Maharaj Shibi – The king who sacrificed his body to save a bird

Our Purans mention many great emperors and kings who ruled over our country and were known for their valour, righteousness, humility and generosity. One such Emperor who was known for his generosity and kindness was Maharaj Shibi, whose great deeds are mentioned in the Mahabharat.


Maharaj Shibi was the son of Ushinara and Madhavi, who were the king and queen of Kashi. Maharaj Shibi was a great ruler known for his generous, kind nature and also his valour. He had conquered the entire world and given the title Chakravarthy. He was known for his generous nature and never refused to donate or give whatever asked for. Maharaj Shibi was also known for his excellent judgement skills in providing law and justice to his subjects and his intellect was praised by one and all.

One day, when Maharaj Shibi was seated in his palace, a dove came flying and perched on his thigh. It was being chased by an eagle, the dove was trembling and it sought refuge from the king as it was being chased by an Eagle as prey for food. The King granted it protection and requested the Eagle to spare the little bird. But the Eagle refuses and says that the king is offering refugee to one bird, but in turn he is denying the food for another, and this would not be the ideal Dharma. Maharaj Shibi offers the Eagle various foods, but the Eagle says that it only eats fresh meat. Then Maharaj Shibi asks the Eagle to take his flesh.

All the courtiers are shocked on listening to this. Maharaj Shibi says that he would offer his flesh equal to the Dove, and the Eagle agrees to it. A huge balance scale was bought and Maharaj Shibi places the Dove on one scale and cuts a portion of flesh from his thigh and puts it on another. But the weight does not become equal. He cuts another part of his flesh from his body, but in no vain. Repeatedly, Maharaj Shibi cuts the flesh from all of his body and puts it in the balance, but nothing comes in equal to the Dove. All are surprised and worried as Maharaj Shibi’s was in great pain, yet does not step back. Finally, Maharaj comes and sits in the balance himself. All are surprised and shocked to see the weight of the king balances the Dove’s weight. Thus, the king gets ready to offer his life as a sacrifice for protecting the Dove.

Seeing the great courage of Maharaj Shibi, the Eagle and the Dove transform into none other than Devraj Indr and Agni dev, the fire god. Indr mentions that he wanted to test the generosity of the king and thus came in the form of the Eagle and Dove. They praise him for his undeterred courage in sacrificing his life for a small bird. They heal the King’s wounds and return to heavens.

The story of Maharaj Shibi teaches us a good king is a good protector. Here, Maharaj Shibi not only offers protection to the Dove, but also sacrifices his own body to deprive the Eagle of its hunger, thus, he balances both the sides and offers justice to both. The story also shows how the birds and animals too were given equal respect alongside humans, which is very important to balance mankind and nature.