Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

A - B - C - D - E - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - P - R - S - T - U - V - Y


ASHTAVAKRA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] A Brahman, the son of Kahoda, whose story is told in the Mahabharata.

Kahoda married a daughter of his preceptor, Uddalaka, but he was so devoted to study that he neglected his wife. When she was far advanced in her pregnancy, the unborn son was provoked at his father's neglect of her, and rebuked him for it. Kahoda was angry at the child's impertinence, and condemned him to be born crooked; so he came forth with his eight (ashta) limbs crooked (vakra) ; hence his name.

Kahoda went to a great sacrifice at the court of Janaka, king of Mithili. There was present there a great Buddhist sage, who challenged disputations, upon the understanding that whoever was overcome in argument should be thrown into the river. This was the fate of many, and among them of Kahoda, who was drowned.

In his twelfth year Ashtavakra learned the manner of his father's death, and set out to avenge him. The lad was possessed of great ability and wisdom. He got the better of the sage who had worsted his father, and insisted that the sage should be thrown into the water. The sage then declared himself to be a son of Varuna, god of the waters, who had sent him to obtain Brahmans for officiating at a sacrifice by overpowering them in argument and throwing them into the water.

When all was explained and set right, Kahoda directed his son to bathe in the Samanga river, on doing which the lad became perfectly straight.

A story is told in the Vishnu Purana that Ashtavakra was standing in water performing penances when he was seen by some celestial nymphs and worshipped by them. He was pleased, and told them to ask a boon. They asked for the best of men as a husband. He came out of the water and offered himself. When they saw him, ugly and crooked in eight places, they laughed in derision. He was angry, and as he could not recall his blessing, he said that, after obtaining it, they should fall into the hands of thieves.


Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM