King Harischandra, an exceptional example of Dharma (Virtue) and Satya (Truth)

Sage Jaimini expressed gratitude to the Holy Birds who provided excellent clarifications to his queries in a lucid and convincing manner, but became curious as to know further the sequence of Events that climaxed King Harischandra’s further destiny.As Viswamitra ordered Harischandra to leave his Kingdom, the latter reached Varanasi, the Sacred Place of Parama Siva. Viswamitra reached there too and reminded about the dues of Dakshina since a month passed meanwhile.Harischandra’s wife offered that she could be sold off to pay for the Dakshina.The King fainted at her proposal and she fainted too. But since the Sage gave an ultimatum to pay off at least a part payment by that evening, the couple decided that she was sold in an open market place as a slave of any taker. A Brahmana came forward to buy her and some amount was paid to Viswamitra, but the young son Rohit did not leave his mother and she begged the Brahmana, who already started insulting and even beating her in the presence of her husband and the Public, finally agreed to allow the son to stay along with her in his home. A few days later, Viswamitra appeared in the form of ‘Kaal’ (Mrityu/ the Deity of Death) and demanded that atleast another instalment of the payment due to him at once; Harischandra had no other option to sell himself to a Chandala, even while reminiscing his past stature and the absence of his virtuous wife and the dear son. The Chandala gave him the duty of holding a stick to burn off dead bodies and be loyal to the Master and carry out his meanest errands The Great Harischandra finally got rid of Viswamitra even if he had to perform the most wretched and heinous duties; he lost his identity and carried on with past memories which also faded away with the passage of time and led a mechanical and handful existence.One fateful day, a woman arrived at the burial ground with a dead body of her son, stated to have been dead as a result of a snake bite.The crying woman recognised the person with his stick with which he was used to burn off dead bodies for years now, and even as_he had a dishvelled and ugly hair and beard, with depressed cheeks and hollow eyes. The former Queen Shaibya, the wife of King Harischandra was herself half clad and hardly identifiable, with her dead son on her lap; she had tired eyes after incessant cries and was looking completely exhausted and hysteric. A man called Harischandra- a non-entity-vaguely felt he saw her somewhere! At last, he recognised her and their dead son and hugged her and the son’s body, arranged the dead son on a huge pyre and was about to consign to flames. His wife decided to immolate herself but Harischandra felt that he was not free even to do so without his Master’s permission.Finally he decided to join his wife’s immolation even if he were to go to hell and the couple performed their last prayers to Almighty. Just at that nick of time several Deities headed by Dharma made their appearance; they included Sadhyaganas, Vishvadeva, Marutganas, Lokapalas, Nagamani, Siddhaganas, Gandharvas, Rudraganas, the two Ashvani Kumaras, Sage Viswamitra and Lord Indra too.The dead Rohit was revived and presented himself in a Prince’s attire Harischandra and his wife were blessed and were invited to reach Heaven but the King hesitated as he did not secure his Master’s permission; Dharmaraja declared that he himself was the Chandala and approved of the Royal Couple to fly by the Pushpak Vimana to Swarga. Lord Indra stated that all the Deities were extremely happy with the _Values of Dharma, Sacrifice, Dedication and Truthfulness that were amply demonstrated _by the King, his wife and their son and as such the three were fully entitled to Swarga. Indra sprinkled ‘Apamrutyu vinaashaka Amrit’/ the Ambrosia that negated death on the Pyre where the dead body of Rahul was kept and the various Deities showered fresh fragrant flowers and Indra personally invited the Threesome to Swarga; .but Harischandra hesitated and said that the Citizens of Ayodhya were highly anguished at our misfortune and hence the King and family alone could not depart to Swaraga committing betrayal; the sins of Brahmahatya, Guruhatya, Gohatya, Streehatya are as deplorable as Bhaktahatya; therefore Bhagavan Indra! Kindly return to Swarga, since the pleasure of visiting that Place would not accord as much happiness of our reaching Swarga as our staying in this ‘Bhu Naraka’ along with our Bhaktas! Thus our resolve is to stay back with our own well-wishers ony.Lord Indra was taken aback by the decision of Harischandra and did concur with his proposal as an.unusual and exceptional occurrence! Sage Sukracharya commended the example of Harischandra and stated as follows: Harischandrasamo Raja na bhuto na Bhavishyati! The Daityacharya Sukra also confirmed that those who heard or read Raja Harischandra’s Story of sacrifices and dedication, with devotion and sincerity would achieve the fruits of digesting the gist of Vedas, Puranas and Mantras; those who read or hear the same at Pushkar, Prayag, Sindhusagar, Devalayas (Temples), Kasi and Kurukshetra; or performing Japas /Meditation during Eclipse Periods. Further, ‘Daan’ (charity) of foodgrains, clothes, gold, cows those who read and explain the details of the Story would fulfill their desires like begetting ideal progeny, securing idyllic life-partner, prosperity and good health.

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at [email protected]