King Harishchandra: A Tale of Truth, Sacrifice, and Integrity

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King Harishchandra | Podcast

King Harishchandra was a legendary king of Ayodhya who is known for his unwavering commitment to truth and integrity. According to the Hindu mythology, Harishchandra was tested by the gods to see if he could uphold his principles, and he faced numerous hardships and sacrifices to keep his word. Harishchandra’s story is considered a powerful example of the importance of honesty, integrity, and selflessness in leadership and life.

Who was King Harishchandra?

King Harishchandra belonged to the Ikshvaku dynasty, which was one of the most prominent dynasties in ancient India. According to Hindu mythology, Ikshvaku was the son of Vaivasvata Manu, the progenitor of humanity. The dynasty was believed to have ruled over the kingdom of Kosala, which was situated in present-day Uttar Pradesh in India.

The Ikshvaku dynasty was known for its noble and just rulers, who were deeply committed to upholding dharma, the moral and ethical order of the universe. The dynasty reached its zenith under the reign of King Dasharatha, who was the father of Lord Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana. King Harishchandra was a descendant of King Dasharatha and inherited the legacy of his noble ancestors.

The kingdom of King Harishchandra was believed to be situated in the region of Ayodhya, which was the capital city of the Ikshvaku dynasty. The city was said to be a center of art, culture, and learning and was renowned for its beautiful temples and palaces. The people of Ayodhya were known for their piety, wisdom, and devotion to their king.

King Harishchandra was regarded as a just and compassionate ruler who governed his kingdom with fairness and wisdom. He was deeply committed to upholding dharma and was known for his honesty, integrity, and selflessness. The people of his kingdom held him in high esteem and regarded him as a model of virtuous conduct.

Overall, King Harishchandra’s dynasty and kingdom were steeped in myth and legend, but they were also believed to have been based on historical realities. The Ikshvaku dynasty was regarded as one of the greatest dynasties in ancient India, and King Harishchandra was celebrated as one of its noblest rulers. His reign was believed to have been a golden age for his kingdom, marked by peace, prosperity, and social harmony.

What is the story of King Harishchandra?

King Harishchandra was a king who was renowned for his truthfulness, charity, and public service. King Harishchandra was the son of Glorious Suryavanshi, King Trishanku. After Trishanku, King Harishchandra sat on the throne in place of his father.

King Harishchandra’s wife’s name was Taramati, and his son’s name was Rohitsava. The subjects were very happy and prosperous during the reign of Harishchandra.

King Harishchandra’s fame spread throughout the world, and it eventually reached heaven. Once, Lord Indra asked the sage Narad, “Sage, you roam around the whole world. Can you tell who is the greatest king of this universe?”

Narad understood the pride hidden in Indra’s words. He said that God Indra was the most powerful of all kings. However, there is no greater king than Harishchandra, the king of Ayodhya in today’s time.

Indra became very angry after listening to Sage Narad and decided to test King Harishchandra.

God Indra sought help from Sage Vishwamitra to test King Harishchandra, and he agreed to take Harishchandra’s test.

Sage Vishwamitra showed King Harishchandra a dream through his Yoga Vidya, in which he handed over his entire Kingdom to Sage Vishwamitra.

On the second day, King Harishchandra forgets about his dream and gets busy with his daily routine. Only then does Sage Vishwamitra come to the court of Harishchandra and tell him that this kingdom is now mine; you must vacate this palace.

Harishchandra is surprised to hear Vishwamitra’s words and humbly asks with folded hands, “Sage, I did not understand the meaning of your words; please try to explain.”

After asking Harishchandra, Vishwamitra reminds him of the dream. As soon as he remembers the dream, Harishchandra apologizes to Vishwamitra, gets down from his throne, and respectfully makes Vishwamitra sit on his throne.

Vishwamitra addresses Harishchandra because I am now the king. Therefore, you should take off all your royal clothes and leave this city with the queen and the prince and go somewhere else.

