King Parikshit was the offspring of Abhimanyu, a renowned hero and the son of Arjuna, one of the five brothers known as Pandavas. During his time in the womb, Shri Krishna saved Parikshit from the fatal brahmastra weapon. When the Pandavas embarked on their final earthly journey, King Yudhishthira bequeathed his kingdom to Parikshit and installed him on the throne. Parikshit ruled his extensive kingdom and its inhabitants with great valor and justice.
On a hunting trip, King Parikshit found himself starving and parched. He came across a small hermitage where a sage was in deep samadhi. Unaware of the sage's condition, the king approached him and asked for water, but the sage remained motionless and unresponsive. After repeated requests, the king grew impatient and, noticing a dead snake nearby, placed it around the ascetic's neck. He then departed in search of water.
The sage who was in meditation at the time was known as Shamika and had a young son named Shringi. Shringi was infuriated upon learning that King Parikshit had placed a dead snake around his father's neck. Without delay, he cursed the person who had insulted his father, saying that they would die from the venom of the snake Takshaka within seven days.
When Shamika, the great sage, learned of his son's curse, he was not pleased. He knew that the man who had visited his hermitage was King Parikshit, a virtuous king who protected the realm and upheld dharma. Shamika scolded his son, telling him that he had inflicted a severe punishment for an offense that was not significant. King Parikshit was a righteous ruler who kept the kingdom safe. With the curse already spoken, however, it had to be fulfilled.
Upon returning home, King Parikshit was filled with regret over mistreating the sage and couldn't forgive himself. Soon after, he received news of the curse upon him and decided to prepare for his impending death. He entrusted his kingdom to his son Janamejaya and traveled to the Ganga riverbank. There, he laid out a mat, sat down, and resolved to give up his life by fasting.
When the news of the king's intention to fast to death spread, many saints and sages gathered around Parikshit, praising him for his noble commitment. They also resolved to remain with him until he gave up his body.
At that moment, Shukadeva, the young saint and son of Vyasa, who always wandered with a mind immersed in the bliss of God, arrived at the Ganga riverbank to meet with Parikshit. Despite his youth, Shukadeva was a liberated soul with immense wisdom and purity. Upon seeing him, the king felt as though he had caught hold of a log while drowning. He prostrated himself at Shukadeva's feet, showed him great respect, and with folded hands asked for guidance.
Parikshit addressed Shukadeva as a great yogi and expressed that in the presence of Lord Vishnu, demons are destroyed, and in the presence of Shukadeva, one's greatest sins vanish. He believed that Shri Krishna, the friend of the Pandavas, had sent Shukadeva to console him during his last days on earth. He regarded Shukadeva as a liberated soul and a guru of yogis, and humbly requested him to provide instruction on what he should do with the remaining seven days of his life to attain the greatest good. He asked how he should meditate on God, worship him, find him, and achieve liberation.
King Parikshit's questions pleased Shukadeva, and he commenced speaking.
Shukadeva responded to the king, saying that his question was the only one worth asking. He explained that most people are too consumed by worldly pleasures and fail to focus their minds on God. Shukadeva suggested that constant remembrance of the Lord is the way to become free from the fear of death. Despite his mind being ever-absorbed in the Absolute Reality, he became entranced by this Purana describing the Lord's wonderful qualities that was taught to him by his father, Vyasa. Shukadeva then told the king that he would now narrate all that he had learned from his father.