Once upon a time, there lived a great sage called Dhaumya who had a gurukula. Gurukula was a popular custom in those days and an institution for education. The pupils lived with the guru in his hermitage and the guru and his wife nurtured the students like their own parents. The hermitage was usually autonomous and harvested the food required by its inmates. There were some sets of strict rules for discipline and the strictest was that of unquestioned submission to the guru.
The students primarily received training in two subjects, namely religion and the art of warfare. The students who wanted to be priests learnt the scriptures and were taught how to perform religious ceremonies while those who wanted to be soldiers learnt the usage of weapons. Other than the academic instruction, the students also received practical training in household and outside work. They attended to sundry chores in the guru's household training such as fetching firewood, nursing cattle etc. All these acts were integral part of their education and equipped them to confront the future as dutiful citizens.
There were many students who resided with Sage Dhaumya and took education under him. Aruni was a notable boy among all his students. It was a frosty winter morning one day when Aruni was walking towards the hermitage, carrying a heavy stack of firewood that he had collected for the sage's household. He was crossing a pasture belonging to the hermitage, when suddenly he noticed something that made him stop in great alarm. His attentive eyes noticed a small break in the embankment which proved to be the expanding gateway of water seeping out of the field. Within few seconds, the gap was gradually widening and more and more water was flowing away. Soon, the field would get dry and the crops would die for lack of water.
Aruni thought as fast as possible and decided to mend the breach. At the same time, he thought that this would make him late and the firewood was urgently required at the hermitage. However, finally he was set minded to let go everything and set off. The sage and his pupils had assembled for the day's lessons at the hermitage and were surprised to see Aruni missing. The sage enquired about him and was informed that he had gone to gather firewood.
Just at that moment Aruni dashed in, panting out of breath under the heavy load he carried. The guru demanded an answer for being so late. Aruni gasping for breath replied that there is a breach in the embankment and the crops may be damaged soon, if the breach is not repaired. The sage immediately understood the urgency of the situation and ordered Aruni to attend to it quickly; the remaining boys can manage the firewood. Even before the guru completed his sentence, Aruni had thrown down the bundle of wood and raced towards the field. The crops were the prior issue of worry in his mind; Dhaumya could not help admiring Aruni's dedication. The guru was confident that the boy would solve the problem, thus he returned to his work.
Aruni ran all the way to the field and was breathless when he reached the crisis point. Since the gap had widened considerably by now, Aruni had no time to think elaborately and quickly searched for something around that could be used to plug into the crack and stop the outflow of water. He suddenly saw a couple of logs that lay close by and immediately picked them up and laid them across the gap.
Aruni was a swift and efficient worker work and plastered the crack with mud, sealing any gaps that remained. Now the bund looked secure and Aruni told himself that the arrangement should hold the water in. Thus, Aruni looked into the broken area to inspect his handiwork, was satisfied and turned back to leave the field. Suddenly, Aruni was shocked hear a loud noise.
Aruni looked back and saw that his barrage had given way under the ferocious force of the water. The torrential water was now pouring out of the field at great speed, carrying away the logs he had used to cover the leak. He stood there helplessly at the flowing water, thinking fast what to do. He was hesitant to stay back and repair the breach because then he may loose his lessons for that whole day. His mind was thoughtful as his gaze went back to the valuable water was flowing out of his guru's field.
He took the resolution to stay back and mend the breach. He decided that whatever the situation may be, he would stay back and plug the breach in the embankment. Otherwise the crops will wither for lack of water. At the hermitage the sage became engaged into his busy regular routine. Very soon he became so absorbed in his work that he forgot all about Aruni and the task on which he had dispatched him.
Finally the day passed down and it was twilight. When it was dark inside the hermitage, Dhaumya wondered why the lamps had not yet been lit. The job of lightening the lamps of the hermitage was entitled to Aruni. He was such a dutiful student that he did this task daily and he had never once neglected his duty until now. The sage walked into the semi - darkness with much difficulty and called out for Aruni. One of his students reminded him of sending Aruni to the field to mend the breach and he has not returned yet.
Dhaumya was startled that this news and his heart was suddenly filled with doubts. Aruni went to the field in the morning and was not back yet. The guru was worried that Aruni may have landed into some kind of trouble. The guru and all his students went to the field in order to search Aruni. Within few minutes all the students took lighted torches and went to the field assisting their guru. However, when they reached the field, he was nowhere to be seen.
The guru was very worried by then and he ordered his students to spread out all over the field to search Aruni. The guru himself called out Aruni's name aloud. Suddenly a feeble voice of Aruni answered back. The relieved sage ran towards the direction from where the voice had come, along with his students and the torches high over their heads. The entire group was unable to see him anywhere in the seamless dark ambience.
A cry went up from the students who finally found their friend lying in the breach. By the light of the torches, they could hardly see the figure of a boy lying crumbled in the mud of the embankment. As they hurriedly came closer, they could make out that he was trembling and almost feverish with cold. The guru was shocked to see Aruni in this condition. Tears filled the sage's eyes as he bend down lovingly to lift his pupil out of the breach. He blessed Aruni with all his heart, as his voice choked with emotion. Aruni plugged the leak with his own body. He has been lying here since morning to stop the outflow of water on this chilly winter day.
Aruni could hardly stand up. His guru held him by arms. His guru and fellow-pupils supported him to go towards the hermitage. His body and hair were covered with mud and his clothes were soaked and messy. Aruni was shivering viciously and his teeth were chattering with cold. He was nearly to a state of hallucination. Holding him close and quickly covering him with dry clothes, his guru reassured him of taking care of the breach.
Dhaumya and two of his students quickly carried Aruni to the hermitage while the others stayed back to repair the leak. Dhaumya himself looked after Aruni for the entire night. Covering him up with a blanket, he tucked him into bed and got him a bowl of hot gruel to drink and fed Aruni with his own hands. At last, the worn out Aruni fell asleep. Sage Dhaumya affectionately said to his sleeping pupil that the devotion and obedience to his guru is truly unmatched. The fame of Aruni's noble deed is carried far and wide and will keep the name of Aruni forever in human memory as a shining example of a disciple's supreme obedience to his guru.