All the courtiers try to explain to King Harishchandra that dreams should not be taken so seriously and that you should not leave the kingdom. Harishchandra, however, disagrees with this, and says Raghukul Vanshi does not turn away from his word by making a donation. This is even if the donation was made in a dream.

When Harishchandra started leaving the palace, Sage Vishwamitra stopped Harishchandra and said, “Rajan, in your kingdom there is no tradition of donating to sages, isn’t it?”

Harishchandra says Sage, I have already sacrificed everything for you, now what is left with me? Still, if you give me one month, I will make a proper donation to the extent of my abilities.

By saying this, Harishchandra leaves the palace with Queen Taramati and her son, Rohitsava.

After travelling for a few days, Harishchandra reaches another city. He has been looking for work for a long time and has been unable to find any, and the time to donate to Sage is approaching. Queen Taramati then tells Harishchandra that he should sell all of us and donate the proceeds to Sage so he can be free of the burden of charity.

Harishchandra sells himself, Queen Taramati, and their son on the slave market. A Brahmin buys Queen Taramati along with her son Rohitsava, and King Harishchandra is purchased by a Chandal (a person who burns dead bodies in a crematorium).

Harishchandra returns to his work by giving the money he has received to Vishwamitra. Together with Harishchandra Chandal, they start burning the dead bodies, and the queen Taramati starts doing all the work of the Brahmin’s house.

One day, when Rohitsaw was playing outside the Brahmin’s house, he was bitten by a poisonous snake, which killed him.

Queen Taramati, in tears, arrives at the crematorium to burn her son’s body, where she finds Harishchandra cremating the rest of the corpses.

Taramati is very sad to see her husband’s condition, and Harishchandra is also moved to see his dead son.

When Taramati asks Harishchandra to perform the last rites of her son, Harishchandra asks her for rent for the use of the cremation ground. After listening to him, Taramati says that she has nothing to give. After listening to him, Harishchandra says that he cannot cheat his master, and Taramati will have to pay some rent for her son’s cremation.

Having listened to Harishchandra, Taramati tears a portion of her saree and gives it to him. She says that this is all she has to offer.

After this, Harishchandra makes Rohitsava lie on a pyre; suddenly, a bright light flashes, and God Indra and Sage Vishwamitra appear there.

On one of Indra’s instructions, Rohitsawa came back to life. Harishchandra and Rani Taramati watched all this with surprise. Then Indra spoke to Harishchandra, saying, “Don’t be surprised, Rajan; Sage Vishwamitra and I were taking your exam, which you have passed completely.”

Only then Sage Narada reaches there and asks Indra, “O Indra, now can you tell who is the best king in this universe?” To which Indra replies smilingly, “Only and only Harishchandra.”

After this, God Indra, and Vishwamitra return Harishchandra’s kingdom to him and bless him for being more prosperous than before.

Harishchandra happily rules Ayodhya for a long time, until a special plane from heaven comes to take him away. On that plane, he goes to heaven.

Overview of the major events in his life

King Harishchandra’s life was filled with many significant events that showcased his unyielding commitment to truth and righteousness. One of the most famous incidents was his encounter with Sage Vishwamitra, who tested Harishchandra’s commitment to his word.

According to the story, Vishwamitra appeared to Harishchandra in a dream and asked for his entire kingdom as a donation. Although it was just a dream, Harishchandra took the request seriously and offered to fulfill it. When Vishwamitra reminded him of the dream in the waking world, Harishchandra immediately honored his commitment and relinquished his throne.

Vishwamitra then asked Harishchandra and his family to leave the kingdom and go into exile. Harishchandra agreed and set out on a journey with his wife, Taramati, and his son, Rohitsava. On the way, they faced many difficulties and had to sell themselves into slavery to survive.

Harishchandra worked as a cremator, while Taramati served as a maid for a Brahmin family who had purchased her and Rohitsava. One day, Rohitsava was bitten by a poisonous snake and died. When Taramati brought his body to Harishchandra for cremation, he demanded payment for the use of the cremation ground. Taramati tearfully offered him a piece of her clothing as payment, and Harishchandra cremated his son’s body.

