The day went down in history as one of the most remarkable events ever seen in the court of a king. A large number of very learned men were questioning Sage Yajnavalkya, one after another, and he was putting all their doubts to rest. The city was Mithila, and the king who organized it was Janaka, known for his generous patronage of Vedic scholars, mystics and spiritually mature people. He had arranged a ‘never-seen-before’ gift – a thousand graceful cows, each adorned on her horns with several gold plates. The best scholar was asked to take the cows away.

Yajnavalkya asked one of his students to take all the cows to their school (forest retreat / gurukula). The other scholars who were present were upset and they began to challenge him.

A fascinating turn came when a lady rose from amidst the audience, and sought the permission of the assembly to challenge Sage Yajnavalkya. She was no other than Gargi, the daughter of Vachaknu. (She was therefore often called Gargi Vachaknavi.)

“What pervades the whole cosmos? What covers all that is, was and will be?” was her highly philosophical question.

“The unmanifest ether (akasha), Gargi.”

“What pervades the unmanifest ether, O Yajnavalkya?”

“The Immutable (akshara) Brahman pervades everything,” says the sage, and continues with an inspired delivery of pointers to that indescribable reality, “It is neither gross nor subtle; neither short nor long.. The sun and the moon dare not violate its rule. He who departs from this world without knowing this Immutable Truth is pitiable indeed!”

Impressed by the words and inspired by the insightful intelligence behind the words, Gargi not only expresses her satisfaction but asks all the scholars to accept Yajnavalkya’s victory on the occasion.

[The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad – Chapter 3, Section 8 – brings out the inspiring dialogue between Yajnavalkya and Gargi.]