(Pauloma Parva continued)
Sauti said, 'And Ruru, on hearing those words, replied, 'My wife, dear to me as life, was bit by a snake; upon which, I took, O snake, a dreadful vow, viz., that I would kill every snake that I might come across. Therefore shall I smite thee and thou shalt be deprived of life.'
"And the Dundubha replied, 'O Brahmana, the snakes that bite man are quite different in type. It behoveth thee not to slay Dundubhas who are serpents only in name. Subject like other serpents to the same calamities but not sharing their good fortune, in woe the same but in joy different, the Dundubhas should not be slain by thee under any misconception.'
"Sauti continued, 'And the Rishi Ruru hearing these words of the serpent, and seeing that it was bewildered with fear, albeit a snake of the Dundubha species, killed it not. And Ruru, the possessor of the six attributes, comforting the snake addressed it, saying, 'Tell me fully, O snake, who art thou thus metamorphosed?' And the Dundubha replied, 'O Ruru! I was formerly a Rishi by name Sahasrapat. And it is by the curse of a Brahmana that I have been transformed into a snake. And Ruru asked, 'O thou best of snakes, for what wast thou cursed by a Brahmana in wrath? And how long also will thy form continue so?'"
And so ends the tenth section of the Pauloma Parva of the Adi Parva.
(Pauloma Parva continued)
"Sauti continued 'The Dundubha then said, 'In former times, I had a friend Khagama by name. He was impetuous in his speech and possessed of spiritual power by virtue of his austerities. And one day when he was engaged in the Agni-hotra (Fire-sacrifice), I made a mock snake of blades of grass, and in a frolic attempted to frighten him with it. And anon he fell into a swoon. On recovering his senses, that truth-telling and vow-observing ascetic, burning with wrath, exclaimed, 'Since thou hast made a powerless mock snake to frighten me, thou shalt be turned even into a venomless serpent thyself by my curse.' O ascetic, I well knew the power of his penances; therefore with an agitated heart, I addressed him thus, bending low with joined hands, 'Friend, I did this by way of a joke, to excite thy laughter. It behoveth thee to forgive me and revoke thy curse.' And seeing me sorely troubled, the ascetic was moved, and he replied, breathing hot and hard. 'What I have said must come to pass. Listen to what I say and lay it to thy heart. O pious one! when Ruru the pure son of Pramati, will appear, thou shall be delivered from the curse the moment thou seest him. Thou art the very Ruru and the son of Pramati. On regaining my native form, I will tell thee something for thy good.
"And that illustrious man and the best of Brahmanas then left his snake-body, and attained his own form and original brightness. He then addressed the following words to Ruru of incomparable power, 'O thou first of created beings, verily the highest virtue of man is sparing the life of others. Therefore a Brahmana should never take the life of any creature. A Brahmana should ever be mild. This is the most sacred injunction of the Vedas. A Brahmana should be versed in the Vedas and Vedangas, and should inspire all creatures with belief in God. He should be benevolent to all creatures, truthful, and forgiving, even as it is his paramount duty to retain the Vedas in his memory. The duties of the Kshatriya are not thine. To be stern, to wield the sceptre and to rule the subjects properly are the duties of the Kshatriya. Listen, O Ruru, to the account of the destruction of snakes at the sacrifice of Janamejaya in days of yore, and the deliverance of the terrified reptiles by that best of Dwijas, Astika, profound in Vedic lore and might in spiritual energy.'"
And so ends the eleventh section of the Pauloma Parva of the Adi Parva.
(Pauloma Parva continued)
"Sauti continued, 'Ruru then asked, 'O best of Dwijas, why was king Janamejaya bent upon destroying the serpents?–And why and how were they saved by the wise Astika? I am anxious to hear all this in detail.'
"The Rishi replied, 'O Ruru, the important history of Astika you will learn from the lips of Brahmanas.' Saying this, he vanished.
