Thursday, 14 July 2011

Jaratkaru & Jaratkaru

Brahma, the Creator, had ordained that Astika, the saviour of the snakes, was to be born in the Yayavar race of Brahmins to a powerful sage named Jaratkaru. When Vasuki, one of the elder snakes, learnt of this he began to keep a close watch on Jaratkaru.

"Jara" means waste and "Karu" means huge. Jaratkaru earlier had a huge body, which to him was totally useless and hence the name. He had reduced his body to normal size by controlled living. Jaratkaru had gained complete control over his senses and needs. He lived on air alone and had renounced sleep. He spent his time visiting places of pilgrimage and practicing religious austerities. On one of his journeys he saw his ancestors hanging head down and feet up. He asked them what they were doing in this unusual pose. The ancestors replied that they were preparing to go to Hell because their lineage was about to be extinguished and there would be no one to offer prayers for their souls. They added that they had an ungrateful descendant named Jaratkaru, who was so engrossed in accumulating merits for himself that he had ignored the needs of his ancestors. They then asked the sage to give his introduction.

Jaratkaru introduced himself and begged forgiveness from his ancestors. His ancestors explained to him that earning merits was not the sole objective in life. Everyone is obliged to try and propagate his family. The two do not clash and can be done simultaneously. Jaratkaru then agreed to take a wife, not for his pleasure but to do the bidding of his ancestors. But he put some conditions. The woman must also have the name Jaratkaru, her family must give her to him without his asking and her family must pay for her maintenance because he lived on alms alone and could not maintain a wife. "If this happens I will have a son so that your souls can have continued redemption," he told his ancestors.

Vasuki, who was listening to this conversation, was both overjoyed and saddened. His sister bore the name Jaratkaru, but he doubted that a Brahmin would ever marry a snake-girl. He decided to wait a while before making his offer. When he realised that no one would offer his daughter to an ascetic like Jaratkaru he approached the sage and humbly offered his sister in marriage. The sage saw the beautiful damsel and expressed surprise that such a lovely maiden was from the clan of snakes. Vasuki explained that she was born huge like all snakes but always wanted to marry a human. Her huge body was a detriment to her objective. Hence through extreme effort she had acquired such an attractive body. The sage was satisfied that the maiden's name was Jaratkaru and when Vasuki agreed to pay for her maintenance he accepted her as his wife. The marriage took place in the ritual manner. Vasuki then heaved a sigh of relief. The offspring from this marriage would do all in his power to prevent his mother's race from being annihilated.

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