Sage Ashtavakra was one of the greatest sages of ancient
India and had
composed the famous Ashtavakra Gita. The story of Ashtavakra is very
interesting. His parents were Sage Khagodara and Sujata. It is said when
Ashtavakra was in womb of Sujata, he criticized his father for wrongly chanting
Ashtavakra used to listen to Vedas when he was in womb. He learned it and once suggested to his father that he was chanting a mantra wrongly and the sounds created by each syllable matters.
Sage Khagodara got angry and cursed the baby to be born crooked and with curves. The sage out of ignorance believed that the baby was being arrogant.
Sage Khagodara was very poor and once he went to take part in a debate in the court of Janaka hoping to win some prize. There he got into a debate with Vandina, a scholar in the court. The deal was that one who lost in the debate will perform Jal Samadhi, die by jumping into river.
Sage Khagodara lost the debate and performed Jal Samadhi.
Sujata then gave birth to Ashtavakra – who had eight bends in his body.
She went to live in her father’s Ashtram – Sage Uddalaka’s Ashram.
Sujata meanwhile tried to hide the sad tale of Sage Khagodara from Ashtavakra. But once she had to tell her son what had happened to his father.
Sage Ashtavakra immediately went straight to the court of Janaka.
The gatekeepers made fun of the boy. He contested them by saying that knowledge is not based on age.
When Ashtavakra arrived at the court of King Janaka, the courtiers started laughing seeing his deformed body.
Immediately Ashtavakra started laughing more loudly. The courtiers were silenced by his laughter.
Curious Janaka wanted to know the reason why Ashtavakra was laughing loudly.
Ashtavakra said that he laughed because the King was leading a court of cobblers. The courtiers are only interested in skin (not the soul). This impressed Janaka.
Janaka gave permission for the debate and Ashtavakra easily defeated Vandina. But Ashtavakra did not allow the scholar to perform Jal Samadhi as he considered that knowledge should not be used as a weapon to end the life of any living being.