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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Utanka, thus informed, reflected for a while and then said, ‘Yes, it must be so. Having been in a hurry I performed my ablutions (after meal) in a standing posture.’ King Paushya then said, ‘Here is a transgression, purification is not properly effected by one in a standing posture, not by one while he is going along.’ And Utanka having agreed to this, sat down with his face towards the east, and washed his face, hands, and feet thoroughly. And he then, without a noise, sipped thrice of water free from scum and froth, and not warm, and just sufficient to reach his stomach and wiped his face twice. And he then touched with water the apertures of his organs (eyes, ears, etc.). And having done all this, he once more entered the apartments of the women. And this time he saw the Queen. And as the Queen perceived him, she saluted him respectfully and said, ‘Welcome, Sir, command me what I have to do.’ And Utanka said unto her, ‘It behoveth thee to give me those ear-rings of thine. I beg them as a present for my preceptor.’ And the Queen having been highly pleased with Utanka’s conduct and, considering that Utanka as an object of charity could not be passed over, took off her ear-rings and gave them to him. And she said, ‘These ear-rings are very much sought after by Takshaka, the King of the serpents. Therefore shouldst thou carry them with the greatest care.’
“And Utanka being told this, said unto the Queen, ‘Lady, be under no apprehension. Takshaka, Chief of the serpents, is not able to overtake me.’ And having said this, and taking leave of the Queen, he went back into the presence of Paushya, and said, ‘Paushya, I am gratified.’ Then Paushya said to Utanka, ‘A fit object of charity can only be had at long intervals. Thou art a qualified guest, therefore do I desire to perform a sraddha. Tarry thou a little. And Utanka replied, ‘Yes, I will tarry, and beg that the clean provisions that are ready may be soon brought in.’ And the king having signified his assent, entertained Utanka duly. And Utanka seeing that the food placed before him had hair in it, and also that it was cold, thought it unclean. And he said unto Paushya, ‘Thou givest me food that is unclean, therefore shalt thou lose thy sight.’ And Paushya in answer said, ‘And because dost thou impute uncleanliness to food that is clean, therefore shalt thou be without issue.’ And Utanka thereupon rejoined, ‘It behoveth thee not, after having offered me unclean food, to curse me in return. Satisfy thyself by ocular proof.’
“And Paushya seeing the food alleged to be unclean satisfied himself of its uncleanliness. And Paushya having ascertained that the food was truly unclean, being cold and mixed with hair, prepared as it was by a woman with unbraided hair, began to pacify the Rishi Utanka, saying, ‘Sir, the food placed before thee is cold, and doth contain hair, having been prepared without sufficient care. Therefore I pray thee pardon me. Let me not become blind.’ And Utanka answered, ‘What I say must come to pass. Having become blind, thou mayst, however, recover the sight before long. Grant that thy curse also doth not take effect on me.’ And Paushya said unto him, ‘I am unable to revoke my curse. For my wrath even now hath not been appeased. But thou knowest not this. For a Brahmana’s heart is soft as new-churned butter, even though his words bear a sharp-edged razor. It is otherwise in respect of these with the Kshatriya. His words are soft as new-churned butter, but his heart is like a sharp-edged tool, such being the case, I am unable, because of the hardness of my heart, to neutralise my curse. Then go thou thy own way.’ To this Utanka made answer, “I showed thee the uncleanliness of the food offered to me, and I was even now pacified by thee. Besides, saidst thou at first that because I imputed uncleanliness to food that was clean I should be without issue. But the food truly unclean, thy curse cannot affect me. Of this I am sure.’ And Utanka having said this departed with the ear-rings.
“On the road Utanka perceived coming towards him a naked idle beggar sometimes coming in view and sometimes disappearing. And Utanka put the ear-rings on the ground and went for water. In the meantime the beggar came quickly to the spot and taking up the ear-rings ran away. And Utanka having completed his ablutions in water and purified himself and having also reverently bowed down to the gods and his spiritual masters pursued the thief with the utmost speed. And having with great difficulty overtaken him, he seized him by force. But at that instant the person seized, quitting the form of a beggar and assuming his real form, viz., that of Takshaka, speedily entered a large hole open in the ground. And having got in, Takshaka proceeded to his own abode, the region of the serpents.
