Wednesday, February 19, 2014

27. Vasuki seeks Astika's help to save the snakes

Takshaka, the prince of snakes whose action gave rise to the sacrifice, on hearing about the sacrifice, went to Indra and sought his protection, admitting his own sin of biting King Parikshit to death. Indra gave him solace and granted him refuge in his abode.

Vasuki was grieved over many snakes getting killed and his own family getting reduced to only a few. He went to his sister Jaratkaru and apprised her of the situation. Saying that his own turn to be drawn into the sacrificial fire might come that day, he pointed out that the time had come to fulfill the purpose for which she was married to Jaratkaru. Reminding her of Brahma’s prophesy that her son Astika would save the snakes from extinction, he  asked her to persuade Astika to act immediately to put an end to the sacrifice.

Jaratkaru called her son Astika and told him " O son, the time has come for the accomplishment of that object for which I was married to your father by my brother. Therefore, do what should be done.”

"Astika asked, 'What was the purpose for which you were bestowed on my father by my uncle? Tell me about it.”

Jaratkaru told him the entire story starting from the curse of Kadru on her sons.

Hearing the story, Astika  promised his mother and uncle that he would act immediately.

After allaying the fears of  his uncle Vasuki, Astika rushed to the site of Janamejaya's sacrifice. He was initially denied admission by the gatekeepers but he managed to enter the site after gratifying them.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

26. Sarpa Yaga - The Sacrifice that Pulled the Snakes to Death!

The snake-sacrifice commenced following the due procedure. Many eminent sages like Chandabhargava (belonging to  the Chyavana lineage), Kautsa, Jamini, the Sarngarva and Pingala duo, Vyasa, his son Sukha and Vyasa’s disciples, Uddalaka, Pramataka, Swetaketu, Pingala, Asita, Devala, Narada, Parvata, Atreya, Kundajathara, Kalaghata, Vatsya, Srutasravas, Kohala Devasarman, Maudgalya, Samasaurava) participated in the sacrifice playing various roles.

The priests, well-versed in the nuances of the rituals were clad in black. Their eyes, in contrast, were red from contact with the smoke from the sacrificial fire. As they poured ghee into the sacrificial fire raised and contained in the huge homa kundas (trough like structures for containing the sacrificial fire) chanting the appropriate mantras, the snakes were lifted up from where they were, carried to the site of the sacrifice and fed to the fire.

The snakes came in large numbers, many of them twining with others and uttering loud cries out of fear fell into the fire and were quickly burnt into ashes. The snakes were of different colors, sizes and breed. Thousands of snakes including some giant ones of the sizes of a horse and an elephant were killed. The atmosphere was filled with a pungent and unpleasant stench due to the incessant burning of the snakes.