THE STORY OF KING HARISCHANDRA
- Sai Baba version of the story of King Harischandra
“There was one king in India named King Harischandra.
He was a very, very honest person.
One day he had a dream, and in his dream, sage Vishwamitra appeared.
The king asked him, ‘What do you want from me, O Sage?’
“‘If you so want,’ the sage replied, ‘give me your whole kingdom without keeping anything back for yourself.’
“The king was delighted, and he said, ‘It is given to you. Now you are the king.’
“And the sage left.
“The king woke up. He thought about the sage.
‘Now this kingdom belongs to him. It does not belong to me. I’ve already given everything to him.’
“He was waiting and waiting for the sage.
“At last the sage came. King Harischandra bowed down to him, and said, ‘Now, you take care of your kingdom. It is your kingdom now.’
“‘You are handing over the charge of your kingdom to me in order to fulfill your promise,’ the sage said.
‘But there is the custom that when you meet any sage, you must give them dakshina (gift).’
“Now, because he had given his kingdom to Vishwamitra, the king did not have anything of his own, and he could not take anything from his own kingdom.
So he told the sage,
‘Please wait for some time, and I will give you your dakshina. Please wait.’
“And the sage agreed.
“The king left his kingdom along with his wife and his one son, Parikshit, and went to Benares [Varanasi].
He was searching for a job, but he could not find one.
With great difficulty, the queen obtained a job as a cook in the house of a very cruel, high-caste Brahmin.
King Harischandra obtained a position in the cremation grounds. His job was to collect a tax whenever a dead body would come.
“One day, prince Parikshit was bitten by a cobra, and he died. The Brahmin was so cruel, that he did not give the queen any money for the prince’s cremation.
The queen, weeping, carried the dead body of her son
on her shoulder to the cremation ground.
King Harischandra recognized the dead body of his son.
He also recognized his queen, but said, ‘I am appointed here to collect the tax.
Therefore, I cannot permit you to cremate our child unless you pay the tax.’
“‘I have nothing,” the Queen replied. ‘I have nothing else, only this sari.’
“Her husband, the king, replied,
‘I cannot allow you to cremate our child until you pay the tax.
So you must give half of your sari by way of the tax.’
“‘Whatever you like, you can take,” the queen replied.
She offered her sari to Harischandra and asked him to cut it in half, and take half of it for the tax.
“The king was about to cut off his wife’s sari when the sage Vishwamitra appeared, and said to the king, ‘I was testing your honesty.
And you passed my test. I am very much touched with your honesty.
Now go back to your kingdom and rule over it.’