Princes And Riddles
Many centuries ago, the ruler” of an ancient kingdom in North India was a king named Narendra, who had three sons, Pingala, Hitendra and Pramod. The sage king decided that his three sons should travel and learn more about the world.
So the three princes travelled through many kingdoms and eventually arrived at Pushpa, ruled by Queen Arati.
The capital city was such a delightful gem of architecture that the princes decided to stay there for several days. The following morning each of the princes went sightseeing in different directions.
The youngest brother, Pramod, made his way to the palace and was surprised to find the portrait of a beautiful girl fixed to a small doorway in one of the palace walls. When he looked closely, he discovered a message beneath the picture. It read. This is Princess Sarala, and whoever can correctly answer the riddles she poses may have her hand in marriage. But failing to give the correct answers will mean slavery for life. Anyone willing to offer himself for the test should ring the bell.’
This lovely girl’s portrait enamoured Pramod, and seeing a bell rope close to the picture, he promptly gave it a good tug.
Almost immediately, two slave women came through the door and beckoned the prince to follow them.
They led Pramod into one of the staterooms, and seating him on a carpet, the women produced a gold tray, on which were placed three rose buds. Putting the tray in front of Pramod, one of the women announced. “Now, sire, you must answer this riddle.”
Poor Pramod was at a loss for an answer. He tried one or two bold guesses, but the women shook their heads. In the end, he had to admit defeat. Immediately two guards appeared and hustled Pramod away to serve as an enslaved person.
That evening the eldest brother Pingala, waited in vain for his two brothers to return. After a sleepless night, he found them the following morning.
Eventually, Pingala came to the palace, and when he saw the girl’s portrait, he thought it would be just like his adventurous brothers to try their luck in such a mad venture. Seeing a guard close by, he enquired if, by chance, the guard had seen either of his brothers.
“Someone such as you describe was here yesterday,” rep- plied the guard. “He thought he was clever enough to win the princess. But he is now an enslaved person in the Queen’s household.”
Pingala was sure that this unfortunate enslaved person must be one of his brothers, and he resolved he would answer a dozen riddles to obtain his brother’s release.
Being cautious by nature, he decided to confer with the wise men of the city on the subject of riddles. Most of the scholars he met had little knowledge of puzzles, but then he met an old bearded patriarch who produced an ancient volume on mysteries written by a Buddhist monk. Pingala spent hours poring over the book and, when satisfied with his findings, made haste to the palace and gave a bell a good ring.
He promptly answered when the gold tray with the three buds was put before him. ‘I am a Khastriya prince.”
It was the correct answer. Then he was given more riddles to solve, which he did without hesitation.
Now the women beckoned Pingala to follow them, and they took him through endless great rooms till they came to a lavishly decorated hall, and there, seated on a golden throne, was a woman of unsurpassed beauty.
“Come closer,” she said, “and let me see the prince I am destined to wed.”
“But you are not the lady of the portrait,” Pingala said with a perplexed frown. “I admit you are more beautiful than Princess Sarala. So tell me, is this yet another riddle?”
“This is no riddle. I am Queen Arati, and I did not want everyone to know my quest for a husband, so I used the portrait of Sarala, my maid of honour. Are you so disappointed?”
Pingala gazed in wonder at the beautiful Queen. ‘I vow to be worthy of you,” he proclaimed. “But first, I fear one of my brothers is enslaved in your household. I crave that he be set free.”
“You are wrong,” the Queen said with a smile. “When I discovered your brother’s noble birth, I agreed he should marry my maid Sarala.”
Soon the two brothers were united, but where was the other brother?
Prince Hithendra had idly walked through the streets of the city until suddenly. He was accosted by a richly garbed merchant who embraced him like an old friend.
“Come with me,” implored the merchant. “You must marry my daughter. The wedding ceremony is all arranged, so let us hurry.”
The prince thought the man was crazy but decided to humour him for it sounded all very unusual.
The merchant grasped Hitendra by the arm and dragged him along the street into a large mansion. When they got inside, they were greeted by the merchant’s daughter, a lovely girl named Vandana.
Prince Hitendra was still unable to understand what it was all about, but after several promptings, the merchant told his story.
“My name is Kamaleswar,” he explained. “And for years, I have planned for a suitable marriage for my daughter. Then I arranged for her to marry the son of a merchant who lives on the Island of Nabadvip, and the wedding ceremony will take place tomorrow. But it is feared that the bridegroom and his family have been lost at sea. So please say you will marry my daughter.”
It certainly was an unusual proposal, but the girl was so lovely, Hitendra did not need much persuasion, and so, on the following morning, the young couple were married.
A week passed when to the amazement and chagrin of everyone, the would-be bridegroom and his family arrived at the merchant’s house. When they heard the girl had married someone else, the would-be groom and his family raged and shouted. The father demanded that this outrageous affair be brought to the notice of the Queen so that the marriage could be annulled.
And so everyone trooped off to the palace to hear what the Queen would decide.
When they stood in front of Her Majesty, Prince Pingala, her consort, was glad to see his brother again and was all smiles as he listened to the story of the unusual wedding.
The Queen listened to what everyone had to say and turned to Prince Pingala. “This case is beyond me, so you must make a wise decision.”
Pingala announced that by law, the marriage must be held valid, but the bride’s father should pay all the expenses incurred by the family of the would-be groom.
So, in the end, the three princes were all happily married.