An ancient tale from Kathasaritasagar
In ancient times, Ujayani was one of the most beautiful and holy towns. Moreover, people thought it as the abode of gods and goddesses where human beings with extra-terrestrial powers lived. The people of the town immersed the ashes of the dead in the holy river and so, considered it the last destination of man on earth. These thoughts ruled the psyche of men. It had huge and tall buildings with a white sheet over the entire town as if. It was clear and sacred white like the snow-clad mountain Kailasa. At times, people felt delighted at the thought that Shiva lived in the divine town.
At that time, a very courageous and a man of virtues also, King Vikrama governed it. Once, he went for hunting to the jungle on the advice of a wise minister Amarsingha. When he was outside the town near a deserted temple, he found two persons were talking in a hush-hush manner. They almost whispered. For a while, the king was quite surprised and thought over the conduct of the men and the conduct of men filled suspicions in the mind of the king but after a little thought, he ignored and went ahead. For, he thought, it was not expected of a king to meddle in the private affairs of men. If they were engaged in secret gossips, it was the private areas of life and a king did not enjoy the right to intervene or even to enquire. Thus, he thought better to move away.
After a long time, when he returned with the kill along with the attendants, he reached the same place, for he had not changed the path. He was astonished that the same persons were engaged in talks in low and soft voice and thus, the whole happening appeared distrustful. What did they talk about he whispered. Each appeared inscrutable and edgy at times, he observed. He deliberated for some time and then, thought it appropriate to find out the reasons of the secret meeting, which consumed a long time. It could be some conspiracy against anyone he thought.
Now, the king asked the attendants to put the men in chains and produce in the court. Next day, the soldiers brought the persons to the court when the king sat with the ministers and wise men of the kingdom.
The king asked, “Who are you? And what kind of talks you had?” The questions filled fears in the minds and so, they requested the king to forgive.
After sometime, one man said, “O king, once upon a time, a brahmin Karbhak lived in the town. He was an authority on Vedas. He nursed a burning desire to have a brave son, and therefore, for a long time, he underwent a severe tapa and meditated on the lord of Fire (Agni dev). Agni dev blessed the learned man. I am son of Karbhak. Parents expired when I was a child. I studied for some time and later on, I was involved in betting and along with it, I also learnt the skill and art of using weapons. I grew up in freedom and none exercised any restraint. The gurus failed to exercise control. I failed to ascertain what was right and what was wrong at that point of time I realize now. Therefore, just for pleasure, I hanged around in excitement and madness of strength I had. I wandered around without reason. It was dissipation of time and vigour.”
The physical strength nearly intoxicated and turned me mad. I wielded power once when I went to the forest for hunting. On the way, I met a marriage party. It was returning home. The people were enjoying. The bride was sitting on a chariot, and the persons of the marriage party had surrounded the bride. I stopped to witness the beauty and grandeur of the cheerful gathering and merriments. Suddenly, an elephant broke its chains and rushed towards the crowd and then it hurried towards the chariot of the bride. The elephant was uncontainable. I observed the terrific force and fanatically terrifying roars of the elephant. The men of the party and the bridegroom ran away to save lives and left the bride. I was very angry at the act of cowardice.”
He continued, “The elephant appeared to destroy the chariot of the helpless bride. I intervened and challenged the elephant. The huge animal left the chariot and rushed to crush me. I thought prudent to run away and so the elephant chased me. On the way, I hid behind the tree of rich and dense branches. Afterwards, I kept one of the broken branches on the way of the elephant and disappeared in the thick grove of trees. The mad elephant went ahead after it crushed the branch under the feet. For now, I returned to the place and asked the bride whether she was all right. Naturally, she appeared quite nervous as fears and insecurity haunted.
“Who are you O fair lady?” I tried to assure. That girl appeared worried and angry, for the people run away and more so, the husband, who was supposed to protect had disappeared.
“What does it mean? I am married to a coward. Yes, the fact remains that I find you unhurt. That coward cannot be my husband. You saved me from a grave danger, so I consider you my lord and everything. You follow the chariot and the journey of the party, which swells as the men of the party gather up again. They appear useless and I have nothing to do with this kind of marriage. Therefore, O man, I hold unusual thoughts. At the appropriate time, it is safe to escape as I told you that you are my husband.”
He continued to relate the incident in detail and it appeared quite interesting and meaningful. No one spoke for a few minutes.
He looked around the great men of the court and then, took a long breath. He told what he experienced. He continued to tell what happened and the king heard and did not interrupt.
He said again, “I agreed to what she suggested. After some time, her husband and the men of the marriage party, returned. The people joined the party and walked ahead. I continued to follow the party but nobody noticed me. I found that the bride did not permit her man to come near and appeared visibly upset and angry. It was quite natural. She continuously expressed annoyance and displeasure at the conduct of the man.
