Many years ago, Amaravati was ruled over by King Vikram. As he was a wise king, he did not believe all his flattering courtiers told him. He wanted to find out the views of the people he ruled over. To do this, he would dress himself up as a pedlar, a sadhu, or a musician and wander about his kingdom, unknown to anyone. He especially loved to play the flute, and his playing was so good that it earned him many a meal and some money from good people who were pleased with his music. At the same time, the king also learnt what his people thought about him and how he ruled.
One day the king was walking through a wood in disguise, as usual. He heard someone playing on a flute. The playing was amateurish but had native magic about it. Vikram went in the direction of the music and found a goatherd sit- ting on a rock playing away. The king quietly sat down and waited for him to finish his tune. Then he went up to the lad and marvelled at his handsome face and body.
“Son,” said Vikram, “if you come with me to Amaravati, I will give you good food, fine clothes and a good job.”
The boy who loved adventure readily agreed to go with the king.
Vikram ordered that the goatherd, Sambu, be lodged in his palace and given good food, clothing and schooling. The quick-witted boy surprised his teachers with his rapid progress in his studies. He was delighted when they sent his progress reports to the king.
After his schooling, Sambu went on a vacation to his village. He walked along the old forest paths and up and down the hillsides playing on his flute. When his friends asked him about life at court, Sambu would reply, “Friends, there is nothing like being a goatherd.” But his friends thought that Sambu was kidding them.
After his vacation was over, Sambu returned to Amaravati. It so happened that the post of the king’s treasurer had fallen: vacant whilst he was away. The king immediately appointed Sumbu to the position. Sambu was so hardworking and methodical in his work that Vikram was incredibly pleased with him.
After some time, the king died, and his son, Manoj, came to the throne. The king’s officers had always been jealous of the goatherd who had become treasurer, and now that he was friendless, on account of the old king’s death, they waited for an opportunity to do him an ill-turn. They carried tules about the young treasurer to the new king,
Manoj could not ignore the warnings of his aged officers. He wanted to find out the truth of the charges against his treasurer.
The conspirators approached the king, “Your Majesty, ask the treasurer to show you the diamond-studded sword that your great-grandfather had made.” The king commanded his treasurer to bring the sword to him. Sambu did as he was ordered. “Many victories to your Majesty,” said Sambu, “the diamonds on the hilt of the sword were used in making some jewels for her majesty, the Queen Mother, upon the orders given by his Majesty, your father.”
It was easy for Sambu to produce records of the transaction.
The king turned to the conspirators and said, “Sambu seems to be an honest man.” The Chief Minister said, “one last request, your Majesty. Let there be a stocktaking of the contents of the treasury at once. It is the practice to have a stocktaking done every time a new king comes to the throne.” There followed a thorough stocktaking of the contents of the treasury. Sambu was such a careful treasurer that everything was in perfect order. The king was incredibly pleased with his treasurer.
As the party was leaving the treasury, one of the king’s officers drew the king’s attention to a closed iron door in the wall, which had not been opened.
“Treasurer, what is in that recess in the wall? Why have not these things been accounted for?” demanded the king.
“Your Majesty, Sambu replied, “They are my treasures.”
The king thought his officers were correct and that the treasurer must be a thief and a liar. At the king’s command, the iron door in the wall was opened. What was the treasure hidden there? What was the prize that Sambu owned and had kept there?
They were his old black shepherd’s woollen rug, a pair of sandals, and the bamboo flute, which he had not had the time to play upon after coming to court.
“Your Majesty, when I was brought here by your noble father, I had nothing but these things. They were all my earthly possessions. What happiness they gave me! Happiness I no longer know. The old goatherd Sambu is dead beyond recall!” The king was ashamed of his suspicions. He promoted Sambu for his perfect honesty. He made him one of his Ministers.
Sambu became a bosom friend of the king. Just like he had been to the king’s father