Friday, February 22, 2008

Adi Parva - Astika Parva 46

"Sauti said, 'Listen now to another very wonderful incident in connection
with Astika. When king Janamejaya was about to gratify Astika by granting
the boon, the snake (Takshaka), thrown off Indra's hands, remained in mid
air without actually falling. King Janamejaya thereupon became curious,
for Takshaka, afflicted with fear, did not at once fall into the fire
although libations were poured in proper form into the blazing
sacrificial Agni in his name.'

"Saunaka said, 'Was it, O Suta, that the mantras of those wise Brahmanas
were not potent; since Takshaka did not fall into the fire?'

"Sauti replied, 'Unto the unconscious Takshaka, that best of snakes,
after he had been cast off Indra's hands, Astika had thrice said, 'Stay,'
'Stay,' 'Stay.' And he succeeded in staying in the skies, with afflicted
heart, like a person somehow staying between the welkin and the earth.

"The king then, on being repeatedly urged by his Sadasyas, said, 'Let it
be done as Astika hath said. Let the sacrifice be ended, let the snakes
be safe, let this Astika also be gratified, O Suta, thy words also be
true.' When the boon was granted to Astika, plaudits expressive of joy
rang through the air. Thus the sacrifice of the son of Parikshit--that
king of the Pandava race--came to an end. The king Janamejaya of the
Bharata race was himself pleased, and on the Ritwiks with the Sadasyas,
and on all who had come there, the king, bestowed money by hundreds and
thousands. And unto Suta Lohitaksha--conversant with the rules of
building and foundations--who had at the commencement said that a
Brahmana would be the cause of the interruption of the snake-sacrifice,
the king gave much wealth. The king, of uncommon kindness, also gave him
various things, with food and wearing apparel, according to his desire,
and became very much pleased. Then he concluded his sacrifice according
to the prescribed rites, and after treating him with every respect, the
king in joy sent home the wise Astika exceedingly gratified, for he had
attained his object. And the king said unto him, 'Thou must come again to
become a Sadasya in my great Horse-sacrifice.' And Astika said, 'yes' and
then returned home in great joy, having achieved his great end after
gratifying the monarch. And returning in joy to his uncle and mother and
touching their feet, he recounted to them everything as it had happened.'

"Sauti continued, 'Hearing all he had said, the snakes that had come
thither became very much delighted, and their fears were allayed. They
were much pleased with Astika and asked him to solicit a boon, saying, 'O
learned one, what good shall we do unto thee? We have been very much
gratified, having been all saved by thee. What shall we accomplish for
thee, O child!'

"Astika said, 'Let those Brahmanas, and other men, who shall, in the
morning or in the evening, cheerfully and with attention, read the sacred
account of this my act, have no fear from any of you.' And the snakes in
joy thereupon said, 'O nephew, in the nature of thy boon, let it be
exactly as thou sayest. That which thou askest we all shall cheerfully
do, O nephew! And those also that call to mind Astika, Artiman and
Sunitha, in the day or in the night, shall have no fear of snakes. He
again shall have no fear of snakes who will say, 'I call to mind the
famous Astika born of Jaratkaru, that Astika who saved the snakes from
the snake-sacrifice. Therefore, ye snakes of great good fortune, it
behoveth you not to bite me. But go ye away, blessed be ye, or go away
thou snake of virulent poison, and remember the words of Astika after the
snake sacrifice of Janamejaya. That snake who does not cease from biting
after hearing such mention of Astika, shall have his hood divided a
hundredfold like the fruit of Sinsa tree.'

"Sauti continued, 'That first of Brahmanas, thus addressed by the
foremost of the chief snakes assembled together, was very much gratified.
And the high-souled one then set his heart upon going away.

"And that best of Brahmanas, having saved the snakes from the
snake-sacrifice, ascended to heaven when his time came, leaving sons and
grandsons behind him.

'Thus have I recited to thee this history of Astika exactly as it
happened. Indeed, the recitation of this history dispelleth all fear of

'Sauti continued, 'O Brahmanas, O foremost one of Bhrigu's race, as thy
ancestor Pramati had cheerfully narrated unto his inquiring son Ruru, and
as I had heard it, thus have I recited this blessed history, from the
beginning, of the learned Astika. And, O Brahmana, O oppressor of all
enemies, having heard this holy history of Astika that increaseth virtue,
and which thou hadst asked me about after hearing the story of the
Dundubha, let thy ardent curiosity be satisfied.'"

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