Why Yudhishthira Refused Heaven for a Dog!
10 Apr 2016
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“All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn't a dog.”
? Charles M. Schulz
Tales of pleasant relationships between man and animals existed since time immemorial. From the excavation of the Natufian Grave, (c. 12,000 BC) by archaeologists in Ein Mallaha, Israel, in which an old man was buried with a puppy to the fabled Hachiko of Japan who waited years for his dead master, such tales abound history. Down the line of folklore, an animal has been a messenger of loyalty and selfless love. They are known as ‘the best friend’ of humans. They are dogs.
Dogs have had great influence over human lives not only because they are loyal and friendly, but also for the fact that the relationship has been more or less symbiotic. We have been gifted with innumerable literature such as Aesop’s fables and Panchatantra, which apart from the eloquent storytelling, highlights the enamoured relationship between man and dog. One such story stems from the famous Indian epic, Mahabharata as to how a dog invoked the spirit of loyalty in a human.
The eldest of the Pandava brothers, Yudhishthira, along with their wife Draupadi and followed by Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva renounced their kingdom and chose the life of ascetics. They headed for their final journey to a mountain to attain salvation. Along the way, an Indian pariah dog took fondness and headed along with them. The dog was old, thin and counting his days. One by one, Draupadi, Sahadev, Nakul and Arjun fell to the harsh conditions of the journey. As they perished one by one, Bheem asked the reason of their deaths to the wise old Yudhishthira. Unfazed by their deaths, he accurately pointed out the flaws of them one by one till Bheem himself fell unable to bear the grief of their deaths. The dog followed them all this while. Yudhishthira was stoical and determined and moved on with the dog by his side.
Lord Indra, moved by his plight and impressed by his determination appeared before Yudhishthira and offered him a place in heaven. Yudhishthira agreed. As he was about to board the grand chariot of Lord Indra with the dog beside him, Indra himself stopped him in his tracks. He refused admission to the wretched dog in his chariot as he was sick and about to die soon. As a result, it not deserve a place in heaven. To this, Yudhishthira said “In that case, I do not seek heaven. The dog was my faithful companion and I cannot abandon it. It gave me unconditional love and consoled me in time of grief. The pleasures of heaven will mean nothing to me in comparison to its grief. It has done nothing to deserve abandonment and had none of the weaknesses of my wife and brothers. If it does not deserve to go to heaven, then neither do I.” Moved by his dedication, the dog changed its shape. It was the god of Dharma in the body of a dog. He blessed Yudhishthira for his selfless and unmatched devotion. Thus rose the great Yudhishthira to heaven.
This simple story elucidates the compassion and dedication that a dog can instill in a human. The walk of life has to be made alone in every respect. However, as we come across loyal companions we share the loneliness among ourselves and come to realize that life is indeed short to savour its greatness. But the little time we get on earth is made fruitful together. A dog is one such companion that we need. It is difficult to say whether heaven exists or not but with the dog as our ever-loyal friend, we will find heaven on earth since dog spelt backwards is god himself!