Vikram Betal Stories in English - A Mahout As Monarch Story


May 1, 2019
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Dark was the night and weird the atmosphere. It rained from time to time: gusts of wind shook the trees. Between thunderclaps and the moaning of jackals could be heard the eerie laughter of spirits. Flashes of lightning revealed fearsome faces.

But King Vikramaditya did not swerve a bit. He climbed the ancient tree once again and brought down the corpse. However, as soon as he began crossing the desolate cremation ground, with the corpse lying on his shoulder, the Vampire, that possessed the corpse spoke: "O King! You seem to be making untiring efforts and without respite as if you wish to achieve something. I pity you. Instead of enjoying comfortable sleep on a cozy bed, you’re still coming after me. Maybe you won’t give up as long as some physical strength is left you. After that, what will you do ? Go to a corner and ruminate? What’ll happen to your determination then? How long do you think you will go on like this? I’m afraid you’ll become old before that and face a lot of problems- like what had happened to King Rajendra of Rangapur. Won’t you like to hear his story?" The vampire then began his narration.

Rangapur was a prosperous kingdom.. King Rajendra ruled justly and he was fair in his decisions. He ensured that his subjects led a happy and peaceful life, though he himself was unhappy and sad all the while as he had no son or daughter to inherit the kingdom. It looked as though he would carry his misfortune till the end of his life. He pined for a child and he neglected his health and soon he was bedridden. Years passed and he was growing older and older.

As he was unable to carry on his reign, he handed over the responsibilities to his ministers. Some of them were just waiting for an opportunity. They took advantage of the situation and demanded bribes whenever a chance came their way and resorted to all sorts of cruel acts which people suffered without any protest. The kingdom witnessed murders, thefts, and robberies. There was lawlessness everywhere, and a stage came when the people could not bear their misrule any longer.

Kesav was of the same age as the king. He was in charge of the royal stable and looked after the elephants. He too was growing old and decided to leave the king’s service after serving Rajendra for long years. He sought an audience with the king. "Your Majesty, I don’t think I can any longer look after the elephants. I have a son and I sent him to an ashram(school) to have his education under a guru(teacher). He is not able to get any work where he can put to use whatever he has learnt. So, I would request Your Majesty to be kind enough to take him in my place and allow me to retire from service."

The king was sorry to lose the services of Kesav, but decided to accede to his request. "All right, you bring your son to me," said the king, full of sympathy. "Let me test him before I take him."

The next morning Kesav and Madhav reached the palace. The king left his bed to go with them to the stable. He pointed to an elephant. "Karmugha is in masth(uncontrollable). Madhav, I want you to bring him under control and ride on it around the palace once."

Madhav went straight to the elephant undaunted tapped him on his forelegs, and made him kneel so that he could easily get on to his back. Madhav went round the palace once and returned triumphantly. The king was very pleased. He immediately made Madhav the royal mahout.

A few days later, it was the king’s birthday. The streets were decorated and there was a festive look everywhere. As usual, King Rajendra rode an elephant in procession. Mahout Madhav walked by the side of the caparisoned elephant carrying the king in the howdah. People lined up on both sides of the streets to greet their king. The sound of music rose in the air, while the fireworks turned the skies into a glorious spectacle.

Suddenly there was a heavy downpour as if the sky was jealous of the celebrations down below on the ground. People ran helter-skelter. The elephant on which the king rode was approaching a decorated arch which was now, swaying in the strong breeze, and looked as though it would crash to the ground any moment. Madhav cleverly manoeuvred the elephant through the arch and the next moment it crumbled down. King Rajendra was thus saved.

On reaching the palace, the king praised Madhav. "If it had not been for you, I would have lost my life, Madhav," said the king said gratefully. "I must do something for you in return. Whatever you wish for, you may ask me. I shall see that you get it."

"I’ve not one, but three wishes, Your Majesty," replied Madhav. "My friend Jagan was with me in the ashram. We studied together. He tried for a job in the palace, but did not succeed. May I request you to give him a job?"

King Rajendra did not respond immediately. Madhav thought he must be waiting to hear his second wish. "Someone came and stole a lot of things from my neighbour’s house. We met the Kothwal(sheriff) and made a complaint, but the thief has not been apprehended till now. My neighbour must be paid adequate compensation."

The king was silent still. "My third wish is," continued Madhav, "One of my teachers in the gurukul is suffering form an incurable disease. He consulted several vaids(doctors), all of whom excused themselves, telling him that the royal physician alone can cure him. Would Your Majesty be good enough to direct the royal Vaid to examine him and treat him?"

"I agree that all your three wishes are equally important and urgent," remarked King Rajendra. "However, as I told you earlier, only one wish can be carried out now. You may choose one and tell me."

Madhav thought for a while and said, "Your Majesty! Many of your officers are taking bribes and not doing their duties properly. So, my lone wish is that you should punish them and root out corruption and injustice in the kingdom."

King Rajendra smiled got up form his seat and embraced Madhav. "I was all the while worrying who’ll be there to look after the kingdom when I depart from this world," said the king with great relief. "Now I’m no longer worried on that count.

You began asking for favours on behalf of different persons, but never wanted anything for yourself. I’m going to declare you as crown prince and after my death, you must rule this kingdom."

The vampire concluded the story there and turned to King Vikramaditya. "O king! Was king Rajendra right in handing over the kingdom to a mere mahout? Wasn’t it a foolish act on his part? There was no connection between Madhav’s first three wishes and the last one. Why was it so? The king had grown old and become senile. That’s why he chose a mahout to succeed him wasn’t it? Does a mahout have any qualification to become king? If you know the answers and still prefer to keep silent, beware, your head will be blown to pieces!"

The king replied calmly: "One need not lose intelligence and strength when one becomes old. Some people may be affected by old age, not all. They may become weak, but they need not lose intelligence or wisdom. Their mind may remain alert thought they may be physically weak. This is just normal. The king’s assumption that Madhav was competent to sit on the throne after his death and his decision to make him his successor was perfectly all right. Because his fourth wish indirectly took care of his three earlier wishes. Madhav’s friend in the gurukul could not get a job in the palace because he was unable to pay any bribe. Madhav was confident that the king would grant his third wish-to send the royal physician to treat his teacher. Madhav did not ask for anything for himself. He was more anxious and sympathetic towards others. This quality reassured the king that Madhav would not be selfish but would protect his subjects and safeguard their interests and welfare. So, he deserved to be a king rather than remain a mahout. It was after deep thought that the king took his decision".

The vampire realised that King Vikramaditya had outwitted him once again. He flew back to the ancient tree carrying the corpse with him. The King drew his sword and went after the vampire.