Vaisampayana continued, “And the powerful Bhimasena, having thus comeunder the power of the snake, thought of its mighty and wonderfulprowess; and said unto it, ‘Be thou pleased to tell me, O snake, who thouart. And, O foremost of reptiles, what wilt thou do with me? I amBhimasena, the son of Pandu, and next by birth to Yudhishthira the just.And endued as I am with the strength of ten thousand elephants, how hastthou been able to overpower me? In fight have been encountered and slainby me innumerable lions, and tigers, and buffaloes, and elephants. And, Obest of serpents, mighty Rakshasas and Pisachas, and Nagas, are unable tostand the force of my arms. Art thou possessed of any magic, or hast thoureceived any boon, that although exerting myself, I have been overcome bythee? Now I have been convinced that the strength of men is false, for, Oserpent, by thee hath such mighty strength of men been baffled.’
Vaisampayana continued, “When the heroic Bhima of noble deed had saidthis, the snake caught him, and coiled him all round with his body,having thus subdued that mighty-aimed one, and freed his plump armsalone, the serpent spake these words, ‘By good fortune it is that, myselfbeing hungry, after long time the gods have to-day destined thee for myfood; for life is dear unto every embodied being, I should relate untothee the way in which I have come by this snake form. Hear, O best of thepious, I have fallen into this plight on account of the wrath of theMaharhis. Now desirous of getting rid of the curse, I will narrate untothee all about it. Thou hast, no doubt, heard of the royal sage, Nahusha.He was the son of Ayu, and the perpetuator of the line of thy ancestors.Even I am that one. For having affronted the Brahmanas I, by (virtue of)Agastya’s malediction, have come by this condition. Thou art my agnate,and lovely to behold,–so thou shouldst not be slain by me,–yet I shallto-day devour thee! Do thou behold the dispensation of Destiny! And be ita buffalo, or an elephant, none coming within my reach at the sixthdivision of the day, can, O best of men, escape. And, O best of theKurus, thou hast not been taken by an animal of the lower order, havingstrength alone,–but this (hath been so) by reason only of the boon Ihave received. As I was falling rapidly from Sakra’s throne placed on thefront of his palace, I spake unto that worshipful sage (Agastya), ‘Dothou free me from this curse.’ Thereat filled with compassion, thatenergetic one said unto me, ‘O king, thou shall be freed after the lapseof some time.’ Then I fell to the earth (as a snake); but my recollection(of former life) did not renounce me. And although it be so ancient, Istill recollect all that was said. And the sage said unto me, That personwho conversant with the relation subsisting between the soul and theSupreme Being, shall be able to answer the questions put by thee, shalldeliver thee. And, O king, taken by thee, strong beings superior to thee,shall immediately lose their strength, I heard these words of thosecompassionate ones, who felt attached unto me. And then the Brahmanasvanished. Thus, O highly effulgent one, having become a serpent, I, doingexceedingly sinful acts, live in unclean hell, in expectation of the(appointed) time.’ The mighty-armed Bhimasena addressed the serpent,saying, ‘I am not angry, O mighty snake,–nor do I blame myself. Since inregard to happiness and misery, men sometimes possess the power ofbringing and dismissing them, and sometimes do not. Therefore one shouldnot fret one’s mind. Who can baffle destiny by self-exertion? I deemdestiny to be supreme, and self-exertion to be of no avail. Smitten withthe stroke of destiny, the prowess of my arms lost, behold me to-dayfallen unto this condition without palpable cause. But to-day I do not somuch grieve for my own self being slain, as I do for my brothers deprivedof their kingdom, and exiled into the forest. This Himalaya isinaccessible, and abounds with Yakshas and the Rakshasas, And searchingabout for me, they will be distracted. And hearing that I have beenkilled, (my brothers) will forego all exertion, for, firm in promise,they have hitherto been controlled by my harsh speech, I being desirousof gaining the kingdom. Or the intelligent Arjuna (alone), being versedin every lore, and incapable of being overcome by gods and Rakshasas andGandharvas, will not be afflicted with grief. That mighty-armed andexceedingly powerful one is able single-handed to speedily pull down fromhis place even the celestials. What shall I say of the deceitfullygambling son of Dhritarashtra, detested of all men, and filled withhaughtiness and ignorance! And I also grieve for my poor mother,affectionate to her sons, who is ever solicitous for our greatness in alarge measure than is attained by our enemies. O serpent, the desire thatforlorn one had in me will all be fruitless in consequence of mydestruction. And gifted with manliness, the twins, Nakula and Sahadeva,following their elder brother (me), and always protected by the strengthof my arms, will, owing to my destruction, be depressed and deprived oftheir prowess, and stricken with grief. This is what I think.’ In thisway Vrikodara lamented profusely. And being bound by the body of thesnake, he could not exert himself.
“On the other hand, Kunti’s son, Yudhishthira, (seeing) and reflecting ondreadful ill omens, became alarmed. Terrified by the blaze of the pointsof the horizon, jackals stationing themselves on the right of thathermitage, set up frightful and inauspicious yells. And ugly Vartikas asof dreadful sight, having one wing, one eye, and one leg, were seen tovomit blood, facing the sun. And the wind began to blow dryly, andviolently, attracting grits. And to the right all the beasts and birdsbegan to cry. And in the rear the black crows cried, ‘Go!’ ‘Go!’ Andmomentarily his (Yudhishthira’s) right arm began to twitch, and his chestand left leg shook (of themselves). And indicating evil his left eyecontracted spasmodically. Thereupon, O Bharata, the intelligentYudhishthira the just, inferring some great calamity (to be imminent),asked Draupadi, saying, ‘Where is Bhima?’ Thereat Panchali said thatVrikodara had long gone out. Hearing this, that mighty-armed king set outwith Dhaumya, after having said unto Dhananjaya, “Thou shouldst protectDraupadi.’ And he also directed Nakula and Sahadeva to protect theBrahmanas. And issuing from the hermitage that lord, Kunti’s son,following the footprints of Bhimasena, began to search for him in thatmighty forest. And on coming to the east, he found mighty leaders ofelephant-herds (slain) and saw the earth marked with Bhima’s(foot-prints). Then seeing thousands of deer and hundreds of lions lyingin the forest, the king ascertained his course. And on the way werescattered trees pulled down by the wind caused by the thighs of that heroendued with the speed of the wind as he rushed after the deer. Andproceeding, guided by those marks, to a spot filled with dry winds andabounding in leafless vegetables, brackish and devoid of water, coveredwith thorny plants and scattered over with gravel, stumps and shrubs anddifficult of access and uneven and dangerous, he saw in a mountain cavernhis younger brother motionless, caught in the folds of that foremost ofsnakes.”