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Chapter 56

Mahabharata English - ADI PARVA

Janamejaya said, ‘Though this one is but a boy, he speaks yet like a wiseold man. He is not a boy but one wise and old. I think, I desire tobestow on him a boon. Therefore, ye Brahmanas, give me the necessarypermission.’

“The Sadasyas said, ‘A Brahmana, though a boy, deserves the respect ofkings. The learned ones do more so. This boy deserves every desire of hisbeing fulfilled by thee, but not before Takshaka comes with speed.’

“Sauti continued, ‘The king, being inclined to grant the Brahmana a boon,said ‘Ask thou a boon.’ The Hotri, however, being rather displeased,said, ‘Takshaka hath not come as yet into this sacrifice.’

“Janamejaya replied, ‘Exert ye to the best of your might, so that thissacrifice of mine may attain completion, and Takshaka also may soon comehere. He is my enemy.’

“The Ritwiks replied, ‘As the scriptures declare unto us, and as the firealso saith, O monarch, (it seems that) Takshaka is now staying in theabode of Indra, afflicted with fear.’

“Sauti continued, ‘The illustrious Suta named Lohitaksha also, conversantwith the Puranas, had said so before.

“Asked by the king on the present occasion he again told the monarch,’Sire, it is even so as the Brahmanas have said–Knowing the Puranas, Isay, O monarch, that Indra hath granted him this boon, saying, ‘Dwellwith me in concealment, and Agni shall not burn thee.’

‘Sauti continued, ‘Hearing this, the king installed in the sacrificebecame very sorry and urged the Hotri to do his duty. And as the Hotri,with mantras, began to pour clarified butter into the fire Indra himselfappeared on the scene. And the illustrious one came in his car, adornedby all the gods standing around, followed by masses of clouds, celestialsingers, and the several bevies of celestial dancing girls. And Takshakaanxious with fear, hid himself in the upper garment of Indra and was notvisible. Then the king in his anger again said unto his mantra-knowingBrahmanas these words, bent upon the destruction of Takshaka, ‘If thesnake Takshaka be in the abode of Indra, cast him into the fire withIndra himself.’

‘Sauti continued, ‘Urged thus by the king Janamejaya about Takshaka, theHotri poured libations, naming that snake then staying there. And even asthe libations were poured, Takshaka, with Purandara himself, anxious andafflicted, became visible in a moment in the skies. Then Purandara,seeing that sacrifice, became much alarmed, and quickly casting Takshakaoff, went back to his own abode. After Indra had gone away, Takshaka, theprince of snakes, insensible with fear, was by virtue of the mantras,brought near enough the flames of the sacrificial fire.’

“The Ritwiks then said, ‘O king of kings, the sacrifice of thine is beingperformed duly. It behoveth thee, O Lord, to grant a boon now to thisfirst of Brahmanas.’

“Janamejaya then said, ‘Thou immeasurable one of such handsome andchild-like features, I desire to grant thee a worthy boon. Therefore, askthou that which thou desirest in thy heart. I promise thee, that I willgrant it even if it be ungrantable.’

‘The Ritwiks said, ‘O monarch, behold, Takshaka is soon coming under thycontrol! His terrible cries, and loud roar is being heard. Assuredly, thesnake hath been forsaken by the wielder of thunder. His body beingdisabled by your mantras, he is falling from heaven. Even now, rolling inthe skies, and deprived of consciousness, the prince of snakes cometh,breathing loudly.’

‘Sauti continued, ‘While Takshaka, the prince of snakes was about to fallinto the sacrificial fire, during those few moments Astika spoke asfollows, ‘O Janamejaya, if thou wouldst grant me a boon, let thissacrifice of thine come to an end and let no more snakes fall into thefire.’

‘O Brahmana, the son of Parikshit, being thus addressed by Astika, becameexceedingly sorry and replied unto Astika thus, ‘O illustrious one, gold,silver, kine, whatever other possessions thou desirest I shall give untothee. But let not my sacrifice come to an end.’

“Astika thereupon replied, ‘Gold, silver or kine, I do not ask of thee, Omonarch! But let thy sacrifice be ended so that my maternal relations berelieved.’

“Sauti continued, ‘The son of Parikshit, being thus addressed by Astika,repeatedly said this unto that foremost of speakers, ‘Best of theBrahmanas, ask some other boon. O, blessed be thou!’ But, O thou ofBhrigu’s race, he did not beg any other boon. Then all the Sadasyasconversant with the Vedas told the king in one voice, ‘Let the Brahmanareceive his boon!'”

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