The Two Princes
Going back many years, the kingdom of Rada was ruled by King Nagaraj and his consort, Queen Sarala.
Then came the day when a troupe of strolling players visited the capital. The star per- former of these players was a girl named Lasya, who was not only extremely beautiful but was a gifted singer and dancer.
When the players performed at the palace, King Nagaraj was so enraptured by the beauty of Lasya that he decided she would become his second wife. The following morning the King sent for the troupe’s leader and offered him one thousand pieces of gold for the hand of Lasya.
At first, the leader hesitated, but at the sight of so many gold pieces, his greedy mind won, and so Lasya became a queen and was, in many ways, the King’s favourite wife.
Over time, Queen Sarala had a son who was asked, Rahul. Queen Lasya also had a baby son the following year, whom they named Yashpal.
As these boys grew up, Prince Rahul, the heir apparent, excelled over his half-brother, Prince Yashpal. in every way, as a consequence, the younger Prince was beset with jealousy, which in time grew into an ungovernable hatred.
One day the two princes were having a sham fight with maces, and Yashpal, who was extremely poor at any combat, lost his temper and dealt Rahul a foul blow. Rahul was so annoyed he threw aside his mace and sent Yashpal reeling with a blast from his fist.
When Queen Lasya saw her son with a very unbecoming black eye, she flew into a rage and stormed into the King’s chamber. “My son has been grievously injured by Rahul, a tyrant and bully. I command you to punish Rahul immediately.”
The King, who was always a little scared of Queen Lasya’s fiery outbursts, sent for Prince Rahul and threatened him with expulsion from the kingdom and his right to accede to the throne if he did not treat Prince Yashpal as his equal.
Queen Sarala was disturbed when she heard the story of the King’s wrath towards her son, as she knew that Lasya schemed that Yashpal should one day become King of Rada. The Queen hurried to Prince Rahul’s chambers. “My son,” she implored, “I know that whilst you remain here, your life will be in danger. Go, I beg of you, to my father’s kingdom of Magadha, where you will be well protected.”
“No, mother,” Rahul said. “A prince should not run from danger. I shall stay here and show everyone I mean to be the crown prince.”
“You speak bravely, my son”. The Queen murmured, trying to hide her tears. “But at least let me give you the gold to raise an army so that you will always be able to stand up against the king’s unjust anger”.
“That would be treason”, the Prince replied, shaking his head. “I will stay here and fight my own battles.”
Nevertheless, Queen Sarala’s fears proved to be correct. The kingdom’s people loved Prince Rahul, a crown prince of outstanding virtue. At the same time, the people despised Prince Yashpal, whose mean character was evident to everyone. Queen Lasya was forced to realise that whilst Prince Rahul lived, there was little hope of her son ascending the throne. Deter- mined not to be outdone in her schemes; Queen Lasya hired a gang of brigands to waylay and kill the crown prince.
But the attempts to assassinate Prince Rahul failed, thanks to several of his friends, led by a young noble named Gadadhar, who saw to it that the Prince was never left unguarded.
Gadadhar, despite his bravery, was inclined to be hotheaded. One morning accosting Prince Yashpal at the palace gates, he caught him by the arm and shouted in a menacing voice. “You have instigated attempts on the life of the crown prince. Let any harm befall His Highness, and your life will pay for it.”
From then onwards, hatred and jealousy came to the sur- face, and the followers of both princes were ready to draw swords at the slightest pretext. The climax came shortly when a trader brought a fine white horse to the palace. Gadadhar arranged to buy the horse for the crown prince. But before the horse could be taken to the stables, Prince Yashpal happened to pass and demanded that the trader sell the horse to him.
“Alas, Your Highness,” the trader said, shrugging his shoulders. “The steed has already been sold to the crown prince.”
Prince Yashpal burst out laughing. “If this horse has been sold to the crown prince, it must be mine. For soon, I shall be the crown prince of the land.”
Everyone within hearing was shocked at such an outburst, and when Prince Yashpal’s servants went to lead the horse away, Gadadhar and his friends drew their swords and, with bloodthirsty yells, attacked Prince Yashpal’s followers.
At the first glimpse of drawn steel, Prince Yashpal and most followers turned tail and fled for protection inside the palace. Nevertheless, several of his men were killed in the affray. When the King learnt of this outrage, which Queen Lasya said was a dastardly plot to murder her son, the King ordered Prince Rahul and his followers to be banished from the kingdom.