After a short pause, he said, “Now, I found, she had lost interest. I continued to accompany the chariot. The journey gave joy and delight, which most of the people had forgotten. At times, the unpleasant and lethal incident disturbed the people. Very soon, we reached Lohnagar, where the parents-in-law of the girl lived. I stayed in a temple outside the town. Still, fortunately, none in the marriage party was able to recognize me. At that place, I found a friend, who is with me. Within no time, we were fast friends. I told him everything that occurred and he disclosed whatever he had in mind.
We were frank and true and did not keep any secret about life. I also told that she did not want to live with a coward and had accepted me as her man. When the secrets were no longer secrets, I learnt that he had a love affair with the sister-in-law of the bride. He knew the facts and now, assured that he would help and so, we ought to work in the interest of each other to achieve the objective ultimately.” The man continued to relate the incidents, which took place and the amount of difficulties he confronted. The king listened to the man attentively and apparently, he seemed to evince interest and began to believe what he told.
He observed the expressions on the face of the king and noticed that the lord was quite amenable to what he said.
He said again, “Next day, the bride of the town, along with the sister-in-law came to the temple where we stayed and concealed identity. As sister-in-law entered the temple, she gave the dress of the new bride to my friend to disguise in woman’s attire and took him away with her. The bride now, put on the clothes of my friend and so, I came out of the temple with her and started the journey back to Ujayani. On the other hand, celebrations had not ended. When the people enjoyed drinks, danced madly and sang songs at night, they did not know what had happened around. They appeared nearly mad, as they had consumed lot of liquor. When my friend found appropriate time, he ran away with the beloved and joined us in Ujayani as planned and decided.”
He finished the tale that had many twists. Finally, they united with the beloveds. Now, he looked at the king, who still, did not utter a word.
After a pause, he said, “O king, I told you everything. We did it because we wanted union with the beloveds, who have close relations. They are sisters-in-law. They are here. We are in the look out of a suitable place to stay, live and earn livelihood. As we escaped with the girls, it is quite likely that relatives must be in the look out of the women. Therefore, it is also important to save lives from any danger. Our fears from the relations of wives haunt. I told you everything. This is what we did. Now, we are before you, O king. Forgive or you may act…as you think proper.”
The king was happy when he heard the truth. He thought for a few moments and thereafter, said, “Don’t fear, I tell soldiers to arrange a good place to live where you stay. I’d give you suitable work.”
The king told the queen, “If a man is courageous, he progresses in life and if he is lethargic, passive and a coward, he reaches nowhere but fails in life.” He looked at the two friends.
He said, “A man is rewarded or punished as per karmas. I feel it is because of noble karmas that some unknown holy living being like a god has found a place in your womb. You are going to be blessed with a holy and great child.” He said happily.
After sometime, queen Taradatta gave birth to a divine girl. King Kalingdatta needed a son. Therefore, when he heard the news of a baby girl, he was disheartened. He was so upset that he refused to see the face of the newly born daughter.
A revered old brahmin of the royal family knew the mental stress the king underwent and therefore, came and said, “O king, a girl is better than a son. She is worried about the well-being of the family on earth, and beyond the world. What do you say of sons? For the love of wealth and kingdom, they do not mind if they stab or hurt father dangerously.”
The wise brahmin pacified the injured psyche of the king. He understood what the brahmin told. It was truth of life that sons are callous and indifferent while daughters exhibit concern and anxiety about the happiness and welfare of parents.
Later on, the girl Kalingsena got affection and love of parents. Now, the palace was full of the child’s playful acts. Her cries, smiles, loud words, frolicking around, jumping, little acts of mischief and running about and laughing brought joy and light to the palace. The tiny princess killed the boredom and dullness. She brought smiles and cheers. The nature of Kalingsena charmed everyone. As she grew up, she unhesitatingly entered all the places and corners of the large palace. Once, she played on the top floor of the palace when Somprabha, who flew in the sky and noticed Kalingsena. Somprabha was the daughter of Mayasura. She was attracted towards the beautiful princess and thought to befriend. She became invisible and landed on the roof of the palace and then, converted to a human figure, and appeared before the princess.
The princess was very happy to see Somprahba and soon they began to talk to each other as if they were old friends lost to each other ages back. While they sweetly talked, they held each other hands. After a pause, the princess asked, “You did not tell anything. What is your name and parentage? Where do you live?”
Somprabha said, “I will tell you everything. You are a princess. You belong to a great dynasty. I doubt if I shall be able to sustain the relation. If you are angry sometime, what shall I do? It is difficult to carry on ties with a royal family.” She told in a matter of fact manner. No one found anything wrong. It is universal truth that relations are possible among the equals and if relations among the unequal exist such a human link anywhere needs daily scrutiny and evaluation. The moment doubts crop up, it is better to ignore and disappear from the scene.