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Story of Vidagdha Shakalya and Yajnavalkya from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

The story of Vidagdha Shakalya and Yajnavalkya is found in the third chapter of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in Shukla Yajurveda. Vidagdha Shakalya was the son of Sakala. He was arrogant and was not ready to accept that Yajnavalkya was superior to him in knowledge.

Once, King Janaka performed a big Yajna. At the end of the Yajna, Janaka announced that the wisest among the scholars assembled in the assembly would be rewarded with a thousand cows adorned with gold ornaments.

Yajnavalkya stood up and asked his disciple to take the cattle home.

Hearing this, the other scholars demanded that he answer their questions and prove that he was superior in wisdom.

Yajnavalkya agreed and responded correctly and with full authority to a barrage of questions.
The assembly was convinced that Yajnavalkya indeed possessed superior wisdom.


Vidagdha Shakalya was not ready to accept the decision of the assembly and he rudely directed a volley of questions towards Yajnavalkya.

The sage answered the questions calmly. Vidagdha Shakalya did not stop and kept on asking mindless questions. The assembly realized that the arrogant saint was inviting trouble with such senseless questions.

Finally, Yajnavalkya posed a single question to Vidagdha and warned him that if he failed to answer it he would lose his head.

Unable to answer the question, Vidagdha Shakalya lost his head and fell dead.

Even the last rites of the sage could not be performed as his body was taken away by robbers. His students were carrying his body to his ashram when robbers attacked them thinking it to be some costly item.

It is believed that the story was a warning to people who were arrogant about their knowledge and were trying to humiliate real men of wisdom.