Monday, October 7, 2013

Mahabharata Ch 36-40, Adi Parva, Astika Parva

[Ch 31,32,33,34,35 « Ch 36,37,38,39,40 » Ch 41,42,43,44,45]
Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Astika; Chapter:36; Shlokas:26
Shounaka now wanted to know from Souti why Jaratkaru came to be famous, and what that name meant. Souti replied that "Jara" meant decay and "karu" meant gigantic. "The sage had a gigantic body, but he decayed it slowly through severe austerities." It was for the same reasons that Vasuki's sister also had the same name.
Even though Jaratkaru had promised his ancestors that he would take a wife, even as he placed severe conditions on that promise of his, he continued with his austerities, and "[E]ven in his thoughts, he showed no desire for a wife."

Souti now started to tell the story of Parikshit the king. Once Parikshit, when hunting, wounded a deer, but could not kill it. The deer vanished into the forest.
"However, though wounded by the lord of the earth and the king of men, this deer was soon lost, demonstrating Parikshit's own proximity to heaven."
Tired after the long pursuit, Parikshit came upon a hermit who, unknown to the king, was observing a vow of silence. Parikshit asked him about the deer, but the sage would not respond. The king got angry, picked up a dead snake with the tip of his bow, and placed it around the neck of the sage. "The hermit looked at him, but did not utter a word". A somewhat mollified Parikshit returned to the city.
The hermit had a son named Shringi, whose austerities had made him very powerful, but who was easily given to anger. Shringi's friend, Krisha, tauntingly told him, "Do not be too proud, You are an ascetic of great powers. But your father has got a carcass around his shoulders. ... Where are your powers, your proud words and your arrogance when you see your father carrying a carcass?"

[It is somewhat inconceivable that Shounaka would not know the roots of the name and word, "Jaratkaru".
How was the deer's escaping Parikshit a sign of his own impending death?
Krisha seems like he was envious of Shringi's ascetic powers. Note his provocative words. Not a true friend, one may say.]

Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Astika; Chapter:37; Shlokas:27

When an angered Shringi asked why, Krisha told him the events, and an enraged Shringi "touched the water and cursed the king" that he would die within "seven nights from today, bitten by an angry Takshaka". When he told his father, Shamika, he advised his son that that was not the correct course of action, and that "[R]uling kings must always be pardoned by men like us. O son! There is no doubt that if you destroy dharma, it will destroy you."
"सर्वथा वर्तमानस्य राज्ञो ह्यस्मद्विधैः सदा
क्षन्तव्यं पुत्र धर्मो हि हतो हन्ति न संशयः" [1.37.22] 
The father went on to explain that because it was the king that protected the sages, the sages were able to pursue dharma. Since the king had been tired and had not known that the sage was under a vow of silence, he did not deserve to be cursed.

Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Astika; Chapter:38; Shlokas:39
An unrepentant Shringi said that "whether my act was rash and improper, whether it brings you pleasure or displeasure", what he had said would come to pass. Shamika then advised his son to give up anger and to keep his senses under control, and that it was his duty as a father to advise his son. Shamika then decided to warn the king about the curse, and sent his disciple, Gauramukha. Gauramukha was received by the king, who then proceeded to tell the king Shamika's message. The king was remorseful when he heard that Shamika had been under a vow of silence. After Gauramukha had departed, Parikshit sough the advice of his ministers. It was decided that a "palace be erected on pillars and guarded day and night".
When the seventh day arrived, Kashyapa was on his way to Hastinapura. He knew how to cure people bitten by snakes, and thought he would gain "wealth and virtue" through this. Takshaka, in the guise of a brahmana, approached Kashyapa, and asked him his purpose of going to Hastinapura. When Kashyapa told him, Takshaka responded that no one could cure someone bitten by him. Kashyapa disagreed.

[Is Kashyapa the same as the father of Takshaka and the other nagas, born to Kadru?
Kashyapa was on the one hand trying to undo what one of his sons was trying to do, and on the other hand, also undo his wife, Kadru's, curse. Obviously, as events show, Kadru's curse proved to be the more powerful one, unfortunately so for her sons.]

Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Astika; Chapter:39; Shlokas:33
Takshaka challenged Kashyapa to revive a fig tree that he was going to set afire with his poison. The tree was reduced to ashes. Kashyapa first created a sapling from the ashes, then two leaves, then twigs and branches, and finally regenerated the entire tree. Seeing this, Takshaka asked Kashyapa what desire was sending him there and that he would fulfill that desire. The king's life had anyway been shortened by a brahmana's curse and if Kashyapa failed, his fame would be destroyed. Kashyapa replied that he was going for riches, and through meditation learned that the king's life had indeed been shortened. He therefore took the riches from Takshaka and returned. To get past Parikshit's security cordon, Takshaka instructed some snakes, in the disguise of ascetics, to go to Parikshit and present him with fruits, leaves, and water.
The ascetics, snakes in disguise, were granted admission, and after performing their rites, left. Parikshit asked his advisers to share the fruits. One of the fruits had a worm, that the king picked and uttered these words,
"The sun is setting. Today, I no longer have any fear from poison. Therefore, let this worm become Takshaka and bite me. Let the words of the hermit become true and let a falsehood not be committed."
and placed the worm on his throat.
"He was still laughing when Takshaka, who had come out of the fruit that had been given to the king, coiled around him."
[Unintended consequences again!
Parikshit thought he was only saving Shringi, Shamika'son, from the ill-repute of a vain curse. Also consider it as the vanity of an inflated ego that thought it had control over its fate. Lastly, this is also a stern lesson in the importance of words - whether spoken in anger, in jest, or even in false magnanimity.]

Parva:Adi; Upa-parva:Astika; Chapter:40; Shlokas:11
Having bitten the king, Takshaka flew away. "The palace that the king had inhabited was set on fire from the snake's poison and blazed away."
Parikshit was dead. His young son Janamejaya was installed on the throne. In time, the king's ministers asked Suvarnavarman, the king of Kashi, to give his daughter Vapushtama in marriage to Janamejaya. The two were married.

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.