Asteeka (आस्तीकः)

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ASTIKA: The son of the Maharsi Jaratkaru and his wife, also named Jaratkaru. He stopped King Janamejaya's Sarpasatra and saved the nagas.

There is a story about Astika's birth in the Devi Bhagavata. Long ago the people of the world were so much troubled by the serpents, that they sought protection from Kasyapa Prajapati. To find a remedy for this, Kasyapa discussed the matter with Brahma. To put an end to the troubles from the serpents, Brahma suggested that a number of mantras and a deity as the basis of those mantras should be created. Accordingly Kasyapa created many mantras and Manasa Devi as the basic deity of those mantras. She is named "Manasadevi" because Kasyapa created her by his mental power. Manasadevi has eleven other names also, namely Jaratkaru, Jagatgauri, Siddhayogini, Vaisnavi, Nagabhagini, Saivi, NagesVari, Jaratkarupriya, Astikamata, Visahara and Mahajnanayuta. Manasadevi (Jaratkaru) when quite young, went to Kailasa for doing tapas (penance) . There she did tapas to Siva for a thousand years. At last Siva appeared and blessed her with divine wisdom. She returned with great learning and devotion. (Devi Bhagavata, Navama Skandha) . At that time, a Muni (saga) named Jaratkaru, when travelling through the forest happened to see his pitrs(souls of forefathers) hanging over a precipice at the end of a blade of grass. They were hanging precariously at the end of a reed grass, head downwards, about to fall into the abyss. Jaratkaru enquired why they were lying in that condition. They explained that they were in that plight because their descendant Jaratkaru had no children. As he is a bachelor there is no hope either, of his having any issue. Since he has no children, we will not get to heaven, they added. To save the Pitrs from their predicament, Jaratkaru decided to marry. But he wished to marry a woman who had the same name as his. Once Vasuki met Jaratkaru and told him that he had a sister named Jaratkaru and that he would be very happy if Jaratkaru married her. Jaratkaru accepted the offer readily and married Jaratkaru. After their marriage, while they were living together in a place called Puskara tirtha, an unexpected event happened which interrupted the happy course of their life. One evening, the husband was sleeping with his head in the wife's lap, under a tree. The sun was about to set. As the Maharsi did not wake up before sunset, the wife became anxious. It is believed that he who does not wake up before sunrise and he who does not offer prayers at dusk will be guilty of the papa (पापम्) of Brahmahatya (killing a Brahmin) . Nor was it proper to wake him up from a sound sleep. But in the end, she did wake him up. The husband sprang up in great fury. He renounced the wife then and there. Weeping bitterly, she begged for his forgiveness. At last Jaratkaru relented and told her : "You will have a very noble, brilliant, renowned, virtuous, scholarly and devout son who will be a devotee of Visnu and a preserver of the family". After this Manasadevi set out to Kailasa. When she reached there Parami-Siva and Parvati comforted her. ManasadevI was pregnant. The precepts and adhyatmik advice given by Jaratkaru, Parama-Siva and Parvati were heard by the child in the womb and so even before his birth he became a Jnani and a yogi. In due course Manasadevi gave birth to a son who was a part of Narayana (Visnu). Since he was the son of Manasadevi who had deep devotion to the Guru and to the Gods, the boy was named Astika. The Mahabharata, Adi Parva, gives another reason for giving this name to the boy. When the sage Jaratkaru abandoned his wife, he had blessed her saying that the child in her womb would be a brilliant and devoted son. That is why this boy came to be called Astika.

Astika was taught Veda, Vedangas etc. by Parama-Siva himself. After receiving the blessings of Parama-Siva, Astika went to Puskara tirtha and did tapas to Visnu for many years. Having received Visnu's

blessings also, he returned to Kailasa. After living there happily with his mother for some time, one day they started to the Asrama of Kasyapa Prajapati, the father of Manasadevi. Kasyapa was very much pleased to see his noble-hearted daughter and her brilliant son. To enhance the fame and accomplishments of the boy Kasyapa gave a sumptuous feast to ten crores of Brahmins. (Devi Bhagavata, Navama Skandha). Vasuki was Manasadevi's brother. Astika grew up there under the care of Vasuki. It was Cyavana Muni who taught Samgavedas to Astika, at this time. (M.B., Adi Parva, Chapter 48, Verse 18).

