chapter 3

Chapter 3: The Story of Astikya Journey into the heartland of ancient India in Chapter 3, where the fate of serpents intertwines with the destinies of Brahmins and Nagas. As the Rishis grapple with the aftermath of the snake sacrifice, Suta Goswami unfolds the captivating saga of Astikya, a man born of dual heritage—Brahmin and Naga. The narrative takes a mesmerizing turn as the sage Jatakratu, stern and unwavering, embarks on a quest for a wife who shares his name. Vasuki, the serpent king, emerges as a pivotal figure, offering his sister's hand in marriage. The union of Jatakratu and the Naga princess sets the stage for a tale marked by love, duty, and the delicate balance between celestial and terrestrial realms. Witness the tempestuous nature of Jatakratu as it unravels, leaving his Naga wife heartbroken. The story delves into the complexities of dual heritage as the Naga princess, bearing a child of Brahmin and Naga blood, seeks solace in the protective embrace of her brother, Vasuki. Enter the world of Astikya, a child of unique lineage, raised in the traditions of the Brahmins. As time flows like a river, he matures into a man of wisdom and grace, destined to play a pivotal role in the unfolding events. The narrative reaches its zenith as King Janamejaya, driven by the desire to perform a grand fire sacrifice, unwittingly endangers the serpent race. Astikya, now a beacon of wisdom, steps forward to weave his destiny into the annals of ancient India. His plea to halt the sacrifice echoes through the royal court, illustrating the enduring power of lineage and blood ties. In this chapter, explore the delicate dance between duty and compassion, as Astikya's intervention becomes a testament to the interconnectedness of all beings. Join us as we unravel the intricate threads of Chapter 3, where the tapestry of the Mahabharata continues to weave tales of love, sacrifice, and the eternal dance of destinies

11/23/20234 min read

Chapter 3: The Story of Astikya

As the Rishis pondered over the fate of the snakes and their sacrifice, their curiosity grew. They sought to learn whether all the snakes had perished in the fire and, if not, why they had been spared. Suta Goswami continued his narration, revealing the unfolding events.

Faced with the impending danger of the sacrifice, the snakes grew fearful and contemplated ways to escape their fate. They knew that kings held great respect for Brahmins and recalled the story of Vamana, who had approached King Bali and secured a boon. Inspired by this, they devised a plan: they would marry into Brahmin families, and a Brahmin, well-connected to the kings, would intercede on their behalf and put an end to the sacrificial rituals.

In the midst of this dilemma, a sage named Jatakratu entered the scene. He was deeply committed to his ascetic practices and wandered through the forest. One day, he had a vision—a vision of a deep pit with a tree hanging over it. From that tree dangled his departed father, grandfather, and ancestors, suspended by a fragile thread. Curious and concerned, Jatakratu inquired about their predicament.

The ancestors explained, "We hang over this chasm, representing rebirth into the world. It is your tapas, your austerities, that keeps us suspended by a thread. Yet, true piety lies in having children. If our lineage is broken and you pass away without a son, we will all fall into this pit. To save us, you must have a child."

Though sympathetic, Jatakratu hesitated. He declared that he would only marry someone with the same name as himself, and if the marriage displeased him, he would instantly return to his life as an ascetic. He was known for his stern and uncompromising nature. Despite his resolution, Jatakratu embarked on a search for a suitable wife. However, he could not find anyone within the community of Rishis who shared his name.

Disheartened and in a sour mood, Jatakratu sat down and uttered, "If my austerities have pleased the deities and living entities, I demand a wife with the same name." It was at this moment that Vasuki, the king of the serpents, appeared before him. Vasuki proposed, "I have a younger sister named Jatakratu. You may marry her." The sage agreed to this proposal, thus accepting Vasuki's sister as his wife.

In the days of yore, in the heartland of ancient India, there lived a man named Jatakratu, a scion of the Brahmin lineage. He had wedded a maiden, a daughter of the Naga clan, who bore the same name as her kin. Their union was one forged in the tapestry of fate, and they shared a life together in a realm where the terrestrial and celestial realms intertwined.

Jatakratu, a fervent practitioner of the sacred agnihotra, an offering to the divine fire, performed this ritual with unwavering devotion three times each day. But one fateful afternoon, as the sun's fiery gaze began its descent toward the horizon, fatigue overcame him, and he surrendered to a deep slumber. His wife, she of the Naga blood, stood at a crossroads of decision.

Torn between her husband's fiery temper and his potential vexation at being roused from his repose, she pondered the righteous path to tread. She chose to awaken him, for duty weighed heavily upon her conscience. Yet, as Jatakratu stirred from his dreams, wrath engulfed him like a tempest, and he unleashed his fury upon her.

In the throes of his rage, he departed abruptly, leaving behind a heartbroken Naga princess, his wife, to grapple with the tempestuous nature of her chosen mate. For Jatakratu was not a man meant for the tranquil hearth of domesticity; his temper was a tempest that raged unchecked.

Distraught and forlorn, the Naga princess sought solace in the embrace of her brother Vasuki, the serpent king. Tearfully, she recounted the tale of her husband's sudden departure, for she bore a child within her womb—a child who carried within him the blood of both Brahmin and Naga.

Vasuki, ever the wise and protective brother, vowed to shield his sister and her unborn progeny. He provided for her every need, offering solace in her hour of despair. And when the appointed time came, she brought forth a son, whom she named Astikya—a child of dual heritage, destined to walk a unique path.

Astikya, bearing the legacy of both Brahmin and Naga, was raised in the ways of the Brahmins, a reflection of his noble lineage. Time flowed like a river, and the world changed around him.

In the fullness of time, a new chapter in their tale unfolded. King Janamejaya, a ruler of great renown, sought to perform a grand fire sacrifice, a spectacle of divine proportions, following the epic events of the Mahabharata. But as the flames leapt skyward, a calamity unfolded—a multitude of serpents descended into the inferno, their lives consumed in the raging fire.

Astikya, now a grown man of wisdom and grace, stepped forward, for it was the king's sacred duty to offer charity to visiting Brahmins. He approached King Janamejaya and laid before him a humble request: to halt the all-consuming sacrifice.

In the hallowed chambers of the royal court, there arose a murmur of hesitation and deliberation among the wise and learned. But in the end, the king, bound by the dharma of hospitality, acceded to Astikya's plea. The sacrifice was ceased, and thus, the serpent race was spared from utter annihilation—a testament to the power of lineage and the enduring strength of blood ties in the annals of ancient India.