Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Tale of King Bharthari

^       King Bharthari was the king of Ujjain, India in the 1st Century BC. 
He was enslaved by the magical beauty of Queen Pingla, who feared
none since Bharthari was under her “spell”. She wandered around
fearlessly and fell in love with the stable master.

^        Prince Vikramaditya, the king’s younger brother, considered
Bharthari as a father figure and Pingla as a mother. The king had made
him the Prime Minister. Vikramaditya was the first to have suspicions
regarding Pingla’s adultery. After much deliberation he finally informed
his brother about her misdeeds. Besotted with Pingla, the king took
offence and reprimanded his own brother.

^       The king considered Pingla as the epitome of high moral character.
After some days she made a request to the king, “your younger brother
is like a son to me and I have always tried to be a mother to him but he
looks at me in a lustful manner. He has made several attempts to defile
me, and not only me, but he has destroyed purity of many women in this
kingdom. A few days ago he had attempted to lure the daughter-in-law
of the Brahmin with the assistance of maids, but she, like me, too is a
faithful woman and resisted his intentions. I implore you to stay alert and
be very wary about such an unscrupulous man. I do not want you to be
in any danger from him.” Upon hearing this, the king took every word to
be the utmost truth.

^      Then Pingla called the Brahmin and told him to go to the king and
tell him exactly what she wanted to him to do.  She threatened him of
dire consequences if he refused.

^    A fearful Brahmin went to see the king the next day and told him that
Vikramaditya had defiled his daughter-in-law. Filled with rage, the king
without any investigation immediately ordered his younger brother’s
expulsion from the kingdom.

^      One day a Brahmin arrived in the king’s court and told the king
about the fruit of immortality, which he had obtained after appeasing the
deity?  He and his wife couldn’t eat that fruit as they feared that both
would have to endure poverty forever and he wished to give it to the king
in return for some wealth. Bharthari took the fruit in exchange for wealth.

^      The king didn’t eat the fruit himself but gave it to his beloved Pingla,
who in turn gave it to her lover, Mahipala. The lover didn’t eat the fruit
either but gave it to his favourite maid, who accepted the fruit but began
to contemplate her lifestyle, “I have sinned all my life, destroyed many
marriages. If I eat this fruit and become eternal then I will have to endure
all this. It's better I give this fruit to the king, who  has given me so many pleasures.” And thus she presented the fruit to the king. 

^      A stunned king asked her, “who gave you this fruit.”  On inquiry
she told him the whole story truthfully. The king immediately summoned
the stable master and asked him about the fruit. Mahipala fell at the
king’s feet and narrated about his affair with the queen. 

^      This filled the king with hatred for Pingala in particular and the world
in general. He, after leaving the kingdom to Vikramaditya, renounced the
world and became a saint and spent his life in search of the truth. 

^       This story is a popular folklore in central India. Some decades back
the story of Bharthari was popularly played by various nautanki groups
in villages. As a child, I remember having watched it on a few occasions
in my village.

^       Morale ............... not every Siddhartha becomes a Buddha. 

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