The Grateful King

Vikram again returned to the tree, took down the corpse, threw it across his shoulder, and began walking towards the cremation ground. “O King,” said Bethal, “You remind me of King Chanda-Simha, who too underwent great troubles for the sake of another. Let me lighten your task by telling his story.” And he began to narrate the following tale:

At one time Tamra-lipti on the East Coast was ruled by King Chanda-Simha. He was very kind to those who served him, and princes of many lands came for employment in his court.

One such was a prince from the South named Satva-Seela. This young man was a victim of misfortune. He lost his kingdom, travelled for several days, and arrived at the palace gate in tattered clothes. The King took him for a commoner and engaged him as a servant.

Satva-Seela considered this as one more stroke of bad luck. He looked after the King’s horses for ten years without asking for wages or allowances.

One day the King went on a hunting expedition accompanied by his huntsmen. It was Satvaseela’s job to run ahead of the King’s horse. In the excitement of the chase, the King raced ahead of his men and became isolated. But Satva-Seela was still running on.

They reached the forest’s heart, where no soul could be seen. The King realised he had lost the way and asked Satva-seela, “Do you know how we came ?”

“I know quite well, sir,” Satva-Seela replied. “It’s now noon. Rest for a while, and I’ll show you the way back.”

“I must have a cool bath,” the King said. “Also, I’m thirsty. Hungry, too. What’s to be done?”

Telling the King that he would see what could be done, Satva-Seela climbed up a tall tree and looked around. At some distance, he saw a brook, climbed down the tree, and took the King to the stream. After the King had his bath, Satva-seela took two amla fruits from his pocket and said, “Sir, eat them and stop your hunger.”

“How could you get these things here?” the King asked in surprise. “Can they stop hunger ?”

Sir,” Satva-seela replied, “I’ve satisfied my hunger with them for the ten years I’ve been in your service. I have eaten nothing else. I always keep a supply of these fruits with me.”

The King asked for the full story of this strange man and was greatly astonished when he heard it. He was also smitten with remorse that he had failed to inquire into the affairs of one who had served him for ten years so faithfully without asking for wages or allowances.

On returning to the palace, the King narrated in the full court the story of Satva-seela and bestowed on him endless gifts of land and money, besides appointing him as one of his intimate counsellors. Even then, the King felt that he did not repay Satva-Seela properly.

Some years went by. The King decided to marry. His ministers advised him to marry the Princess of Ceylon. The King chose Satva-seela to negotiate with the King of Ceylon. Taking with him several purohits, Satva-Seela started on a voyage, and when they were in mid-ocean, an extraordinary thing happened.

Across the ship’s path, a pillar of gold rose out of the water, and, at that exact moment, a mighty storm swept the sea. The gale threw the boat against the pillar of gold, and the ship began to sink.

Satva-seela was furious with the King of the Ocean for having frustrated his mission. He drew his sword and plunged into the waters. Though he sank to a great depth, Satva-seela could not see any King of the Ocean, but he saw delightful gardens and a temple of Parvati at the bottom of the sea.

Entering the temple and doing homage to the goddess, Satva-Seela sat in a corner when a young lady of indescribable charm stepped into the temple, accompanied by a thousand maids. The young lady did not care to look at Satva-seela even once. She worshipped the goddess and made to depart with her maids. Satva-seela, who had lost his heart to the charming maid, got up and followed her.

The ladies walked on till they reached a palace and took their seats in a hall. Satva-seela sat near the object of his love and began to stare at her unceremoniously. After a while, the young lady could stand his staring no more and made some signs to her maids. At once, one of the maids approached Satva-seela and said to him, “Sir, you’re our guest today. There’s a pond nearby. Have your bath and come back to have food.”

Satva-seela was very happy. He went to the pond and got into the water to bathe. But the next instant, he found himself floating in the well of the royal gardens of Tamra-lipti. The guards recognised him and took him to the King.

The King heard the experiences of Satva-seela. He was not the least worried about the sinking of his ship or the disruption of the negotiations for his marriage; he was glad that he got the opportunity to make a good turn to Satva-seela. “Do not pine away for that charming girl,” he said to Satva-seela. “I will see that she marries you. Let us take another ship on the same route.”

Once again, the pillar of gold rose across the path of the King’s ship. As soon as he saw it, Saiva-Seela jumped into the sea, and the King followed suit. They touched the bottom near the temple of Parvati. As they came out of the temple after paying homage to the goddess, they saw the young lady arrive at the temple with her maids. She looked at the King just once before she went into the temple.

The King did not wait for her. He took Satva-seela for a stroll in the gardens around. After worship, the girl came out of the temple and looked for the King. Not seeing him, she said to one maid, “Search for the King whom we met while going in and invite him to dine with us.”

This girl searched the gardens till she came upon the King and his companion and invited them to dinner on behalf of her mistress.

“The invitation satisfies us,” the King said to her. “The dinner is not essential.”

On learning what the King said, the mistress came in person to invite the King.

“I was told about the hospitality you gave to my friend here,” the King said to her. “I don’t need such hospitality.”

“Sir,” the girl said, protesting, “you are a great person. I would never think of treating you like that.”

The King accepted her invitation and followed her with his companion. She treated them with the utmost respect and said to the King, “Sir, I’m the daughter of Kala-nemi, the King of Daityas. Viswa-Karma was built for my father, this unique city where old age and death dare not show themselves. Only by leaving this place did my father get killed by Lord Vishnu. After his death, I have become the ruler here. I never had the luck of receiving a guest of your status. If you want anything of me, you’ve only to order me.”

“In that case,” the King said, “I wish you to marry my friend right now.” The girl agreed, and Satva-seela married her in the King’s presence.

“I ate two amla fruits of yours,” the King said to Satva-Seela. “I’m still in debt to you for one of them” So saying, the King jumped into the pond and returned to Tamra-lipti.

Having told this story, Bethal asked Vikram, “O King, both Chanda-Simha and Satva-seela jumped into the ocean bravely. But which of them was the braver? If you know the answer and still do not speak. Your head shall split.”

“Of course, Satva-seela was the braver. When he jumped into the ocean, he did not know what would happen, whereas Chanda-Simha knew,” Vikram replied.

Thus the King’s silence was broken, and Bethal returned to the tree with the corpse.

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