Nachiketa was a brave lad. He sought knowledge at a very tender age. He persuaded Yama the God of Death to teach him. His father lost his temper one-day and toldNachiketa, ‘I have gifted you to the Lord of Death.’ This curse turned out to be a boon. He met the Lord of Death and by his humility won him over and learnt the secrets of spiritual life from him. He is a true sage and a beacon-light for others ‘in he path of knowledge.
He was a young lad. Naturally there we many things yet to be learnt by him.
But the sages around were full of praise for the boy. They were congratulating the father for having begotten such a son.
This boy not only learnt the secrets of Knowledge from the Lord of Death (Yama) himself but was complimented by him too. Such is the story of our hero Nachiketa.
Knowledge is the only real wealth in this world. Those who acquire this wealth and distribute it to others are the real great men. Nachiketa acquired such knowledge at a Very tender age. He helped its spreading too. He has been regarded as a sage on this count.
Uddalaka – Vishwavara
Sages lead A holy life. Their goal in life is working for the welfare of mankind. Studying the Holy scriptures (Vedas), teaching them to the students, performing penance and sacrifices (Yajnas) were their daily routine. Their abodes, situated amidst forests, were known as penance- groves (Tapo-vanas).
‘Kutir’ means the living apartments or the cottages. In one such cottage a sage by name Uddalaka lived with his wife Vishwavaradevi.
Uddalaka was a very learned sage. He had become famous by performing many sacrifices. He used to take pleasure in feeding others. He belonged to a family of philanthropists. Both his father and grandfather were known for their large- hearted nature. People used to call Uddalaka as Vajashravas also because he used to play host to many a feeding program. Vajashravas had but one defect. He had a very bad temper. The havoc caused by his anger was worse than that of fire. Nobody was bold enough to stand in his presence during his spells of anger. It was impossible even to utter a syllable then. But he was not a bad person. None could surpass him in goodness when he was cool and composed.
His wife Vishwavaradevi was, in contrast, a very quiet and serene lady. She was neat and tidy in her household work. She was helping her husband in the performance of sacrifices. She was a very devoted wife. She considered her husband as the very incarnation of God.
But Vishwavara had no issue. She was pining to have a child. “0 God, bestow me with a son who will enhance the fame of our family” – this was her daily prayer. Vajashravas used to console her saying, “Don’t worry, dear. I will please the gods by performing a sacrifice and they will bless us with a son.”
The sacrifice was performed. Vishwavara devi conceived. A bright little son was born to her on an auspicious day. Her joy was boundless, Vajashravas too was very happy.
The boy was named Nachiketa at a grand ceremony. The child was a beauty to behold – golden-colored body, sparkling eyes, attractive nose, soft cheeks, a tilak on the forehead, and a beautiful smile on the lips. Who would not be tempted to take such a child in their arms and fondle him?
Nachiketa was now a toddler and had begun to mumble. The boy took a fancy for the sacrificial hall (Yajnamantapa) of his father. But he was afraid to go anywhere near his father. He used to stay at a distance and listen to the hymns (Mantras) chanted by the sages. He used to demand of his mother to teach him also the verses recited by her daily. By merely hearing what his mother used to recite, he learnt those verses by heart. Nachiketa was very diligent. His memory power was amazing. It was enough for him to hear anything only once. He could repeat them the very next moment.
Nachiketa was free from mischief and obstinacy of any kind. He was an early riser. His first duty of the day was to pluck the flowers for his mother. After the daily bath he used to recite verses and offer his prayers to God, and then accompany his mother to the cowshed while she* worshipped the cows. Only then would he have his first glass of milk in the morning.
Vajashravas possessed a large number of cows. He used to receive cows as gifts from kings whenever he called upon them or helped them in performing some religious rites. Money was not much in vogue then. Cows were considered as wealth in those days. The more the number of cows owned by a person, the richer he was regarded.
One-day Nachiketa’s mother was engaged in her usual worship of the cows in the pen. The boy who was present there asked: “Mother, why should we worship the cows?’ She replied: “It is because of their motherly act, son. They give us milk for our use. In fact we address them as mother – cow.”