In the end, Harishchandra’s unwavering commitment to truth and integrity impressed even the gods. After his successful completion of the tests, Indra and Vishwamitra returned Harishchandra’s kingdom to him, and he ruled with even more prosperity and success than before. Eventually, Harishchandra was taken away to heaven, where he lived happily ever after.

Overall, King Harishchandra’s life was a testament to his commitment to truth and righteousness. His willingness to sacrifice everything he had, including his family, for the sake of his word and his principles, continues to inspire people to this day.

Consequences he faced because of speaking truth

King Harishchandra was known for his unwavering commitment to the truth. He had taken a vow to always speak the truth, no matter the consequences. This vow was put to the test multiple times during his life.

One such incident was when he was asked to pay taxes to Lord Vishnu by the sage Vishwamitra. Harishchandra explained that his kingdom did not have a tradition of paying taxes to anyone other than the king. When Vishwamitra insisted, Harishchandra remained firm in his belief and refused to pay the taxes.

This led to a series of unfortunate events for Harishchandra. Vishwamitra became angry and decided to test the king’s devotion to truth. He asked Harishchandra to give up his kingdom and leave with his wife and child. Despite his courtiers’ advice to ignore the request since it was made in a dream, Harishchandra felt bound by his vow of truthfulness and complied with Vishwamitra’s request.

Harishchandra then traveled to another kingdom to find work and sustain his family. He was unable to find any employment and was forced to sell his wife and child into slavery to make ends meet. Harishchandra himself was forced to work in a crematorium as a servant. This was a great fall from grace for a king who had once ruled over a prosperous kingdom.

However, even in these trying circumstances, Harishchandra refused to abandon his vow to speak the truth. When his son died from a snake bite, Harishchandra asked his grieving wife for rent for using the crematorium grounds. Taramati tearfully offered a piece of her saree as payment, which Harishchandra accepted.

These events show Harishchandra’s unwavering commitment to upholding his word and maintaining his integrity, even when faced with immense hardship. His sacrifice in giving up his kingdom, selling his family, and working in a crematorium showed the depth of his devotion to truth and righteousness. In the end, Harishchandra’s commitment to truth and his sacrifices earned him the admiration of even the gods.

Why is King Harishchandra considered a legendary figure in Indian culture?

The story of King Harishchandra is an essential part of Indian culture and literature. The tale is not just a story of a king who faces hardships and sacrifices everything to keep his word and maintain his integrity, but it is a reflection of the moral values and virtues that Indian culture has always upheld.

The story of King Harishchandra has inspired countless literary works in Indian languages, including Sanskrit, Hindi, and other regional languages. Many great poets and writers have used the character of King Harishchandra to convey the importance of truth, integrity, and sacrifice in one’s life. The story has also been adapted into numerous plays, films, and TV series.

In Indian culture, the story of King Harishchandra is considered a paragon of truthfulness, righteousness, and sacrifice. The tale is often cited as an example of the importance of keeping one’s word and maintaining integrity, no matter what the circumstances are.

The story highlights the importance of being truthful and righteous, even in adverse situations. King Harishchandra’s unwavering commitment to truthfulness and righteousness, even when faced with immense hardships, has become a part of Indian folklore and a source of inspiration for generations.

The story also teaches the value of sacrifice. King Harishchandra sacrificed everything he had, including his kingdom, his wife, and his son, to uphold his word. His selfless sacrifice has become an epitome of selflessness and has become a symbol of moral courage.

The values and virtues that King Harishchandra represents are still relevant today. The tale is a reminder of the importance of maintaining integrity, being truthful and righteous, and making sacrifices for the greater good. These values are still revered in Indian society and are considered essential for leading a fulfilling life.

In conclusion, the story of King Harishchandra is a timeless tale of moral values and virtues that has inspired generations of Indians. The tale is not just a story, but a reflection of the core values of Indian culture. The story teaches us the importance of truthfulness, righteousness, and sacrifice and reminds us of the importance of maintaining integrity and making sacrifices for the greater good.

