During the reign of Bhoja Raja there was a Brahmin who lived in an extremely pitiable condition. In anticipation of a charity from the king he approached the royal court. At the least he was expecting a cow or a buffalo from the king so that there could be some milk for his kids. But it was considered unworthy to approach the king empty handed. So, he found some bel (the wood-apple) and started towards capital city of Dhara.
When in the court he saw over 1400 pandits including poets like Kalidasa, he felt very uneasy in the company of the colossus. It was his first opportunity to visit a court. After sometime he somehow gathered courage and stepped forward in front of Bhoja Raja and blessed him.
Bhoja Raja guessed from this man’s ways and manners that he had come to the court for the first time. Therefore, he asked him: “Tell us please, revered Brahmin, from where you happen to come?”
The Brahmin replied “O King! I have come from Kailash.”
Now the Bhoja Raja enquired “God Shankara must be doing well, I hope?”
The Brahmin replied with a pathetic voice: “Sire, alas! He is dead, indeed!”
Hearing this, the Raja was surprised. He said “How can Shankara die, he is the Death of death itself!”
The Brahmin said “I will furnish evidence of Shankara’s death before you. Please listen to the state of Shankara and his household: Half the body of Shankara has been stolen by Vishnu, the remaining half by Parvati. Ganga which was in his forehead has flowed down to the ocean. The digit of the moon on his head has reached the sky and, sire, the king of cobras and snakes have gone to the under-world. There were two special things of Shakara; he was the ruler of the three worlds and was omniscient; both these have to come to you. Now only one thing alone has remained – ‘begging’. That has come to me, Sire!”
The Raja was very pleased with the intelligent description of Shankara. He told the Brahmin “Oh excellent among Brahmins! Please ask for anything you wish. I will give you whatever you ask for.”
The Brahmin thought for a while and said “Sire, I am very poor. I don’t even have enough to eat. I have small children at home. They don’t even get milk. If you can give me a good milch cow or buffalo, may God bless you.”
Instantly, the Raja asked his minister to give the Brahmin a good milch cow. The minister conveyed the order to his subordinates. The servants were mischievous. They got hold of a barren buffalo, well built but old, and gave the buffalo to the Brahmin. The Brahmin looked at the buffalo and grasped the situation. He went over to the buffalo and whispered something in her ear. Then he put his own ear near the buffalo’s mouth and came back. Seeing the Brahmin do all this the Raja was surprised. He could not help asking the Brahmin: “What was this that you did? Please let me know.”
The Brahmin replied shrewdly “Sire, I saw that she had no young one and so I asked her whether she was pregnant. She replied, ‘In Satyuga my husband Mahishasura was killed by Durga Devi. From that time till today, I have been living as a widow according to Dharma. Now my teeth have fallen and my teats have become flaccid. I am old. In this state you are asking me whether I am pregnant. Are you not ashamed?”
The Raja was highly pleased with wit of the Brahmin and rewarded him with a good cow. He also punished those who had played the mischief with the old buffalo – appropriately.