In the city of Kampilya, there was a Somayaji family. Their son named Yajnadatta was an adept in the performance of sacrifice. He knew Vedas and Vedangas. He was a great scholar of Vedanta etc. He was honoured by the king. He was a liberal-minded donor and as such his fame had spread far and wide. His son (Guṇanidhi) was of a very handsome complexion. After the investiture with the sacred thread, he learned all the eight lore repeatedly. Yet, unknown to his father he indulged in gambling. He took plenty of sums from his mother and gave them over to other gamblers.
He eschewed all Brahminical ways and conduct of life. He was averse to the performance of Sandhya prayers and ceremonial ablutions. He began to speak ill of the Vedas, sacred texts, devas and brahmins. He did not follow the conventions and injunctions of the Smṛti code, He indulged in singing and playing. Actors, heretics etc. were his beloved friends.
Although his mother wanted him to meet his father now and then, he never went near his father. Engaged in extra-domestic activities Yajnadatta used to ask his wife “what is our son Guṇanidhi doing? He is not at home.” Then the woman used to say, “He has gone out just now. The poor woman since she had only one son deceived her husband thus. All sacred rites ending with Kesa Karma were performed in the sixteenth year of the son. Thereafter Yajnadatta performed the marriage rite of the son in accordance with the rules prescribed in the Gṛhya Sutras.
Her mother said to Gunanidhi, “your father is surely a great man, but he is of rash temperament. If he comes to know of your activities, he will beat you and will not spare me too. I conceal your nefarious activities from your father every day. Due to his good conduct and his affluent circumstances, he is honoured by all the people. Dear child, a good learning and association with men of saintly character constitute a great asset for brahmins. How is it that you do not gladly take interest in such things? Your ancestors and grandfathers had all earned the reputation of being good Vedic scholars, well learned in Sastras, and performers of sacrifices, especially Soma yagas. Shun the company of the wicked people, associate with good men, turn your attention to good learning and strictly adhere to Brahminical conventions. Emulate your father in form, fame and traditional activity. Why don’t you feel ashamed? Cast off your wickedness. You are nineteen now. This girl is sixteen years old. She is a good girl. Take her. Protect her. Your maternal uncles too are matchless in learning, conduct and pedigree and other things. You are not afraid even of them. Your paternal and maternal lineages are equally pure. See the brahmin boys of your neighbourhood. Even in our house see the disciples of your father. How humbly do they behave? Dear son, if the king hears of your evil propensities, he will cease to respect your father and may even suspend the regular maintenance allowance. Till now people used to call your activities the foolish blunders of an ignorant boy. Hereafter they may take away the traditional title of Dikṣita. People will curse and cavil at your father and me saying such evil words as “The son has adopted the wickedness of the mother. Your father has never been a sinner. He strictly follows the path of the Vedas and Smṛtis. Powerful indeed is Fate whence a boy like you is born of my womb!”
Although constantly advised thus by his mother, the wicked boy did not abandon his evil ways. For, an idiot indulging in vice is beyond redemption. Who is he that is not broken up by the evil influences of hunting, wine, slander, untruth, theft, gambling and prostitutes? The wicked fellow (Guṇanidhi) used to lay his hands on whatever he could see in the house, a cloth, a base metal etc. and take it to the gambling den, there to lose the same to his brother gamblers. Once he stole a very valuable ring of his father set with precious stones and gave it to one the of gamblers. It chanced that one day the Dikṣita saw it in the hand of the gambler. He asked the fellow — “Where did you get this ring from?” First the gambler did not say anything. When repeatedly asked he said — “O brahmin, you are unnecessarily accusing me of theft. It was your son who gave it to me. On the previous day I had won his mother’s upper garment. Do not think that I alone was the winner of this ring. He has lost many costly things to other gamblers as well. He has thus given gems, metals, silk garments, vessels, golden vases, and different sorts of copper and bell metal pots. In the whole world you cannot see such a useless poor gambler as he (your son). How is it that till now, O brahmin, you have not realised that your son is a ringleader of base gamblers, very clever in misdemeanour and unfair means? On hearing these words, the poor Dikṣita’s head bent down with shame. He covered his face and head with a cloth and quietly slipped back into his house. Yajjnadatta, the sacrificer, well versed in Vedic rites spoke thus to his wife who was a very chaste lady.
