Shiva and Madhava

In the city of Ratnapura, there were two young friends called Shiva and Madhava. They had heard that the King of Ujjain had a purohit called Shankara swami, who amassed wealth and concealed it underground. They wanted to get it.

Shiva arrived in Ujjain first. He was disguised as a Brahman bachelor. He entered math on the banks of the Sipra. His entire property consisted of a begging bowl and a deer skin. Shiva would smear his whole body with mud, bathe in the river and stand on his head for a while facing the sun. Then he would go to the temple of Lord Shiva and worship the god with pure white flowers. He would only beg for food at three doors past noon, divide it into three equal parts, throw one piece to the birds, give one leg to the hungry, and eat the third part himself. In short, Shiva was living up to the ideal of a pious Brahman bachelor mendicant. And people said, “Oh, what a great man. How pure he is!”

After a few days, Madhava, too, entered Ujjain. He was dressed like a wealthy prince with a retinue and caskets of wealth. He acquired suitable lodgings and went for a bath in the Sipra. There, he saw Shiva standing on his head with his eyes closed in penance. At once, Madhava prostrated himself before Shiva, exclaiming, “How fortunate that I should meet you again, Holy Man!” By this, Shiva knew that Madhava had arrived, but he did not open his eyes.

That night Shiva and Madhva met secretly and had a good time eating and drinking. They also made plans to rob the King’s Purohit of his secret wealth.

The next day Madhava went to the purohit with a gift of fine clothes and told him, “Sir, I am a prince, Madhava by name. I come from the South. I have been. Swindled by people of my clan and came to spend my days in this distant place. I lack no wealth. But my attendants insist that I get engaged as a courtier. I know you are the best man to help me in this matter. I can repay you in several ways.”

The King’s Purohit, the Shankara swami, was a covetous fellow. He had a half share in every gift the King had made to anyone for several years. He had filled his wealth in seven pots he buried in his backyard.

Shankaraswami efficiently managed to get Madhava employed in the King’s Court. He also suggested that Madhava reside in his own house and get all amenities and comforts.

Now Madhava was comfortably lodged in Shankaraswami’s house. Every day he would court and come home. In the evenings, he would take a jewel out of a full jug and show the vast diamonds and other precious stones to Shankaraswami.

After some days, Madhava began complaining that he had dyspepsia and stopped taking any food. In a few days, he became emaciated due to starvation and took to bed. One day he called the purohit and told him, “Dear Sir, I am going to die. I want to give away all my wealth to a holy man. Kindly find a proper man and bring him to me.”

The purohit brought several Brahmans, but Madhava turned all of them down, saying. “For heaven’s sake, can’t you find a better man?”

At last, some neighbours advised the purohit to find out the holy bachelor who was residing at the math. The purehi found Shiva and requested, “Sir, come along and accept the gift of some precious stones from a dying man.”

Shiva laughed and said, “I am a bachelor. What am I to do with precious stones? Go and find some family man who will enjoy the gift.”

“No, no. Don’t say that. The dying man wants someone like you. You need not be a bachelor all your life. Take this gift, marry and be happy,” said the purohit.

“I am a stranger here. No one will give his daughter in marriage to me. So, please, leave me alone,” said Shiva.

“I will give you my daughter. Only come at once and take the gift. That man is at death’s door,” said the purohit.

Shiva followed the portrait to his house and took the gift of the precious jug, saying, “I do not know what this jug contains. I am taking it only for the satisfaction of the dying man.”

But the man did not die. By magic, Madhava began to feel better and better. Slowly he began to take nourishment and, within a few days, was restored to complete health.

“There is not the least doubt that the gift I made to the holy man washed away all my sins and saved me from the jaws of death,” Madhava announced.

The purohit kept his word and gave Shiva, his daughter in marriage. Soon after, Madhava found separate lodgings for in self. Shiva took his place and enjoyed the hospitality that was due to him as a son-in-law.

One day Shiva told his father-in-law, “I’ve lived long enough under your roof. It is time that I set up my own home with my wife. All I have is the gift I received from Madhava. I can’t live by gold and precious stones, so I wish you take it and give me money in exchange.”

The father-in-law said, “My boy, we cannot assess the value of all those gems so easily. “

Shiva replied, “I do not care for the value of the gift. You gave it to me, and I want to give it to you. Give me as much money as you have, and I shall be satisfied.”

Shankaraswami dug up the wealth he had buried in the backyard and transferred it to his son-in-law. He was afraid that his son-in-law might go hack upon his word. So he executed letters of sale and got them properly signed and attested. With this money, Shiva set up a house and gave it half to Madhava as they initially arranged.

After a time, the purohit picked out one jewel from the jug and took it to a diamond merchant to find its value.

He had shock when the merchant examined it briefly and returned it saying. “This is a fake. These are bits of cheap glass studded in brass.”

The purohit sent the entire contents of the jar for examination and was told that there was neither a grain of gold nor a single precious stone in the whole lot. He had been thoroughly swindled.

In a great rage, the purohit went to his son-in-law and demanded. “Give me back all my money. I gave it away for a pot full of brass and glass.”

Shiva got wild. “How dare you say that to me now? I was leading a pious life until you made me give it up, got me this fraudulent gift and put me on the yoke of family life. The deal is legally closed between us. If you sustained a loss, go and ask Madhava for an explanation,” he shouted at his father-in-law.

In utter anguish, the purohit ran to Madhava and charged him with cheating. Madhava retorted by calling him a fool. He said. “That jug was in our possession for ages and ages. When I faced death, I gifted it away to a holy man. As a result of that, I got back my health. What is my crime? Did I try to sell the stuff to someone at an incorrect price? Did you give me a pie of the sale money? Why blame me like a fool?”

It was clear to the purohit that nobody was to blame except himself. It was his avarice that brought him this disaster.

Chandamama July 1955 | V. S. Kumar

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