The Curse of Kadru
BY: SUN STAFF
Feb 11, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — Kadru, the daughter of Daksha and the wife of Kashyapa, is described in the Vedas as being the ancestral mother of the Nagas (snakes). In the Varaha Purana, the sage Mahatapa explains that the line of the Nagas originated with Kadru, with along with Kashyapa had numerous progeny, most notably Vasuki, Anant, Kambal, Karkotak, Padma, Mahapadma, Shankh, and Kulik, among others. When the Nagas began tormenting the human beings, Lord Brahma cursed them with annihilation during the Swayambhuva manvantar, due to the curse of their own mother, Kadru.
The serpents became terrified and promised to remediate their offensive activities. Begging Lord Brahma to give them a place to live in, he instructed them to go to three different netherworlds: Sutal, Vital and Patal. He also warned them that during Vaivaswat manvantar, Janamejaya would perform a grand yagya with the objective of destroying all of the demoniac among them, with only the virtuous Nagas surviving. The yajya of Janmejay took place on Panchami, which became known as the destroyer of all sins. Devotee who worship the Nagas offer them milk on this day.
Kashyap Rishi’s Queens, Kadru and Vanita
Vasuki Naga Temple, Kashmir
Kadru once made a wager with her sister Vinata, the stakes being that the loser would be enslaved to the winner. Eager to secure victory, Kadru attempted to fix the bet by requesting the cooperation of her Naga offspring. When her children balked at the request, Kadru grew angry and fulfilling the curse of Lord Brahma, she cursed her progeny to die a fiery death in the snake-sacrifice of King Janamejaya.
King Janamejaya was the son of Pariksit, who was Abhimanyu’s son. Abhimanyu was the son of Arjuna and Subhadra, and Sri Krishna’s nephew. Since Arjuna was Yudhisthira’s brother, Janamejaya was also the great-grandson of Yudhisthira.
Being aware of the curse made against them by mother Kadru, Vasuki, the king of the snakes, understood that his brethren would need protection. He therefore approached the renowned ascetic Jaratkaru with a proposal of marriage to the snake-goddess, Manasa, Vasuki’s own sister. Out of this union of Jaratkaru and Manasa was born Astika, known as “a son of the splendor of a celestial child,” and it was he who became the savior of the Nagas.
In the Twelfth Chapter, Second Skandha of the Srimad Devi Bhagavatam is described the pastime of the birth of Astika, protector of the Nagas. The Devi Bhagavatam is one of the Upapuranas, being comprised of 18,000 verses from Veda Vyasa glorifying the Devi (goddess).
In accordance with Kadru’s curse, Janamejaya prepared a snake sacrifice, which is described in the Puranas. He erected a sacrificial platform and hired brahmans and others trained to conduct the yajnic rites. Following the proper form, the priests lit the sacrificial fire, duly fed it with clarified butter. Uttering the required mantras, they began calling the names of Nagas. The potency of the rite was such that the Nagas were summoned by name into the fire, in which they were mortally consumed.
As the sacrifice continued and countless Nagas lost their lives to the fire, Astika came to the rescue less the entire race be lost. He approached Janamejaya and praised the sacrifice in such eloquent terms that the King offered to grant him a boon of his choosing. Astika promptly requested that the sacrifice be terminated. Though initially regretful of his offer, Janamejaya was true to his word, and thus brought the sacrifice of the Nagas to an end.
The Revenge of Janamejaya on the Nagas
The Mahabharata further describes the reasons for King Janamejaya’s inclination to take revenge on the Nagas. Janamejaya ascended to the throne of Hastinapura upon the death of his father, King Pariksit, the lone descendant of the House of Pandu. King Pariksit had died of snakebite due to a curse by a sage, which was consummated by the Naga leader, Takshak. Consequently, Janamejaya held a deep grudge against the serpents for this act, and was intent on wiping them out altogether.
Just as Janamejaya was about to begin the Sarpa satra sacrifice, Vyasa arrived with a host of other rishis. The sages told Janamejaya that to avenge himself on all Nagas, for the action of one, who was after all consummating a curse, would be unrighteous and an act not worthy of one descended from the Pandavas themselves. To satisfy Janamejaya’s wish to know more about the pastimes of his forefathers, Vyasa’s disciple Vaishampayana narrated the Mahabharata, right at the spot where the homa was to be held.