Yajnadatta said: — O mistress! where is that gambling rogue of a son, Guṇanidhi? Or let it be. Why should I ask for him? Where is that auspicious ring which you took off at the time of applying unguents on my body? Bring it quickly and give it to me. The mistress was frightened at these words. While she was engaged in arranging for bath and midday sacred rites she replied— “I am busy arranging the various articles of offerings for worship. While I was busy cooking the pudding, I kept the ring somewhere in some vessel just now. What a pity! I have forgotten it. I do not know where it has been kept.
Dikṣita said: — O truthful lady who has given birth to a base boy, whenever I asked “Where has the son gone?” you used to say, “Dear lord, just now he has gone out after finishing his lesson of the Vedas, in the company of two or three friends for revision of the lesson”. Where is your silk saree red like madder which I had presented to you and which used to hang down here in the house always? Tell me the truth. Do not be afraid. That gem-set golden vase which I had given you is also missing. That tripod with a velvet cushion which I had given you is nowhere to be seen. Where is that bell metal pot made in the South? Where is that copper pot made in Bengal? Where is that ivory casket intended for curios and trinkets? Where is that wonderfully fine statuette of a lady lighting a lamp, shining like the moon, and brought from the hilly province? Why should I unnecessarily speak much? O lady of a noble family, it is futile to be angry with you. I shall take food -only after I marry again! I am childless now since that wicked fellow has defiled the whole family. Get up and fetch me some water. Let me offer libations to him with gingelly seeds. Better to be issueless than have a wicked son who defiles the entire family. It is the traditional policy to abandon one to save the family. The Brahmana took his bath, performed his daily rites and married the daughter of a Vedic scholar the same day.”
Guṇanidhi, the son of the Dikṣita Yajnadatta, came to know of this. Regretfully he cursed himself and set off from that place. After wandering aimlessly for a long time, he, the wicked fellow, felt the abandonment keenly and losing all hopes halted at a place. He thought to himself: “Where am I to go? What shall I do? I have not studied much, nor am I rich enough. Only a wealthy man can be happy in a foreign land, although he has to face the fear of thieves there. I am born in the family of priests officiating in sacrifices. Why am I reduced to this wretched plight? Fate is powerful indeed, controlling all our future actions. I cannot even beg as I have no acquaintance, no money. Where shall I seek refuge? Every day, even before sunrise, my mother used to feed me with sweet pudding. Today whom shall I beg? My mother too is away from me.”
In the meantime, a certain devotee of Lord Shiva came out of the city taking with him various articles of offering. The devotee entered the temple of Shiva where he worshipped Him in the prescribed manner with sincere devotion. The brahmin boy, son of Yajnadatta, devoid of his mother and dismissed by his father, was very hungry by this time. He inhaled the sweet fragrance of the sweet puddings and followed the devotee. “If fortunately, these devotees of Shiva go to sleep after offering the eatables to Śiva, I shall eat these vast varieties of puddings and sweets in the night”. With this hope he sat at the threshold of the temple of Shiva watching the great worship by the devotee.
When the worship was over, the songs and dances of prayer were duly concluded, the devotees lay down and began to sleep. Immediately the young man entered the sanctum sanctorum of Shiva to steal the eatables left there. The lamp was burning very dimly. Hence to see the puddings clearly, he tore a piece of cloth from his lower garment and put that piece in the lamp as a wick thus making the lamp give a good light. Yajnadatta’s son gleefully took plenty of the sweets offered as eatables to Lord Shiva by the devotees. With sweets in his hands, he came out hurriedly. In his hurry he stamped on some person lying there who woke up immediately. “Who is that? Who is running away so fast? Catch him.” So shouted the man who woke up in a voice hoarse with fear. The brahmin boy (Guṇanidhi) who ran for life became blind. So, he was caught and killed by the watchmen on duty.
