Chapter 132

Mahabharata English - ARANYAKA PARVA

“Lomasa said, ‘See here, O lord of men, the sacred hermitage ofSwetaketu, son of Uddalaka, whose fame as an expert in the sacred mantrasis so widely spread on earth. This hermitage is graced with cocoanuttrees. Here Swetaketu beheld the goddess Saraswati in her human shape,and spake unto her, saying, ‘May I be endowed with the gift of speech!”In that yuga, Swetaketu, the son of Uddalaka, and Ashtavakra, the son ofKahoda, who stood to each other in the relation of uncle and nephew, werethe best of those conversant with the sacred lore. Those two Brahmanas,of matchless energy, who bore unto each other the relationship of uncleand nephew, went into the sacrificial ground of king Janaka and theredefeated Vandin in a controversy. Worship, O son of Kunti, with thybrothers, the sacred hermitage of him who had for his grandsonAshtavakra, who, even when a mere child, had caused Vandin to be drownedin a river, after having defeated him in a (literary) contest.’

“Yudhishthira said, Tell me, O Lomasa, all about the power of this man,who had in that way defeated Vandin. Why was he born as Ashtavakra(crooked in eight parts in his body)?”

“Lomasa said, The sage Uddalaka had a disciple named Kahoda of subduedpassions, and entirely devoted to the service of his preceptor and whohad continued his studies long. The Brahmana had served his tutor long,and his preceptor, recognising his service, gave him his own daughter,Sujata, in marriage, as well as a mastery over the Shastras. And shebecame with child, radiant as fire. And the embryo addressed his fatherwhile employed in reading, ‘O father, thou hast been reading the wholenight, but (of all that) thy reading doth not seem to me correct. Even inmy fetal state I have, by thy favour, become versed in the Shastras andthe Vedas with their several branches. I say, O father, that whatproceeds from thy mouth, is not correct.’ Thus insulted in the presenceof his disciples, the great sage in anger cursed his child in the womb,saying, ‘Because thou speakest thus even while in the womb, thereforethou shalt be crooked in eight parts of the body.’ The child wasaccordingly born crooked, and the great sage was ever after known by thename of Ashtavakra. Now, he had an uncle named Swetaketu who was the sameage with himself. Afflicted by the growth of the child in the womb,Sujata, desirous of riches, conciliating her husband who had no wealthtold him in private: ‘How shall I manage, O great sage, the tenth monthof my pregnancy having come? Thou hast no substance whereby I mayextricate myself from the exigencies, after I have been delivered.” Thusaddressed by his wife, Kahoda went unto king Janaka for riches. He wasthere defeated in a controversy by Vandin, well versed in the science ofarguments, and (in consequence) was immersed into water. And hearing thathis son-in-law had been defeated in a controversy by Vandin and caused tobe drowned by him, Uddalaka spake unto his daughter Sujata, saying, ‘Thoushall keep it a secret from Ashtavakra.’ She accordingly kept hercounsel–so that Ashtavakra, when born, had heard nothing about thematter. And he regarded Uddalaka as his father and Swetaketu as hisbrother. And when Ashtavakra was in his twelfth year, Swetaketu one daysaw the former seated on his father’s lap. And thereat he pulled him bythe hand, and on Ashtavakra’s beginning to cry, he told him, ‘It is notthe lap of thy father.’ This cruel communication went direct intoAshtavakra’s heart and it pained him sorely. And he went home and askedhis mother saying, ‘Where is my father?’ Thereupon Sujata who was greatlyafflicted (by his question), and apprehending a curse told him all thathad happened. And having heard all, the Brahmana at night said unto hisuncle Swetaketu, ‘Let us go unto the sacrifice of king Janaka, whereinmany wonderful things are to be seen. There we shall listen to thecontroversy between the Brahmanas and shall partake of excellent food.Our knowledge also will increase. The recitation of the sacred Vedas issweet to hear and is fraught with blessings.’ Then they both–uncle andnephew–went unto the splendid sacrifice of king Janaka. And on beingdriven from the entrance, Ashtavakra met the king and addressed him inthe following words.”

Chapter 111
Chapter 133
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