Sunday, January 12, 2014

22. Sesha, the Virtuous Snake

We have seen earlier how the snakes were cursed by her mother Kadru. Sesha was the eldest of her sons followed by Vasuki, Airavata, Takshaka, Karkotaka, Dhananjaya, Kalakeya and others.

With a view to overcoming the effects of the curse, Sesha left his mother and  went to the forest of Pushkara located at the foot of the Himalaya. There he practised hard penances, living upon air and rigidly observing vows. Pleased by his penance, Brahma appeared before him and asked him what he wanted. Sesha said, “My brothers are all of wicked hearts. They are jealous of one another. They have been unkind to Vinata and her illustrious son Garuda. I don’t like to live in their company. So I would like to cast off this body of mine so that I may avoid companionship with them, even in another state of life. Please bless me that my heart always delight in virtue and in blessed ascetic penances.”

"Brahman said, 'O Sesha, I am exceedingly gratified with your self-denial and love of peace. The Earth is unsteady with her mountains and forests, her seas and towns and retreats. Bear the earth so that she may be steady.”

"Sesha said, “I will hold the Earth steady as per your command. Please place her on my head."

Brahma said, 'O best of snakes, go underneath the Earth. She will herself give you a crevice to pass through. By holding the Earth, you will be doing something that  is prized by me very greatly."

As instructed by Brahma, Sesha, entering a hole, passed to the other side of the Earth, and supported the earth with his head.

Pleased by Sesha’s act, Brahma said, “You are are the embodiment of Dharma (Virtues), by virtue of your supporting all alone this huge earth with everything on her,  a feat only Indra and I are capable of.”

Sesha who came to be called Ananta, meaning one of unlimited powers, lives underneath the Earth, supporting the world, at the command of Brahma. 

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