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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mahabharat Katha - 1: Emperor Yudhishthir and Saint Mudgal

Emperor Yudhishthir and Saint Mudgal

Emperor Yudhishthir, the hero of the epic Mahabharat, had achieved the final victory over all his enemies. Now, he was the ruler of the mighty Kuru empire. He was a king known for his scholarliness, and his acute sense of Justice and Dharma.
As the kingdom prospered, and rather became a symbol of prosperity itself, the king decided to perform Ashwamedh Yagnya-- a ritual intended to bring all scholars and warriors and nobles together. The Yagnya started. thousands of people came. Yudhishthir performed Daan, ie gifting away many cows, gold, land, clothing, food, etc. The Daan ceremony continued for days together. Everyone was satiated and happy. All praised him.
Yudhishthir, who was always known for his humility, began to feel a new kind of pride! This was how people liked him, this was how they knew his importance ! The pride and ego- centicity started setting in. He started thinking no end of himself. Was there ever a king who was so powerful and so generous? This was his day to be proud of his achievements and his fame !
That day, as usual, he, alongwith his four mighty brothers and a large number of scholars and warriors and friends, was supervising the lunch-on that was being offered to thousands of Brahmins and others desirous of food. People were just finishing their food and vacating their seats. Servants were busy clearing the plates and the left-overs.
Just then, entered a Mongoose (newla) and started rolling on the heaps of the left-overs. It would roll for a while, get up, turn its head back to look at its body, shake the head in dissatisfaction and roll again. It did this several times, but to no avail. People watched the mongoose in great astonishment, for half its body was solid gold in colour and it also seemed to know what it was doing.
Finally, it turned to Yudhishthir and said in human language, "O king of kings, O lord and master of this great empire of Kuru's, I am totally dissatisfied with your performance and your generosity! Look at my body. It has acquired a golden hue by virtue of a saint whose generosity knew no bounds. Alas, it has this golden colour only in half the portion. Ever since, I am in search of another generous man, whose virtue should be good enough to give me the golden colour in the rest of my body. I must confess O mighty king, that you are no match to that saint!"
Yudhishthir was very perturbed. Who was this mongoose that could speak in human language and who was this greatly generous saint that the mongoose was talking of ? What had he done that was not matched by the generosity of any other person, let alone Yudhishthir, the all-powerful king of Hastinapur?
"Tell me O mongoose, who are you? Whose virtue are you talking about? How did your body acquire this beautiful golden colour but only on one side? Most of all, you are my respected guest. No one has returned from these premises unsatisfied with my gifts. Tell me, my friend, what should I do to please you?"
The mongoose shook his head in grief. "O Yudhishthir, perhaps I am destined to live like this, not to get the golden colour for the rest of my body but to tell the world what unmatched glory is to Saint Mudgal. Listen carefully. Once, there came an unprecedented famine on this land of ours. Crops withered away. Cattle died. There was no grain storage worth the name in the king's godown. People had to go on fast for days together before they could get a morsel of food.
Saint Mudgal, whose family had been without food for quite some days, was somehow able to go to the fields where some grain had grown in past and had been harvested by the owner. The land lied abandoned before him. Mudgal searched and searched in the soil and could collect, grain by grain, a handful of rice. This he brought home and promptly his wife cooked it. Now at last, some food was in sight! His daughter divided the cooked rice into four shares, one each for her father, mother, brother and herself.
Just then came in a man who was obviously languishing with days of starvation. He had smelt the rice being cooked and with great efforts, had somehow managed to reach the hut of Mudgal. Now he stood there, begging for food and ready to die of starvation and loss of energy, if no food was available.
Mudgal the Saint, did not have a heart to turn down his request for food. To him, this guest, with his complete emaciation, was a much needy person and his life needed to be saved. Mudgal gladly offered him his own share if rice. The guest hungrily devoured it and requested for more. Upon this Mudgal's wife came forward and gave her share to the man. He looked greatfully at her and ate the share too. But he was still so weak that he could not help ask for more. This time Mudgal's daughter came forward to give her share to the guest. But he still needed more. Finally, Mudgal's son, who was the yougest in the family and needed the food for himsef, also came forward to give his share to the hungry man. The man ate this too. Then with tears and blessings, he declared that he had got sustainance. Now, he could live more, in the hope that famine would get over soon and there would be better days. He was aware that the whole family would have to remain hungry till they could find some more grains and was greatful for their act of benevolence, which he declared to be unmatched.
O Yudhishthir, hungry as I was, I was there to witness all this and waiting in turn for the opportunity to lick away any left-overs from the guest's plate. There was nothing to eat. However, I could roll half my body on his plate and low and behold, with the touch of the tiniest specks of the left-overs, that side of my body became pure gold in colour. It now shines on me, ready to proclaim the glory of Mudgal and his family.
Ever since, I am wandering all over the world to meet another man, another occassion of such sublime generosity, so that I could bask in the glory of the same and acquire a similar golden colour on the other side of my body.
Glory to you O great king, whose fame is spreading day by day. You will however, realise that all of it will not give the golden body that I seek. Do not be proud yet of your achievements. What you have achieved is during the days of abundon. Real character of a man can be known only in times of crisis and starvation. What he can retain then is his true self. That alone brings the true greatness and fame !"
Yudhishthir and all his friends stood before the mongoose with their heads bowed to the glory of Mudgal. They learnt that they had a long way to go before feeling proud of their generosity.
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