The Minister’s Demise

Vikram was the King of Prathisthan on the banks of the Godavari. One day a monk came to see him and gave him fruit as a gift. The King took the fruit and gave it to a baby monkey playing nearby. The little monkey bit into the fruit and spat out a precious stone.

The King was surprised at this.

He asked the monk, “What help do you expect from me?”

“O King,” the monk replied, “I am trying to attain certain supernatural power. To succeed in my attempt, I must have the help of a courageous man. I cannot think of anyone braver than you. Hence I need your help.”

“What is the nature of the help you expect from me?” the King asked the monk.

“Come to me at the burial ground the night before the next New Moon in a dark dress. I shall acquaint you with the nature of the help I want from you,” the monk replied.

The King agreed to do so and sent the monk away. On the appointed night, he dressed entirely in black, took his sword and found the monk sitting under a banyan tree in the burial ground.

“O King,” said the monk, “if you go in a southerly direction, you will come upon a certain tree by the branch of which you will find the corpse of a man hanging. All you have to do is not to utter a word but bring the corpse here.”

Vikram went due south till he came to the tree on which the man’s corpse was hanging by a rope around its neck. The King climbed up the tree, cut the cord and threw the corpse on the ground. Suddenly the corpse began to sob as though it was hurt. The King climbed down the tree in surprise and began to feel the corpse to see if it had life, and it began to laugh.

The King understood that the Evil Spirit, Bethal possessed the corpse and said, ” Why do you laugh? Let us go!” No sooner than the King uttered these words, the corpse went up on the tree and began to hang by the branch as before.

The King climbed up the tree again, severed the cord, took the corpse on his shoulder and, without uttering a sound, began to walk back to the burial ground.

“O king,” said Bethal of the corpse, “You are carrying a big load indeed. Let me divert you with a nice tale.” He began telling the following story:

Yash-ket was the King of Anga Desh. He had a competent minister. Since the King was overfond of luxuries, he left the entire state’s responsibility to his minister. However much efficiency the minister showed in his administration, some enemies started rumouring that the minister had made the king pleasure minded to rule the land himself.

The minister was greatly pained when he heard such things being said of him. He went to the King and told him, “Your Highness, I have planned to go on a pilgrimage and request you to take over the administration.” The King begged the minister not to go but insisted on going.

The minister went to several places, and one day, he met a merchant who traded overseas. “As soon as my ships are loaded, I am making a voyage to the Isle of Gold”, the merchant informed the minister, adding, “I request you to come with me.” Having never gone on the sea, the minister agreed.

On their journey from the Isle of Gold, the minister saw a huge tree standing in mid-ocean one day. A lot lady was sitting in the tree and playing in the bin. Even while the minister was watching it, the vision faded away.

The minister talked about this wonder to the sailors, who replied, “We see this vision around here every time we come this way.”

Over time, the minister returned to Anga-Desh. And was the King glad to see him about? Since the minister’s departure, the poor King knew not a moment’s respite from the state’s worries. He could now leave all the fear to his minister again.

“Well, my good minister,” said the King, “What wonders did you come across in your travels?”

“I saw many wonders, indeed,” said the minister. “But, O King, they are quite insignificant compared to what I saw on my way back from the Isle of Gold.” Then he described the vision of the waters and the rare beauty of the lady with the bin.

This was enough to excite the King. He wanted to see that beautiful woman for himself. Despite the minister’s protests, the King left the entire state in his hands and started on a pilgrimage. He reached the sea and found a vessel bound for the Isle of Gold. The King made friends with the merchant who owned the boat and got into it as a passenger. Night and day, the King looked for the mysterious vision and finally saw it one day. On the waters was the tree, and in the tree was the lady of unimaginable beauty, playing the bin. The King jumped into the sea no sooner than he saw the vision.

When the King touched the bottom of the ocean, he was surprised to see a regular city there. But, however long he wandered about it, he never met a soul. The King kept searching till he came to a vast palace. Entering this palace, the King came upon the beautiful lady resting on a royal couch.

“Who are you?” the King asked her. “Why are you here all by yourself?”

“O King,” the lady replied, “I am a Fairy. My father was very fond of me. He never had his food without me by his side. One day I went to pray to my goddess and was so immersed in my prayers that it was the night before I returned home. My father was angry with me and cursed that I should be confined to this deserted city.”

“That is all to the good,” said the King. “Let us get married and live here happily. I shall die if you will not be my wife.”

“I shall marry you without the least hesitation,” said the Fairy. “But you must know that I shall be rid of the curse within a week of my marriage, and I shall be free to go to my world and join

my father. After cursing me, my father took pity on me and stipulated this condition for my freedom. That was why I went up whenever a ship passed. All these days, no one came down to marry me, and has my wish come true today.”

“I shall consider myself lucky even if you are my wife for a moment,” the King told her.

His love touched the Fairy. She took him to a well in the garden and told him, “During this week we spend here, never step into this well, even by mistake. If you do so, you will be on earth at once, and I shall be miserable alone without you in this deserted city.”

The week passed like a fleeting moment, and the time arrived for the King and his bride to part. The Fairy took the King to the well in the garden and bade him a tearful goodbye.

“I shall never forget your love and the happy time I spent with you here. Get into the well and go to your place. Then I shall return to my father,” she said.

“Why should we part like this?” the King said. “Come to my place, spend some time, and return to your father later.”

“But, my king,” the Fairy said, “if I touch earth once, I shall cease to be immortal and become an ordinary woman.”

The King took her in a last embrace and jumped into the well. The next moment they were on earth, the Fairy was no longer an immortal but an ordinary woman. The King took her to Anga-desh and married her with due pomp. That very night his minister’s heart suddenly stopped, and he was dead.

Having narrated this story, Bethal asked the King, “O King, why did the minister die? Was it because the King returned and interrupted his functions of ruling the land? Or was it because the King married the beautiful Fairy whom he saw but couldn’t marry? If you know the answer and still do not speak, your head will be split into a thousand pieces.”

“Both of the reasons you mention for the minister’s demise are quite wrong,” Vikram replied. “Even when the King was immersed in earthly. Pleasures, the minister had to suffer hostility at the hands of scandal-mongers. Imagine what the minister had to face if a divine beauty was added to the pleasures of the King. It was only this prospect that broke the heart of the minister.”

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

Chandamama November 1955

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