Sage Shuka and King Parikshit
|Spouse||Iravati or Madravati|
|Issue||Janamejaya, Bhimasena, Srutasena, Ugrasena|
Pariksit (Sanskrit: परिक्षित्, Parikṣit[note 1]) was a Kuru king who reigned during the Middle Vedic period (12th-9th centuries BCE). 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.
"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.”
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).
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.
Michael Witzel dates the Pārikṣita Dynasty of the Kuru Kingdom to the 12th-11th centuries BC. H.C. Raychaudhuri dates Parikshit in ninth century BC. He was succeeded by his son Janamejaya.
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.[note 3]
There is no unanimity regarding the father of Parikshit among epics and Puranas. He is depicted as the son of Avikshit, Anasva, Kuru or Abhimanyu, but is more popular as Abhimanyu's posthumous son.
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. Parikshit was the husband of Queen Iravati and was succeeded by his son Janamejaya. According to the Mahabharata, he ruled for 24 years and died at the age of sixty.
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. Their relationship served an additional motive for Sringin to murder 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 King Parikshit while he was in his mother's (Uttarā) womb, as a revenge against the Pandavas for killing his relatives (especially his father) in the Kurukshetra war. Uttarā was terrified by the powerful rays of the weapon and worried about her child, she prayed to her uncle-in-law Krishna for help. 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 and later was throned as the heir to the Pandavas at Hastinapura.
There seem to be two Parikshits and two Janamejayas, former being referred to in Vedas and the latter in the Puranic literature. The following is about the Puranic king.
On hearing this,[what] Parikshit's son Janamejaya II vowed to kill Takshaka within a week. He starts the Sarpamedha Yajna, which forced each and every snake of the entire universe to fall in the havan kund. However one snake got stuck around Surya's chariot and because of the force of Yajna the chariot was also getting pulled inside the hawankund. This could have ended up taking the Surya's chariot in the sacrificial altar and ending the regime of Sun from the universe. This resulted in plea from all the gods to stop the sacrifice. When Takshaka arrived then this Yajna was stopped from doing so by Astika Muni, as a result of which Takshaka lived. That day was Shukla Paksha Panchami in the month of Shravan and is since celebrated as the festival of Nag Panchami.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Parikshit.|