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Harichandra selling his wife & son to Vishwamitra to cover his dues to him

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Back Ground :Harichandra who belonged to Surya vamsa, was the son of Sathyavrathan alias Trishanku. He married Chandramathi, the daughter of King Sibi. They were blessed with a son Rohithan. Harichandra ruled his Kingdom wisely and never swerved from the path of Dharma. He was famous for his quality of speaking only the truth, and the country flourished under his rule.

Once Vasishta visited the world of Devas and it was a coincidence that Viswamitra too visited at the same time.The Devas were elated to have both the maharishis as their guests. They were treated with utmost respect and were honoured, but Viswamitra noticed that Vasishta received more respect and attention. He was beside himself with rage and asked Vasishta the reason for this. Vasishta described the noble virtues of King Harichandra, who belonged to the Surya vamsa, and explained that being the Rajaguru for such a great clan, he was being treated with more respect. He praised Harichandra highly, and told Viswamitra that none could equal him in speaking the truth.

Viswamitra was annoyed and embittered on hearing these words, but he was reluctant to fight with Vasishta, as it may spoil his image in front of the Devas. His anger turned on Harichandra and he took a vow to make Harichandra lie at least once.

Once when Harichandra was on a hunting trip, he met a lady who was crying in distress. When he asked her the reason, she told him that she was Sitharoopini, a Devatha who gave people what they desired and that Viswamitra was doing penance to own her. She requested the king to save her from the sage's clutches. Harichandra promised her that he would do the needful and went to Viswamitra's hermitage.


The King made enquiries and found that what the Devatha had told him was true. He approached the sage and asked him to stop his penance which would do harm to the people and returned to his Kingdom. The sage was enraged at this audacity of the King and started to plan for his downfall. He changed a Demon into a wild Boar and sent him to the King's garden. The Boar destroyed everything in sight and the gardeners were unable to drive the boar out and so they sent word to the King for help. The King came armed with weapons and started chasing the Boar. He went a long way chasing the Boar, which sometimes seemed to be in front of the king, and sometimes behind him. Thus it gave much trouble to the King and it disappeared from his sight finally. The King found himself alone in the forest and feeling thirsty, he saw a rivulet and drank water from it to quench his thirst. At that time, Viswamitra in a Brahmin's disguise arrived there
Harischandra saluted the Brahmin, introduced himself and explained how he lost his way while chasing a Boar. He further added that after performing Rajasuya Yaga, he had taken a vow to fulfill the wishes of his people. The Brahmin appeared happy and requested the King to have a bath and confirm his vow. The King did so and the Brahmin asked for money to perform his daughter's wedding. The King, unaware of the consequences, readily agreed to it. The Brahmin then showed the King the way to his palace and left.

Then he made all the necessary arrangements for his daughter's wedding and returned to the palace to ask for the promised money. The King asked him to name the amount and Viswamitra, who was in the disguise of the Brahmin, asked for the palace, elephants, horses, chariots and all his other belongings. Harischandra though shocked, did not reveal his feelings, and agreed to give them away. Thus, the palace and his belongings were given to Viswamitra, but the Brahmin was not satisfied. There is a rule in the Sastras that whenever a 'Daanam' or donation is given to a Brahmin, money should be given along with that, otherwise the 'Daanam' becomes fruitless. So when the King enquired the Brahmin as to how much he wanted, the latter asked for a prodigious amount which made the King unhappy and sad.

Harischandra pleaded with the Brahmin saying, ''O Learned one! Please accept my palace and my belongings. Chandramathi and I will leave the kingdom. Since I have donated everything to you, I don't have the money to give you now. Therefore, please accept my donations now and the money later". He promised to give the money in a month's time and that till he gave the money, he would abstain from food.The Brahmin agreed half-heartedly, and Harischandra left the kingdom followed by Chandramathi and their son.


Harischandra with his family reached Kasi and started living there. When the stipulated time was over, the Brahmin came to him and demanded the promised money. But Harischandra, who was unable to give him the amount, was paralysed with anguish. Chandramathi who was watching her husband, couldn't bear to see him in such a position and offered to sell herself to pay the Brahmin. Harischandra's eyes swelled up with tears on hearing her words, but being in a helpless situation, he agreed to her proposal. He sold her to a Brahmin from a neighbouring village (who was also Viswamitra in disguise), took the money and came to the Brahmin to pay him his due.

The Brahmin who had bought Chandramathi, bought their son Rohithan also, along with her. Then, pulling her by the hair and beating both of them, he dragged them away. Later, Viswamitra appeared and when Harischandra gave him the money, the sage expressed his dissatisfaction as it was the amount promised. So, Harischandra promised to give him the remaining amount before sunset. Feeling distraught, he decided to sell himself. Yama who disguised himself as Praveeran, the chief of the lower caste people came to him and expressed his wish to buy him. At the same time, Viswamitra too came there, and Harischandra was sold to Yama in the form of Praveeran. Yama handed over the money to him. The sage was finally satisfied and took leave of them. Yama took Harischandra to the cremation ground and ordered him to keep a watch and collect cremation tax from the people.

Meanwhile, Rohithan, who was playing with his friends near the river side was bitten by a snake and he died. On hearing this, Chandramathi screamed with sorrow and fainted. Regaining her consciousness, she requested her master to allow her to see her son. But he was callous in his attitude. He refused her permission, and filled with rage at her repeated requests, he whipped her. Chandramathi suffering with pain and grief, performed the household duties. In the night when her master retired to bed, she started pressing his feet. Relenting a little, the master gave her permission to see her son and cremate him but reminded her that she should be back in the morning to attend to her daily chores.

Chandramathi went to the riverside and on seeing her son's corpse, cried with grief. On hearing her cry, the people nearby came to see what had happened and started asking questions. But Chandramathi was drowned in sorrow and their questions went unanswered. Thinking her to be a Devil, they started hurling stones at her and finally tied her up with a rope and dragged her to the cremation ground. Then they asked Harischandra who was the caretaker of the place, to cut her into pieces. But he refused on the grounds that it was a sin to kill a woman. Praveeran who arrived at that moment, gave him a long sword and ordered him to kill her. Chandramathi pleaded with him to give her time, so that she can cremate her son who was lying dead at the banks of the river Ganges.


Chandramathi brought her son's body to the cremation ground and laid it before him. Though he could not identify his wife by sight, he realised that by her lamenting voice and that it was his son who was lying dead at his feet. He too started crying in sorrow. Chandramathi was shocked beyond words when she realised that it was her husband. He told her that he had to collect the tax to cremate his son and that he would be failing in his duty if he failed to do so. Feeling helpless, they decided to cremate their son and commit suicide. Harischandra made the necessary arrangements and after cremating his son, both prepared themselves to jump in the fire.

At that time, Lord Brahma appeared before them and stopped them from doing so. The Devas too appeared, and poured nectar over the burning body of Rohithan. To everyone's surprise, and the joy of his parents, Rohithan was restored to life. Yama discarded his disguise and as Yama blessed them. Viswamitra accepted his defeat that even during intense grief, Harischandra stood by the truth, and pleased with this quality of his, returned his Kingdom and his belongings to him. Harischandra ascended the throne once more with his wife and son, and his subjects gave him a royal welcome. He crowned his son Rohithan as his successor and went to Heaven accompanied by the Devas. ( Devi Bhagavatham-7th Skandham )

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