The fire yajna was started on the banks of the River Arind at Bardan, now known as Parham (a corrupted form of ‘Parikshitgarh’). A masonry tank said to have been built by King Janamejaya to mark the site of the sacrificial pit, known as Pariksit Kund, still exists there in Mainpuri district. Close to the village are the ruins of a fort and other artifacts which date back to the time of Emperor Pariksit.
and Nagarajas, Naginis in Hindu and non-Hindu mythologies in a more concise focus (for people who have more time)
I set up a new website at http://www.manasadevi.net/and I am happy to announce this.
On February 21, 2013, my necklace of Lord Ganesh miraculously fell on the ground when I was leaving my director at my workplace here. I took it up from the ground and, to my amazement, the silver chain was not broken, neither was it released. I put the intact chainover my head back as if nothing happened. The picture of the chain shows the image on the right. It is not possible that, as you see on the picture, such a chain would suddenly fall down on the ground without being broken or without its fixing mechanism being released. And finding a half-meter white snake (White Cobra?) trail at my home on the carpet in 2011 is a definite clue for me that I should continue with my devotion to Manasa and the Nagas, although I do not belong to the mainstream. Some of my paranormal experiences are described here – the above paranormal experience with Lord Ganesh happened on Jaya Ekadashi. The importance of Jaya Ekadashi was narrated to Yudhishtira by Lord Krishna and is found in the Padma Purana and the Bhavisyothara Purana. On this day, both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva are worshipped.
Of the celestial Naga snakes I am Ananta.
The word “nag” (or nagaa) is used even today in most Indian languages (it means the cobra).
Manasa Devi is worshipped with the following mantra:
O DeviAmba Ma Hona ShashaDharVandana CharuKanti Badanya
Om Hreem Shreem Kleem Aim Manasa Devyai Swaha
The Rig Veda Brahmana mentions “Serpent Queen” – The serpent queen is this (earth), for this (earth) is the queen of what creeps…The above text is available at the following link.
Although it is not clear whether Rig Veda speaks directly of Manasa or not, one thing is sure – the snake cult is one of the oldest in the world.
Naga is the Sanskrit word for a deity or a class of mythological beings found in Hinduism and Buddhism. They dwell in underground premises of our Earth. There are legends about Nagas in the folklore of present tribal Hindus of Southern India (Adivasis) and the aboriginals of Australia. In these legends, the Nagas inhabited a big continent that existed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. It sank and the remnants of it formed the Indonesian archipelago and Australia. These Nagas are said to have developed a subterranean civilization technologically much more advanced than ours and they are thought to possess superhuman powers. In a Cambodian legend, the Nagas were a reptilian race of beings who possessed a large empire or kingdom in the Pacific Ocean region. The seven-headed Naga serpents depicted as statues on Cambodian temples such as Angkor Wat possibly represent the seven races within the Naga society.
I made a new version of FreeBSD distribution – MaheshaBSD-2.0. Manasa Devi, snake Goddess, is its logo.
Lord Shiva and Snakes share a curious connection with each other. In almost all depiction of Lord Shiva and his accompaniments, there is always a serpent seen wound around his neck. Along with his Trishul and Dumru, the serpent is a constant companion of Lord Shiva. This serpent is supposed to be the King of Serpents- Vasuki. So is the serpent only a symbol of the Lord having consumed the Halahal poison to save the world? Or is there more to it than that?
As we know that religions evolve over time and are built around the realities experienced by the communities it serve. In other words, sociologically speaking, religions are a direct product produced by a community for their own consumption, constitutive and representative of the collective subconscious. Lord Shiva and Serpents come together in one iconography signifying the syncretism of Shaivism and local folk deities. The Puranic stories have integrated the races of Gods, Danavs, Manavs, Gandharvas and Nagas. Different stories exist that talk of the ways in which each of these communities came to be. In the case of the Nagas, one of the stories say that they are said to be descendants of Rishi Kashayapa and Kadru. The folk culture of worshipping the serpents were slowly but steadily, absorbed by the Brahmanical mainstream.
