In India once lived a king named Sudraka whose fame as a benevolent ruler spread far and wide.
One day a prince called Viravara visited his palace to meet him. When he reached the king'scourt, the prince bowed before the king and said, ?Your Majesty, I have heard a lot about Your Majesty'sbenevolent nature. As I am in dire need of help because I am passing through a period of adversity, I would be grateful if Your Majesty were to appoint me as one of the servants in the court.?
The king was pleased at the simple words of the prince and asked, ?I will appoint you provided you tell me first how much your worth is??
Prince Viravara replied, ?I want that four hundred gold coins are given to me for the services I will provide to Your Majesty.?
King Sudraka asked, ?Okay, but what services will you render for so much money?? The prince replied, ? Your Majesty, at the moment all I can offer are my two arms and my sword, if agreed.?
The king was not at all impressed. He said, ?What you demand is too high a price. I am sorry I cannot appoint you as one of my servant.?
Prince Viravara bowed humbly before the king and walked out. The courtiers were listening to this discussion with great interest and were somehow taken in by the prince'sgentle demeanour and behaviour. They turned to the king, ?Your Majesty, we think we should try this prince out as servant. If he works according to the price he demands, we can keep him: else we may shunt him out.?
The king sent his soldiers to bring back Prince Viravara. As soon as the prince entered, the king gave him a bagful of four hundred gold coins and instructed his men to keep an eye on his work.
After observing his activities for some days, the king'smen reported that the prince was of a very generous nature. King Sudraka was pleased to hear this and promoted the prince to the post of his personal guard. Day and night the prince would keep vigil without taking any break or becoming lax in his duties.
One night, Prince Viravara heard a loud wailing sound coming from outside. As the wailing continued, the King also woke up and instructed the prince to go out and check what had gone wrong.
The prince set off at once while the king followed behind to keep an eye on the prince. On reaching outside the palace gates, the prince saw a young and beautiful woman dressed to the hilt, weeping. He quietly approached her, ?Young lady, why are you crying? Tell me if I can be of any help to you.?
They young woman replied, ?I am the Goddess of wealth and health but now my time has come and I have to leave. King Sudraka'skingdom. I am very fond of the king and do not want to leave him.?
Prince Viravara suggested, ?Come now, every problem has a solution provided we ponder over it and come to some decision. I am sure you also know the solution to the problem you are bothered with.?
The young woman replied, ?Goddess Sarvamangala has to be appeased and it can be possible only if you sacrifice your son to her.? Soon the Goddess disappeared from the scene.
King Sudraka had been listening to this exchange between the prince and the Goddess and wondered what the prince would do next.
The prince set off towards his home and narrated the whole incident to his wife and son. His son, who was very obedient and religious came forward and said, ?Father, let us go to the temple and I am ready to sacrifice myself to her.? Even his mother agreed, ?You had promised to the king to serve him through thick and thin, so let us go to the temple and do as the Goddess wants us to do.?
Without wasting a moment, the prince left with his family for the temple and on reaching inside, took out his sword and chopped off his son'shead. The prince, now overcome at the loss of his son, cried, ?Now what is the use of my living when my son is no longer there to live with us?? Saying thus, he chopped off his own head with a single stroke of the sword. Now left without her son and husband, the wife too committed suicide. The king, watching the tragedy through the window in the temple, was deeply moved at this sight.
King Sudraka returned to his palace but was no longer interested in living. He thought, ?Look at the prince, without any physical bond to me, he gave up not only his own life but that of his son too. That is what is called generosity.?
He immediately took out his sword to slay himself, when the Goddess appeared and stopped his raised arm, saying, ?No, King Sudraka, I want you to live. Do not kill yourself.?
The Goddess revived the prince and his family who found themselves in their old home. The king returned to his palace.
Next day, the king held court and Prince Viravara too returned to his duty. Not even once did the prince mention all that had transpired with him to anyone. The king was very pleased to see this and thought, ?He is truly great and generous; neither did he once mention his sacrifice to anyone. A truly kind and benevolent person is one who does not brag about his good deeds.?
(Based on a story from the Hitopdesha).