Once King Pariksit, the son of Abhimanyu was travelling through the forest for hunting animals. He picked up a dead snake with the tip of his bow and put it on the shoulder of a sage named "Samika". Samika's son, Sringi came to know of this. In his anger, Sringi pronounced a curse that King Pariksit should die within seven days by the bite of Taksaka. When Pariksit heard of this, he had a palace built on a single pillar in the middle of the ocean, quite inaccessible to Taksaka and took shelter there. The most famous physicians and wizards were engaged to ward off the approach of Taksaka to that place. Six days passed like this. On the seventh day, determined to make a final attempt, Taksaka disguised himself as an old Brahmana and set out to the King's place of shelter. On his way he met Dhanvantari who was proceeding to Parlksit to protect him. They became friends and as a result of it, Dhanvantari returned after receiving a large number of rare precious stones given to him by Taksaka. Assuming the form of a small worm, Taksaka secretly entered into a fruit which was to be presented to the King. As soon as the King took that fruit in his hand, Taksaka took his own shape and size and bit the King who died immediately.

Janamejaya was the son of this King Pariksit. Janamejaya performed all the obsequies of his father. After that, in a spirit of revenge, with the object of annihilating the whole race of serpents, he summoned Brahmanas to conduct a sarpa satra (snake yajna). In the yajnika agni specially prepared at that yaga, many serpents were being burnt up. It seemed that the whole race of serpents would shortly be wiped out. But Taksaka alone was not to be seen. The officiating priests were beginning to get angry. Impatient cries of Where is Taksaka rent the air. The frightened Taksaka fled for life to the palace of his friend Indra and there lay down, curling round Indra's cot. When the priests understood this they decided to use their charms and mantras which would bring Indra, his bed, cot and all, along with Taksaka to the yajnika agni. At this stage, all the gods rushed to Manasadevi and fell at her feet and begged her to save the situation. The kindhearted Devi called her son Astika and advised him to persuade Janamejaya to stop the Sarpasatra. Astika went to Janamejaya and requested him to give him the lives of Taksaka and Indra as a gift. Janamejaya, after consulting the munis and priests and at their advice, agreed to do so. In this way, the Sarpasatra was stopped and the remaining serpents escaped with their lives. (Devi Bhagavata, Navama Skandha, M.B., Adi Parva). (Page 94-95, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

Astika learnt Sariga Vedas from the asramaof Cyavana. (Chapter 48, Adi Parva).

Ruru desired to get some information about serpent yajna from Sahasrapat, who answered the former that he would hear the story of Astika from brahmins and then disappeared. (Adi Parva, Chapter 12, Verse 3). (Page 666, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

Once the son of a sage of great divine splendour named Uttanka was studying under a Guru named Veda. When his education was complete, the Guru asked him to bring as daksina (fees) the earrings worn by the Ksatriya wife of King Pausya. Indra made Taksaka steal the ornament and created many obstacles on the way. That incident made them mutual friends and gradually Taksaka became an intimate friend of Indra. From that day onwards Uttanka waited for an opportunity to take vengeance on Taksaka. It was at that time that Janamejaya, son of Parlksit, became the king. Janamejaya was only eleven years old when he became king and he was not then aware of the details of the death of his father. Uttanka went to him and told him how Taksaka killed his father. Janamejaya became furious and asked him how to wreak vengeance on him. Uttanka suggested the performance of a Sarpasatra to which all the serpents should be attracted by mantras and burnt to death there. The young king agreed and Uttanka with other rsis commenced the Sarpasatra. One by one all the serpents came and fell into the yajnika agni but Taksaka was not to be found. Where is Taksaka? This question was heard from many lips. Taksaka was specially invoked by Uttanka. Taksaka could not bear the power of Uttanka and he ran and prostrated before Indra. Indra not only did give refuge but gave him half of his seat in the throne and Taksaka sat on it fully confident of security. Uttanka was enraged, when after repeated calls by mantra, Taksaka did not appear and so he sat in meditation for some time to know the cause. He then saw Taksaka sitting on the throne of Indra and the sight threw him into fury and he invoked Taksaka, Indra and the throne and all. Lo ! in an instant Indra, Taksaka, the throne and all started moving towards the yajnika agni ! Within seconds all would have been burnt to death but for the timely intervention of a brahmin boy named Astika, son of the sage Jaratkaru. Taksaka by instructions from Indra was living in the forest of Khandava and when that was burnt by Agni, it was Indra who saved Taksaka from the fire. (Page 783, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

When Vasuki saw the serpents, born of his family, falling into the yajnika agni of Janamejaya and dying in large numbers, he sent his nephew Astika to find out a way to rescue the perishing nagas. (M.B. Adi Parva, Chapter 53, Stanza 20). (Page 838-839, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)