“It is all right. But should we worship them simply because they give us milk ?’
“It is as good as saluting your own mother if you worship a cow. It is as good as going on a pilgrimage if you just go round the cow. One collects a lot of ‘punya’ (religious merit) out of this.
He could not follow the logic. Everything seemed strange to him. He continued:
“Mother, what is the use of this ‘punya’ you mentioned?”
“Have you not heard that ‘punya’ is a steppingstone to Heaven? Heaven is the abode of gods and goddesses. It is a place where one can fulfil all one’s desires.”
Instantly his thoughts went to his friend Soma. Soma was the son of another sage. But some was very poor. Nachiketa said:
“Mother, there are no cows in poor Soma’s house. Shall we gift at least an old cow to him? Let him also attain Heaven through punya.”
“No Nachiketa, never. It is a sin to gift an old cow, if it does not yield any milk. It will be useless to them. On the contrary, we will be sent to Hell because of the sin committed.”
“Can we not fulfil our desires in Hell?”
“How can you expect a sinner to get his desires fulfilled? The God of Death (Yama) punishes such people. If you want to know more about such things, you must become a scholar.”
“Mother, in that case, I will seek knowledge right now,” said Nachiketa. He sincerely set himself to acquire knowledge from that very moment.
Not that Sage Vajashravas had neglected this aspect. He himself had taught the rudiments to Nachiketa. The boy was really a prodigy. He had a sharp brain. His capacity to understand was wonderful.
One day a neighboring sage dropped in at the cottage of Vajashravas. He had brought a mango fruit along with him for the sake of the boy.
No sooner did Nachiketa see the sage, than he prostrated before him and sat on his lap. The sage fondled the boy and offered the fruit to him.
“I do not want this fruit” declined Nachiketa.
“Then what else do you want?’ asked the sage.
“I want knowledge.”
“What type of knowledge?’
“That which gives me insight.”
Vajashravas who was following the conversation suddenly flared up and shouted, “You fool! Do not talk nonsense in the presence of elders. Go inside.” Nachiketa’s feelings were hurt very much. Crestfallen, he rose slowly and went into the apartment of his mother.
The guest-sage felt sorry for the child. He said to Vajashravas, “Sir, why did you chide the boy? After the entire boy asked for knowledge and not sweetmeats. Actually you should feel pro him. Observe the luster on his face. It is a sign of a future great man. Kindly perform thread ceremony (Upanayana) soon and p into a school.”
Vajashravas who had become speechless by then readily accepted the suggestion, “But with one condition.”
“What is it?”
“You should yourself agree to accept him as your pupil and you alone should teach him the Vedas.”
“Certainly, with pleasure too,” said the sage. “Where can I secure such a pupil? Surely my fame will be enhanced for having taught such a pupil.”
Preparations for the thread ceremony began. The ‘thread ceremony’ is an auspicious ritual. The custom prevalent then was to go through this ceremony before the boy embarked upon seeking knowledge. The boy wears a thin sacred cotton cord (called ‘Yajnopaveeta’ in Sanskrit) just like a crossbelt. He becomes a ‘Vatu’ or Brahmacharin from that day onwards.
The ceremony was completed. Now Nachiketa was ready to proceed to his teacher’s place. Blessing his son on the occasion, Vajashravas said: “Dear child, you are welcome back after you complete your education. While at the teacher’s place, never defy him. Never hurt his feelings by bad actions. Humility and service alone can stand you in good stead.”
The system of education in those days was different. The student had to reside with his teacher during his studentship. The teacher who taught him the Vedas was known as Acharya. The Student was expected strictly to abide by the words of Acharya. He had also strictly to follow the ‘discipline of the Ashram. He had to partake of the food collected from different houses.
