After a few months, the saint Lomasa left. A short time later, the Pandavas also decided to leave the peaks of the Himalayas and descend into the valley to return to Kamyaka.
As always, on the way, the brothers were able to visit many interesting places, including Vrishaparva’s ashrama.
One day, while Bhima was alone in the forest, he did not notice the presence of a giant python on the branch of a tree, so when he passed under it, he was tightened in its coils. Pandu’s son never paid particular attention to the dangers posed by jungle animals, as he believed he was strong enough to overcome any adversity. So, when he tried to free himself by spreading his strong arms, he was surprised that he could not. Then, he tried to use all the strength at his disposal, but the animal’s body seemed to be made of the hardest metal. The strange thing was that the more energy he used, the more he felt that it was failing him. That couldn’t be a normal python.
“Who are you,” the Pandava asked, exhausted, “who resist the pressure of my arms? Surely you are not an ordinary snake, otherwise your body would have already broken.”
“A long time ago I was a very famous king; then the Rishi Agastya cursed me to be born into this miserable living form. But now I don’t want to talk. Today I am particularly hungry, and providence has sent you to me to feed me.”
Meanwhile, Yudhisthira, who had seen omens of a terrible tragedy in heaven, inquired about which of his brothers was missing. When he was told that Bhima was not there, he felt very worried and set out to follow in his footsteps in the dense forest. He found him wrapped in the spirals of the giant python as he struggled almost devoid of energy. He immediately realized that there must be something strange. Who could have reduced Bhima to that state?
“Who are you,” he asked, “who were able to deprive the mighty son of Vayu of all his strength? Tell me your name and your story.”
“I am Nahusha, one of your ancestors. Since you asked for it, listen carefully, and I will tell you my story briefly:
“When Indra had to hide to atone for the offenses done to the guru Vishvarupa and for the murder of the demon Vritra, the throne of the Devas remained vacant. The Rishis then came to me on Earth and asked me to replace their king until he returned. I, who did not consider myself powerful enough to rule over the entire universe nor to clash with the strongest Asuras, expressed my perplexities to them. But the sages reassured me:
‘Do not be afraid, we will give you the power to absorb energy from any living thing you meet, so that you will be able to face all emergencies and overcome any opponent.’
“So, I began to rule over Svarga with sufficient righteousness, always obeying the advice of the saints.”
“However, at a certain point the power played a bad joke on me and I began to think that I had become invincible. I fell in love with Indra’s wife, Saci, and I expected her to become mine. She, chaste and faithful to her husband, refused me several times. For this reason the Devas and Brahmanas found themselves compelled to conspire to put an end to my wicked rule.”
“One day, Saci said to me:
‘I will be yours if you come to my house on a sedan chair supported by the seven Rishis, including Agastya.’
“I, who was as if driven mad for her divine beauty, in order to have her did not think of the grave sin I was about to commit and ordered the wise men to take me. And while we were going towards Saci’s house, impatient to possess her, I kicked the venerable Agastya several times, saying to him:
“Sarpa means ‘soon’, but it also means snake. Then the Rishi cursed me saying:”
‘Since you kicked me like a peasant without culture, you will become a sarpa on Earth, and you will live long in those conditions. You will free yourself only when someone can correctly answer the most complicated questions about human knowledge.’
“For this reason I still live like a python in this jungle, and now I will feed myself with your brother’s body, unless you want to try to answer my questions.”
“Tell me, I want to try.”
The discussion went on for some time and as the Pandava answered all the questions that Nahusha asked him in the end he freed Bhima. As if by magic, the body of the reptile disappeared and its original human form manifested itself in its place. Before their eyes, Nahusha ascended to heaven. Bhima was safe.
Resuming the journey, the brothers stopped for some time in the peaceful forest of Dvaita, which they had had the opportunity to visit during their outward journey. Now that the period of exile was running out, no one could really pay attention to the natural beauty anymore. Everyone’s thoughts were on the day of the war.
This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.
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