Parikshit

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Parikshit
King of Kuru Kingdom
Sage Sukdeva and King Parikshit.png
Sage Shuka and King Parikshit
PredecessorArjuna (Grandfather), Yudhishthira (Grand uncle)
SuccessorJanamejaya (son)
SpouseMadravti or Iravati
IssueJanamejaya
Bhimasena
Srutasena
Ugrasena
FatherAbhimanyu
MotherUttarā

Parikshit (Sanskrit: परीक्षित्, IAST: Parīkṣit[note 1]) was a Kuru king who reigned during the Middle Vedic period (12th-9th centuries BCE).[1] Along with his son and successor Janamejaya, he played a decisive role in the consolidation of the Kuru state, the arrangement of Vedic hymns into collections, and the development of the orthodox srauta ritual, transforming the Kuru realm into the dominant political and cultural center of northern Iron Age India.[2]

He also appears as a figure in later legends and traditions. According to the Mahabharata and the Puranas, he succeeded his grand uncle Yudhishthira to the throne of Hastinapur.[note 2]

Mentions[edit]

Parikesit in the Javanese wayang kulit shadow theatre

"Listen to the good praise of the King belonging to all people, who, (like) a god, is above men, (listen to the praise) of Parikṣit! - ‘Parikṣit has just now made us peaceful dwelling; darkness has just now run to its dwelling.’ The Kuru householder, preparing (grains) for milling, speaks (thus) with his wife. — ‘What shall I bring you, sour milk, the mantha [a barley/milk drink?' the wife keeps asking in the Realm of King Pariksit. — By itself, the ripe barley bends heavily (iva) over the deep track of the path. The dynasty thrives auspiciously in the Realm of King Parikṣit.”[7][8]

Parikshit is eulogised in a hymn of the Atharvaveda (XX.127.7-10) as a great Kuru king (Kauravya), whose realm flowed with milk and honey and people lived happily in his kingdom. He is mentioned as the raja vishvajanina (universal king).[9]

Few other details about his reign are recorded in Vedic literature. According to the Mahabharata, Parikshit married princess Madravati of the Madra Kingdom, reigned for 24 years, and died at the age of 60, but this is a much later text and cannot be confirmed as historical fact.[10]

Historicity[edit]

Kuru and other kingdoms of the Vedic period

Michael Witzel dates the Pārikṣita Dynasty of the Kuru Kingdom to the 12th-11th centuries BC.[11] H.C. Raychaudhuri dates Parikshit in ninth century BC.[12] He was succeeded by his son Janamejaya.[13]

Only one Parikshit is mentioned in Vedic literature; however, post-Vedic literature (Mahabharata and Puranas) seems to indicate the existence of two kings by this name, one who lived before the Kurukshetra War was an ancestor to the Pandavas, and one who lived later and was a descendant. Historian H. C. Raychaudhuri believes that the second Parikshit's description better corresponds to the Vedic king, whereas the information available about the first is scanty and inconsistent, but Raychaudhuri questions whether there were actually two distinct kings. He suggests that the doubling was eventually "invented by genealogists to account for anachronisms" in the later parts of the Mahabharata, as "a bardic duplication of the same original individual regarding whose exact place in the Kuru genealogy no unanimous tradition had survived," and therefore there "is an intrusion into the genealogical texts" of the late, post-Vedic tradition, which also has two of Parikshit's son Janamejaya.[14][note 3]

Family[edit]

King Parikshit hunting
Parikshit was crowned by Yudhisthira

There is no unanimity regarding the father of Parikshit among epics and Puranas. He is depicted as the son of Abhimanyu, but is more popular as Abhimanyu's posthumous son.[15][16]

According to the Shatapatha Brahmana (XIII.5.4), Parikshita had four sons, Janamejaya, Bhimasena, Ugrasena and Śrutasena. All of them performed the Asvamedha Yajna .[17]

His bodily existence ended due to the curse of a Brahmana, who used the Nāga king, Takshaka, the ruler of Taxila as the instrument of death.[18] Parikshit was the husband of Queen Madravati and was succeeded by his son Janamejaya.[19] According to the Mahabharata, he ruled for 24 years and died at the age of sixty.[20]

