When too many romances in your 20s go wrong, one can often land up with a pregnancy and no DNA test. Yes, you read that right. We have many times come across stories where children who are raised under the care of a single parent, attain maturity and embark on a solo journey to enlightenment. Enlightenment here concerns playing the detective to hunt down one’s long lost father. Where do you think famous stories like that of the famous musical, Mamma Mia, or the recently released Bollywood movie, Jawaani Jaaneman source their inspiration from? We are talking about the Indian mythological story of Jabala and Satyakama here.
Strewn relationships can become the cause of childhood trauma, of not knowing anything about one’s father. As they grow up, these children attempt to uncover the past, right some wrongs in order to make amends and make up for the lost time. But Satyakama’s story is unique. It shows a man of a very different nature who became one of the greatest sages of all times. A Vedic school was named after him and his teachings and life’s works as a monk can be found in Jabala Upanishad, once again named after his mother.
Back when DNA tests didn’t exist at all, a courageous and unmarried Jabala, raised her son Satyakama all on her own. An inquisitive and remarkably intelligent boy, Satyakama aspired to approach sage Haridrumata Gautama to live and study with him. Now as we speak of a society that was hardly robbed of the caste system, Satyakama knew that sage Gautama would inquire about his lineage. The poor son was forced to put his mother to the test. He asked her the name of his caste and family for these were determining characteristics in that age and time.
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Satyakama accepted Jabala’s polyamory
A confused and slightly embarrassed Jabala at first, did not know how to respond. But she was a truthful woman and refused to be ashamed of her story. So she revealed to her son that she had never been married but as a maid, had been with many men – of higher and lower births, both. An eventful 20s, one might say.
However, this unexpected turn did not leave Satyakama in shock or his mother feeling mortified. Instead they treated it like just another day and casually moved on.
Satyakama however, acted beyond the expectations of even today’s modern child. He was not worried about discovering the identity of his unknown father. No father? Well, not a problem mom! He simply accepted his mother’s polyamory, refused to question her decision, and set off on his path to becoming a Brahmana.
What Satyakama said to Gautam Rishi
When Satyakama approached Haridrumata Gautama, the sage enquired into his family. He asked Satyakama to reveal what family he belonged to. An honest child, Satyakama uninhibitedly told the truth. He said to the sage that Jabala is his mother and therefore he is known as Jabala Satyakama, for his father is not in the picture. The sage was slightly taken aback at first but identified the resolve in the child.
He admiringly told Satyakama that he sees Brahmin qualities in him because one who is not a Brahmin, cannot speak so honestly. He further asked the boy to bring the sacrificial fuel so he could immediately initiate the boy as a Brahmachari.
Narada has a similar story in one of his births
A similar vein can be seen in Narada Muni’s story. In one of the three birth stories of Narada Muni, he was not born into a wealthy family but appeared on Earth as the son of a maidservant. In this story, there is absolutely no mention of the identity of his father as if it is considered a quotidian affair to have children without any traces of certain parentage.
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‘Dasyah’ means the absence of a particular father. Now while maidservants in those days may have voluntarily engaged with men of their class and choice, they were often also treated as dowry. This practice was prevalent among the Kshatriyas. A Kshatriya king not only welcomes a queen into his home after marriage but also the girlfriends or other domestic helpers of the woman he marries. Human nature plays its role and sometimes, these maidservants had pregnancies. It is unsure what kind of maidservant Narada Muni’s mother was, but he clearly also did not have a recognized lineage. With so many romantic associations, one is bound to lose track of these things just like the texts you forget to respond to when you’re ignoring one of your many partners.
The only thing common between these two is not only that they had daddy issues. The most interesting aspect is that both the men dealt with these issues wonderfully. The two of them went on to become learned Brahmanas despite having been born into lower births. They both elevated their status and their unknown lineage played no part in destroying those plans. It’s worth understanding how romantic relationships can be perceived so differently in a caste-based society back then and a ‘technically’ caste-free society of today. Hindu Mythology is full of texts that talk about obscure births and having multiple relationships.