The Brahmana and the Crane (A story form the Shanti Parva of Mahabharata)
Grandfather Bhishma told Yudhisthira Maharaja the following story – Once there was a brahmana named Gautama who was extremely poor. One day he happened to meet Raja-dharma, the prince of the cranes who inquired about his welfare. Gautama replied that he was suffering due to acute poverty.
"Fear not," said the Crane. "The king of the Rakshasas (man-eating demons) is my close friend. Go and tell him that you are my friend and he will certainly help you."
Thus Gautama visited the Rakshasa city of Meruvraja and was brought in front of the king, Virupaksha.
The king was very happy when he heard that Gautama had been sent by his friend, the crane and he immediately asked how he could help him. After Gautama explained his situation, Virupaksha called his guards and told them to immediately prepare a large amount of gold and jewels for the brahmana to take with him.
With great joy Gautama left Meruvraja and returned with his treasure to that place where he had met Raja-dharma. Feeling great fatigue and hunger from carrying the great abundance of gold and gems, Gautama sat down beneath a tree. Not long after, the crane returned and seeing his friend weary from his toil, fanned him with his wings. Gautama began to think, "This treasure is so heavy and i still have a long way to travel before I get home. What will I eat?" Looking at his friend, the crane, that wicked brahmana thought, "This prince of cranes looks very large – he has plenty of meat on him. I shall kill him and eat his flesh!"
Raja-dharma had kindled a fire to keep his friend warm and as night fell, both the brahmana and the crane curled up next to the fire to sleep. Once the crane fell asleep, the evil Gautama grabbed him and thrust his head into the flames. That poor bird screamed and flapped around while the brahmana held his body tightly until finally Raja-dharma's body became limp. Plucking the feathers off the birds dead body, Gautama roasted his flesh and ate him.
Some days after, King Virupaksha told his son, "I have not seen our friend, the prince of cranes for a long time. The last time he was seen was when he was traveling to see the brahmana Gautama. I fear that something untoward has happened to him. Go and ascertain if that pure soul is still alive!"
When he arrived at the tree where Raja-dharma had been slain, the son of Virpaksha found the remains of that bird and with great speed, ran to the home of Gautama, seized him and dragged him back to his father at Meruvraja. The son of Virupaksha showed his father the remains of Raja-dharma and the king of the Rakshasas wept bitterly. "Let this wretch be killed! Let the Rakshasas happily feed on his flesh!"
However, the Rakshasas refused to eat Gautama. "O king, we cannot eat such a sinful and ungrateful rascal. Let him be given to the cannibals in the forest."
The angry Rakshasas happily hacked at Gautama's body with axes, lances, swords and maces until his body was broken into pieces, then they dragged his dead carcass into the forest and presented it to the cannibals to devour. However, when the forest cannibals heard from the Rakshasas about the brahmana's ingratitude, they also refused to eat him.
Bhishma concluded – For one who kills a brahmana, drinks alcohol, steals property or breaks a solemn vow, there are ways of atonement. But there is no atonement for an ungrateful person. Such an evil and vile wretch will not be eaten even by Rakshasas and cannibals. Indeed, not even worms will feast on his dead body.