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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Sauti said, ‘And Sringin then replied to his father, saying, ‘Whether this be an act of rashness, O father, or an improper act that I have done, whether thou likest it or dislikest it, the words spoken by me shall never be in vain. O father, I tell thee (a curse) can never be otherwise. I have never spoken a lie even in jest.’
“And Samika said, ‘Dear child, I know that thou art of great prowess, and truthful in speech. Thou hast never spoken falsehood before, so that thy curse shall never be falsified. The son, even when he attaineth to age, should yet be always counselled by the father, so that crowned with good qualities he may acquire great renown. A child as thou art, how much more dost thou stand in need of counsel? Thou art ever engaged in ascetic penances. The wrath of even the illustrious ones possessing the six attributes increaseth greatly. O thou foremost of ordinance-observing persons, seeing that thou art my son and a minor too, and beholding also thy rashness, I see that I must counsel thee. Live thou, O son, inclined to peace and eating fruits and roots of the forest. Kill this thy anger and destroy not the fruit of thy ascetic acts in this way.
Wrath surely decreaseth the virtue that ascetics acquire with great pains. And then for those deprived of virtue, the blessed state existeth not. Peacefulness ever giveth success to forgiving ascetics. Therefore, becoming forgiving in thy temper and conquering thy passions, shouldst thou always live. By forgiveness shalt thou obtain worlds that are beyond the reach of Brahman himself. Having adopted peacefulness myself, and with a desire also for doing good as much as lies in my power, I must do something; even must I send to that king, telling him, ‘O monarch, thou hast been cursed by my son of tender years and undeveloped intellect, in wrath, at seeing thy act of disrespect towards myself.’
“Sauti continued, ‘And that great ascetic, observer of vows, moved by kindness, sent with proper instructions a disciple of his to king Parikshit. And he sent his disciple Gaurmukha of good manners and engaged also in ascetic penances, instructing him to first enquire about the welfare of the king and then to communicate the real message. And that disciple soon approached that monarch, the head of the Kuru race. And he entered the king’s palace having first sent notice of his arrival through the servant in attendance at the gate.
“And the twice-born Gaurmukha was duly worshipped by the monarch. And after resting for a while, he detailed fully to the king, in the presence of his ministers, the words of Samika, of cruel import, exactly as he had been instructed.’
“And Gaurmukha said, ‘O king of kings, there is a Rishi, Samika, by name, of virtuous soul, his passions under control, peaceful, and given up to hard ascetic devotions, living in thy dominions! By thee, O tiger among men, was placed on the shoulders of that Rishi observing at present the vow of silence, a dead snake, with the end of thy bow! He himself forgave thee that act. But his son could not. And by the latter hast thou today been cursed, O king of kings, without the knowledge of his father, to the effect that within seven nights hence, shall (the snake) Takshaka cause thy death. And Samika repeatedly asked his son to save thee, but there is none to falsify his son’s curse. And because he hath been unable to pacify his son possessed by anger, therefore have I been sent to thee, O king, for thy good!’
“And that king of the Kuru race, himself engaged in ascetic practices, having heard these cruel words and recollecting his own sinful act, became exceedingly sorry. And the king, learning that foremost of Rishis in the forest had been observing the vow of silence, was doubly afflicted with sorrow and seeing the kindness of the Rishi Samika, and considering his own sinful act towards him, the king became very repentant. And the king looking like a very god, did not grieve so much for hearing of his death as for having done that act to the Rishi.’
“And then the king sent away Gaurmukha, saying, ‘Let the worshipful one (Samika) be gracious to me!’ And when Gaurmukha had gone away, the king, in great anxiety, without loss of time, consulted his ministers. And having consulted them, the king, himself wise in counsels, caused a mansion to be erected upon one solitary column. It was well-guarded day and night. And for its protection were placed there physicians and medicines, and Brahmanas skilled in mantras all around. And the monarch, protected on all sides, discharged his kingly duties from that place surrounded by his virtuous ministers. And no one could approach that best of kings there. The air even could not go there, being prevented from entering.
“And when the seventh day had arrived, that best of Brahmanas, the learned Kasyapa was coming (towards the king’s residence), desirous of treating the king (after the snake-bite). He had heard all that had taken place, viz., that Takshaka, that first of snakes, would send that best of monarchs to the presence of Yama (Death). And he thought, I would cure the monarch after he is bit by that first of snakes. By that I may have wealth and may acquire virtue also.’ But that prince of snakes, Takshaka, in the form of an old Brahmana, saw Kasyapa approaching on his way, his heart set upon curing the king. And the prince of snakes then spake unto that bull among Munis, Kasyapa, saying, ‘Whither dost thou go with such speed? What, besides, is the business upon which thou art intent?’