Nachiketa was all set for departure. He prostrated to his mother and said, “Mother, I am ready to go, I seek your blessings.” In her heart of hearts Vishwavaradevi had a feelling of joy. After all her son was departing to pursue his studies. But the fact of parting with him made her grief-stricken. Wiping the tears from h6r eyes, she embraced him and said, “Darling, ‘henceforward you should treat your teacher and his wife, as your parents. Their abode is your home now. The teacher who enkindles your knowledge is the veritable God. Follow his instructions scrupulously.”
Even long after Nachiketa left his homes, his mother was still worrying about her kid. She used to imagine his hardships at the new environment. But Vajashravas was always beside her to console.
In the early days at his master’s place Nachiketa was finding it difficult to follow all the disciplines of the Ashram. But slowly he became used to the new environment, and-the memory of his home began to fade. Now he was concerned with only three things – Ashram, teacher and studies. There were other students also in the Ashram who was senior to him. But Nachiketa ranked first in maintaining the discipline.
He was the first to rise in the morning. Then a swim and bath at the adjoining river. This was followed by lessons in Veda at the classroom. The Acharya used to sit on a high chair and teach. The students occupied the place on the mat spread on the floor. After finishing the classes the pupils had to collect their daily food by visiting other cottages and Ashrams. But partaking of food was not an individual affair. All the students had to assemble together and dine collectively after receiving blessings from the teacher. After the day’s work was over they were sleeping on mats.
The students were assigned some odd jobs during the afternoons – such as washing the clothes, cleaning the classrooms, plucking the flowers,picking the tender grass to be used in thesacrifice, watering the plants, bringing fodder for the cows and so on.
Nachiketa used to make a thorough job of the work entrusted to him. As soon as he heard the voice of the master calling him, he used to spring to his feet. With folded hands he would ask, “Yes, Sir, what is the order?” In fact he needed no instructions at all to do the job. By the very facial expression of his master, he would sense what was in his mind and complete in no time. Thus Nachiketa became the best loved boy in the Ashram.
His method of learning was also unique. It was enough for him if he heard the lesson only once.
The hunger for knowledge in him was insatiable. He was being taught a new lesson each day. He never even once forgot what he had learnt. It was a pleasure for the teacher to teach him.The neighbors of the Ashram who used to drop in were full of praise of the boy. “Who is this intelligent student? Who are the parents of this gem of a boy? How fortunate must be his parents they used to wonder.
One day a sad thing happened at the Ashram. Nachiketa was only 12 years old at that time. There was a black cow in the Ashram, which Nachiketa was very fond of, It died. His grief knew no bounds. Consoling him, the Acharya said: “Dear child Nachiketa, what is the use of shedding tears over a dead cow? Those who die shall never return. Everyone has to die one day or the other.”
“If the cow is dead, how come I am still seeing the cow here, sir?” asked Nachiketa.
“No, no, it is only the body of the cow that you are seeing. Yama has taken away its life. Don’t you know that Yama is the Lord of Death?” said the Acharya.
Instantly he remembered something. He said, “Yes Sir, I remember to have heard some such thing from my mother also. I was very young then. Since then I am eager to meet that Yama.”
With a smile the Acharya replied: “Boy, it is not that easy. Meeting Yama means death to this life. Those persons will never return.”
Nachiketa was disappointed. He queried, “Do you mean to say Sir, that, as it is, it is impossible to meet Yama?”
“Well,” said the Acharya, ” it may be possible for a very few people who have performed great penance. But nobody has dared yet. All right, now that it is dark, we shall retire.” The Acharya proceeded to the inner quarters. But nothing couldsatisfy Nachiketa. At last he said to himself with determination: “Let me see, whatever be the consequences, I should meet Yama one day or the other.”
Days rolled by.
We shall revert to sage Vijasharvas, father of Nachiketa He was making elaborate preparations to perform a big sacrifice of the name of Vishwajit. Vajashravas extended invitations to all the sages. He personally visited the cottage of the Acharya ten days in advance and requested him to attend the sacrifice along with all the pupils. “Please do not forget to bring Nachiketa also,” he pleaded,
On the appointed day the Acharya began his journey accompanied by his pupils. As you must be aware, walking was the only mode of transport in those days. Thus, while the party was trekking the distance. Conversation began. Nachiketa asked his teacher, “Sir, what is the purpose in the performing of this Vishwajit yaga by my father?”
