PLATE 10
THE SNAKE-BIRD TAKSAKA BITES KING PARIKSIT

Maharaja Pariksit, while engaged in hunting in the forest with bow and arrows, became extremely fatigued, hungry, and thirsty. While searching for a reservoir of water, he entered the hermitage of the well-known Samika Rsi and saw the sage sitting silently with closed eyes. The sage, in meditation, was covered by the skin of a stag, and long, compressed hair was scattered all over him. The king, whose palate was dry from thirst, asked him for water. The king, not received by any formal welcome by means of being offered a seat, place, water, and sweet addresses, considered himself neglected, and so thinking he became angry. Thus while leaving, the king picked up a lifeless snake with his bow and angrily placed it on the sage's shoulder. Then he returned to his palace.
In his palace Maharaja Pariksit began to contemplate and argue within himself whether the sage had actually been in meditation, with senses concentrated and eyes closed, or whether he had just been feigning trance just to avoid receiving a lower ksatriya.
The sage had a son named Srngi, who was very powerful, being a brahmana's son. Srngi cursed the king thus: “On the seventh day from today a snake-bird will bite the most wretched Pariksit because he broke the laws of etiquette by insulting my father!”
A week later, as the snake-bird Taksaka approached King Pariksit to kill him, he saw Kasyapa Muni on the path. The snake-bird flattered Kasyapa by presenting him with valuable offerings and thereby stopped the sage, who was expert in counteracting poison, from protecting Maharaja Pariksit. Then the snakebird, who could assume any form he wished, disguised himself as a brahmana, approached the king, and bit him.
While living beings all over the universe looked on, the body of the great self-realized saint among kings was immediately burned to ashes by the fire of the snake's poison. There arose a terribly cry of lamentation in all ten directions on the earth and in the heavens, and all the demigods, demons, human beings, and other creatures were astonished. Hearing that his father had been fatally bitten by the snake- bird, Maharaja Janamejaya became extremely angry and had brahmanas perform a mighty sacrifice, in which he offered all the snakes in the world into the sacrificial fire.

PAINTING BY PARIKSIT DASA (1982)