You can read the previous post in this series here: Part 3
The Curse of Misfortune
One day, Parikshit’s son, King Janamejaya, and three of his brothers¹ were attending an event. At that time, the King’s brothers troubled an Apsara’s² son. That kid went crying to his mother.
“Why are you crying?”
“King Janamejaya’s brothers attacked me.”
“For any fault of yours?”
“I didn’t do or say anything!”
Upset at the King and his brothers, she confronted them. She inquired, “My son hasn’t committed any fault. Why did you hurt him?”
The King and his brothers remained silent. That increased her grief, and she bellowed, “King Janamejaya, for your non-action, I’m cursing you. Misfortune will come upon you when you least expect it.”
The Instigation of Utanka
Sauti continued his narration:
There once lived a learned master³ who had a disciple named Utanka. One day, King Janamejaya and King Paushya⁴ visited that master. They invited him to become their spiritual guide.
The master decided to honor their request. Leaving Utanka in-charge of his household, he went to visit the kings.
When the master returned, he was mighty pleased with his disciple. Utanka had taken great care of his master’s home and family. Showering blessings on him, the master indicated the completion of Utanka’s tutelage.
“As a token of gratitude, I wish to offer you something, master. What do you want?” Utanka asked.
The master declined the offer, but Utanka wouldn’t let it go. Finally, the master gave in and said, “Since you’re pressing me, please check if my wife needs something.”
Utanka went to his master’s wife and said, “Respected one, my master has permitted me to leave. I wish to offer my token of gratitude to you both. Is there something you want?”
“I desire a pair of earrings worn by the queen! Please request King Paushya for the same. Four days from now, I’m expecting some visitors. I wish to wear those jewels when my guests are here.”
Setting out on his mission, Utanka arrived at King Paushya’s royal court⁵. There he spoke to the monarch, “King, I’m here to plead you for a pair of earrings worn by the queen. My master’s wife yearns for them.”
“Utanka, please go to the queen’s apartment and make your request to her.”
When Utanka met the queen, she gave away her prized earrings without any hesitation. While handing it over to him, she said, “These are precious. The King of serpents, Takshaka, has shown interest in them. Please take care.”
After thanking the queen for her kindness, Utanka embarked on his return journey. On the way, a beggar approached him. Utilizing a moment of Utanka’s distraction, the beggar grabbed those earrings. The beggar, who was Takshaka in disguise, assumed his real form. He began running.
Utanka followed Takshaka to his dwelling but couldn’t retrieve the lost property. Agitated, Utanka chanted some hymns to invite Lord Indra. To Takshaka’s shock, Indra arrived to help. Fearing for his life, Takshaka returned the earrings⁶.
Having obtained those cherished earrings, Utanka hurried to his master’s wife. He reached there just in time for the guests to arrive. The delay had made his master’s wife upset, but she was thrilled to receive the queen’s jewels!
Bidding goodbye to his master, Utanka decided to teach Takshaka a lesson. So, he went straight to King Janamejaya’s court in the city of Hastinapura.
Addressing the King, he said, “Why are you wasting your time? Especially when you’ve got an urgent matter to resolve!”
A perplexed Janamejaya replied, “I’m performing all my duties as a king. What brings you here?”
“Takshaka bit venom into your god-like father, Parikshith. He even stopped a sage from offering medicinal help. That wicked Takshaka killed your father, and you still haven’t punished him!”
Utanka’s words caused great grief to Janamejaya. He had been a child when his father died. And, none had spoken to him about it. In a state of shock, he urged his ministers for more details. When they confirmed Utanka’s narrative, Janamejaya became vindictive towards Takshaka.
To simplify the text, I’ve skipped this entire subdivision called Pauloma Parva. It massively deviates from the main narrative.
As seen at this epic’s start, Sauti is narrating at Sage Saunaka’s event. Sage Saunaka is the descendant of the famous Sage Bhrigu. So, Sauti speaks about Bhrigu and his lineage.
This section covers the story of Bhrigu’s wife, Pauloma. She was kidnapped and recovered. This Parva also recounts the tale of Ruru, a descendant of Bhrigu. Finally, the narrative shifts back to King Janamejaya’s anger against Takshaka.
- Janamejaya’s brothers: They were named Srutasena, Ugrasena, and Bhimasena.
- Apsara: The dancing girls and courtesans in Lord Indra’s court. The Apsara who appears in this story is called Sarama.
- Utanka’s master: Utanka’s teacher was Veda. In turn, Veda’s teacher was the sage Ayoda-Dhaumaya. That sage had a total of three students named Aruni of Panchala (known as Uddalaka), Upamanyu, and Veda. The scripture narrates the story of all three of these students. Out of this, just Veda’s story is relevant to the main narrative. So, I’ve skipped the other two tales to avoid confusion.
- King Paushya: While this king’s particulars are unclear, some scholars think that he was Janamejaya’s cousin. This subdivision of the epic is named Paushya Parva after him.
- Author’s Note: In this section, the scripture narrates a tale of King Paushya and Utanka getting into an argument. Since it disrupts the main narrative, I’ve skipped it.
- Utanka’s ordeals: In the scriptural texts, there are multiple accounts of Utanka’s trials to procure the queen’s earrings. Even within the epic, there’s another version later on. Also, some parts of this story aren’t as pertinent to modern society. So, I’ve simplified it accordingly.
You can read the next part in this series here: Part 5