The Serpent race saved by Rishi Astika

Today is Naga Panchami, a day where the serpent race is worshipped. The Nagas are the sons of Rishi Kashyap, the Manasaputr of Brahma Ji and Kadru, the daughter of Daksha Prajapati. Kadru gave birth to the Nagas among whom Sesh Naag, Vasuki and Takshak are the prominent ones. Seshnaag became the resting place of Bhagwan Vishnu in the Milky Ocean, while Vasuki and Takshak became the kings of the serpent race.


The Nagas were endowed with great powers and known for their immense strength. Yet, such a powerful race once came into the danger of extinction due to the anger of King Janamajeya, the son of Parikshit, and the great grandson of Arjun, the Pandav. Once, Parikshit went hunting in the forest. After a long day, the king felt thirsty and approached Rishi Shamika’s ashram to quench his thirst. He requested the sage to give him water, but the sage was in deep meditation and did not respond to Parikshit. Feeling humiliated, Parikshit decides to insult the Rishi and wraps a dead snake around the sage’s neck and leaves from there. After sometime, Rishi Shamika’s son Shringin comes to the ashram and sees his father been coiled with a dead snake. Visualising what has happened, Shringin curses Parikshit to die of a snake bite of Takshak, after seven days. Although Parikshit repents his deed, it was too late and the king eventually falls for Takshak’s bite.

Parikshit’s son Janamajeya succeeds as king and decides to avenge his father’s death. He starts a powerful Yagn named Sarpa Satra to finish the entire Naga race. He erects a great sacrificial fire place wherein all the snakes would come and fall in the fire and perish due to the force of the powerful chants recited in the Yagn. Once the Yagn starts, all the snakes start get pulled off by the force of the mantras and perish in the fire.

Meanwhile, Takshak who senses danger to his life, rushes to Devraj indr and coils himself to the throne of Indr to save his life. But the force of Pariskhit’s Yagn was so powerful that it reaches Devraj Indr and starts pulling Devraj Indr along with the throne to which Takshak was coiled up to the fire. All the Devas fear and rush to Manasadevi, the sister of the Nagas for a solution. Manasadevi sends her son Rishi Astika to convince Janamajeya to stop the Yagna and avert the danger.

Taking the blessings of his mother, Rishi Astika reaches the place of the Yagn. He impresses king Janamajeya with his knowledge of all the Sastras. Eya asks him for a boon, Rishi Astika asks him to stop the Yagn and save the lives of the serpent race. He then makes Janamajeya understand that all was in the hands of destiny and Takshak was only doing his job as he had to fulfil the prophecy of the curse, but had no personal enmity with King Parikshit.

Janamajeya gets convinced with the reasoning of Rishi Astika and stops the Yagn. Thus, Takshak and the other serpents which were left, get saved from being killed. As this happened on the fifth day of the Shravan month, as a mark of respect the Nagas are worshipped on this day. This story mentioned in the Bhagavat Puran thus depicts how a pious sage saved the great race of Nagas and was successful in making the snakes from being extinct and being worshipped on the Naag Panchami.