Ashtavakramaharsi - A Brief Study

Shri Gurubhyonnamaha
Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu Gururdevo Maheshwarah
Guru Saakshaat Parabrahma Tasmai Shri Guravena Maha!

This is our Jnana sloka, an utterance of our devotion to Guru.

Right worshipful Sadguru Shri Sivananda Murty was a born Shaivite who grew contemplating on the absolute everlasting actuality in the little islands of the Holy Godavari. Son of a Zamindar of Urlam (in coastal Andhra) he obeyed his mother’s order to fend for himself leaving their Estate. He left home and grew up studying, praying and preaching to go up, to adorn the seat of Shivapeethadhipati.

His preaching is replete with truths. What he said was this: If we know the history of the Maharishis we learn a lot of tales of men, the leelas of the Supreme Being and their achievements. The tales would enthuse the readers and make them wise and high-thinking. It is our rishis who are giving us the impetus of going along the paths they have shown us.

The following is an attempt at the exegesis of poojya Gurudeva of Ashtavakra Maharshi.


A brahmin called Ekapaada went into deep tapas. His wife who is named Sujatha, a good lady, born of great and qualified person served her Lord with great devotion. Ekapaada taught his disciples vedas and vedangas all the time. After some time, his wife was pregnant. The wife and husband were happy.

The child in the womb came into the third month. The teacher spent eighteen hours a day teaching and making them learning – correcting them where they went wrong. The little learners used to be fatigued. The little one in the womb laughed one day and said to his father “What is this stupidity? You take long to teach your students and repeat yourself. If you were a good teacher the learners will learn immediately.” Thus, being brandished Ekapaada rose in fury, “It is like an egg teaching the bird” So, saying in a frenzy he said “You have making wrong statements. You would be born with eight twists in your body”.

So, the kid was born with eight twists in his bones. So, he was named Ashtavakra. The little one’s mother need money for the uplift and maintenance of her son. Sujatha requested her husband to approach the King of Mithila, Janaka Maharaj for help.

Ekapaada went to the King’s court. The Maharaja asked him what the visitor’s learning is and what his wisdom. Then in reply Ekapaada replied that he learnt Vedas and Vedangas. The King asked him to prove that defeating Vandi, a great scholar in his court. ‘If what you speak is not proved right you will be punished to float on a mat in a Pond.

Ekapaada was defeated and he was asked to be seated in the pond which was dug for that purpose.

Not able to do anything Sujatha left to her Father’s home. Uddalaka was her Father. At the time when his daughter came, his wife gave birth to a boy who they named Swetaketu. Ashtavakra and Swetaketu grew together. Uddalaka, himself a rishi, taught both his son (Swetaketu) and grandson (Ashtavakra).

One day the two little ones had an argument and Swetaketu asked his aunt’s son Ashtavakra to go to his home. He told him that he is helpless.

As a little boy Ashtavakra told his grandfather that he would secure his father’s release.

When the two grew they went to the court of Janaka Maharaja. The men at the entrance stopped them that children would not be allowed to go in.

Ashtavakra said angrily that if the King gave importance only to the age of scholars and learned ones. Even the man at the gate was a learned one and so he took the boys to the King and told him what the boy said. The king allowed them admission.

The gateman took Ashtavakra and Swetaketu into the Royal court.

The King asked the boys “Are you the learned bachelors” and said they would be punished if they fail. Ashtavakra replied that he knew the punishment-making the person sit on a mat in the Pond dug specially for the purpose.

In King Janaka’s Court many learned men scholars and religious men were there. The eight-year old Ashtavakra entered the contest with Vandi. The argument is declaring one truth on which another must be a greater truth.

Vandi said that only one that flames up fire, the Sun is one and only Eswar is all pervading. Ashtavakra has to announce two truths. He answered “Indra and Agni are two, Narada and Parvata are two. Gods Aswinis are two. The base of a family, wife and husband, are two”. This way the two can contested. Ashtavakra gave answers for twelve. Vandi son of a Varuna Kumara could not give any answer for 13 and accepted defeat.

The King asked the winner what he wanted. The boy Ashtavakra replied that he came to the King to secure the release of his father, Ekapaada. The test was only an excuse. Many were sent into the pond on the pretext of their failure. Then Vandi confessed that his father Varuna planned a Yagna for which several ritwiks were needed.

Then Ashtavakra forgave Vandi. Thus, Ashtavakra acquired great renown.


Ashtavakra continued his tapas (penance) learning from his father Vedas and Vedangas. The age to get married arrived but who would marry these eight curled bodied young men? So, thinking he went to a pond and sat on a mat in that pond. Ashtavakra was a Siddha for whom nothing was impossible.

Indra sent Apsaras like Rambha to serve the young man. But none of them could disturb him. The Apsaras wanted to marry Sri Maha Vishnu Himself. Hearing this the young man said that the eight Apsaras would be married by Shri Krishna. But seeing his eight curved body the Apsaras laughed. For that they were punished. The young man cursed that Shri Krishna would conclude his avatar and killed by a Nishada. He also said that they would be insulted by thieves.

