The Third Bridegroom
Mantrapala was the king of Amaravati, and Chandramati was his queen. They had a wonderful daughter named Hyma. The king and queen wished that Hyma should become the wife of Jayabhadra, prince of Maniprastha.
Jaya was the seventh son and had no right to his father’s throne. But it was predicted that he would become a monarch. He belonged to a distinguished family and was a highly desirable young man.
But the hopes of Hyma’s parents were dashed to pieces. While sending messengers to various countries searching for a bride for Jaya, his father ignored Amaravati altogether. “Ah, well!” said Mantrapala. “, We are not good enough for them!”
He instituted a search for likely young men to marry his daughter. He found only two. One was the prince of Kalinga named Guna-Varma, and the other was the prince of Lalat named Dhana-Varma. While the former was virtually bankrupt, the latter was almost illiterate, and the king had to choose between them!
Even with so little choice, Hyma’s parents managed to disagree with each other. The king preferred the educated Guna-Varma, while the queen fancied the moneyed Dhana-Varma. The king, the final arbiter, fixed up Hyma’s marriage with Guna-Varma and started preparations for it.
Equally determined to marry her daughter to a man of her own choice, the queen sent word to Lalat, instructing Dhana-Varma to come for the marriage secretly and silently.
Thus, while Guna-Varma arrived with a lot of fanfare and lodged in the royal guest house, his rival, Dhana-Varma, arrived silently with a small entourage and put up in a common choultry.
Hyma was resplendently decorated in her bridal costume. The auspicious moment was at hand. The queen approached Hyma and told her, “My darling, if you want to be happily married, do as I tell you. Sit in a basket, and I shall send you to the right bridegroom. If not, you will be tied up with that pauper, Guna-Varma.”
Believing that her mother knew best, Hyma agreed to be carried off secretly in a basket. The basket she sat on was covered with a cloth, and a palace maid took the basket on her head. Home could not only breathe freely through the chinks in the basket, but she could also see everything.
The maid was well-known to the palace guards, and no one obstructed her. Only when she almost arrived at her destination did trouble occur. Because of the carelessness of the new occupants of the choultry, the houses in the neighbourhood caught fire, and the whole place was a commotion. The road was littered with things removed from the burning homes. People were running and shouting. The palace maid tried to navigate the various articles and furniture lying on the road. But someone held her up, calling her thief, and made her put down the basket. Resisting was dangerous, and the maid sneaked away, leaving Hyma in the basket among the things on the road. Presently several well-dressed men came along riding on horses. They calmly loaded their horses with whatever caught their eye. One of them took the basket in which Hyma was hiding. Then they departed like lords. These were real robbers, but no one thought of holding them up.
These robbers rode till dawn and arrived in the thickest part of the jungle. They removed their loot from the backs of the horses and began to divide it. The robber who took the basket thought it would contain flowers or fruit and did not care to take it down from the horse. Having nobody to mind him, the horse carrying Hyma wandered away in search of food. At one place, the basket tilted and fell.
By the time Hyma came out of the basket, there was nothing but wilderness about her. The robbers were left far behind. Even the horse had disappeared. Tormented by hunger and thirst, not knowing whither she would go, Hyma began to walk endlessly along the jungle footpaths.
Suddenly a fierce tiger came from behind a bush and stopped. Hyman gave a frightened shriek and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, she saw a face more frightening than the tiger. It was the face of a tribesman who had saved Hyma from the tiger just at the nick of the moment. Though his face was ugly, he had a heart of gold.
“Lady,” said the tribesman, “this is no place for you. Soon it will be dark, and tigers will come prowling. Spend this night under my roof, and I shall get you out of this forest tomorrow morning.”
In his anxiety for Hyma’s safety, the poor fool forgot the tiger he had killed. When his wife set eyes upon Hyma, she was enraged and asked, “Where did you find this bride ?” The unhappy husband told her truthfully what had happened, but the wife was not convinced. “Why didn’t he bring home the tiger after killing it?” She fell upon her husband in a great rage, tore his hair, scratched his face, kicked him and cried to her people. Her people came to settle the dispute and finally gave their verdict:
“Since you have not brought this woman for your pleasure and since she is the cause of dispute between you, let us take her away and throw her into a deep well.”
