(Astika Parva continued)
'Sauti said, 'King Janamejaya having said so, his ministers expressed their approbation. And the monarch then expressed his determination to perform a snake-sacrifice. And that lord of the Earth--that tiger of the Bharata race--the son of Parikshit, then called his priest and Ritwiks. And accomplished in speech, he spake unto them these words relating to the accomplishment of his great task. 'I must avenge myself on the wretch Takshaka who killed my father. Tell me what I must do. Do you know any act by which I may cast into the blazing fire the snake Takshaka with his relatives? I desire to burn that wretch even as he burnt, of yore, by the fire of his poison, my father.'
'The chief priest answered, 'There is, O king, a great sacrifice for thee devised by the gods themselves. It is known as the snake-sacrifice, and is read of in the Puranas. O king, thou alone canst accomplish it, and no one else. Men versed in the Puranas have told us, there is such a sacrifice.'
"Sauti continued, 'Thus addressed, the king, O excellent one, thought Takshaka to be already burnt and thrown into the blazing mouth of Agni, the eater of the sacrificial butter. The king then said unto those Brahmanas versed in mantras, 'I shall make preparations for that sacrifice. Tell me the things that are necessary.' And the king's Ritwiks, O excellent Brahmana, versed in the Vedas and acquainted with the rites of that sacrifice measured, according to the scriptures, the land for the sacrificial platform. And the platform was decked with valuable articles and with Brahmanas. And it was full of precious things and paddy. And the Ritwika sat upon it at ease. And after the sacrificial platform had been thus constructed according to rule and as desired, they installed the king at the
snake-sacrifice for the attainment of its object. And before the commencement of the snake-Sacrifice that was to come, there occurred this very important incident foreboding obstruction to the sacrifice. For when the sacrificial platform was being constructed, a professional builder of great intelligence and well-versed in the knowledge of laying foundations, a Suta by caste, well-acquainted with the Puranas, said, 'The soil upon which and the time at which the measurement for the sacrificial platform has been made, indicate that this sacrifice will not be completed, a Brahmana becoming the reason thereof.' Hearing this, the king, before his installation, gave orders to his gate-keepers not to admit anybody without his knowledge."