Vasuki (Vasuki Naga or Vasuki Snake) is a devotee of Lord Shiva and one of the Naga Rajas (King of Snakes). Vasuki is the snake that is usually depicted on Lord Shiva’s neck. Vasuki Naga Raja is worshipped on Nag Panchami in India. Vasuki is mentioned in the Puranas, the Mahabhrat and the Ramayan.
Vasuki Snake in Mythology
Role of Vasuki snake in Samudra Manthan
In the Puranas, Samudra Manthan is the event in which the devas (gods) and asuras (demons) worked together for a millennium to churn the ocean and release Amrita or the nectar of immortal life. Vasuki snake was an important part of the Samudra Mathan as he was tied around Mount Mandara and used as a churning rope being pulled at one end by the devas and on the other end by the asuras.
Vasuki Naga in Mahabharat
Vasuki Snake and Janmejay
When King Parikshit died due to a snake bite, his son Janmejay, the first King of the Kali Yug era, decided to perform a Yagna to kill all the snakes in the world.
It was then that Vasuki, the King of Snakes, approached his nephew, Aasteek who was son of Vasuki’s sister and Rishi Jaratkaru. According to the prophecy of Lord Brahma, Aasteek would be able to stop this yagna.
Aasteek, was a scholar of Vedas and went to the venue where King Janmejay was holding the yagna. Aasteek sang hymns and impressed everyone present at the Yagna. The people were amazed at this young scholar and permitted him to stay for the Yagna.
It was then that King Janmejaya pleased at young Aasteek’s knowledge, offered him a boon. Aasteek requested King Janmejaya to stop the Yagna. Kind Jankejaya could not go back on this words and stopped the Yagna. Hence the snakes survived in this world.
Vasuki and the snakes then collectively offered a boon to Aasteek who chose three mantras that would protect anyone who chanted them from snake bites.
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Vasuki snake and Tripurantaka
Lord Shiva is known as Tripurantaka for destroying the three aerial cities (Tripura) belonging to three asura (demons) called Taarakaaksha, Kamalaaksha and Vidyunmaali. These three demons had pleased Lord Brahma and taken a boon from him by which each demon lived in an invincible, aerial, moving city. The three demons used to plan attacks on Devas and disrupt the yagna of sages from these aerial cities. A per Lord Brahma’s boon, these three cities could only be destroyed by an arrow that would merge the three forts into one and set them on fire.
The devas approached Lord Shiva to help them and it was Lord Shiva who appeared as Tripurantara with a bow and arrow. The string of the bow was the king of snakes, Vasuki.