Note: In the previous post, we saw that about the same time king Janamejaya marched to Takshashila, rishi Ayoda-Dhaumya decided to test his three pupils, starting with Aruni.
In the Mahabharata, we often find the main storyline going off on such tangents. However, every tangent has a purpose and it always merges into the main storyline soon.
This tangent will also come together with Janamejaya soon, but for now, let’s enjoy the Puranic story of how rishi Ayoda-Dhaumya tested his second pupil, Upamanyu.
After testing Aruni, rishi Ayoda-Dhaumya addressed his pupil Upamanyu:
“My child, Upamanyu, go and look after the cows.”
Upamanyu, having received instructions from his teacher, spent the entire day looking after the cows and returned to his teacher’s house in the evening. Upamanyu stood before the rishi and bowed to him respectfully.
The rishi seeing Upamanyu looking very plump asked him: “Upamanyu, my child, you are very plump. How do you support yourself?”
“Sir, I support myself by begging for food,” Upamanyu replied.
Rishi Ayoda-Dhaumya thought for a moment and said, “You should not eat the alms you obtain by begging without first offering them to me.”
The next day, Upamanyu went to his teacher with everything he had obtained in alms. The rishi took all the food leaving Upamanyu with nothing to support himself during the day when he would tend to the cows.
That day, once again, Upamanyu returned to the rishi, after completing his work, in the evening and bowed to his teacher with respect.
The rishi looked at Upamanyu and asked, “My child, Upamanyu, I took all your food in the morning, but you still look quite healthy. How did you support yourself today?”
Upamanyu replied, “Sir, after giving you all the food I obtained in alms, I went begging once again for my own food.”
“This is not the way you should obey your teacher, my child,” the rishi said. “By begging for food twice, you are depriving others who support themselves through alms.”
Upamanyu promised his teacher that he would not beg for food twice. The next day, after offering the alms to his teacher, he again spent the day looking after his teacher’s cows and returned to his teacher in the evening.
The rishi observed that Upamanyu was still in good bodily condition.
“Upamanyu, my child, I take everything you obtain by alms and you don’t beg for alms for the second time, but you are still in a good bodily condition. How do you support yourself?”
“Sir, I drink the milk of these cows,” Upamanyu replied.
“Upamanyu, my child, it is not correct for you to take the cows’ milk without first asking for my consent.”
Upamanyu agreed with his teacher’s logic. The next day, the entire routine repeated. In the evening, rishi Ayoda-Dhaumya was surprised to see Upamanyu in great condition. He asked Upamanyu how he supported himself without taking alms or drinking the cows’ milk.
“Sir, now I drink the froth that the calves throw out after suckling their mother’s milk.”
“No my child, you should not do that. The calves, out of compassion, are throwing out large amounts of froth to help you. By taking their froth, you are depriving them of the nourishment that is lawfully theirs.”
Upamanyu once again agreed with the logic of his teacher.
The next day, he did not eat any of the alms he had begged, nor did he drink the milk of the cows, and neither did he take the froth from the calves. By evening, he was very hungry. Unable to control himself, he ate some Arka leaves in the forest. The Arka leaves being harmful to humans because of their pungent, acrimonious, and saline properties, caused Upamanyu to lose his eyesight. Unable to see, he crawled about and fell into a pit.
When Upamanyu did not return by sunset, rishi Ayoda-Dhaumya along with the other students went to search for him. They went into the forest shouting, “Ho Upamanyu, where are you?”
“Here I am teacher, at the bottom of the pit,” Upamanyu shouted back when he heard the rishi’s voice.
Seeing Upamanyu’s condition, the rishi asked him what caused him to fall into the pit. Upamanyu told him about how he ate some leaves, lost his sight, and fell into the pit.
“Oh my child, glorify the Ashwin twins. They are the physicians of the Gods. They will restore your sight.”