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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
But Kasyapa, O king, revived it. Takshaka thereupon tempted him, saying, ‘Tell me thy desire.’ And Kasyapa, too, thus addressed, spake again unto Takshaka, saying, ‘I go there from desire of wealth.’ And Takshaka, thus addressed, then spake unto the high-souled Kasyapa in these soft words, ‘O sinless one, take from me more wealth than what thou expectest from that monarch, and go back!’ And Kasyapa, that foremost of men, thus addressed by the snake, and receiving from him as much wealth as he desired, wended his way back.
“And Kasyapa going back, Takshaka, approaching in disguise, blasted, with the fire of his poison, thy virtuous father, the first of kings, then staying in his mansion with all precautions. And after that, thou wast, O tiger among men, been installed (on the throne). And, O best of monarchs, we have thus told thee all that we have seen and heard, cruel though the account is. And hearing all about the discomfiture of thy royal father, and of the insult to the Rishi Utanka, decide thou that which should follow!
‘Sauti continued, ‘King Janamejaya, that chastiser of enemies, then spake upto all his ministers. And he said, ‘When did ye learn all that happened upon that, banian reduced to ashes by Takshaka, and which, wonderful as it is, was afterwards revived by Kasyapa? Assuredly, my father could not have died, for the poison could have been neutralised by Kasyapa with his mantras. That worst of snakes, of sinful soul, thought within his mind that if Kasyapa resuscitated the king bit by him, he, Takshaka, would be an object of ridicule in the world owing to the neutralisation of his poison. Assuredly, having thought so, he pacified the Brahmana. I have devised a way, however, of inflicting punishment upon him. I like to know, however, what ye saw or heard, what happened in the deep solitude of the forest,–viz., the words of Takshaka and the speeches of Kasyapa. Having known it, I shall devise the means of exterminating the snake race.’
“The ministers said, ‘Hear, O monarch of him who told us before of the meeting between that foremost Brahmana and that prince of snakes in the woods. A certain person, O monarch, had climbed up that tree containing some dry branches with the object of breaking them for sacrificial fuel. He was not perceived either by the snake or by the Brahmana. And, O king, that man was reduced to ashes along with the tree itself. And, O king of kings, he was revived with the tree by the power of the Brahmana. That man, a Brahmana’s menial, having come to us, represented fully everything as it happened between Takshaka and the Brahmana. Thus have we told thee, O king, all that we have seen and heard. And having heard it, O tiger among kings, ordain that which should follow.’
“Sauti continued, ‘King Janamejaya, having listened to the words of his ministers, was sorely afflicted with grief, and began to weep. And the monarch began to squeeze his hands. And the lotus-eyed king began to breathe a long and hot breath, shed tears, and shrieked aloud. And possessed with grief and sorrow, and shedding copious tears, and touching water according to the form, the monarch spake. And reflecting for a moment, as if settling something in his mind, the angry monarch, addressing all ministers, said these words.
‘I have heard your account of my father’s ascension to heaven. Know ye now what my fixed resolve is. I think no time must be lost in avenging this injury upon the wretch Takshaka that killed my father. He burnt my father making Sringin only a secondary cause. From malignity alone he made Kasyapa return. If that Brahmana had arrived, my father assuredly would have lived. What would he have lost if the king had revived by the grace of Kasyapa and the precautionary measures of his ministers? From ignorance of the effects of my wrath, he prevented Kasyapa–that excellent of Brahmanas–whom he could not defeat, from coming to my father with the desire of reviving him. The act of aggression is great on the part of the wretch Takshaka who gave wealth unto that Brahmana in order that he might not revive the king. I must now avenge myself on my father’s enemy to please myself, the Rishi Utanka and you all.’”
‘Sauti said, ‘King Janamejaya having said so, his ministers expressed their approbation. And the monarch then expressed his determination to perform a snake-sacrifice. And that lord of the Earth–that tiger of the Bharata race–the son of Parikshit, then called his priest and Ritwiks. And accomplished in speech, he spake unto them these words relating to the accomplishment of his great task. ‘I must avenge myself on the wretch Takshaka who killed my father. Tell me what I must do. Do you know any act by which I may cast into the blazing fire the snake Takshaka with his relatives? I desire to burn that wretch even as he burnt, of yore, by the fire of his poison, my father.’
‘The chief priest answered, ‘There is, O king, a great sacrifice for thee devised by the gods themselves. It is known as the snake-sacrifice, and is read of in the Puranas. O king, thou alone canst accomplish it, and no one else. Men versed in the Puranas have told us, there is such a sacrifice.’
“Sauti continued, ‘Thus addressed, the king, O excellent one, thought Takshaka to be already burnt and thrown into the blazing mouth of Agni, the eater of the sacrificial butter. The king then said unto those Brahmanas versed in mantras, ‘I shall make preparations for that sacrifice. Tell me the things that are necessary.’ And the king’s Ritwiks, O excellent Brahmana, versed in the Vedas and acquainted with the rites of that sacrifice measured, according to the scriptures, the land for the sacrificial platform. And the platform was decked with valuable articles and with Brahmanas. And it was full of precious things and paddy. And the Ritwika sat upon it at ease. And after the sacrificial platform had been thus constructed according to rule and as desired, they installed the king at the snake-sacrifice for the attainment of its object.
And before the commencement of the snake-Sacrifice that was to come, there occurred this very important incident foreboding obstruction to the sacrifice. For when the sacrificial platform was being constructed, a professional builder of great intelligence and well-versed in the knowledge of laying foundations, a Suta by caste, well-acquainted with the Puranas, said, ‘The soil upon which and the time at which the measurement for the sacrificial platform has been made, indicate that this sacrifice will not be completed, a Brahmana becoming the reason thereof.’ Hearing this, the king, before his installation, gave orders to his gate-keepers not to admit anybody without his knowledge.”
“Sauti said, ‘The snake-sacrifice then commenced according to due form. And the sacrificial priests, competent in their respective duties according to the ordinance, clad in black garments and their eyes red from contact with smoke, poured clarified butter into the blazing fire, uttering the appropriate mantras. And causing the hearts of all the snakes to tremble with fear, they poured clarified butter into the mouth of Agni uttering the names of the snakes. And the snakes thereupon began to fall into the blazing fire, benumbed and piteously calling upon one another. And swollen and breathing hard, and twining each other with their heads and tails, they came in large numbers and fell into the fire. The white, the black, the blue, the old and the young–all fell alike into the fire, uttering various cries. Those measuring a krosa, and those measuring a yojana, and those of the measure of a gokarna, fell continuously with great violence into that first of all fires.
And hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of snakes, deprived of all control over their limbs, perished on that occasion. And amongst those that perished, there were some that were like horses, other like trunks of elephants, and others of huge bodies and strength like maddened elephants Of various colours and virulent poison, terrible and looking like maces furnished with iron-spikes, of great strength, ever inclined to bite, the snakes, afflicted with their mother’s curse, fell into the fire.’”