Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Takshaka - The King of Serpents


According to the Mahabharata, Takshaka is the king of serpents. Other accounts give the name of this being as Vasuki, but these two serpents are believed to be different snakes.

[This story is from [Maha:1.43]] Takshaka believed that his venom was so potent, that there was no antidote or counter-spell that could save a man bitten by him. Once, the king Parikshit had been cursed to be bitten by a snake. To fulfill the curse, Takshaka took the form of a merchant and was traveling to Parikshit's kingdom. On the way he met Kashyapa(Note: there is some doubt as to whether he is "the" Kashyapa, or some other Brahmana of the same name), who claimed that he knew a spell that could save someone from death by a snake's poison, regardless of the potency of the venom. The Brahmana was traveling to meet Parikshit as well, hoping to earn wealth by saving the king's life. Takshaka challenged him to prove his assertion, and assumed his true form. The Brahmana accepted his challenge. Thereupon, Takshaka sunk his fangs into a nearby banyan tree. The tree was reduced to a charred stump within seconds.

Now it was the turn of the Brahmana to display his prowess. He chanted a Mantra to rid the tree of the venom. Lo and behold, within a minute, new branches and leaves started sprouting from the stump of the tree. Soon it was back to its original, thriving state. Humbled, Takshaka managed to persuade the Brahma to accept a large gift of wealth and return to his village, leaving Takshaka to kill Parikshit.

To escape from the curse, king Parikshit had constructed an impregnable palace, raised high in the sky, supported by a single pillar. There was a deep moat surrounding this pillar, which was guarded by many anti-serpent charms. The wily Takshaka assumed the form of a tiny worm, and burrowed into a fruit, which was being taken to the palace by a group of sages. When the king took the fruit offered by the sages, Takshaka assumed his original form and killed the king by his bite.

Later, the Janamejaya, the son of Parikshit embarked on a great Yagna, with the object of avenging the murder of his father. Special incantations were to be chanted, which would lure all the snakes to death by luring them into the sacrificial fire. The sacrifice was begun, snakes were dying in thousands, by flinging themselves into the sacrificial fire, pulled by the power of the Mantras. Still, Takshaka was not among them, for he was a friend of Indra, who was protecting him from the Mantras by binding himself to Takshaka. When the king saw that Takshaka was not among the dead snakes, he asked the reason for this occurance from his priests. They replied "O King, The might Indra, who is a great friend of the king of serpents, is protecting him with his own person. That is the reason that our Mantras are being rendered impotent in Takshaka's case".

The king then asked his chief priest to ensure Takshaka's death, whereupon that great scholar then invoked a powerful Mantra, concluding with "May Indra fall into this sacrificial fire, along with Takshaka". Impelled by the power of this incantation, Indra and Takshaka both started falling towards the fire from the heavens. Indra decided that his assistance to his friend had gone far enough, and let go of Takshaka. When Takshaka was about to fall into the fire, the great sage Vyasa appeared and counselled Parikshit to spare Takshaka's life, for the line of the Nagas should not become extinct. The king accepted this advice and stopped the sacrificial rights. In return, he was given a great portion of the wealth of Nagas.

Takshaka also appears in this story from the Mahabharata.

Last Modified At: Fri Nov 5 21:39:51 2004