The Acharya said, “Dear child, ‘Vishwajit’ literally means to win the world. This sacrifice is performed to attain fame in this world and happiness in the next.”
“But once my mother has told me that to attain -heaven one has to perform good deeds.”
“Yes, performing a Yaga is as good as performing good deeds, because a large number of people are fed and thousands of cows are gifted during that period. Besides, as per the rules of this Yaga, the performer must give away all that is’ in his possession.”
“Is it so? Then what are the things that are gifted?”
“it might be anything including Jewelry. That which is dear to the performer of the Yaga and useful to the recipient must be gifted in large numbers.”
“If that is so, can he gift me also? I am very dear to my father!”
The Acharya smiled and said, “Nachiketa, you have asked a very pertinent question. But where is the need to gift you away? Do not worry, your father will not give you away to any one.”
At last, after a long trek, the party reached its destination. As soon as Nachiketa spotted his home he ran to his mother and prostrated before her. Imagine the joy of the mother Vishwavaradevi on meeting her beloved son after a long lapse of time!
At the appointed hour, the ceremonies of the sacrifice called Vishwajit began. Playing of musical instruments, a large shamiana supported by hundreds of pillars, a large gathering of inviteesages – all these contributed to the festive atmosphere. The air was filled with the chanting of ‘mantras’ (holy verses) by hundreds of rishis. Vajashravas was conducting himself in a calm manner. The rules to be followed were rigid.
The elderly sages had warnedVajashravas beforehand saying, “0 sage, you should abstain from your anger during the Course of the ceremonies. Every word you utter should be translated into action. Otherwise all your efforts will be fruitless.”
Why did father act like this?
One afternoon was set apart to give the cows as gift. The priests prevailed upon Vajashravas to send word to bring the cows. Vajashravas complied with it in no time. He rushed the aftenders to fetch the cows from the pen. Hundreds of cows were gathered in the pandal.
A few of the cows among the herd were famished. They were too weak even to drink water. A few others had lost their teeth. Certain others were so old that their end could come at any time. The number of cows, which had gone dry, was not small.
Nachiketa was aghast at the scene. He was puzzled by his father’s action. “What does he mean by all this T’ he said to himself. “What happened to all the useful cows? What does my father gain by gifting such useless cows? Or probably finding it difficult to maintain, is he simply transferring the liability? This is no, less than committing a sin. It is actually cheating. He intends to gain heaven by performing the sacrifice. But he will go to Hell instead through such actions.”
Nachiketa shuddered at the very thought of Hell. He could not contain his grief.
“No, father should never be made to go to Hell. I must help him ‘ to avoid this. But how to explain all this to father now? He will certainly become angry. How to proceed?” mused Nachiketa.
Nachiketa thought deeply. But time was running out. The gifting ceremony will be over in no time.:.. At last he got a bright idea. He thought -“The rules of this ceremony lay down that things dear to one’s self must be gifted. Instead, father is retaining his dear ones and giving away the unwanted things. Probably he is doing so for my sake). It means that I am dearest to my father. So, if he gifts me away, everything will be satisfactory.”
Welfare of his father was uppermost in his mind. He decided that his father must be persuaded to make a gift of him also; only then could it be termed as a sacrifice.
He went to his father and in a subdued voice asked:
“Father, to whom are you going to give me as gift?”
Vajashravas looked at his son. But he did not think it fit to reply to such a silly question. He was busy with the preparations for the gifting ceremony.
Nachiketa raised his voice and repeated – “Father, to whom are you going to gift me?”
Vajashravas controlled his anger but remained silent. But Nachiketa was not the boy to give up. Thinking that his father might not have heard his question, he asked in a loud voice, which was audible to all –
“Please father, tell me to whom you are going to gift me.”
Vajashravas could ‘no longer control himself. Raging with anger, and throwing all the rules of the sacrifice to the winds, he shouted, ” Get away from here. I will gift you over to God of Death.”
