WHILE the Pandavas were wandering among holy places in the forest,
theycame oneday to the hermitage of thepersonages immortalized in the Upanishads. Lomasa
told Yudhishthira the story of that place.
Udaalaka, a great sage and teacher of Vedanta, had a disciple named
Kagola, who was virtuous and devoted but had no great learning. So, the other disciples
used to laugh and mock at him.
Uddalaka, however, attached no great weight to his disciple's lack of
erudition but really appreciated his virtues, devotion and good conduct and gave his
daughter Sujata in marriage to him.
The couple was blessed with a son. A child generally inherits the
characteristics of both the parents, but fortunately the grandson of Uddalaka took after
his grand- father rather than his father and knew the Vedas even while he was in his
When Kagola made mistakes, as he often did in reciting the Vedas, the
child in the womb would twist his body with pain, and so it came to pass that he had eight
crooks in his body when he was born.
These cooks earned him the name of Ashtavakra, which means
"Eight-crooks." Kagola, one ill-fated day, provoked a polemical contest with
Vandi, the court scholar of Mithila, and, having been defeated, was made to drown himself.