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The SECTION CCCLVII of Shanti Parva of Mahabharat talks about a Brahmin who goes to meet a renowned Naga Padmanabha only to be told by his wife that he was out on an important errand which is quite interesting:

"The Brahmana said, 'O lady, I am sufficiently honoured by thee with the sweet words thou hast said unto me. The fatigue of my journey has also been dispelled. I desire, O blessed lady, to see thy excellent lord. This is my high object. This is the one object of my desire. It is for this reason that I have come today to the residence of the Naga, thy husband.'

"The wife of the Naga said, 'Reverend sir, my husband has gone to drag the car of Surya for a month. O learned Brahmana, he will be back in fifteen days, and will, without doubt show himself unto thee. I have thus told thee the reason of my husband's absence from home. Be that as it may, what else is there that I can do for thee? Tell me this!'

Furthermore when the Brahmin meets the Naga he addresses him thus:

"The Brahmana said, 'Thou goest away for dragging the one-wheeled car of Vivaswat according to thy turn. It behoveth thee to describe to me anything wonderful that thou mayst have noticed in those regions through which thou sojournest!'

I want to know if this story is detailed somewhere else. The second verse implies that it was a regular feature that was performed by Nagas as Padmanabha went there according to 'his turn'.

So my question is - Why would Surya's chariot need to be dragged when he has seven horses yoked to it and why was this Naga roped in for it?

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The Nagas take turns harnessing the horses of Surya's chariot. Here is what this chapter of the Vishnu Purana says:

Between the extreme northern and southern points the sun has to traverse in a year one hundred and eighty degrees, ascending and descending. His car is presided over by divine Ádityas, Rishis, heavenly singers and nymphs, Yakshas, serpents, and Rákshasas (one of each being placed in it in every month). The Áditya Dhátri, the sage Pulastya, the Gandharba Tumburu, the nymph Kratust́halá, the Yaksha Rathakrit, the serpent Vásuki, and the Rákshas Heti, always reside in the sun's car, in the month of Madhu or Chaitra, as its seven guardians. In Vaiśákh or Mádhava the seven are Áryamat, Pulaha, Náreda, Punjikásthalí, Rathaujas, Kachaníra, and Praheti. In Śuchi or Jyesht́ha they are Mitra, Atri, Háhá, Mená, Rathaswana, Takshaka, and Paurusheya. In the month Śukra or Áshádha they are Varuńa, Vaśisht́ha, Huhu, Sahajanyá, Rathachitra, Nága, and Budha. In the month Nabhas (or Srávańa) they are Indra, Angiras, Viswávasu, Pramlochá, Śrotas, and Elapatra (the name of both serpent and Rákshas). In the month Bhádrapada they are Vivaswat, Bhrigu, Ugrasena, Anumlocha, Ápúrańa, Śankhapála, and Vyághra. In the month of Áswin they are Púshan, Gautama, Suruchi, Ghritáchí, Sushena, Dhananjaya, and Váta. In the month of Kártik they are Parjanya, Bharadwája, (another) Viswávasu, Viswáchí, Senajit, Airávata, and Chápa. In Agraháyana or Márgaśírsha they are Ansu, Kaśyapa, Chitrasena, Urvasi, Tárkshya, Mahápadma, and Vidyut. In the month of Pausha, Bhaga, Kratu, Urńáyu, Purvachittí, Arisht́anemi, Karkot́aka, and Sphúrja are the seven who abide in the orb of the sun, the glorious spirits who scatter light throughout the universe. In the month of Mágha the seven who are in the sun are Twasht́ri, Jamadagni, Dhritarasht́ra, Tilottamá, Ritajit, Kambala, and Brahmápeta. Those who abide in the sun in the month Phálguna are Vishńu, Visvamitra, Súryaverchchas, Rambhá, Satyajit, Aswatara, and Yajnápeta. In this manner, Maitreya, a troop of seven celestial beings, supported by the energy of Vishńu, occupies during the several months the orb of the sun. The sage celebrates his praise, and the Gandharba sings, and the nymph dances before him: the Rákshas attends upon his steps, the serpent harnesses his steeds, and the Yaksha trims the reins: the numerous pigmy sages, the Bálakhilyas, ever surround his chariot. The whole troop of seven, attached to the sun's car, are the agents in the distribution of cold, heat, and rain, at their respective seasons.

Now the name Padmanabha isn't listed here, but he may be listed under another name. It could be Mahapadma, for instances.

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    Splendid! So the serpents are used as ropes to bind the seven horses much like Vasuki was used as a rope by Matsya or in the churning of the ocean? – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal Jan 10 '18 at 4:47
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    How I interpreted it is that there's actual ropes used, and then the Naga keeps the ropes together. Otherwise what does the Yaksha's function of trimming the reins mean? I think Vasuki would object to being "trimmed" :-) – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 10 '18 at 4:51
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    Haha yes there's a point in that but this whole chariot seems quite mysterious. Aruna drives the chariot so should be responsible for managing everything instead they have different species doing different functions. – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal Jan 10 '18 at 6:11
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    By the way, you may be interested in this chapter of the Vishnu Purana, which describes Surya's chariot. It's quite a complicated contraption. – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 11 '18 at 3:51
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    "The chariot of the sun is nine thousand leagues in length, and the pole is of twice that longitude; the axle is fifteen millions and seven hundred thousand leagues long; on which is fixed a wheel with three naves, five spokes, and six peripheries... The chariot has another axle, which is forty-five thousand five hundred leagues long. The two halves of the yoke are of the same length respectively as the two axles. The short axle, with the short yoke, are supported by the pole-star: the end of the longer axle, to which the wheel of the car is attached, moves on the Mánasa mountain." – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 11 '18 at 3:52

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