A hand is odorned with daanam rather than with kankanaas. Daanam must be done expecting absolutely nothing in return, admiring the greatness of the dana-grahita, for giving the daata an opportunity to help the grahita. Stories of great Daatas are huge in number in our Indian history, who gave away everything they had. King Rantideva is well known not only in Bhuloka, but also in the urdhva lokas for his daana gunam.
Rantideva never endeavored to earn anything for himself. He would enjoy whatever he got by vidhi and when atithis came he would give them what they needed. He gave away everything he had to the poor and underwent considerable suffering, along with the members of his family.
Finally, he and his family members did not even get food and water, yet Rantideva always was always satisfied — a sthita pragnya. One morning, after fasting for forty-eight days, Rantideva received some water and some paramaannam (paayasam with rice, milk and ghee). Just when about to eat them, a brahmana atithi arrived. Because Rantideva perceived the presence of the Paramaatma everywhere, and in every living entity, he received the atithi with faith and respect and gave him a share of the paramaannam. The brahmana ate his share and left the place satisfied.
Thereafter, having divided the remaining paramaannam with his family, Rantideva was just about to eat his own share when another atithi, a shudra arrived. Seeing the shudra in relationship with the Purushottama, King Rantideva gave him also a share of the paramaannam. When the shudra went away, another atithi arrived, surrounded by dogs, and said, “O King, I and my company of dogs are very hungry. Please give us something to eat.” With great respect, King Rantideva offered the balance of the paramaannam to the dogs and the master of the dogs, who had come as atithis.
Thereafter, only the drinking water remained, and there was only enough to satisfy one person, but when the King was just about to drink it, a chandaala appeared and said, “O King, although I am lowborn, kindly give me some drinking water.” Aggrieved at hearing the pitiable words of the poor fatigued chandaala, Rantideva spoke the following madhura vaakyas. “I do not pray to the Lord for the ashta siddhis, nor for vimukti from samsaara saagaram. I want to stay among all the living entities and suffer all distresses on their behalf, so that they may be freed from suffering.
By offering my water to maintain the life of this poor chandaala, who is struggling to live, I have been freed from all hunger, thirst, fatigue, trembling of the body, moroseness, distress, lamentation and illusion”. The trimurtis appeared before Rantideva, satisfied by his daatrutvam and bless him. They revealed that they had come in the forms of the brahmana, shudra and chandaala in order to test his karuna, daya and daatrutvam.