(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'And Takshaka, after this, answered, 'If, indeed, thou art able to cure any creature bitten by me, then, O Kasyapa, revive thou this tree bit by me. O best of Brahmanas, I burn this banian in thy sight. Try thy best and show me that skill in mantras of which thou hast spoken.'
"And Kasyapa said, If thou art so minded, bite thou then, O king of snakes, this tree. O snake, I shall revive it, though bit by thee.
"Sauti continued, 'That king of snakes, thus addressed by the illustrious Kasyapa, bit then that banian tree. And that tree, bit by the illustrious snake, and penetrated by the poison of the serpent, blazed up all around. And having burnt the banian so, the snake then spake again unto Kasyapa, saying, 'O first of Brahmanas, try thy best and revive this lord of the forest.'
"Sauti continued, 'The tree was reduced to ashes by the poison of that king of snakes. But taking up those ashes, Kasyapa spoke these words. 'O king of snakes, behold the power of my knowledge as applied to this lord of the forest! O snake, under thy very nose I shall revive it.' And then that best of Brahmanas, the illustrious and learned Kasyapa, revived, by his vidya, that tree which had been reduced to a heap of ashes. And first he created the sprout, then he furnished it with two leaves, and then he made the stem, and then the branches, and then the full-grown tree with leaves and all. And Takshaka, seeing the tree revived by the illustrious Kasyapa, said unto him, 'It is not wonderful in thee that thou shouldst destroy my poison or that of any one else like myself. O thou whose wealth is asceticism, desirous of what wealth, goest thou thither? The reward thou
hopest to have from that best of monarchs, even I will give thee, however difficult it may be to obtain it. Decked with fame as thou art, thy success may be doubtful on that king affected by a Brahmana's curse and whose span of life itself hath been shortened. In that case, this blazing fame of thine that hath overspread the three worlds will disappear like the Sun when deprived of his splendour (on the occasion of the eclipse).'
"Kasyapa said, 'I go there for wealth, give it unto me, O snake, so that taking thy gold. I may return.' Takshaka replied, 'O best of regenerate ones, even I will give thee more than what thou expectest from that king. Therefore do not go.'
"Sauti continued, 'That best of Brahmanas, Kasyapa, of great prowess and intelligence, hearing those words of Takshaka, sat in yoga meditation over the king. And that foremost of Munis, viz., Kasyapa, of great prowess and gifted with spiritual knowledge, ascertaining that the period of life of that king of the Pandava race had really run out, returned, receiving from Takshaka as much wealth as he desired.
"And upon the illustrious Kasyapa's retracing his steps, Takshaka at the proper time speedily entered the city of Hastinapura. And on his way he heard that the king was living very cautiously, protected by means of poison-neutralising mantras and medicines.'
"Sauti continued, 'The snake thereupon reflected thus, 'The monarch must be deceived by me with power of illusion. But what must be the means?' Then Takshaka sent to the king some snakes in the guise of ascetics taking with them fruits, kusa grass, and water (as presents). And Takshaka, addressing them, said, 'Go ye all to the king, on the pretext of pressing business, without any sign of impatience, as if to make the monarch only accept the fruits and flowers and water (that ye shall carry as presents unto him).'
"Sauti continued, 'Those snakes, thus commanded by Takshaka, acted accordingly. And they took to the king, Kusa grass and water, and fruits. And that foremost of kings, of great prowess, accepted those offerings. And after their business was finished, he said upto them, 'Retire.' Then after those snakes disguised as ascetics had gone away, the king addressed his ministers and friends, saying, 'Eat ye, with me, all these fruits of excellent taste brought by the ascetics.' Impelled by Fate and the words of the Rishi, the king, with his ministers, felt the desire of eating those fruits. The particular fruit, within which Takshaka had entered, was taken by the king himself for eating. And when he was eating it, there appeared, O Saunaka, an ugly insect out of it, of shape scarcely discernible, of eyes black, and of coppery colour. And that foremost of kings, taking that insect, addressed his councillors, saying, 'The sun is setting; today I have no more tear from poison. Therefore, let this insect become Takshaka and bite me, so that my sinful act may be expiated and the words of the ascetic rendered true.' And those councillors also, impelled by Fate, approved of that speech.
[paragraph continues] And then the monarch smiled, losing his senses, his hour having come. And he quickly placed that insect on his neck. And as the king was smiling, Takshaka, who had (in the form of that insect) come out of the fruit that had been offered to the king, coiled himself round the neck of the monarch. And quickly coiling round the king's neck and uttering a tremendous roar, Takshaka, that lord of snakes, bit that protector of the earth.'"