“Saunaka said, ’For what reason did that tiger among kings, the royal Janamejaya, determine to take the lives of the snakes by means of a sacrifice? O Sauti, tell us in full the true story. Tell us also why Astika, that best of regenerate ones, that foremost of ascetics, rescued the snakes from the blazing fire. Whose son was that monarch who celebrated the snake-sacrifice? And whose son also was that best of regenerate ones?’
“Sauti said, ’O best of speakers, this story of Astika is long. I will duly relate it in full, O listen!’
“Saunaka said, ’I am desirous of hearing at length the charming story of that Rishi, that illustrious Brahmana named Astika.’
“Sauti said, ’This history (first) recited by Krishna-Dwaipayana, is called a Purana by the Brahmanas. It was formerly narrated by my wise father, Lomaharshana, the disciple of Vyasa, before the dwellers of the Naimisha forest, at their request. I was present at the recital, and, O Saunaka, since thou askest me, I shall narrate the history of Astika exactly as I heard it. O listen, as I recite in full that sin-destroying story.
“The father of Astika was powerful like Prajapati. He was a Brahma-charin, always engaged in austere devotions. He ate sparingly, was a great ascetic, and had his lust under complete control. And he was known by the name of Jaratkaru. That foremost one among the Yayavaras, virtuous and of rigid vows, highly blessed and endued with great ascetic power, once undertook a journey over the world. He visited diverse places, bathed in diverse sacred waters, and rested where night overtook him. Endued with great energy, he practised religious austerities, hard to be practised by men of unrestrained souls. The sage lived upon air only, and renounced sleep for ever. Thus going about like a blazing fire, one day he happened to see his ancestors, hanging heads down in a great hole, their feet pointing upwards. On seeing them, Jaratkaru addressed them, saying:
’Who are you thus hanging heads down in this hole by a rope of virana fibres that is again secretly eaten into on all sides by a rat living here?’
“The ancestors said, ’We are Rishis of rigid vows, called Yayavaras. We are sinking low into the earth for want of offspring. We have a son named Jaratkaru. Woe to us! That wretch hath entered upon a life of austerities only! The fool doth not think of raising offspring by marriage! It is for that reason, viz., the fear of extinction of our race, that we are suspended in this hole. Possessed of means, we fare like unfortunates that have none! O excellent one, who art thou that thus sorrowest as a friend on our account? We desire to learn, O Brahmana, who thou art that standest by us, and why, O best of men, thou sorrowest for us that are so unfortunate.’
“Jaratkaru said, ’Ye are even my sires and grandsires I am that Jaratkaru! O, tell me, how I may serve you.’