As per the Adi Parva of Mahabharata, Chapter 106 & 107, the story of Mandavya Rishi is narrated.

In short,

he was given a punishment by the soldiers of a (KING ?) , and thus made to sit on a stake. Due to his austerity, he wasn't killed and thus through the power of his tapa went to Yamaloka, questioning the reason for his punishment. Yamarãja cites his childhood acts whence he use to kill insects and thus the punishment. The rishi gets angry and curses Yamarãja, to have given punishment more than derserved, thee shall be born on Earth. And thus Vidura (of Mahabharata) is born.

Now, here starts the doubt part

As per,

Manu Smriti (MS) 9.249.

When a king punishes an innocent (man), his guilt is considered as great as when he sets free a guilty man; but (he acquires) merit when he punishes (justly).

So, even if the soldiers might have adjudicated the punishment for the Rishi, the credit or responsibility shall fall onto the King only.

So, as per the above MS verse, the King himself becomes guilty of the crime of punishing an innocent.

And surely, the Rishi, as great as Mandavya, must be aware of this Dharma, and thus, logically, before proceeding to punish the Yamaraja, he should have given appropriate punishment to the king. (That's my understanding of this situation)

Thus here, are my questions:-

  1. Does scriptures explicitly mention the name of this King. I remember hearing his name in that Shri Krishna TV soap, but can't place it in my memory.
  2. Did the king deserved to be punished? Why or why not wasn't the King punished as per Dharma? If punished, how was he punished?
  3. Which other scriptures or local folkloric Puranic stories maybe, describe this incident, albeit with some variations maybe? (Because, in some other articles the stake is not able to pierce through the rishi due to his penance powers, while in others the stake does pierce through, rendering him to be called as ani-Mandavya.)
  • IMO Mandavya Maharshi wasn't angry with the King because in the king's viewpoint he was punishing a robber, so Mandavya Maharshi accepted the king's judgement as just from the king's perspective. His grouch was for what karma he was receiving this punishment and why the severity was great - a question which only Dharmaraja can answer.
    – Surya
    Mar 13, 2021 at 13:21
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    Although the easier option would have been to break his Mauna Vrata and point out to the king that he was not the robber; but he does clarify with the King after the impaling and forgives him, so the king's story is wrapped up neatly I guess.
    – Surya
    Mar 13, 2021 at 13:24
  • @Surya - Oh yes, that maun vrata. The real reason. :)
    – Vivikta
    Mar 14, 2021 at 7:55
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    some Rishis have that forbearance when it comes to dealing with situations like this and maintaining their personal vratas :) ... And of course later taking it out on the divinities :D
    – Surya
    Mar 14, 2021 at 19:32

1 Answer 1


So, even if the soldiers might have adjudicated the punishment for the Rishi, the credit or responsibility shall fall onto the King only.


Now, logically extend it one step further. In above sentence, replace soldiers with King, and King with Yama.

Even if the King might have adjudicated the punishment for the Rishi, the credit or responsibility shall fall onto the Yama only.

Soldier is just a pawn, King made the decision - as far as normal human eyes are concerned.

King is just a pawn, Yama made the decision - as far as Rishi eyes are concerned.

Bhagavatam 3.16.10

ये मे तनूर्द्विजवरान्दुहतीर्मदीया भूतान्यलब्धशरणानि च भेदबुद्ध्या ।
द्रक्ष्यन्त्यघक्षतद‍ृशो ह्यहिमन्यवस्तान् गृध्रा रुषा मम कुषन्त्यधिदण्डनेतु:

ye me tanūr dvija-varān duhatīr madīyā bhūtāny alabdha-śaraṇāni ca bheda-buddhyā
drakṣyanty agha-kṣata-dṛśo hy ahi-manyavas tān gṛdhrā ruṣā mama kuṣanty adhidaṇḍa-netuḥ

The brāhmaṇas, the cows and the defenseless creatures are My own body. Those whose faculty of judgment has been impaired by their own sin look upon these as distinct from Me.
They are just like furious serpents, and they are angrily torn apart by the bills of the vulturelike messengers of Yamarāja, the superintendent of sinful persons.

Next, you might ask why even Yama was punished when the rule was created newly by Mandavya ?

Let us consider the precise timeline of events:

Rule 1 - Do not pierce insects.

Rule 2 - If someone pierces insects, Yama must punish him by impaling.

Mandavya pierced an insect at age 10. Yama punished Mandavya by impaling.

Now Mandavya wants to change the rule with his tapo-balam. With his Siddha-shareer (subtle body), he goes to Yama-lok, in order to sign the new rule into effect at, say 4 pm.

Rule 3 (amendment to Rule 2) - If someone pierces insects before age of 12, then do not impale him.

Now, what should Yama do at 3:59pm, and what should Yama do at 4:01pm ?

If Yama removed the impale from Mandavya BEFORE 4pm, then he will break Rule 2, because the law has not come into effect yet.

If Yama removed the impale from Mandavya AFTER 4pm, then he will break Rule 3, which just now came into effect.

The only way for Yama to avoid both punishments is to remove the impale EXACTLY at 4pm.

Which means, preparations for removing it must be done before 4pm. Which means the king, robbers etc. must all be informed of upcoming rule, be ready to enforce it exactly at 4pm. But Mandavya decided to implement the new Rule 3 with his Tapo-balam, and not by consulting Parliament, proposing Bills, getting votes, President approval etc.

So, Yama accepted the 2nd type of punishment. He also had avatara-rahasya desire to be born on earth during Krishna's time. If your favorite cinema star was visiting your city, would you not try to sneak in to the studio to meet him ? Same way, all devas took birth on earth to mingle with Krishna.

  • Nicely reasoned answer. (Though you could add a few more scriptural references according to site rules.)
    – Surya
    Mar 14, 2021 at 4:55
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    In realm of metaphysical logic, it seems perfectly correct to punish the Yamaraja directly. However, still it doesn't makes peace with material logic perspectives. Because in that way, here everyone can argue that the Supreme Court might have given a wrong judgment, but since God is the real Master, we must blame God only. The concept of Divine Dharma ( दैवीय विधान) and Material Dharma ( सांसारिक विधान) seems to be at a big conflict to me.
    – Vivikta
    Mar 14, 2021 at 7:58
  • What do we mean by Yama accepted second type of punishment?
    – Adiyarkku
    Mar 14, 2021 at 18:22
  • @Vivikta - yes. Bhagavan is the ultimate master. and we absolutely can blame him. and many do. But nothing will come of it, because none can punish him. and that's because what he does is always correct. We won't be able to understand it with our limited reasoning. He keeps accounts going back forever.
    – ram
    Mar 15, 2021 at 15:12
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    @Archit - 2nd type meaning - remove impale at 4.01 instead of 3.59, thus take punishment for breaking rule 3 instead of rule 2.
    – ram
    Mar 15, 2021 at 15:13

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