Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Shibi's Resolve

Stories From the Mahabharata


[This story is from [Maha:3.196]]

Shibi, a ruler in the Ikshvaku dynasty was justly famed for his devotion to truth, and his steadfast adherence to the path of virtue. As it chanced, his fame reached the ears of Indra, who then desired to see for himself if the King was as virtuous as he was reputed to be.

He summoned Agni, and both of them hatched a plan to test the King. Accordingly, Indra transformed himself into a hawk and Agni turned into a pigeon. They flew to Shibi's Kingdom of Kosala, to Ayodhya, its capital.

The King was seated in his palace garden, enjoying the tranquil atmosphere there. Suddenly, the air was rent with the piteous cry of a pigeon, and before the King could locate the source of the noise, the pigeon fell into his lap. Much to the surprise of the King, it spoke to him!

In a voice choked with fear it said, "O King, save me! There is a hawk hot on my tails, determined to have me for dinner. I have heard that you are a just ruler, one who will not abandon the weak, especially one who has sought your asylum! You are my only hope!"

Shibi said, "Consider your life already saved. Great is my wonder, for I have never come across a talking pigeon! You cannot be an ordinary bird, tell me, who are you?"

Before the pigeon could reply, the hawk arrived on the scene. Conditioned by his recent experience, the King was not too surprised when the hawk too spoke to him.

It said, "O King, this pigeon who is lying in your lap is my natural prey. I saw him an hour ago, and have been pursuing him since then. I am tired and hungry, give up the pigeon, for it has been ordained by the Lord to be my food. It does not become you to interfere in the course of nature."

"It may be true that this pigeon is your legitimate prey. However, he has sought my protection and I have promised to save him. There is no question of my allowing him to be your food. I can offer you other meat to satisfy your hunger. Eat your fill from my kitchen, and go your way," said the King.

The hawk said, "O King, I am a hunter, that is my nature. Not for me the dainty meats cooked in your palace kitchens! I must hunt my own food. Having chased this pigeon all morning, I shall have him and no other!"

Shibi said, "One who abandons anyone who has obtained asylum with him is cursed by the Gods. He of the thousand eyes (Indra) shall not cause seasonal rainfall in the Kingdom whose ruler has proved himself unworthy of the trust of the weak. I shall order my men to cook a whole bull and serve it you with my rice. Surely, your hunger cannot be appeased by this tiny pigeon, why not take a whole bull instead?"

The hawk said, "O King, I do not ask for a bull, or for any other food than this pigeon. It has been given to me by the gods. Its life is already forfeit to me. Do not indulge in futile argument, render it unto me!"

The King said, "I cannot give up this pigeon under any circumstances. One who abandons those who seek his protection will see his offspring die in their youth. Indeed, even his ancestors will fall from the regions of the blessed. The very gods will decline his offerings of clarified butter on the sacrificial fire. If I gave up this poor creature, shaking with fright on my lap, I shall be worse than the worst Chandala! Suggest some other food that may be acceptable to you."

The hawk considered the King's plea, and after a little thought said, "So be it. I shall spare the pigeon, but only on one condition. Instead of the pigeon, I will have your flesh, equal in weight to that of the pigeon. If you consent to this, the pigeon may go free."

Shibi did not hesitate even for a moment. He ordered his servants to bring a balance. He then placed the pigeon on one scale and chopped a hunk of flesh from his thigh and placed it on the other. His end of the scale did not budge, and the pigeon's side was still weighed down. He then cheerfully chopped bigger and bigger pieces of flesh from various parts of his body and placed them on the scale. But to no avail, for the pigeon weight was still greater. He cut off his arms and legs and even then his side was lighter. True to his word, he crawled and placed himself on the scale, and at last the weights became equal.

Seeing the King's supreme sacrifice, Indra and Agni were greatly pleased, and the subjects of the King applauded his act. As Shibi awaited his feat, the hawk and the pigeon disappeared and in their place stood the two celestials.

Agni said to the king, "Blessed be your line, for such a great man as you has been born in it. Know that I was the pigeon whom you saved from the hawk, who was none other than the Lord of the celestials!"

The King found himself standing whole again, with no marks of wounds on his body and bowed his head before the two Gods.

Indra said, "When I heard of your praises, that you were ever wedded to the path of truth, I did not believe it at first. With the help of Agni, I tested your principles, and you have proven to be even greater than what was reported to me! Your willingness to cheerfully sacrifice your very life for the sake of your principles is indeed rare. As long as the world exists, men shall tell this story, and your fame shall be everlasting! You will obtain worthy offspring, and they shall rule the earth for a long time!"

After blessing all those assembled, the two immortals disappeared.


Last Modified At: Tue Oct 4 20:28:42 2005