"Sauti continued, 'Ruru ran about in search of the missing Rishi, and having failed to find him in all the woods, fell down on the ground, fatigued. And revolving in his mind the words of the Rishi, he was greatly confounded and seemed to be deprived of his senses. Regaining consciousness, he came home and asked his father to relate the history in question. Thus asked, his father related all about the story.'"
So ends the twelfth section in the Pauloma Parva of the Adi Parva.
"Saunaka said, 'For what reason did that tiger among kings, the royal Janamejaya, determine to take the lives of the snakes by means of a sacrifice? O Sauti, tell us in full the true story. Tell us also why Astika, that best of regenerate ones, that foremost of ascetics, rescued the snakes from the blazing fire. Whose son was that monarch who celebrated the snake-sacrifice? And whose son also was that best of regenerate ones?'
"Sauti said, 'O best of speakers, this story of Astika is long. I will duly relate it in full, O listen!'
"Saunaka said, 'I am desirous of hearing at length the charming story of that Rishi, that illustrious Brahmana named Astika.'
"Sauti said, 'This history (first) recited by Krishna-Dwaipayana, is called a Purana by the Brahmanas. It was formerly narrated by my wise father, Lomaharshana, the disciple of Vyasa, before the dwellers of the Naimisha forest, at their request. I was present at the recital, and, O Saunaka, since thou askest me, I shall narrate the history of Astika exactly as I heard it. O listen, as I recite in full that sin-destroying story.
"The father of Astika was powerful like Prajapati. He was a Brahma-charin, always engaged in austere devotions. He ate sparingly, was a great ascetic, and had his lust under complete control. And he was known by the name of Jaratkaru. That foremost one among the Yayavaras, virtuous and of rigid vows, highly blessed and endued with great ascetic power, once undertook a journey over the world. He visited diverse places, bathed in diverse sacred waters, and rested where night overtook him. Endued with great energy, he practised religious austerities, hard to be practised by men of unrestrained souls. The sage lived upon air only, and renounced sleep for ever. Thus going about like a blazing fire, one day he happened to see his ancestors, hanging heads down in a great hole, their feet pointing upwards. On seeing them, Jaratkaru addressed them, saying:
'Who are you thus hanging heads down in this hole by a rope of virana fibres that is again secretly eaten into on all sides by a rat living here?'
"The ancestors said, 'We are Rishis of rigid vows, called Yayavaras. We are sinking low into the earth for want of offspring. We have a son named Jaratkaru. Woe to us! That wretch hath entered upon a life of austerities only! The fool doth not think of raising offspring by marriage! It is for that reason, viz., the fear of extinction of our race, that we are suspended in this hole. Possessed of means, we fare like unfortunates that have none! O excellent one, who art thou that thus sorrowest as a friend on our account? We desire to learn, O Brahmana, who thou art that standest by us, and why, O best of men, thou sorrowest for us that are so unfortunate.'
"Jaratkaru said, 'Ye are even my sires and grandsires I am that Jaratkaru! O, tell me, how I may serve you.'
"The fathers then answered, 'Try thy best, O child, to beget a son to extend our line. Thou wilt then, O excellent one, have done a meritorious art for both thyself and us. Not by the fruits of virtue, not by ascetic penances well hoarded up, acquireth the merit which one doth by becoming a father. Therefore, O child, by our command, set thy heart upon marriage and offspring. Even this is our highest good.'
"Jaratkaru replied, 'I shall not marry for my sake, nor shall I earn wealth for enjoyment, but I shall do so for your welfare only. According to this understanding, I shall, agreeably to the Sastric ordinance, take a wife for attaining the end. I shall not act otherwise. If a bride may be had of the same name with me, whose friends would, besides, willingly give her to me as a gift in charity, I shall wed her duly. But who will give his daughter to a poor man like me for wife. I shall, however, accept any daughter given to me as alms. I shall endeavour, ye sires, even thus to wed a girl! Having given my word, I will not act otherwise. Upon her I will raise offspring for your redemption, so that, ye fathers, ye may attain to eternal regions (of bliss) and may rejoice as ye like.'"
