by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222
This page describes the Story of Ashtaka included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).
How Aṣṭaka went to heaven.
"Aṣṭaka, son of Viśvāmitra, performed an Aśvamedha Yāga. All the kings took part in this. Pratardana, Vasumanas and Auśīnara Śibi, and all the brothers of Aṣṭaka attended the function. After the yāga Aṣṭaka took his three brothers for an air travel and on the way met the great sage Nārada. Nārada was also taken in and as they continued their flight, Aṣṭaka asked Nārada who should step down from the aeroplane if only four were allowed to go to heaven. "Aṣṭaka", replied Nārada and explained the reason also. Once when Nārada stayed at the āśrama of Aṣṭaka the former found many varieties of cows there and asked Aṣṭaka whose they were. Then in self praise Aṣṭaka had said that all those were cows which he had given away as gifts. Aṣṭaka then asked who should get down if only three were allowed to go to heaven. 'Pratardana', said Nārada and explained the reason. Once when Pratardana was taking Nārada in the former’s chariot four brahmins one behind the other approached him and begged for a horse each. When Pratardana asked for some time the brahmins were not prepared to wait and so he gave all but one of his four horses and asked the fourth to wait. As he was also found to be persistent he gave the one drawing his chariot also and dragged the chariot himself but abusing the brahmins all the way. It was that abuse that gave him the slur. Then Aṣṭaka asked Nārada who should get down if only two were permitted to enter heaven. 'Vasumanas', said Nārada and explained the reason. Nārada went to the house of Vasumanas three times and each time the latter spoke highly of his chariot. Nārada also joined in praising his flower-chariot and the brahmins present there also followed suit. Pleased at this Vasumanas became proud of his possession and his vainglorious talks made him unfit. Then Aṣṭaka asked if only one were allowed to go to heaven who should go. 'Śibi', said Nārada immediately. Even Nārada would be only next to Śibi and Nārada explained the reason thus. Once a brahmin went to Śibi for food. Śibi asked him what food he relished most and the brahmin said that he would like to have the fresh flesh of Śibi’s only son, Bṛhadgarbha. Without even the slightest hesitation Śibi killed his son and cooked his flesh and when the food was ready he went out to invite the brahmin. But on going out the King saw the brahmin setting fire to his palace, treasury, armoury, stables, harem and elephant-sheds. Without even a quiver on his face, the king respectfully took the brahmin inside and gave him food. The brahmin was amazed at the patience of the King and sitting before his food for some time told the King that he would be satisfied if the King himself ate that food. Respecting the request the King was about to eat the flesh of his own son when the brahmin who was none other than Brahmā in disguise praised him for his devotion and gave him back his son adorned with sweet smelling flowers and disappeared blessing them. When his ministers questioned him about this Śibi said, "I do not give for a name or fame. Neither do I give for wealth and happiness. I do it because it is the only way to be rid of sins". (Chapter 168, Araṇya Parva, Mahābhārata).
(1) Aṣṭaka was a Rājarṣi. (Śloka 5, Chapter 86, Ādi Parva, Mahābhārata).