|Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)|
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Stories From the Mahabharata
[This story is from [Maha:3.198]. This is one of the group of stories narrated by the sage Maarkandeya to the Pandavas during their exile in the forest. ]
The king Ashtaka, descended from the sage Vishwamitra, was performing the Ashwamedha sacrifice. Many other Kings and sages came to attend the Yagna. After the sacrifice was complete, King Ashtaka was driving back to his kingdom, along with his two brothers Pratardana and Vasumanas. King Shibi also accompanied them. After driving for a while, they saw the divine sage Narada walking along the road. They paid homage to the sage as was proper, and asked him if they could give him a lift.
Narada accepted their offer, and soon all five were traveling along merrily. After a while, the talk turned to the question of merit, and the requirements to enter heaven.
King Ashtaka asked, "O sage, tell us if all four of us will go to heaven upon our death?"
The sage replied, "All of you have acquired sufficient merit by your good deeds to be accepted to heaven. Surely, you will go to heaven when your time on earth comes to an end."
One of the others asked, "I have heard that one's ascetic merit determines the duration of the stay in heaven. It is said that when the merit runs out, we shall be cast from heaven. Tell me, O learned one, which of us will be first to fall from heaven?"
Narada said, "King Ashtaka will be the first to be turned away from heaven."
The King asked, "Why is it so?"
"Once, O King, I had visited your Kingdom, When you drove outside your city gates with me, I saw a big herd of kine. I asked you to whom those cattle belonged, and you replied that those cattle had been donated by you to Brahmanas. By this speech, O King, you had indulged in boasting regarding your charity. For this error, your merit will be exhausted soonest, and you shall be the first among you four to fall from heaven," said the sage.
King Ashtaka asked, "Of the three others, who will be next to fall from heaven?"
"Pratardana will be the next to be cast away from heaven," replied the Rishi.
"For what cause?", asked Pratardana.
Narada said, "I stayed with prince Pratardana also. He drove me out in his chariot, and we were traveling through his kingdom. We met a Brahmana on the way, who asked him for a horse. Pratardana told him that he will give him a horse once he got back to the palace, but the Brahmana wanted it immediately. Thereupon, the prince gave him his left fore horse, and we continued on our way, with the remaining three horses drawing the chariot. After going a while, we met another Brahmana who asked for a horse, and the prince gave him his right fore horse. When we had gone a bit further, there was yet another Brahmana in need of a horse, and the prince gave him his right rear horse. When we had proceeded a bit farther, we met another Brahmana, who of course wanted a horse, and the prince gave him his last horse. He then got down and started pulling the chariot himself. As he started pulling, he said 'There is nothing more to give for the Brahmanas'. True, the King had given away all he had on him to charity, but he had tainted his merit by speaking derisively about the situation, and for this transgression, he shall fall from heaven next."
King Ashtaka asked, "Who among the other two will fall next?"
The sage said, "Once, when I went to see Vasumanas, his priests were performing the sanctification ceremony for a new chariot. I praised the beauty of the chariot, and prince immediately said, 'Since you admired it, O Sage, let it be yours.' I was gratified, and returned home with the new chariot. After a while, I needed another chariot, and went back to him, and, sure enough, the King had now a new chariot. When I once again praised its sturdiness, the King gave it away to me. However, when I needed a chariot for the third time, and went and praised his latest chariot, the King cast his eyes down, and said, 'O Rishi, you have praised this chariot enough,' and did not give it to me. For this refusal to donate, Vasumanas will be cast from heaven."
"So, only Shibi will be left in heaven last, among us four?", asked king Ashtaka.
"Yes, for his dedication to the path of rectitude is unmatched. Once, a Brahmana came to Shibi and said, 'King, I am hungry.'
"The King said, 'Sir, please go to my kitchen. I will ask them to provide whatever food that you require.'
"The Brahmana said, 'I don't want just any kind of food. I want rice, to be served with the meat of your son Brihadgarba."
"The King took it in without a blink, and said, 'I will order them to serve the food that you require.'
"The Brahmana said, 'You must prepare it with your own hands.'
"Without another word, Shibi went out, killed his son, cooked his meat, and came back to invite the Brahmana to eat.
"He was met by some of his servants, who came running up to meet him. They said, 'O King, the Brahmana has set fire to your palace. He has freed all your cattle, and they are running helter skelter in the city. Your palace is almost completely gutted.'
"The King did not say one word, but simply went and stood before the guest. He said, 'Sir, the food you wanted is ready. Please wash your hands and come to eat.'
"The Brahmana was stunned. He said, 'O King, I am truly amazed at your hospitality. You are indeed peerless in your dedication to your duty. Know that I am the God Dhatri. The Gods wished to test your virtue, and they sent me to do it. Your son is not really dead, and your Palace is as beautiful as ever. The tale of your meritorious deeds will be long lived.' With these words, the Brahmana disappeared.
"And true enough, the palace was intact, and Shibi's son ran out to greet him.
"For this unstinting devotion to the path of rectitude, Shibi will have a long residence in heaven. Indeed, even after I have been cast away from there, King Shibi will be there, in consequence of his lifelong devotion to the path of Dharma," concluded Narada.
|Last Modified At: Sun Oct 9 16:46:30 2005||© ApamNapat, All rights reserved|