Nachiketa

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Nachiketa (नचिकेता), IAST: Naciketā), was a son of a cowherd of the name Vājashravasa. Nachiketa, who was offered to Yama to find a place in Heaven by his father, "is derived from 'na chiketas,' that which is unperceived and refers to the quickening Spirit that lies within all things like fire, latent in wood, the spirit that giveth as opposed to Vājashravsa, the letter which killeth." [1] Nachiketa with his wits learnt the wisdom taught by Yama (the god of Death), found the path of realising Brahman / Moksha i.e. emancipation of the soul from rebirth.

Story of Nachiketa and Yama

The story of the conversation between Nachiketa and his teacher Yama is the teaching of the Kathopanishad. Vājashrava, desiring a gift from the gods, made offerings of all he owned. But the kind of cows that he had were old, yielding no milk and worthless; not such as might buy the worshiper a place in Heaven. Vājashravasa's son, Nachiketa would have his father make a worthier offering. To his sire he spoke: "To which god wilt thou offer me?" "To Death do I give thee".

Nachiketa thought: "I shall be neither the first nor last that fares to Yama. Yet what will he do with me? It shall be with me as with others." So Nachiketa went his way to Death's wide home, and waited there three days; for Death was on a journey. When Death returned, his servants said: " A Brahman guest burns like a fire; Nachiketa waits three days unwelcomed; do thou soothe him with an offering of water, for all is lost to him in whose abode a Brahman waits unfed."

Then Death spoke to Nachiketa: "Since thou, an honored guest, hast waited in my house three days unfed, ask of me three boons in return, I shall grant them". Then first he prayed: " Grant to my father peace and to know and welcome me when I return." Yama answered: "Be it so." Nachiketa asked again: " In the Heaven-world there is no fear; there is neither hunger, nor old age, nor fear of death. Reveal to me the sacred fire that leads to Heaven and immortality." Then Yama described the sacred fire- what stones for its altar, and how disposed; and Nachiketa said it over, learning the lesson taught by Yama. Yama spoke again: " I grant thee, furthermore, that this sacred fire be known for ever by thy name; thine is the fire that leads to Heaven, thy second boon."

Nachiketa asked again: " The great mystery of what cometh after death; he is, some say; others say, he is no more. This great doubt I ask thee to resolve." Yama replied: " Even the gods of old knew not this; this is a matter hard to be learnt; ask me any other boon only ask not of death." But Nachiketa insisted to resolve mystery after death and no other boon. Yama explained that the goal of sacred wisdom, of goodly works and faith, is Om! This word is Brahman, the supreme. He who doth comprehend this word, whatever he desires is his.

Thus having learnt the wisdom taught by Yama, and finding Brahman, Nachiketa was freed from death.

Nachiketa was from Kath clan

Kishori Lal Faujdar writes that there was a tribe named Kath in Punjab. Brahma's one son named vaishampayan was preacher of Yajurveda. His son was named Kath who was author of kathopanishada. He quotes some author Raja Ram who has written about the kath tribe as ruler near river Irawati. The capital of Kath people was at Sankala/Sangala when Alexander attacked. These Jats opposed Alexander very bravely. Some 17 thousand kath kshatriyas died in this war. The kath people were defeated but they impressed Greeks. The Greek authors have written about many traditions of this tribe. One of the rites mentioned is that a child was inspected after birth by these people and if not found strong and handsome he was killed.

The Jat historian Kishori Lal Faujdar concludes that probably this tradition of Kath people finds reflection in the story of Nachiketa in Kathopanishada where Nachiketa was handed over to Yama. [2]

The Kataria clan of Jats are considered to be descendants of Kath people. [3]

Reference

  1. Sri Krishna Prem/16
  2. Kishori Lal Faujdar, Rajasthan ke madhyakalin jat vansh, Jat Samaj Patrika, Agra, March 2002, p.6
  3. Kishori Lal Faujdar, Rajasthan ke madhyakalin jat vansh, Jat Samaj Patrika, Agra, March 2002, p.6

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