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Raajaa Harishchandra lived in Tretaa Yug, and was the son of Satyavrat, or more popularly known as Trishanku, of Soorya Vansh, and was the King of Ayodhyaa. Harishchandra is not a main character of any religious book as such, but it is good to know about him because his story involves two great Rishi - Vishwaamitra Jee and Vashishth Jee and he is well-known for his truthfulness. Since he was a very truthful king that is why he is popularly known as "Satyavaadee Raajaa Harishchandra".

Harishchandra was married to Shaibyaa and they had a son named Rohitaashwa. At some places his wife's names are given Taaraamatee, Chandramatee.

Test of Harishchandra
One day both Vashishth and Vishwaamitra were sitting in Indra's court. Indra asked, "Do you find anybody who sticks to truth at this time, on earth?" Vashishth Jee said, "Raajaa Harishchandra is like that." Vishwaamitra Jee said, "No, he is not." Argument grew hotter and ended up in testing Harishchandra for his truthfulness by Vishwaamitra Jee. He vowed "If I don't prove Vashishth wrong, I will not call myself Vishwaamitra."

Now the testing began. At one time Harishchandra had to do a Yagya, in which he had to donate a large quantity of gold. Vishwaamitra Jee went there to have that donation. Raajaa asked, "How much do you want?" Vishwaamitra Jee said - "When a tall person standing on an elephant throws a cowrie (shell), I need so large heap of gold." Harishchandra readily said, " I will gladly give you this much donation. I have it in my treasury." Vishwaamitra did not expect this reply, this was his first defeat, so he said, "Let it be in your treasury for now, when I will need it, I will come to take it." Raajaa said, "As you wish."

After his first defeat, he created many wild animals who started troubling public, so Raajaa with his wife Chandramatee and son Rohitaashwa went for their hunting. He set his camp in a jungle. Vishwaamitra Jee sent two beautiful girls in his camp. They talked to him some non-sense and Raajaa sent them back with beatings. Vishwaamitra Jee said to Harishchandra - "You have insulted my daughters, so either you give me money or marry these low-caste girls and give me my remaining money within 48 days." Raajaa did not want to marry those girls so he gave his kingdom including his treasury and went to Kaashee (Benaaras or Vaaraanasee). He sold his wife and son to a rich man and sold himself to a Shoodra and gave all that money he got, to Muni.

Now the buyer of the Raajaa was Vishwaamitra's disciple Nakshatrak. He made Harishchandra in charge of a cremation ground.

Now it so happened that one day Rohit went to garden to pluck some flowers for Poojaa. There he was bitten by a snake and he died. Now what Chandramatee can do? She had no money even to buy the cloth to cover his body. So she took his dead body to the cremation ground at mid-night so that nobody could recognize her. As Harishchandra was the in-charge of the cremation ground he came out to see who had come there at that odd hour. He was surprised to see that a woman was standing there carrying a young boy's naked dead body.

Both saw each other but both did not recognized each other. He asked her to cover the boy's body as per rules of the cremation ground. But Chandramatee didn't have any, so she had to tear her Saaree (a cloth worn by Indian women) and wrapped him in that half Saaree piece.

After that Harishchandra asked for the prescribed fee for his cremation which was supposed to go to his master. Although she told him her plight that she had wrapped her son's body in her half Saaree and she had only the other half part on her body, did he want to make her without clothes? But Harishchandra did not listen to it. So she went in the town to get some money. There she was caught by Raajaa's people for stealing the money and Raajaa ordered for her execution. Now this was the duty of Harishchandra to execute her, so as he took out the sword to kill her, Brahmaa, Vishnu, Mahesh all three appeared before him and held his hand. Raajaa was given back everything. Vishwaamitra Jee again got defeated from Vashishth Jee.

Another Version
Some say that Vishwaamitra came in his dreams and asked his whole kingdom which he readily gave to him. Although it was all in dream, still he appeared in his court next day and asked for his kingdom. Since Raajaa had already promised it to him, he gave it to him and got ready to go to Kaashee, as it is believed that it is situated on the Trishool of Shankar Jee and it doesn't belong to Earth, thus it was outside of Vishwaamitra's authority.

After getting this alms Vishwaamitra demanded for Dakshinaa also. But since Raajaa didn't have anything after donating the whole Prithvi to Vishwaamitra, he sold his wife Shaibyaa and Rohitaashwa to a Braahman, still he couldn't met the demand of Vishwaamitra, so he sold himself to a Chaandaal (who normally does the lowest jobs in Hindu society such as cremation of dead bodies). So he made Harishchandra the guard of cremation place. He gave all that money to Vishwaamitra.

One day it so happened that Rohitaashwa went to pluck flowers for the Braahman's worship (Sandhyaa Poojan). It was getting dark, a snake in the garden bit him and after a while he died. Shaibyaa's only son was lying on the ground lifeless, there was no one to cry, no one to console her, and no one to carry his body to cremation ground. So she herself took him to the cremation ground. She did not have a penny so she took him naked. There she found her husband in-charge of the cremation ground. Harishchandra also recognized his wife and son. Seeing his only son dead he filled with grief.

Now Harishchandra would not allow her to cremate her without the body covered with some cloth, and paying taxes. Crying she asked for his mercy but he wouldn't. It was raining. She tore her Saaree (a 6-yard cloth worn by Indian women) in half and wrapped Rohit in that piece, but still she did not have anything to pay taxes. Harishchandra wouldn't agree to cremate him without paying taxes. Shaibyaa said crying - "I have already torn my Saaree in half to wrap his body, you can take the remaining half for you tax." Harishchandra accepted it.

As she was taking off her half remaining Saaree off to pay taxes, Bhagavaan Vishnu appeared there along with Indra and Vishwaamitra. The Chaandaal himself was Yam Raaj, so he also appeared in his real form. Bhagavaan made Rohit alive and asked them to come to Heaven, but Harishchandra refused to go there on the basis of that his public would have been sad without him.

Harishchandra asked Indra to take all his public to Swarg, but Indra said - "Everybody has his own Karm (actions) according to which he enjoys Swarg (Heaven) or Narak (Hell), that is why they cannot go with you." Then Harishchandra said - "Then I donate my all Punya (good) Karm to them and I am ready to go to Hell." Indra got very happy to hear this, so all people of Ayodhyaa went to Swarg with Harishchandra. it is said that Vishwaamitra Jee inhabited Ayodhyaa with new people and appointed Rohitaashwa as the King of that kingdom.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 5/27/03
Updated on 05/03/13