Today, we see modern rulers or politicians become arrogant as soon as they get power. In their arrogance, they do not seem to think of their people or society. The Vedic Sages were acutely aware of the dangers of arrogance in Kings and there are several stories of how even powerful emperors were forced to learn.
In story 4, we touched on the epic Raghu–Vamsha of the great poet Kali–Das. Raghu was born in the Sun Dynasty or the Ikshvaku Dynasty named after King Ikshvaku, one of the oldest Kings in the Vedic Civilization. Raghu became so great in his valor, in his generosity and in his benevolence that the dynasty after him became known with his name as Raghu-Vamsha or the Dynasty of Raghu.
Raghu’s father was Dileep. Kalidas sings great praises of Emperor Dileep. He became an Emperor because he is supposed to have conquered the earth on several occasions. One day, when Emperor Dileep was descending from the palace of Indra, the Lord Protector of Heavens, he passed the Goddess Kama–Dhenu (Kama – wishes; Dhenu – the bestower). In his haste, Dileep ignored her. Kama-Dhenu gave Dileep a shraap (a curse) for his arrogance.
When Dileep asked the Goddess for forgiveness, Kama-Dhenu asked him to become a cow-herd and serve her daughter Nandinee who would enter earth as a cow for the next 21 days. Emperor Dileep did so. For the next 21 days, he became the cow-herd of Nandinee and followed her everywhere literally like her shadow.
On the last day, suddenly a great Lion jumped on Nandinee. Emperor Dileep immediately drew his powerful bow and put his hand in his quiver to get a an arrow. But his hand got stuck in the quiver and Dileep could not get it out despite all his attempts. In his helplessness, Dileep beseeched the Lion to eat him rather than the cow.
To his great surprise, the Lion spoke to him and said that all of Dileep’s weapons would be useless against him because he was the servant of Bhagwan Shankar named Kumbho-dar. At the end of his introduction , the Lion calls Dileep stupid. Kalidas describes the Lion’s jeering in the following immortal phrase:
एकात पत्रं जगतः प्रभूत्वं नवं वयः कान्तं इदं वपुः च
Ekaat Patram Jagatah Prabhutvam Navam Vayah Kantam Idam Vapuhu cha
You rule the world under one umbrella, you are young with a great physique
अल्पस्य हेतोहो बहु हातुम इच्हन विचार मूढः प्रतीभासी मे त्वं
Alpasya Hetoho Bahu Hatum Ishan Vichar Mudhah Pratibhasi Me Tvam
You wish to give so much for so little (this Cow), you seem thoughtless (stupid) to me
Emperor Dileep is not fazed. He replies to the Lion in a phrase that has lived on for over a millennium:
किम अपि अहिम्सः तव चेत मतो अहं यशः शरीरे भाव मे दयालुः
Kim Api Ahimsah Tav Chet Mato Aham Yashah Sharire Bhava Me Dayaluhu
If you wish to leave any of my body unharmed, please be kind to the body of my reputation.
Dileep goes on to explain he does not care about the physical body because it will one day turn to dust. Dileep’s message is that the body of the reputation lives for eternity while the physical body is transient.
Goddess Nandinee is extremely pleased at Dileep’s noble action and she reveals herself in her celestial form. She says to Dileep:
प्रीता अस्मि ते पुत्र वरं वृश्नीव
Preeta Asmi Te Putra Varam Vrushneeva
I am pleased with you Son, ask what you wish
Emperor Dileep humbly asks for a son who would carry on the great tradition of the Ikshvaku Dynasty. Goddess Nandinee grants him the wish.
This Son granted by Goddess Nandinee to Dileep was Raghu. Not only did Raghu carry on the traditions of his dynasty but he took them to such heights that the dynasty was renamed as Raghu-Vamsha or the Dynasty of Raghu.
Will any politician of today offer to forsake his body, his wealth or power for the sake of his reputation? Mahatma Gandhi was the last one to do, we think.
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