What lessons can we learn from King Harishchandra’s story?

Upholding truth and integrity: Harishchandra’s unwavering commitment to his word and integrity even in the face of extreme adversity teaches us the importance of upholding truth and keeping our promises.

The power of sacrifice: Harishchandra’s willingness to sacrifice everything, including his kingdom, wealth, and even his family, for the greater good and to maintain his integrity, teaches us the power of sacrifice in achieving our goals and living a virtuous life.

The consequences of our actions: The story shows us that every action we take, whether good or bad, has consequences, and we must be prepared to face them with courage and grace.

The importance of charity: Harishchandra’s dedication to charity, even at the cost of his own comfort and well-being, teaches us the importance of helping others and contributing to the betterment of society.

The value of humility: Harishchandra’s humble and respectful demeanor, even in the face of immense power and authority, teaches us the value of humility and the importance of treating everyone with respect and kindness.

Examples of movies, plays, and literature based on his story

The story of King Harishchandra has been adapted and retold in various forms of popular culture, including movies, plays, and literature. Some of the most notable adaptations of the story include:

“Satya Harishchandra” (1965) – This Kannada language film directed by Hunsur Krishnamurthy was a major hit and is still considered a classic. The film stars Rajkumar as Harishchandra.

“Harishchandrachi Factory” (2009) – This Marathi language film, directed by Paresh Mokashi, is based on the life of Dadasaheb Phalke, who is known as the father of Indian cinema. The film portrays Phalke’s struggle to make the first Indian silent film, which was titled “Raja Harishchandra.”

“Raja Harishchandra” (1913) – This silent film was the first full-length feature film made in India. Directed by Dadasaheb Phalke, the film tells the story of King Harishchandra and his sacrifice.

“King Harishchandra” (1928) – This silent film was directed by V. Shantaram and starred Durga Khote as Taramati.

Apart from these, the story of King Harishchandra has also been retold in various TV shows, dramas, and plays. The story has had a significant impact on Indian literature and culture, and its themes of truthfulness, righteousness, and sacrifice continue to be relevant and inspiring to people around the world.

The impact of King Harishchandra’s story on the Indian and global entertainment industry has been significant. It has inspired filmmakers and writers to explore themes of truthfulness, righteousness, and sacrifice in their work. The story has also served as a source of inspiration for many filmmakers and actors in India, who have tried to recreate the iconic character of King Harishchandra in their own unique ways.

What are some of the criticisms and debates surrounding King Harishchandra’s story?

There are not many criticisms surrounding King Harishchandra’s story itself, as it is widely regarded as a tale of sacrifice, righteousness, and upholding one’s word. However, there have been some debates and discussions around the story’s cultural and societal implications.

One point of criticism is the portrayal of caste in the story. Harishchandra’s selling of himself and his family members to a lower caste person for the sake of charity raises questions about the caste system’s role in Indian society and the representation of lower castes in the story.

Another point of debate is the glorification of sacrifice and suffering in Indian culture. Some argue that this focus on sacrifice can lead to the acceptance of inequality and oppression, as people are encouraged to endure hardships for the sake of honor and duty.

There has also been criticism of the gender roles portrayed in the story, with some arguing that Taramati’s sacrifice and submission to her husband’s will reinforces patriarchal norms and expectations.

Overall, while the story of King Harishchandra is widely celebrated, it is also subject to debates and discussions surrounding its cultural and societal implications.


In conclusion, the story of King Harishchandra is a timeless tale of sacrifice, truthfulness, and righteousness. It teaches us the importance of upholding our word and maintaining our integrity, even in the face of difficult challenges and hardships. The story has had a significant impact on Indian literature and culture, inspiring countless adaptations in movies, plays, and literature.

However, the story has also faced criticisms and debates, particularly around its portrayal of caste and gender roles. Despite these debates, the story of King Harishchandra remains a significant part of Indian cultural heritage and continues to inspire people around the world.

Thanks For Reading… King Harishchandra Complete Story | Indian Mythological Story

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