(Astika Parva continued)
Janamejaya said, 'Though this one is but a boy, he speaks yet like a wise old man. He is not a boy but one wise and old. I think, I desire to bestow on him a boon. Therefore, ye Brahmanas, give me the necessary permission.'
"The Sadasyas said, 'A Brahmana, though a boy, deserves the respect of kings. The learned ones do more so. This boy deserves every desire of his being fulfilled by thee, but not before Takshaka comes with speed.'
"Sauti continued, 'The king, being inclined to grant the Brahmana a boon, said 'Ask thou a boon.' The Hotri, however, being rather displeased, said, 'Takshaka hath not come as yet into this sacrifice.'
"Janamejaya replied, 'Exert ye to the best of your might, so that this sacrifice of mine may attain completion, and Takshaka also may soon come here. He is my enemy.'
"The Ritwiks replied, 'As the scriptures declare unto us, and as the fire also saith, O monarch, (it seems that) Takshaka is now staying in the abode of Indra, afflicted with fear.'
"Sauti continued, 'The illustrious Suta named Lohitaksha also, conversant with the Puranas, had said so before.
"Asked by the king on the present occasion he again told the monarch, 'Sire, it is even so as the Brahmanas have said--Knowing the Puranas, I say, O monarch, that Indra hath granted him this boon, saying, 'Dwell with me in concealment, and Agni shall not burn thee.'
'Sauti continued, 'Hearing this, the king installed in the sacrifice became very sorry and urged the Hotri to do his duty. And as the Hotri, with mantras, began to pour clarified butter into the fire Indra himself appeared on the scene. And the illustrious one came in his car, adorned by all the gods standing around, followed by masses of clouds, celestial singers, and the several bevies of celestial dancing girls. And Takshaka anxious with fear, hid himself in the upper garment of Indra and was not visible. Then the king in his anger again said unto his mantra-knowing Brahmanas these words, bent upon the destruction of Takshaka, 'If the snake Takshaka be in the abode of Indra, cast him into the fire with Indra himself.'
'Sauti continued, 'Urged thus by the king Janamejaya about Takshaka, the Hotri poured libations, naming that snake then staying there. And even as the libations were poured, Takshaka, with Purandara himself, anxious and afflicted, became visible in a moment in the skies. Then Purandara, seeing that sacrifice, became much alarmed, and quickly casting Takshaka off, went back to his own abode. After Indra had gone away, Takshaka, the prince of snakes, insensible with fear, was by virtue of the mantras, brought near enough the flames of the sacrificial fire.'
"The Ritwiks then said, 'O king of kings, the sacrifice of thine is being
performed duly. It behoveth thee, O Lord, to grant a boon now to this first of Brahmanas.'
"Janamejaya then said, 'Thou immeasurable one of such handsome and child-like features, I desire to grant thee a worthy boon. Therefore, ask thou that which thou desirest in thy heart. I promise thee, that I will grant it even if it be ungrantable.'
'The Ritwiks said, 'O monarch, behold, Takshaka is soon coming under thy control! His terrible cries, and loud roar is being heard. Assuredly, the snake hath been forsaken by the wielder of thunder. His body being disabled by your mantras, he is falling from heaven. Even now, rolling in the skies, and deprived of consciousness, the prince of snakes cometh, breathing loudly.'
'Sauti continued, 'While Takshaka, the prince of snakes was about to fall into the sacrificial fire, during those few moments Astika spoke as follows, 'O Janamejaya, if thou wouldst grant me a boon, let this sacrifice of thine come to an end and let no more snakes fall into the fire.'
'O Brahmana, the son of Parikshit, being thus addressed by Astika, became exceedingly sorry and replied unto Astika thus, 'O illustrious one, gold, silver, kine, whatever other possessions thou desirest I shall give unto thee. But let not my sacrifice come to an end.'
"Astika thereupon replied, 'Gold, silver or kine, I do not ask of thee, O monarch! But let thy sacrifice be ended so that my maternal relations be relieved.'
"Sauti continued, 'The son of Parikshit, being thus addressed by Astika, repeatedly said this unto that foremost of speakers, 'Best of the Brahmanas, ask some other boon. O, blessed be thou!' But, O thou of Bhrigu's race, he did not beg any other boon. Then all the Sadasyas conversant with the Vedas told the king in one voice, 'Let the Brahmana receive his boon!'"