Mahabharata : Adi Parva: Part 2
Pauloma parva describes Bhrigu’s lineage. Bhrigu marries Puloma after whom the parva is named. After their marriage, one day, a rakshasa named Puloma actually carries her away with Agni as his sakshi, witness. At that time Pauloma was pregnant and she happened to deliver her son Chyavana. Chyavana, in his splendor, burns the rakshasa to ashes. Bhrigu, on hearing this, curses Agni to eat up or consume everything as he had been a witness to the kidnapping of his pregnant wife. Until then Agni is the conveyor – Agni conveys the offerings of the sacrifice to the devas and hence he is considered pure. If he eats everything, if he burns everything, then he would become impure. But Brahma pacifies him by saying “In eating everything, you will make that pure. You will purify everything you consume”. That’s why he is called pavaka- ‘one who purifies’. So Agni gets this because of Bhrigu’s curse. There is deep meaning in each curse, if one looks at it. So, Chyavana is a very famous rishi who is the son of Bhrigu. Chyavana and Sukanya marry and they give birth to Pramati. Pramati has Ruru for his son. Ruru has Pramadvari for his wife and their son is Shunaka. Shunaka’s son is Shaunaka, who is the kulapati of Naimisharanya. So this is how they are connected to Janamejaya’s sacrifice.
Then comes Aastika parva. This actually shows how Janamejaya’s revenge on snakes comes to an end through Rishi Aastika and how it is interconnected with the storyline. So, as I explained in the beginning, remembering the storyline becomes extremely important. Remembering the storyline enables one to connect one with the other and clearly see the cause and effect. Actions have consequences. One will be able to connect them only if one remembers the context and the actions that led to the consequences. So, in Aastika parva, it is explained how the snakes, who were the children of Kadru and Kashyapa were cursed by their own mother to die in a snake sacrifice. Kashyapa is a maharishi, who is in fact considered the father of all manifested beings. So, snakes, eagles, anything that flies, anything that crawls, all the animals, all the human beings , all the devas and asuras are children of Kashyapa. Vinata and Kadru were two of Kashyapa’s wives, who were daughters of Daksha. Actually, Daksha had married thirteen of his daughters to Kashyapa. Vinata gives birth to Aruna and Garuda. Kadru gives birth to thousands of huge snakes.
Vinata, Kadru and the Argument
One day Vinata and Kadru saw the horse Uchaishravas. Uchaishravas is the divine horse that came out of the Samudramanthana, the churning of the ocean that happens between the devas and asuras, who take the help of Mahavishnu in his Koorma avatara as a tortoise. As they churned the ocean, many things came out, including deep poison-Kalakutta, which is swallowed by the Mahadeva Shiva. His throat becomes blue because of that poison and that is why he is called Neelakantha.’Neela’ means blue and ‘kantha’ means throat.
Uchaishravas, who is a very beautiful horse, also comes out of the churning. So, on seeing this, Vinata and Kadru get into sort of a debate. Vinata says that the horse is white while Kadru says that his tail is black. The argument worsens and each one wants to prove herself. They bet that the person who loses the argument will become the winner’s slave. Now Kadru wants her sons, the snakes, to invade the tail and make it appear black so that she can succeed in her argument. The snakes refuse and so Kadru curses them saying “You will be exterminated in a snake sacrifice”. Brahma also approves because the snakes had become a big menace to the entire earth. They bite everybody and they are venomous. So the snakes, having been cursed, do not want to further infuriate their mother. Hence they go and make Uchaishravas’ tail appear black and Vinata loses. The penalty for losing is that she has to be a slave and so Garuda, her son, is born a slave. Actually, she becomes a slave because of her first son Aruna’s curse. Vinata, in her anxiety and hurry, opens the egg while it was half-born. So the half-born Aruna curses his mother saying “You will become a slave to Kadru.” So these stories are all interlinked and give the reason for the various happenings.
Garuda and Amrita
So, Garuda is a slave to the snakes. They want of him Amrita, having which they will free him and his mother Vinata. So he goes to Indra loka, defeats Indra and gets the Amrita, but in the process gains Indra’s friendship. Garuda assures Indra, “Don’t worry, the snakes will not drink the Amrita. You can take it once I give it to them.” Then he places the Amrita on the Darbha grass and asks the snakes to finish their bathing and cleansing and then come and have the Amrita. Before that, Indra comes and takes away the Amrita. So Garuda and Vinata are freed because they have brought the Amrita, but the snakes don’t have the Amrita. And since the Amrita was placed on the Darbha, the Darbha grass has become very holy. On licking the Darbha grass, the snakes’ tongues become forked. So, in order to overcome the curse given to the snakes, it is said by Brahma that the son of a rishi named Jaratkaru will be able to help overcome this curse.
Jaratkaru and Aastika
Rishi Jaratkuru was a terrific tapasvi. He encounters his ancestors hanging upside down and in terrible suffering. He asks them why they were suffering. They reply that Jaratkuru does not have a son and hence they were suffering. So, he agrees to marry a wife of the same name. Now, Vasuki, a great naga king has a sister named Jaratkuru. He gives his sister Jaratkuru in marriage to rishi Jaratkuru. Once on a time, Jaratkuru feels insulted by his wife and decides to leave. She asks “Is there a child in my womb or not?”. He responds by saying “There is”. Hence, Jaratkuru’s son is named ‘Aastika’ which means ‘there is’. Aastika goes to Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice and stops the sarpa yajna that is happening there with his tremendous wisdom, as the snakes belong the the Aastika’s mother side. Janamejaya gives his word to Aastika that he will stop the yajna. Takshaka is about to fall. Actually, great snakes have fallen in there. Takshaka hides in Indra loka. He is about to fall, but because of this boon given by Janamejaya to Aastika, he is spared.
To be continued…