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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
‘Sauti continued, ‘Garuda then said, ‘O Purandara, let there be friendship between thee and me as thou desirest. My strength, know thou, is hard to bear. O thou of a thousand sacrifices, the good never approve of speaking highly of their own strength, nor do they speak of their own merits. But being made a friend, and asked by thee, O friend, I will answer thee, although self-praise without reason is ever improper. I can bear, on a single feather of mine, O Sakra, this Earth, with her mountains and forests and with the waters of the ocean, and with thee also stationed thereon. Know thou, my strength is such that I can bear without fatigue even all the worlds put together, with their mobile and immobile objects.’
“Sauti continued, ‘O Saunaka, after Garuda of great courage had thus spoken, Indra the chief of the gods, the wearer of the (celestial) crown, ever bent upon the good of the worlds, replied, saying, ‘It is as thou sayest. Everything is possible in thee. Accept now my sincere and hearty friendship. And if thou hast no concern with the Soma, return it to me. Those to whom thou wouldst give it would always oppose us.’ Garuda answered, ‘There is a certain reason for which the Soma is being carried by me. I shall not give the Soma to any one for drink. But, O thou of a thousand eyes, after I have placed it down, thou, O lord of the heavens, canst then, taking it up, instantly bring it away.’ Indra then said, ‘O oviparous one, I am highly gratified with these words now spoken by thee. O best of all rangers of the skies; accept from me any boon that thou desirest.’
“Sauti continued, ‘Then Garuda, recollecting the sons of Kadru and remembering also the bondage of his mother caused by an act of deception owing to the well-known reason (viz., the curse of Aruna), said, ‘Although I have power over all creatures, yet I shall do your bidding. Let, O Sakra, the mighty snakes become my food.’ The slayer of the Danavas having said unto him, ‘Be it so,’ then went to Hari, the god of gods, of great soul, and the lord of Yogins. And the latter sanctioned everything that had been said by Garuda. And the illustrious lord of heaven again said unto Garuda, ‘I shall bring away the Soma when thou placest it down.’ And having said so, he bade farewell to Garuda. And the bird of fair feathers then went to the presence of his mother with great speed.
“And Garuda in joy then spake unto all the snakes, ‘Here have I brought the Amrita. Let me place it on some Kusa grass. O ye snakes, sitting here, drink of it after ye have performed your ablutions and religious rites. As said by you, let my mother become, from this day, free, for I have accomplished your bidding.’ The snakes having said unto Garuda, ‘Be it so,’ then went to perform their ablutions. Meanwhile, Sakra taking up the Amrita, wended back to heaven. The snakes after performing their ablutions, their daily devotions, and other sacred rites, returned in joy, desirous of drinking the Amrita. They saw that the bed of kusa grass whereon the Amrita had been placed was empty, the Amrita itself having been taken away by a counter-act of deception. And they began to lick with their tongues the kusa grass, as the Amrita had been placed thereon. And the tongues of the snakes by that act became divided in twain. And the kusa grass, too, from the contact with Amrita, became sacred thenceforth. Thus did the illustrious Garuda bring Amrita (from the heavens) for the snakes, and thus were the tongues of snakes divided by what Garuda did.
“Then the bird of fair feathers, very much delighted, enjoyed himself in those woods accompanied by his mother. Of grand achievements, and deeply reverenced by all rangers of the skies, he gratified his mother by devouring the snakes.
“That man who would listen to this story, or read it out to an assembly of good Brahmanas, must surely go to heaven, acquiring great merit from the recitation of (the feats of) Garuda.’”
And so ends the thirty-fourth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
“Saunaka said, ‘O son of Suta, thou hast told us the reason why the snakes were cursed by their mother, and why Vinata also was cursed by her son. Thou hast also told us about the bestowal of boons, by their husband, on Kadru and Vinata. Thou hast likewise told us the names of Vinata’s sons. But thou hast not yet recited to us the names of the snakes. We are anxious to hear the names of the principal ones.’
