Story of Uttanka
Stories from Mahabharata
Mahabharata Story Index
The third disciple of Saint Ayodhdhaumya was Ved. One day his guru said to him, "Son, you stay in my house for a few days and take care of us, and you shall be blessed." Ved stayed with his guru for a long time and took good care of him and his family. His guru, to test his patience, would give him a lot of work to do and treat him like a beast of burden. But Ved went on serving him without being perturbed. He never once disobeyed his guru and did all that he was told. After many days his guru was pleased with him and blessed him and told him that he would be all-knowledgeable.
Ved then returned from the hermitage and left the stage of Brahmacharya (student life) and entered the stage of Grihastya (married life). He too had three disciples studying at his hermitage. But he would never ask any of his disciples to work for him or run errands for him because he realised the pains that a student has to face in the Gurukul (the school). Ved had to go out when he was appointed as a priest to do something for the king. Whenever he went out he would assign one of his disciples to look after the hermitage and his family. Once, when he was appointed as the priest to serve King Paushya, he appointed Uttank, his favourite disciple to be the caretaker in his absence.
When he came back after finishing his obligations at the palace he heard great things about the genteel behaviour of Uttank. Ved was very pleased and he blessed Uttank. He said, "Son, you have taken good care in my absence. May all your wishes be fulfilled. Now you may go and start a new life." Uttank asked his guru what he should present him as fee. The guru at first refused to accept anything, but when Uttank insisted he told him to ask his wife. Then Uttank went to the wife of his Guru and asked her what she would like as a present. The wife said that he should bring her the earrings of the queen as she wanted to wear them four days from that day and serve food to the brahmins. She told him that if he fulfilled her wishes he would be blessed.
Uttank took leave and started on his journey to the palace of King Paushya. On his way he saw a huge man sitting on a giant bull. He addressed Uttank and asked him to eat the dung of the bull. Uttank refused. But the man said that he should not hesitate as his guru, Ved, had also eaten the dung. Hearing this Uttank ate a little of the dung and started on his journey as he was in a hurry. He washed his mouth as he was moving. When he reached the palace of Paushya he blessed the king and told him that he had come to ask him for something. When Paushya learnt what Uttank wanted he sent him to the antahpur (the queen's residence). When Uttank reached the living quarters of the queen he did not find her there. So he came back to the king and told him that his queen was not to be found. To this the king replied that his wife was a pious women and very faithful and no man who was impure could see her.
Uttank remembered that he had not washed himself properly after he had eaten and performing ablutions while one is moving is not permitted. So Uttank performed his ablutions according to rituals with pure water, mantras and foam and when he finished he went to the queen again. This time he was able to see her and she gave him the earrings. She also warned him that Takshak, the snake wanted these earrings and would do anything to get them. She asked him to be careful, as Takshak would steal it from him if he was careless.
Uttank started on his journey home. On his way he noticed that there was a snake called Kshapnak following him. This snake would sometimes appear and then disappear. Uttank was thirsty and he put down the earrings to drink some water. As soon as he did that the snake Kshapnak disappeared with the earrings. It was Takshak disguised as Kshapnak who had come to steal the earrings from Uttank. Uttank summoned the Vajra (the weapon of Indra, the god of Thunder and Lightening) and with its help followed Takshak to the heavens. Takshak was scared of the power of Uttank and returned the earrings to Uttank.
Uttank reached the hermitage of his guru on time and presented the earrings to his guru's wife. He then took leave and reached Hastinapur. Uttank was very angry with Takshak and wanted to take revenge on him. By that time King Janmejaya (the great grandson of the Pandavas) had returned to Hastinapur after having conquered Takshila. Uttank went to him and said to him, "O King, Takshak killed your father by biting him. You must avenge your father's death. Please perform a yajna so that Takshak can be killed. A brahmin called Kashyap was coming to revive your father from the poison but Takshak tricked him into going back from where he had come. You perform the Snake Yajna and burn the sinner Takshak in the pure fires of the Yajna. He has troubled me a lot and if you perform the snake Yajna then you will be avenged and I shall be happy too." Saying this Uttank returned home and Janmejaya started to find out the real cause of his father's death, which led him to perform the Snake Yajna in which many snakes were burnt.
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