Tuesday, January 21, 2014

25. Janamejaya Plans the Serpent Sacrifice

Parikshit having been bitten to death by Thaklshaka, his councilors had his last rites performed and crowned his eldest son Janamejaya the king. Janamejaya was only a boy at that time. After sometime his ministers, intending to provide a strong support to the young monarch  approached Suvarnavarman, the King of Kasi and asked him to give his daughter Vapushtama in marriage to Janamejaya. The king acceted the proposal and got his daughter Vapushtama married to Janamejaya. After the marriage, Janamejaya travelled to many places along with his wife enjoying life in the company of his wife.

After sometime, Janamejaya asked his ministers about his father and his achievements. The ministers told him what a great virtuous and compassionate ruler Parikshit was. Then he asked them about the cause of his father’s death. They told him all the details including Thakshaka’s persuading Kasyapa to go back by giving him the wealth he wanted to get from the king.

Janamejaya asked them how they came to know of what transpired between Thakshaka and Kasyapa, they said that this was revealed by a person who was sitting on a dry branch of a banyan tree with the intention of cutting some wood to be used as a sacrificial fuel. He had overheard their conversation. He was also burnt to ashes when the tree was bitten by Thakshaka but was subsequently revived when Kasyapa brought the tree back to life.

On learning that his father was bitten by the serpent Thakshka using deception, Janamejaya decided to avenge the death of his father. His anger was directed at Thakshaka for having prevented Kasyapa from coming to the palace and bringing the king back to life after he was bitten by Thajshaka. He felt that Thakshaka should have done this because he would have become an object of ridicule if the king was brought back to life by Kasyapa after he was bitten by Thakshaka.

Janamejaya was also prodded by Utanka to avenge his father’s death. He called the chief priest of his country and expressed his intention to burn Thakshaka and other snakes who had burnt his father through his poison. The priest told him that there was a sacrificial ritual called Sarpa Yaga through which the snakes can be offered to Agni, the God of Fire. The king ordered that arrangements be made to perform such a sacrifice by engaging the services of Brahmins well versed in the rites.

When the platform for the sacrifice was being built, a construction expert, by examining the soil on which the platform was being constructed, said that the type of soil and the time at which the measurement was made indicated that the sacrifice won’t be completed.

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