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Durable Link to this BlogFriday, August 16, 2002

The Story of Satyakama

The Story of Satyakama

In ancient India, education was available in ashramas or hermitages (also known as Gurukulas) of learned teachers. A guru accepted  students only by their merit.

One day, a young cowherd boy went to the gurukula of sage Harita and requested to admit him as a student. Harita asked the boy of his family  background (name of the family, name of the father etc.,) which was the practice. The boy did not know any of this. He had no name! Everybody called him by the nick name of Jabbu. The sage sent him, to return the next day with more details.

Jabala, the boy's mother was a servant  in a rich man's house, whose cows the boy tended. In the evening when they met in the servants room, Jabbu told about his meeting the hermit and asked for his father's name and family details.

Jabala sat quietly. Tears rolled from her eyes. Her son was growing and truth had to be told.

She was a servant earlier in another household which had bought her. As a young and pretty woman, she was asked to cater to the guests who visited her master now and then. "That was the time you were born. I cannot tell who your father was. Nor do you have a family name. Tell your guru that you are Jabala's son".

Jabbu sighed. He understood who he was -- a bastard! Hence he had no hope of entering a holy place like an hermitage. "I am doomed" he thought, but the truth did not deter him.

The next day he presented himself before the teacher Harita and told him whatever he had heard from his mother. The guru was pleased at his naivety. "You are Satyakama (lover of truth), which will be your name from today. Jabala will be your family name". He then initiated the boy in the gurukula.

After years of hard study, Satyakama became a visionary and a great preceptor himself. This story of Chhndogya Upanishad throws light on the contemporary society of those times, and the virtues a student had to cultivate.

See Also:
• "My Gurukul Days"
• Education in India through the ages
• The Wonder that was India: Topics on Ancient India

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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