The story of Rantideva


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The story of Rantideva

King Rantideva is well known not only in the earthly world, but also in the Celestial World for his generosity . Rantideva never endeavored to earn anything for himself. He gave away everything he had to the poor and underwent considerable suffering, along with the members of his family. Finally, he and his family members did not even get food and water, yet Rantideva always was always satisfied.

One morning, after fasting for forty-eight days, Rantideva received some water and some paramaannam (paayasam – a pudding like receipe cooked with rice, mil, jaggery k and ghee and considered Naivedyam – food of the God may be an equivalent of Manna). Just when about to eat them, a brahmin atithi (mendicant) arrived. Because Rantideva perceived the presence of the God everywhere, and in every living entity, he received the atithi with faith and respect and gave him a share of the paramaannam. The brahmana ate his share and left the place satisfied. Thereafter, having divided the remaining paramaannam with his family, Rantideva was just about to eat his own share when another atithi, a shudra (one who belongs to socially marginalized caste) arrived. Seeing the shudra , King Rantideva gave him also a share of the paramaannam. When the shudra went away, another atithi arrived, surrounded by dogs, and said, “O King, I and my company of dogs are very hungry. Please give us something to eat.” With great respect, King Rantideva offered the balance of the paramaannam to the dogs and the master of the dogs, who had come as atithis. Thereafter, only the drinking water remained, and there was only enough to satisfy one person, but when the King was just about to drink it, a chandaala (someone who deals with disposal of corpses, and is a Hindu lower caste, formerly considered untouchables ) appeared and said, “O King, although I am lowborn, kindly give me some drinking water.”

Aggrieved at hearing the pitiable words of the poor fatigued chandaala, Rantideva spoke the following madhura vaakyas. “I do not pray to the Lord for the ashta siddhis (eight mystical power or Gift of God), nor for vimukti (liberation from the curse of this World) from samsaara saagaram (lifted to heaven like Enoch). I want to stay among all the living entities and suffer all distresses on their behalf, so that they may be freed from suffering. By offering my water to maintain the life of this poor chandaala, who is struggling to live, I have been freed from all hunger, thirst, fatigue, trembling of the body, moroseness, distress, lamentation and illusion”. Having spoken thus, King Rantideva, although on the verge of death because of thirst, gave his own portion of water to the chandaala without hesitation, for he was naturally very kind.

The trimurtis (triune God) appeared before Rantideva, satisfied by his compassion and blessed him. They revealed that they had come in the forms of the brahmana, shudra and chandaala in order to test him.

Because Rantideva was a pure devotee, always seeing God every creation of God and free from all material desires, the maaya (illusion or vanity)could not exhibit herself before him. On the contrary, for him maaya entirely vanished, exactly like a dream. All those who followed the principles of King Rantideva were the favorites of God and became pure devotees. Thus they all became the best of the yogis.

Morals in the Story:

  1. The importance and greatness of the charity, helping others selflessly is very well portrayed in the story of Rantideva.

  2. Reluctance to earn for himself and sharing everything he had show the detachment of Rantideva from materialistic world.

  3. Rantideva truly realized God everywhere, thus did not see any difference between all the atithis and himself.

  4. All the qualities of an compassion are showed clearly in the story. Rantideva expecting nothing in return gives them everything he has. He shows great respect to the atithis, without any kind of pride.


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