Mahabharata Stories: 13 – A Bridge made of Sand

Whatever we intend to achieve, things must be done in the right way and with perseverance. Nothing can be achieved without these two and anything that is wrongly achieved brings misery to the achiever.

Lomasa, a sage who accompanied the Pandavas while in exile in the forest, took them to a hermitage on the banks of the Ganga. He then narrated to them the significance of the spot: This is where Yavakrida, the son of the sage Bharadwaja met with destruction.

This is the hermitage of Raibhya, a dear friend of Bharadwaja. While Raibhya and his two sons Paravasu and Arvavasu learnt the Vedas and became famed scholars, Bharadwaja was immersed in contemplating upon the Almighty. Yavakrida grew jealous of the fame of his father’s friend and his sons. He did severe penance to invoke Indra, the king of the gods.

When Indra appeared and asked Yavakrida the reason for such severe austerities, the latter replied: I want to be the greatest exponent of the Vedas on the earth. I do not want to undergo the rigours of learning from a teacher and so I am practising these austerities. Please give me that knowledge which I seek.

Indra replied: Knowledge cannot be acquired by any way other than study. All that you do are in vain. Go and find yourself a good teacher.

Then Indra vanished. But Yavakrida did not give up. Again Indra came to him and advised him to give up the penances and seek a teacher. Yet Yavakrida did not yield and he started tortuous penances a third time.


One morning, when Yavakrida was walking up to the river Ganga to bathe, he found an old man throwing handfuls of sand into the river. Yavakrida asked him: What are you doing, old man? To this, the old man replied: I am going to build a bridge across this river for people to cross. If I throw enough sand, that would be done. Isn’t that going to be useful? Yavakrida laughed and said: How foolish of you to think you could build a bridge by throwing in handfuls of sand into this mighty river! Take up something more useful to do. The old man said: Do you feel this is more foolish than you trying to acquire the knowledge of the Vedas without studying?

The old man was none other than Indra. Yavakrida, now a much humbler man, bowed down to Indra and said earnestly: Please grant me the boon that I shall become a learned person.

Indra, blessing Yavakrida, said: Go and study the Vedas. You will become learned.

What happened that caused Yavakrida to meet his end in Raibhya’s ashrama?


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