Shibi Chakravarti (शिबिचक्रवर्ती)
The concept of Abhaya Dana is illustrated by the story of Raja Shibi.
Raja Shibi was once sitting with his councillors, when a dove fell into his lap. It was being chased by a falcon. The dove prayed to the Raja for protection. When the falcon arrived the Raja refused to hand the dove over, saying that the dove had sought asylum, and he (Raja) was duty-bound to protect it. However, the falcon insisted that he was merely following his Dharma, as the dove was designated food for him.
The Raja then offered the falcon rice and vegetables instead. When the falcon refused the offer, the Raja asked him as to how his hunger would be satisfied. The falcon asked for the Raja’s flesh, weighing as much as the dove. The Raja cut off a piece from his thigh and put in on a scale. However, this was not sufficient. The Raja kept adding more flesh from other parts of his body, but to no avail. He finally climbed into the scale himself, at which the falcon (Lord Indra in disguise) disappeared. The dove (Lord Agni in disguise) also disappeared after making the Raja whole again.
The story of Shibi
Once upon a time, Ashtakan, the son of Rishi Vishwamitra, conducted Ashvamedha Ritual. He invited all the Kings and Rishis to take part in the ritual and all of them had come. After the performance of the ritual, Ashtakan along with his brothers, Pratharthanan, Vasumanas, and the king of Useenara Desh, Shibi, were travelling in a chariot. All the four were in the same chariot.
On their way, they observed Rishi Narada, stopped the chariot, paid respects to him and enquired whether he would wish to travel with them. Narada Muni was greatly pleased and agreed to accompany them.
After some distance had passed, one of the kings, said “Oh! Maharishi. Can I ask a question?” Narada Muni smiled and said, “Sure. Go ahead. If I can answer, I will oblige you”.
The King asked “Oh! Great one. Assuming that this Chariot, is proceeding to Heaven and that we are all equal, and if the chariot will allow only a maximum of four persons to complete the journey, please tell us who has to get down”
Narada Muni replied “Ashtakan has to get down”. All asked, “ why?”
Narada Muni said, “Sometime back, I lived in the palace of Ashtakan. One day, as a good host, he took me around his kingdom. On the way, I saw a strange sight. I found thousands of cows grouped separately by their colour. I enquired to whom those cows belong and Ashtakan replied “These cows were gifted by me”.
“Since he praised himself and was egoistic, he should be the one to get down”
The King who raised the query initially, again asked “Who has to get down, if this chariot allows only three persons to travel to Heaven”
The Maharishi replied, “Pratharthanan has to get down”
The king asked “Why?”
Narada Muni replied, “I had also stayed in Pratharthanan’s palace. As we were travelling in his chariot, which was being drawn by four horses, one ascetic approached him and asked him for a horse. Pratharthanan promised to gift him the horse after his return. But the ascetic insisted that he be given the horse immediately. The King immediately gave the horse tied on the right side”
As we were proceeding with three horses, another ascetic approached him. The king said “Agreed” and gave a horse on the left side”
“Very soon another ascetic, approached him and asked for a horse. The king replied “I will give you”. When the ascetic insisted that he wants it immediately, the king gave the third horse too and in its place, he started drawing the chariot”
“As he was drawing the chariot, the king said, in disgust, “These ascetics do not know the time and occasion to demand things from me”
“Since he felt disgust, he should be the person to get down”
Then, again, the King asked “What, if the chariot allows only two persons?”.
Then Narada Muni said, “Vasumans has to get down”
When asked “why”, the Maharishi replied “Once when I was travelling, I reached the palace of Vasumanas, as I required the “Pushparath” which he owned. When I heard the brahmins chanting vedic, I waited for the ritual to be over. After the ritual Vasumanas was showing the Pushparath to the brahmins. When I expressed my need, he told the brahmins that he has given it to me. But, he did not give me. On the next two occasions too the same words were said, but he did not lend the chariot. So, he has to get down”
Then the king asked “ Assuming that the chariot will allow one person to travel, then who will get down”. The Maharishi replied “I have to get down. Shibi will travel in the chariot to heaven. I am not his equal”.
The kings were surprised and asked the reason.
Narada Maharishi replied, “Once, a brahmin approached Shibi and said “Oh! Great King. I am very hungry”
Shibi asked “Sir. Please tell me what I should do. What food will satisfy your hunger”
The Brahmin said “Kill your son and prepare a good tasty food out of him”.
Shibi accordingly killed his son made a tasty dish of him and came out carrying the food on his head and started searching for the brahmin to feed him.
As he was searching, people came running to him and said “Oh King. An insane Brahmin is burning the places where you had kept your horses, elephants and treasury”
Shibi reached the brahmin and without any semblance anger said “Oh! Brahmin. Your food is ready. Please take”
The Brahmin looked at the dish which the king was carrying on his head and said “I I have lost the appetite. So, you take the food”. The king Shibi, without any second thoughts or anger, dipped his hand in the food and when he was about to put it in his mouth, the Brahmin withheld his hand and said “Shibi! You have conquered anger. You are blessed” and disappeared.
Then Shibi, found his son in front of him alive and with more radiance. Whatever was burnt looked fresh and new. He realised that Bhaghavan Narayanan had come as a Brahmin to test him.
After the Brahmin disappeared, his ministers reprimanded him. But Shibi was unaffected.
He said “I have not done this to gain fame. I have not done this to enjoy the benefits of listening to this Brahmin or comfort accruing out of it. I felt and know that the path chosen by great Rishis and Brahmins are the path to be followed without doubt or anger or expectation of salvation”
Narada Maharishi after narrating this incident got down from the chariot, blessed the kings and proceeded on his adhyatmik journey.
(The story appears in Mahabharata -Vana Parva - Chapter 201.)
- Agarwal, Sanjay. (2010) Daan and Other Giving Traditions in India. New Delhi: AccountAid, India