(Astika Parva continued)
"Sauti said, 'Being thus addressed, and hearing that his sire was bearing a dead snake, the powerful Sringin burned with wrath. And looking at Krisa, and speaking softly, he asked him, 'Pray, why doth my father bear today a dead snake?' And Krisa replied, 'Even as king Parikshit was roving, for purpose of hunting, O dear one, he placed the dead snake on the
shoulder of thy sire.'
"And Sringin asked, 'What wrong was done to that wicked monarch by my father? O Krisa, tell me this, and witness the power of my asceticism.'
"And Krisa answered, 'King Parikshit, the son of Abhimanyu, while hunting, had wounded a fleet stag with an arrow and chased it alone. And the king lost sight of the animal in that extensive wilderness. Seeing then thy sire, he immediately accosted him. Thy sire was then observing the vow of silence. Oppressed by hunger, thirst and labour, the prince again and again asked thy sire sitting motionless, about the missing deer. The sage, being under the vow of silence, returned no reply. The king thereupon placed the snake on thy sire's shoulder with the end of his bow. O Sringin, thy sire engaged in devotion is in the same posture still. And the king also hath gone to his capital which is named after the elephant!'
"Sauti continued, 'Having heard of a dead snake placed upon his (father's) shoulders, the son of the Rishi, his eyes reddened with anger, blazed up with rage. And possessed by anger, the puissant Rishi then cursed the king, touching water and overcome with wrath.'
"And Sringin said, 'That sinful wretch of a monarch who hath placed a dead snake on the shoulders of my lean and old parent, that insulter of Brahmanas and tarnisher of the fame of the Kurus, shall be taken within seven nights hence to the regions of Yama (Death) by the snake Takshaka, the powerful king of serpents, stimulated thereto by the strength of my words!'
"Sauti continued, 'And having thus cursed (the king) from anger, Sringin went to his father, and saw the sage sitting in the cow-pen, bearing the dead snake. And seeing his parent in that plight, he was again inflamed with ire. And he shed tears of grief, and addressed his sire, saying, 'Father, having been informed of this thy disgrace at the hands of that wicked wretch, king Parikshit, I have from anger even cursed him; and that worst of Kurus hath richly deserved my potent curse. Seven days hence, Takshaka, the lord of snakes, shall take the sinful king to the horrible abode of Death.' And the father said to the enraged son, 'Child, I am not pleased with thee. Ascetics should not act thus. We live in the domains of that great king. We are protected by him righteously. In all he does, the reigning king should by the like of us forgiven. If thou destroy Dharma, verily Dharma will destroy thee. If the king do not properly protect us, we fare very ill; we cannot perform our religious rites according to our desire. But protected by righteous sovereigns, we attain immense merit, and they are entitled to a share thereof. Therefore, reigning royalty is by all means to be forgiven. And Parikshit like unto his great-grandsire, protecteth us as a king should protect his subjects. That penance-practising monarch was fatigued and oppressed with hunger. Ignorant of my vow (of silence) he did this. A kingless country always suffereth from evils. The king punisheth offenders, and fear of punishments conducteth to peace; and people do their
duties and perform their rites undisturbed. The king establisheth religion--establisheth the kingdom of heaven. The king protecteth sacrifices from disturbance, and sacrifices to please the gods. The gods cause rain, and rain produceth grains and herbs, which are always useful to man. Manu sayeth, a ruler of the destinies of men is equal (in dignity) to ten Veda-studying priests. Fatigued and oppressed with hunger, that penance-practising prince hath done this through ignorance of my vow. Why then hast thou rashly done this unrighteous action through childishness? O son, in no way doth the king deserve a curse from us.'"