So ends the thirteenth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'That Brahmana of rigid vows then wandered over the earth for a wife but a wife found he not. One day he went into the forest, and recollecting the words of his ancestors, he thrice prayed in a faint voice for a bride. Thereupon Vasuki rose and offered his sister for the Rishi's acceptance. But the Brahmana hesitated to accept her, thinking her not to be of the same name with himself. The high-souled Jaratkaru thought within himself, 'I will take none for wife who is not of the same name with myself.' Then that Rishi of great wisdom and austere penances asked him, saying, 'Tell me truly what is the name of this thy sister, O snake.'
"Vasuki replied, 'O Jaratkaru, this my younger sister is called Jaratkaru. Given away by me, accept this slender-waisted damsel for thy spouse. O best of Brahmanas, for thee I reserved her. Therefore, take her.' Saying this, he offered his beautiful sister to Jaratkaru who then espoused her with ordained rites.'"
So ends the thirteenth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'O foremost of persons acquainted with Brahma, the mother of the snakes had cursed them of old, saying, 'He that hath the Wind for his charioteer (viz., Agni) shall burn you all in Janamejaya's sacrifice!' It was to neutralise that curse that the chief of the snakes married his sister to that high-souled Rishi of excellent vows. The Rishi wedded her according to the rites ordained (in the scriptures), and from them was born a high-souled son called Astika. An illustrious ascetic; versed in the Vedas and their branches, he regarded all with an even eye, and removed the fears of both his parents.
"Then, after a long space of time, a king descending from the Pandava line celebrated a great sacrifice known as the Snake-sacrifice, After that sacrifice had commenced for the destruction of the snakes, Astika delivered the Nagas, viz., his brothers and maternal uncles and other snakes (from a fiery death). And he delivered his fathers also by begetting offspring. And by his austerities, O Brahmana, and various vows and study of the Vedas, he freed himself from all his debts. By sacrifices, at which various kinds of offerings were made, he propitiated the gods. By practising the Brahmacharya mode of life he conciliated the Rishis; and by begetting offspring he gratified his ancestors.
"Thus Jaratkaru of rigid vows discharged the heavy debt he owed to his sires who being thus relieved from bondage ascended to heaven. Thus having acquired great religious merit, Jaratkaru, after a long course of years, went to heaven, leaving Astika behind. There is the story of Astika that I have related duly Now, tell me, O tiger of Bhrigu's race, what else I shall narrate."
So ends the fifteenth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
(Astika Parva continued)
"Saunaka said, 'O Sauti, relate once more in detail this history of the learned and virtuous Astika. Our curiosity for hearing it is great. O amiable one, thou speakest sweetly, with proper accent and emphasis; and we are well-pleased with thy speech. Thou speakest even as thy father. Thy sire was ever ready to please us. Tell us now the story as thy father had related it.'
"Sauti said, 'O thou that art blest with longevity, I shall narrate the history of Astika as I heard it from my father. O Brahmana, in the golden age, Prajapati had two daughters. O sinless one, the sisters were endowed with wonderful beauty. Named Kadru and Vinata, they became the wives of Kasyapa. Kasyapa derived great pleasure from his two wedded wives and being gratified he, resembling Prajapati himself, offered to give each of them a boon. Hearing that their lord was willing to confer on them their choice blessings, those excellent ladies felt transports of joy. Kadru wished to have for sons a thousand snakes all of equal splendour. And Vinata wished to bring forth two sons surpassing the thousand offsprings of Kadru in strength, energy, size of body, and prowess. Unto Kadru her lord gave that boon about a multitude of offspring. And unto Vinata also, Kasyapa said, 'Be it so!' Then Vinata, having; obtained her prayer, rejoiced greatly. Obtaining two sons of superior prowess, she regarded her boon fulfilled. Kadru also obtained her thousand sons of equal splendour. 'Bear the embryos carefully,' said Kasyapa, and then he went into the forest, leaving his two wives pleased with his blessings.'