A thesis based upon Ugrasravas’ narration suggests an alternative interpretation regarding Parikshit’s lineage. In this interpretation, Parikshit fathered a firstborn son with an unnamed putrika wife. Albeit the child was Parikshit’s firstborn, he was the son of a putrika and therefore could not succeed his father on the throne as he was to be the heir of his maternal grandfather. This son’s name was Sringin; his maternal grandfather was Samika. As this would leave Parikshit without an heir, he had another son, Janamejaya, with a second wife, Madravati. Sringin and Samika are seen again in the hunting story that results in Parikshit’s demise.

Prophecy of Life[edit]

Sage Shukdeva narrating the story of Krishna to Parikshit.

The Bhagavata Purana (1.8.9) states that the son of Drona, Ashwatthama had prepared a Brahmastra (a powerful weapon summoned to Brahma) to kill the Pandavas heir(King Parikshit), while he was in his mother's (Uttarā) womb, as a revenge against the Pandavas for killing his relatives (especially his father and best friend Duryodhan) in the Kurukshetra war. Uttarā was terrified by the powerful rays of the weapon and worried about her child, then her mothers-in-law Draupadi and Subhadra prayed to Krishna for help to save their heir. Krishna pacified her and protected the child in the womb from the deadly weapon and thus saved his life. Parikshit was thus born to Uttara. He was named Vişņurāta, because Lord Visnu had given him to the Pandavas when their race was about to be extinct. Later he was throned as the heir to the Pandavas at Hastinapura.[21]

After he was installed on the throne of Hastinapur, he performed three horse sacrifices. While performing the sacrifices he traveled throughout the country. Once he saw a low caste man beating a one-legged bull with a rod, and kicking a cow. He became angry at this sight and arrested the man. Parikshit was about to kill him when the man revealed his true identity as Kali. Kali begged pardon from Parikshit, so the king forgave him and ordered him to leave his kingdom. Kali obeyed his order and left Parikshit's kingdom. Satisfied the cow revealed herself as the mother earth who was grief-stricken for Krishna had returned to his abode(Vaikuntha) leaving earth. The bull was Dharma whose other three legs were mutilated and he now only stood one leg in the Kali Yuga. [22]

Death[edit]

Death of Parikshit and Kashyapa alive burnt tree from Razmnama.

Parikshit while hunting was fatigued. He came across the hermit of sage Shamika and saw the sage meditating. He asked him the whereabouts of a deer which he was hunting. But the sage did not answer for he was meditating. Angry at this Parikshit placed a dead snake on Shamika's neck. The sage had a son named Sringin who heard this incident from another sage's son named Krisa became furious. He cursed Parikshit was to die of Snakebite in seven days, for disrespecting Rishi Shamika.[23] Parikshit, died after Takshaka king of snakes bit him.[24]

When Shamika came to know he was dissatisfied with his son. Shamika ordered his disciple Gaurmukha to go to Parikshit and tell him everything about his death. When Parikshit heard about the curse he accepted his fate, but the ministers created a mansion that would stand on a solitary column and well guarded. At this time Suka, son of Ved Vyasa came to the king and recited him the Bhagavata Purana.

Kashyapa, a sage who knew how to cure snakebites was coming for the king. But Takshaka changed the mind of the sage by offering him more wealth. Takshaka came to the king in form of an insect in fruits and bit Parikshit eventually leading to his death.[25]

Death of Parikshit is also governed by another flashback when the Pandavas conquered Khandavprastha (now known as Indraprastha). Takshaka is the head of snakes, who was residing in Nagaloka without any human disturbance. When Pandavas arrived, Takshaka felt his freedom is seized, with pure anger, he ordered his troops to attack the Pandavas and their subjects. The widespread attack resulted in the death of many people, or everyone except the Pandavas and their wife Draupadi. After this incident, Arjuna, the third Pandava, lifted his bow and set fire to the Nagaloka. Takshaka grew even more furious and vowed to kill one of the lineages of the Pandavas. The vow of Takshaka and the curse of Rishi Shamika's son Sringin gave the ultimate destiny of Parikshit that he will be killed by a snakebite.

