54. The word of Aastika

54. The word of Aastika

“Son of Soota said, ‘Then the snake-woman Jaratkaaru, calling her own son (Aastika), told him the following words according to the directions of Vaasuki, the king of the snakes, ‘O son, the time has come for the accomplishment of that object for which I was given on your father (Rishi Jaratkaaru) by my brother (Vaasuki). Therefore, you do that which should be done.’

“Aastika asked, ‘Why were you, O mother, given on my father by my uncle (Maatula in Sanskrit)? Tell me all truly so that on hearing it, I may do what is proper.’

“Then Jaratkaaru, the sister of the king of the snakes (Vaasuki), herself unmoved by the general suffering, and desirous of the welfare of her relatives, said to him, ‘O son, it is said that the mother of all the snakes is Kadru. You know why she cursed in anger her sons.’

“Addressing the snakes, she (Kadru) said, ‘As you have refused to falsely represent Uchchaihsravas, the king of horses, for bringing about Vinata’s (Kadru’s own sister) slavery according to the bet, therefore, he whose charioteer is Vaayu (Agni is the one whose charioteer is Vaayu) shall burn you all in Janamejaya’s yagna. Perishing in that yagna, you shall go to the region of the unredeemed spirits (Preta Loka in Sanskrit).’

“The Pitaamaha (Lord Brahma) of all the worlds spoke to her while uttering this curse, ‘Be it so,’ and thus approved of her (Kadru’s) speech. O child (Aastika), Vaasuki, having heard that curse and then the words of the Pitaamaha, sought the protection of Devas, on the occasion when the Amrita was being churned for. Devas, their object fulfilled, for they had obtained the excellent Amrita, with Vaasuki ahead, approached the Pitaamaha. All Devas, with king Vaasuki, sought to incline Him (Lord Brahma) who was born of the lotus to be favourable, so that the curse might be made unsuccessful.’

“Devas said, ‘O Lord (Brahma), Vaasuki, the king of the snakes, is sorrow (Dukhitaa in Sanskrit) on account of his relatives. How may his mother’s curse prove unsuccessful?’

“(Lord) Brahma immediately replied, saying, ‘(Rishi) Jaratkaaru will take to himself a wife of the name of Jaratkaaru; the Dwija born of her (Vaasuki’s sister Jaratkaaru) will relieve the snakes.’

“O you of godlike looks (Aastika), Vaasuki, the best of snakes, hearing those words, gave me, on your Mahatma father (Jaratkaaru) some time before the commencement of the yagna (Sarpa Satra). From that marriage, you are born of me. That time has come. It is your duty to protect us from this danger. It is your duty to protect my brother (Vaasuki) and myself from the fire, so that the object, viz., our relief, for which I was given on your wise father, may not be unfulfilled. What do you think, O son?’

“Son of Soota continued, ‘Thus addressed, Aastika said to his mother, ‘Yes, I will.’ He then addressed the pained Vaasuki, and as if infusing life into him, said, ‘O Vaasuki, O best of snakes, O great being, truly do I say, I shall relieve you from that curse. Be easy, O Naagaa (snake in English)! There is no fear any longer. I shall strive seriously so that good may come! Nobody has ever said that my speech, even in joke, has proved false. Hence on serious occasions like this, I need not say anything more, O uncle. Going there today I shall please, with words mixed with blessings, the monarch Janamejaya installed at the yagna (Sarpa Satra), so that, O excellent one, the yagna may stop. O highminded one, O king of the snakes, believe all that I say. Believe me, my determination can never be unfulfilled.’

“Vaasuki then said, ‘O Aastika, my head swims and my heart breaks. I cannot notice the points of the earth, as I am pained with a mother’s curse.’

“Aastika said, ‘O best of snakes, it is your duty not to grieve any longer. I shall remove this fear of yours from the blazing fire. This terrible punishment, capable of burning like the fire at the end of the Yuga, I shall extinguish. Do not nurse your fear any longer.’

“Son of Soota continued, ‘Then that best of Dwijas, Aastika, calmed the terrible fear of the Vaasuki’s heart, and taking it, as it were, on himself, walked, for the relief of the king of the snakes, with speed to Janamejaya’s yagna blessed with every merit (Guna in Sanskrit). Aastika having gone there, saw the excellent yagna compound with numerous Sadasyaas on it whose splendour was like to that of the Sun or Agni. But that best of Dwijas (Aastika) was refused admittance by the door-keepers. The mighty Rishi (Aastika) gratified them (doorkeepers), being desirous of entering the yagna compound. That best of Dwijas (Aastika), that foremost of all Dharmic men, having entered the excellent yagna compound, began to adore the king (Janamejaya) of infinite achievements, Ritwiks, the Sadasyaas, and also the sacred Agni.’”

Aastika’s mother Jaratkaaru briefs him on what happened that led to Sarpa Satra and asks him to go to Janamejaya and stop the yagna; Aastika consoles his mother and his uncle, Vaasuki; Aastika leaves to the yagna compound of the monarch Janamejaya; Praising the gatekeepers, Aastika enters into the yagna compound.



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