5 – ASTIKA PARVA – XIII

1Saunaka said: —Why did that best of kings, king Janamejaya, resolve to destroy the snakes in a Snake-sacrifice?
2O Souti, tell us in full the true story. Why did the best of the twice-born Astika, the foremost of ascetics, rescue the snakes from the blazing fire?
3Whose son was the monarch who performed the Snake-sacrifice? Whose son was that best of the twice-born, (who saved the snakes)? Tell us this.
4Souti said: O best of speakers, the story of Astika is very long, I shall relate it in full. O Listen.
5Saunaka said: I am desirous of hearing in detail the interesting history of Astika, the illustrious Brahmana.
6Souti said: —The Brahmanas call this history, recited by Krishna Dwaipayana, a Purana. To the dwellers of Naimisnaranya.
7Was it formerly narrated by my learned father Lomharshana, the disciple of Vyasa, as requested by the Brahmanas.
8I was present at the time, O Saunaka. As you ask me, I shall recite it exactly as I heard it.
9(Listen) to this all sin-destroying history. Astika’s father was as powerful as the Prajapati.
10He was a Brahmachari, always engaged in austere penances, regular in meals, a great Rishi of controlled sexual desire. He was known by the name of Jaratkaru.
11He was the foremost of Yayavaras, a man of rigid vows, highly religious and endowed with great ascetic powers. Once at a time this great ascetic,
12Being Jaira Shayan Griha (living in the place where night overtook him), roamed all over the world, bathed in many sacred waters and visited many holy shrines.
13He practised difficult austere penances; and feeding on air, remaining in fast, and renouncing sleep forever, he roamed (over the world.)
14As bright as a blaring fire, he roamed about and thus roving about, he one day his ancestor.
15Hanging their heads down in a great hole, their feet pointing upwards. On seeing them, Jaratkaru addressed his ancestors thus,
16Who are you thus hanging in the hole, your heads downward, by a rope of the Birana fibre which has been eaten by the rats that live secretly near this hole?”
17The Ancestors said: -We are Rishis of austere penances, called Jayavara. We are sinking down into the earth for the want of an offspring.
18We have a son, named Jaratkaru. Unfortunate we arc, that wretch has adopt¬ ed asceticism.
19And therefore that fool does not think of marriage to raise up offspring. It is for this reason, namely the want of offspring, that we are thus suspended in the hole.
20Having means, we are like sinners who have no means. O excellent man, who are you that are sorrowing for us like a friend?
21O Brahmana, we wish to know who, you are that stand near us, and why, O excellent man, are you sorrowing for us?
22Jaratkaru said: You are my sires and grand-sires, I am that very Jaratkaru. Tell me what I shall do.
23The Ancestors said: Try your best to do that by which you can raise up an offspring to extend our line. You will then do an act meritorious both for you and for us.
24O Son, not by the fruits of virtue, not by the hoarded-up ascetic penances, does one acquire such merit as is acquired by one who is a father.
25Therefore, O son, set your mind upon marriage and offspring at our command. It will do us the highest good.
26Jaratkaru said: I shall not marry, nor shall I earn money for my own self. But I shall marry to do you good.
27-28If a bride can be had whose name will be the same as mine, whose friends will give her to me willingly and as a gift, —O fathers, under these conditions, if I get a girl, your command will be obeyed. I shall duly marry her according to the ordinances of the Sastras .
29But who will give his daughter to a poor man like me to be my wife? I shall, however, accept the girl who will be given to me as a gift.
30O Sires, I shall try to marry such a girl. Having said so, 1 shall not act otherwise.
31O fathers, I shall beget offspring on her for your release, so that you may attain to the heaven, called Saswata and rejoice there at will.