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Chapter 11: Jaratkaru and the birth of Astika

Posted by Arun Mohan ~ on ~ 0 comments

As per Brahma’s prediction, Jaratkaru was born later in the dynasty of Yayavara sages. The word ‘Jara’ means body and ‘Karu’ means strong. Starting from his younger age, he had devoted his entire life to austerities. But he had shrunken his body due to strict tapas and fasting. Manasa, the sister of Vasuki was also an ascetic and she also became thin after strict penances. Manasa is also called as Jaratkaru from his childhood.  The sage Jaratkaru continued a bachelor life. He undertakes a journey around the world. He visits spiritual places, bathed in various sacred-rivers and worshiped at many sacred places. He followed strict rules in his life which was impossible for a normal human being to follow. However, Jaratkaru decided to end his life as a bachelor with meditation and attain moksha.

One day while traveling in a forest, he saw that a large number of old ascetics were suspended upside down from a pit. They were being slowly lowered into a gaping hole in the ground. Jaratkaru's heart melted at this sight. He then approached them and asked "Who are you? What crime made you to get such a punishment? They replied that they are the souls of dead man. They are dropping into hell called Puth (only a child can rescue their father from this hell by continuing ancestry) as their family name is almost over and their dynasty is ending without a heir.  Their greed to become a great sage made them bachelor throughout the life conducting strict tapas and penances resulted in ending their Yayavara dynasty. They have now only one descendant alive now. But that wretch, instead of marrying has devoted his entire life to penances. That worthless offspring now alive was a sage called Jaratkaru. Then those souls requested him to narrate their punishment to Jaratkaru.

Jaratkaru was shocked and filled with wonder at this tale. With trembling hands and tears in his voice, he said that the worthless offspring was him and asked what he should do for them to free from this agony. Jaratkaru’s forefathers replied that fate made them to meet their descendent. They then told him to marry and beget children. It is the only way to save them and also added that Jaratkaru’s son is the guarantee for his afterlife also. Jaratkaru then promised their ancestors that he will soon marry and bear a son.

The sage Jaratkaru then wandered all over the earth, in search of a wife, but he could not find anyone suitable. He was too old, and no man wants to marry their daughter to an old man. In anxiety, he went to a dense forest and repeated his request for a bride in a faded voice to the Gods. The serpents hear this and they reported it to Vasuki, he instantly appeared before the sage along with his sister, Manasa and offered her to sage. Jaratkaru then requested Vasuki to change the name of Manasa to Jaratkaru. Vasuki said that he was aware of this prediction and she is also called in the name of Jaratkaru from her childhood itself. Jaratkaru then forwarded a condition that she should not do anything that upsets him, if happened so then he will leave her. Vasuki accepted the condition and married his sister to the sage.

Sage Jaratkaru and his wife then started their married life and within the meantime she got pregnant. One dThe ay, the sage was little miffed with his wife and sleeping with his head on her lap. He slept for a longer time than usual, and the sun began to set. She remembered that if she does not wake up the sage at the moment, then the sage will fail to conduct agnihotra and it will result in loss of his virtue. If she does so, then he becomes angry at being disturbed in his sleep. At last, she decided to wake him, since the greater danger lay in his loss of his ascetic powers. So she softly called out him to wake up by sprinkling water on his face. Sage Jaratkaru roused. As she feared, he was extremely annoyed on being woken up. His wife pleaded with him that she did not want the sage to miss the evening rituals as it result in the destruction of ascetic merit that he accumulated by long penance. The furious sage said that he never done the rituals in the night. If he had not conducted the evening rituals, then the sun will not set, for such is the power of his ascetism. Then he said that he do not wish to stay even a moment longer in a place where he have been insulted. His wife got pale at these words and she begged that she never had an intention to insult him (shown in the figure); she only wanted her husband to follow rituals and do his dharma. Jaratkaru then softened with the words of his wife but he should want to break his words once said. So he leaved the hermitage and went to vasuki's abode to inform him that he is going to leave his wife. Initially Vasuki was alarmed, but after assuring that she is bearing a child of Jaratkaru, he did not say anything to the sage. Before leaving his wife, Jaratkaru blessed her that she will give birth to a son who will be as radiant as god Agni and Sun. Vasuki was extremely pleased with Jaratkaru’s words and he cared his sister from that day with great affection and kindness.

The child was born in due course, and he was given the name of Astika. With the birth of Astika, sage Jartkaru's line was strengthened and his forefathers’ agony was removed. His uncle, king of serpents, Vasuki, took him in good care of him since childhood. In a few years, the child grew into a young person. He was a bright scholar and was learned all the Vedas and scriptures from the sage Chavan. Later in the age of sixteen upon mother's request, he went to king Janamejaya’s palace to stop the snake sacrifice performed by him to save the serpent descendants.


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