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   A Word from Author
   The Last Game
   Charu & the Witch
   Three Questions
   Kaal Chakra
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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir


Symbol of Unity


Three Questions

Thousands of years ago, there was a kingly state in Bharatvarsha, called Batsala. Arunagiri was its capital. Maharaja Abhayadhiraj was the king of Batsala. He was a noble and pious man. Maharani Vasundhara was his queen. She was very beautiful. Maharaja had won her in a swayamvara from among a dozen competitors . He had fought and killed a bison bare handed in the swayamvara. People of Batsala were very happy with the king and the queen. They would always pray for their long life.

For a long time after their marriage, Maharani Vasundhara did not bear any child. Medical advice was sought from the royal physicians but to no avail. Rituals were performed in order to appease the deities at the instance of learned Brahmins, but they were of no consequence. Maharani Vasundhara was desperate. Maharaja, though himself very upset, consoled her saying that it was probably the wish of gods. Still they prayed fervently for a child, successor to the throne.

It was early Spring. Maharaja and Maharani were taking a stroll along the stream flowing by the side of the Rajmahal. Mahamantri Sura was following them at a distance. Maharaja heard some noises coming from the gate of the Rajmahal. He asked Sura to look into the matter. On reaching the gate, Mahamantri found the royal guards questioning an old man. The old man was requesting them to permit him to meet the king but the guards were not relenting. Mahamantri asked him who he was and why he wanted to meet the king. Old man said that he had come from a distant place only to meet the Maharaja and reveal a secret to him. Convinced that the old man had something important to reveal, Mahamantri let him in and promised him an audience with the king.

Maharaja Abhayadhiraj was informed about the old man's request. He issued instructions that the visitor be immediately brought to the Durbar. He also asked his Mahamantri and other ministers to be present.

The old man was escorted by the chief of royal guards. He saluted the Maharaja in the customary manner. Maharaja welcomed him and asked him who he was and why did he want to meet him? The old man, introduced himself as Joginda, a yogi. He said, he hailed from a distant place and that he wanted to make some revelations.

Yogi Joginda continued, "I have been meeting the people who visit your country off and on and through them, I learned about your nobility and generosity. I always desired to meet you but was waiting for an opportune time. When I heard that you have no child to succeed your throne, I was pained. I decided to invoke the blessings of Lord Brahma through Tapasya. At the conclusion of my Tapasya, Lord Brahma appeared in my dream. He directed me to perform a 100 days uninterrupted Yagna, to grant me a wish, which I did. Now I have come here to tell you that Maharani Vasundhara will soon be blessed with a male child."

Cries of joy rented the air. Maharaja and Maharani were thrilled at this revelation. Maharaja directed his Mahamantri to arrange free meals for a hundred Brahmins. He gifted Joginda precious gems and requested him to stay on as royal guest for a week. Maharaja personally looked after his comforts. Yogi Joginda was moved at the Maharaja's hospitality. While departing from the palace, he said, "I shall come again to bless the child."

In due course of time, Maharani Vasundhara gave birth to a beautiful male child. Rajmahal was illuminated and a free langar was arranged for the poor for three days. Sweets were distributed among the friends and Rajmahal staff. A special emissary was sent to yogi Joginda to inform him about birth of the child.

On his arrival at Rajmahal, Joginda performed puja along with Maharaja Abhayadhiraj. He blessed the child and named him 'Arisudhana'. Joginda told the king and the queen, "Rajkumar Arisudhana should be crowned as successor to the throne only when he attains the age of twenty. At the age of fifteen, he should be sent outside the territory of Batsala in the garb of an ordinary person to seek answers to the following three questions:

1) In what lies one's lasting pleasure?

2) What is that which a woman loves most?

3) What is that which one can not hide for long? Rajkumar should be given a maximum period of five year's to seek the answers. He should be crowned as successor to the throne only if he gets all the answers right".

"And how do we know that he got the correct answers", asked Maharaja. Joginda took a piece of bhojpatra, wrote something on it and wrapped it in a piece of cloth. He made it into an amulet and handed it to the king. "Correct answers are written here. It should be opened only after the Rajkumar returns with the answers." Saying this, the yogi left. Maharaja secured the amulet in the treasury vaults and relaxed. His successor was before him. He had nothing to worry about, he thought. Rajkumar would definitely come up to his expectations and get the right answers.

Rajkumar Arisudhana was brought up with lot of love and care. As he grew up, his parents told him about the yogi and his three questions. Rajkumar wanted to leave immediately but Maharaja and Maharani did not permit him as he had not attained the age of fifteen.

