Here is the beautiful story of a scholar called Ashtavakra as told by Lamosa to the Pandavas during their exile.
Kagola was a disciple of sage Uddalaka. Though Kagola was not the brightest of his students, the guru was quite pleased with his devotion and sincerity in performing his duties. In recognition of this, the sage married off his daughter, Sujata to Kagola.
In some time, Sujata conceived and would sit along with Kagola when he recited the vedas. As he was not adept at Vedas, Kagola often made mistakes and the child in Sujatha’s womb twisted and turned in agony at this. When the child was born it had eight twists or turns in its body and was hence given the name named Ashtavakra.
Ashtavakra taking after his grandfather had a penchant for learning and was even as a child very well versed in the Vedas. He, however, had to grow up in the absence of his beloved father, Kagola because Kagola had foolishly challenged a learned scholar named Vandi who had kept the condition that those who lost the debate to him should drown themselves in the ocean. This was told to Ashtavakra by his mother, Sujatha.
So, when Ashtavakra heard of a debate or ‘Tharka’ that was being organized in the kingdom called Mithila by the king Janaka he set out to participate with his uncle, Swetaketu.
Upon reaching the palace of the king, the boy was asked to move aside by the palace guards who were preparing the way for the king. Ashtavakra questioned the palace guards and informed them that even kings were supposed to make way for women, children, the learned, the old or the disabled. The King who was approaching the palace heard this and asked the guards to allow the boy inside. The next challenge to his participation came when another guard stopped Ashtavakra from entering the hall of the debate as he was a mere boy who had not enough years nor knowledge in him. Again Ashtavakra argued that wisdom cannot be measured by birth, appearance or age. The King once again came to the rescue of the boy but tried to dissuade Ashtavakra from the debate by reminding him of the enormity of the task and the reputation of his opponent.
Ashtavakra was least impressed and he assured the king that there is nothing to fear for him and that he had come to participate in the debate to win it and redeem his father’s honor.
Finally the debate began in which initially the two scholars seemed to be equals but soon Ashtavakra weighed heavily over the famous Vandi and went on to win the contest of wits.
Ashtavakra informed Vandi that he was son of Kagola who had to sacrifice his life for the sake of the false pride and honor of Vandi.
Vandi had to now let go of his own life trapped as he was in his own words. Ashtavakra came to be renowned as a great scholar and was even credited for authoring the Ashtavakra Gita.
It is said that Kagola’s soul now liberated and relieved reminded men that it is not right to judge a man by his appearance, his lineage or the position of his family at the time of his birth, each person has the potential and the ability to surprise and impress anyone.
And here ends the story of the learned scholar, Ashtavakra.
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