Ushinara- a marvelous king!
After the departure of Arjun for the divine weapons, King Yudhishthira and his brothers had become remorseful. Without Falguni's (Arjun) presence, they felt lonely and helpless. That time, they met Sage Lomasha in Kamyaka forest. He was highly learned, and well versed with all the scriptures, Vedas, Vedangas, and rituals. Rishi Lomasha conveyed the message of Lord Indra to Yudhishthira and requested him not to worry about Falguni. He asked the Pandavas for Tirth Yatra to purify themselves. Thus, all the Pandavas, priest Dhaumya and sage Lomasha with other dwellers of the Kamyaka forest went on different pilgrimages of high importance. Reaching Vitasta river, Rishi Lomasha told a story to the Pandavas——
There was a king named Ushinara who surpassed Lord Indra in greatness by performing a sacrifice. Lord Indra was curious to test the merits of the King. Both Lord Indra and Agni dev came to him in disguise. Indra took the form of a hawk and Agni- a pigeon. The hawk started chasing the pigeon.
Suddenly the pigeon fell upon the king’s thigh. At that very time, the hawk reached there and asked king Ushinara to give him that pigeon. But, looking at the pigeon’s condition, king Ushinara said, ‘O king of birds! Look, this pigeon is trembling out of fear. It has taken shelter under my protection. How can I forsake it? Being a king, I must protect it.’
Hearing the words of Ushinara, the hawk said, ‘O king! I am dying out of hunger. It's my food and I was about to eat it. Suddenly it fell on your thigh. So give it back to me or else I will die.’
The king again addressed the bird, ‘O noble bird, just think it. Is it righteousness for a king to abandon a creature who sought its protection? How can I give it to you?’
The hawk pleaded, ‘O king, I heard that you are a virtuous king. If I die today out of hunger, then my children, and my wife all will perish. Saving one bird instead of so many lives, do you think it is righteousness? You know very well that we eat food for survival and hawks do eat pigeons for sustenance. If one virtue stands in the way of another virtue, then you should compare the merits of the virtues and adopt the way you think better.’
Once again king Ushinara said, ‘O wise bird! I feel as if you are Garuda. You are well versed with the morals and scriptures. Then, how can you ask for some undesirable thing? You are hungry, so you can eat anything to satisfy your hunger. Ask me anything except this pigeon. I am ready to give you a boar, or a cow, or even half of my kingdom.’
The hawk said in a deep voice, ‘O Ushinara! If you are bent upon to protect this mere bird, give me the flesh from your body equal to the weight of this pigeon. I don't want anything else.’
King Ushinara became very happy at the hawk’s proposal. Immediately, he agreed and cut a portion of his flesh and put it on balance. But the pigeon seemed heavier. So, he added more. He went on to put the flesh from his body and weighed it. Alas! To his utter surprise, he found that every time the pigeon weighed more. When no more flesh was left on his body, he himself mounted on the balance.
At that very moment, both Lord Indra and Agni dev took their own forms and appeared before the king. Lord Indra said, ‘O king! I am Indra. I am truly amazed at your virtue. You are worthy of getting the highest place in heaven. I am pleased. We came to test your virtues and we are satisfied! Not only in this life but you will also be always worshiped by all!’
Thus, showering their blessing upon King Ushinara, both Lord Indra and Agnidev went back to devlok.