Mortal Enemies

Ugra-Bhat was the king of Radha. Manorama was his queen. They were a thrilled and loving couple.

One day a troupe of performers from a distant place came to Radha and gave a show before the king. The theme was Samudra-madhan”. The Angels and the Demons churned the Ocean of Milk for the Nectar of Immortality. When they got it, they began to quarrel about how they should share it. Then Lord Vishnu turned himself into a divinely beautiful woman called Mohini and fooled the Demons. The part of Mohini was played by the daughter of the leader of the troupe, an enchanting girl named Lasya-vati. The king was so impressed by the beauty and talent of the girl that he wanted to marry her. Her father considered this great luck and agreed to the marriage. Soon the actress Lasya-vati became the wife of the ruler.

Over time, the king had two sons, one by the elder queen Manorama and the other by Lasya-vati. Manorama’s son was named Bhim-Bhat, and Lasya-Vati’s son Samar-Bhat. Bhim-Bhat was the elder of the two.

As the boys grew up, Bhim-Bhat was always found to excel his younger brother in everything. So Samar-bhat developed jealousy towards his elder brother. One day they were wrestling, and Samar-Bhat intentionally hit his brother on the throat. Bhim-Bhat got so angry that he gave Samar-Bhat a severe knocking. Samar-Bhat fell, bleeding from his nose and mouth. His friends took him to his mother.

Lasya-Vati was terrified at the sight of her bleeding son and began to weep. The king came to her and learnt what had happened.

“Bhim never misses an opportunity to punish my son,” she told the king. “Only, I didn’t want to tell you. I’m afraid that one day he will kill my boy!”

The king was very fond of his young wife and her son. He could not bear to see her in tears. He sent for his elder son and told him that he must leave the palace at once and live somewhere else.

Queen Manorama was in tears when she heard this news. “My son,” she said to Bhim-Bhat, “This country is not safe for you. Nor is it necessary that you should take shelter under unknown roofs. Go to Patna and live with your grandfather. He has no sons and will be very nice to you.”

“What are you saying, mother?” Bhim-Bhat said in great heat. “Do you want me to run away from my own country for fear of this Samar-bhat? I am no milksop. He can do nothing to me, have no fear.”

“All right, son,” Manorama said to him. “You can have from me as much money as you want to engage guards to protect you and keep you company.”

“No, Mother,” Bhim-Bhat replied. “If I do that, I shall be considered to keep a private army in defiance of the king.”

The ordinary people blamed the king for banishing his elder son from the palace. They had a shallow opinion of the king’s second son. They collected funds and provided Bhim-bhat with a decent house and several servants.

Though Bhim-bhat had the people behind him, Samar-bhat had the king himself to support him. With this knowledge, he made several attempts to have Bhim-Bhat killed. A Brahman youth named Sankh-Dutt resented these attempts.

This Sankh-Dutt was of the same age as the princes. Though a Brahman, he was courageous. He was a friend of both princes. So, one day, he went to see Samar- bhat and said to him. “Why do you carry on this feud with your brother? You can never rival him. You only earn a bad name by your attempts to harm him.”

Instead of carefully considering this advice, Samar-bhat became nasty towards his friend and called him bad names.

“I’ve tried to give you sound advice as your friend,” Sankh-Dutt replied. “But you insult me. You insist upon looking at your brother as your mortal enemy. Well, in that case, consider me as an equally mortal enemy. I warn you; you’ll rue it.” away. Then Sankh-Dutt went

Some days later, a merchant brought a fine horse for sale in the city. Sankh-Dutt came to know of it and settled the deal with his friend Bhim-Bhat. Later Samar-Bhat went to the merchant with his cronies and said, “I shall pay you double what the other man is paying. Give me the horse.”

“Sir,” replied the merchant, “I cannot ignore the ethics of my trade. I’ve already agreed to sell it, and I can’t go back upon my word for the sake of more money.”

“You are ethical, are you?” said Samar-bhat venomously. Then he turned to his friends and said, “What are you waiting for? Seize the horse!”

The gang forcefully got possession of the horse and departed. Bhim-Bhat and Sankh-Dutt came to know of this atrocity. They confronted the gang of robbers and bullies with drawn swords and had a terrible fight ensured. All the accomplices of Samar-bhat were killed in the battle, and Samar-bhat himself took to his heels. But Sankh-Dutt ran after him and caught him by the hair. As he lifted his sword to sever his head, Bhim-Bhat said sarcastically, “Don’t kill him! What will happen to his father if he dies?” Samar-bhat thus escaped with his life.

He went to his father straight- away and told him that Bhim-Bhat attacked and killed his friends, even tried to kill him and finally robbed him of the horse he had bought.

