The Mahabharata Home
"Markandeya said, 'One day it was resolved by the gods that they should descend on the earth and try the goodness and virtue of king Sivi, the son of Usinara. And addressing each other,--'Well'--Agni and Indra came to the earth. And Agni took the form of a pigeon flying away from Indra who pursued him in the form of a hawk, and that pigeon fell upon the lap of king Sivi who was seated on an excellent seat. And the priest thereupon addressing the king said, 'Afraid of the hawk and desirous of saving its life, this pigeon hath come to thee for safety. The learned have said that the falling of a pigeon upon one's body forebodeth a great danger. Let the king that understands omens give away wealth for saving himself from the danger indicated.' And the pigeon also addressed the king and said, 'Afraid of the hawk and desirous of saving my life I have come to thee for protection. I am a Muni. Having assumed the form of a pigeon, I come to thee as a seeker of thy protection. Indeed, I seek thee as my life. Know me as one possessed of Vedic lore, as one leading the Brahmacharya mode of life, as one possessed also of self-control
and ascetic virtues. And know me further as one that has never spoken disagreeably unto his preceptor, as one possessed of every virtue indeed, as one that is sinless. I repeat the Vedas, I know their prosody; indeed, I have studied all the Vedas letter by letter. I am not a pigeon. Oh, do not yield me up to the hawk. The giving up of a learned and pure Brahmana can never be a good gift.' And after the pigeon said so, the hawk addressed the king, and said, 'Creatures do not come into the world in the same particular order. In the order of creation, thou mayst, in a former birth, have been begotten by this pigeon. It is not proper for thee, O king, to interfere with my food by protecting this pigeon (even though he might have been thy father).' And thus addressed, the king said, 'Hath any one, before this, seen birds thus speak the pure speech of man? Knowing what this pigeon sayeth, and this hawk also, how can we act to-day according to virtue? He that giveth up an affrighted creature seeking protection, unto its foe, doth not obtain protection when he is in need of it himself. Indeed, the very clouds do not shower rain seasonably for him, and the seeds though scattered do not grow for him. He that giveth up an afflicted creature seeking protection unto its foe, hath to see his offspring die in childhood. The ancestor of such a person can never dwell in heaven; indeed, the very gods decline to accept the libations of clarified butter poured by him into the fire. He that giveth up an affrighted creature seeking protection, unto its foe, is struck with the thunder-bolt by the gods with Indra at their head. The food that he eateth is unsanctified, and he, of a narrow soul, falleth from heaven very soon. O hawk, let the people of the Sivi tribe place before thee a bull cooked with rice instead of this pigeon. And let them also carry to the place where thou livest in joy, meat in abundance.' And hearing this, the hawk said, 'O king, I do not ask for a bull, nor, indeed, any other meat, nor meat more in quantity than that of this pigeon. It hath been given to me by the gods. The creature, therefore, is my food today in consequence of its death that hath been ordained. Therefore, O monarch, give it up to me.' Thus addressed by the hawk, the king said, 'Let my men see and carefully carry the bull to thee with every limb entire. Let that bull be the ransom of this creature afflicted with fright and let it be carried to thee before my eyes. Oh, slay not this pigeon! I will yield up my very life, yet I would not give up this pigeon. Dost thou not know, O hawk, that this creature looketh like a sacrifice with the Soma juice? O blessed one, cease to take so much trouble for it. I cannot, by any means, yield up the pigeon to thee. Or, O hawk, if it pleases thee, command me to do some such thing which I may do for thee, which may be agreeable to thee, and upon doing which the men of the Sivi tribe may yet in joy bless me in terms of applause. I promise thee that I will do what thou mayst did me do.' And at this appeal of the king, the hawk said, 'O king, if thou givest me as much flesh as would be equal to the weight of the pigeon, cutting it off thy right thigh; then can the pigeon be properly saved by thee; then wouldst thou do what would be agreeable to me and what the men of the Sivi tribe would speak of in terms of praise.' And the king agreed to this and he cut off a piece of flesh from his right thigh and weighed it against the pigeon. But the pigeon
weighed heavier. And thereupon the king cut off another piece of his flesh, but the pigeon still weighed heavier, and then the king cut off pieces of flesh from all parts of his body and placed them on the scale. But the pigeon still weighed heavier, and then the king himself ascended the scale and he felt no grief at this and beholding this, the hawk disappeared there saying--(The pigeon hath been) Saved,--And the king asked the pigeon saying, 'O pigeon, let the Sivis know who the hawk is. None but the lord of the universe could do as he did. O Holy One, answer thou this question of mine!' And the pigeon then said, 'I am the smoke-bannered Agni called also Vaiswanara. The hawk is none other than Sachi's lord armed with the thunder-bolt. O son of Suratha, thou art a bull among men. We came to try thee. These pieces of flesh, O king, that thou hast cut off with thy sword from thy body for saving me have caused gashes in thy body. I will make these marks auspicious and handsome and they will be of the colour of gold and emit a sweet perfume, and earning great fame and respected by the gods and the Rishis thou shall long rule these subjects of thine, and a son will spring from thy flank who shall be called Kapataroman. O king, thou shalt obtain this son of the name of Kapataroman from out of thy own body and thou wilt behold him become the foremost of the Saurathas, blazing with renown, possessed of bravery and great personal beauty!"
Next: Section CLXLVII