Most of us know of Vidura as the wise minister of the court of Hastinapur and as somebody who guided the blind king Dhritarashtra when he governed the large kingdom. We are all also aware that he was the brother of Pandu and Dhritarashtra, but was denied the opportunity to become the king when Pandu died because he was born of a maid and not from either of Vichitravirya’s queens, Ambika or Ambalika. However, what most of us might now know is the fact that Vidura was an incarnation of Yama, the God of Death. The story goes thus.
Once upon a time a holy man named Mandavya had taken a vow of silence and was engaged in severe austerities and penance at his hermitage in the forest. He stood near the door to his hermitage, his arms upraised and mind devoted to the Gods.
One day a gang of robbers with their loot, who were being pursued by the king’s guards came across the hermitage. Finding no other place to hide their loot and themselves, they barged into the holy man’s hermitage and hid themselves there.
When the king’s guards arrived on the spot, they noticed the holy man and began questioning him. Sir, did you see any robbers run past you this way? – the chief of guards asked him. O best of brahmanas, which way did the robbers run? Let us know so that we may pursue and capture them, he said.
As Mandavya had taken a vow of silence, he didn’t respond to these questions posed to him. The guards, on the orders of their chief, then searched the hermitage and easily located the robbers hidden there. Considering the circumstances and the holy man’s silence, they seized him as well along with the thieves and presented the group to the king. The king ordered the entire group to be executed by impaling them on sharp stakes.
The guards carried out the king’s orders and impaled Mandavya along with the group of thieves on sharp stakes. However, they were in for a rude surprise.
Mandavya, by virtue of his penance and austerities managed to stay alive, and also continued his meditative state even though he was stuck on a sharp stake. Using his magical asetic powers, he summoned other holy men to the spot he was impaled, and they came there in the dark of the night in the guise of birds.
They asked Mandavya O brahmana, please tell us for what sin of yours have you been punished so? Why have you been forced to suffer this torture of impalement?
Mandavya replied I have nobody other than myself to blame for this current predicament of mine. Had I spoken the truth when required, I would not be in this position.
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