The Brahman Thief

King Bhoja was in the habit of spending large amounts of money on gifts to pandits and poets. The minister was anxious to curtail this expenditure somehow. He could not go to the king very well and say, “Sire, you cannot spend so much money on these poets and pandits. If you do so, our treasury will be empty.” It would only make the king wild with anger. So, the minister, one day, sneaked into the king’s bed chamber and wrote on its wall.

(Money should be saved against times of evil)

That night King Bhoja saw the writing on the wall. He understood that someone wanted to warn him about his overspending. Underneath the minister’s words, the king wrote,

(Do evils visit the great ?)

The next day the minister saw. the king’s question and wrote on the wall

(Should the goddess of Wealth depart)

The king replied to this with,

(That which is saved also goes.)

That night, a poor Brahman entered King Bhoja’s bed-chamber to steal something and hid behind the curtains. This man was quite cultured. He took to theft as the only way out of insufferable poverty. When he entered the room, he found plenty of rich ornaments and clothes. But at the last minute, his conscience pricked him, and he could not steal anything. As he was thinking of going out, King Bhoja and Queen Lilavati entered the room, and the miserable Brahman had to hide behind the curtains.

Lilavati saw the writing on the wall and questioned the king about it. Bhoja explained the lines written by someone on the wall and his replies to them and then said in verse,

(I’ve beautiful women, inestimable friends, good-hearted relations, servants who please me with their talk, stalking elephants and galloping horses)

(Once you close your eyes for- ever, there is precisely nothing.)

Hearing the king brag on in this vein, the Brahman behind the curtains got furious and completed what Bhoja was saying with

“Who is that ?” shouted the king, stung to the quick.

The Brahman came forward, courtesying the king, and told him his tale. Bhoja pitied the man and gave him plenty of ornaments and clothes to save the Brahman from poverty.

Chandamama September 1955 | K S Rama Sastry

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