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(Astika Parva continued)

"Sauti said, 'That best of snakes, viz., Vasuki, hearing the curse of his mother, reflected how to render it abortive. He held a consultation with all his brothers, Airavata and others, intent upon doing what they deemed

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best for themselves.'

"And Vasuki said, 'O ye sinless ones, the object of this curse is known to you. It behoveth us to strive to neutralise it. Remedies certainly exist for all curses, but no remedy can avail those cursed by their mother. Hearing that this curse hath been uttered in the presence of the Immutable, the Infinite, and the True one, my heart trembleth. Surely, our annihilation hath come. Otherwise why should not the Immutable Lord prevent our mother while uttering the curse? Therefore, let us consult today how we may secure the safety of the snakes. Let us not waste time. All of you are wise and discerning. We will consult together and find out the means of deliverance as (did) the gods of yore to regain lost Agni who had concealed himself within a cave, so that Janamejaya's sacrifice for the destruction of the snakes may not take place, and so that we may not meet with destruction.'

"Sauti continued, 'Thus addressed all the offspring of Kadru assembled together, and, wise in counsels, submitted their opinions to one another. One party of the serpents said, 'We should assume the guise of superior Brahmanas, and beseech Janamejaya, saying, 'This (intended) sacrifice of yours ought not to take place.' Other snakes thinking themselves wise, said, 'We should all become his favourite counsellors. He will then certainly ask for our advice in all projects. And we will then give him such advice that the sacrifice may be obstructed. The king, the foremost of wise men, thinking us of sterling worth will certainly ask us about his sacrifice. We will say, 'It must not be!' And pointing to many serious evils in this and the next worlds, we will take care that the sacrifice may not take place. Or, let one of the snakes, approaching, bite the person who, intending the monarch's good, and well-acquainted with the rites of the snake-sacrifice, may be appointed as the sacrificial priest, so that he will die. The sacrificial priest dying, the sacrifice will not be completed. We will also bite all those who, acquainted with the rites of the snake-sacrifice, may be appointed Ritwiks of the sacrifice, and by that means attain our object.' Other snakes, more virtuous and kind, said, 'O, this counsel of yours is evil. It is not meet to kill Brahmanas. In danger, that remedy is proper, which is blessed on the practices of the righteous. Unrighteousness finally destroyeth the world.' Other serpents said, 'We will extinguish the blazing sacrificial fire by ourselves becoming clouds luminous with lightning and pouring down showers.' Other snakes, the best of their kind, proposed, 'Going, by night, let us steal away the vessel of Soma juice. That will disturb the rite. Or, at that sacrifice, let the snakes, by hundreds and thousands, bite the people, and spread terror around. Or, let the serpents defile the pure food with their food-defiling urine and dung.' Others said, 'Let us become the king's Ritwiks, and obstruct his sacrifice by saying at the outset, 'Give us the sacrificial fee.' He (the king), being placed in our power, will do whatever we like.' Others there said, 'When the king will sport in the waters, we

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will carry him to our home and bind him, so that that sacrifice will not take place!' Other serpents who deemed themselves wise, said, 'Approaching the king, let us bite him, so that our object will be accomplished. By his death the root of all evil will be torn up. This is the final deliberation of us all, O thou who hearest with thy eyes! Then, do speedily what thou deemest proper.' Having said this, they looked intently at Vasuki, that best of snakes. And Vasuki also, after reflecting, answered saying, 'Ye snakes, this final determination of you doth not seem worthy of adoption. The advice of you all is not to my liking. What shall I say which would be for your good? I think the grace of the illustrious Kasyapa (our father) can alone do us good. Ye snakes, my heart doth not know which of all your suggestions is to be adopted for the welfare of my race as also of me. That must be done by me which would be to your weal. It is this that makes me so anxious, for the credit or the discredit (of the measure) is mine alone.'"

So ends the thirty-seventh section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.

Next: Section XXXVIII