“Now, Utanka, recollecting the words of the Queen, pursued the Serpent, and began to dig open the hole with a stick but was unable to make much progress. And Indra beholding his distress sent his thunder-bolt (Vajra) to his assistance. Then the thunder-bolt entering that stick enlarged that hole. And Utanka began to enter the hole after the thunder-bolt. And having entered it, he beheld the region of the serpents infinite in extent, filled with hundreds of palaces and elegant mansions with turrets and domes and gate-ways, abounding with wonderful places for various games and entertainments. And Utanka then glorified the serpents by the following slokas:
“Then the man with the horse said unto Utanka, ‘I am gratified by this thy adoration. What good shall I do to thee?’ And Utanka replied, ‘Even let the serpents be brought under my control.’ Then the man rejoined, ‘Blow into this horse.’ And Utanka blew into that horse. And from the horse thus blown into, there issued, from every aperture of his body, flames of fire with smoke by which the region of the Nagas was about to be consumed. And Takshaka, surprised beyond measure and terrified by the heat of the fire, hastily came out of his abode taking the ear-rings with him, and said unto Utanka, ‘Pray, Sir, take back the ear-rings.’ And
“Ye Serpents, subjects of King Airavata, splendid in battle and showering weapons in the field like lightning-charged clouds driven by the winds! Handsome and of various forms and decked with many coloured ar-rings, ye children of Airavata, ye shine like the Sun in the firmament! On the northern banks of the Ganges are many habitations of serpents. There I constantly adore the great serpents. Who except Airavata would desire to move in the burning rays of the Sun? When Dhritarashtra (Airavata’s brother) goes out, twenty-eight thousand and eight serpents follow him as his attendants. Ye who move near him and ye who stay at a distance from him, I adore all of you that have Airavata for your elder brother.
“I adore thee also, to obtain the ear-rings, O Takshaka, who formerly dwelt in Kurukshetra and the forest of Khandava! Takshaka and Aswasena, ye are constant companions who dwell in Kurukshetra on the banks of the Ikshumati! I also adore the illustrious Srutasena, the younger brother of Takshaka, who resided at the holy place called Mahadyumna with a view to obtaining the chiefship of the serpents.
“The Brahmana Rishi Utanka having saluted the chief serpents in this manner, obtained not, however, the ear-rings. And he thereupon became very thoughtful. And when he saw that he obtained not the ear-rings even though he had adored the serpents, he then looked about him and beheld two women at a loom weaving a piece of cloth with a fine shuttle; and in the loom were black and white threads. And he likewise saw a wheel, with twelve spokes, turned by six boys. And he also saw a man with a handsome horse. And he began to address them the following mantras:
“This wheel whose circumference is marked by twenty-four divisions representing as many lunar changes is furnished with three hundred spokes! It is set in continual motion by six boys (the seasons)! These damsels representing universal nature are weaving without intermission a cloth with threads black and white, and thereby ushering into existence the manifold worlds and the beings that inhabit them! Thou wielder of the thunder, the protector of the universe, the slayer of Vritra and Namuchi, thou illustrious one who wearest the black cloth and displayest truth and untruth in the universe, thou who ownest for thy carrier the horse which was received from the depths of the ocean, and which is but another form of Agni (the god of fire), I bow to thee, thou supreme Lord, thou Lord of the three worlds, O Purandara!’
“Then the man with the horse said unto Utanka, ‘I am gratified by this thy adoration. What good shall I do to thee?’ And Utanka replied, ‘Even let the serpents be brought under my control.’ Then the man rejoined, ‘Blow into this horse.’ And Utanka blew into that horse. And from the horse thus blown into, there issued, from every aperture of his body, flames of fire with smoke by which the region of the Nagas was about to be consumed. And Takshaka, surprised beyond measure and terrified by the heat of the fire, hastily came out of his abode taking the ear-rings with him, and said unto Utanka, ‘Pray, Sir, take back the ear-rings.’ And Utanka took them back.