On the day of his 15th birthday, Rajkumar Arisudhana rose early in the morning. He was given a ceremonious bath. He then performed puja in the royal temple along with his parents. A grand Durbar was organised on the occasion. He was seated on a rosewood pedestal in the centre of the Durbar Hall while Rajguru chanted mantras from the holy scriptures. Tilak was applied on his forehead. He was then dressed in white robes like that of a common man. Maharani offered him sweets and a glass of milk. Maharaja and Maharani, both garlanded him. A pouch containing fresh and dry fruits, saamgri for performing puja, Gangajal and an additional set of clothes, was placed on his shoulder. He was now set to leave the palace. Maharaja, Maharani, Mahamantri and Rajguru accompanied him. At the palace gate, two decorated horse driven carriages were waiting. Maharaja, Maharani and Rajkumar got seated in one and Mahamantri, Rajguru and others in the second. These carriages drove them towards river Surbhi. People of Arunagiri thronged both sides of the road leading to Surbhi. They were raising slogans and praying for safe return of the Rajkumar. On reaching the river bank, they all alighted from the carriages. Maharaja and Maharani embraced Arisudhana and then led him to a boat decorated with flowers. Arisudhana took the oar in his hands and waved to his parents and the people. Maharaja and Maharani stood motionless, tears trickling down their eyes. They watched their prince rowing away till he was out of their sight.

Next morning, as the Sun sent its first rays into the palace, Maharani woke up. As usual, she paid obeisance to the rising Sun. Arunagiri, the capital of her kingdom Batsala, was so located as to receive the Sun's rays first. But this morning was different from other mornings. Rajkumar Arisudhana's absence was being felt everywhere. Maharaja gathered courage or at least put a brave face but Maharani was deeply distressed. She could not hide her grief.

Rajkumar Arisudhana reached the outskirts of his kingdom in the afternoon. He tied his boat to a tree, threw away all flowers and garlands into the river, lest some one recognise him. He set on foot towards an unknown destination. While on his way, he came across a big shady tree and decided to take rest before proceeding further. He hung his pouch on a branch and laid down. He soon fell asleep.

When Rajkumar woke up, it was almost dusk. He noticed a stranger sitting beside him. The stranger asked him who he was? In order to keep his identity hidden he said, "I am Ananta. I hail from Batsala. I have set forth for the world outside my country in search of a livelihood. Who are you and what is this village called as?" The stranger said, "I am Anusuya. This village is 'Rudraloka'. I hail from a village called 'Chandri'. It is a day's journey from this place. I plan to spend the night in a temple nearby and leave for my village early morning. You can accompany me if you so wish." Rajkumar Arisudhana, who was now Ananta, nodded in agreement. They reached the temple after a short walk. Both of them had some fruits and milk for dinner and decided to rest for the night.

Next morning, after taking a bath and performing puja in the temple, they left for Chandri village. On the way Ananta noticed, Anusuya was not as old as he appeared the previous night. He was probably middle aged, good looking, though lean. During their journey, they ate whatever Ananta carried in his pouch. They reached the village late in the evening. Anusuya asked Ananta, "Where do you go now? You must be very tired. Why don't you spend the night with me and leave for your destination tomorrow?" Ananta readily agreed.

On reaching his home, a small hut made of bamboo and hay, Anusuya called out to his wife. A young lady appeared at the door. Anusuya introduced her as Pushpalata, his wife and informed her that Ananta would be staying with them for the night. Ananta observed that the place, though clean, clearly reflected the poverty of its owner. Pushpalata, soon brought a bucket of hot water and washed their feet. She then served them a good meal. After dinner Ananta stretched himself on the floor and soon fell asleep.

On waking up next morning, Ananta did not find Anusuya around. He enquired with Pushpalata. She told him that Anusuya had left for the fields at dawn. She also told him that she had prepared flour cakes and soup for Anusuya, which she was going to deliver to him. Ananta thought he could give some relief to Pushpalata. So he volunteered to carry the food for Anusuya, to which Pushpalata agreed. She added some more cakes and soup for Ananta.

Anusuya was ploughing the land. He had only one ox and in place of the other, he had put himself. He was perspiring profusely. Looking at Anusuya's pathetic condition, Ananta thought to himself as to what could be the cause of Anusuya's extreme poverty? He became curious . He wanted to know more about Anusuya and help him. On seeing Ananta, Anusuya stopped and retired to a green patch. Both of them opened the pack and had the soup and the cakes. While they were having their lunch, Ananta broached upon the subject. Anusuya, finding a sympathetic friend, began narrating his life story.

Anusuya revealed that he was not always a poor man, but hailed from a well to do family. His father Chalaka was a pious man and helped the needy. His mother was an orthodox lady, shrewdly dedicated to her religion. She would seldom venture out of her house. The family had a large chunk of land which was enough to feed them throughout the year. They also had a good house to live in. At the age of twenty, Anusuya was married to Pushpalata. They were a happy family.

Chalaka, had a cousin by name Taraka. He was a man of vices and had lost everything on drinking and gambling. He had to even sell off his land. Chalaka, tried to correct him many a times but to no avail. When Taraka turned a pauper, he got jealous of Chalaka. Chalaka having no inkling of Taraka's jealousy, wanted to help him. He gave him a small piece of land in charity and advised him to reform himself. Taraka accepted the offer but requested that the land be transferred through a proper deal. He said he was particularly suspicious of Pushpalata rescinding the offer after Chalaka was no more. Chalaka agreed and asked Taraka to get the transfer documented. Taraka got the documents and Chalaka put his seal on them. Taraka however did not take possession of the land immediately, stating that he was waiting for an auspicious time.

As ill-luck would have it, Anusuya's father and mother met a fatal accident while on a pilgrimage. The news came as a shock to all the villagers, for whom they were next to God. Entire village mourned their death. But there was one man who rejoiced on their death. And he was Taraka.

After a couple of days, Taraka approached the still mourning Anusuya and Pushpalata and asked them to surrender their land and house to him. He showed them the papers bearing Chalaka's seal. He claimed that the property had been sold by his father to him. Anusuya and Pushpalata were taken aback. They were sure the papers were fraudulently obtained. They complained to the village elders, but they could not help. Papers clearly proved Taraka's claim.

Anusuya and Pushpalata vacated the house. They erected a small hut in the corner of a vast area of barren land a little away from the village. This land also belonged to them and luckily was not included by Taraka in his deed. They moved into the hut along with their four year old son.

Anusuya and Pushpalata had to start their life afresh. The land they owned now, was slopy and the river water could not reach it. Having no option, Anusuya decided to cultivate a small portion of land with such crops needing scanty rainfall. He worked hard and gradually started earning a meagre livelihood.

A good house had always been Pushpalata's dream. She did not mourn the loss of land as much as she mourned the loss of her house. Anusuya knew it. He promised to give her a new house but did not succeed. He had nobody to help him. And the Rain-god did not seem to favour him either.

Ananta was moved with Anusuya's pathetic story. He decided to help him. So when Anusuya asked him if he could work with him in his fields, Ananta agreed immediately. He had no specific destination. He thought it was better to start looking for the answers right from here. And who knew, God only brought him to that place to know the truth?

Anusuya and Ananta first removed all thorny bushes and stones from the entire barren land. They then levelled it in terraces. It took them almost three months. At the extreme elevation, there was a big hump of stone conglomerate. They started breaking the hump with whatever means they had. After days of toil, when they were about to finish the job, a miracle occurred. Ananta's axe struck the bed of the conglomerate with a bang. A crevice was formed and water came gushing out through it, in the form of a spring. Anusuya and Ananta, both cried out with joy. Water flowed down with force, flooding the entire land below. Anusuya ran home to tell Pushpalata about the miracle. Ananta sat on a stone nearby, watching the water meandering its way all through the land. On reaching the site, Pushpalata could not believe her eyes. She fell at Ananta's feet in gratitude. Ananta had brought them good luck.

With their sheer will, Anusuya and Ananta transformed the whole area into a beautiful cascade of fields. These fields became the prize land of the village now, because of the high yielding spring. In six months' time, the duo's hard work bore fruit. The fields were full of golden crop which fetched Anusuya a very good sum. Second harvest earned him much more than his expectations. He then started constructing his new house. In a short span of time, Anusuya was well settled. Pushpalata was very happy, for, she had a good house now. Ananta was also happy working for Anusuya.

In due course of time, Anusuya earned a fortune. Pushpalata was fond of jewellery. She told her husband that she wished to buy a jewel-studded necklace for herself. Anusuya bought her a necklace, studded with gems, which was unique piece. Pushpalata wore it around her neck. She was all smiles, her desire fulfilled. She did not part with it even for a moment. Now the necklace was more dear to her than any thing else.

Ananta thought, he found an answer to one of his question: 'What is that which a woman loves most?' And the answer was certainly 'Her Jewellery'. He was now planning to leave the village, but Anusuya did not allow him. He wanted Ananta to stay for some time more. Ananta agreed.

A few days passed. Anusuya and Pushpalata visited a fair in the neighbouring town. Ananta stayed back to look after the child. There were hundreds of well decorated stalls at the fair, selling items brought from distant places. There were cattle shows and a variety of entertainment programmes held under colourful Shamianas. Anusuya and Pushpalata went inside a Shamiana to witness a magic show. Suddenly, during the course of the show, the shamiana caught fire. There was a chaos. People were running helter-skelter for safety. There were cries and screams, some falling down and others trampling them. Anusuya caught his wife by her hand and almost dragged her. In the confusion, Pushpalata's necklace slipped down. Pushpalata jerked out her hand from that of Anusuya's and turned back in search of the necklace. Anusuya persuaded her not to bother for the necklace and instead run for safety. But she would not listen. She managed to get her hands on the necklace but as soon as she turned around, a burning wooden structure collapsed and fell on her. Anusuya could only hear her groan. He ran towards her and with the help of a few people, he managed to get her out. Her face was badly burnt but the necklace was still tightly clinched in her hand.

Anusuya summoned the best hakeems and vaids, to treat Pushpalata. They did their best but could not restore back her original beauty. Pushpalata was desperate. One of the hakeems advised them to seek help from a Tantrik at a far off place, who, he claimed, had magical powers and was known to have treated many such cases. Anusuya summoned him.

The Tantrik had a look at Pushpalata's face. He assured to restore her face, but demanded a sum beyond Anusuya's means. Even by selling his house, he would not make the requisite amount. So Pushpalata decided to offer her necklace. "Beauty is more valuable than the stones", she concluded. And the necklace changed hands.

True to his word, the Tantrik performed miracle. Pushpalata's beautiful face was restored. No one could now say that she had ever burnt her face. Anusuya and Ananta could not believe their eyes. Ananta had to revise the answer to his question. In his opinion now, a woman loved her beauty most. And this time, he was doubly sure, he had the right answer.

Ananta got ready to leave for his next destination. Anusuya, Pushpalata and their child had returned to the old hut. Ananta was sure, Anusuya would rise again. He promised Anusuya that on his return, he would visit them.

Ananta set out for a new unknown destination. He had to make his way through mountains and jungles. He came across a group of shepherds. They informed him of a town named Saraspur on other side of the mountain. It took Ananta three days to reach this town, while on his way, he spent his nights with the shepherds.

Saraspur was a beautiful town. It was located on the bank of river Saraswati. Ananta reached there at noon. He went to the river and had a bath. He saw a number of Brahmins performing religious rites at the ghat. Ananta watched them for a while and then retreated to a nearby temple.

After performing puja in the temple, Ananta decided to take a walk down the market. He was very hungry, but nobody would feed him for free. While on stroll, he saw a middle aged man dressing stones. The man was totally engrossed in his work. Ananta observed that there were a number of stone blocks on one side and a few carved stones on the other side. Ananta went up to him and introduced himself. He then enquired if he could get a job as he was badly in need of one. The stone carver whose name was Mihira, was alone and had a lot of work in hand. He readily offered him one. On knowing that Ananta was hungry, Mihira offered him food from his stock.

Mihira's job was to dress and carve stones. These stones were used for constructing houses. intricately carved stones were also used in construction of temples. Mihira's stones were very much in demand because of their finish. But he was unable to cope with the demand. He had employed a few people initially but they left one by one because of strenuous nature of work. Mihira was however contented with his earning and lived happily with his wife.

Ananta picked up the job very fast. Mihira was pleased with his work. On seeing Ananta doing a good job, more and more people joined them. In a short span of time, Mihira became a big supplier of carved stones. His stones were now in demand in other villages and towns. His business began to flourish.

Mihira's lust for wealth grew. When he was alone, he would hardly carve one stone a day. After Ananta joined him, the number rose to three a day. Now he had half a dozen workers and the number of stones carved each day was more than a dozen. Yet he was not satisfied.

Ananta observed, Mihira was getting tense day after day. When alone, Mihira was contended with earning two square meals. After that, when he got enough to live a respectable life, he started yearning for a cow, a pair of oxen and good house, like that of his cousin. Now he had all this and more, yet he was not satisfied. He revealed his desire to equal Lochana, the town head-priest, to Ananta.

A year later, Mihira became the richest man of his town. He had not to work himself now. He had scores of workers to do the job. He had two horse carriages, while Lochana had only one. But he continued to look tense. He had enough of wealth but no contentment.

Mihira heard from traders, the tales of a rich man across the river Saraswati. His name was Kalpaka. He had two palatial houses for his two wives. Kalpaka also had ten cows, half a dozen of horses, five pairs of oxen and tens of servants.

Mihira's lust knew no bounds. He now wanted to equal Kalpaka. The spring season ahead would pave the way to fulfill his dream. A grand temple in the name of goddess Saraswati was to be constructed on the bank of river. People from all villages and towns in the vicinity had joined hands for this purpose. Mihira was the only one to supply stones, as he was nearest and the best. He employed hundreds of workers and started the job well in advance. He also shifted his place of work to the open ground near the site of temple.

By the end of season, thousands of stone blocks stood carved and stacked at the temple premises. People were all praise for Mihira and Ananta. By the time, construction of temple got underway, Mihira became so rich as to leave Kalpaka way behind. He married two more women and constructed three palatial houses near the temple, one for each of his wives. He was a happy man now.

Ananta was delighted. He was now ready with an answer to his first question: 'In what lies one's lasting pleasure?' He was sure, one's ultimate pleasure was in having enough of riches.

Ananta bid good-bye to Mihira. Mihira was reluctant to let him go, for, he was sure, he could make more riches with his help. But Ananta did not agree. More than four years of his five year term had already elapsed. He was yet to seek answer to the third question. So he wished him good luck and promised to see him again on his return.

Ananta had heard a lot about river Ganga and the learned people living on its banks. He decided to spend some time there to seek knowledge and look for an answer to his third question. He met some people on his way. They were headed for Kashi, the most sacred place on the banks of Ganga. Ananta joined them.

In a couple of days, Ananta reached Kashi. One of the persons accompanying him, introduced him to Guru Vasudeva, a highly learned Brahmin of Kashi. On learning that Ananta had come from a far off place to seek knowledge, Vasudeva welcomed him into his Ashram.

Guru Vasudeva's Ashram was home to many a boys. All of them came from well-to-do families and most of them were from very far off places. While in Ashram, they received lessons on various subjects ranging from spirituality to high values of morality. Reading the religious scriptures, vedas and puranans, also formed a part of their daily routine. Besides this, the boys had to perform daily chores of the Ashram. Ananta, who had acquired some agricultural skills at Anusuya's place, was asked to work in the fields.

Ashram life was a new experience to Ananta. Every job was done in accordance with a fixed schedule.. There was perfect coordination between the inmates of the ashram. Guruji's discourses were enlightening. He loved all his disciples alike. Ananta realised, he was fortunate to have come to that place.

One day while in the fields, Ananta saw a boy, sitting alone at the periphery. The boy looked very gloomy. On enquiry from other inmates, Ananta learned that the boy's name was Gautama. His father Narsimha, had been taken into custody by the king of Kashi. No further details were known, nor was anybody allowed to discuss the issue. Ananta could not resist. He requested Guruji to tell him about Gautama. Guruji did not reply.

Each day Ananta observed, Gautama would sit at a particular spot facing the entrance, perhaps waiting for his father. Ananta could not see his plight. He once again requested Guruji to tell him about Gautama. Guru Vasudeva looked into Ananta's eyes. He found in them, a deep desire to know the truth. Guruji could no longer hold back the truth. So he narrated Narsimha's story to him.

Narsimha hailed from a country named Sadhra, which was located to the South of Kashi. He was a young boy when his father, Abhinava died. Abhinava was a renowned Raj-jyotshi of Sadhra. Narsimha had acquired jyotish-vidya from his father, right from his childhood. Actually, this knowledge passed from generation to generation in their family and there was nobody to compete with them. On the death of Abhinava, Narsimha was designated as the new Raj-jyotshi by the king of Sadhra. He was to take charge and shift to Rajmahal only after proving himself worth that honour, by making at least two correct predictions. Till that time, Narsimha was to spend his days in his village.

The king was a staunch believer in astrological fallouts. So Raj-jyotshi enjoyed a special status in his palace. Narsimha was sure, he would go well with his duties and earn good name for himself like his father. He was only waiting for an opportune time to make a prediction.

But luck did not favour Narsimha. One day in the morning, he was informed that the queen had delivered a baby girl. He was informed the time of birth of the child and asked to predict her future. Narsimha was excited. The time had finally come to make his first prediction. He was about to begin his calculations when someone knocked at his door. Narsimha opened the door and saw a fellow villager Sehdeva. Sehdeva told him that his wife had delivered a baby and requested him to predict the child's future. Narsimha took necessary details from him. Sehdeva left. After a detailed study, Narsimha's calculations revealed that the baby born to the queen would earn laurels, while the one born to the villager would die the same day. He sent his predictions to respective parents through a messenger.

The king and the queen were overwhelmed with joy on reading Narsimha's prediction. The news travelled through length and breadth of the kingdom in no time. A great raj-bhog was ordered to be arranged. Just before the Sunset, when the merry making was at its peak, news came of the death of the baby. There was commotion. The King and the Queen were shocked. Guests began leaving the palace wailing. Food cooked for guests was thrown away. Lights were blown off and the palace was drowned into complete darkness.

News reached Narsimha. King was furious with him for his wrong prediction. Narsimha was scared, knowing well that he would be hanged. He decided to leave immediately to save his life. He covered his face with a scarf and walked as fast as he could to get out of his country. On the way he heard people talking about the wrong prediction and the punishment to follow. It was midnight when he found himself safe, far away from his country and its people.

Narsimha kept walking all through the night, treading difficult terrains, valleys and ridges. In the morning, he found himself in Kashi. He took a dip in the river Ganga and slept on its sands.

Narsimha did not know for how long he had been sleeping. But when he woke up, he saw a crowd gathered around him. They wanted to know who he was and where from had he come. Narsimha did not want to reveal his identity. He was sure, the king would send his men in search of him. He introduced himself as Murlidharan. He told them that he hailed from a distant place and had come to Kashi to seek knowledge. People guided him to Vasudeva's Ashram.

To keep his identity completely hidden, Narsimha, who was now named Murlidharan, told Vasudeva that though he was an illiterate, he had come all the way to Kashi to seek knowledge. Vasudeva was very kind to him. He admitted him into the Ashram. Guru also imparted necessary education to him, to enable him understand vedas. He was assigned duty in the Bhojanalaya.

For five long years, Murlidharan lived in the Ashram. He wished to marry now and lead a family life. He expressed his desire to Guru Vasudeva. Vasudeva conceded but did not permit him to quit his duty at the Ashram. With the blessings of Guru Vasudeva, he married Rohini, the daughter of a poor Brahmin of Kashi and lived in a small hut nearby.

Murlidharan did not reveal his identity even to his wife, Rohini. Both of them were happy. In due course of time, Rohini gave birth to a lovely boy. The boy was named Gautama.

Gautama was born with great talents. He was very sharp in all respects and had a natural flair for astrology. This surprised Guru Vasudeva. He enquired from Murlidharan if there was ever an astrologer in his family? Murlidharan denied and the matter ended there.

One day, the king of Kashi decided to renounce the kingship and set for a pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar, along with his queen. So he planned to crown his son Rajkumar Varun as the king. He fixed an auspicious day and time for Rajkumar's coronation as per the advice of his Rajguru. The ceremony was to be held in an open ground, big enough to accommodate the entire population of Kashi. A massive Pandal was erected on the ground for the coronation. Preparations for the ceremony started well in advance.

Murlidharan learned about day, date and time of the coronation ceremony. The astrologer within him awoke. He became suspicious about the time. Something was wrong, he felt. He started studying the grahas prevailing at the time of the ceremony. His suspicion was not unfounded. The time fixed for Varun's coronation was the most inauspicious one. He had no doubt now, but was not in a position to pronounce the truth. He tried to keep his calm though he was highly disturbed.

On the day of coronation, he accompanied Guru Vasudeva to the place, where ceremony was to be held. They occupied their seats in the front row. Ground was over flowing with people. The royal family was yet to arrive.

The king, queen and the prince arrived in a royal carriage. All of them ascended on to the dais specially erected for the purpose. People shouted jayjaykar in praise of the king, the queen and the prince. The Mahamantri gave details of the ceremony.

The jyotshi in Murlidharan, kept pricking his conscience. He was in a fix. Time was running out. He could not decide what to do? In the anxious state of mind, he unknowingly pressed Vasudeva's hand. Vasudeva turned to him. Murlidharan was sweating profusely. Guru felt, Murlidharan wanted to say something but was not able to speak. He patted him gently and asked him to speak out. Murlidharan revealed that the time chosen for the coronation was most inauspicious as per his calculations. Guru Vasudeva was perplexed. How could the illiterate Murlidharan make astrological calculations? Murlidharan pleaded with him to convey his message to the king. Guru Vasudeva was in a fix. He could not decide what to do? On Murlidharan's insistence, he decided to present him before the king.

Before the Raj-jyotshi could stand up to announce commencement of the coronation ceremony, Vasudeva got up and climbed on to the dais. He requested the king to grant Murlidharan an audience immediately. Having high regards for Guru Vasudeva, the king agreed.

Murlidharan was still sweating. He requested the King to postpone the ceremony as the time was very inauspicious. On hearing this, the King and the Raj-jyotshi were taken aback. Raj-jyotshi refuted Murlidharan's claim. The King was confused. He asked Murlidharan, " Who are you and on what basis do you refute our Raj-jyotshi's calculations." Murlidharan replied, " Your Majesty! My real name is Narsimha. I cannot tell you anything more about myself now. But I stand by my prediction. The time calculated by your Raj-jyotshi is most inauspicious. Coronation of Rajkumar Varun at this time, will be disastrous." "But how do we believe your words?" asked the Mahamantri. Narsimha said, "A little before the designated time, Sun will be completely eclipsed. The country will be engulfed into complete darkness. There will be no light for quite some time. If this happens, my prediction should be taken as correct". "And if it does not happen?", asked the King. "In that case I offer my head", replied Narsimha. The King announced, "Let our Raj-jyotshi keep everything ready for the ceremony. If the Sun is eclipsed, the ceremony will automatically stand postponed. And if it does not happen, the coronation will proceed as per programme and Narsimha shall be beheaded immediately after the ceremony."

King's decision was hailed by everybody. Narsimha was held captive by the guards. Guru Vasudeva was standing beside him. He was feeling pity for poor Narsimha. "How can Narsimha make such a prediction and prove the Raj-jyotshi wrong", thought he. He was sure Narsimha would face death.

But things happened exactly as Narsimha had predicted. Soon, the Sun was completely eclipsed. There was complete darkness. Nothing around was visible. The king and the queen and all others were terrified. The crowd stood mesmerised. This phenomenon lasted a few minutes. Immediately, after the Sun shone again, the king stood up and embraced Narsimha. Vasudeva was glad but confused. Raj-jyotshi has vanished from the dais to escape ensuing punishment. Narsimha was designated as the new Raj-jyotshi. He was asked to present himself in the Raj Bhawan next day, for a formal ceremony.

Vasudeva and Narsimha returned to the Ashram. Vasudeva was still in shock. He could not make out as to how an illiterate person could make such an accurate prediction. He did not ask Narsimha any questions. Instead he decided to put the truth before the King.

The following day, Vasudeva accompanied Narsimha to the Raj Mahal. Before the formal ceremony, Vasudeva approached the king and said, "Your Majesty! I am greatly pleased to have my dear Narsimha appointed as Raj-jyotshi. But before this is done, It is my duty to tell you some facts about him. Narsimha has been with me for the last fifteen years. He is illiterate and does not know a word about astrology. How could he work out the exact happening, is still a mystery to me? If he really is an astrologer, then why did he lie? Ashram is a sacred place for bringing up the most noble breed of children. How can one lie while seeking admission to such a place. If Narsimha is proved to have lied, I request your majesty to give him a befitting punishment."

The king looked at Narsimha and asked him to divulge the truth. Narsimha stood with his head low and eyes filled with tears. He said, "Yes, Your Majesty! I am a liar. I deserve to be punished. But I would like to reveal the circumstances which compelled me to hide the truth." Narsimha then narrated his story to the king. At the end, Narsimha said, "I had to lie out of compulsion. Had I not lied, I would have been caught by my king and punished. I am however still surprised, how could my prediction go wrong in his case?"

The king did not pronounce his judgment. He ordered that Narsimha be kept in custody till a final decision was taken.

"That was Narsimha's story", Guru Vasudeva concluded. He said to Ananta, "The king will take a decision soon. I am myself in pain, to see Narsimha in custody. But I am helpless. Lying is a sin and in an Ashram, it is the biggest sin."

When the king ordered Narsimha's custody, he was not sure of the facts. He could not understand as to why Narsimha's prediction had gone wrong. He counselled with his aides, but there was no way to exonerate him.

One day, the king discussed the issue with the queen. She was also worried for Narsimha. After all, he had saved them from a disaster. She thought for a while and said, "Why don't we call the villager Sehdeva, whose wife had also delivered a baby that day". "What can he do", asked the king. "I think the answer lies there only", replied the queen.

