(Last Updated on : 25/09/2009)
Jaratkaru is a mythological sage, the Vyasa of the twenty-seventh Dwapara. He is the father of the Rishi Astika.
Jaratkaru was a sturdy and healthy man who due to concentrated meditation and prayers by starving himself became shrunken. His name 'Jaratkaru' has two opposite meaning. 'Jara' means weak and old and 'Karu' means strong and healthy. Therefore Rishi Jaratkaru was strong earlier in life and became weak later and got the name of Jaratkaru. The same happened with Jaratkaru, Vasuki's sister. Rishi Jaratkaru for a long time lived a recluse life of a Brahmachari and was busy with his sacred recreation. Jaratkaru was busy with his prayers, meditation and self-realization and would roam all around the world in search of knowledge. King Parikshit was the ruler of the country then.
Rishi Jaratkaru had a law of his own. He would wander round the earth but stop for rest anywhere when night fell. He would visit the holy places and would follow severe rituals that would be difficult for a man seeking pleasures. Rishi Jaratkaru would not eat food for many days and become weak.
One fine day when he was travelling he some people hanging upside down in a ditch holding on to a single branch of the Khus grass. A rat was chewing at the roots of that plant. Those persons were hanging there without food and were weak and helpless. Jaratkaru was moved at this sight and went up to them and asked them the reason they were holding the Khus grass as it was eaten by a rat. He asked them who they were and that he very troubled to see this situation. He wanted to help those persons. He was ready to use the fruits of his prayers to help the persons to get rid of the trauma.
The ancestors replied that Rishi Jaratkaru was an old bachelor, and he wanted to protect them from harm, but their troubles are not going to be over by the fruits of his labour. They were the saints and have their own fruits of prayers, but are suffering because they are responsible for destroying their family and race.
The associates were the saints of the Yayavar family and because they did not produce sons to carry the family name forward and so have been weakened and fallen from the graces of the Gods. There is only one person left of their race who too, is almost equivalent to no one as he too is an ascetic. It is their misfortune that the person Jaratkaru has become a saint and will not marry. He is not only cultured and a great scholar of the Vedas but also kind, patient and persevering. But his quest for spirituality has put them into trouble. He has no relatives and no wife and child. That is why they are suffering in this way.
The ancestors of Rishi Jaratkaru said him that if he meets Jaratkaru anywhere then must forward him this message. Jaratkaru must marry and produce children as he is the only one who can carry the family name forward. This Khus twig that his ancestors are hanging on to is symbolic of Jaratkaru who is their last hope to be redeemed. The roots that have been cut fully are the ancestors who have been destroyed and the rat gnawing away at the roots is the almighty Time. The God will one day destroy Jaratkaru too and then they will be doomed. Hearing the whole story of his ancestors Jaratkaru was very sad. He said to his ancestors that he himself is Jaratkaru and asked him what to do.
Jaratkaru's ancestors were pleased and asked him why he had not married till now. Jaratkaru said that he had decided to remain a celibate till he goes to heaven, but seeing the plight of his ancestors he had decided to break his vows of Brahmachari life and marry. If Jaratkaru get a woman, who for his sake, would marry him and give birth to his child. He will still continue to beg and not take the responsibility of looking after her.
Jaratkaru asked his ancestors not to be worried as he will produce children who will redeem them from their suffering. Conveying this message Jaratkaru went ahead in search of a bride. But as he was old no one would marry his daughter to him and secondly there was no girl who was his namesake. He was very disappointed and went to the forests and enchanted softly three times that he is looking for a girl.
Whoever present in this forest listen to his voice. He is looking for a girl to marry because he will have to redeem his ancestors. He is looking for a girl who is his namesake, who will produce his progeny and who he does not have to look after. Thus Jaratkaru pleaded to fulfill his dreams. The snakes that had been appointed by Vasuki to keep him posted of the events in Jaratkaru's life went to the Vasuki, the king of the snakes and Vasuki immediately gave his sister Jaratkaru as alms to the Rishi
The saint, Jaratkaru accepted the girl and told Vasuki that if the girl did anything that displeased him he would immediately leave her and go. Vasuki told the saint that he will look after his sister and she will not do anything to irritate and offend her husband, Jaratkaru. They then return to the palace of Vasuki and there Jaratkaru was married to Jaratkaru. Jaratkaru again told his wife that if she said or did anything to displease him, he would leave her. Jaratkaru, his wife very carefully looked after her husband and in due course she conceived and her foetus started to grow.
One day, Rishi Jaratkaru was sleeping with his head on his wife's lap. When it was the time to sun set Jaratkaru's wife started worrying about the evening prayers that were to be performed by the Rishi. She deliberated a lot as to what she should do if she woke him up he would be angry and if she didn't then he would be responsible for the sin of having broken a rule which was of great importance. She thought for a while and decided to wake up her husband. She woke him up quietly instructing him to clean himself and perform the evening prayers. The Rishi woke up in great annoyance and was very disappointed with his wife for having woken him up.
Jaratkaru said that he believed that the sun wouldn't set if he was asleep and by waking him, his wife had offended him. So as said by him, Jaratkaru was ready to leave his wife and go. His wife Jaratkaru was repentant and requested her husband not to leave her and go. She tried to explain that she had not intended to displease him but feared that if he did not wake him up for the customary prayers misfortune would befall them. Jaratkaru told her that according to the condition he had to leave and asked her to tell Vasuki that he was very happy with her and that he had spent happy days in his palace. He also told her not to worry about anything after he was gone. Then his wife Jaratkaru told him the whole story of the curse on her brothers and how only a son born out of their union would redeem them and save them from harm.
She requested him not to leave the palace, as she feared that she had not yet conceived his child. The Rishi Jaratkaru said, 'Asti' which means 'yes there is'. He told her that a child as powerful and bright as the sun and the moon was growing inside her womb and when the time comes he shall redeem both, his ancestors and her brothers. Saying this Jaratkaru left his wife and went to live in the jungles.
Jaratkaru, his wife then went to her brother and told him the whole story. Vasuki was disappointed at the fate of his sister but consoled her by saying that they had married her to Jaratkaru for a specific purpose. Vasuki asked her if she had conceived and would the child who was to save their lives from the Yajna of Janmejaya would be born in due course. Jaratkaru assured him that he would be and decided to name the child Astika, as his father had uttered the word 'Asti' when asked whether there was a child in Jaratkaru's womb. Vasuki took excellent care of his sister and in due course of time Astika was born to her. With Astika's birth the ancestors of Rishi Jaratkaru were redeemed and the serpents heaved a sigh of relief as Astika was destined to save the snakes from the Yajna of Janmejaya. Astika grew up to be an intelligent and simple man who learnt about the Vedas from the great Saint Chyavan.