(Last Updated on : 09-09-2014)
With the changing time, the story, Lesson in Thrift, has become more applied to the present Indian society. This story from Mahabharata
surpasses the limits of space and time. During the ancient times, the Pandavas attained power after defeating their cousins, the Kauravas in a battle. Yudhishthira
was the eldest Pandava and was accordingly crowned the king.
The ceremonies and customs of the coronation were completed very soon and it was time to get back to the administrative work of the subjects. The new king was soon got engaged in his duties. However, the intelligent and trusted younger brothers constantly assisted Yudhishthira. The king was busy setting the affairs of his kingdom in proper order. Since he was supervising a very large kingdom, this task got difficult day by day.
He was thoughtful and worried about certain parts of his kingdom being affected by drought during the previous days. The Kauravas were probably busy plotting against their cousins and preparing for war and thus did not pay proper attention to the situation. They also neglected taking any remedial measures which was necessary at that time. Eventually, the drought resulted in disastrous famine in some remote parts of the kingdom. The situation was grave as thousands people died of starvation and the death toll kept on rising with every passing day.
The king planned to help out his subjects to revive back at least some of their wealth and soon sent relief supplies to the province. Unfortunately, there was no surplus food anywhere else in the kingdom. The peril of drought did not spare the crops too. Yudhishthira was in a dilemma and did not know what to do to save his kingdom.
In the meanwhile, Yudhishthira met a hermit and requested him for his valuable advice on how to overcome the situation. After thinking over the problem the sage replied that there is only one way to come out of this problem immediately. Kubera or the Lord of Wealth has a secret granary hidden deep into the Himalayas. He asked the king to approach Lord Kubera and explain to him the peril situation. The Lord shall spare some food-grain for the needy subjects once he is convinced of the disaster. Fortunately, the sage acquainted king Yudhishthira about the exact location of the secret granary.
Yudhishthira's heart was overwhelmed with hope again. He immediately called upon his brother Bhima and told him what the sage told him and appealed him to leave for the secret granary immediately and meet Kubera. However Bhima was neither convinced nor optimistic about this idea of meeting Kubera. He believed that since Kubera is an accumulator and all hoarders are usually miserly. Moreover, If Kubera has kept his granary hidden; it surely proves that he would not like to share his bounty with others. Bhima did not argue with his brother rather he obeyed his elder brother's order and quietly set off on his mission.
The journey up the Himalayas was stressful and tiring but Bhima finally located the secret granary. Bhima was just about to enter the granary, when he saw an unexpected scene-taking place within from the cliché of the door. Lord Kubera was sitting amidst countless stacks of grain-sacks and was ordering his servants to throw away a sack of grain. One of the servants protested that there was hardly any grain inside the sack and it was all sand within. Lord Kubera asked the servant to bring the sack to him and he shall show where exactly, the grain lies. Kubera took the sack, emptied it out on the floor, and sat down to sift out grains from the sand. The task was laborious, but as Kubera was successfully doing it, a large pile of grain emerged.
Bhima felt utterly disgusted watching this scene. He thought to himself that this man who owns more wealth than anyone else in all the three worlds is struggling to save a bagful of grain. Bhima was assured of Kubera's greed and felt devastated thinking that his brother was wrong to have him there and expecting a donation from the miser Kubera. He turned back to leave the place and suddenly Lord Kubera called him in.
Lord Kubera rushed towards the door to welcome Bhima and took him in. Bhima with no choice followed him inside. Kubera offered him a comfortable seat within the granary itself. Kubera ordered his servants to bring refreshments for the eminent guest. The warm welcome gladdened Bhima but he still he was hesitant to tell him the purpose of his visit. He felt sure that Kubera would make some strange excuse to deny his request.
After having a small conversation, Kubera asked Bhima the purpose of his visit to his granary. Bhima finally replied that their kingdom has been affected by drought and there is a terrible famine in the western region. The citizens are starving to death and there is no surplus grain to feed them. He requested Kubera if he could spare some grain for them from his present stock. Bhima paused and looked expectantly at Kubera. To his utmost surprise Kubera acted unexpectedly. Neither did he hesitate nor did he make excuses. Kubera immediately called in his assistants and ordered to send emergency supplies to the area at once. He asked a caravan of five hundred carts to be assembled and loaded with sacks of grain, and set off to the land of Yudhishthira immediately.
After sometime Kubera's chief assistant came and informed that the road leading from here to the plains is not suitable to be traversed. At one point of the road, it is so muddy that the loaded carts may slip down; the solution may be to bring sand and cover that muddy patch and proceed. Kubera immediately gave order throw as much grain as necessary on the road to dry up the mud and let the carts proceed since there was no time in hand. The assistant hurried out to carry out his order.
Bhima could not believe what he just heard and stared at Kubera incredulously. Kubera asked him the cause for his astonishment. Bhima was a truthful man. He said that he had seen Kubera labour to recover a few grains that were lost in sand just before entering the granary. Bhima also confessed that he lost respect for Kubera then and thought him to be a greedy and miserly person. However, after Kubera readily helped Bhima, he started to see him such an open-handed person that he can even ask his servants to throw grain in the mud instead of sand.
Kubera looked at Bhima in total bewilderment. Then he said that grain is precious and every valuable thing should be given its due importance, no matter how small or less it is. Every grain counts, because every single grain goes to make a huge heap of grain. He further explained that valuable things are treasured for further utility. Grains are meant to feed the hungry. It is useless to send people food grain after they are dead of starvation. Thus, the grain that is send will be no better than sand, for, it did not serve its purpose.
Kubera concluded by saying that when one is stocking up on something, he should be careful not to lose or waste any part of it. But while one gives, he must be magnanimous. Bhima felt a stronger respect for Kubera and bowed to him. He gratefully thanked Lord Kubera for his generosity and also for opening his eyes to a new truth that he never knew before. Bhima changed vastly after returning from his mission. The lesson that Bhima learnt from Kubera ages ago is something that is still relevant in today's world.