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Parikshit
Sage Sukdeva and King Parikshit.png
Sage Śuka and King Parikshit
Title King of Hastinapur[note 1]
Predecessor Yudhisthira
Successor Janamejaya
Spouse(s) Madravati
Parent(s) Abhimanyu (father)
Uttarā (mother)

Parikshit(Sanskrit: परिक्षित्, Parikṣit[note 2]) was a Kuru king who reigned during the Middle Vedic period (12th or 11th century BCE).[5] Along with his 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.[6]

He also appears as a figure in later legends and traditions. According to the Mahabharata and the Puranas, he succeeded Yudhisthira to the throne of Hastinapur.

Etymology[edit]

Parikesit in the Javanese wayang kulit shadow theatre

Parikshit's name came from the Sanskrit verb root परि-क्षि pari-kṣi = "around-possess" (or, less likely here, "around-destroy"). An alternate suggestion from Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala''s translation is Pariskhita. Alternative modern, not all of them correct as regards the original Sanskrit, spellings of his name are Pariksita, Pariksit, Parikshat, Parixit and Parikshita. His name is a common Hindu name across Nepal today.

Parikshit in Vedic literature[edit]

Kuru and other kingdoms of the Vedic period

"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], (or)the Parisrut [liquor]?’ 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 tribe thrives auspiciously in the Realm of King Parikṣit.”[7][8]

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).[9] According to the Shatapatha Brahmana (XIII.5.4), Parikshita had four sons, Janamejaya, Bhimasena, Ugrasena and Śrutasena. All of them performed the Asvamedha Yajna (horse sacrifice).[10]

In the Mahabharata[edit]

Family[edit]

Parikshit was the grandson of Arjuna and Subhadra and the son of Abhimanyu and his wife Uttarā.[11]

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.[12] Parikshit was a husband of Queen Madravati and was succeeded by his son Janamejaya.[13] According to the Mahabharata, he ruled for 24 years and died at the age of sixty.[14]

A thesis based upon Ugrasravas’ narration suggests an alternate 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. [15]

Birth[edit]

Parikshit was the son of Uttara, the Matsya princess, and Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu was the son of Arjuna and his Vrishni wife Subhadra. He was born after the end of the Kurukshetra War.

Uttarā was carrying their son in her womb when Abhimanyu was mercilessly and unfairly slain by the Kauravas. Later, Ashwatthama attempts to kill the unborn child and his mother by directing the Bhrama-Sheer Astra towards her tent off the battlefields. She is saved by Krishna, who was the maternal uncle of Abhimanyu. Ashwatthama does this to avenge the death of his father Drona by the Pandavas.

Prophecy of Life[edit]

Krishna saved the dead child of Uttarā

The chief priest Dhaumya predicts to King Yudhisthira after Parikshita's birth that he will be a great devotee of the Supreme Lord Vishnu, and since he was saved by Krishna, he will be known as Vishnurata ("One who is always protected by the Lord").

Dhaumya Rishi predicts that Parikshit would be ever-devoted to virtue, religious principles and the truth and would be a wise monarch, exactly as Ikshvaku and Rama of Ayodhya. He would be as exemplary a warrior as Arjuna, his own grandfather, and would expand the fame of his family.

He is given the name Parikshit as he would search and test for the Supreme Lord, whom he had witnessed as an unborn child, across the world and within every human being.

King of Hastinapur[edit]

Upon the commencement of the Kali Yuga, the dark age of sin, and the departure of Krishna Avatar from the world, the five Pandava brothers retire. Young Parikshita was duly invested as king, with Kripa as his counselor. He performed three aswamedha yajnas under the guidance of Kripa.

Death[edit]

King Parikshit hunting

Once Parikshit went hunting in the forest. the demon Kali, the embodiment of Kali Yuga, appeared before him and asked permission to enter his kingdom, which the king denied. Upon insisting, Parikshit allowed him five places to reside: where there is gambling, alcohol consumption, prostitution, animal slaughter and gold. Kali smartly entered into Parikshit's golden crown and spoiled his thoughts.