The Padma Puran traces the connection between the folk and the mainstream by a story of Shiva and the Serpents. It is said that once Shiva was out on one of his ascetic tours outside Kailash and found himself in a forest of Lotuses. In that forest he was overtaken by a sudden lust and his semen found their way onto some of the forest. A Serpent Queen was in the spot and she fell pregnant with a child. The Queen was the mother of the Serpent King Vasuki. When the child was born to the Queen Mother, the child was adopted by Vasuki as his own sister. She was named Manasha and came to share dominion over the snake races with her brother. It was however Manasha’s ardent desire to worshipped as a Goddess. Given her semi-divine origins however, she found it difficult to find followers and worshippers. One day when Lord Shiva consumed the deadly poison Halahal to save the world from its wrath, Manasha attended on him and healed him back to health. This deed got her recognition and the title of being Vishahara (remover of poisons). Shiva found himself attracted to his saviour but Manasha managed to assert the fact that she was in fact Lord Shiva’s daughter.
Upon learning this, Lord Shiva took Manasha to Kailash. His wife Partvati assumed Manasha was a consort of Lord Shiva and decided to be highly cruel to her. During one of their spats, it is said Parvati had taken her fierce Chandi form and blinded one of Manasha’s eyes. Furious, Manasha aimed her toxic gaze upon Chandi and rendered her unconscious. Lord Shiva was deeply pained by this constant strife in Kailash and decided one day to take Manasha back to the forest. He left her under a tree and was grief-stricken at having to act thus. He used his tears to create a companion for Manasha who was named “Neto” or “Neta”.
With Neto by her side Manasha embarked upon her journey to get worshippers. To her followers she was known to be extremely kind but those that did not accept her divinity, she was wrathful. In one specific example, there was a merchant named “Chand Saudagar” who was a devout follower of Shiva and Durga. He refused to follow or worship the cult of Manasha. The more he resisted, the more adamant Manasa became to have him as a devotee. She sank his trading ships at sea with tidal storms. He would have managed to escape it due to the intervention of Durga, but on Shiva’s insistence she stood back and Manasha got her way. Chand Saudagar was washed to shore however and found a on old friend named Chandraketu, who tried to convince Saudagar to worship Manasha to no avail.
Having lost all his fortune and despite being faced with such adversity, Saudagar still refused to worship Manasha. At which point the Goddess solicited the help of two Apsaras, who agreed to be born as children to Saudagar and his business associate Saha. Saudagar’s little daughter was called Behula and Saha’s son was known as Lakshminder. In due course of time the two fell in love and got married even though Lakshminder was fated to die of snakebite on his wedding night. Saudagar tried to make their bedchambers impervious to snakes but Manasha managed to get one of her serpents to enter, that struck down Lakshminder. Behula prayed desperately to Manasha even as the dead body decomposed on the raft generally floated for all victims of snake bite, with the hope of magical recovery. When the raft reached the village where Neta lived, she took pity on Behula and took her to Manasha. The Goddess promised a new life to Lakshminder if Behula could manage to get Saudagar to worship her. Behula agreed and Lakshminder breathed again. Delirious with joy, Behula narrated the whole episode to her father. Convinced of Manasha’s divinity Saudagar finally agreed to worship Goddess Manasha.
Manasha’s struggle to attain divinity makes her appear as a ruthless Goddess, with her mind bent only on self aggrandisement. One must remember however that the position of worship granted to Manasha who was clearly a folk Goddess into the Hindu pantheon, would not have been an easy one. The fact that the Brahmin classes finally agreed on such a sensitive topic show us the influence the folk culture has on mainstream culture. People of Bengal, who lived close to the river Ganges and in the semi-tropical rain-forested area would regularly come across snakes – a species that is vital to the sustenance of the ecosystem. To get them to worship Lord Shiva, was a tough challenge but perhaps the brilliance of the Machiavellian leaders of the time must be acknowledged in their ability to share religious power. This is a classic example of how the metropolitan centres of power managed to co-opt a regional power to establish hegemonic control.
The end result may be one where Manasha emerges as a slightly maligned Goddess but the acceptance of popular beliefs have led people to be tolerant and eco-friendly, bringing more and more people within the fold of spiritually harmonious existence. That is precisely where the connection between Lord Shiva and Serpents gain credence and relevance even in a contemporary globalised world, peopled by multicultural communities.
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