02/02/2011 08:16:01 V.N. Gopalakrishnan
Yagnavalkya Jayanti is the birth anniversary of Sage Yagnavalkya, one of the great sages of Vedic India and is celebrated on March 9 this year. He is well-known for his teachings of the Upanishads. According to some historians, Sage Yagnavalkya was born in 3230 BC. Some Hindu communities celebrate Yagnavalkya Jayanti in the month of Kartik (October/November) whereas in North India, it is observed in the month of Phalgun. Yagnavalkya Jayanthi is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm by the Brahmin communities in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. It is also celebrated in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.
The celebrated ascetic Yagnavalkya was born in Mithila as the son of Brahmrath and Sunanda. Brahmrath was a scholar of Vedas and Sastras and was also known as Vajasani as he used to donate food daily. He was also known as Devrath as he was blessed with a son. After the birth of Yagnavalkya, the couple got a daughter by name Kamsari. He was the pupil of Vaisampayana. He was also a master in performing Yagnas and hence was called Yagnavalkya. It was Yagnavalkya who officiated as one of the Hortis at the great Rajasuya of Yudhishtira.
Yagnavalkya had two wives - Maitreyi and Katyayani. When Yagnavalkya desired to divide his property between the two before taking up Sanyas, Maitreyi asked whether she could become immortal through wealth. Yagnavalkya replied that it is not possible and she requested him to teach her what he considered the best. Accordingly, Yagnavalkya imparted her true and infinite knowledge. The conversation between Yagnavalkya and Maitreyi is recorded in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The philosophical teachings of Yagnavalkya are given in the third and fourth chapters of this Upanishad. Yajnavalkya’s other wife Katyayani was the daughter of Bharadwaj and had only common intelligence compared to Mitreyi.
Once King Janaka wanted to learn Brahma Vidya. For this, he conducted a debate to find out who possessed the highest knowledge. He also offered one thousand cows with their horns decked with gold coins along with their calves. Yagnavalkya asked his disciples to take away the cows. However, other participants questioned this and a heated debate took place. Yagnavalkya answered all the questions properly and won the debate. On another occasion, Yagnavalkya visited King Janaka and the latter asked whether he has come to get the cows or to ask difficult questions. For this, he replied that he has come for both. A debate commenced and at the end a satisfied King surrendered himself and kingdom to him.
Sage Yagnavalkya said: “The senses are in the nature of hindrance only as long as they are not directed inward, towards the Atman. The eye cannot choose but see and the ear cannot choose but hear. Make the senses calm and make the mind almost blank; do not think of anything in particular, and then you will hear in your heart the voice of the infinite”. Besides Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya wrote the famous Yajnavalkya Smriti, Yajnavalkya Samhita, Pratijna Sutra, Yoga Yagnavalkya and Satapatha Brahmana. Finally, Yajnavalkya took up Sanyas and renounced the word.