Parikshit entered the hut of a sage named Shamika as he was thirsty. He found the sage in deep meditation. He bowed to him several times but as there was no response he took a dead snake and threw it around the sage's neck. Later when the sage's son, Sringin, heard of this incident he cursed the king to die of snake bite on the 7th day.

On hearing this, the king forswore the throne for his son Janamejaya and spent his last 7 days listening to the discourses of sage Shuka, compiled as the Bhagavata Purana under the banyan tree of Shukratal. As prophesied, the snake king Takshaka bit Parikshita, who left his mortal remains behind and attained Moksha.

On hearing this, Parikshit's son Janamejaya vowed to kill Takshaka within a week. He starts the Sharpamedha Yajna, which forced each and every snake of the entire universe to fall in the hawankund. 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 hawankund and ending the regime of Sun from the universe. This resulted in plea from all the gods to stop the Yajna. When Takshaka arrived then this Yajna was stopped from doing so by Astika Muni, as a result of which Takshaka lived.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ According to the Mahabharata. But the Vedic literature indicates that the early Kurus had their capital at Āsandīvat,[1] identified with modern Assandh in Haryana.[2][3][4]
  2. ^ "Parikṣit" is the correct Sanskrit form of the name. "Pārikṣita" refers to a son/descendant of Parikshit, e.g. Janamejaya (Witzel 1997). Parīkṣita is a past participle meaning "examined", not a name.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Michael Witzel, "Early Sanskritization. Origins and development of the Kuru State". B. Kölver (ed.), Recht, Staat und Verwaltung im klassischen Indien. The state, the Law, and Administration in Classical India. München : R. Oldenbourg 1997, 27-52 [1]
  2. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=AL45AQAAIAAJ&q=asandh
  3. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=DH0vmD8ghdMC&pg=PA177
  4. ^ H.C. Raychaudhuri (1972), p.18
  5. ^ Michael Witzel (1989), Tracing the Vedic dialects in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes ed. Caillat, Paris, 97–265. Note: the reign of Parikshit falls during the Mantra period of Vedic Sanskrit (p.115), which occurs between 1180 and 1000/900 BCE according to the table on p.259
  6. ^ Michael Witzel, "Early Sanskritization. Origins and development of the Kuru State". B. Kölver (ed.), Recht, Staat und Verwaltung im klassischen Indien. The state, the Law, and Administration in Classical India. München : R. Oldenbourg 1997, 27-52 [2]
  7. ^ Witzel 1997
  8. ^ Bloomfield, Hymns of the Atharva-Veda. (Sacred Books of the East 42.) Oxford 1897, repr. Delhi 1964
  9. ^ Raychaudhuri, H.C. (1972). Political History of Ancient India: From the Accession of Parikshit to the Extinction of the Gupta Dynasty, Calcutta:University of Calcutta, pp.11-3
  10. ^ Raychaudhuri, H.C. (1972). Political History of Ancient India: From the Accession of Parikshit to the Extinction of the Gupta Dynasty, Calcutta:University of Calcutta, pp.14,39
  11. ^ Dowson, John (1888). A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature. Trubner & Co., London. p. 1. 
  12. ^ "Maharaja Parikshit". 
  13. ^ Misra, V.S. (2007). Ancient Indian Dynasties, Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, ISBN 81-7276-413-8, p.278
  14. ^ Raychaudhuri, H.C. (1972). Political History of Ancient India: From the Accession of Parikshit to the Extinction of the Gupta Dynasty, Calcutta:University of Calcutta, p.19
  15. ^ Brodbeck, Simon. 2008. “Janamejaya’s Big Brother: New Light on the Mahābhārata's Frame Story.” Religions of South Asia 2 (2): 161-176.

External links[edit]


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