The tribesman was sorry for this decision, but if he objected to it, his wife’s people were sure to kill him for trying to get another wife. The mediators carried Hyma to a deep and worn well in the thick of the forest and threw her in it.
But Hyma was not fated to die in it. She found some branches growing out of the walls of this well and clung to them till daybreak. The following day someone looked into this well and found Hyma in it.
This person was Jaya, the seventh son of the king of Mani-prastha. He had come to this forest the previous day on a hunting expedition. In his enthusiasm for the chase, he lost traces of his followers and kept wandering in the woods, searching for water. Now he found not only water but also a strange, beautiful girl looking like a bride and yet dying of starvation and exposure so far away from home.
Jaya learnt Hyma’s story after saving her from the well. He sat her on his horse and started in search of a village. They managed to reach one by nightfall. They went to a choultry, cooked some for themselves food and lay down to sleep.
The same day some Brahman travellers from Amaravati arrived at that village. That night they lay down on the pial of the choultry to sleep. From their talk, Hyma learnt of the happenings at Amaravati. The king knew that the queen had tried to marry off Hyma secretly. A search was done for Hyma, and when she was not found, both the bridegrooms accused Hyma’s parents of having played a practical joke threw them in gaol and took charge of the state.
Hyman began to weep for her unhappy parents.
“Do not worry about your parents,” Jaya consoled her. “I shall somehow hoodwink Guna-Varma and Dhana-Varma and liberate your father and mother. Only tell me which one you would like for a husband.”
“I don’t want any of those rascals,” Hyma replied so vehemently that Jaya did not pursue the subject further.
The next day they started for Amaravati breaking their journey in the evenings at one village or another. For expenses, Hyma sold her ornaments one after another. The buyers offered low prices to take advantage of the need of the sellers. But they paid very dearly for it quite soon. The king’s men, who were still searching for Princess Hyma, came to these villages, identified her ornaments, arrested the merchants who had bought them and marched them off to Amaravati.
On reaching Amaravati, Jaya disguised Hyma and lodged her in a safe place. Then he went to court and made the acquaintance of Guna-Varma and Dhana-Varma. He soon got into their confidence.
“It looks to me,” Jaya, one day, said to Dhana-Varma, “that you are still looking for Princess Hyma. If only I had a thousand rupees, I could show you where she is.”
“Take two thousand, if you want. But where is she?”. Dhana-Varma asked anxiously.
“Don’t you know that Guna-Varma is hiding her from you?” Jaya asked him.
“Can you prove it?” Dhana-Varma said.
“This very night!” said Jaya. He made a similar offer to Guna Varma after convincing him that Dhana Varma had Hyma in his possession. Then he went into the city and hired for himself a big mansion into which he shifted Hyma. He let her remove her disguise and instructed her to light up the entire house and keep her awake for him late into the night. Then he sent word to Dhana-Varma to come to such-and-such place at 10 o’clock in the night and to Guna-Varma to come an hour later. At the appointed hour Dhana- Varma arrived and met Jaya. “Where is Guna-Varma?” he asked, “You shall see him when he comes,” Jaya said. “First, have a look at the princess.”
Jaya then took him to a window and showed him Hyma inside. From the portrait he was carrying, Dhana-Varma could identify her quickly. Then Jaya took him to the other side of the mansion, and they entered through a side- door. They came into a passage with two rooms on the side of it.
“Wait in the first room. You, I will be able to see Guna-Varma as he goes in,” Jaya said.
Dhana-Varma entered the first room and waited. Soon, Guna-Varma also arrived. Jaya showed Hyma to him and told him to stay in the passage’s second room so Dhana-Varma could see him as he passed the first room.
Jaya met Dhana-Varma and asked him whether he was satisfied. Then he asked him to leave the house by the other end of the passage. When Dhana-Varma passed the second room, Guna- Varma saw him and was convinced that Dhana-Varma had been playing a dirty trick on him all this time.
Both Guna-Varma and Dhana-Varma were now deadly enemies thirsting for vengeance. When they came to court the next day, they embraced each other, as usual, but stabbed each other in the back and died on the spot.
Jaya at once ordered the release of the king and queen and the merchants imprisoned for having Hyma’s ornaments. The original wish of the king and queen was fulfilled, and Hyma, who was in love with her rescuer, became Jaya’s wife after all.
Chandamama September 1955 | R Vasudev