February 2, 2023, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Gargi – Yajnavalka question answer

The Nepal Weekly
June 14, 2022

The famous question answer session between lady scholar Gargi and Yajnavalkya in King Janak’s palace is specially significant and it is referred to by a number of Vedic scholars and mentioned in discourses on the Upanishads. The session demonstrates the high honour that lady scholar Gargi enjoyed in the then Videha or Mithila. It was Gargi who after series of question answers between herself and Yajnavalka declared that the latter was Brahmavetta in the real sense of the term.

Both Yajnavalkya and Gargi are great scholars. Yajnavalkya is a renowned sage specially known for his observation that the true self or atman is distinct from the individual ego and therefore not subject to karma and rebirth. The atman he thinks is eternal, unchanging and identified with monistic principle underlying the universe or cosmic consciousness or the Brahman. Gargi, according to Vedic literature, was the daughter of sage Vachaknu in the lineage of sage Garga (c. 800-500 BCE). She is known for her knowledge of the Vedas and scriptures and is a renowned lady scholar of Vedic philosophy.

Mithila King, always used to organizing religious and spiritual discourse in his palace once thought of finding out about the Brahmavettas, the people who know Brahma. He thought of rewarding the Brahmavettas with gold coins and cows and got for the purpose a provision for one thousand cows with five gold coins in each of their two horns. He also declared that anyone who is considered as the best Brahmavetta could take the cows away. Many scholars did not have the courage to take the cows away. As soon as sage Yajnavalkya learnt  about it he asked his disciples to take the cows and gold coins away. One scholar Ashwal challenged Yajnavalkya and asked him how he considered himself Brahmavetta and decided to take away the cows. He said he should prove his wisdom answering the questions in the discourse sessions.

Yajnavalkya agrees to this and Ashwal showers series of questions to which the sage answers  in a scholarly way. Others also question the sage. Gargi asks him so many questions that at one time he asks her not to be too ambitious in raising questions.

The themes of their questions and answers sessions are so important that they become important part of Vedic philosophy.

To be concluded

Blog by Shirish Ballav Pradhan