The Emperor of Ayodhya, Dilipa had no issue. One day he, along with his wife went to the hermitage of Guru Vasişthaji and expressed earnestly their desire to be blessed for a son. The great sage Vasistha came to know the reason for his being deprived of son with his Yogic vision and said, ‘O the great king! When you were coming back from heaven to the earth after meeting Lord Indra, the king of gods, you failed to bow your head before Kamadhenu (the cow of plenty). Due to being in haste you could not be aware of the presence of the Kamadhenu. Kamadhenu has cursed you not to be blessed with any son until and unless you serve with devotion to her offspring. Emperor Dilīpa said-‘O Gurudeva! All the cows are the offspring of the cow of plenty. To serve a cow is a great virtuous act. I will serve cows with great devotion.” Vasisthaji pointed out-‘In my hermitage, the cow named Nandini is the daughter of Kamadhenu, devote yourself to her.’
The Emperor went to the forest following Nandini. He was standing with Nandini when she was standing, and when she moved, he followed. He paused to sit when she was sitting and he drank water after she had drunk water. He always remained vigilant not to allow even a fly or mosquito to sit on her body. He returned back with Nandini to the hermitage of the saint in the evening when she came back. The great queen Sudakṣiṇã was offering her worship to the cow daily in the morning and evening. She lit theearthen lamp beside her in the night and the great king lay down to sleep on the ground in the same cow-shade beside the cow. Thus, the Emperor Dilipa dedicated his services to Nandini for a month very attentively and diligently.
When one day, the devotional service of the Emperor was going to be completed, the Emperor’s mind was diverted in watching some beautiful flowers and in the meanwhile Nandini went onward. Within a few moments the pathetic lowing of the cow was heard. Rushing very fast when the Emperor reached there, he happened to see that near a cascade a giant lion had captured the cow under its paws. The great king stretched his bow with the arrow to kill the lion, he found that his right hand was stuck up in the quiver while taking the arrow out.
There was no bound of the great king’s astonishment. The lion spoke in the human language-O great king! I am not a common lion. I am the devotee of Lord Sankara please, don’t try to remain here and go away. It is not sin to give up the effort, if it is beyond the capacity to fulfil it. I am hungry. Fortunately, this cow has come to be available here. I will appease my hunger with this cow.
The Emperor urged very meekly-You are the devotee of Lord Sankara so, I bow my head before you. Only the instant conversation with noble persons and the instant company of such nobles, create friendship and closeness. As you have favored me to give your introduction, kindly now do favour me a bit more to be kind to release this cow and instead of this cow, please, appease your hunger by swallowing me.
The lion tried his best to convince the king that an Emperor should not give up his life for the sake of a cow. He can donate thousands of cows to his Guru and at the same time he can look after and protect even thousands of cows too; but the Emperor Dilipa was bent upon his words. He preferred to give up his own life to save the cow to be killed in his shelter. It was acceptable to him to sacrifice his own life to save the cow. At last, the lion accepted his proposal to release the cow, accepting him in her place. The stuck up hand of the king to the quiver was set free. He kept away the bow and quiver and handed over himself, bowing his head down before the lion.
The Emperor Dilipa was expecting that the lion would then jump over him in an endeavor to tear him. But the rain of flowers started showering from the sky instead. Nandini, then called upon him in the human language-‘0 great king! Now, be straight. There is no lion here. I have displayed this illusion to test you. Now, please, drink my milk after milking me in a leafy cup. A very worthy, glorious and ardent son will be blessed to you.’
The Emperor came in normal position. He bowed his head before the cow of plenty (Kamadhenu) and with folded hands said ‘O mother! First of all your offspring is entitled to have your milk, and then the Guru has right on the rest of the milk. I can dare to take a little of the milk after reaching the hermitage of the sage by his permission.”
Nandini too, was very much pleased by his devotion to Guru and great faith in piety. By the order of the Guruji. The great sage Maharşi Vasistha, the great Emperor, drank some milk of Nandini in the evening after coming back to hermitage.