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  • Writer's pictureanjali mohapatra

Gokarna- the son of a cow!

(Bhagavata Mahapurana)



Long ago, there was a beautiful town on the bank of the river Tungabhadra. There lived a Brahmana named Atmadeva who was well-versed in the Vedas and scriptures. He was wealthy but he lived his life with his alms by begging only! People in that village were very much dutiful and they always followed the path of righteousness. Atmadeva was also truthful and soft-spoken. He was well-versed with Vedic lore.  His wife’s name was Dundhuli. She was beautiful and from a wealthy family but she was arrogant and stubborn. They spent their time happily but Atmadeva was not satisfied. His heart was filled with grief and sorrow as his ancestors didn't accept any oblations he offered being childless. Both the husband and wife engaged in charity offering like cows, land, and gold to the poor and needy people in the hope of getting a child with their blessing. But nothing good had happened. 


One day out of anxiety, Atmadeva left his house and repaired to a forest. While he was roaming around the forest, he felt extremely thirsty. He saw a water tank and there he drank some water. Being exhausted, he sat over there thinking about his misfortune of childlessness. At that time, a Sannyasi reached that spot. He also drank some water. Beholding the crying Atmadeva the Sanyaasi asked him the reason for his grief. 


The Brahmana said, ‘O Sage! I am childless! What sin have I done in my past life that whatever water oblation I offered to my forefathers has turned to lukewarm? Whichever cow I kept all became barren. The fruits that were sent to my house became dry and rotten. The trees I planted didn't bear any fruit or flowers! Saying these words, the Brahmana lamented loudly.’


The Sanyaasi felt pity for Atmadeva! He had the power to read the foreheads. Thus, after reading the forehead of Atmadeva, he said, ‘O Brahmana! Destiny is compelling! Nobody can change the course of destiny. You have no child for the next seven lives to come. What to say about this life! Give up all these worldly desires and accept the path of Sannyasa Dharma! Even if you beget a child, he will be no good to you nor you will get any pleasure.’


But, Atmadeva insisted the Sage do something for him through his merits. At last, the Sage gave him a fruit and advised him, saying, ‘O Brahmana! Ask your wife to eat this fruit observing some strict rules for one year. She has to follow truthfulness, and compassion, and eat one meal per day by which she will give birth to a son of extremely good nature!’ Saying this the Sanyaasi went away.


After coming back home, Atmadeva told everything to his wife about the Sanyaasi and handed over the fruit. Dhunduli took the fruit but didn't eat it. As she was crooked minded went on thinking all the reverse results. She lamented before her friends saying, ‘Look- If eating this fruit I will be pregnant, I will lose my beauty. No more I can work nor save myself from any sudden danger. I may become weak due to pregnancy and others will take advantage of my weakness. And the rearing of children is the hardest job!’ Thus, she decided not to eat that fruit. When her husband asked about the fruit, simply she lied.


One day,  Dhunduli’s younger sister visited her house. She expressed her anxiety about eating that fruit. Seeing Dhunduli’s anxiety, her sister suggested she pretend to be pregnant and in due time she would give her child to her who was to be delivered soon shortly. Both the sisters kept the story secret with themselves. Thus, Dhunduli fed the fruit to their cow without the knowledge of her husband, Atmadeva. 


In due course of time, Dhunduli’s sister delivered a boy and without anybody's knowledge, she handed over the child to Dhunduli. Atmadeva was overwhelmed with joy seeing his newborn son! People became happy to know that Atmadeva begot a child! He performed the rituals and presented gifts to the Brahmins. They kept his name Dhundukari.


Dhunduli had already planned for the nourishment of the baby. She informed her husband that as she was lacking milk to feed the baby, her sister who lost her newborn baby would be in her home to feed the milk to the baby. Later, the cow gave birth to a beautiful, brilliant human child. 


Atmadeva thought, ‘Look- How good luck has befallen us!’ Looking at the cow’s human child, Atmadeva himself performed all the ceremonials that were required. As the child had ears like that of a cow, Atmadeva named him Gokarna! 


