King Dilipa of Ayodhya had riches and power, but no progeny. He was told by Vasistha that if he served the divine cow Nandini, he would be blessed with progeny.
So he and his wife Sudakshina began to serve Nandini. Dilipa accompanied Nandini every morning as it went out to graze, making sure no harm befell her.
One day, a lion jumped on Nandini and was about to devour her. Dilipa requested the lion to let Nandini go, but the lion said there was no question of doing that. Dilipa then offered himself as food to the lion.
The lion then argued with Dilipa to try and convince him that it would be foolish to sacrifice his life to save a cow. What was the life of a mere cow, the lion asked him. Wasn’t Dilipa’s life more valuable, for he was the king? He was young and had many more years of life left. Besides, he had the financial wherewithal to compensate the sage for the loss of this cow. So it was foolish to lay down his life for the cow.
But Dilipa was not swayed by such arguments. He had been asked to take care of Nandini, and that was what he would do, even if it meant losing his life.
As Dilipa made his intentions clear, the lion disappeared, for it was just an illusion created by Nandini herself to test Dilipa’s sincerity in carrying out sage Vasistha’s instructions, N. Veezhinathan said in a discourse.
Dilipa was always conscious of his duties and of how to act in accordance with the rules of fair play and righteousness.
When Nandini, pleased with his services, asked him what he wanted, he told the cow that he desired a son.
The cow told Dilipa that he should pluck a leaf, shape it like a receptacle and drink its milk then and there. But Nandini’s calf was waiting to be fed, and Dilipa thought it was unfair to keep the calf waiting or take milk before the calf had been fed. Thus, though Dilipa was anxious to have children and Nandini was ready to bless him at once, Dilipa was also keen on doing the right thing.
He was blessed by Nandini, and rewarded for his services. He and his wife became parents to an equally righteous son in due course.