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Chapter 58

Mahabharata English - ADI PARVA

“Sauti said, ‘Listen now to another very wonderful incident in connectionwith Astika. When king Janamejaya was about to gratify Astika by grantingthe boon, the snake (Takshaka), thrown off Indra’s hands, remained in midair without actually falling. King Janamejaya thereupon became curious,for Takshaka, afflicted with fear, did not at once fall into the firealthough libations were poured in proper form into the blazingsacrificial Agni in his name.’

“Saunaka said, ‘Was it, O Suta, that the mantras of those wise Brahmanaswere 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 afflictedheart, like a person somehow staying between the welkin and the earth.

“The king then, on being repeatedly urged by his Sadasyas, said, ‘Let itbe done as Astika hath said. Let the sacrifice be ended, let the snakesbe safe, let this Astika also be gratified, O Suta, thy words also betrue.’ When the boon was granted to Astika, plaudits expressive of joyrang through the air. Thus the sacrifice of the son of Parikshit–thatking of the Pandava race–came to an end. The king Janamejaya of theBharata race was himself pleased, and on the Ritwiks with the Sadasyas,and on all who had come there, the king, bestowed money by hundreds andthousands. And unto Suta Lohitaksha–conversant with the rules ofbuilding and foundations–who had at the commencement said that aBrahmana would be the cause of the interruption of the snake-sacrifice,the king gave much wealth. The king, of uncommon kindness, also gave himvarious things, with food and wearing apparel, according to his desire,and became very much pleased. Then he concluded his sacrifice accordingto the prescribed rites, and after treating him with every respect, theking in joy sent home the wise Astika exceedingly gratified, for he hadattained his object. And the king said unto him, ‘Thou must come again tobecome a Sadasya in my great Horse-sacrifice.’ And Astika said, ‘yes’ andthen returned home in great joy, having achieved his great end aftergratifying the monarch. And returning in joy to his uncle and mother andtouching their feet, he recounted to them everything as it had happened.’

“Sauti continued, ‘Hearing all he had said, the snakes that had comethither became very much delighted, and their fears were allayed. Theywere much pleased with Astika and asked him to solicit a boon, saying, ‘Olearned one, what good shall we do unto thee? We have been very muchgratified, having been all saved by thee. What shall we accomplish forthee, O child!’

“Astika said, ‘Let those Brahmanas, and other men, who shall, in themorning or in the evening, cheerfully and with attention, read the sacredaccount of this my act, have no fear from any of you.’ And the snakes injoy thereupon said, ‘O nephew, in the nature of thy boon, let it beexactly as thou sayest. That which thou askest we all shall cheerfullydo, O nephew! And those also that call to mind Astika, Artiman andSunitha, in the day or in the night, shall have no fear of snakes. Heagain shall have no fear of snakes who will say, ‘I call to mind thefamous Astika born of Jaratkaru, that Astika who saved the snakes fromthe snake-sacrifice. Therefore, ye snakes of great good fortune, itbehoveth you not to bite me. But go ye away, blessed be ye, or go awaythou snake of virulent poison, and remember the words of Astika after thesnake sacrifice of Janamejaya. That snake who does not cease from bitingafter hearing such mention of Astika, shall have his hood divided ahundredfold like the fruit of Sinsa tree.’

“Sauti continued, ‘That first of Brahmanas, thus addressed by theforemost 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 thesnake-sacrifice, ascended to heaven when his time came, leaving sons andgrandsons behind him.

‘Thus have I recited to thee this history of Astika exactly as ithappened. Indeed, the recitation of this history dispelleth all fear ofsnakes’

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

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