Mahabharata Stories: 5 – The Judge Adjudged

Judgement is a difficult thing simply because it is relative to our own personal experiences, and going beyond this is hard. This is the reason why our judges are addressed ‘My Lord’ as they are considered to be the Lord Himself come down to issue justice. Nevertheless, it is acceptable for mortals to make mistakes but not the Lord of Dharma. For, mortals have the cycle of life and death to make amends for their acts but what when Dharmaraja errs?

Once, the king’s policemen chased a gang of thieves that carried a large booty. The gang ran into the forest and, finding a sage sitting in meditation under a tree, conveniently deposited the booty in his hut and ran away. The policemen arrived soon after and questioned of the sage the whereabouts of the gang. The sage, oblivious of the world, did not answer. In the meanwhile, the booty was discovered in the hut and the sage was taken to be the chief of the gang in disguise. The matter was reported to the king and he ordered that the sage be impaled upon a spear.

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Thus the sage Mandavya was impaled but was kept alive by the power of his yoga. The other sages, hearing of the plight of the great sage, hurried there and this news reached the king. Immediately the sage was relieved of the spear and the king fell at his feet pleading forgiveness for the mistake unwittingly committed by him. The sage bore no ill will towards the king and readily forgave him, as he knew that the king was only doing his duty as a protector.

The sage, in order to determine the truth, went to Dharmaraja and questioned: I have not hurt any creature as far as I can remember. Why then, did I have to undergo such great pain?

Dharmaraja answered: Oh, revered sage! When you were young you have killed many an insect and worm for the fun of it. So you had to undergo this torture to make amends.

Sage Mandavya was furious: Do you not know dharma, O Dharmaraja? Do you not know that an act committed in innocence cannot beget punishment? You deserve to be born in the lower realms!

The sage then issued a decree that stands for all times: From this time, any act committed by a child in innocence, until it matures, shall not be taken into account as karma.

The curse of the sage was translated into Dharmaraja being born as Vidura, the just son of sage Vyasa and Ambalika’s maid. Vidura, the advisor brother to Dhritarashtra, stood by justice at all times. He foresaw the consequences of outraging Draupadi and pleaded to the king to dissuade the young princes from committing the heinous act, but all these to no avail!

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