“Sesha was born first, and then Vasuki. (Then were born) Airavata, Takshaka, Karkotaka, Dhananjaya, Kalakeya, the serpent Mani, Purana, Pinjaraka, and Elapatra, Vamana, Nila, Anila, Kalmasha, Savala, Aryaka, Ugra, Kalasapotaka, Suramukha, Dadhimukha, Vimalapindaka, Apta, Karotaka, Samkha, Valisikha, Nisthanaka, Hemaguha, Nahusha, Pingala, Vahyakarna, Hastipada, Mudgarapindaka, Kamvala Aswatara, Kaliyaka, Vritta, Samvartaka, Padma, Mahapadma, Sankhamukha, Kushmandaka, Kshemaka, Pindaraka, Karavira, Pushpadanshtraka, Vilwaka, Vilwapandara, Mushikada, Sankhasiras, Purnabhadra, Haridraka, Aparajita, Jyotika, Srivaha, Kauravya, Dhritarashtra, Sankhapinda, Virajas, Suvahu, Salipinda, Prabhakara, Hastipinda, Pitharaka, Sumuksha, Kaunapashana, Kuthara, Kunjara, Kumuda, Kumudaksha, Tittri, Halika, Kardama, Vahumulaka, Karkara, Akarkara, Kundodara, and Mahodara.
“Thus, O best of regenerate ones, have I said the names of the principal serpents. From fear of being tedious I do not give names of the rest. O thou whose wealth is asceticism, the sons of these snakes, with their grandsons, are innumerable. Reflecting upon this, I shall not name them to thee. O best ascetics, in this world the number of snakes baffles calculation, there being many thousands and millions of them.’”
So ends the thirty-fifth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
“Saunaka said, ‘O child, thou hast named many of the serpents gifted with great energy and incapable of being easily overcome. What did they do after hearing of that curse?’
“Sauti said, ‘The illustrious Sesha amongst them, of great renown, leaving his mother practised hard penances, living upon air and rigidly observing his vows. He practised these ascetic devotions, repairing to Gandhamadana, Vadri, Gokarna, the woods of Pushkara, and the foot of Himavat. And he passed his days in those sacred regions, some of which were sacred for their water and others for their soil in the rigid observance of his vows, with singleness of aim, and his passions under complete control. And the Grandsire of all, Brahma, saw that ascetic with knotted hair, clad in rags, and his flesh, skin, and sinews dried up owing to the hard penances he was practising. And the Grandsire addressing him, that penance-practising one of great fortitude, said, ‘What is that thorn doest, O Sesha? Let the welfare of the creatures of the worlds also engage thy thoughts. O sinless one, thou art afflicting all creatures by thy hard penances. O Sesha, tell me the desire implanted in thy breast.’
“And Sesha replied, ‘My uterine brothers are all of wicked hearts. I do not desire to live amongst them. Let this be sanctioned by thee. Like enemies they are always jealous of one another. I am, therefore, engaged in ascetic devotions. I will not see them even. They never show any kindness for Vinata and her son. Indeed, Vinata’s son capable of ranging through the skies, is another brother of ours. They always envy him. And he, too, is much stronger owing to the bestowal of that boon by our father, the high-souled Kasyapa. For these, I engaged in ascetic penances, and I will cast off this body of mine, so that I may avoid companionship with them, even in another state of life.’
“Unto Sesha who had said so, the Grandsire said, ‘O Sesha, I know the behaviour of all thy brothers and their great danger owing to their offence against their mother. But O Snake, a remedy (for this) hath been provided by me even beforehand. It behoveth thee not to grieve for thy brothers. O Sesha, ask of me the boon thou desirest. I have been highly gratified with thee and I will grant thee today a boon. O best of snakes, it is fortunate that thy heart hath been set on virtue. Let thy heart be more and more firmly set on virtue.’
“Then Sesha replied, ‘O divine Grandsire, this is the boon desired by me; viz., may my heart always delight in virtue and in blessed ascetic penances, O Lord of all!’
“Sesha said, ‘O divine Lord of all creatures, O bestower of boons, O lord of the Earth, lord of every created thing, lord of the universe, I will, even as thou sayest hold the Earth steady. Therefore, O lord of all creatures, place her on my head.’
“Brahman said, ‘O best of snakes, go underneath the Earth. She will herself give thee a crevice to pass through. And, O Sesha, by holding the Earth, thou shalt certainly do what is prized by me very greatly.’
“Sauti continued, ‘The snake, Sesha, the lord Ananta, of great prowess, lives underneath the Earth, alone supporting the world at the command of Brahman. And the illustrious Grandsire, the best of the immortals, then gave unto Ananta the bird of fair feathers, viz., the son of Vinata, for Ananta’s help.’”
So ends the thirty-sixth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.