Sunday, January 12, 2014

23. The snakes discover a way out

Vasuki, another son of Kadru pondering over the curse of his mother, reflected how to render it abortive. He held a consultation with all his brothers. Since, as per their mother’s curse, the snakes would be destroyed during King Janamejaya’s sacrifice, they should find a way to prevent the sacrifice itself, he said.

Several suggestions were offered.

One snake said that one of them should approach Janamejaya in the guise of a learned Brahmin and advice him against performing the sacrifice.

Another said that they should all become the king's favourite counsellors. Since  he would seek their advice on any issue, they could dissuade him from performing the sacrifice.

Another snake said that one of them could bite the priest conducting the sacrifice, thereby aborting the event.

Yet anothr snake said that they could together become clouds and extinguish the sacrificial fire by causing heavy downpours.

Another said that they should bite everyone around and spread terror.

One more suggestion was to steal the vessel of Soma juice and thereby disturb the rite.

Another suggestion was that they should bite King Janamejaya himself and preempt the event.

Vasuki dismissed all these suggestions and said that only the grace of their father  Kasyapa could save them.

Another snake by name Elapatra began to address them, saying, “That sacrifice is not one that can be prevented. Nor can king Janamejaya of the Pandava race be stopped in his tracks. Our fear is rooted in fate. Therefore, fate alone must be our refuge.“

“When that  curse was uttered by our mother, I was lying on her lap. From that place, I heard the words some gods spoke to Brahma. The gods said, 'Oh Brahma, who but the cruel Kadru could curse her own children like this? You have also endorsed her curse by saying 'Thadhastu (So be it).' We wish to know why you didn’t prevent her from throwing this curse.' Brahma replied, 'The snakes have proliferated. They are cruel, terrible in form and highly poisonous. I did not prevent Kadru from uttering the curse because I wanted those poisonous serpents that are sinful and biting others for no reason to be destroyed, but  not those that are harmless and virtuous. And when the hour comes, the snakes may escape this dreadful calamity. There shall be born in the race of the Yayavaras a great sage by name Jaratkaru. That Jaratkaru shall have a son by name Astika. He will put a stop to that sacrifice. And those snakes that are virtuous shall escape from death.’"

“The gods asked Brahma through whom would Jaratkaru  beget that illustrious son. Brahma said ‘He will beget a son possessed of great energy on a wife of the same name as his. Vasuki, the king of the snakes, has a sister by name Jaratkaru. Astika will be born of her. He will liberate the snakes.’”

Elapatra advised Vasuki to give his sister Jaratkaru in marriage to Sage Jaratkaru.

Hearing Elapatra’s words, the serpents were delighted. From that time Vasuki took great care in bringing up his sister Jaratkaru.

Soon after this, the gods and the demons churned the ocean.  And Vasuki had the chance to be used as the churning cord. After the event was over, Vasuki went to Brahma along with the gods. The gods told Brahma that Vasuki had been living in fear of his mother’s curse and requested Brahma to assuage his fears considering the help he had rendered in the churning of the ocean.

Brahma advised Vasuki to follow the advice of Elapatra. He added, “Only the wicked snakes will be destroyed. The virtuous ones will be saved. Sage is engaged in ascetic penances. Vasuki can offer his sister in marriage to Jaratkaru at the proper time.”

Vasuki asked the serpents to keep a watch on Sage Jaratkaru and to inform him when Jaratkaru would ask for a wife “The very survival of our race depends upon it,” he said.

The serpents kept their watch on Jaratkaru but for a long time to come, Jaratkaru was engaged in penance and didn’t think of getting married.

Next Post:            The Story of Parikshit

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