“(Rishi) Shaunaka asked, ‘What great Rishis became the Ritwijas (meaning seasonal sacrificer) at the Sarpa Satra (snake-sacrifice) of the wise king Janamejaya of the Paandavaa line? Who also became the Sadasyaas in that terrible Sarpa Satra, so frightful to the snakes, and causing such sorrow in them? It is your responsibility to describe all these in detail, so that, O son of Soota, we may know who were acquainted with the rituals of Sarpa Satra.’
“Soota replied, ‘I will recite the names of those wise ones who became the monarch’s Ritwijas and Sadasyaas. The Brahmana Chandabhaargava became the Hotaa in that yagna. He was of great reputation and was born in the race of Chyavana and was the foremost of those acquainted with Vedas. The learned old Brahmana, Kautsaa and the Brahmana Jaimini became the Udgaata – the chanter of the Vedic hymns. Chaarngaravaa and Pingala – the Adhvaryus. Vyaasa with his son and disciples, Uddalaka, Pramataka, Shwetaketu, Pingala, Asitaa, Devala, Naarada, Parvata, Aatreya, Kundajathara, the Dwija Kaalaghata, Vaatsya, old Shrutasravaa ever engaged in Japa and the study of Vedas. Kohala Devasharma, Maudgalya, Samasaurabha, and many other Brahmanas who had got through the Vedas became the Sadasyaas at that yagna (Sarpa Satra) of the son of Parikshit (Janamejaya).
“When the Ritwijas in that Sarpa Satra began to pour clarified butter into Agni, terrible snakes, striking fear into every creature, began to fall into it. The fat and tissues of the snakes thus falling into the fire began to flow in rivers. The atmosphere was filled with an insufferable stench owing to the endless burning of the snakes. Also, endless were the cries of the snakes fallen into the fire and those in the air about to fall into it.
“Meanwhile, Takshaka, that prince of snakes, as soon as he heard that king Janamejaya was engaged in the yagna, went to the palace of Purandara (Lord Indra). That best of snakes (Takshaka), having represented all that had taken place, sought in terror the protection of (Lord) Indra after having acknowledged his fault. (Lord) Indra, satisfied, told him, ‘O prince of snakes (Naagendra in Sanskrit), O Takshaka, here you have no fear from that Sarpa Satra. The Pitaamaha (Lord Brahma) was pacified by me for your sake. Therefore, you have no fear. Let this fear of your heart be relieved.’
“The son of Soota continued, ‘Thus encouraged by him (Lord Indra), that best of snakes (Takshaka) began to dwell in (Lord) Indra’s abode in joy and happiness. But Vaasuki (King of snakes otherwise called as Naagaas), seeing that the snakes were endlessly falling into the fire and that his family was reduced to only a few, became exceedingly sorry. The king of the snakes (Vaasuki) was pained with great grief, and his heart was about to break.
“Summoning his sister (Jaratkaaru), he (Vaasuki) spoke to her, saying, ‘O friendly one, my body parts are burning, and I no longer see the points of the heavens. I am about to fall down from loss of consciousness. My mind is turning, my sight is falling and my heart is breaking. Deprived of physical feeling, I may fall today into that blazing fire! This yagna of the son of Parikshit (Janamejaya) is for the destruction of our race. It is evident I also shall have to go to the abode of the king of the dead (Yama). The time is come, O my sister, on account of which you were given by me on (Rishi) Jaratkaaru to protect us with our relatives. O best of the women of the snake race, Aastika (Jaratkaaru’s son) will put an end to the yagna that is going on. The Pitaamaha (Lord Brahma) told me this long back. Therefore, O child, call your dear son who is fully knowledgeable with the Vedas and regarded long time, for the protection of myself and also of those dependent on me.‘”
SRIMAD MAHABHARATA > AADI PARVA > AASTIKA PARVA > CHAPTER 53 – LORD INDRA PROTECTS TAKSHAKA