Bharatam is a country known for its generous and benevolent kings. In this article, we will explore legendary monarchs whose noble deeds have been immortalized in Sanskrit literature.
Our first tale brings us to the illustrious Ikshvaku dynasty and King Raghu. The lineage itself is named Raghuvamsham, a testament to this king’s benevolence and valor. This incident is beautifully described in fifth chapter in Raghuvamsham, the foremost among the five great epics in Sanskrit Literature, written by MahakaviKalidasa.
King Raghu performed the Vishwajit Yajna and generously donated all his wealth to the people as part of this sacred ritual. It was during this period that a Brahmana named Kautsa approached King Raghu, requesting 14 crores of gold coins as Dakshina for his Guru, Varatantu Muni.
Having mastered fourteen different fields under the guidance of his preceptor Varatantu Muni, Kautsa felt profound gratitude for his education. When Kautsa asked Varatantu Muni what he desired as dakshina, Varatantu Muni, was content with Kautsa’s dedication and discipline. Yet, Kautsa persistently sought to offer more. Exasperated, Varatantu Muni finally instructed Kautsa to bring 14 crores of gold coins. It is important to note that Dakshina was not Varatantu Muni’s primary concern; he simply wanted his disciple to leave a significant mark on the world, like any other preceptor. He believed this request would deter Kautsa from giving Dakshina.
Kautsa, filled with determination, immediately thought of approaching King Raghu for the requested amount. However, upon reaching the king’s presence, he realized he was too late as King Raghu had donated all his wealth. King Raghu, recognizing Kautsa’s earnestness, insisted that he stay at the palace for a night. Meanwhile, the king pondered on ways to obtain the money.
That night, King Raghu made a bold decision. He resolved to wage a war against Kubera, the God of Wealth, to secure the necessary funds for Kautsa. Miraculously, the next morning, the ministers rushed to inform King Raghu that the treasury was overflowing with gold coins. To everyone’s astonishment, Kubera, upon learning of the king’s determination, had showered the treasury with gold coins, not daring to incur the wrath of such a great and resolute king. King Raghu wanted to give the entire wealth to Kautsa but Kautsa refused to take more than the 14 crores of gold coins he originally requested. This incident beautifully exemplifies the greatness of both the donor and the recipient, a concept eloquently described by MahakaviKalidasa.
जनस्य साकेतनिवासिनस्तौ द्वावप्यभूतानभिनन्द्यसत्त्वौ|
“Both the giver, who had no desire to offer more than what was requested by the recipient, and the recipient, who did not seek more than what was offered by his benefactor, were highly respected among the people of Saketa, namely Ayodhya. This was due to their noble and elevated mindset, embodying the ethos of giving and receiving”
Shifting our focus to another benevolent ruler, let’s explore the story of King Nala from the land of Nishada, renowned for his benevolence. While many are familiar with his story of losing everything in a game of dice, leaving his wife in the forest and working as a cook, a lesser-known fact is that Nala was a great and beloved King among his people. In Sanskrit literature, one of the five great epics is ‘Naishadiyacharitam,’ written by Sriharsha, which vividly portrays the life of King Nala.
This incident takes place in the fifth canto of the epic, where the Devas request Nala to act as their messenger, conveying their intention to marry Damayanti. Nala hesitates because he was already acquainted with Damayanti and had also expressed his love for her through a Swan. He also knows that Damayanti desires to marry him in her Swayamvara.
Indra, recognizing Nala’s hesitation, praises him, pointing out that he has never refused anyone seeking his help and should not decline this request either.
This sentiment is beautifully captured in a verse where Nala is praised as follows:
नाक्षराणि पठता किमपाठि प्रस्मृतैः किमथवा पठितोऽपि।
इत्थमर्थिचयसंशयदोलाखेलनं खलु चकार नकारः।।
“Did King Nala not learn the letter ‘na’ during his studies of the alphabets, or did he forget it after learning? Thus, the letter ‘na’ was puzzling the minds of those who sought his aid.”
The Sanskrit letter ‘na’ signifies ‘no’ or negation. King Nala never uttered ‘no’ to anyone who sought his help. His unparalleled greatness and benevolence were so remarkable that it left people wondering if his vocabulary even included the letter ‘na’ or if he had ever encountered it or having learnt, he now forgot that letter.The poem is also beautifully woven with alliteration in the words ‘chakAra’ and ‘nakAraH’.
Finally, conceding to the Devas’ request, King Nala went as a messenger to Damayanti and conveyed the Devas’ request. However, in the end, Damayanti chose to marry King Nala, and the Devas wholeheartedly blessed them.
Our odyssey now culminates with a mesmerizing tale from a renowned literary work ‘BhojaPrabandha,’ scripted by Ballaladeva. King Bhoja, a revered monarch of the eleventh century, was celebrated for his magnanimity, especially towards poets. In fact, there are many instances in BhojaPrabandha that make one want to be a part of Bhoja’s court.
In this tale, a concerned minister, troubled by the handling of funds and reckless donations to seekers by Bhoja, discreetly left a note on Bhoja’s bed to save money during tough times.
Minister – आपदर्थे धनं रक्षेत् (ApadarthedhanaMrakShet)– One should save money for tough times.
Bhoja glanced at the message the following morning and responded – श्रीमतां कुतः आपदः (shrImatAMkutaHApadaH)– Where is the difficulty for those who have Shri (goddess of wealth) with them?
The Minister retorted – कदाचिच्चलिता लक्ष्मीः (kadAchichchalitAlakShmIH)– What if Lakshmi departs?
Bhoja calmly replied – सञ्चितापि विनश्यति (sa~nchitApivinashyati)– Even accumulated wealth vanishes then.
The conversation between the Minister and Bhoja is meticulously crafted in the Anushtup meter and translates as follows in verse-
आपदर्थे धनं रक्षेत् श्रीमतां कुत आपदः।
कदाचिच्चलिता लक्ष्मीःसञ्चितापि विनश्यति।।
The minister, humbled by the king’s wisdom, acknowledged his folly, and expressed anguish in trying to stop the King from donating.
These captivating stories echo a glorious past where kings were not just rulers but also exemplars of benevolence, leaving an indelible mark on the tapestry of Bharatam’s history. Let these tales inspire us, reminding us of the timeless values of kindness, generosity, and gratitude.
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