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This story teaches us that we should never be afraid to ask questions.

Keywords: God, curiosity, courage

Story of Nachiketa


The story of Nachiketa is found in an ancient Hindu scripture called the Katha Upanishad. Nachiketa was an intelligent and curious boy of about five years old. Once, Nachiketa's father, Rishi Vajashrava, was performing a yajna (a sacred ritual sacrifice).

In this yajna, he was supposed to donate his most valuable assets to the Brahmins. However, he was giving away old and weak cows that were neither productive nor capable of providing milk. These cows were of no use to the Brahmins.

Seeing this, Nachiketa became upset and went to his father and asked, "Father, in a yajna, the most beloved and valuable possessions should be donated. Since I am your most beloved, to whom will you donate me?" Initially, Vajashrava did not respond to Nachiketa's question.

However, upon Nachiketa repeatedly asking the same question, his father said, "Your mind always seeks answers to questions. Therefore, I am giving you to a teacher who will provide answers to all your queries. Go, I offer you to Yama."

(Due to Nachiketa persistently asking the same question, Vajashrava, in anger, granted Nachiketa to Yama, who is the deity of death. Keeping in mind the sensitivities of children, we have portrayed Yama as a teacher.)

Obeying his father, Nachiketa went to see Yama at his place. There, the gatekeepers informed Nachiketa that Yama was currently not at home and would return after three days. The gatekeepers advised Nachiketa to go back to his home. However, Nachiketa was determined and clear not to return without meeting Yama. He waited for Yama at the same door for three days without eating or drinking.

When Yama returned after three days, he was surprised to see a young boy waiting outside his door. Yama was impressed with Nachiketa's determination, and in return for waiting for three days rewarded him with three wishes,"Ask for whatever you desire."

Nachiketa, in turn, asked Yama for three wishes:

First Wish: "When I return home, I wish my father hugs me with love." (Nachiketa had asked Yama for his first wish to pacify his father's anger. Keeping children's sentiments in mind, some modifications have been made here.)

Second Wish: "Tell me a way or method by which our sorrows end and we attain happiness." (Yama instructed Nachiketa on a ritual called Nachiketa Yajna as a method to end sorrows and achieve happiness. To make it simpler for children to understand, some changes have been made here.)

Third Wish: "What is the secret of life?" (Nachiketa desired to know the mystery of death as his third wish. This topic is sensitive for children, so some modifications have been made here.)

Yama said, "Nachiketa, ask for wealth and prosperity but don't ask for the answer to this question."

Nachiketa said, "I don't want any of those; I just want the answer to my question." Yama accepted Nachiketa's request and explained the secret of life.

"Nachiketa, our body is like a chariot, our senses are the horses, the reins binding these horses are called the mind. These mind-like reins are held by the charioteer, called intellect. And the master of this intellect is the atman. One who understands the atman understands life." (To explain this concept clearly to children, the comparison of the atman to God can be made.)

Having received answers to his questions from Yama, Nachiketa returned to his father.

This story teaches us that we should never be afraid to ask questions because questions lead us to answers.

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Story type: Mythological

Age: 7+ years; Class: 3+

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