Manorama came to know about the charge made by Samar-bhat against his son. She called a Brahman aside, gave him a pot filled with precious stones and said to him. “Kind Brahman, deliver this to my son. Tell him he should leave the city tonight, at least for my sake. Let him go to my father’s place. If he is seen here tomorrow, he will surely be put to death. Let him use this wealth to wreak his vengeance.”

According to his mother’s injunction, Bhim-Bhat left the city that night, mounted on his horse and taking the pot of precious stones with him. Sankh-Dutt, his sworn companion, accompanied him on another horse.

By the following noon, they entered a bushland infested with lions. As they dashed through the bush on their horses, some lions sleeping in the bushes woke up, frightened by the noise, and attacked them. Both the young men fought bravely and managed to slay the lions, but they lost their horses, which the lions severely mauled.

Now they had to go on foot along the thorny paths. It would be dark soon, and they might meet other lions. Under such conditions, they walked the whole night and arrived at the banks of the Ganges by morning.

The river was in flood. There was no soul in sight nor means of crossing the river either. They walked along the bank till they came to a lonely cottage. There they saw a young man living in it all by himself. This youth had spent all his boyhood at Banaras in studies, and when he had returned to his native place, he had found all his relatives dead. He wished to marry, but he was so impoverished that he could not find a wife. Disgusted with life, he built a cottage and engaged himself in penance,

Having heard his story, Bhim-Bhat gave him the pot of precious stones and said, “Take this, my friend. It is only a deadweight for me. Marry and be happy with this wealth.”

Then the two friends boldly started to swim across the river. But the powerful current pulled them along with it. Bhim-bhat drifted with the wind for a long time before he made the other bank of the river, and then there was no trace of Sankh-dutt to be seen. Bhim-Bhat walked down the river in search of his friend till he reached the kingdom of Lalat.

Bhim-Bhat entered Lalat in a destitute condition. He had lost his country, horse, money, and even his bosom friend. Walking along a street, he saw a few men engaged in gambling. He offered to participate in the game, and the others agreed, hoping to fleece him. But it was Bhim-Bhat who cheated the others. The gamblers, having lost all they had, rose to go. But Bhim-Bhat stood in their way and said, “Friends, I am no professional gambler. Take back your money before you go.”

“Then,” said they, “why on earth did you gamble with us?”

“To have your friendship,” Bhim-Bhat replied. “You see, I’ve no one in the world.” The gamblers were glad to hear these words. They swore life-long friendships with Bhim-bhat.

After some time there occurred the annual celebrations of the Vasuki festival. Bhim-Bhat roamed the city with his friends, seeing the crowds and the festivities. At one place, he saw a lovely girl, learnt that she was the princess of Lalat, and wanted to marry her.

The friends dressed Bhim-Bhat in gorgeous, princely clothes. They put on wealthy courtiers’ dresses and took them to the king. On learning that Bhim-Bhat was the crown prince of Radha, the king of Lalat promptly agreed to give his daughter in marriage to him. Soon the marriage was celebrated.

Meanwhile, Sankh-dutt also managed to swim across the Ganges and kept searching for his friend. The news of the marriage of the princess of Lalat told him that Bhim-Bhat was at Lalat. Bhim-Bhat was ever so glad to see his long-lost friend again.

The king of Lalat had two daughters but no sons. So, Bhim-Bhat became the would-be ruler of Lalat.

Over time, it was learnt that Ugra-Bhat, the king of Radha, was dead, and Samar-bhat crowned himself king of Radha. Bhim-Bhat sent a message to him saying, “Unworthy wretch! I demand that you yield the throne to me, the rightful owner, or be prepared for war.”

Samar-bhat chose war. Bhim-Bhat called his friends and said, “Friends, I depend upon you to assist me in prosecuting this war.” They went among the people of Lalat and enlisted soldier volunteers on a large scale, and with this army, Bhim-Bhat marched upon Radha.

There was a fierce battle. The two brothers, mortal enemies, met each other in a fight. They deprived each other of their vehicles, mounts and bows. Finally, they flew at each other with drawn swords as though they were a couple of ordinary soldiers. So Bhim-bhat knocked the sword out of Samar- bhat’s hand. He placed the point of his sword against Samar-bhat’s heart, and the latter began to shake with fear of death.

“Fear not, coward!” said Bhim-bhat. “If you die, what should happen to your dear mother who brought you up with such care and consideration? Go back to her alive.”

Bhim-Bhat now got the throne which was legally his. He honoured his friend, Sankh-Dutt, who led his armies to battle, and his friends, who helped him to win the fight. He arranged the marriage between Sankh-Dutt and the second daughter of the king of Lalat and gifted him with the throne of Lalat.

Samar-bhat could not live on an allowance where he had once ruled. So he went away to his uncles along with his mother.

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