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Juvenile Justice in the Mahabharat

In the Samb­ha­va Par­va of the Mahab­hara­ta Janame­jaya asks, ‘What wrong did the God of jus­tice do to be cursed by the Rishi?”

Vaisam­payana said, ‘There was a Brah­mana named Man­davya. The great ascetic used to sit at the entrance of his her­mitage at the foot of a tree, with his arms raised and in absolute silence. And as he sat there for years togeth­er, one day a group of thieves arrived with their loot. Fear­ing the king’s guards who were chas­ing them, they hid the loot. The guards arrived there short­ly and asked the Rishi, ‘Which way have the thieves tak­en?.’ When the Rishi main­tained absolute silence, they searched the ashram and found the loot there. Sus­pect­ing the Rishi, they dragged him to the King’s court. The king sen­tenced him to be exe­cut­ed along with his sup­posed asso­ciates. And the offi­cers, act­ing in igno­rance, car­ried out the sen­tence by impal­ing the cel­e­brat­ed Rishi. And hav­ing impaled him, they went to the king with the booty they had recov­ered. But the vir­tu­ous Rishi, though impaled and kept with­out food, remained in that state for a long time with­out dying.

Observ­ing his abil­i­ty to live inspite of the stake, the King asked for the Rishi’s for­give­ness. The Rishi was paci­fied by the King’s atti­tude. The King decid­ed to free the Rishi. Unable to remove the stake, he cut the por­tion out­side the body. With a por­tion of the stake still with­in him, the Rishi was known as Ani-Man­davya

Ani-Man­davya walked straight to Yama and ques­tioned” ‘What is that sin­ful act com­mit­ted by me uncon­scious­ly, for which I am bear­ing this pun­ish­ment? O, tell me soon”

The god of jus­tice, thus ques­tioned, replied, ‘You had pierced an insect with a blade of grass and you are bear­ing the con­se­quence of this act. On hear­ing this, Ani-Man­davya asked, “The scrip­tures clear­ly well rec­og­nize that a wrong deed com­mit­ted by child less than 12 years of age is not a sin. Did­n’t you know this? From today I estab­lish that the con­se­quence of acts com­mit­ted by chil­dren below the age of four­teen shall not be sin­ful”.

The Rishi also cursed Yama, for his wrong judge­ment, to be born on earth as Vidu­ra. No won­der Vidu­ra had an extreme­ly good sense of judge­ment and wis­dom.

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