Ashtavakra | Sri Ashtavarka & Janaka & Ashtavakra Gita


Shri Ashtavakra

Hari Om tat Sat

Ashtavakra is a sage mentioned in Hindu scriptures. He is described as one born with eight different deformities of the body (two feet, two knees, two hands, the chest and the head). In Sanskrit, Aṣṭāvakra means "one having eight bends". Ashta (IAST Aṣṭa) means eight, while Vakra means bend or deformity. Aṣṭāvakra is the author of the work Aṣṭāvakra Gītā, also known as Aṣṭāvakra Saṃhitā, a treatise on the instruction by Aṣṭāvakra to Janaka about the Self. Aṣṭāvakra is the Guru of the king Janaka and the sage Yājñavalkya.

Life of Sri Astavakra : -

The sage Uddalaka, the seer mentioned in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, ran a school (Āśrama) teaching the Vedas. Kahola (also spelled Kahoḍa) was one of his best disciples. Uddalaka was so pleased with him that he had his daughter Sujata married to him. When Sujātā got pregnant, she had the desire of wanting her child to imbibe spirituality and intelligence. She began to sit in the classes taught by Uddalaka and Kahola, listening to their chanting of the Vedic Mantras. In India, there is a belief that when expectant mothers expose themselves to spiritual teachings, the child in the womb hears it and gathers that knowledge and become a genius in that spiritual area after its birth. One day, as Kahola was reciting the Vedas within the hearing distance of the child growing in the womb. The embryo was aware of the correct pronunciation of every syllable since its mother used to attend classes with rapt attention. The embryo heard the recitation of Kahola, but whenever Kahola pronounced a syllable wrong, it squirmed in distress. The embryo informed Kahola that he had pronounced the syllable wrongly as indicated by the child in the womb. This happened on eight occasions. Kahola perceived this as arrogance on the part of something, yet to manifest itself in the world. He cursed the fetus with eight deformities of the body. When the baby was born, it was crooked in eight places - the two feet, the two knees, the two hands, the chest and the head). He was named Aṣṭāvakra, which means "one having eight bends". Around the time Aṣṭāvakra was born, Kahola was persuaded by Sujātā to go to the court of Janaka to earn some money. In Janaka's court, Kahola was challenged to a scriptural debate (Śastrārtha) by the philosopher, Vandin (also spelled Bandin). In that time, the best philosophers were invited to argue in the presence of the monarch Janaka. Vandin easily defeated Kahola and immersed the vanquished Kahola in under water. Aṣṭāvakra was now raised by Uddalaka. Uddalaka too had a son named Śvetaketu when Aṣṭāvakra was born. Aṣṭāvakra and Shvetaketu grew up together. Uddalaka, Sujata and the disciples ensured that Aṣṭāvakra was never informed of his real father, Aṣṭāvakra thought that Uddalaka was his father and Shvetaketu|Śvetaketu his brother. When he was twelve years old, Aṣṭāvakra was seated on Uddalaka's lap. Śvetaketu pulled him down and informed him that it was not the lap of his father. Aṣṭāvakra came to know the truth about his father Kahola from Sujāatā, He decided to confront Vandin and defeat him in an argument. Aṣṭāvakra and Śvetaketu made his way to Janaka's palace. Aṣṭāvakra first faced the gatekeeper who tried to keep the young boy out. On convincing the gatekeeper that he was well versed in the scriptures and hence old, he was let in. Then Janaka tested Aṣṭāvakra with cryptic questions which Aṣṭāvakra answered with ease. Janaka decided to let Aṣṭāvakra face Vandin. Vandin and Aṣṭāvakra began the debate, with Vandin starting. They alternately composed six extempore verses on the numbers one to twelve. Then Vandin could only compose the first half of a verse on the number thirteen. Aṣṭāvakra completed the verse by composing the second half and thus won the argument against Vandin. This unique debate is full of enigmas and latent meanings which lie under the simple counts of the numbers one to thirteen.[7] The condition of the contest was that if Vandin were to lose he would grant any wish of his vanquisher. Aṣṭāvakra demanded that Vandin be drowned in water just as he forced his vanquished opponents to do. Vandin then revealed that he was the son of Varuṇa (the Lord of all water bodies), and was sent incognito to land to get Ṛṣis to conduct a ritual that Varuṇa wanted to perform. By this time, Varuṇa's ritual was also complete. On Vandin's request, Varuṇa bade the sages and Brahmaṇas farewell and brought them to surface. Aṣṭāvakra worshipped his father and was in turn praised by all the freed sages. Kahola was extremely pleased with his son. Kahola returned to his aśrama with Aṣṭāvakra and Śvetaketu. In the presence of Sujātā, Kahola asked Aṣṭāvakra to bathe in the river Samanga. When Aṣṭāvakra entered the river, all his crooked limbs became straight.

Meaning of Aṣṭāvakra

In the epic, the poet derives the name Aṣṭāvakra as the Sandhi of Aṣṭa meaning eight and Avakra meaning not deformed or straight. In the verses 1.98 to 1.100, five interpretations are given for the word Aṣṭāvakra using this Sandhi decomposition.[8]

1. He in whom the eight Prakṛtis – the five elements (earth, air, fire, water and space), the mind, the intellect and the ego – will never be deformed
2. He whom the eight Bhogas (sources of sensual pleasure) and the eight Maithunas (types of marriages and unions) will not be able to deform
3. He whom even the eight Lokapālas (world protectors) – Indra, Agni, Yama, Sūrya, Varuṇa, Vāyu, Kubera and Candra – will not be able to deform
4. He for whom the eight Vasus will never be unfavourable (Avakra)
5. He whose unblemished (Avakra) fame will be sung by eight Nāgas in all the eight Yāmas (three hour periods) of the day

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