this bird invincible? How did he have the power to travel to any place by will? How did he get the ability to muster any amount of energy from the universe at will? If the reasons have been described in the Puranas, I would like to hear them.”

Sauti said, “These points have indeed been described in the Puranas. I will answer your questions in detail.”

Note: The following words were spoken by Sauti to the ascetics in Naimisha Forest.

A long time back, Sage Kasyapa had decided to conduct a sacrifice for begetting children. Everyone, including the rishis, devas, and gandharvas helped him. Indra, a few other deities, and the Valakhilya Rishis had been given the task of getting materials to burn the sacrificial fire.

Indra, the king of the devas, took on his strong shoulders a mountain-like weight that he carried effortlessly. On his way to the site of the sacrifice, he saw a group of tiny thumb-sized Valakhilya rishis struggling with a single stalk of Palasa leaf. Those rishis had become physically weak because of severe penances, and, as they struggled to walk with a load of that single leaf, they stumbled into a small puddle of water created by the weight of a cow’s hoof. When Indra saw the rishis in that state, he became proud because of his strength. He laughed at them and spoke rude words before speeding past them toward his destination.

Indra’s insulting words filled the rishis with anger and sadness. As a result, these excellent, vow-observing rishis conducted a great sacrifice in which they wished for another Indra. Uttering mantras and offering libations into the sacrificial fire, they wished for another Indra who would have the power of travelling anywhere at will and mustering any amount of energy from the universe. And they also wished that this second Indra would strike fear in the heart of the current king of devas who had laughed at their plight.

Indra was terrified when he heard of the sacrifice of the Valakhilya rishis. He immediately went to Sage Kasyapa for protection.

Note: In the next post, we will find out what happened when Indra went to Sage Kasyapa for protection.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Sage Kasyapa’s Decision Regarding a Second Indra

Son of Sarama being beaten

This post marks the beginning of the Paushya Upa-Parva of the Adi Parva.

King Janamejaya (son of Parikshit) had three brothers: Srutasena, Ugrasena, and Bhimasena. All four of them were seated at the sacrifice on the plains of Kurukshetra. 

While they were seated, a dog happened to wander by that very place. This dog was the child of Sarama – the celestial she-dog. Janamejaya’s brothers got irritated at the presence of the dog and harassed it until it left that spot. Consequently, the dog left that place and ran to its mother, crying in pain. 

When Sarama saw that her child couldn’t stop crying, she asked her little one: “Why are you crying so much? Who has beaten you?”

The little dog replied, “I have been harassed and beaten by the brothers of Janamejaya.”

“Surely, you must have done something wrong. That is why they beat you,” Sarama told her child.

“I have not done anything wrong. I have not touched the sacrificial butter with my tongue. I have not even cast a glance at it.” The little dog replied.

Sarama was greatly distressed when she heard that her child was beaten for no reason. She immediately went to the place of the sacrifice and said to Janamejaya in anger: “My son did not commit any fault. He neither touched the sacrificial butter with his tongue nor did he look at it. When did you beat him?”

Janamejaya and his brothers unable to give a valid reason, remained silent.

Sarama, who was still angry at the injustice done to her son, cursed them saying: “Because all of you have beaten my son without any reason, evil will come upon you when you least expect it.”

Next: Rishi Ayoda-Dhaumya Tests his Pupil Aruni