The elderly sages were taken aback by the conversation going on. They stopped chanting the holy verses. They stood up and in a chorus asked, “What have you done, 0 Vajashravas? You have thrown the rules to the winds. In a fit of anger you declared that you are giving away your son to Death. Now you have to stand by your word. Otherwise, the proceeding will stop. What are you going to do now?”
Vajashravas was really at a loss now. He realized his mistake but only too late. “Fie upon my anger! I should never have uttered those words. What will befall me now?” He bemoaned. Shedding tears, he retired to the inner chamber of the cottage. With a blank head and a heavy heart he sat in a corner. As for Vishwavaradevi, no words could describe her condition. She had be come speechless. Tears were flowing from her eyes unceasingly.
Nachiketa came in search of his father. The scene he saw inside the cottage was pathetic, unbearable. He said to himself, “After all, why should father feel sorry for having gifted me to Death? Death means nothing but meeting Lord Yama. Let me see what Yama will say.” Then he approached his father and said, “Father, whatever has happened has happened. Do we not belong to the great family of Gautama and Arani? They never failed to keep their words. So will be the case with us also.”
“Oh, what a sin I have committed!” so saying, Vajashravas took the boy in his arms and began to weep, “Son, if you can go a head, you are most welcome” was all he could manage to say.
No sooner did Nachiketa get theclearance, he sat in the lotus posture (padmasana). With folded hands and closed eyes he began to pray to Lord Yama. Gradually he completely forgot the outside world.
Suddenly he felt as if some one was calling him. On opening his eyes he found neither his father nor the pandal. Sages too were not there, nor cottages. So, what did he find?
It was a wonderful place indeed. He saw a big palatial building in his front. The walls were plated with golden frills. It was a wonder of wonders to him. Slowly he proceeded towards the gates of the palace. Two sturdy persons with open swords were guarding the palace. He was taken aback on seeing those thick- moustached fellows. But mustering courage, he approached them and said, “Sirs, may I know where I am and who you are?” They replied, “This is the palace of king Yama in the city of Samyamani. By the way, what brought you here, young lad?”
Nachiketa was thrilled and felt that he was very fortunate. He said, “Respected Sirs, I am the son of the sage Vajashravas. My father has ordained me to meet God Yama. Please take me to him.” The guards went inside with the information. They returned and said, “The Lord is out of station on some business. He is expected to return after three days. The Queen has requested you to make yourself comfortable as a guest of the palace.”
But the proposal was not acceptable to Nachiketa. He said, “Sirs, my father has ordained that I should act according to the instructions Of Lord Yama. Hence I will wait for him at the gate itself till he returns.” So saying, he selected a convenient spot outside the palace and, stretching a dear skin, sat upon it. Closing his eyes he began to chant the name of God.
Three nights passed. Nachiketa did not move from his place. He had not eaten even a morsel of food. Still his mind never wavered. It was concentrated upon God and God alone. This truly is what is called as penance. Gods and Goddesses in the heaven were wonderstruck at the penance of the boy.
As soon as Lord Yama returned to the palace, he was appraised of the developments. The Queen prevailed on her consort to act immediately. She said, “it does not augur well for us if the guest is made to fast. Please bring him inside immediately.”
Lord Yama was immensely pleased with the penance of Nachiketa. Though Nachiketa was a junior, still Yama addressed him with folded hands with the words, “0 illustrious and noble Brahmin. ” Nachiketa rubbed his eyes and slowly opened them. The sight he saw had no parallel in his life. He beheld Lord Yama in all his heavenly glory. He stood up and with folded hands prayed thus: “0, Lord of Justice, I have come here at the behest of my father. I am at your disposal now.”
The Lord led him inside the palace and offered him a pedestalled seat. He washed the guest’s feet and offered him milk and fruits. Nachiketa accepted the offerings. Then the Lord began the conversation with the words, “Dear boy, guests are considered as Gods in our land. Unfortunately you, though being my guest, had to fast for three days because of me. I beg your pardon for this mistake of mine. Since you underwent fast for three days, I grant you three boons. Choice is yours.”
