Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Parikshit 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’).

Story of Parīkṣit

A brilliant King of Candravaṃśa. He was the grandson of Arjuna and son of Abhimanyu. (For genealogy see under Abhimanyu).

Birth.

Parīkṣit was the son born to Abhimanyu of Uttarā. This was a still-born child and it was Śrī Kṛṣṇa who gave it life. There is a story in Mahābhārata about this:

Uttarā, wife of Abhimanyu, was pregnant when the war between the Pāṇḍavas and Kauravas started at Kurukṣetra. Aśvatthāmā, son of Droṇa, entered the camp of the Pāṇḍavas at night and slew Dhṛṣṭadyumna. He then sent the most fierce Brahmaśirāstra (missile of Brahmaśira) to exterminate the Pāṇḍavas. To face it and oppose it Arjuna also sent an equally fierce Brahmaśirāstra. The sight of two such powerful weapons opposing each other made all the sages anxious and they led by Vyāsa entered the field and requested them to withdraw their missiles. It was in vain. The missile of Aśvatthāmā went and struck the womb of Uttarā.

Once when the Pāṇḍavas after their exile were staying in the village of Upaplavya a brahmin had predicted to Uttarā that at the fag end of the life of the Pāṇḍavas Uttarā would bear a son who would be tested even while in her womb and that the child should be named Parīkṣit. (Parīkṣā = test).

The child in the womb died when the missile struck it. Śrī Kṛṣṇa was greatly agitated by this wicked act of Aśvatthāmā and he said thus: "Oh Aśvatthāmā, the child now dead in its womb would surely come to life again. You will be called a sinner because of this infanticide. Because of this you will roam about on earth for three thousand years and during that time nobody would mingle with you. You will not get a seat anywhere. All diseases will find an abode in your body. But this infant would grow up into a king and rule the country for sixty years. He would become celebrated as the next Kururāja." (Sauptika Parva, Mahābhārata) When the Bhāratayuddha came to an end Dharmaputra performed an aśvamedhayāga. Many prominent persons including Śrī Kṛṣṇa assembled at Hastināpura for this purpose. Vidura received them all. At that time they were informed that Uttarā had delivered a stillborn child. Parīkṣit was born when the embryo was only six months old (Śloka 82, Chapter 85, Ādi Parva). Everybody assembled there was sad and depressed when he heard this news. Śrī Kṛṣṇa went in and saw the dead infant. Uttarā wept bitterly and everybody asked Śrī Kṛṣṇa to give life to the infant somehow. Śrī Kṛṣṇa did so and the child was named Parīkṣit remembering the prophetic words of the brāhmaṇa.

Marriage.

Parīkṣit married a princess named Mādravatī and got of her four sons named Janamejaya, Śrutasena, Ugrasena and Bhīmasena. Chapters 3, 4, 5, Ādi Parva).

Curse of a sage.

Parīkṣit was greatly interested in hunting. Once he went to a big forest with his large retinue to hunt. While hunting he followed a deer which the king had struck with his arrow and he separated from the rest and went a long way deep into the forest. It was midday and the king was tired. Then he saw a sage sitting there and the king went in and asked him about the deer. The sage engrossed in his meditation did not hear that. The king mistook his silence to be arrogance and taking the dead body of a cobra lying nearby with the tip of his bow threw it round the neck of the sage and went his way. The sage did not know even that. The king returned to the palace after the hunting.

The sage had a son named Gavijāta (In many places the name Śṛṅgī is used for Gavijāta). He was playing with the sons of other sages. One munikumāra (son of a sage) said, "Oh Gavijāta, your father is equal to Śiva. Both have a serpent round their necks. But there is only one difference. The serpent round your father’s neck is a dead one." Gavijāta was greatly disturbed by this jeer and he immediately went to the āśrama to make enquiries. When he knew that an unknown person had done that foul deed he took water in his hand and said "Whoever be the person who put this dead snake round the neck of my father will die being bitten by the fierce cobra Takṣaka within seven days." Only after pronouncing this horrible curse did he find out that the perpetrator of that crime was none other than the most noble and charitable king, Parīkṣit. Gavijāta repented greatly and immediately sent word to the king about his curse through Gauramukha, a munikumāra. The king was a bit frightened first but then he started thinking about the way to escape from the curse. (Chapter 40, Ādi Parva, and 2nd Skandha, Bhāgavata).