The king sent an emissary to Narsimha's village to fetch Sehdeva. When he came, the queen asked him if he knew the astrologer Narsimha? Sehdeva was sore with that name. He told the queen, "I don't want to talk about him. He made a wrong prediction. He said that my child would die the same day. My daughter is very much alive. She has read all Vedas and has become an epithet of knowledge."

The queen got the answer. Narsimha was really a great astrologer. She told the king, "It is evident that the timing of the birth of two babies were messed up. So horoscopes also changed hands. One meant for the king was delivered to Sehdeva and that meant for Sehdeva was given to the king. There was nothing wrong with the predictions.

The king was delighted. Narsimha was released and brought before the king. He was accorded a warm reception by all. Guru Vasudeva was called to the palace. He was relieved after learning the truth. He sent a message for Narsimha's wife Rohini, his son Gautama and Ananta. On the same day, Narsimha was formally appointed as Raj-jyotshi. He touched the feet of the king, the queen and Guru Vasudeva in reverence.

Ananta got the answer to his third question: What is that which one can not hide for long? And the answer was 'One's roots'.

Ananta had answers for all the three questions now. His mission was complete but he still had some time left at his disposal. He desired to seek more knowledge from Guru Vasudeva. So he decided to stay back in the Ashram.

Tn less than one year's time, Ananta read and memorised all vedas and other religious scriptures. He also got acquainted with the codes and customs concerning worldly affairs. He now sought Guru Vasudeva's permission to leave. Guru, with a heavy heart allowed him to go. All boys of the Ashram were grieved. And so was Gautama, who had found a good companion in Ananta. But Ananta had no option.

While on his way back, Ananta thought, "Did I not commit a sin by not revealing my identity to Guru Vasudeva?" He decided to seek its answer from his Rajguru on reaching his palace.

Ananta was back in Saraspur. It was almost a year after he had left Mihira. When he reached the palatial house of Mihira, he was shocked to find that the house now belonged to Kalpaka, the rich man who lived across Saraswati. Ananta enquired from the dwarpal who was previously in Mihira's employment, as to how did the house transfer to the new master. Dwarpal replied, "Mihira became very greedy. In his thirst for more riches, he challenged Kalpaka to a game of dice. Kalpaka accepted the challenge. Mihira lost the first game and with that some riches. Kalpaka wanted him to withdraw. But Mihira insisted on continuing with the game. In the hope of winning back, he kept on playing game after game till he lost everything. His wives abandoned him when he turned a pauper. "And where is Mihira", asked Ananta. "He has started afresh, carving stones at his old place", replied dwarpal.

Ananta went to the river bank to meet Mihira. He found Mihira engrossed in carving a block of stone. Mihira did not see Ananta till he came very close. Mihira looked up and greeted Ananta with a radiant and smiling face. Ananta had never before seen such a smile on his face. Ananta sat down. But even before he could speak, Mihira said, "Look, don't ask me any questions. I have come a long way since you met me first. I craved for riches and I was able to achieve all that I wanted. But there was no contentment. At every step, I felt inferior to yet another rich man. I wanted to be the wealthiest. My first wife, who had supported me all through the bad phase of my life, left me. I am sure, even if I had succeeded in getting all of Kalpaka's wealth, I would not have been satisfied. I have realised there is no end to this lust. It is only the contentment that brings lasting pleasure". Ananta then corrected his answer to the first question: 'One's lasting pleasure does not lie in riches. It lies in one's contentment.'

Mihira requested Ananta to stay with him for a day, not as his worker, but as a friend. Ananta stayed back and tasted the delicious food cooked by Mihira.

Ananta left Saraspur next morning. He had a fortnight before his time limit of five years would elapse. He felt sure that his answers to the three questions were correct. On his way to Arunagiri, he had to fulfill his promise of visiting Anusuya at Chandri.

When Ananta reached Chandri, he was shocked to see Anusuya in a pitiable condition. His son had contracted an illness which was unheard of in the region. His legs were first paralysed, then his arms and in about a year's time, his entire body was affected. All treatment given to him had failed. The child lay motionless on the floor. Anusuya had spent all his wealth and had also sold off his land for treatment of the child. Someone suggested that the Tantrik who had earlier cured Pushpalata, be called. But Anusuya felt helpless as he had nothing left to pay the tantrik.

Ananta was in a shocked state of mind. He could not bear to see Anusuya and Pushpalata in agony. He wanted to console them and so he stayed with them.

With each passing day, child's condition worsened. One morning they found that the child had lost his sight. Pushpalata screamed in anguish and threw her body at the feet of her house deity. Ananta became restless. He could not bear to see Anusuya and Pushpalata in such a pitiable state. He sent for the Tantrik.

Tantrik came and examined the child. He was confident that he could cure the child in a day. But he would not be able to restore his vision. Ananta asked him his fee, and also if there was a possibility of restoring the child's eyesight? Tantrik asked for a hefty sum as his fees. Ananta promised to pay him the fee only after the child was cured of paralysis. The Tantrik informed told him that the child's vision could be restored only if someone donated his eyes. "But who would donate his eyes", thought Ananta.

