Atithi Devo Bhava - Guest is God - Story of Kapota pakshis (Dove birds)
The hunter once went on a hunt. He killed many praanis nand pakshis and some he put in his panjaram. He had penetrated so far inside the aranyam that he was far from his gruham. It became raatri and also started to varsham. Hungry and thirsty, the hunter lost his way. He climbed up a vruksham and decided to spend the raatri there. But his mind kept going back to his ardhangini and shishus at his gruham.
For many years a dove and its kutumbam had lived happily on that vruksham. Both the purusha and the stree pakshis had gone out to look for aahaaram. But although the purusha dove had returned to the nest, the stree dove had not. In fact, the stree had been captured by the hunter and was now inside a panjaram. The male did not know this. He mourned for his wife.
These words of mourning were heard by the stree dove inside the panjaram and she made her presence felt. The purusha dove came down and discovered his wife inside the panjaram. The hunter is in nidram now, he said. Now is the time for me to free you.
No, replied the stree dove. You know how it is with jeevitam praani (living beings). One jeevitam praani lives on another. I can find no dosham with the hunter, he is merely collecting his aahaaram. He is like a atithi to us. And it is our kartavyam to offer up our bodies for the sake of an atithi.
You are quite right, said the male dove. I lost my sense of propriety. We have to serve our atithi. But how do we serve our guest? We have nothing that we can call our own.
At the moment the hunter is suffering most from the shitam (cold), replied the stree dove. We have to light a fire to warm him up. Go and find a fire and bring plenty of dead leaves and branches so that the fire may burn.
The purusha dove found a flaming branch. He also brought many dry leaves and branches so that the fire could burn. The rain had stopped and the fire warmed the hunter.
Now , said the stree dove, Free me so that I may do sajeeva dahanam myself in the agni. My roasted maamsam can be served as aahaaram for the hunter.
Never, replied the purusha dove. It is my right to serve the atithi first.
Saying this, the purusha dove hurled himself into the agni. The hunter had heard the entire sambhashanam and got aishcharyam that two doves could be so paropakaari. The stree dove now requested the hunter to free her from the panjaram. And as soon as he did this, the female dove also hurled herself into the agni.
This nishswarta buddhi of the two doves was so adhbhutam that a vimaanam came down to take the two doves straight to swargam. The cruel hunter was also impressed and repented with pashchataapam. He told the doves, You are indeed poojyam. Before you go to swargam, please tell me how I may perform tapasya for my kruratvam.
Go to Goutami Ganga (Godaavari river) and take snanam there for fifteen days, replied the doves. Your paapam will also be forgiven.
The hunter did as he had been asked to. The place where the doves immolated themselves became a holy tirtha known as kapota tirtham, since the word kapota means dove. (This story is taken from Brahma Purana).
PS: That's why in Bharatiya Samskruti we give atithi so importance in our lives. We need to do our best to them, otherwise Bhagavan also will be unhappy towards us.
OM NAMO NARAYANAYA