The itihasas are big texts of history and hence the very meaning of the word is ‘thus it happened’. Since in those days, the learning was by memory, the stories were repeated many times through many narrators. In the first chapter called the ‘Adi Parva’, the whole story of the Mahabharata is given like an index in the ‘Parva Sangraha Parva’.
In the third chapter called the ‘Paushya Parva’, there are many seemingly unrelated tales of snakes and complaining dogs that are narrated. Before we conclude that they are an irrelevant diversion, it should be known that the Mahabharata is a history not just of the human kind. It is a history of the animal families, the mountains, the rivers, the trees and plants and of all sorts of rare beings in the universe.
Janamejaya, the son of Parikshit of the Pandava family, was tending to his fire sacrifice along with his three brothers Shrutasena, Ugrasena and Bhimasena. As they were conversing, Sarama—a dog—went to his mother crying. The mother inquired about the cause of her tears and she said that the brothers of Janamejaya beat her. Yes, animals too know to complain and cry. The mother was not immediately impressed by her tears and she said, she must have done some fault. “No mother,” she replied, “I did not do anything. I did not lick the ghee meant for the sacrifice nor did I even look in that direction.”
The mother went to Janamejaya and demanded an explanation. They did not bother to answer her and continued with their talks. The angry mother said, “You have done something wrong and don’t even bother to apologise or do anything about it. Surely something bad will come to you when you are caught thoroughly unawares.” Well, that was a curse.
Janamejaya heard this and sat down upset. The king completed his fire sacrifice and went to Hastinapura to find a priest who could suggest something to remove that curse.
He passed by his kingdom and saw the living dwelling of a Rishi called Shrutashrava and his son Somashrava. Shrutashrava said that his son was learned and well-versed in the Vedas. “However, he was born to a serpent who swallowed the vital fluid of Shrutashrava.
The itihasas have numerous such unbelievable expressions. We must only facilitate the understanding by converting the possibility of all existence in consciousness. He would be able to teach him the necessary methods to free them from the sins that led to the curse of the dog. Only those actions done against Mahadeva—the great lord—will have no pardon, the father said. He left the priest with his brothers and went ahead to annexe and conquer Takshashila.
The author is Acharya, Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi; firstname.lastname@example.org