Nachiketa replied: “Lord, your blessings are enough for me. Only my father has ordained that I must act according to your instructions.”
“Nachiketa, I am pleased with your humility,” said the Lord, “but my words shall not go unfulfilled. I insist upon granting you three boons. Please spell out your choice.”
Nachiketa continued: “Lord, I believe that anger is bad for anybody. Whenever a person becomes angry, he knows not what he speaks. But later on he repents for his uttering. If only my father had remained peaceful during the period of sacrifice, there would have been no necessity at all for the sad happenings. But if a person should attain peace of mind, he should be satisfied within himself. My father is all the more sorry because the proceedings of the sacrifice have been disrupted.”
Yama replied: “Don’t you worry, Nachiketa. You have not come here after dying. Your father has performed many a penance. In order that his words may beaccomplished, I myself made you to go over here. Please ask whatever you desire.”
Nachiketa: “In that case, I shall venture. My father should be relieved of his anger and he should become a peaceful and contented person. He should recognize me as my old self when I return and also he should show the same affection. This shall be my first request.”
Lord “All right, your father will be at peace with himself henceforward. The sacrifice shall be completed and he will be happy about it. He will be doubly happy to see you again. Now proceed to the second.”
Nachiketa: “Lord, I have learnt that Gods and Goddesses abound in Heaven. They know no fear. They have no botheration of old age. They are deathless. If we have to attain Godhood, it seems we must be well versed in the Knowledge of Fire (Agni- vidya). I seek that Knowledge of Fire from you.”
Now Lord Yama was pur in a dilemma. How can he transmit such high knowledge to such a young boy? Still he replied: “Nachiketa, no doubt you are a dedicated boy. A person with dedication will find it easier to understand the intricacies of knowledge. So listen with care.” So saying, he preached him the Knowledge of Fire. At the end he said: “Nachiketa, only those endowed with good memory power are able to retain this knowledge. Otherwise it is difficult. Let me see if you can repeat my teachings.”
Nachiketa was too brilliant a student for such tests. His grasping power was wonderful. Any lesson, even if taught only once, used to be fresh in his memory forever. Without missing a single letter, he repeated everything that Lord Yama had spoken. Lord Yama was filled with joy. He was all admiration for the boy. ‘Enough, enough” he said, “Now that you have become a learned person, I will grant a boon on my own. This Knowledge of Fire will henceforth be known as ‘Nachiketagni’ named after you. Whoever acquires this knowledge will attain Godhood automatically. Naturally you will also attain Godhood.” With these words he placed a garland of beautiful gems around Nachiketa’s neck.
Atmavidya (Knowledge of Self)
Now, only the third boon remained to be asked. Nachiketa became thoughtful. He recollected that one-day at the Gurukula Ashram, he was weeping over the death of a cow. He said aloud: “Lord! Every living being in the world is mortal. They go through a cycle of happiness and grief in accordance with their meritorious work or sin. It is said that even if the body dies, the soul remains eternal. So there are cycles of births and deaths. What is the secret of this? Are there no ways and means of overcoming this grief? Kindly let me know if there is one. This shall be my third request.”
The Lord was wonderstruck at this question, because it is not easy for children to delve into such deep knowledge. Yama said: “Dear boy, for once I request you not to press for such a boon. I can shower on you wealth, money, emperorship or whatever you desire. The knowledge, which you are seeking, is known as Atmavidya (Knowledge of Self). It is a tough subject even for the elders. So, please drop this and ask for any other thing.”
But Nachiketa was made up of a different mettle. It was not easy to persuade him to abandon his path. He was already in possession of the Knowledge of Fire, which offered him Godhood. Then why should he hanker after mundane things? Instead knowledge, if unraveled, could enrich the whole world. What wisdom is there in losing such an opportunity? He pressed his request thus : “Lord, there is your promise. Please do teach me Atmavidya. Where else can I get a teacher like you if you refuse?”
