Man strives majorly for the basic necessities of life which are food, water and shelter. It is only when these three are fulfilled that he thinks about the well-being of the society. However, there are also people who stand as the representations of humanity wherein they believe that hunger is the same for one and all and go beyond their abilities to deprive them of their hunger. One such great persona was King Rantidev who reminds us that humanity is the greatest virtue to be practised by one and all, and also how it makes one closer to the Almighty.
Rantidev was a righteous king, a great devotee of Bhagwan Vishnu and who believed that helping the needy was the greatest worship of Bhagwan Vishnu. Once, all the celestials along with Brahma Ji came to Vaikunth to visit Bhagwan Vishnu. They asked him whom would he consider his greatest devotee. Without the slightest hesitation, Bhagwan Vishnu answers Rantidev. Brahma Ji wonders that how could a king who did not spend his time in penance of Bhagwan Vishnu could be his greatest devotee and decides to test him.
Then Brahma creates a great famine in Rantidev’s kingdom. People suffer without rainfall, food and water. Rantidev sees that all the palace granaries and food reach all the people and they are not hungry. Day after day, Rantidev gives away all his wealth, riches and even food to his people and he is left without food for forty eight days. Yet he believes in Bhagwan Vishnu and remains calm going on with his duty as a king.
After forty eight days, the ministers of Rantidev manage to get a small vessel of porridge for the king and ask him to eat it. Just as the king was about to eat it, a poor man comes to the king and asks for food. Rantidev gives half portion of his porridge to the poor man. When he is about to eat the remaining portion, another poor man comes and collapses in front of him. Rantidev immediately gives his remaining portion of food to the dying man. The man eats it and thanks him for saving his life.
With only water left, the ministers ask him to drink it at the least. When Rantidev is about to take a sip, a man comes with his dogs to Rantidev and asks water for his dogs. Without any hesitation, Rantidev offers the water to the untouchable too, but the man hesitates and says that he is an untouchable.
Rantidev approaches the untouchable man and says that all are equal in the eyes of Bhagwan Vishnu. Rantidev mentions that there are no differences between any creation and it is the greatest duty of a human birth to take care of the needy. He mentions that as a king, it is his prime responsibility to see that his subjects never go hungry and offers his water to the untouchable and his dogs.
Suddenly, Bhagwan Vishnu along with Brahma Ji and all the celestials appear in front of him. Brahma Ji says that all this was to test the devotion of Rantidev on Bhagwan Vishnu and his selfless service as a king. They agree humbly in front of Bhagwan Vishnu that Rantidev is his greatest devotee. King Rantidev proves that humanity is the most sought way to seek the Almighty. Hence he is one of the Bhagvatottama (equal to Bhagwan) according to the Bhagavat Puran.