Ugrasrava Sauti Asks the Ascetics of Naimisha Forest Which Story They Want to Hear Next

Note: In the previous post, we read about why Uttanka was angry with the serpent king, Takshaka, and how his anger caused him to go to Hastinapura to meet king Janamejaya to seek revenge on Takshaka.

With this post, we begin the Pauloma (sub) Parva of the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata.

Ugrasrava Sauti, the son of Lomaharshana, knowledgeable in the Puranas, stood before the ascetics (who were attending Saunaka Kulapati’s 12-year sacrifice) in the Naimisha forest. Having studied the Puranas with great care and devotion, he was well acquainted with them. Sauti folded his hands in front of the ascetics and said to them, “I have described the story of Uttanka who was one of the causes of King Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. Respected sirs, what do you wish to hear now?”

The ascetics replied, “O son of Lomaharshana, we are sure you will narrate whichever story we wish to hear, but our respected teacher, Saunaka Kulapati, is not here at the moment. He is in the chamber of the holy fire. He is well acquainted with the divine stories of gods and asuras. He knows the background of humans, serpents, and gandharvas. O Sauti, he is the chief of this sacrifice. He is a capable brahmana, faithful to his vows, a lover of peace, and performs strict practices to subdue the urges of the body. He observes all the penances according to the scriptures. All of us respect him, therefore, we should wait for him to arrive and tell us which story he would like to hear.”

Sauti said, “So be it. I shall wait for the high-souled brahmin (Saunaka Kulapati) to arrive and narrate the story he asks for.”

Meanwhile, the excellent brahmin, Saunaka Kulapati, performed his duties in the fire chamber of his house. He pleased the gods with prayers and pleased his ancestors with offerings of water. After completing his rituals in the fire chamber, he returned to the place of the sacrifice where the ascetics were seated with Sauti.

The great brahmin then spoke to Sauti, “Child, in the past, your father read all the Puranas and the (Maha) Bharata with Vyasa. Have you also studied them? Those ancient records (Mahabharata and Puranas) contain the stories of the first generation of wise men. We have heard those stories from your father but would like to hear them again. The first story I want to hear is about Sage Bhrigu’s race.”

Upon hearing Saunak Kulapati’s words, Sauti said respectfully, “I have studied everything that the high-souled brahmins, including Vaishampayana, had studied. I have also learned everything my father studied.”

Sauti continued his reply to Saunaka Kulapati, “O great rishi, you are a descendant of the great race of Bhrigu which is respected by Indra and all the gods. It is respected by the rishis and Maruts. O great one, I will now tell you the story of the race of Bhrigu as it is described in the Puranas.”

Note: You might be surprised that Saunaka Kulapati did not ask Sauti to tell them the story of Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice, however, there is a reason for the delay. Uttanka was one of the causes of the sacrifice. However, there were other causes too. There was also a balancing factor to ensure that all the snakes do not get exterminated in the sacrifice. We will learn about all of these in the posts that follow.

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