The story of Nachiketa and Yama

Vajasrawas, a famous person during the ancient India, was performing a sacrifice in which the performer had to give away all his wealth. It was a unique occasion. The place was beautifully decorated. The rishis attended in great number and they were chanting the mantras while offering to the holy fire.
Vajasrawas had a son named Nachiketa, who was sixteen years old. At the end of the sacrifice, Vajasrawas announces grandly that he is giving away all his possessions including a large herd of cows to the teachers and saints, who had come from all the places. Nachiketa was standing next to his father and observing his father gifting away the cows one by one. Nachiketa was surprised to see his father gifting away old cows which could not walk properly or give milk. Nachiketa felt that by giving these cows his father would not get the desired result of the sacrifice.
Nachiketa  protests in a loud whisper,”You are not giving away all your possessions! Dad, Am I not your possession?” Nachiketa asked his father to whom he would like to gift his son to. The father did not pay much attention to his question. Nachiketa repeatedly asked the same question. His father became angry and replied, “I give you to Yama, the God of death.”
Vajasrawas did not mean what he said. He had uttered these words in anger. No father would like to send their son away to the land of death. Nachiketa decided to obey the words of his father by going to the abode of Yama. Vajasrawas asked his little son to stay back. Nachiketa loved his father and did not like to disobey him. But at the same time he was very firm. Folding his hands he told his father that their ancestors never went back on their words and he would like to follow the same. He wanted his father to follow the same tradition. Nachiketa knew that all the things in this world are temporary and he was not afraid of death. He understood that following the path of truth is the gateway to heaven.
Vajasrawas was very sad but gave him permission as a follower of truth. Nachiketa left for the abode of Yama. On reaching there he found that Yama was not at home. For three days and night the young boy waited without food , water and sleep at the doorstep of Yama’s abode.Yama on his return, was deeply grieved to see that there was no to welcome Nachiketa. Yama himself greeted him with due respect. For having kept Nachiketa waiting for three days, Yama granted him three boons. Nachiketa said, “I seek the welfare of my father as my first boon.” He granted him happily. “Sir I desire to know how one could reach heaven where there is no sorrow, old age or death”. Nachiketa did not ask this second boon for himself but for the sake of the people. He wanted everyone to learn this secret knowledge and free themselves for the sufferings.
Yama was pleased with the unselfishness of Nachiketa. Yama gave all the details of a particular sacrifice, the performance of which would take one to heaven.
As Nachiketa was an intelligent and a sincere boy blessed with a spiritual knowledge, he could understand all that was taught. Yama was pleased with him and in appreciation, named that particular sacrifice after Nachiketa himself.
Nachiketa asked, “Respected Sir. What happens to a man after death? I should like to know the truth from you. This I ask for the third boon.”
Yama had not expected this question from a young boy. He tried to divert him but Nachiketa was very firm. He wanted to know the answer. Yama was very pleased but he tried to divert the attention with lot of attractive things. Nachiketa declined all these worldly pleasures. Yama was pleased with such a young truth-seeker who had rejected the path of enjoyment and chose the path of goodness. Then Yama taught him the knowledge of the Atman, realizing which man attains immortality.
This forms the subject matter of one of the Upanishads called Katha Upanishad.

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2 thoughts on “The story of Nachiketa and Yama

  1. The story needs much editing and needs to be far more conducive to a twelve or thirteen year old.
    Please send me a word file and we will work on the edit.

  2. Pingback: Nachiketa’s Fire « Tribulations of A Fledgling Mind

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