There were mutterings and downcast faces when the people heard the proclamation that their beloved crown prince would be sent into exile. The most sorrowful figure was Queen Sarala, who tearfully begged her son to go to his grandfather’s court at Magadha.
With a heavy heart, the crown prince, accompanied by Gadad- har and the rest of his loyal followers, rode out of the capital.
Eventually, the party reached the river Ganga which they had to cross. The great river was in flood, and although more rain seemed likely, Prince Rahul and his party decided to swim their horses across. All went well at first; when the far shore looked so close, they were struck by wind-lashed rain. Prince Rahul is fighting against the overpowering cur- rent felt himself being relentlessly carried further down the river. Clutching tight to the bridle of his terror-stricken horse, Prince Rahul finally managed to reach the bank on the other side of the river.
For a time, he lay exhausted, then tethering his horse to a nearby tree, he wandered along the river bank to find Gadadhar and the rest of his followers. But alas, there was no trace of any of them, and in the end, Prince Rahul sadly realised that all his friends had been drowned.
Although most of his possessions had been lost when crossing the river, Prince Rahul decided to continue his journey to Magadha, relying on the hospitality of the lowly country folk for food and shelter.
Eventually, Prince Rahul came to the kingdom Jhanispure, and on the outskirts of the capital city, he came across several gamblers playing dice.
They seemed to be a festive party, so the Prince stayed and watched the game. Soon one of the gamblers invited him to try his luck. At first, he hesitated because he could ill afford to lose the few coins and jewels he possessed. But perhaps the goddess of fortune would smile at him, so he joined the circle of players. At first, he lost, then luck turned his way with a vengeance, and he won all the money the others had.
The gamblers took their losses in good part and would have departed with a shrug and a joke, but Prince Rahul bid them stay. “I have been lucky enough to win all your money, he said, “But let us share it equally and part good friends.”
The gamblers had never heard of such generosity. When the Prince told them of his adventurous journey, they immediately resolved to be his bodyguard and ride with him to Magadha.
At that time, the King of Jhanispure was celebrating”Nag Panchami”, the festival of the serpents. Whilst watching this festival, Prince Rahul saw the lovely Princess of Jahnispure and vowed to win the fair princess as his bride.
When he spoke to his newly found friends about his desire to wed the princess, they swore they would help. So the next day, his friends sought an audience with the King and told His Majesty the story of Prince Rahul; his exile; his journey to Magadha; and how the Prince had fallen in love with the princess.
The King was intrigued by this unusual story and sent it to the Prince. The King and the princess were so taken by the charm and stately bearing of Prince Rahul that the marriage of the young couple was soon announced.
Prince Rahul’s joy knew no bounds when his old friend Gadadhar appeared in court one day. Gadadhar told how he had been struck unconscious by debris when crossing the river Ganga and had been rescued by woodcutters several miles down the river. Gadad- har said that fearing that his Prince had been drowned, he had no desire or the courage to return to Rada but stayed with the woodcutters in the forest. But as soon as he heard the welcome news of Prince Rahul’s wedding, he rode night and day to rejoin the Prince.
The marriage of Prince. Rahul and the Princess took place soon afterwards, but the celebrations ended when a messenger arrived with the disturbing news that Prince Rahul’s father, the King of Rada, had died suddenly, and Prince Yashpal had seized the throne.
Prince Rahul despatched an envoy to Rada, demanding his right as the crown prince to succeed his father as King of Rada. When Prince Yashpal refused to listen to the envoy, Prince Rahul marched on Rada at the head of a large army commanded by Gadadhar.
A great battle was fought on the plains of Rada, and many were slain in a bitter hand-to-hand encounter. But the day was won by Prince Rahul when at the head of his cavalry swept through the enemy ranks. Prince Rahul fought his way to Prince Yashpal, who was vainly trying to rally his men to stand and fight on.
When the two princes came face to face, Prince Yashpal tried to defend himself, but he was no match for Prince Rahul, who knocked Yashpal’s sword from his hand and was about to strike him down when he suddenly remembered his father’s gift of mercy.
Sheathing his sword, Prince Rahul commanded his half-brother to surrender. “For the sake of your mother and our father, your life will be spared.”
When Queen Lasya heard of Prince Rahul’s merciful act, she was ashamed of her past enmity and begged Prince Rahul to forgive her.
“Mother”, replied Prince Rahul. “You have nothing to fear. Both you and Prince Yashpal are dear to my heart.”
When he ascended the throne, Rahul proved to be a great king, beloved by his subjects. Eventually, he became the ruler of both the kingdoms of Jhanis- pure and Magadha.