The story of Uddalaka Aruni

This is a story from the Hindu epic Mahabharata.

Ayoda Dhaumya was a famous teacher who lived before the Buddha, at least 3000 years ago. Princes and paupers came to him to learn the scriptures.

In those days one had to stay with the Guru/teacher for twelve years and learn the lessons. The students had to serve to the needs of the Guru every day.

A young boy by name Aruni came to study under him. The Guru gave him a difficult task. He asked him to go to the field and  fix a breach in the sluice. Aruni took his spade and basket and rushed to the field.

In spite of his repeated attempts to repair the breach and stop the water, he did not succeed. The sun started setting. He did not want to return home without finishing the task. He managed to put his body across the breach and stop the water with the help of leaves and mud.

In the meantime, the Guru started his evening lessons after the sunset. One boy, Aruni, was missing. The Guru asked other students where he was. All of them gave the same message: they saw him repairing the breach till late evening.

The Guru ran to the field holding a lighted torch in his hand and called several times, “Aruni, Where are you?”

After a while, a faint voice came from Aruni saying that he was lying in the mud across the breach. The Guru lifted him and hugged him lovingly.

When he returned to the Guru’s house, the teacher put his hand on his head and said to him, “Aruni, you have learnt what you are expected to learn. Your education is complete. Go home. My blessings are with you.”

The Guru named the boy Uddalaka Aruni as a mark of his appreciation. Uddalaka means one who was raised up (from the ditch) in Sanskrit.


Uddalaka Aruni later became a prominent Upanishadic rishi. He also composed mantras for Atharva Veda. He was also known for the ashram he ran where famous philosophers like Ashtavakra, Nachiketa and Swetaketu studied.