Friday, February 22, 2008

Adi Parva - Astika Parva 24

"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!'

"Brahman said, 'O Sesha, I am exceedingly gratified with this thy
self-denial and love of peace. But, at my command, let this act be done
by thee for the good of my creatures. Bear thou, O Sesha, properly and
well this Earth so unsteady with her mountains and forests, her seas and
towns and retreats, so that she may be steady.'

"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, 'Then the elder brother of the king of the snakes,
entering a hole, passed to the other side of the Earth, and holding her,
supported with his head that goddess with her belt of seas passing all

"Brahman said, 'O Sesha, O best of snakes, thou art the god Dharma,
because alone, with thy huge body, thou supportest the Earth with
everything on her, even as I myself, or Valavit (Indra), can.'

"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.

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