Once there was a king called Vishvamitra whose army was huge and strong. One day, he and his men went hunting in the jungle. At the end of the day, they were tired, hungry and thirsty.
They passed a poor hut where the sage Vasishta lived with his cow and its calf.
“Can you give us something to drink? We are thirsty’’, asked the king.
“I will bring you some milk’, replied the sage. In a few minutes he returned, with plenty of fresh milk and delicious food as well. There was enough for all of the king’s men. Vishvamitra was surprised, but he asked no questions. Then Vasishta asked the king and his men to stay for the night.
“For the night?’’ asked Vishvamitra. `Where can we all sleep here in the jungle?’’
“I will give you bedding,’’ replied the sage. He went away and in a few minutes returned with plenty of clean, comfortable bedding. There was enough for all the men to sleep on. Vishvamitra could not believe his eyes but again, he asked no questions.
That night they all slept well. In the morning Vasishta brought enough milk for them all to drink. Now Vishvamitra could not keep quiet.
“Tell me,’’ he said, “How can you give us these things? You live in a poor hut in the jungle. Where did the food. The bedding and milk come from?’’
“Simple,’’ replied Vasishta. “My cow, Nandini, gives me anything I as’’.
“Thank you’’, replied Vasishta, “but I am not a cowherd. I can’t look after a thousand cows. I need her to look after me’’.
The king felt annoyed. “In my place she would look after many more people,’’ he said. “don’t selfish. If you give her to me, I will give you whatever you ask.’’.
“I don’t want anything’’, replied the sage. “ I lead a simple life. I want only my cow’’.
Vishvamitra was angry now. “Give me the cow, I say!’’ he shouted. “ Have you forgotten that I am the king?’’
“Even a king can’t have everything he wants,’’ replied the sage quietly.
The king turned to his men. “Take the cow!’’. He ordered.
But his men could not hold it. Then they tried to take the calf. They could not hold the calf either. Nandini became wild with anger and charged at them. They ran off as fast as they could.
Vishvamitra was furious. “I’ll teach this sage a lesson!’’. He thought. The next day he retuned with an army.
But waiting for him was another, even bigger army. It won the battle easily. Vishvamitra could not understand how a poor sage could defeat a king, so he went back to Vasishta and asked him.
“Well,’’ replied Vasishta, “Nandini helped me. But don’t ask for her again. You see, she could not help you. It’s true that she gives me whatever I ask, but then I have nothing myself. You have lands, money, servants, places, so she’ll give you nothing.’’