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Dileepa in Hindu mythology is said to have been one of the most righteous and chivalrous emperors that the Solar Dynasty or the Ikshvaku dynasty, had ever produced.Dileepa was a very pious king known also as Khatwanga, heperformed as many as 100 yajnas.

Dileepa was an illustrious King of the solar dynasty, an ancestor of Sri Rama. Though renowned for his valour, Dileepa tended the celestial cow Nandhini like a cow herd. In an ultimate act of piety, he offered himself as food to a lion to protect Nandhini, and thus proved his worthiness in a test posed by Nandhini herself. After covering himself with glory, he gave up the kingdom and spent his last years in meditation in forest, setting a noble ideal. "Please leave the cow. You can eat my own body and feel satisfied. Being a friend, do accede to my request." An emperor known for his valour thus begged of a lion. How strange! Being so valiant, why did he not kill the lion? Further more, instead of living in grandeur and like a king of kings, why give his body to the lion for the sake of a cow? Isn't it strange? Yet, how good and dignified does it show the emperor to be! Here is a very interesting story. We must all know about Sri Rama Chandra. He belonged to the race of Sun God. One of his famous ancestors in that race was Dileepa. Sri Rama's father was Dasaratha, who was born to Aja. Aja's father was the great King Raghu, because of whom the dynasty was also known as Raghuvamsa or the race of Raghu. Raghu's father was emperor Dileepa. Even before Dileepa there were quite a few great and good Kings in the solar race of kings. One of them Harischandra was known for his truthfulness. The kings of the sun dynasty lived very good lives. Not doing anything evil and being pure, they ruled over the kingdom only for the welfare of the people. They were interested only in good things and they never left anything half done. They were all very heroic. They helped the angels too. They performed sacrifices as prescribed, for the good of the world. And they were very generous to the needy. They knew statecraft very well. They never uttered falsehood or practiced deceit.

The Kings of the sun race had a vast realm. Yet the way the princess of this dynasty were educated was surprising. Those kings thought that if there was no keen desire for the knowledge, then knowledge would not come, that there could be no knowledge without humility any hard work. So they got their children educated just like all other children. Even these princes stayed in the abode of the teachers and did all service to them. They went on rounds as prescribed, seeking alms. With all humility learned from their teachers. No such price could even get the feeling that he was the son of an emperor and therefore superior to other students. When they grew up they served the society; when old, they gave up their kingdom, lived in hermitages like sages, and finally practicing control of the senses through yoga, gave up their lives in the meditation of God. King Dileepa was of such lofty lineage. King Dileepa was courageous and valiant. He had his lessons, even when very young, from the sage Vasishtha and was considered very intelligent. Those who erred would be terrified at his mere sight. The sole aim of his life was the welfare of the people. He was like a father to all his subjects. Sudakshinadevi, a daughter of the royal house of Magaadha, was Dileepa's queen. She was as good natured as she was beautiful, and treated the subjects as her own children. People were all very happy that it was their good fortune to have such a good king and a good queen.

The King thus had plenty of weal and wealth. But there was no happiness in his mind for there was no child to continue his royal lineage. Dileepa's sorrow was all the greater when he saw the queen vexed. The King, sunk in sorrow and he felt they should seek the blessings of sages. He resolved to call on sage Vasistha, the preceptor of the entire dynasty and follow his advice. So he handed over his administration to his ministers and getting into the chariot with his queen Sudhakshina at an auspicious time, left his capital Ayodhya to go to sage Vasistha's hermitage. The King and the Queen were both in great enthusiasm that they were going to see their Guru. As the chariot sped along, the plants waved in the blowing breeze. Dileepa was explaining the specialities of the Ashrama to the queen Sudakshina and by that evening they set eyes on the hermitage itself. The King and the Queen felt a great peace of mind even as they stepped into the hermitage.

They seemed to have entered a new world. The king and the queen went into the hermitage and they approached Vasistha. They prostrated before the sage and his consort Arundhati. As they stood with folded hands the holy pair gave their blessings to the couple. Dileepa thought that though Vasistha would have known the purpose of his visit with his inner eye, it would be proper for him also to mention it. "Sage though my land has all prosperity and happiness, my queen and I have no joy. I have no son to rule over this kingdom and protect the people after me for which I need your help and favour", he said. The learned sage closed his eyes for a while. He was thinking as to why his disciple had no offspring. His mind's eye could make it out. He said, "O King, there is a reason for you not having a son. Once upon a time you had gone to heaven to help Devendra, the lord of heaven. While you were returning, there stood the divine cow, Kamadhenu, in the shade of tree of wealth in paradise. You should have rounded the divine cow in obeisance and then proceeded further. But you failed to do so. The heavenly cow was angry for your fault of neglecting her, she has pronounced a curse on you, that you shall not have any issue and that you would have children only if you worship her own daughter Nandhini, and please her and win her favour.

Dileepa felt very sorry for the mistake that had occurred. "For this fault both of us have suffered the punishment in the way of our consuming worry. I am very eager to make amends. You must guide me as to how it could be done. Where is the sacred cow Nandhini? How can I get her favour?", the king asked. Vasistha replied "kamadhenu's daughter Nandhini is now in the metherworld Patala. Varuna is performing a sacrifice there and has taken her there for providing the milk, curds, ghee and other things needed for the sacrifice. She is the cow belonging to this ashrama and may return here sometime now, with the sacrifice completed. You and your wife must both do service to Nandhini everyday. Just then they could see Nandhini at a distance approaching the ashrama. "Dileepa, as we mentioned Nandhini's name, she came to us. Know then that your wish will be fulfilled soon. With your wife you must stay in this ashram, eating only bulbous roots and attend on this cow, worshipping her. You must stand where she stands, follow where she goes, rest where she lies down. You and your wife, with great devotion to the cow, should worship her with sandal paste and flowers in the mornings and then send her to graze. In the evenings, as soon as Nanadhini returns, the queen must worship her and show courtesies. So serve this Nandhini until you win her favour. Let your work go on with no impediments. May you get a son who has good qualities like you and will do good to the country." The King bowed to the injunctions of his preceptor.

As soon as it was morning, Sudhakinadevi brought fresh and fragrant flowers and worshipped Nandhini. The King held the calf for Nandhini to feed it, and then tied it in its place. Then he released Nandhini to go for grazing. And then to protect Nandhini from any possible danger, Dileepa himself, so famous as a king, started as her guard. Though he was a great king, Dileepa did not feel it lowly to graze the cow. The king followed Nandhini like a shadow. Dileepa had now no royal emblems. He was always watchful against wild animals causing any danger and remained close to Nandhini, ready to shoot them down with his arrows. It was evening. Light was gradually receding. Dileepa found the whole forest a black expanse. He walked behind the holy cow intently, as if the eyes were his whole being. Nandhini returned to the hermitage. The king and the queen were very pleased. The king then prostrated before sage Vasistha who was sitting with his wife Arundhati, and then offered his evening worship. Nandhini lay down. The royal couple sat nearby; when Nandhini slept, they also slept. When she got up next morning they too got up. It went on like this for twenty one days.