Mahabharata Ch 31-35, Adi Parva, Astika Parva

[Ch 26,27,28,29,30 « Ch 31,32,33,34,35 » Ch 36,37,38,39,40]

Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Astika; Chapter:31; Shlokas:18
Shounaka now asks Souti to tell him about the names of the snakes (the sons of Kadru). Souti lists the main names. The first to be born was Shesha, followed by Vasuki. Then came others like Airavata, Takshaka, Kaliya, Elapatra, Padma, Pindaraka, Aparajita, etc... Souti ends by saying that there are too many snakes to be listed.

"There are many thousands, millions and hundreds of millions of snakes in the world. One cannot recount all their numbers."
बहूनीह सहस्राणि प्रयुतान्यर्बुदानि च
अशक्यान्येव संख्यातुं भुजगानां तपोधन [1.31.18]
[Is Kaliya the same Kaliya as appears later in Vrindavan and who Krishna defeats?]

Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Astika; Chapter:32; Shlokas:25

Shounaka asked Souti what the snakes did. Souti replied that among them, Sesha left Kadru and "practised severe austerities" at several places. Seeing his austerities, Brahma appeared before him and asked him what he was doing. Sesha replied that his brothers were "wicked of mind" and that they were cruel towards Garuda. He wished to cast off his body through his austerities. Pleased, Brahma wanted to grant Sesha a boon. Sesha asked that his mind always "delight in dharma, in tranquility and in austerities." Brahma then asked Sesha to bear up the earth since it was unstable. Sesha agreed, and thus Sesha, also called Ananta - for his endless coils - holds up the earth.

Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Astika; Chapter:33; Shlokas:31

Vasuki consulted with Airavata and other brothers on what could be done to alleviate their mother's curse. The snakes assembled and offered their views. Some opined that they should beg Janamejeya to call off the sacrifice, while others wanted to become Janamejaya's advisors sot they could advise him to stop the sacrifice. Some even suggested biting the person appointed as the priest of the snake sacrifice and all others thus appointed, so that the sacrifice would be stopped. Some suggested stealing the ladles used in the sacrifice, some wanted to go in large numbers and bite everyone and create a terror. Some even wanted to bite and kill the king. When they all turned to Vasuki, he disagreed with all their suggestions as "not fit to be carried out."

Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Astika; Chapter:34; Shlokas:18

Elapatra then said that the sacrifice was certain. Frightened by the curse, she had taken refuge in her mother's lap. There she heard the gods asking Brahma why he had not stopped Kadru from pronouncing such a curse, and that too in front of him. Brahma responded that it was because the snakes had become numerous, and were "cruel, terrible in valour and full of poison." He then said that Astika, born to Jaratkaru, would put an end to the sacrifice, and that he would be begat by one who would also be named Jaratkaru.
Elapatra then told Vasuki that their sister, Jaratkru, was there, and that he should give her away as alms to the rishi Jaratkaru.

"One who is afflicted by destiny can find a remedy in destiny alone."

Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Astika; Chapter:35; Shlokas:13

The delighted snakes took great care of their sister Jaratkaru. Soon after, the great churning of the ocean took place, after which Vasuki and the gods told Brahma that they wanted the spike of the curse (Kadru's) to be taken out. Brahma replied that Jaratkaru had been born. Vasuki then deputed a large number of snakes to keep a watch on Jaratkaru, and to come and inform him as soon as Jaratkaru expressed a "desire for a wife."


These chapter summaries are based on the unabridged translation of the Mahabharata done by Dr Bibek Debroy, and published by Penguin Books India, and which I have been reviewing on my blog. The Sanskrit shlokas are from the electronic text of the Mahabharata - based on John Smith's revision of Prof. Muneo Tokunaga's version of the Mahabharata Critical Edition of the text from and copyright of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.

© 2013, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.