“Sahendra Takshakaaya Swaaha”. If you haven’t heard it before or heard but could make nothing of it, do not despair. Mists will clear. Veils will lift. And salvation is guaranteed. Indulge me for the next 1000 words or so.
In a distant past, in the mythical land of Bharatavarsha, lived king Parikshit. He was a great king, ruled his subjects well, and doled out largesse to one and all, man and beast alike. One day while hunting, the only vice he suffered from, he directed a well aimed arrow at a deer, which escaped but with a wound. Ah, perils of not finishing a task well and with desired outcome. Chasing the deer, he chanced upon a hermit in meditation, troubled him with repeated Qs about the deer, having received silence in return insulted him by throwing a dead snake around him. Forgetting the dictum – Once you screw up, don’t drag others in, who are unconnected to your outcome but are powerful. As is wont with disturbed sages, he cursed the king and served him a seven day notice, during which period he will be handed the deadly bite by Takshaka, the king of snakes.
Despite the various safety clauses, defense mechanisms that the king managed to erect, Takshaka made good the sage’s word and bit the king to death. Such is the fate of even the high and mighty who err but once and finger the powerful. Now the king’s son took over the reins, counter vowed to account for each and every reptile (akin to shooting the messenger, but that’s the way of life) that ever crawled the terra-firma, for the fate that visited upon his father.
Thus began the largest down-sizing exercise the world has ever known.
Wise men were consulted. A great fire, flames leaping to heavens, was lit. Prayers said. Mantras chanted. Spells casted. Charms invoked. With deadly precision. The fire was the great leveler. Though, to begin with the slaughter started from the bottom of the pyramid. Every slimy, slithery, scaly, crawling heap of DNA whose constitution didn’t agree with Parikshit’s son’s agenda found its way; twisting, turning, winding, writhing, unwilling and hissing; into the holy fire. In millionss. Let this be a lesson to all those spine-less followers who meekly tread the self-destructive path their leader goads them into.
There was no escape even to the most benign of the cursed lot. As the days passed, the intensity and venom of the sacrificial ritual increased. More powerful incantations hitherto rarely used; the existence of which even the noblest and the most powerful of the consultants rarely knew about slid effortlessly from the tongues of the high priests. Every name in the book was called. Appended with Swaha – Be sacrificed. Vipers, Rattlers, Cobras… the entire suborder of Serpentes followed. None were spared. Or could escape. Till it was the turn of Takshaka.
Now Takshaka, hasn’t reached the top just by being a mighty, most venomous and slimy snake. His survival instincts and success strategies that got him crowned and kept him on top the longest were subjects of envious talks in many a power corridors across the three worlds. It helped him in lesser needful situations than the one at present. He thought. And thought hard till his hood pitched fork what seemed to be a great idea.
The Hood: Who is after you?
Takshaka: The most powerful of the kings in this world.
T H: Is there anyone more powerful than him?
T: The king of gods, lord Indra, in the world above.
T H: Align with him.
T: Why will he save me from the wrath of another powerful person? What’s in it for him?
T H: Ego massage. That’s why and that’s what. The more powerful a person is, the easier a prey he is for suck-up. Indra has a big ego. All powerful men have one. Or two. That’s your ticket for survival. The golden parachute.
T: But if he knows he has to cross paths with….
T H (Hissing and shaking its hood): He won’t. You shouldn’t. Tell nothing. Run to his boardroom. Ensure you do it when there is an audience. Say “Anyadaa sharanam naasti, tvameva sharanam mama” – None other but you whose refuge I seek. Write it down. Prostrate. Put feet. Lick. Of what use two tongues, if you can’t have a real go.
T: Music to my ears..err…I know, no ears. Music nevertheless.
Indra loves a good massage and he got more than what he bargained for. Deal signed. Takshaka got shelter. Indra stretched his feet towards celestial damsels to wipe the slime off.
Meanwhile, it was Takshaka’s name that was called. “Takshakaya Swaha” a thousand tongues called in unison. And a couple of thousand eyes stared in disbelief. No Takshaka in sight. No hisses, save the roaring of the fire. A thousand dancing rapiers. Hungrily. Angrily. “TAKSHAKAYA SWAHA”. Flaring nostrils, stretched brows, crinkled eyes glowing, not a reflection of the fire without but an impotent rage from within. The head priest closed his eyes. Focusing. Scanning the three worlds. There. In Indra’s assembly. In his refuge. Encircling his throne. Lay quivering yet secure in the thought of being saved twice over. Takshaka. The Wily Snake.
It’s unheard of. But had to be done. To follow through with one’s given word. To get Takshaka, the last snake crawling, if Indra, the first among equals, has to go, he will go. He has to.
“Sahendra Takshakaya Swaha” – Let Takshaka be sacrificed along with Indra!! A first of its kind in the sacrificial world. The sword, cold and clinical, cuts one cuts all. The fire singes the saint and the sinner alike. So it was with Indra, whose ego clouded his reasoning and Takshaka whose slimy and imperious nature was singularly responsible for the mindless mayhem.
But was it the end of Takshaka? No. If that be the case this story wouldn’t have been told or the reader pleaded to draw lessons from it.
Indra’s sacrifice would have put the shoe on the other foot and a reverse sacrifice started. To no one’s benefit. Wiser council prevailed. Tempers cooled. Senses restored. Takshaka got mud on face and left with no follower. But he survived. Packed off to Netherlands (with retirement benefits, someone snorted). He did survive. The Art of aligning with the most powerful, or atleast one who is powerful than the person you have crossed swords with, came to his help. The weak and wiser subjects perished but who cares. Each one of us, should think and behave like Takshakas. Aligning appropriately. And can be in the secure in the feeling that, till the one whom we have aligned with is also led to the altar we are safe. And who knows, may be safer beyond too.