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Bhartruhari Life History - Story of the Birth of Bhartruhari

Bhartruhari , Hindu philosopher and grammarian of 6th century, is noted for his famous philosophical works – Niti Shataka, Shrinagara Shataka and Vairagya Shataka. He is also the author of the famous Vakyapadiya. There is a very interesting story regarding the birth of Bhartruhari.

There once lived a learned Brahmin named Govinda Swami. He became the student of all the important Gurus of his time and gathered knowledge from all. But he remained dissatisfied. He felt there is more to learn.

Therefore, he took a journey to find out a Guru who was the abode of all knowledge and who could satisfy all his doubts. During his journey, he came across a brahmarakshas (a ghostly apparition) in a forest.

Govinda Swami soon found out that the brahmarakshas was in his earlier form a learned man. He had not shared his knowledge with anyone. Therefore a knowledge seeker cursed him that he will take the form of a brahmarakshas and will be relieved of the curse only when he shares his knowledge.

Story of the Birth of Bhartruhari

The ghostly apparition had taken refuge in a Peepal tree in the forest to avoid public contact. He was happy to see someone seeking true knowledge in the dense forest.

There was no edible food in the forest, so the brahmarakshas gave Govinda Swami a medicine. After taking it, he will never feel hungry or thirsty. But all his hunger and thirst will return back if he touches water.

Govinda Swami soon started his lessons. The brahmarakshas sat on the peepal tree and wrote daily lessons on peepal leaves. He then dropped it to Govinda Swami how was sitting below. Govinda Swami used to read each leaf.

Soon Govinda Swami cleared all his doubts and decided to return home. By sharing knowledge, the brahmarakshas regained his earlier form.

Once during his journey, Govinda Swami reached Ujjain. Here he was charmed by the beautiful river and decided to take bath. As soon as he entered the river water, all his hunger and thirst returned and fell unconscious. He had forgotten the condition that his guru had set while giving the medicine that would make him devoid of hunger and thirst.

A beautiful girl, who witnessed Govinda Swami falling unconscious, dragged him out of water and looked after him.

When he regained consciousness, Govinda Swami thanked the girl and asked her what she wanted. She said she wanted to marry Govinda Swami.

Govind Swami also liked the girl but as he was from Brahmin caste he had to marry females from three other caste before marrying the girl who was of Shudra caste.

Govinda Swami then married a Brahmin woman and later the daughter of King of Ujjain for a Kshatriya woman, then a Vaishya woman and then she married the Shudra Girl.

In due course of time, Govinda Swami also became the king of Ujjain, when the then king decided to take Sanyasa.

The Shudra girl in due course of time gave birth to Bhartruhari . In Brahmin woman, Govinda Swami had Vararuchi, the Kshatriya woman gave birth to Vikramaditya and the Vaishaya woman gave birth to Bhatti. All the four sons were intelligent and famous.

But Govinda Swami made Bhartruhari his eldest son the next king, as he was the most intelligent. This was a path breaking decision in that era – to make the son born in a Shudra woman the king when there was a son in a Kshatriya woman.

Scholars are also of the view that this Govinda Swami is the same Govindapadar who was the Guru of Adi Shankaracharya.