We are now jumping to the end of the Mahabharata story for a reason. We shall learn the context in which the two epics, Srimad Bhagavatham and Mahabharatam, were first narrated. This has some relevance to a query by Jayanthan on the time period of the great epics.
The war had ended. Only one prince, born to the son of Arjuna, survived; that too by a miracle. He had also inherited the throne of the Kurus . He was a gifted warrior like his father and grand father, especially, in archery.
Once he went hunting in a nearby forest. His unfailing arrow hit a deer, but, the animal disappeared out of his sight. He went after it, being sure that his arrow would have found the mark. Deep inside the forest, he saw a sage in deep meditation. The name of the sage was Sameeka. Parikshit was in an excited state and was thinking only of his quarry. He asked the sage whether he found the animal.
Sameeka was unmindful of what was happening around him. He said nothing in reply to the king’s query. That made Parikshit very angry. He found a dead snake nearby, picked it up with his bow and threw it on the sage so that it fell as a garland around his neck. With that the king returned to the palace. Sameeka did not even notice that.
The sage had a son by name Sringi who had achieved great powers from years of meditation. He was , at the same time, very short tempered. Some one reported the insult done to his father to Sringi and started making fun of him. Why should he be so boastful of his achievements when his father wore a dead snake around his neck ? That made Sringi lose his temper altogether. He came to know that it was King Parikshit who humiliated his father. So, he put a curse on the king that he would die of bite by the great snake, Takshaka, within seven days !
He, then, went to his father and reported the matter to him. Sage Sameeka was extremely sorry for the king and for his son who metered out such a harsh punishment for what was a small offence. He asked his son at least to inform the king of the danger so that the king could take whatever precaution possible to prevent the calamity.
Sringi, accordingly, went to king Parikshit and told him what happened. The king was extremely sorry for his mistake and was worried about the impending danger. He consulted his ministers on what best could be done. They decided to make a special place for the king to live in for the next seven days. The house would stand on one single pillar. There would be strict watch all around and none would be allowed in without being thoroughly checked. It was, as though, even the air that entered the palace was scrutinized in advance !
It is said that sage Suka, the son of Vedavyasa, narrated the story of Srimad Bhagavatham, as was told to him by his father, to king Parikshit during those seven days.
Now, the curse was like an order for Takshaka from the sage. He had to accomplish the task at any cost. Else, he feared that the angry sage would curse him. So he started on his errand in the company of some of his trusted serpent friends of divine power. On his way he came across a Brahmin by name Kasyapa travelling in the same direction. When asked, the Brahmin said that he was going to King Parikshit . His mission was to save the king from the snake bite with his power of Mantra.
Takshaka was intrigued. Did the Brahmins have so much power that he could nullify the effect of his poison, one of the most deadly on earth or heaven ? He wanted to test the Brahmin.
Accordingly, the great serpent struck a huge tree that was on the way with his fangs. The tree which had thick branches and rich foliage immediately dried up and started going up in flames with the effect of his poison. Then, Takshaka asked Kasyapa to try his luck .
Kasyapa was nonplussed. He took some water, chanted Mantras and sprinkled the water on what was a tree a few seconds back. To the surprise and great disappointment of Takshaka the tree started sprouting and grew to its old splendour in no time . Takshaka now knew that his power was nothing compared to that of the Brahmin. His only hope was to turn the Brahmin away from his errand. So, he offered the Brahimn enough gifts more than he hoped to get from the king . He also managed to convince Kasyapa that the fate of the king was already sealed the moment the great Sringi pronounced the curse. Thus, Takshaka managed to send the Brahmin back. Then, the great serpent continued on his mission.
Let us now shift the focus to the king . He already spent six days in his secure palace. It was almost dusk on the seventh day. The king heaved a sigh of relief and felt relaxed. It was at that time some sages brought in a tray of fruits. Parikshit picked up one and found that there was a small black worm peeping its head out of it. So, the king announced jokingly : “The time stipulated by the sage is over. It looks that I am safe. So, let the sage have his consolation and let this worm bite me, instead.”
So saying the king placed the fruit with the protruding worm near his neck. The very next moment the worm grew in size and took the shape of Takshaka. He struck at the king ferociously. The king turned blue by the venom of the snake and fell down dead instantaneously.That was how the lone survivor of the Mahabharata war met with his untimely death. We shall learn next the revenge of his son, Janamejaya, on serpents.