The Revenge of Takshaka and Aswasena on Arjuna

Posted on June 22, 2010

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When Arjuna and Krishna assisted Agni in the burning the Khandava forest, the wife of Snake Takshaka perished in the fire.  Takshaka’s son Aswasena, however escaped. (ref: The burning of the Khandava forest).

After this incident, Aswasena moved to the nether world and lived there. During the Kurukshetra war, when Karna was battling Arjuna, Aswasena perceived an opportunity to exact revenge for his mother’s death. He emerged from the earth and entered Karna’s quiver in the form of an arrow. When Karna deployed this weapon, Krishna pressed down his feet causing the chariot to sink and the horses to bend their knees. As a result, the arrow hit Arjuna’s crown that was given unto him by Indra and shattered it to pieces.  (Source: Mbh 8.90)

Takshakeswar temple at Bhanpura, Mandsaur district, MP (Source: Wikipedia)

Takshaka flanked by his wife and son Aswasena at the temple (Source: Wikipedia)

While Aswasena failed in his effort, Takshaka’s attempt at revenge which came many years later turned out successful.  Sixty years after the Kurkshetra war, Takshaka took the form of a worm and bit Arjuna’s son Parikshit who was then ruling the Kingdom. The poison was so powerful that it engulfed Parikshit in flames (a poetic revenge, as it was fire that killed Takshaka’s wife).

There was only one person could administer a remedy for Takshaka’s bite. It was a brahmana by the name Kaashyapa (not to be confused with the well known Kashyapa rishi, who was Takshaka’s father). Takshaka, bent on terminating the life of Parikshit, had earlier bribed Kaashyapa with wealth and ensured that the brahmana was not in the vicinity when Parikshit was bitten.  (Source: Mbh 1.42-44)

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The saga however did not end here. Janamejaya, the son of Parikshit, coming to know of his father’s death at the hands of a snake, took a vow to destroy the entire race of snakes by offering them to fire (fire, once again). He initiated a snake-sacrifice (sarpa yagna) to achieve his purpose, which drove Takshaka to seek refuge from his friend Indra. But when the time came, even the King of Devas could not protect Takshaka as the power of the mantras forcefully drew the snake towards the sacrificial fire.  In the final moments, Takshaka was saved by a young boy by the name Astika, who interrupted the yagna and mediated a truce.

Source: Mbh. Astika Parva (within Adi Parva)

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