Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Shibi included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Śibi

An ancient Rājarṣi.


Descended from Viṣṇu thus:—Brahmā-Atri-Candra-Budha-Purūravas-Āyus-Nahuṣa-Yayāti-Anudruhyu-Sabhānara-Kālanara-Sṛñjaya-Uśīnara-Śibi.

Śibi was born to Uśīnara of Mādhavī, daughter of Yayāti.

Suhotra made to give way.

King Suhotra of Kuru dynasty once on his return from a visit of maharṣis saw King Śibi coming in the opposite direction in his chariot, and both the Kings saluted each other as their age ordained. But, they did not give passage to each other as they thought themselves to be equal in merit. At that time Nārada came there and asked the kings why they stood there thus blocking the path. They answered Nārada thus: "He who is more noble or clever on account of former actions etc. is usually given way to by the other person. Both of us are comrades and are equals."

Nārada then spoke as follows:—

"Oh! King of the Kuru dynasty! You are cruel to the gentle and gentle to the cruel. To the evil you are good; then why not be good to the good. Devas have ordered that he who does good will get it hundredfold by return. King Uśīnara is more noble and gentle than you are. The miser is won over by liberality, the liar by truth, the cruel by patience and the evil person by good. But, both of you Kings are noble persons. Therefore, one of you should give way to the other."

Listening to Nārada’s advice, Suhotra gave way to Śibi and proceeded on his way. (Vana Parva, Chapter 194).

Śibi tested.

Śibi’s fame spread in the three worlds, and an idea was mooted among the Devas that it should be tested how much of the reputation of the King was genuine. Accordingly, Agni in the form of a dove and Indra in that of a kite hunting after the dove, rushed to King Śibi. The dove took refuge in the lap of the King sitting in 'divya' posture, and the priest told the King that it was the latter’s duty to protect the dove, which took refuge with him for its life. The dove also told the King thus; "I am really a muni, who has entered the body of the dove. I take refuge in you for my life."

By that time the kite too had flown up to the King. It asked the King to return the dove, which it had been chasing. The King was surprised to hear the kite talk and told the bird that it was not proper for him to give up the dove who had sought refuge under him, but that he would give the kite any other flesh in lieu of the dove. The kite replied as follows: "You must give me flesh cut from your right thigh equal in weight to that of the dove. If you do so, the dove will be saved and you will be praised by people."

Accordingly, the King cut a piece of flesh from his right thigh and weighed it in the balance against the dove. But, the dove weighed more. The King cut more flesh from his thigh and weighed, but the dove still weighed more. Thus, by instalments the King cut his whole body and weighed the flesh against the dove, yet it weighed more. Then the King himself sat in the balance, seeing which the kite flew away. Then the dove assumed its original form and told the King that it was Agni and the kite, Indra. The Devas were greatly pleased with the firm sense of sacrifice of the King; they blessed him and told him that a son called Kapotaromā will be born to him. (Vana Parva, Chapter 197).

Other information.

(i) When Yayāti fell down on earth from heaven, Śibi promised to transfer to him the merits acquired by him (Śibi). (Ādi Parva, Chapter 93, Verse 3).

(ii) Śibi worships Yama in his court. (Sabhā Parva, Chapter 8, Verse 10).

(iii) Śibi too was present in the company of Indra to witness the fight between Arjuna and Droṇa in the battle between King Virāṭa and Kauravas at the Virāṭa city in connection with the lifting of Virāṭa’s cow by the Kauravas. (Virāṭa Parva, Chapter 56, Verse 9).

(iv) Śibi loved Indra very much. (Bhīṣma Parva, Chapter 9, Verse 7).

(v) People of the Yadu dynasty presented Śibi a sword. (Śānti Parva, Chapter 166, Verse 89).

(vi) He gifted away his son to the brahmins, and therefore he attained heaven. (Śānti Parva, Chapter 234, Verse 19; Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 137, Verse 4).

(vii) He did not eat flesh. (Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 115, Verse 61).


The story of two Kings connected with the episode of the dove and the kite is mentioned in the Mahābhārata. One of the Kings is Śibi and the other Uśīnara, father of Śibi. (See under Uśīnara).

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