This was the reason why while Arjuna was taking the eight Apsarsas, robbers stole their ornaments. Even though a person like Arjuna was there, he could do nothing.

(There was a doubt as the eight were eight wives of Krishna. But Shri Krishna had several wives. These eight must be of those of the eight one killed herself by praaayopavesa – fast unto death).

Ashtavakra asked his father to bless him to be a life-long bachelor telling him that none would choose to marry him. Ekapaada said that the curse was his mistake and redeemed the curse making Ashtavakra a handsome young man.

There is a talk about his wedding. He went to a famous brahmin and asked for the hand of his daughter, Suprabha. The brahmin having knowledge of the father’s curse laid a condition for the wedding. The young man should go north up to Kubera’s city (Nagaram) and seeing it go up further to Kailas and have a darshan of Parvati and Parmeshwar. Then he should go to Kadambavana and see there an extraordinarily beautiful woman seated on a golden throne, simhasan.

Ashtavakra set out carrying danda and kamandala. Under Kubera’s order his servants went to meet the young man with all honours. Even then the young man did not get influenced. He saw the Aadi Para shakti. She asked the young man to wed her. But the young man told that he would marry the girl he loved. She gave him several boons. He was blessed that he would be offered prayers.

The wedding of Suprabha and Ashtavakra went up in all splendour. Kubera and other great personalities attended the wedding and showered on the couple their blessings.

Later Ashtavakra taught dharma to several disciples. There is a great work entitled Ashtavakra Samhita which is full of his teachings. This work programs that if you are other than brahma, you can never reach. If you are not part of brahma there is no other way.

The body is just midhya and so is manas and so are indriyas – organs. Everything is midhya and all is full of Brahma. Only two of his works are available Astavakra Gita and Samhita. None other is available now.

Bhagirath began to walk like Ashtavakra who thought of cursing him for ridiculing and making fun of him. So, he uttered that if he is not ridiculing, he shall become full of effulgence. Bhagirath being originally weak became splendid because of Ashtavakra.


After a long time, Ashtavakra became old creating great growth he and he send away his wife Suprabha to heavens.

Dwaparayuga started. Sri Krishna was in Dwarika. Searching for him Ashtavakra reached Dwaraka. He saw Him and gave Him his salutations. Shri Krishna welcomed him. At that moment Ashtavakra put his head on Sri Krishna’s feet and left his mundane body. His wives asked Shri Krishna about the details of Ashtavakra. Sri Krishna told them that he was a great devotee of His. Wealthy of fortune of tapas, they are of Brahmavamsa. He was chosen by Him to create the universe and he created Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara and Sanatana – great rishis. They did not think of contact with women.

Later Brahma created Maharishis and maanasaputras like Vasishta, Angira, Maree chi and Prachetanus – the four of His maanasaputras. Later they married and gave birth to Sons.

Prachetasa had a son Asitha, a great devotee of Vishnu. When he was in Tapas Brahma appeared through Akasavani and ordered Asitha to do penance for Rudra.

Asitha obeyed Him and Rudra appeared and taught him Raadha Mantra. With the blessings of Raadhadevi, Asitha had a son Dewala. This Dewala married a princess called Maalavathi. Becoming a Viragi, perormed great tapas. When the angels in heaven were afraid of his tapas, he rejected even Rambha and insulted her. So, she was cursed but later she was told that in another birth you would be Ashtavakra. Your Jnana would be within you. Rambha also said that Ashtavakra would have all knowledge and be there as Ashtavakra. Then Rambha went back to heaven.

Ashtavakra Samhita which has twenty chapters. Atmopadesam, Atmanubhavollasam, Pratyapakshepadwaaropadesam, Atmajnaana Sankeertanam, Layayogam, Jnaanayogam, Anubhava Panchakam, Bandhamoksha Vyavastha, Nirvedam, UVupasamam, Jnaanam, Swarupa Samstiti, Atma Sankyaanubhuti, Shanti Satakam, Atmastithi Anubhavam, Jeevan Mukti are the chapters of that great work.

Janaka Maharaj praised Ashtavakra that he was a great jnaani and at the end he became one with paramatma. His teachings are here and remain here forever.

Most people who would be trying to know if Uttamalokaas are there. To speak the truth, in all the living beings, jeevas, for all of us, they exist.

Wherever jeevas go, all go to the place of great, divine joy Jeevaatma enjoys bliss. The place he goes to at the end is Paradise, Swarga. There are many lokaas. Uttama lokaas, Vishnuloka, Shivaloka are there. Heaven being experienced is vishnutatwa.

The life in this earth as a human being is the only way to get merged and absorbed in Brahma. For that reason, birth as a human being is of the highest order. The devatas should not have a desire to have Mukti. They are liberated.


Sadguru Shri Shri Shri Sivananda Murty has done intense tapas and got unity with God. This is called by devout rishis the condition jeevaika brahma.

This is only a little part of our great preceptor and exegete’s heavenly endeavour.


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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