51. Builder’s Forecast

51. Builder’s Forecast

King Janamejaya consults with his Purohita and Ritwiks about extermination of the serpent race; Ritwiks suggest about performing Sarpa Satra – the snake sacrifice; Preparation for Sarpa Satra begins; the builder of the yagna platform forecast that the yagna will not be completed successfully.


“Soota said, ‘King Janamejaya having said so, his ministers expressed their approval. The monarch then expressed his determination to perform a Naaga yagna (also called as Sarpa yagna). That lord of the Earth–that tiger of the Bharata race–the son of Parikshit (Janamejaya), then called his priest (Purohita in Sanskrit) and Ritwiks. Accomplished in speech, he (Janamejaya) spoke to them these words relating to the accomplishment of his great task. ‘I must avenge myself on the wretch (Duraatma in Sanskrit) Takshaka who killed my father. Tell me what I must do. Do you know any act by which I may cast into the blazing Agni the snake Takshaka with his relatives? I desire to burn that wretch (Paapaa in Sanskrit) as he burnt, by the fire of his poison, of my old father.’

‘Ritwiks answered, ‘O king (Janamejaya), there is a great yagna for you devised by Devas themselves. It is known as the Sarpa Satra (snake sacrifice), and is read of in the Puraanaas. O king (Janamejaya), you alone can accomplish it, and no one else. Men versed in the Puraanaas have told us, there is such a yagna.’

“Soota continued, ‘Thus addressed, the king (Janamejaya), O excellent one (Rishi Shaunaka), thought Takshaka to be already burnt and thrown into the blazing mouth of Agni, the eater of the sacrificial butter (Hutaashana in Sanskrit). The king then said to those Brahmanas versed in mantras, ‘I shall make preparations for that yagna. Tell me the things that are necessary.’ The king’s Ritwiks, O excellent Dwija (Rishi Shaunaka), versed in Vedas and familiar with the rites of that yagna measured, according to the Shaastraas, the land for the yagna platform (Yagnaayatanam in Sanskrit). The platform was decked with valuable articles and with Dwijas. It was full of precious things and paddy. The Ritwika sat upon it at ease.

“After the yagna platform had been thus constructed according to rule (Vidhi in Sanskrit) and as desired, they installed the king at the Sarpa Satra for the attainment of its object. Before the commencement of the Sarpa Satra that was to come, there occurred this very important incident alarming obstruction to the yagna. For when the yagna platform was being constructed, a professional builder (Sthapati in Sanskrit) of great intelligence and well-versed in the knowledge of laying foundations (Vaastu Vidya in Sanskrit), a Soota, well-acquainted with the Puraanaas, said, ‘The soil upon which and the time at which the measurement for the yagna platform has been made, indicate that this yagna will not be completed, a Brahmana becoming the reason thereof.’ Hearing this, the king (Janamejaya), before his installation, gave orders to his gate-keepers not to admit anybody without his knowledge.”


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