Yama had no other choice but to teach the young sage. He taught the knowledge of yaga also along with that. Wishing good to the entire humanity, Lord Yama said: “0 greatsouled boy, one should be fortunate indeed to be born as a human being. He should cultivate good friends, he should learn good things and he should do well to others. These are the meritorious deeds. It will be a sin if instead one keeps bad company and one’s actions are motivated by evil thoughts. None should suffer on account of us. Grief will’ overtake us if we act sinfully.
“Learned people will never resort to sins, only an ignorant person does. The ignorant shall pay for their sins by taking rebirth. That is why it is said that it is only the body that dies and not the soul. Attaining salvation is the only path to avoid grief. And the path to salvation is through devotion to God. God is greater than the greatest. We worship Him as omnipotent and omniscient. He is visible to us through sun, moon, man and even animals. We should feel the presence of God every where. We should treat everybody equally. There is no such thing as highborn or lowborn. We should do well to all. In fact this is the real service to God. Such persons will attain salvation. Nachiketa, May you become a devotee of God and may you do good to one and all.” Thus the Lord ended his advice.
Nachiketa was transformed into a different person. The shining on his face surpassed even that of Gods. Brimming with joy, he said, “May I take leave of you Lord? My grateful salutations to thee.” There was rejoicing in Heaven and the Gods showered flower-petals on him.
Bidding him farewell, the Lord said, “Nachiketa, go and spread this knowledge in the world. Now you can join your father.”
With a loud voice audible throughout the world the Lord exhorted thus: “Ye the people of Mankind! Arise! May you follow the Path of Virtue shown by the enlightened ones. Awake,”
The heavenly voice was heard throughout the world. All the penancegroves in the Holy Land of Bharat received themessage. It reached the sacrificial hall ofVajashravas also. Vajashravas ran out and gazed towards the sky. The other sages also joined him. They saw a brilliant object descending to the earth. It landed near the sacrificial hall. Lo! They beheld Nachiketa.
Vajashravas embraced his son with open arms and said, “My dear son, please forgive me.” Mother Vishwavaradevi overwhelmed with joy, Enquirer, “Darling child! How did you acquire this luster on your face? Who presented this jeweled garland?”
Nachiketa narrated the entire story to all those assembled. Praise was showered on Nachiketa for his achievement. The sages turned to Vajashravas and said, “0 sage Vajashravas! Truly your son is great! He has earned praise from Lord Yama himself. How fortunate you both are to be his parents 1. The fruits of this sacrifice are doubled because of him. He struggled so that you can attain Godhood. He should be venerated since he caused the Knowledge of Nachiketagni to come to this world. He has brought the knowledge of Soul (Atmavidya) along with him. Though he might be a boy, he has already attained sagehood, His name will find a place in the books of vedas. He will remain immortal.”
This is the story of how Nachiketa became great sage – Maharshi.
The story of Nachiketa is narrated in the holy book of Vedas. There is a section by name ‘Kathopanishat’ in the Krishna- Yajurveda. This upanishadic chapter has elaborately described Nachiketa’s visit to Lord Yama, the boons he acquired, and the details regarding the teachings of Yama and other things. The book is read even today with great devotion. It has been translated into many major languages of the world. The learned men even outside Bharat have written treatises upon it. We are proud that this young sage Nachiketa is from our country.
Nachiketa carried the knowledge from Heaven to the earth. He was tender in age but attained sagehood by his knowledge. He was the one who argued with Lord Yama that knowledge is supreme. Verily he is a gem among the scholars. His service to his parents as well as to his teachers is a shining example for others to emulate. He wished nothing but good to the world. This little great man was the cause for bringing the lamp of knowledge from the heaven to the earth.
The joint prayer of the teacher and the pupil in the ‘Kathopanishat’ is as follows:
Om Saha naavavatu
Saha nau bhunaktu
Saha veeryam karavaavahai
Tejaswi naavadheetam astu
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih
“May God protect us together. May He nourish us together. Let us be engaged in bold and purposive activities. Let our noble study be full of luster. Let us not have ill feelings between us.”