King Vikramaditya : Sinners in Heaven
King Vikram, determined to carry the corpse (Vetala) with him, climbed the tree and brought the corpse down again. As he started walking through the cremation ground, swept by the storm and frequented by terrible looking ghosts, Vetala said, “O King, you are probably taking these troubles in the hope of going to heaven. Remember, people who don’t deserve to go there, also find their place there sometimes. Let me tell you a story.”
Tej Singh, a brave young boy, was a disciple of a guru in he had a great yearning for learning and often roamed in the nearby forest, observing and learning new things. He wasn’t afraid of the wild animals as he knew how to protect himself.
One day, Tej met a boy called Aghor in the forest. They soon became good friends. Tej soon found out that his friend was a bandit chief’s son. The bandits not only looted passersby but also raided the nearby villages. They distributed the booty among their people.
Tej didn’t approve of his friend’s way of life. He talked to his friend and advised him to lead his elders to a civilized way of life. Aghor grew pensive. He showed him their deity and let out other secrets about their way of life. Though they looted passersby, they shared the wealth equally. He said, “I don’t know what to do. I am accustomed to the jungle life just like you are to village life. I don’t know which one is better.” When Tej finished his studies, the two parted ways.
After several years, Tej was employed as an officer in the court of the king of Meanwhile Aghor lost his father and was now the leader of the bandits. He proved a far greater menace than his father. Everyday, reports of travelers being looted in the forest reached the king. It was difficult to capture the gang as the forest was wide and the bandits knew the forest better. When the menace of Aghor and his gang became grave, the king made a declaration. He announced that he would marry off the princess to the man who would put an end to Aghor’s menace. Since the king had no son, this meant that the man would succeed him to the throne.
Tej felt bad every time he heard of Aghor’s atrocities. He felt partly responsible for the situation. He often thought, “Only, if I had pressed my friend strongly, perhaps he would have come out of the forest and led a normal life.” Tej Singh knew all the secrets of the gang. He dillydallied about using the secrets against Aghor. After weighing the issue for a while, he decided on saving his people from the bandits.
He entered the forest with a small group of trusted soldiers and hid in a ditch. It was the night before the annual ceremony of the bandits. When the bandits were engrossed in the ceremony, his soldiers attacked and captured them.
Tej Singh was married to the princess and became king soon. Aghor spent the rest of his life in prison and died a prisoner. A year later Tej Singh, who had ruled gloriously, died too. When Tej Singh’s soul reached heaven, it was welcomed by Aghor’s soul. Both became friends again.
Vetala ended the story and asked, “O King! Aghor was a bandit and a sinner. Tej Singh betrayed his friend and was a sinner too. Was it not strange that two sinners should find place in heaven? They had failed to continue as friends in the world, how could they become friends again in heaven? If you know the right answers and yet keep mum, your head will shatter into pieces!”
King Vikram answered, “Tej and Aghor belonged to two different cultures. Aghor followed his father’s footsteps without realizing he was doing anything wrong. He was neither greedy nor cruel. What he received, he spent on his people. There is no proof of him hating his childhood friend who captured him. Tej followed a different code of conduct. As a royal officer, it was his duty to protect the subjects against the menace. He did not go to capture Aghor for the sake of marrying the princess or for becoming king. It was his sense of duty which prompted him to arrest his friend. Both were good souls. Hence they went to heaven. In heaven there is no question of difference in social status. So they became friends again!”
As soon as the king replied, Vetala gave him the slip and returned to the tree.