4.) Takṣaka gets ready. As soon as the messenger Gauramukha departed from the palace Parīkṣit called the ministers to his side and conferred with them to find a way to escape from the cobra Takṣaka. They built a building on a huge pillar and gave all protections to the building. Brahmins well-versed in all the mantras and Viṣavaidyas (physicians in the treatment of snakepoisoning) of fame were asked to sit around the pillar and the place was well-guarded. The King sat in a room tightly closed. Six days went by. On the seventh day the celebrated Viṣavaidya Ka yapamaharṣi was on his way to the palace at the summons of the king. Takṣaka was also on his way to the palace in the guise of a brahmin. They met on the way and though Kaśyapa did not know him first Takṣaka introduced himself when he knew that Kaśyapa was going to the palace to treat the king if anything happened. He said "Oh Kaśyapa, I am Takṣaka and none of your wits would be able to fight against the effects of my poison. If you want to know it we shall make a trial." Saying so Takṣaka went and bit a big banyan tree standing nearby, and lo! the whole tree was burnt to ashes by the strength of the poison. Kaśyapa smilingly recited the Viṣahāri mantra and sprinkled some water on the ashes and lo! the tree stood in its place again with not a single mutilation anywhere. Takṣaka was astounded. He then bribed Kaśyapa. He said he would give him more than what could be expected of the king and requested him to return home. Kaśyapa returned and Takṣaka went to the palace.

Death of Parīkṣit.

Takṣaka went and inspected the palace of Parīkṣit. There was no way to step in and Takṣaka was astonished at the perfect protection given to the king. Takṣaka called all his relatives to his side and asked them to go to the King in the guise of brahmins carrying several kinds of fruits as presents. Takṣaka crept inside a beautiful fruit in the shape of a worm and was carried along with the fruits taken to the king. The servants of the king took the fruits brought by the brahmins to the king and the king struck by the size and beauty of a fruit among them took it and cut it open. He saw a worm inside red in colour with two black spots as eyes. The king took it in his hand and at that instant it changed into Takṣaka and bit the king. After that it rose up into the air and disappeared. (Chapters 42 to 49, Ādi Parva and 2nd Skandha, Devī Bhāgavata).

Parīkṣit as a king.

Many researches have been made to fix the period of the reign of Parīkṣit. "Saptarṣayo maghāyuktāḥ Kale Pārikṣite sbhavan // (Chapter 271, Matsya Purāṇa), "Te tu Pārikṣite kāle Maghāsvāsan dvijottamāḥ" (Chapter 24, Aṃśa 4, Viṣṇu Purāṇa) Following these statements in the Purāṇas, astronomers and astrologers searched for the year or years in which the Saptarṣi maṇḍala (the constellation of a group of seven stars) and the month of māgha came into the same zodiac. It came in B.C. 3077 and then in B.C. 477. This would again occur in 2223 A.D. Parīkṣit, according to other facts, also must have lived in B.C. 3077.

Pāṇḍavas went for their mahāprasthāna after entrusting the administration to the care of Parīkṣit. The Mahābhārata battle was fought in the year 3138 B.C. Dharmaputra ruled for 36 years and so Parīkṣit must have taken charge of the administration in 3102 B.C. Parīkṣit ruled for 60 years and his son Janamejaya became king in 3042 B.C. It was this Janamejaya who conducted the famous Sarpasatra.

Parīkṣit attained Svarga.

Parīkṣit did not enter heaven as soon as he died. So Janamejaya at the advice of Nārada conducted a yāga called Ambāyāga for the salvation of the spirit of his father. It was during the navarātri period that this was done. Many eminent sages took part in the ceremony. All were received well and given gifts in plenty. He made pure brahmins read the Devībhāgavata with devotion in the presence of the deity to please Jagadambikā (mother goddess), queen of all queens (Rājarāje varī). When it was over, a divine brilliance like burning fire was visible in the sky and Nārada appeared before Janamejaya and said "Oh Janamejaya, King of Kings, your father was lying bound by the shackles of his life on earth. But today he acquired a divine form and wearing divine apparels and ornaments went to the divine seat of Devī in a sacred Vimāna from Indrapura while Indra, devas and the celestial maidens stood praising him (Skandha 12, Devī Bhāgavata).

Other details.

(i) Parīkṣit ruled the country for sixty years, with all virtues and goodness. (Chapter 49, Ādi Parva).

(ii) After the great battle, one day at the request of a few, Vyāsa by his yogic powers arrayed all the dead great ones of the Pāṇḍava-Kaurava company. Parīkṣit was also called then to the Gaṅgā where it was arranged and Janamejaya who was present to witness the show then gave an Avabhṛtasnāna (ablution after a sacrifice) to his father. Parīkṣit disappeared after that. (Chapter 35, Āśramavāsika Parva).

(iii) The synonyms of Parīkṣit are (1) Abhimanyusuta (2) Bhārataśreṣṭha (3) Kirīṭitanayātmaja (4) Kuruśreṣṭha (5) Kurunandana (6) Kururāja (7) Kuruvardhana (8) Pāṇḍaveya.

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