Now, on hearing his father's death by Takshaka, Parikshit's son Janamejaya vowed to kill Takshaka within a week. He starts the Sarpasatra, a yagna, which forced each and every snake of the entire universe to fall in the havan kund. However, Indra tries to save Takshaka from getting pulled in sacrifice. The sages who perform sacrifice start chanting Indraay swaahaa, Takshakaay cha swaahaa. Due to this even Indra starts getting pulled in the sacrifice. Later, this yagna / sacrifice was stopped from doing so by Astika Muni, (who is the son of Mansa Devi). Thus, Takshaka was spared and Janamejaya stops his Sarpasatra. That day was Shukla Paksha Panchami in the month of Shravan and is since celebrated as the festival of Naga Panchami.[26]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Parīkṣit" is the correct Sanskrit form of the name. "Pārikṣita" refers to a son/descendant of Parikṣit, e.g. Janamejaya (Witzel 1997). Parīkṣita is a past participle meaning "examined", not a name.
  2. ^ According to the Mahabharata his capital was at Hastinapura. But the Vedic literature indicates that the early Kurus had their capital at Āsandīvat,[3] identified with modern Assandh in Haryana.[4][5][6]
  3. ^ Also, Witzel (1995) only refers to one Parikshit and one Janamejaya.

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Michael Witzel (1989), Tracing the Vedic dialects in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes ed. Caillat, Paris, 97–265.
  2. ^ Michael Witzel, "Early Sanskritization. Origins and development of the Kuru State". B. Kölver (ed.), Recht, Staat und Verwaltung im klassischen Indien. The state, the Law, and Administration in Classical India. München : R. Oldenbourg 1997, 27-52 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 August 2006. Retrieved 5 July 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Michael Witzel, "Early Sanskritization. Origins and development of the Kuru State". B. Kölver (ed.), Recht, Staat und Verwaltung im klassischen Indien. The state, the Law, and Administration in Classical India. München : R. Oldenbourg 1997, 27-52 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 August 2006. Retrieved 5 July 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Prāci-jyotī: Digest of Indological Studies". 1967.
  5. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. ISBN 9780143414216.
  6. ^ Raychaudhuri 2006, p. 18.
  7. ^ Witzel 1997
  8. ^ Bloomfield, Hymns of the Atharva-Veda. (Sacred Books of the East 42.) Oxford 1897, repr. Delhi 1964
  9. ^ Raychaudhuri 2006, pp. 10-13.
  10. ^ Raychaudhuri (1996), p.19
  11. ^ Michael Witzel (1989), Tracing the Vedic dialects, p.141
  12. ^ Raychaudhuri 2006, p. 29.
  13. ^ Raychaudhuri 2006, p. 30.
  14. ^ Raychaudhuri (1996), pp.13-19
  15. ^ Raychaudhuri 2006, pp. 11-16.
  16. ^ Dowson, John (1888). A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature. Trubner & Co., London. p. 1.
  17. ^ Raychaudhuri 2006, pp. 14,39.
  18. ^ "Maharaja Parikshit". Archived from the original on 14 July 2006.
  19. ^ Misra, V.S. (2007). Ancient Indian Dynasties, Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, ISBN 81-7276-413-8, p.278
  20. ^ Raychaudhuri 2006, pp. 19.
  21. ^ "Who was Raja Parikshit in Mahabharat and why the story of his death is philosophical". www.timesnownews.com. Retrieved 29 August 2020.
  22. ^ Motilal Bansaridas Bhagavata Purana Book 1 Skandha I Chapter 16-17
  23. ^ http://ritsin.com/story-raja-parikshit-snake-sacrifice-janmejaya.html/
  24. ^ http://ritsin.com/story-raja-parikshit-snake-sacrifice-janmejaya.html/
  25. ^ Prtap Chandra Roy Mahabharata, Astika Parva
  26. ^ Garg 1992, p. 743.

Sources[edit]