(Astika Parva continued)
"Saunaka asked, 'What great Rishis became the Ritwiks at the snake-sacrifice of the wise king Janamejaya of the Pandava line? Who also became the Sadasyas in that terrible snake-sacrifice, so frightful to the snakes, and begetting such sorrow in them? It behoveth thee to describe all these in detail, so that, O son of Suta, we may know who were acquainted with the rituals of the snake-sacrifice.'
"Sauti replied, 'I will recite the names of those wise ones who became the monarch's Ritwiks and Sadasyas. The Brahmana Chandabhargava became the Hotri in that sacrifice. He was of great reputation, and was born in the race of Chyavana and was the foremost of those acquainted with the Vedas. The learned old Brahmana, Kautsa, became the Udgatri, the chanter of the Vedic hymns. Jaimini became the Brahmana, and Sarngarva and Pingala the Adhvaryus, Vyasa with his son and disciples, and Uddalaka, Pramataka, Swetaketu, Pingala, Asita, Devala, Narada, Parvata, Atreya, Kundajathara, the Brahmana Kalaghata, Vatsya, old Srutasravas ever engaged in japa and the study of the Vedas. Kohala Devasarman, Maudgalya, Samasaurava, and many other Brahmanas who had got through the Vedas became the Sadasyas at that sacrifice of the son of Parikshit.
"When the Ritwiks in that snake-sacrifice began to pour clarified butter into the fire, terrible snakes, striking fear into every creature, began to fall into it. And the fat and the marrow of the snakes thus falling into the fire began to flow in rivers. And the atmosphere was filled with an insufferable stench owing to the incessant burning of the snakes. And incessant also were the cries of the snakes fallen into the fire and those in the air about to fall into it.
'Meanwhile, Takshaka, that prince of snakes, as soon as he heard that king Janamejaya was engaged in the sacrifice, went to the palace of Purandara (Indra). And that best of snakes, having represented all that had taken place, sought in terror the protection of Indra after having acknowledged his fault. And Indra, gratified, told him, 'O prince of snakes, O Takshaka, here thou hast no fear from that snake-sacrifice. The Grandsire was pacified by me for thy sake. Therefore, thou hast no fear. Let this fear of thy heart be allayed.'
Sauti continued, 'Thus encouraged by him, that best of snakes began to dwell in Indra's abode in joy and happiness. But Vasuki, seeing that the snakes were incessantly falling into the fire and that his family was reduced to only a few, became exceedingly sorry. And the king of the snakes was afflicted with great grief, and his heart was about to break. And summoning his sister, he spake unto her, saying, 'O amiable one, my limbs are burning and I no longer see the points of the heavens. I am about to fall down from loss of consciousness. My mind is turning, my sight is falling and my heart is breaking. Benumbed, I may fall today into that blazing fire! This sacrifice of the son of Parikshit is for the extermination of our race. It is evident I also shall have to go to the abode of the king of the dead. The time is come, O my sister, on account of which thou wert bestowed by me on Jaratkaru to protect us with our relatives. O best of the women of the snake race, Astika will put an end to the sacrifice that is going on. The Grandsire told me this of old. Therefore, O child, solicit thy dear son who is fully conversant with the Vedas and regarded even by the old, for the protection of myself and also of those dependent on me."'