Parikshit:A King’s Rise, Legends, and Untimely Demise

Parikshit:A King’s Rise, Legends, and Untimely Demise

The story of Parikshit, a Kuru king from the Middle Vedic period, is a fascinating tale of power, lineage, and legends in ancient India. His reign played a crucial role in shaping the Kuru state, the development of Vedic rituals, and the cultural center of northern Iron Age India. This article delves into the life and legends of King Parikshit, exploring his family, the intriguing stories that surround him, and the circumstances of his untimely demise.

Family Ties

Parikshit, the scion of a legendary lineage, was the son of Abhimanyu and Uttara, and the grandson of the valiant Arjuna. According to the Shatapatha Brahmana, he had four sons: Janamejaya, Bhimasena, Ugrasena, and Srutasena, all of whom performed the sacred Asvamedha Yajna. Parikshit was married to Queen Madravati and reigned for sixty years before his eventual demise.

Legends of Parikshit

Parikshit’s life is steeped in legends, each contributing to the rich tapestry of his reign and legacy.

The Brahmastra and Divine Intervention

The Bhagavata Purana (Srimad Bhagavatam) narrates a significant event in Parikshit’s life. Ashwatthama, the son of Drona, sought revenge against the Pandavas for their role in the Kurukshetra war, which claimed the lives of his father and friend, Duryodhana. To achieve this, he prepared a formidable Brahmastra to harm Parikshit while he was in his mother’s womb. Terrified by the threat, Parikshit’s mother, Uttara, sought divine protection from Lord Krishna, who shielded the unborn child from the deadly weapon. Thus, Parikshit, also known as Visnurata, was born, and his destiny became intertwined with the Pandavas.

Parikshit and Kali

Once crowned as king, Parikshit embarked on a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. During his travels, he encountered a disturbing scene: a man brutally mistreating a one-legged bull and a cow. His anger flared, and he arrested the man, who revealed himself as Kali, the personification of the Kali Yuga. Despite his anger, Parikshit chose forgiveness, but he banished Kali from his kingdom. The symbolism of this encounter, where the bull represented Dharma, was a powerful commentary on the deteriorating moral values in the Kali Yuga.

The Curse of Death

Influenced by Kali, callously placed a dead snake around the sage’s neck

One of the most pivotal moments in Parikshit’s life was when he encountered the sage Shamika. Parikshit, while hunting, sought information from the sage, who was in deep meditation. When the sage did not respond, Parikshit, influenced by Kali, callously placed a dead snake around the sage’s neck. Unbeknownst to Parikshit, this would set in motion a tragic chain of events.

Kali Purush and the Curse of Death

The seeds of Parikshit’s demise were sown when he allowed Kali Purush to reside in his mind, albeit unintentionally. Kali Purush, seeking refuge from his previous haunts of gambling, prostitution, vice, and immorality, found a new abode in King Parikshit’s thoughts. As Parikshit crossed paths with sage Shamika, who was absorbed in meditation, he inadvertently disrespected the sage by tossing a dead snake around his neck, manipulated by the lurking influence of Kali Purush.

The sage Shamika had a son named Shringi, who, unaware of Kali Purush’s deceit, learned of Parikshit’s disrespectful act. Filled with righteous anger, Shringi cursed Parikshit to die from a snakebite within seven days. This curse, a consequence of Parikshit’s thoughtless actions, marked the beginning of the countdown to his untimely death.

The Inevitable Fate

As the days passed and Parikshit’s death approached, his ministers constructed a unique mansion. This structure stood on a solitary column and was heavily guarded, reflecting the king’s acceptance of his impending fate.

Kashyapa, a sage renowned for his knowledge of snakebite remedies, was on his way to cure King Parikshit. However, Takshaka, the Naga king of Taxila, intervened by offering the sage greater wealth. Tragically, Kashyapa changed his course, leading to the king’s eventual demise.

Alternative Accounts of Parikshit’s Demise

Another account of Parikshit’s death stems from the Pandavas’ conquest of Khandavaprastha, now known as Indraprastha. Takshaka, the formidable Naga king, had previously resided in Nagaloka without human interference. However, when the Pandavas arrived in Khandavaprastha, Takshaka felt his freedom was threatened. In a fit of rage, he ordered his troops to attack the Pandavas and their subjects. This attack resulted in the deaths of many, sparing only the Pandavas and their wife, Draupadi.

In response, Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, lifted his bow and set fire to Nagaloka. Takshaka’s fury grew, and he vowed to end one of the Pandavas’ lineages. This vow, coupled with the curse of Rishi Shamika’s son, Shiringi, sealed Parikshit’s fate—a death by snakebite.

Janamejaya’s Quest for Revenge

Sarpa Satra

Upon learning of his father’s death at the hands of Takshaka, Parikshit’s son, Janamejaya, was consumed by grief and a burning desire for vengeance. He vowed to eliminate Takshaka within a week, initiating the Sarpa Satra, a powerful yajna that forced every snake in the universe to converge in the havan kund.

The Divine Intervention and Astika Muni

As Janamejaya’s yajna progressed, Indra, the king of the gods, attempted to save Takshaka from being pulled into the sacrificial fire. The sages conducting the yajna chanted “Indraay swaahaa, Takshakaay cha swaahaa,” leading to Indra’s own peril.

It was at this critical juncture that Astika Muni, the son of Manasa Devi, intervened. He recognized the catastrophic consequences of the yajna and decided to stop it. His intervention spared Takshaka’s life, and Janamejaya halted the Sarpa Satra. The festival of Naga Panchami, celebrated on Shukla Paksha Panchami in the month of Shravana, commemorates this event.

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