Book XIV
[Āputra gives up his Life]

While he was thus leading his life uneventfully, on one occasion some people approached him at dead of night while he was asleep, and asked him some food to satisfy their extreme hunger. Not having the means to satisfy them, he was in great distress of mind at his inability to be of assistance to the suffering people, when Sarasvati, the ‘Goddess of Mind’ appeared before him, and handed to him a bowl that she had in her hand, telling him that even if all the country should be stricken with famine, the bowl would remain inexhaustible.

‘Give [146] as much as ever you like, there will be no exhaustion unless it be of the hands that received it.’

Receiving the bowl with great joy and gratitude, he offered thanks to the Goddess, and attended immediately to the wants of those who were hungry to their satisfaction.

Thereafter he made it his business to provide food for all living beings that he could reach so much so that the yard of the temple where he lived became a concourse of people, animals, birds and other creatures wanting food.

Intimation of this was received by God Indra by the usual quiver visible in the white carpet, on which was placed this throne. The God appeared before Āputra immediately, in the shape of an old Brahman doubled up with age, to give him what boon he wanted.

The old man told him that he was no other than Indra, and that he came there to give him a boon that he might ask, as he greatly appreciated the merit of the great gift of food that he was making from day to day. On hearing this, Āputra laughed, till his sides ached, in derision, and addressed Indra in the following words:–

‘People that practise Dharma, people that take care of others and protect them from harm, people that practise penance, people that do deeds without attachment, these do not constitute the heaven of the Dēvas. Oh valiant Lord of the kingdom of the Dēvas! I want nothing of you. I want in fact nothing more than this solitary bowl which enables me to satisfy the unquenchable hunger of those that feel hungry and enjoy the sight of their satisfied countenances. I wish for nothing more.’

Indra got wroth at this disappointing attitude of his and vowed vengeance within himself. Returning to his place, he sent down an abundance of rain, and made the whole land of the Pāṇḍya kingdom smile with cultivation and prosperity, so that there may be no creature wanting [147] sustenance.

Āputra soon found there was no room for the exercise of his charity, and, leaving his place, he went out in search of those that may need his services. Getting none even after that, he was going about like one forlorn, when some of those who had recently arrived from overseas, from the country of Śāvakam, told him that in that distant country there was a famine prevalent at the time owing to the failure of rain and a great number of the inhabitants had died of famine.

He immediately made up his mind to travel to that land with his bowl in order that he might find an opportunity for the exercise of his charity. He took ship with this object along with other passengers. Being overtaken by a storm, the ship had to unfurl and to make a halt for a day. The ship set sail again at dead of night in the belief that all the passengers were in. Āputra, however, got left out, and being distressed at this great disappointment to him, he resolved to give up life rather than live useless in that uninhabited island, the bowl of miraculous power also being of no service in his possession.

He, therefore, threw the bowl into a pond with a gōmuka (Spout in the shape of a cow’s mouth). with a prayer that it might reappear on the surface of the water one day in the year. He further wished that if ever any one appeared on that occasion who made it his life-work to exercise charity and protect all living beings, the bowl should pass into his hands. Having done this, he laid down without food or drink, and thus passed out of existence.’

Aṟavaṇa Aḍigaḷ said,

‘As this was taking place, I happened to be there and in reply to my enquiry, he gave me the whole history before giving up life.’

That Aputra took birth again in the land of Sāvakam from the cow of the king of the country very much like the sun which, having risen in the East, destroys darkness, [148] and, gives up its light in the West, only to rise again in the East.