Scholar from Kashi Humbled
Once a great scholar of Kashi came to Vijayanagar along with his disciples. He had toured
North India and had defeated famous scholars in debates related to the Vedas, the
Upanishads and the Shasthras. In Vijayanagar the king welcomed him as his guest.
The scholar entered the court with an air of importance. He said to the king, "Your
Highness, I have heard that there are eminent scholars in your court. Let them argue with
me. If I am defeated, I will surrender my titles to them. If they are defeated, they must
accept me as their master and must admit it in writing."
The challenger's air of supreme confidence, the documents of victory he flaunted and his
ringing tones filled the court scholars with dismay. Krishna- devaraya said to the scholar
from Kashi, "Learned sir, let us have the contest tomorrow," and sent the
scholar to the guesthouse. Then he sent for his scholars. He said, "Which of
you is ready for this debate?"
scholars were frightened by the man's airs and his titles and testimonials they bent down
their heads in silence.
The king was furious. "So this is the worth of the scholars in my court!" he
and walked away. Then Ramakrishna said, "Why should we be alive if we cannot save
the prestige of the king? I am ready for this task." At this, the other seven
gladly offered their titles to him and agreed to be the disciples of Ramakrishna.
Krishnadevaraya was surprised at the decision of Ramakrishna; but he made all the
arrangements for the contest.
Next day, Ramakrishna entered the court in great splendor. He was wearing a Kashmir silk
dhothi and a laced shawl. He displayed medals studded with precious stones. His forehead
shone with vermilion and vibhuthi (sacred ash). Before him walked the seven great scholars
proclaiming his greatness; behind them came Ramakrishna stepping on bricks of gold which
the servants placed on the floor.
The scholar from Kashi was dumb -founded at the sight.
Ramakrishna was carrying a big book covered with laced silk.He put it on a desk, looked
around and asked in an arrogant voice ': "Who is he, the scholar who wants to face me
in a debate?" Ramakrishna's show had already astou- nded the scholar from Kashi; he
stood up and said, I am the man."
The king indicated that the debate might begin. Forthwith Ramakrishna pointed his
finger at the book on the desk and said, "Let us argue about this book known as
The opponent perspired in fear.
The books he had read were countless. But he had never heard of this book! He wanted to
ward off the immediate blow. He said to Krishnadevaraya, "I remember to have read
this book long ago. I shall study this book tonight and discuss it tomorrow." With
this submission he withdrew to the camp with his disciples.
The scholar from Kashi spent the entire night thinking about the book.
'Tilakashtamahishabandhana' remained a riddle! He had never heard of that book! He was
afraid he would be disgraced if he stayed, and left with bag and baggage that very night.
The news both surprised and delighted the king. He called in Ramakrishna and said to
him: "if the very name of the book made the scholar from Kashi run away, it must be a
mighty work. Well, let me see it." Ramakrishna removed the silk cover and replied,
"Your Highness, this is no classic. Please look here is a small stick of the plant
sesame this is 'Tilakashta. Here is the rope to tie the buffalo with. That is the 'Mahisha
bandhana'. I have just tied the sesame stick with the rope that is all! "On hearing
this explanation Krishnadevaraya went into peals of laughter. In appreciation of
Clever-ness he gave him a big prize. (In Sanskrit, 'tila' means sesame, 'kashta' means a
stick, a buffalo is a 'mahisha', and 'bandhana' is that which binds.)