In the north-west of India, near the Hindu Kush, there lived King Sivi of Usinara who had his kingdom near Gandhara. Sivi was a kind and upright king who never refused to help the needy. His fame spread far and wide. Even the gods were surprised to see such a kind man.
Lord Indra said doubtfully, “It is no problem to be kind and generous man when you have a prosperous kingdom to fall back upon. It is only when you have little that it becomes difficult to help others.”
Agni, the fire-God, said, “No, you have to give him credit for what he is. He is kind because he genuinely wants to help others. There are many rulers who are richer than him but they do not give anything to others.”
Lord Indra however had his doubts and said, “I think I will be able to believe him only after I have tested him out. Let me see if he helps me.”
Agni decided to accompany Lord Indra because he knew that Indra would in all likelihood make a fool of himself. Lord Indra turned himself into a falcon while Agni took the form of a pigeon. Both of them flew to King Sivi’s palace. The king saw the two birds following each other and thinking that the pigeon was being attacked by the falcon, he quickly spread out his hands to hold the pigeon. Stroking it gently, he said to the pigeon, “You have nothing to fear over here. So long you are in my kingdom, none can harm you.”
Meanwhile the falcon reached the king and said, “Your Majesty, please let the pigeon go. I have not had a meal since long. Please do not deprive me of my meal.”
The king was surprised to hear this. He said laughingly, “Oh, so this is the problem! You have nothing to worry about. I will ask my men to serve you a hearty meal.”
The falcon replied, “But I do not eat cooked vegetables or meat. I eat a living animal or bird; not their meat.”
The king replied, “Okay, I will arrange fresh animal for you.”
The falcon said, “No, I want the pigeon only. I hunted it out.”
The king replied, “How can I give the pigeon to you? It came to me for shelter. I cannot turn it over to you.”
The falcon got angry and said, “You are called a very kind and generous king but you are not letting me eat my prey. I do not think you are generous or kind.”
The king said, “You can ask me for anything else but let the pigeon go as it has come to me to seek mercy.”
The falcon replied, “Okay, I will be satisfied if you give me a portion of your own flesh to eat. But it should be of the same weight as that of the pigeon.”
The king agreed and carved out a portion of the flesh from his body. But it was less in weight in comparison to the pigeon’s. He kept on adding more and more of his own flesh but the pigeon was still heavy.
Indra said to the pigeon, “I think if he has to give someone he loves he will not be able to be kind and generous as he is now.” Then turning towards the skeleton of the king he said, “I want the flesh of your son. Will you give me that?”
The king was deeply distressed but he had given his words. So he brought out his son and killed him. He then gave the flesh to Indra, with tears rolling down his cheeks.
Lord Vishnu appeared at this sight and revived the king’s son to life. He told Indra not to test the king any further as the latter had proved his credentials well beyond doubt.