By the favour of Shiva or by the power of accumulated merit, the son of Yajnadatta could not partake of the offerings of eatables made to Lord Shiva. The terrible soldiers of Yama who desired to take him to Saṃyamani (the abode of Yama), approached him with nooses and clubs in their hands and bound him. In the meantime, the attendants of Shiva with tridents in their hands and tinkling anklets on their arms reached the spot in an aerial chariot in order to take him to Shivaloka. Shivagaṇas said: — “O attendants of Yama, leave this righteous brahmin alone. He cannot be punished since his sins have been burnt off.”
On hearing these words of Shiva’s attendants, the attendants of Yama became terrified and addressed the attendants of Shiva: Yamagaṇas said: — “O Gaṇas, this is a wicked brahmin who has broken the traditions and conventions of his family. He has disobeyed his father’s directions and has forsaken truthfulness or purity. He does not offer his Sandhya prayers. He does not take his ceremonial baths regularly. Leave aside his other activities. He has now transgressed and outraged the offerings of eatables made to Shiva. You can see this personally. In fact, he is not worthy of even being touched by people like you. Those who consume or outrage the offerings of eatables made to Shiva and those who offer these to others, the mere touch of these persons, it is said, is sinful. Even poison is not so dangerous when drunk. Never shall a person make use of Shiva’s property even if he were to die. It is granted that you are an authority on virtue. We are not. But O Gaṇas, if this fellow has at least a bit of virtue to his credit, please let us hear the same”.
On hearing these words of Yama’s attendants, the attendants of Shiva remembered the lotus-like feet of Shiva and spoke to them thus: — Shiva’s attendants said: - “O Attendants of Yama, Shiva’s ideas of Dharma are very subtle. They can be observed only by persons of subtle and keen vision, not by people like you whose aim is only the gross exterior. O Gaṇas, hear attentively what this son of Yajnadatta has done which has freed him from sins. The shadow of the lamp was falling on the top of the linga and this brahmin prevented it by adding a wick to the lamp at night, cutting a piece from his lower cloth. Another great merit he derived from listening to the names of Shiva, though casually, O attendants. He witnessed the worship that was being performed duly by a devotee. He was observing a fast and his mind was concentrated too. Let him go to Shivaloka along with us. As Shiva’s follower let him enjoy great pleasures there for some time. Then he will shake off his sins and become the king of Kalinga since he has indeed become a great favourite of Shiva. Nothing else need be mentioned now. Let all of you, emissaries of Yama, return to your own world with contented minds.” On hearing these words of Shiva’s attendants, the emissaries of Yama returned to Yama’s abode.
Dharmaraja said: — “O Gaṇas, listen attentively to what I say. Whatever I direct you to do, you shall do with loving devotion. O Gaṇas, you shall avoid those persons who bear on their forehead the mark of Tripuṇḍra besmeared with white ashes, persons who regularly dust their body with white ashes, persons who assume the garb and features of Shiva, persons who wear Rudrakṣas and keep matted hair, persons who imitate the dress or the features of Shiva, even for their livelihood or for the purpose of deception. Never shall they be brought here.”
Thus, freed from the emissaries of Yama, the brahmin boy became pure-minded and went to Shivaloka along with the attendants of Shiva. There he served Shiva and Parvati and enjoyed all sorts of pleasures. Afterwards he was born as the son of Arindama, the king of Kalinga. Known as Dama he was devoted to the service of Shiva. Even as a boy he carried on many acts of devotion to Shiva in the company of other children. When his father passed away, he became the king in the prime of his youth. In his kingdom he spread the ideals and tenets of Shiva lovingly. The king Dama was unconquerable. He stressed on furnishing temples of Shiva with lamps in plenty. Every temple was duly illuminated. With this act of piety alone, till he lived, the king Dama acquired ample prosperity. Finally, he passed away.
Spiritual Significance: A visit to temple, listening of prayers particularly at the time dying, accepting prasada and wearing the marks of Shiva (Tripundra, Rudraksas and white ash on body, can overweigh demerits done in lifetime.
Reference: Shiva Purana, Rudra-saṃhita: Sṛṣṭi-khaṇḍa Chapter 17 & 18