Story of King Khatvanga

The Bhagavata describes the various descents of the Supreme Being into form and the activities and events surrounding them through time. Of all the sacred texts, reading of the Bhagavata engenders emotional states of devotion and bliss as the mind basks in the uplifting stories of the divine descents. The Bhagavata contains stories of the amazing activities of the various Avatars or descents of God on Earth, as well as of the devotees, disciples, and sages who were attracted by them. Here is an example of a story from the Bhagavata of one such pure devotee who attained the ultimate goal even in a very short period of time.

In the Solar Dynasty, there was once a ruler who was mighty in prowess, heroic on the field, prolific in charity, upright in character, and just in his dealings. He was named Khatvanga. He had no equal, no one who could challenge him.

Meanwhile, the wicked Daityas and Danavas mustered their forces and went to war against the Devas (gods); the gods were afraid of being overwhelmed; they realized their weakness and came down to earth and sought help from King Khatvanga. The king was also longing for the adventure of battle; so, he collected his bow and arrows and riding in his chariot, he proceeded to the scene of war. There he shook the hearts of the Daityas and Danavas by sheer terror of his valor. The enemy fled in panic, unable to withstand the terrific onslaught. Since it is immoral to subject a fleeing foe to hot pursuit, Khatvanga desisted from further clashes. 

The gods were happy that they could achieve victory through the timely help of Khatvanga. They praised his might and his sense of righteousness. “O King, there is no one who can compare with you, in contemporary history. You granted us triumph in this deadly struggle against the forces of evil. We desire that you should accept from us in return any help that you need that we can render.”

The King told them, “Ye gods! Ritual Yajnas and Yagas (ceremonies) are performed by men to please you, isn’t it? This battle in which I had the privilege to participate is therefore a Yajna, so far as I am concerned. What else do I need from you than this Grace that you have showered on me? This is adequate boon.” Declaring thus, he fell at the feet of the gods.

Not satisfied with this reply, the gods compelled him to ask for something, some boon from them. Though he had no mind to ask for anything, he was forced to frame some wish, since he felt he would not be left alone. At last, he said, “Ye gods! Reveal to me how many years more I shall live. Only then can I decide which boon I can ask from you.” Indra, the monarch of the gods is all-knowing and so, without a moment’s delay, he replied, “O King, your span of life is very nearly over. You can live only for one more muhurtha (a period of a few minutes).”

On hearing this, Khatvanga said, “I have nothing to ask. I do not need anything and I feel that all the pleasures of this world and the next are trifles to be discarded. I shall not enter again the slush of sensory pleasure. Give me the boon of attaining to the Sublime Presence of the Lord, from which there is no return, for which all life is dedicated.”

Then he sat with closed eyes repeating the Name of God and, at the end of the muhurtha he achieved the Lotus Feet of Hari (God)!

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