"Sauti continued, 'O best of regenerate ones, after a long time, Kadru brought forth a thousand eggs, and Vinata two. Their maid-servants deposited the eggs separately in warm vessels. Five hundred years passed away, and the thousand eggs produced by Kadru burst and out came the progeny. But the twins of Vinata did not appear. Vinata was jealous, and therefore she broke one of the eggs and found in it an embryo with the upper part developed but the lower one undeveloped. At this, the child in the egg became angry and cursed his mother, saying. 'Since thou hast prematurely broken this egg, thou shall serve as a slave. Shouldst thou wait five hundred years and not destroy, or render the other egg half-developed, by breaking it through impatience, then the illustrious child within it will deliver thee from slavery! And if thou wouldst have the child strong, thou must take tender care of the egg for all this time!' Thus cursing his mother, the child rose to the sky. O Brahmana, even he is the charioteer of Surya, always seen in the hour of morning!
"Then at the expiration of the five hundred years, bursting open the other egg, out came Garuda, the serpent-eater. O tiger of Bhrigu's race, immediately on seeing the light, that son of Vinata left his mother. And the lord of birds, feeling hungry, took wing in quest of the food assigned to him by the Great Ordainer of all.".
So ends the sixteenth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'O ascetic, about this time the two sisters saw approaching near, that steed of complacent appearance named Uchchaihsravas who was worshipped by the gods, that gem of steeds, who arose at the churning of the Ocean for nectar. Divine, graceful, perpetually young, creation's master-piece, and of irresistible vigour, it was blest with every auspicious mark.'
"Saunaka asked, 'Why did the gods churn the Ocean for nectar, and under what circumstances and when as you say, did that best of steeds so powerful and resplendent spring?'
"Sauti said, 'There is a mountain named Meru, of blazing appearance, and looking like a heap of effulgence. The rays of the Sun falling on its peaks of golden lustre are dispersed by them. Decked with gold and exceedingly beautiful, that mountain is the haunt of the gods and the Gandharvas. It is immeasurable and unapproachable by men of manifold sins. Dreadful beasts of prey wander over its breasts, and it is illuminated by many divine life-giving herbs. It stands kissing the heavens by its height and is the first of mountains. Ordinary people cannot even think of ascending it. It is graced with trees and streams, and resounds with the charming melody of winged choirs. Once the celestials sat on its begemmed peak–in conclave. They who had practised penances and observed excellent vows for amrita now seemed to be eager seekers alter amrita (celestial ambrosia). Seeing the celestial assembly in anxious mood Narayana said to Brahman, 'Do thou churn the Ocean with the gods and the Asuras. By doing so, amrita will be obtained as also all drugs and gems. O ye gods, chum the Ocean, ye will discover amrita.'"
So ends the seventeenth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'There is a mountain called Mandara adorned with cloud-like peaks. It is the best of mountains, and is covered all over with intertwining herbs. There countless birds pour forth their melodies, and beasts of prey roam about. The gods, the Apsaras and the Kinnaras visit the place. Upwards it rises eleven thousand yojanas, and descends downwards as much. The gods wanted to tear it up and use it as a churning rod but failing to do so same to Vishnu and Brahman who were sitting together, and said unto them, 'Devise some efficient scheme, consider, ye gods, how Mandara may be dislodged for our good.'
"Sauti continued, 'O son of Bhrigu! Vishnu with Brahman assented to it. And the lotus-eyed one (Vishnu) laid the hard task on the mighty Ananta, the prince of snakes. The powerful Ananta, directed thereto both by Brahman and Narayana, O Brahmana, tore up the mountain with the woods thereon and with the denizens of those woods. And the gods came to the shore of the Ocean with Ananta and addressed the Ocean, saying, 'O Ocean; we have come to churn thy waters for obtaining nectar.' And the Ocean replied, 'Be it so, as I shall not go without a share of it. I am able to bear the prodigious agitation of my waters set up by the mountain.' The gods then went to the king of tortoises and said to him, 'O Tortoise-king, thou wilt have to hold the mountain on thy back!' The Tortoise-king agreed, and Indra contrived to place the mountain on the former's back.
