Ranthideva was a king who belonged to the lunar dynasty. He performed many Yagas and also had compassion towards humans. He is referred in Srimad Bhagavatham and Mahabharatham.
He conducted many Yagas, paid the Brahmins and engaged himself in giving charity. He donated without saying 'no' to people who came for help. He almost lost all his wealth due to his generosity.
Lord Vishnu played a divine game. He made the kingdom to face famine. But still, he didn't stop giving charity. Finally, he reached a stage that he and his family couldn't afford to buy even porridge. Ranthideva, who was used to only giving, even at this stage, didn't extend his hand for begging. He and his family didn't eat for 48 days. News spread all over his kingdom that their king has not eaten anything for 48 days. Someone from his kingdom, with compassion towards the king, gave wheat porridge and water for him and his family to consume on the 49th day. The stomach which was dry for 48 days, was excited on seeing the porridge. He and his family members were about to consume the porridge when a Brahmin came there- "Bhiksham Dehi"(பிக்ஷாம் தேஹி). His stomach was longing for a just a handful of food. He saw the Brahmin as Lord Narayana himself. He and his family members gave some amount of food from their share to the Brahmin. The Brahmin was satisfied and returned to his place. Another beggar from the 4th caste, came in. Again, everybody gave him some amount of porridge from their share and he went back, satisfied. His family members drank the remaining porridge. Ranti Deva alone was lost in deep thoughts and was happy to see that Lord Narayana had sent 2 people to Ranti Deva who needed help at the right time before he completed drinking the porridge.
He then decided to eat the left porridge. At that time, he heard another begging sound. It was a hunter with dogs who was begging for food. The hunter, the dogs seemed as Lord Narayana to the king. He thought this as a service to Lord Vishnu himself. Without even a bit hesitation, he gave his share of porridge left. He then prostrated before the hunter and the dogs just as the Vedas say "Salutations to the dogs, Salutations to the master of the dogs". Lord Rudra is referred as the master of the dogs in the Vedas.
The only left over thing to consume was water. He thought at least he could live with a little bit of water. Again, when he tried to drink the water, a man came with thirst and asked him for some water. Then there are 2 slokas given in Bhagavatham, which was said by Ranti Deva. Both are 2 gems.
ந காமயே (அ) ஹம் கதிம் ஈஸ்வராத் பராம்
அஷ்டர்த்தி யுக்தாம் அபுநர்பவம் வா
ஆர்த்திம் ப்ரபத்யே (அ) கில தேஹ பாஜாம்
அந்தஸ்திதோ யேன பவந்த்யது:கா: ||
Na Kaamaye (A) Ham Gathim Ishvaraat Paraam
Ashtartthi Yuktaam Apunarbhavam Vaa
Aarthim Prapathye (A) Kila Deha Baajaam
Antha Sthitho Yena Bhavanthyathu:Ka: ||
Ashtarthi(அஷ்டர்த்தி) means 8 Siddhis. With these 8 Siddhis, one can rule the world. He says, "I don't pray for these 8 Siddhis, I even don't want Mukti(Salvation). I want to enter the minds of insects, animals and other living beings and experience their difficulties. It is the power to acquire and experience the difficulties of living beings, by which other living beings become free from difficulties, I ask from you".
We all pray for happiness and comfort. But, Ranti Deva prays for the power to experience living beings' difficulties so that it becomes happy and comfortable. He says another sloka.
க்ஷூத்-த்ருட்-ச்ரமோ காத்ர பரிப்ரமச்ச
தைன்யம் க்லம:சோக விஷாத மோஹா: |
ஸர்வே நிவ்ருத்தா: க்ருபணஸ்ய ஜந்தோ:
ஜிஜீவிஷோ ஜீவ ஜலார்ப்பணாத் மே ||
Kshood Drut Sramo Gaatra Paripramaccha
Dainyam Ksama:Shoka Vishaada Mohaa: |
Sarve Nivruttha: Krupanasya Jantho:
Jijeevisho Jiva Jalaarpanaat Me ||
He says "Let the water I offer as charity, make helpless beings which likes and wants to live, free from hunger, thirst, all kinds of diseases, depression, dejection".
But, will all the living beings be free from difficulties by giving water, that too just to one person?
The washed utensil in the Pandavas' home, which had a little bit of spinach, when eaten by Lord Krishna, fulfilled the hunger of Durvasa and his 14000 disciples. Ranti Deva thought the beggar as Lord Narayana himself. This thought is very important.
The next moment, the Brahmin, the beggar from 4th caste, the hunter, the Pulayar, showed him their real form of Vishnu Dootaas. He prostrated before them and went to meditation of Lord Narayana.
Generally, during divine discourses, orators conclude with a happy and auspicious ending to the story. For example, if the orator delivers about Mahabharata, they end with Yudhishthira Pattabhishekam, or if Ramayana, they end with Rama Pattabhishekam or Sita Kalyanam. The Bhagavatha ends the story of Dhruva and Prahlada with Dhruva Pattabhishekam and Prahlada Pattabhishekam. But why this story alone ends with Ranthideva getting Darshan of Vishnudoothas but doesn't say that the famine went away and the king led a peaceful life? Sri Periyava says that Ranthi Deva's story alone completes in this way to make us remember his great sacrifice.
Anyway, happiness is not everlasting in this world. The happiness we think -Pattabhishekam, Marriage are not permanent happiness. The real happiness is attaining the Lord. If we see in this way, Ranthi Deva's story had the real auspicious end.