Ashtabakra Frees His Father

Kahor, disciple of the great sage Uddalaka, was married to his teacher’s daughter, Sujata. Kahor was an authority on the Vedas and the Upanishads and everybody admired him for his great knowledge.

While Sujata was pregnant, Kahor went to King Janaka to show his Vedic knowledge. He hoped that the King would appreciate him and give him lots of money and property.

In the palace Janaka had a great sage and scholar named Bandi. When Kahor arrived Janaka told him, “If you can defeat the palace sage in arguments, then only will I give you money and property. But whoever loses the debate will be thrown into the water and have to stay there. Do you agree?”

Bandi said, “Yes, I agree.”

Kahor smiled and laughed. “I can easily defeat Bandi,” he said. “So let us enter into argument.

From the Vedas and Upanishads they quoted. Each wanted to show his supremacy. At last it was finally proved that Kahor lost. Kahor was thrown into the water and there he had to remain for many years.

Meanwhile, Kahor’s child was born. His name was Ashtabakra. He studied the Vedas and Upanishads like his father and became totally conversant with them. Even before he had been born, in fact, while still inside his mother’s stomach, he had learned the Vedas and Upanishads. It was during this period that he had found fault with his father’s Vedic knowledge and corrected him from inside his mother’s womb. In his anger at being criticised, Kahor had cursed his son and Ashtabakra was born with his body twisted in eight places. Even so, he forgave his father, saying, “My father did the right thing. Why did I find fault with him? It was my fault.”

One day Ashtabakra told Sujata, “Mother, I am now grown up. Please let me go and challenge the sage, Bandi. I will be able to defeat him and free my father.”

Sujata said, “Your father also bragged and said he would defeat Bandi. Because he failed, he is no longer with us. He is inside the water. We can’t see him and he can’t see us. We can’t go to him. He can’t come to us. So, boasting is not good, my son. Let us stay peacefully here. Let us see what God does for us to bring your father back. Definitely one day we will be able to bring back your father.”

Ashtabakra said, “Oh no, Mother. I shall not listen to you. I am going to King Janaka’s place and I will defeat Bandi.” So he travelled to Janaka’s palace and like his father before him, he challenged Janaka’s sage and philosopher, Bandi. Bandi accepted the challenge. But this time, it had been decided that if Ashtabakra defeated Bandi his father would be freed. Bandi would not have to go into the water, but Ashtabakra would be known as the greatest scholar and sage. For quite a few days they argued, each one showing his capacities. Finally Bandi lost. Then Ashtabakra entered into the river and got his father. The moment Kahor came out of the river, Ashtabakra’s body became totally normal. All his bends were gone. His father’s happiness had changed his body.

So everybody was happy. Ashtabakra took his father home and they all lived together happily. This also made King Janaka happy. Even Bandi was happy to know that there was someone superior in knowledge to him.

Bandi was a great scholar and sage, and he also had abundant sincerity. He did not have any jealousy. Bandi said, “If there is someone really superior to me, I should be happy instead of becoming sad and miserable.” So in his defeat Bandi was quite happy. He made up his mind to learn the Shastras, the scriptures, more thoroughly and to devote more time to spirituality. Everyone was swimming in the sea of delight.