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Gautama was one of the famous seven rishis termed Saptarshi. He was the progenitor of the Gautama gotra. He was the son of Rahugana.There is a hymn called Bhadra in the Sama Veda which is ascribed to Gautama Maharishi.

Gautama's ashrama was located at the foot of a mountain by name Pariyatra to the north of Bharatha. He had established a Gurukula. Students coming from different countries were studying there. Gautama was the head of the Gurukula. He was also Kulapati, for it is the name given to a sage who gave education, providing food and clothing to nearly ten thousand students. Teaching the pupils and doing penance during the rest of the time were the only two daily activities of Gautama. Ahalya was his wife. Brahma got her admitted to the Gurukul of Gautama for education. Gautama used to teach her with affection. But his mind was not perturbed even in the slightest by her beauty. In admiration of this Brahma gave her in marriage to Gautama. Ahalya earned the reputation as chaste and loyal wife. Three of the children born to this couple, namely Sharadvanta, Shatananda and Chirakari were famous. Shatananda became a great scholar studying the Vedas and various other subjects. King Janka, in admiration of his scholarship, had made him his court scholar. Sharadvanta was another son of Gautama, the famous warrior Kripacharya of the Mahabharatha. Belonging to the family of Gautama, Krupacharya was also called as Gautama. Krupi, his sister, was the wife of Acharya Drona and the mother of Ashwatthama. There is an episode worth recounting about Chirakari, one other son of Gautama.

Chirakari means one who acts or does a piece of work after a good deal of thought. He proceeds only after carefully considering the pros and cons, the antecedents and the consequences of a deed. Therefore naturally his actions will not be quick but delayed. The son of Gautama, by nature, he was a very discreet man. He was not a lazy man. This temperament of his had earned him the name 'Chirakari.' Once Gautama, was terribly angry with his wife Ahalya. He did not think of what he was doing. He summoned Chirakari. "Kill your mother, finish her off," he hastily ordered and went away to a far-off forest. Chirakari began to think and worry about this. A son's right duty is to obey his father and at the same time equally right is to protect his mother. Chirakari was very badly confused and went on thinking and arguing within him. No amount of thinking helped him to find a correct answer. He could not arrive at any decision. Thus, many days passed by. Gautama sat doing penance in the distant forest. Slowly his anger against Ahalya cooled down. A conflict arose in his mind. He now felt, "Ahalya has served me for so many years. She has looked after the children affectionately. I ordered that she should be killed for a small mistake." By that time Lord Indra came in the guise of a hermit. He opened conversation with Gautama. The subject of Ahalya fared in it and Lord Indra put lot of valuable questions against Gautama. Gautama's mind was completely changed. "It was foolish of me to have ordered Chirakari like that. Matricide is a big sin. How can he kill his own mother? Generally he uses his discretion before doing anything. He does not do anything in haste. May be he has not yet carried out my orders. Let me go back to the ashrama right now and find out what has happened there." So deciding he hurriedly went home. "O Chirakari, where are you?" cried sage Gautama as he approached his place. Hearing his voice, Chirakari came out and made obeisance to him. Gautama, in a voice of anxiety, asked, "Chirakri, my dear, may you be true to your name. I hope you have not killed your mother. Have You?"

Chirakari told him the fact. "I could not decide what I should do. I am in a fix not being able to know, what, is the right thing to do. Kindly forgive me," he implored in an apologetic tone. Gautama felt very happy. He hugged his son and blessed him. He was delighted to see Ahalya. It is easy to teach others. But to practice it ourselves is difficult. In the case of Gautama also it was so. He was a great scholar and a great sage. He was well informed of Dharma. But now and then he would lose his temper and do things in haste.

There was one more situation in his life similar to the earlier one. Ahalya was very beautiful and she had an enviable charm. The very moment Brahma created her, Indra was captivated by her looks and he did plead for her with Gautama. He used to participate personally in all the yajnas performed by Gautama. He used to visit his Gurukula now and then. All this has caused some suspicion in the mind of Gautama. Once he found that Devendra had come to his house during his absence. He at once suspected the character of Ahalya. He cursed her to turn into a stone. Ahalya pleaded her innocence shedding tears. Then the anger of the sage cooled down. "I cannot revoke the curse. But I can tell you about one relief," he said. "God Vishnu will incarnate as Sri Rama in future to kill Ravana. He will come to this place along with sage Vishwamithra. Then you will be relieved of this curse. And you shall get back your beauty as before." Then he went to the Himalayas for penance. Ahalya instantly turned into a stone. Gautama's ashrama became deserted.

As Gautama had said Sri Rama's incarnation took place. Vishwamithra brought Sri Rama and Lakshmana to guard the yaga he was performing. After the yaga he travelled to Mithila taking Rama and Lakshmana with him. On the way they came across the forsaken ashrama of sage Gautama. Vishwamithra had known that Ahalya was under curse. He had brought Sri Rama to free her form the curse. The moment Sri Rama steeped on the stone, the curse of Ahalya was gone. Right at that time Gautama returned from the Himalayas. He settled down happily in the ashrama with Ahalya. Again gradually the place picked up its original lustre. The Gurukula started functioning.

There was one student by name Uttanka in Gautama's Gurukula and he was the favourite of his guru. He was a model for others. Gautama used to permit students to go home after their education was completed. No one was allowed to go without his permission. Uttanka's education was completed, but Gautama did not give permission to go home. Uttanka waited and waited in vain for a long time to get his permission. He became very sad as he could not get permission to go while so many other students were going home after finishing their education. As he was very shy and modest he did not express his feelings to his guru. He only thought that the master was not satisfied with his service. He went on doing his routine duties with the same interest and earnestness. As it went on like this, one day Uttanka was on his way home from the forest carrying a bundle of dry sticks for the sacrificial fire. He was feeling hungry and exhausted. After putting the burden off his shoulders he sat down worrying. "I have learnt all the subjects taught by the master. I have also served him with great devotion. Still the master has not taken pity on me. I have not been blessed yet and not permitted to go", he said to himself in distress. He burst out in tears and started crying, being unable to control himself. Gautama's daughter was Uttanka's class mate. She heard someone crying aloud. When she came out see who it was, she was surprise to find him to be Uttanka. She went near him and tried to control him.

Sage Gautama came to know about this. He went immediately to Uttanka. Uttanka said, "Revered master, I have been here in the gutrukula all these years serving you. I suppose I have learnt all that you have taught me. I have led a devoted life. I have confirmed to all the regulations of the gurukula, without desiring for the slightest pleasure. Several students who joined the Gururkula later than me finished their studies and left for their homes. But only in my case you have not been kind. This made me cry." Gautama's heart was moved. He said, "My child, Uttanka, I admire your devotion to your Guru. You have mastered every subject. I was reluctant to suffer the separation from you. That is why I did not ask you to go home. If you wish to go home you may do so. You have my permission." 'Thank God, master is not displeased with my behavior,' felt Uttanka, greatly relieved. He was also glad to know that he was much loved by his master. Uttanka said, "Master I must offer something to you in gratitude for your teaching. Please, tell me, what you would like to have." Gautama said, "Uttanka, the good conduct of the pupil is by itself the reward for the guru. I am pleased and satisfied with your behavior and your learning. You need not give anything by way of fees. This affection of the Guru brought tears to Uttanka's eyes. He made obeisance to Gautama. "If I did not give fees I would be ungrateful. Please kindly accept something." He pleaded. Gautama then said smilingly, "See this is my daughter and was your classmate. She is good looking and good scholar too. If you agree I shall give her in marriage to you, may this be your gurudakshina!" Uttanka agreed. The marriage was celebrated.