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XXIV. Parikshith is Cursed

Parikshith heard from the sage, Vyasa, his description of the deep devotion and steady faith of the Pandavas; he was thrilled when he heard of the unbounded grace of Lord Krishna, which was showered on them; the king was so immersed in joy that he scarce realised whether it was night or day! Suddenly, he was awakened by the sweet chirpings of birds and the loud crow of the cock. He heard the songs with which his subjects daily welcomed the Gods at dawn; the temple bells ringing around the palace.

Vyasa too realised it was the beginning of another day. He said, "Son! I must be going now" and, taking the water-pot which he carried while journeying, he rose and blessed the king, who fell at his feet, in great sorrow. "Alas, that the dawn broke so soon! I have yet to grasp fully the grandeur and glory of my grandfathers! I have yet to fathom completely the depth of their devotion and sense of duty," he lamented.

He rotated in his mind the incidents he had heard and tasted their uniqueness. He was so filled with exaltation that he could not turn to the affairs of the kingdom. In fact, he avoided entangling himself in them and sought to be alone. He decided to go into the forest a-hunting, as an alternative. He instructed that arrangements be made for an expedition into the jungle.

Very soon, the men at the door brought the news that everything was ready, and the huntsmen and others had gathered in full strength. With a heavy heart, he dragged his body towards the chariot and placed himself in it. The attendants, with their equipments, moved on, both before the royal chariot and after, as was their wont. The king felt, for some reason or other, that so many need not accompany him; so, he asked some to return. When they advanced, a few herds were noticed moving about; that sight stirred the king to activity. He got down from the chariot and with the bow kept in readiness, he stalked the animals with a few men following him. The herds scattered in fear, with the huntsmen in hot pursuit. The king had his aim fixed on one group of fleeing animals and he sped behind it, unaware that he was alone, cut off from his attendants who had gone on different trails.

He had trekked a long distance and could not bag any beast; a fierce thirst began tormenting him; he was exhausted beyond endurance. Frantically, he searched for water. Luckily, he espied a hermitage, a cottage thatched with grass. Highly expectant, he hurried towards it. There was no one in view! The place appeared empty. He called out very distressingly, as loudly as he could manage. With his feeble throat he shouted, "Thirst", "Thirst", plaintively. There was no reply from the cottage. When he entered, he found therein Sameeka engaged in meditation. He went near him and addressed him pathetically "Sir", "Sir". But, Sameeka was so lost in the depths of meditation that there was no response at all.