“And Kasyapa, thus addressed, replied, ‘Takshaka, by his poison, will today burn king Parikshit of the Kuru race, that oppressor of all enemies. I go with speed, O amiable one, to cure, without loss of time, the king of immeasurable prowess, the sole representative of the Pandava race, after he is bit by the same Takshaka like to Agni himself in energy.’ And Takshaka answered, ‘I am that Takshaka, O Brahmana, who shall burn that lord of the earth. Stop, for thou art unable to cure one bit by me.’ And Kasyapa rejoined, ‘I am sure that, possessed (that I am) of the power of learning, going thither I shall cure that monarch bit by thee.’”
“Sauti said, ‘And Takshaka, after this, answered, ‘If, indeed, thou art able to cure any creature bitten by me, then, O Kasyapa, revive thou this tree bit by me. O best of Brahmanas, I burn this banian in thy sight. Try thy best and show me that skill in mantras of which thou hast spoken.’
“And Kasyapa said, If thou art so minded, bite thou then, O king of snakes, this tree. O snake, I shall revive it, though bit by thee.
“Sauti continued, ‘That king of snakes, thus addressed by the illustrious Kasyapa, bit then that banian tree. And that tree, bit by the illustrious snake, and penetrated by the poison of the serpent, blazed up all around. And having burnt the banian so, the snake then spake again unto Kasyapa, saying, ‘O first of Brahmanas, try thy best and revive this lord of the forest.’
“Sauti continued, ‘The tree was reduced to ashes by the poison of that king of snakes. But taking up those ashes, Kasyapa spoke these words. ‘O king of snakes, behold the power of my knowledge as applied to this lord of the forest! O snake, under thy very nose I shall revive it.’ And then that best of Brahmanas, the illustrious and learned Kasyapa, revived, by his vidya, that tree which had been reduced to a heap of ashes.
And first he created the sprout, then he furnished it with two leaves, and then he made the stem, and then the branches, and then the full-grown tree with leaves and all. And Takshaka, seeing the tree revived by the illustrious Kasyapa, said unto him, ‘It is not wonderful in thee that thou shouldst destroy my poison or that of any one else like myself. O thou whose wealth is asceticism, desirous of what wealth, goest thou thither? The reward thou hopest to have from that best of monarchs, even I will give thee, however difficult it may be to obtain it. Decked with fame as thou art, thy success may be doubtful on that king affected by a Brahmana’s curse and whose span of life itself hath been shortened. In that case, this blazing fame of thine that hath overspread the three worlds will disappear like the Sun when deprived of his splendour (on the occasion of the eclipse).’
“Kasyapa said, ‘I go there for wealth, give it unto me, O snake, so that taking thy gold. I may return.’ Takshaka replied, ‘O best of regenerate ones, even I will give thee more than what thou expectest from that king. Therefore do not go.’
“Sauti continued, ‘That best of Brahmanas, Kasyapa, of great prowess and intelligence, hearing those words of Takshaka, sat in yoga meditation over the king. And that foremost of Munis, viz., Kasyapa, of great prowess and gifted with spiritual knowledge, ascertaining that the period of life of that king of the Pandava race had really run out, returned, receiving from Takshaka as much wealth as he desired.
“And upon the illustrious Kasyapa’s retracing his steps, Takshaka at the proper time speedily entered the city of Hastinapura. And on his way he heard that the king was living very cautiously, protected by means of poison-neutralising mantras and medicines.’
“Sauti continued, ‘The snake thereupon reflected thus, ‘The monarch must be deceived by me with power of illusion. But what must be the means?’ Then Takshaka sent to the king some snakes in the guise of ascetics taking with them fruits, kusa grass, and water (as presents). And Takshaka, addressing them, said, ‘Go ye all to the king, on the pretext of pressing business, without any sign of impatience, as if to make the monarch only accept the fruits and flowers and water (that ye shall carry as presents unto him).’
“Sauti continued, ‘Those snakes, thus commanded by Takshaka, acted accordingly. And they took to the king, Kusa grass and water, and fruits. And that foremost of kings, of great prowess, accepted those offerings. And after their business was finished, he said upto them, ‘Retire.’ Then after those snakes disguised as ascetics had gone away, the king addressed his ministers and friends, saying, ‘Eat ye, with me, all these fruits of excellent taste brought by the ascetics.’ Impelled by Fate and the words of the Rishi, the king, with his ministers, felt the desire of eating those fruits. The particular fruit, within which Takshaka had entered, was taken by the king himself for eating.
And when he was eating it, there appeared, O Saunaka, an ugly insect out of it, of shape scarcely discernible, of eyes black, and of coppery colour. And that foremost of kings, taking that insect, addressed his councillors, saying, ‘The sun is setting; today I have no more tear from poison. Therefore, let this insect become Takshaka and bite me, so that my sinful act may be expiated and the words of the ascetic rendered true.’ And those councillors also, impelled by Fate, approved of that speech. And then the monarch smiled, losing his senses, his hour having come. And he quickly placed that insect on his neck. And as the king was smiling, Takshaka, who had (in the form of that insect) come out of the fruit that had been offered to the king, coiled himself round the neck of the monarch. And quickly coiling round the king’s neck and uttering a tremendous roar, Takshaka, that lord of snakes, bit that protector of the earth.’”