Ashwamedha yagna the symbolic Horse sacrifice by Yudhishtira the foremost of Pandavas!
Yudhistira the eldest of the Pandava brothers before the Mahabharat war decided to perform the yagna and consulted all the sages, elders and Bagavan Krishna and fixed the date of the yagna. Excellent preparations were done all the cousins the Kauravas, and the kings of nearby kingdoms were invited.
All celebrated sages were invited and arrived to conduct the rituals. All preliminary rites were also performed according to the sastras and rules of conduct. As a compulsory complimentary activity many gifts were given to the bhrahmins, sages, Vedic pundits, the poor, destitute, young, and children and those suffering. All the guests and sages, people of the country were sumptuously fed during the entire period.
Then the actual performance of the yagna began at a well attended venue that was decorated and it reverberated with Vedic hymns. On successful completion of the yagna customary feast of choicest food items were offered to those who had assembled there also to the public irrespective of their caste, creed religion and status. Lord Krishna was designated as a principal invitee and accorded all the respect.
In the shed that was erected to prepare food looked like a multistory tower, the food collected there looked like a hill, other dishes resembled a chain of peaks in that mountain range! All taste buds had something to relish. Fruits, ghee honey were like vast ponds! Milk and curds were in plenty. The feast began and people in scores ate to their full satisfaction and all these were diligently supervised by the Pandavas and other royals. As soon as the feast was over before they could clean the area, there appeared a bandicoot!
While everyone was observing it came quickly to the dining area and rolled over the remnants of food. There was something unusual about that bandicoot. It was half golden and half normal. Amused by its act, those gathered there tried to stop it from going away from the venue and were curious to know why did it roll over there? Suddenly to everyone’s surprise it started to speak in a human voice!
It said that it had expected its body would fully turn into gold by rolling over the remnants of food partaken here in the feast given by the honourable king Yudishtira but was disappointed as it was no match to the food given by that Brahmin! This reply from the bandicoot startled everyone around as they had all along thought that the feast given by the King was the best one that they had ever eaten!
On further enquiry they found out that the Brahmin that the bandicoot was referring to lived in the outskirts of the city. King Yudishtira immediately dispatched his loyal men to inquire about the grand feast that the goose was referring to. The men went there and made inquiries.
To their utter surprise they found that the Brahmin that the animal referred to was so poor that he had very little to feed himself and his family, and little while ago his entire family died probably due to starvation! The Kings men grew further suspicious and made detailed inquiry about the lifestyle of that Brahmin and what they came to know startled them.
One day the Brahmin who lived in a small dilapidated hut with his wife, son, daughter in law managed to get a morsel of food after a day- long begging in the nearby hamlet. As soon as they reached their hut they cleaned themselves and settled down and prayed to the Lord to thank him for the food and readied themselves to eat little amount of food obtained.
Then there appeared a wayfarer in worn out clothing and looking very tiered and thirsty. He looked so famished that he would drop down dead if not fed immediately. The Brahmin observed him and helped him and ushered him into his hut and made him sit comfortably and offered water to drink that he had fetched from a stream far away.
As soon as the guest recovered a little, he spoke to him gently and inquired about his health. He came to know that he had not eaten for week now, and had been surviving on water!
Immediately he rushed towards him with broken pottery that was found and began to serve him food that he had with him.
His wife said that she would offer her portion to the guest, and that would leave her husband’s share intact so that he could survive for some more days and carry on with his dharmic ways of living, as she proceeded to offer her share, her daughter in law offered her share instead of her mother in law, in the meanwhile the guest had started consuming the food offered to him and his hunger grew, and he wanted more.
Soon the son of the poor Brahmin offered his share, that was also consumed, and what was left was that of the Brahmin.
If that was not consumed by that Brahmin he would probably not survive any more as the other family members have already swooned due to the severe hunger. The guest took that handful of food meant for the Brahmin and still looked hungry. Then the Brahmin spoke the kind words, he said he has few raw grains to offer to him and since he had taken food for survival, it would be proper for the guest to accept that grain and prepare food by himself and eat it. So saying he offered those grains to the guest and soon he could not sustain and slumped before his guest.
Also Read :- The story of a Brahman and two ghosts!
A little later he was woken up by none other than Lord, who appeared before him in the place of the guest, and praised him for his hospitality and said he and his family members would ascend to heaven along with him in the chariot that came down over there. Delighted Brahmin and his family members ascended to the heaven along with the Lord!
The bandicoot was watching all this from a dark corner of that hut and as soon as they left it rolled over the remnants for that food scattered on the floor while the guest ate. To its surprise half of its body turned into glistening gold!
The news was conveyed to the King Yudishtira who wondered at the sense of compassion and humility that the Brahmin and his family had and understood that he was no match for them.