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Shvetaketu (IAST: Śvetaketu), also spelt Svetaketu, is a character from the Chandogya Upanishad. He was the son of sage Uddalaka, the grandson of sage Aruni, and represents the quintessential seeker of knowledge. The Upanishads entail the journey of Shvetaketu from ignorance to knowledge of the self and truth (sat).
In the Mahabharata, Shvetaketu is credited for creating the practice of the "wife being loyal to one husband for life" after observing a brahmana catching his mother's hand (unintentionally) in front of his father.
The case of Shvetaketu appears in three principal (mukhya) Upanishads, namely, the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad S. 6.2.1 to 6.2.8, Chandogya Upanishad S.5.3 and in the Kausitaki S.1. Shvetaketu is the recipient of the knowledge enshrined in the mahavakya which appears in the sixteen chapters of the 6th section (Prapathaka) of the Chandogya Upanishad.
First Reincarnation Story
Shvetaketu's story in the Chandogya Upanishad is the first time that reincarnation is mentioned in the Vedas and perhaps in all of the known writings in human history. In the story, Shvetaketu returns home from studying and his childhood friends ask him what he learned about the afterlife, to which he replies it was not part of his curriculum. They ask Shvetaketu's father and he also does not know, so they ask the king, who claims to have known all along and explained the concept of reincarnation. He adds that it is a common belief among the Kshatriya (warrior caste) and from this belief, they draw their power (courage in battle).
- Paul Thomas (1960). Kama Kalpa, or The Hindu Ritual of Love. D.B. Taraporevala. p. 3.
- "Does the Rig-Veda Mention Reincarnation or not? : Part 1 | Hindu Human Rights Worldwide". www.hinduhumanrights.info. 4 April 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
- Olivelle, Patrick (1 January 1999). "Young Śvetaketu: A Literary Study of an Upaniṣadic Story". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 119 (1): 46–70. doi:10.2307/605540. JSTOR 605540.
- The Mahabharata of Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa, by Kisari Mohan Ganguli Volume 1, location 5060
- S. Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanishads
- Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads . Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. 1972.