Harischandra heard the
words uttered by the woman bending her head on the hangman's block. It was clear to him
that the woman was his wife and it was the same woman who had gone out to fetch the
cremation fees. The son's dead body was still lying nearby. 'Well, one more trick of
fate,' he thought. 'Yesterday the son died and he is not yet cremated. Now I am killing
the wife. This is our master'sbidding, and what fate wills. I cannot refuse to do my
duty.' Thus he quietened his beating heart and lifted up the hangman's sword. He was
aiming it at the wife's neck on the block.
The Sun was just rising on the mountain top and gazing at the glory of his dynasty -
the 'Suryavamsha-' The angels and gods had assembled in the sky to witness the glorious
occasion when an earthly king, by his heavenly conduct, was about toachieve godhood. The
sage Vasishta was eagerly hoping and longing that at least, at that point, Vishwamitra
would relent towards the king. The whole of creation wasanxious to witness the apocalypse
of truth. Then a voice was heard 'You marry my girls and I will suspend all hostilities. I
will bring back to life your dear son. I will save your wife from death and I will give
back to you all the glory of your kingship."
Harischandra lifted up his head and saw. It was the voice of Vishwamitra. Then he
realized that he was wrong in thinking that all his sufferings were the result of his past
deeds the fruit of karma. 'All this is not the vengeance of fate - it is all due to the
machinations of my 'guru.' But I didn't know why he is nursing such vengeance towards me.
I shall, however, never yield to his futile fury,' he decided. He told the sage,"Oh,
my revered master, never repeat those tempting offers. I yield not to temptation. I am
tempted by nothing but the observance of truth. I have lived the life of a pariah. I have
witnessed my son's death. Now a woman, a wife, has to be put to death. Very well. Let me
not go back on my word. May you bless me with your benediction." He lifted his sword
and in a wild sweep hit at his wife's neck.
There were loud exclamations all around.
But a miracle happened. Even before the blade of the sword touched the queen's neck,
the sword itself took a different form. God Ishwara and his consort Parvati with the
gesture of protective assurance appeared. Harischandra was found falling in prostration at
the god's feet. His Harischandra extraordinary adherence to truth had enabled every one to
get the darshan of god Parameshwara.
The gods were pleased. The sage Vishwamitra ran to the place and stood in obeisance to
the god. The god ordered that the dead Rohitashwa be revived. Vishwamitra put the sea of
official recognition on the triumph ofHarischandra. He narrated the origin and the conse-
quence of the feud between Vasishta and himself. He said that the sufferings of
Harischandra, and his Jamily were all an illusory drama. The Brahmin who bought the queen
and prince was God Agni. Veerabahu, the outcast hangman, was none else than the god of
death, Yama. He gifted away to the king, in the presence of all sages, angels and Lord
Ishwara, half of the divine purity and virtue he had garnered.