Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Nachiketa - The Boy Who Obtained the Secrets of Death

Once there was a Brahmana named Vajashrava, who wished to accumulate good deeds by performing a great sacrifice. He announced that after the sacrifice, he would be donating the bulk of his wealth (which was mostly cattle) to learned Brahmanas. The sacrifice was duely performed, but when it became time for the donation, Vajashrava's greed got the better of him. He kept all the healthy cattle for himself and gave away only those that were old and infirm.

(Note: There is an alternate explantation that says that the father of Nachiketa was Uddalaka, who was the son of Aruna, who was the son of Vajabhrava).

His son Nachiketa who was observing this, became very sad. He went to his father and said: "O Father! Why are you donating only good for nothing cattle to these Brahmanas? Are you not aware that such an act is a deadly sin. Your intent was to accumulate good deeds. These gifts will have the opposite effect. Please donate your good cattle."

Vajashrava became angry. He said, "Son, You are not yet of an age when you can understand the ways of the world. If I donate all our good cattle, how will we live. Do not concern yourself with matters that you do not understad!". Nachiketa was silent for a while, for he had been brought up to give respect to his parents and elders.

At last he said to his father, "O Father! The scriptures are unanimous in saying that the greatest wealth of a man is his children. If you gift me to somebody then you would have fullfilled your vow. To whom shall you gift me?"

Vajashrava, who was busy with the rituals did not pay any attention to his son. He hardly even heard what Nachiketa had to say. Nachiketa repeated this question again and again. At last, out of sheer exasperation, Vajashrava shouted: " I hereby gift you to Yama, the Lord of death ".

Nachiketa took the words of his father as a command. He immediately cast of his usual robes, donned those made of tree bark and coarse cotton and proceeded to the abode of Yama. However, when he got there, he found that Yama was away from the palace. So he waited for 3 days outside the palace, without either food or water.

When Yama returned, he was surprised to see a boy standing outside his palace. He took him inside and enquired what his errand was. Nachiketa then narrated all that had taken place between himself and his father.

Yama was very pleased with the clear thinking and honesty of the young Brahmana. He said: "Your father spoke those words simply in anger. A hasty gift is not a gift at all. Besides you are the only son of your father and very dear to him. He must be very much worried by now. You still have a lot of years left to live on the earth. So return to your father till I claim you at the appointed time. Before going, I shall grant you three boons, for you have waited without food and water before my palace for three full days.".

Nachiketa asked for the answers to three questions regarding the soul, life and death.

Finally Nachiketa went back to his father's house and imparted the knowledge he obtained from Yama to many disciples.

Last Modified At: Thu Oct 21 22:12:54 2004