Sarpa Raksha mantra and sandhya vandanam

Posted on May 31, 2011

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Janamejaya's snake sacrifice. Astika (the boy in red) is seen asking for cessation of activities.

Astika, the brahmana boy of tender years, persuaded King Janamejaya to end his snake sacrifice. The King had earlier initiated the sacrifice to avenge the death of his father Parikshit by Takshaka, the poisonous snake.

After crores of snakes perished in the fire, the young lad intervened on behalf of the snakes, and convinced the king to cease the yagna. The delighted snakes offered Astika a boon in return for saving their lives. Astika said, “Let the brahmanas, who recite my account in the morning and evening, have nothing to fear from you”.

The snakes acceded to his request and said, “He who recites the following need not have any fear from us:

I call to mind the famous Astika born of Jaratkaru, that Astika who saved the snakes from the snake-sacrifice. Therefore it behoves you not to bite me. O snakes of virulent poison, remember the words of Astika after the snake sacrifice of Janamejaya. You shall be blessed‘.

That snake who does not cease from biting even after hearing such mention of Astika, shall have his hood divided a hundredfold like the fruit of Sinsa tree”.

(Source: Adi Parva, Chapter 58)

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The above narration is corroborated by the sarpa raksha mantra that is recited everyday during Sandhyavandhanam. Ignoring minor variations, the mantra goes as follows:

नर्मदायै नमः प्रातः नर्मदायै नमो निशि
नमोऽस्तु नर्मदे तुभ्यं त्राहि मां विषसर्पदः

सर्पापसर्प भद्रं त गच्छ सर्प महाविष।
जनमेजयस्य यज्ञान्ते आस्तीकवचं स्मर।।

जरत्कार्वोर्जरत्कर्वां समुत्पन्न महायशाः
अस्तीक सत्यसन्धो मां पन्नगेभ्यो अभिरक्षतु

MEANING

O Narmada, I offer you salutations in the morning & night (during sandhya vandana); Protect me from poisonous snakes
नर्मदायै = To Goddess (river) Narmada;नमः = my salutations; प्रातः = in the morning; निशि = during the night; नमोऽस्तु = I bow and give you my salutations; नर्मदे = Oh! Narmada; तुभ्यं = to you; त्राहि = Protect; मां = me; विषसर्पदः = from the poisonous snakes;

O virulent snake, recollecting the words of Astika at the end of King Janamejaya’s sacrifice, may you go away.
सर्पापसर्प – O snake (sarpa & asarpa), भद्रं त गच्छ – may you go away , सर्प महाविष – snake endowed with virulent poison जनमेजयस्य – Janamejaya, यज्ञान्ते – at the end of sacrifice, आस्तीकवचं – the words of Astika, स्मर – remind

Astika, born of muni Jaratkaru and his wife of the same name, was a great soul. He, the protector of the truth, will protect me from the serpents.
जरत्कार्वोर्जरत्कर्वां = Jaratkaru muni, and his wife who also has the name of Jaratkaru; समुत्पन्न = born महायशाः = of great renown; अस्तीक = Sage Astika; सत्यसन्धो = One bound to speak or defend the truth; मां = me; पन्नगेभ्यो = to or from serpents or snakes; अभिरक्षतु = Let one protect me.

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