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The Rod of Punishment

This sto­ry appears in Sec­tion 23 of the Shan­ti Par­va (Mahab­haratha).

Yud­hishthi­ra’s Lament

After the com­ple­tion of the war, Yud­hishthi­ra was in great sor­row. He was com­plete­ly shak­en by the loss of life and express­es his desire to renounce his king­dom and leave to the for­est. Arju­na tries to con­sole Yud­hishthi­ra and reminds him of the duties of a king. He elab­o­rates the true role of a Raja and his com­mit­ment towards his cit­i­zens. He encour­ages Yud­hishthi­ra to per­form his duties with­out any grief or doubts as what he did was only to restore dhar­ma on earth. Vyasa added to what Arju­na said. He tells Yud­hishthi­ra, “Oh Yud­hishthi­ra, what Arju­na says is true. A life of renun­ci­a­tion and retire­ments is not for you. Yag­nas, learn­ing, parakra­ma ambi­tion, pun­ish­ing the offend­ers, fierce­ness, pro­tec­tion of sub­jects., knowl­edge of the Vedas, prac­tise of all kinds of penances, good­ness of con­duct, acqui­si­tion of wealth, and gifts to deserv­ing per­sons are the duties of a king. Of these, the prime duty is to pun­ish the offend­ers”.

At this junc­ture, to high­light the impor­tance of per­form­ing ones duty, Vyasa nar­rates a sto­ry.

Sto­ry of Sankha, Liki­ta and King Sudyum­na

There were two broth­ers, Sankha and Liki­ta who lived on the banks of the Vahu­da riv­er. Once Liki­ta went to the house of Sankha. How­ev­er, he noticed that Sankha had gone out. Casu­al­ly, Liki­ta plucked some fruits and start­ed eat­ing them. When Sankha returned, he was enraged. He said that Liki­ta had com­mit­ted a great crime by tak­ing what did not belong to him and hence he must go to the king imme­di­ate­ly and be pun­ished. Liki­ta went to the palace of the king, dis­cussed the mat­ter and sought pun­ish­ment. The king, sur­prised at the whole thing, said that just as he had the pow­er to pun­ish he also had the pow­er to for­give and hence he would be hap­py to for­give Liki­ta. Liki­ta was adamant that he should be pun­ished as he had devi­at­ed from the path of dhar­ma. The king cut off the hands of Liki­ta.

Liki­ta, with cut hands, walked to Sankha and begged for for­give­ness. Sankha assured Liki­ta that he had no ill feel­ings for Liki­ta but said that the king had been puri­fied and ele­vat­ed as he had pun­ished the per­son who had com­mit­ted an offence. He asked Liki­ta to go and take bath in the Vahu­da riv­er. Lik­i­tas hands were restored when he bathed in the riv­er.

Vyasa con­clud­ed by say­ing that “That king, O eldest son of Pan­du, became emi­nent by this act and obtained the high­est suc­cess like the lord Dak­sha him­self! Even this is the duty of Ksha­triyas, viz., the rul­ing of sub­jects. Any oth­er, O monarch, would be regard­ed as a wrong path for them. Do not give way to grief. O best of all per­sons con­ver­sant with duty, lis­ten to the ben­e­fi­cial words of this thy broth­er. Wield­ing the rod of chas­tise­ment, O king, is the duty of kings and not the shav­ing of the head.’ ”

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