Mahabharata Stories: 48 – Looking into the Face of Death

Charity and generosity have their own relative meanings. These days it is considered rather generous if off springs take care of their parents in old age. And more so, if they also give them monetary allowances. This attitude is, though apparent in a certain form today, not new. It was precisely due to this that there have been records kept of exemplary beings. Them, nothing, not even death staring into their face can stop from giving!

This story from the great epic Mahabharata is of one such family: There was a poverty stricken Brahmin teacher and his family in the village cursed with prolonged famine.

When, one day, they happened to get some flour, just a little bit, his wife and daughter-in-law made a dough out of it and, dividing it into four equal portions, made four chapatis out of it. Then the Brahmin and his wife, their son and daughter-in-law, sat together and were about to eat when there was the call of a beggar at their door. The Brahmin, his wisdom overpowering his bodily asking, stood up, and taking his chapati, gave it to the beggar to eat. The beggar wanted more, and the wife, considering it her sacred duty to share everything with her husband, gave up her small chapati. When the beggar asked for more, the son, who thought it his duty never to fail his father, gave his chapati too and finally, the daughter-in-law too gave her little chapati to the beggar, following her husband. When at last the beggar was satiated, one after another, all the four fell down and died of starvation. The beggar, revealing Himself as the Lord of Dharma, took the four blessed souls to the realm of perpetual bliss.

face of death

A mongoose that lived in a hole by the house was witness to all these. It gleefully rolled on the little flour that had spilt on the floor and that side of its body turned golden and it gained the power of speech. In an unsuccessful search for a renunciation as great as this to golden the other side of its body, it came to the much publicised great sacrifice that the Pandavas were conducting before they retired to the forests. The mongoose rolled around and laughed, as its body did not turn golden. The mongoose then narrated the story to the Pandavas as they were giving away their wealth to their subjects, bringing their ego to shame!


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