Once upon a time, there were two brothers Shankha and Likhita, who were Munis and used to live in their Aashramams on the banks of the river Baahudaa. One day, the younger brother, Likhita, went to the Shankha’s aashramam and on not finding his brother, sat under a mango tree. He started eating one of its mangoes, without taking the permission of the owner of the tree (Shankha).
Shankha returned to his aashramam and found Likhita eating the mangoes. Shankha then told Likhita that, one must never take the things which do not belong to them. He said “You should have eaten it only after taking my permission”. He further told Likhita to go to the King, Sudyumna, tell him the mistake he did and take the appropriate punishment, according to the Danda-neeti-shaastram.
Likhita adheres to the word of his brother and immediately goes to Sudyumna. The King warmly welcomes the Muni and upon being asked the reason for coming, Likhita tells what had happened and begs the King for punishment.
The King who knows all the Dharma shastras, replied that “O great Muni! You leave all the pleasures of normal humans and do Tapas for the welfare of everyone. How can I give you punishment?”. Likhita replies saying that a King must never deviate for his duty and hence, must punish him. The King accepts and orders that Likhita’s hands must be cut-off (following Danda-neeti).
Likhita then returned to Shankha after experiencing the punishment. Shankha was very happy to see his brother and said “O Putra! you did a good thing. Because of you our entire vamsham will be saved. Dip in the Baahudaa Nadi and do Deva, Muni, Pitru Tarpanam and come. Suraapaanam, Guru Bhaaryaa Vyaamoham, Vipra-hatya, Vipra-Dhana-apaharanam and doing friendship with these four kinds of people are the Pancha-mahaa-paatakas (5 main sins). You became punyaatma because you experienced Dandanam (punishment) from Raaja. Go.”
Likhita immediately goes and takes a dip in the Baahudaa Nadi and to his surprise sees that he gets back his hands. Knowing that his hands came back due to the power of Shankha, he asked his brother that if he has so much power why did he ask him to go to the King for punishment, instead he himself could have given it. The elder brother said that everyone must do his own duty. Our duty is to do Tapas for the benefit of the society and the King’s duty is to punish the bad. Hence, he said, he had no right to punish his younger brother.
This story was told by Vyaasa Bhagavaan to Dharmaraaja when he was worried that all relatives, friends etc. are killed in the Yuddham. Vyaasa Bhagavaana says Dushtas must be punished. Duty of the King is to do that. So there is nothing wrong in Yudhishthira doing the Mahabhaarata Yuddham, to kill the bad.
Morals in the story:
- Respecting elders, though sometimes their words may seem harsh, is a very important aspect of Indian culture. The younger brother always respected his elder brother and adhered to his words. Also, the elder brother always wanted the good of his brother. Thus did not pamper him by neglecting the mistake he did, considering it small.
- Everyone in the story performed their duties. The sages did tapas, the King did Dharma-paalanam, younger brother listened to the elder one. The elder brother always thought about the good of the younger one.
- One has to experience the results of his own karma some or the other time. Knowing this, the elder brother asked his younger brother to experience the punishment given by the king rather than postponing it to hell.
- Stealing, knowingly or unknowingly results in big paapam. For stealing one mango, that too being a sage, the punishment was as severe as cutting off hands. The bad result of stealing (even by mistake) is well illustrated in King Nruga’s story too.
If stealing one person’s belonging is such a crime, imagine how much magnitude of crime is committed by stealing public/government money/property (bribes). Similarly, destroying public property must never be done. Since, it will effect many individuals not only one.