"And the gods and the Asuras made of Mandara a churning staff and Vasuki the cord, and set about churning the deep for amrita. The Asuras held Vasuki by the hood and the gods held him by the tail. And Ananta, who was on the side of the gods, at intervals raised the snake's hood and suddenly lowered it. And in consequence of the stretch Vasuki received at the hands of the gods and the Asuras, black vapours with flames issued from his mouth. These, turned into clouds charged with lightning, poured showers that refreshed the tired gods. And flowers that also fell on all sides of the celestials from the trees on the whirling Mandara, refreshed them.
"Then, O Brahmana, out of the deep came a tremendous roar like unto the roar of the clouds at the Universal Dissolution. Diverse aquatic animals being crushed by the great mountain gave up the ghost in the salt waters. And many denizens of the lower regions and the world of Varuna were killed. Large trees with birds on the whirling Mandara were torn up by the roots and fell into the water. The mutual friction of those trees also produced fires that blazed up frequently. The mountain thus looked like a mass of dark clouds charged with lightning. O Brahmana, the fire spread, and consumed the lions, elephants and other creatures that were on the mountain. Then Indra extinguished that fire by pouring down heavy showers.
"After the churning, O Brahmana, had gone on for some time, gummy exudations of various trees and herbs vested with the properties of amrita mingled with the waters of the Ocean. And the celestials attained to immortality by drinking of the water mixed with those gums and with the liquid extract of gold. By degrees, the milky water of the agitated deep turned into clarified butter by virtue of those gums and juices. But nectar did not appear even then. The gods came before the boon-granting Brahman seated on his seat and said, 'Sire, we are spent up, we have no strength left to churn further. Nectar hath not yet arisen so that now we have no resource save Narayana.'
"On hearing them, Brahman said to Narayana, 'O Lord, condescend to grant the gods strength to churn the deep afresh.'
"Then Narayana agreeing to grant their various prayers, said, 'Ye wise ones, I grant you sufficient strength. Go, put the mountain in position again and churn the water.'
'Re-established thus in strength, the gods recommenced churning. After a while, the mild Moon of a thousand rays emerged from the Ocean. Thereafter sprung forth Lakshmi dressed in white, then Soma, then the White Steed, and then the celestial gem Kaustubha which graces the breast of Narayana. Then Lakshmi, Soma and the Steed, fleet as the mind, all came before the gods on high. Then arose the divine Dhanwantari himself with the white vessel of nectar in his hand. And seeing him, the Asuras set up a loud cry, saying, 'It be ours.'
"And at length rose the great elephant, Airavata, of huge body and with two pair of white tusks. And him took Indra the wielder of the thunderbolt. But with the churning still going on, the poison Kalakuta appeared at last. Engulfing the Earth it suddenly blazed up like a fire attended with fumes. And by the scent of the fearful Kalakuta, the three worlds were stupefied. And then Siva, being solicited by Brahman, swallowed that poison for the safety of the creation. The divine Maheswara held it in his throat, and it is said that from that time he is called Nilakantha (blue-throated). Seeing all these wondrous things, the Asuras were filled with despair, and got themselves prepared for entering into hostilities with the gods for the possession of Lakshmi and Amrita. Thereupon Narayana called his bewitching Maya (illusive power) to his aid, and assuming the form of an enticing female, coquetted with the Danavas. The Danavas and the Daityas charmed with her exquisite beauty and grace lost their reason and unanimously placed the Amrita in the hands of that fair damsel.'"
So ends the eighteenth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.