The Three Brothers
Tala-Dhwaja, the King of Kanya-kubja, had three sons, Pushpa-Ketu, Chitra-Bhanu and Pingala. Eager to see the South, they started on a tour and eventually reached the Dominion of Women. Pushpa-Pura was the capital of this country, and Ratnamakuta was its Queen.
The princes rented a big building for a lodge and went sightseeing in the city, each by themselves. Pingala, the youngest of them, was going along a street when he saw the portrait of a charming girl at the palace gate. Underneath the picture was an announcement. It said: “This portrait belongs to a noble maiden called Maharaja-Ratna. If any learned young man wants to marry her, he must reply to her queries through symbols. He who succeeds in the test can marry her, but he who fails will have to become a slave labourer. If the condition is agreeable, ring the bell.”
Pingala was so enamoured of the girl in the portrait that he wanted to marry her and rang the bell. A few maids came out of the house, welcomed him warmly, escorted him to a room and went away. Soon they returned with several leaf buds on a platter. “Please let us know your reply,” they asked him, showing him the platter. Pingala failed to know the question and how to reply to it.
He had to accept defeat. Some men took him away into a garden, where he had to change into work clothes and start digging. He was enslaved.
Pushpa-ketu returned to the lodge that evening and saw that his two brothers were not back. He spent the night alone, and early the following day, he went out looking for them. He went along new streets and soon came to the palace with the portrait of Maharaja-Ratna at the gate. He read the announcement, made friends with the house servants, and learnt that a young man resembling him desired to marry the noble maid and ended up becoming enslaved in the gardens. Pushpa-Ketu was sure that the victim was Pingala. He decided that he must defeat this girl and liberate his brother.
Yet, he did not ring the bell. He found out the name of the best pandit in Pushpa-pura and paid a visit to him. “Sir,” he said to the pandit respectfully, “I was told that you possess scarce books. Can I have a look at them?” The pandit was glad to show him his collection.
But Pushpa-Ketu found only one book, which was unfamiliar to him. It was “Nagara-Sarwaswa”, written by a Buddhist monk called Padma Sri. It had a chapter on symbols, and Pushpa-Ketu read it four or five times. Then he came back to the palace and rang the bell.
The maids came out and received him. They sat him in a room, went out and returned with leaf buds on a platter. “What’s your answer?” they asked him. Pushpa-Ketu recollected the line, “And the leaf-bud asks you about your caste,” and replied that he was a Kshatriya. Some more questions followed, and Pushpa-ketu answered all of them correctly. When the maids came to him for the last time, it was to tell him that their mistress wanted to see him.
Pushpa-Ketu followed them into a room which was gorgeously decorated. As he entered, a young lady rose from a seat of gold and said to him, “You’re welcome. At long last, I found one who could answer all my questions. I’m willing to marry you.”
Pushpa-Ketu was taken by sur- price, for this girl was not Maharaja-Ratna. She was much more attractive, and her crown and ornaments indicated royalty.
“Was it you that sent the questions?” he asked her. “But you are not Maharaja-ratna!” “No,” she replied. “But it was I that sent you the questions. You see, I’m the Queen Ratna-makuta. Maharaja-Ratna is a close friend of mine. I borrowed her name so no one would know I was seeking a husband.”
“Well,” he said, “it makes no difference to me. But a brother of mine who was defeated by you yesterday is doing hard labour in your garden. Be so kind as to let him off.”
Ratna-makuta laughed gaily and said, “So he is your brother? My girlfriend is very much in love with him. Their marriage shall take place together with ours.”
Chitra-Bhanu, who had gone to see the city the previous day, also managed to get a bride in an exceedingly queer manner.
In that city, there lived a multi-millionaire called Mani-Mantha. His only child, Urmila, was brought up like a princess amidst all possible luxuries. Withal the girl was so lovely that her father was hard to put to it to find a proper husband. Lakhs of rupees were spent on this search, and the rich man finally found a boy. This boy was the son of Ratna-pada, a great tradesman of the Suka Isle. The wedding took place, and the day of marriage was fixed six months hence so that the parties had enough time to prepare for the marriage. Mani-mantha was told that if he missed that muhurt, there was no auspicious day for three years.
Mani-Mantha carried out preparations for the marriage on an astounding scale. He made arrangements to lodge ten thousand guests, got pandals erected over several acres of ground, and, as for the entertainments, there was no counting them.
At long last, the day of marriage arrived. Thousands of visitors came to witness the function. But there was no sign of the bridegroom’s party. The muhurta was almost at hand when the messengers, sent to the coast to bring news of the arriving ships, returned hastily with the news that the party from Suka Isle had a disastrous crossing, that their boats hit the rocks, and were sunk in the sea.
Mani-mantha was flabbergasted by the news. After making all those preparations and inviting all the guests, how could he drop the marriage? He went amongst the numberless guests and looked around. His gaze fell upon Chitra-Bhanu, who came there to see the wedding. Mani-Mantha called him aside and said, “Young man, be my son-in-law and save me from disgrace. I’m worth ten crores, and this girl is my only child.” Chitrabhanu informed him that he was a prince, agreed to marry Urmila, and the marriage took place.
On the tenth day after the marriage, the party from Suka Isle arrived, in a strength of ten thousand, quite hale and healthy! Mani-Mantha went to Ratnapada, the bridegroom’s father, and told him everything.
“It’s all your mischief,” the other said in anger. “It was true that our ships grazed some rocks hidden under the waters and sprang a few leaks. But we got over the trouble by throwing excess loads overboard and closing the leaks with tar. We arrive after so many troubles and find that you have betrayed and put us to shame! Who do you think I am?”
“You’ve come too late for the muhurt, anyway,” Mani-mantha protested.
“Muhurt, my foot!” Ratnapada rejoined. “When a marriage is performed, that is muhurta.”
Both of them quarrelled fiercely. “You’ll rue this!” Ratna-pada threatened. Mani-Mantha returned home with a heavy heart. Ratna-pada had ten thousand men with him.
Mani-Mantha found support from an unexpected quarter. Chitra-Bhanu said, “Don’t worry, sir, I shall deal with this Ratna-pada myself.”
Ratna-pada was as good as his word. One day thousands of his men marched on Mani-Mantha’s house, armed with sticks and lathis. The pandals were not yet removed, and the guests were not gone. Mani-Mantha was scared. But Chitra-Bhanu drew his sword and attacked the ten thousand single-handedly. He slew some, and the rest took to their heels.
Ratna-pada brought a charge against Mani-mantha before the Queen. The Queen could not decide who was guilty. She sought the advice of her husband, Pushpa-Ketu.
Pushpa-ketu asked Mani-Manthat’s son-in-law to be brought to the court. The men who went to fetch him returned and reported, “Sir, he refuses to come!”
Pushpa-Ketu was enraged at the audacity of the man. Accompanied by Pingala and a few armed soldiers, he went to Mani-Mantha’s house. Chitra-Bhanu drew his sword and stood in the street, ready for a fight. But when they came near, he recognized his brothers.
The three brothers were brought together and told each other their experiences. Pushpa-Ketu took a lenient view of Ratna- pada’s aggressiveness because he had already suffered a good deal during his voyage. He made Mani-mantha pay Ratna-pada the expenses of his journey.