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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.

The King always followed the cow like its shadow. It was the twenty second day and the cow took a different route, to another forest. Dileepa was extra careful on that day. The beauty of the hilly tract captivated his mind. He was lost for a while in seeing the charm of the nature around.Suddenly he came to his senses. Nandhini was bellowing loudly in fright. The sound of her loud cry was echoed by the caves around. When the king turned that side, he saw a terrible lion which had jumped on to Nandhini's back. Dileepa was stunned for a moment. He bit his fingers for losing himself and being absent minded for a while. However, he was very valiant and had killed many a lion while hunting. He took his bow in his left hand and lifted his right hand to snatch an arrow from his quiver. But lo! He could not move his hand that stretched to the quiver. He was like a king in a painting. A hero of so many wars, one who had vanquished so many! But he could not even lift his hand now. But what could he do? As a further surprise to an already amazed king, the lion talked with him like a human being, "O king stop your labour. You just cannot show any valour before me. You will not be able to shoot any single arrow. "O King of beasts, who are you that you talk like a human being?" asked Dileepa. And the lion continued, "I am a slave of Lord Shiva. My name is Kumbhodara. Do you see that cedar tree? Goddess Parvathi has watered that tree and grown it and she loves it like she loves her own son. Once a wild elephant, rubbed its itching cheek hard against that tree. A part of the bark fell off and the juice of the cedar began to trickle down. Seeing that, Parvathi was in great sorrow. Then onwards God Shiva had changed me into a lion and kept me here to frighten the wild elephants away. He has also commissioned me to kill any animal coming near here, and eat it for my food. Right at this time this cow has come here by itself, to fill my hunger.

Hearing the words of the lion, the king realized that he suffered defeat only because that he did not have the help of God Shiva. He had felt great shame that a lion had made him eat the humble pie. Now he could withstand that shame. But the lion was saying that he should leave the cow there for its food! Could he go back like that? Could he make over to the lion the cow that trusted him? How could he show his face to his preceptor later? So he told the lion, "O King of beasts, as I have been vanquished, you might feel amused at my words. Since you are Lord Shiva's servant, you would certainly understand what there is in the mind of any living being. This world has been created by Lord Shiva. The existence and the welfare of the people depend on him. I would not oppose his command. But I am also obedient to my preceptor. It is my duty to protect this cow which belongs to my Guru who is engaged in performing sacrifices. Besides the cow is held sacred by all, and protecting a cow is the duty of all persons. How can I see it destroyed right before my eyes? Please leave this cow. To satisfy your hunger, you can eat this body of mine." The lion smiled at this and said to the king, "O King, how very surprising this is! You are the king of the whole world and if your teacher is likely to become angry at the loss of a cow, it is possible for you to pacify him by giving him a crore of cows each of which can yield a pitcher full of milk. Instead of that do you wish to die? First protect your own body. You are equal to the Lord of Heaven, Indra in wealth."

Dileepa looked at Nandhini. He saw the gleam in her eyes. And then he told the lion again, "O Lion, I am a warrior by caste and it is my righteous way of life that I should protect those who are in trouble. The sage Vasistha's anger would not be satisfied by giving other cows. You were able to attack her only because of your strength as Lord Shiva's servant. Otherwise you would not be able to go anywhere near her. Therefore please eat me up and let the cow go. You can satisfy your hunger by eating me. Do oblige a friend." Saying so, the king stood looking at the lion, wondering what it would say. "Be it so," the lion said, and released Nandhini. Though Dileepa had to give his body to the lion now, he did not have the least bit of sorrow. He went close to the lion, and sat down submissively with a bent head. The lion did not pounce on him. Instead, the flowers rained by the angels from the sky fell upon him. The King, utterly surprised, opened his eyes. He heard a sweet divine voice, "Get up, O son!" There was no lion. Only Nandhini stood there radiating affection like a mother. And she said to Dileepa, "Well, my son, get up. There is no danger to your life. The lion was an illusion. The incident took place only to test your devotion. You have shown your devotion to your teacher and similar devotion and kindness to me. I am pleased with you. Ask for any boon you want, and I'll give it."

Dileepa prostrated before Nandhini. Then he made his request, "Please grant that my queen Sudakshina will give birth to a son who will be righteous and will bring glory to our Sun dynasty. "So be it," said the cow. "Draw my milk into a leaf cup and drink it. Your wish will be fulfilled." As soon as Dileepa reached the hermitage , he reported to his teacher the fact that he had obtained Nandhini's favour. The sage also gave the King his blessings, that he beget a good son. The next morning, Dileepa with his wife observed all rituals for the conclusion of his vowed worship of and service to the cow. He prostrated before the sacrificial fire of the hermitage, before Vasistha and Arundhathi, and before the divine cow Nandhini and her calf. After a few months, queen Sudhakshina became pregnant. She gave birth to a son on an auspicious day. The King's joy knew no bounds. Just then the royal teacher Vasistha came from his ashrama to Dileepa's capital. The king went out to meet him and welcomed and conveyed the happy news. Dileepa thought of a name for his son. He called him Raghu in the sense of one who was learned in the shastras and who vanquished the enemies in war. Raghu grew up well day by day. According to the tradition of the kshatriyas or the warrior caste, Dileepa performed a ceremony for Raghu to have the sacred thread and sent him to the Gurukula or the teacher's hermitage to acquire knowledge. After few years he returned to the palace and was formally made the crown prince.

Dileepa did not wish to continue as king any longer. He had ruled over his people for many years. He has punished the wicked and protected the virtuous. So now he decided to handover the reigns of the kingdom to his youthful son and occupy his own mind with thoughts of God. When the Kings of the olden days became old, they crowned their sons and went away to the forest to lead ascetic lives like sages. So Dileepa arranged for the coronation of Raghu who was the crown prince and who had already won the hearts of the subjects. And then on a day he went away with his queen Sudakshina to a hermitage. Dileepa was a very heroic emperor. He amply showed by his actual conduct that those who rule over others and have the authority to do so, should use their power for the welfare of others.

As he became old, he gladly made over the throne to his young son and went away for meditation. In the work that he had accepted, he showed unequalled loyalty and was ready to lay down his life to save Nandhini. Born as an emperor's son, he became a great emperor. More than that, he acquired great fame with his humility, dutifulness and spirit of sacrifice. With his virtues he won the hearts of all. Not only did Dileepa show by his own conduct how men in high positions should be in their lives, but he became an example as a person of ideal qualities. He became a great man memorable for all time.