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The beginning of the Mahabharata

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It is inter­est­ing to know that the nar­ra­tion of the Mahab­hara­ta hap­pens in lay­ers. Ugraqshra­va Shau­ti nar­rates the Mahab­hara­ta to a group of sages in the Naimisha­ranya for­est as he heard it being nar­rat­ed by Vaisham­payana (Dis­ci­ple of Vyasa) dur­ing Janame­jaya’s snake sac­ri­fice. So what is this snake sac­ri­fice all about?

That is the sto­ry of Parikshit,who is the father of Janan­me­jaya. Rajas(kings) are sup­posed to go hunt­ing, not for hav­ing it them­selves, but to offer the ani­mal as naived­hya when they con­duct yaj­nas. So hunt­ing is not wrong or pro­hib­it­ed. Parik­shit goes out hunt­ing and over a peri­od of time,he gets sep­a­rat­ed from the army.He is tired,thirsty and looks around. He finds an ashra­ma where he finds a rishi sit­ting in meditation.So he goes there and begs for water,but the rishi does not move.He does not open his eyes or even rec­og­nize his pres­ence. When one’s pres­ence is not recognized,one feels annoyed.When this hap­pens to a king,he feels insulted.Parikshit feels insult­ed and puts a dead snake on the shoul­ders and neck of that rishi and goes his way. This is the Rishi Sami­ka. When his son Shringan comes to know of this,he curses,“The one who has done this will die of a snake bite in sev­en days”. Now, curs­es have tremen­dous effect.So do blessings.However, this is true only if one has enough tapas shak­ti. If one stores up one’s ener­gy suf­fi­cient­ly then one’s words car­ry a lot of significance.That’s how our ancients car­ried so much tapas shak­ti that their every word had to come true. So, Shringan’s curse had to come true. Sami­ka ‚on know­ing this, is unhap­py. He says,” Parik­shit is a ksha­triya. He was annoyed. But we are rishis,brah­mana rishis.We are not sup­posed to become angry.What have you done,my child!”. He sends his dis­ci­ple, Gau­r­mukha, to inform Parik­shit of his impend­ing death. So Parik­shit makes appro­pri­ate arrange­ments.

Now, Tak­sha­ka, the snake, is on his way to kill Parik­shit. On his way, he encoun­ters a brah­mana called Kashya­pa, who is a physi­cian and has come to save Parik­shit. Tak­sha­ka asks the brah­mana,”I will bite this Banyan tree. What can you,O Kashya­pa, do about it?”. On bit­ing the Banyan tree,it is reduced to ash­es because the snake’s ven­om is extreme­ly pow­er­ful. But Kashyapa,with his knowl­edge, recre­ates the entire Banyan tree, to Takshaka’s amaze­ment. So Tak­sha­ka uses a ploy and offers him a lot of wealth. Kashya­pa accepts it and goes on his way,without sav­ing Parik­shit. So Tak­sha­ka, through his snake friends, asks for some fruits to be deliv­ered to Parik­shit. Tak­sha­ka him­self is embed­ded in one of the fruits, dis­guised as a worm. Parik­shit, his time hav­ing come, accepts the fruits and he him­self picks the very fruit in which Tak­sha­ka is embed­ded. Tak­sha­ka comes out from the fruit, wraps him­self around Parikshit’s neck and bites him to death.And hence Janame­jaya is enraged and wants to take revenge for Parik­shit by con­duct­ing a snake sac­ri­fice. But Parikshit’s own actions actu­al­ly lead to this.One has to reap the effects of one’s kar­ma. Cause and effect-actions have con­se­quences.

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