In due course, both of the children- Dhundukari and Gokarna attained their youth having contrasting traits. Gokarna became wise, learned, and a scholar while Dhundukari became a ruffian! Dhundukari adopted all types of bad habits. He started robbing others' property, spent his time with the prostitutes, and spent all the wealth of whatever his father had. He became so cruel and wicked-minded that he never hesitated to throw the children into the well taking them in the name of fondling! 


Beholding his cruel attitude, Atmadeva started cursing his own life! He bewailed loudly saying, ‘O God! Childlessness  is much better than having a wicked child-like Dhundukari!’ Lamenting over his son’s behaviour Atmadeva decided to end his own life! At that crucial time, Gokarna reached there and requested his father to repair the forest to live a Sanyaashi life. He told him the spiritual knowledge that would give him some peace of mind. At last, Atmadeva left his house and went away. After his departure, Dhundukari tortured his mother, and said, ‘Hey, give me the ornaments and whatever money you have or I shall hit you till to death.’ Listening to his threatening, his mother Dhunduli flung herself into the well and met her death.


Gokarna was very upset with his brother’s attitude and behavior. He didn't prefer to stay there any longer and left for pilgrimages. Gokarna was wise and learned. Thus, he had no friend no foe! His mind was engrossed with spirituality.


In the meanwhile, surrounded by the prostitutes Dhundukari had lost all his wealth. He had to steal ornaments and other valuables to satisfy their demand. One day, the woman decided to kill Dhundukari out of fear thinking that his crime became so high that there was a fair chance of Dhundukari to be seized by the king. Thus, they killed him and put him in a pit dug in his backyard.


While roaming around the pilgrimage, Gokarna got the news of his brother’s death. He was overwhelmed with grief and at last performed his Shraddha at Gaya and other sacred places as well. In due course, Gokarna came to his native place. He went to the backyard of his house and slept there. Seeing his brother had slept there, Dhundukari manifested himself in a terrible form. He appeared before him in different forms! Looking at the inauspicious forms, Gokarna was stunned and asked, ‘Who are you? Are you a ghost or a fiend?’ 


Unable to speak, the ghost displayed some gestures only. Then Gokarna took some sacred water and chanted some mantra sprinkled over him. After that, the ghost said, ‘O Gokarna! I am your brother Dhundukari.I had done so much heinous work that I was tortured to death by the prostitutes. Please redeem your distressed brother at any cost.! You can only save me from this suffering!’


Gokarna couldn't believe that after performing Shraddha at Gaya, the spirit didn't get salvation! He felt pity for his brother. Thereafter, he consulted with all the learned fellows, yogi, and the persons expert in Vedic lore and they all suggested he worship lord Surya for the final decision.

Gokarna followed their instruction. He prayed to Lord Surya saying, ‘O Lord! I bow to you! O the expeller of darkness! Be pleased to tell me the means of redemption of my brother.’


After a while, a voice from the firmament came that was audible to all, and said, ‘O Gokarna! There is only one method for his redemption. That is- reading of Bhagavata Mahapurana!’ Thus, Gokarna arranged everything ready for the Bhagavatam reading.


The whole village gathered to listen to the stories of Shrimad Bhagavatam by Gokarna himself.  Dhundukari also rushed to the place but the whole space was fully occupied. Looking at a bamboo tree having seven knots erected there, the spirit of Dhundukari entered into it. As each day progressed, a loud sound would be heard as one knot burst. Likewise, at the end of the seventh day, all the knots burst open. At that moment -  divine messengers reached there with a celestial car and took away Dhundukari to Vishnuloke!


People were amazed to see the transformation of Dhundukari! However, Gokarna was surprised to see this miracle! He asked, ‘ While everyone listened to Bhagavatam, how is it that only Dhundukari got liberation?’


The messengers replied, ‘O Gokarna! All indeed listened but Dhundukari listened to it with full attention and pure love.’


At the end of Bhagavatam night, Lord Vishnu manifested Himself before Gokarna and embraced him. Lord Krishna (Vishnu) was so kind to his devotees, those who listened to the Bhagavatam from Gokarna, they all were taken to Go-Loka!


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