King Vikramaditya : The Prince And The Gandharvas
The cremation ground presented an eerie spectacle on that dark night. The pitch darkness was relieved only by occasional flashes of lightning that lit up the somber scene. Occasionally, a jackal’s spine-chilling howl or the blood-curdling laughter of some invisible evil spirit cut into the silence that hung like a shroud over the area. But nothing could daunt King Vikram. Once again, he made his way to the gnarled tree from which the corpse (Vetal) was hanging.
Oblivious to everything but the mission at hand, he brought the hanging corpse down by cutting the rope with his sword. Slinging it astride his shoulder, he had just begun his return journey when the Vetal said, “O King! This is a very difficult task that you are performing. Perhaps you have taken it on yourself as a favor for someone else. But I hope that when the person offers to reciprocate by doing something that will benefit you, you won’t rashly decline the offer in a fit of emotion, as Prince Vasant of Kirtipur did. Listen to his story.”
“Shaktiteja, the king of Gandharvaloka (the domain of the gandharvas , or demi-gods), had a beautiful daughter named Swarnamanjari. However, Chitravarnika – another nymph was considered to be the most beautiful in Gandharvaloka. This caused Swarnamanjari much heartburn. She became bitterly jealous of Chitravarnika, and was forever looking for an opportunity to hurt her in some way.
Swarnamanjari’s opportunity came when her father took her on a visit to earth. She was so taken in by earth’s beauty that she lost no time in boasting to all her friends about the marvelous sights she had seen when she went back home.
It was not long before her stories of the earth reached Chitravarnika’s ears. The vivid description caught her fancy, and filled her with a longing to visit this new place and see its wonders with her own eyes. She told her friends that she had made up her mind to leave for earth soon.
When King Shaktiteja heard the news from his daughter, he summoned Chitravarnika to his court and curtly announced, “Chitra, no denizen of Gandharvaloka may descend to earth without my permission. If you still insist on going, you shall lose all your celestial powers. However, if you are able to worship at a sacred pilgrim spot within fifteen days of reaching earth, you will regain your powers. Only then can you return to Gandharvaloka.”
The king’s warning did not daunt Chitravarnika; if anything, it only strengthened her determination to make the journey. Floating through air, she made her descent to earth. She landed beside a beautiful brook in the midst of a forest. The crystal clear water of the brook enticed her to take a dip. She stepped into the water and had a refreshing bath. As she emerged from the brook and tried to soar into the air, she realized that she had lost her power to fly.
The gandharva king’s words had come true. Just then, a young man came riding a horse. On seeing Chitravarnika, he reined his horse and asked, “Young lady, may I know who you are and what you’re doing at this lonely spot? You don’t look like an ordinary woman, but like some celestial nymph.” With a sigh, Chitravarnika answered, “You’re right, I’m a gandharva maiden.
But I have lost my celestial powers, only because I committed the crime of visiting your land!” Seeing sympathy in the young man’s eyes, she then told him the whole story.
The young man introduced himself. “I am Vasant, the crown-prince of Kirtipur. With a week left for my coronation, I’m currently out on a tour of my kingdom to get to know it better. I shall take you sightseeing and show you the most beautiful places on earth. In return, I’d like you to take me to Gandharvaloka. I wish to study the administrative policies there, so that I can implement them in my own kingdom when I become the ruler.”
“Your aim is a lofty and commendable one indeed,” praised Chitravarnika. “But O prince, I myself have lost the power to fly back to Gandharvaloka. Unless I worship at the holiest pilgrim spot on earth within fifteen days, I cannot get my power back. So how can I take you there – much as I would love to?”
Vasant assured her that he would help her. “The holiest destination that I can think of is Mount Kailas , abode of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvati ,” he said, “I can take you there.”
On hearing this, Chitravarnika’s eyes lit up with hope and she asked, “But would we be able to make it there in just fifteen days?”” Why not? It can be done if we leave right away,” he replied confidently.
Concluding the story, the Vetal said, “O king, Prince Vasant took the trouble to escort Chitravarnika all the way to Kailas , as a result of which she was able to regain the powers she had lost.
In return, he requested a chance to visit Gandharvaloka, not for his personal enjoyment, but for the noble cause of studying the methods of administration used there, with the intention of implementing them in his own kingdom.
Then why did he change his mind and turn down Chitravarnika’s offer of taking him there? Wasn’t it the height of foolishness to turn down this golden opportunity? Was it out of fear of the gandharva king’s wrath? Or was it an impulsive decision spurred by hurt pride and anger? If you know the answer, speak out – otherwise, your head shall shatter into pieces!”
Calmly and unhesitatingly, King Vikram answered: “The reason Prince Vasant wished to study the administration of Gundharvaloka was because he had considered it an exemplary domain, inhabited by ideal beings. But the gandharva king Shaktiteja’s unjust and unreasonable behavior, goaded by his daughter’s jealousy, which Vasant subsequently witnessed made him understand the gandharva s were far from ideal. They too had the same weaknesses as human beings – perhaps to a worse degree! So, there was nothing to be learnt from their methods of administration. This, coupled with the thought that Chitravarnika would have to suffer her king’s punishment for taking him to Gandharvaloka, made him drop the idea of visiting that land. There is nothing foolish about his decision.”
On hearing this, the Vetal nodded in approval and moved off the king’s shoulder with a jerk and flew back to the tree. King Vikram gave a little sigh as he gazed upon the scene. Then, he squared his shoulders, drew his sword and retraced his steps towards the ancient tree.