Tantrik went ahead with the treatment. By Sunset, the child had completely recovered from the paralysis. But he had no vision. Pushpalata embraced her child.

As soon as the Tantrik stood up to leave, Pushpalata in a very calm and composed manner caught him by his hand. With a strange smile on her face, she looked directly into the Tantrik's eyes and said, "You can't leave before you carve out my eyes and restore my child's sight." And the Tantrik did it.

Ananta requested the Tantrik to stay for the night, so that they could leave together for Arunagiri next morning, where he would pay him his fee. "How and wherefrom are you going to pay me," asked the Tantrik. Ananta was silent. He could not reveal the facts. The Tantrik got suspicious. He shut his eyes and meditated. After a while, he opened his eyes and fell at Ananta's feet. Anusuya looked puzzled. He did not know what was going on. The Tantrik disclosed that Ananta, was actually Rajkumar Arisudhana of Batsala. Both Anusuya and Pushpalata were stunned at the revelation. Tantrik said to Rajkumar Arisudhana, "I will not accept any fee from you. You are the son of the most noble king on earth. It was my guru Joginda, who performed Tapasya and Yagna to bring you into this world." Anusuya and Pushpalata touched Rajkumar Arisudhana's feet in reverence. Tantrik continued, "I will be pleased to send the message of your return to Maharaja Abhayadhiraj through my tantrik powers." After saying this, the Tantrik left.

Rajkumar Arisudhana left for his kingdom next morning. It was the last but one day of his five year limit. He was eager to reach Arunagiri. He took Anusuya, Pushpalata and their son along. They had to go a long way, first up to village Rudraloka and then rowing along the river Surbhi, to Arunagiri.

Maharaja Abhayadhiraj was very perturbed, for, he had no news about Rajkumar. There was only one day left now for the five year term to end. Maharaja thought that his wish to crown his son as his successor, would probably not materialised. Maharani was very upset. She was longing to see her son, with or without answers. Both of them went to bed with a heavy heart.

Maharaja Abhayadhiraj saw Rajkumar Arisudhana in his dream, telling him that he would reach Arunagiri next morning. Maharaja woke up and told Maharani about the dream. Her joy knew no bounds. The Tantrik had done his duty of informing them about Rajkumar's return. Maharaja immediately called for the Mahamantri, Rajguru and others and told them to make grand preparations for receiving Rajkumar Arisudhana at the Surbhi banks.

On reaching Arunagiri in his boat, Ananta found Maharaja, Maharani, Mahamantri and all other dignitaries waiting impatiently at the Surbhi bank, with garlands in their hands. There was a sea of people behind them. A specially decorated elephant was there to carry Rajkumar.

People shouted slogans with joy, "Rajkumar Arisudhana Ki Jai". Maharaja and Maharani had tears of joy in their eyes. They embraced and garlanded their son. Others followed.

Rajkumar Arisudhana was seated on the elephant. Maharaja & Maharani got onto their royal carriage. Rajkumar had Anusuya, Pushpalata and their son seated on another carriage along with Mahamantri. They then set towards Rajmahal.

Rajguru was waiting with flowers and tilak at the Palace Gate. He welcomed Rajkumar Arisudhana and applied tilak on his forehead. He escorted Rajkumar to Durbar Hall, where he was scheduled to answer the three questions in presence of all.

People had assembled in the courtyard of the Rajmahal. Rajkumar Arisudhana was given a royal bath and a royal robe before he took his seat in the Hall next to Maharaja Abhayadhiraj. Anusuya and his family also joined the Durbar. Maharaja asked his Mahamantri to proceed with the formalities. Mahamantri welcomed the public and then stated the purpose of holding Durbar. He requested Rajguru to pronounce the questions one by one to enable Rajkumar to answer them. There was pin-drop silence all around.

Rajguru pronounced the first question: 'What is that which a woman loves most?'

Rajkumar Arisudhana shut his eyes for a while. Then he looked at the blind Pushpalata and answered, "A woman loves her child the most."

Naturally. Rajkumar had changed his answer to this question. When Pushpalata donated her eyes, she knew very well that she would not be able to see the world thereafter. She also knew that her beauty, which she loved most and which she had restored by selling her house and the precious necklace, will mean nothing without eyes. Still she sacrificed everything for her child. This made it amply clear that her child was her ultimate love.

Rajguru pronounced the second question: 'In what lies one's lasting pleasure?'

Rajkumar answered: "One's lasting pleasure lies in one's contentment".

Mihira was not a bad man. Being ambitious is not sin. In fact ambitions lead to progress but one has to be contented with one's lot at a certain stage. Mihira had lost contentment. His ambition to be the wealthiest man turned him greedy and in the process, he lost everything.

Rajguru pronounced the third question: 'What is that which one can not hide for long?

Rajkumar replied: "One's Roots".

Narsimha knew very well that his prediction could get him into trouble, but he could not resist telling a fact. The astrologer in him did not allow him to keep quiet. He was sure his prediction was based on authentic calculations and he was correct. So even at the cost of his life, he could not hide from the world, the facts, much less his roots.

Maharaja Abhayadhiraj directed his Mahamantri to bring him the amulet given by yogi Joginda. The amulet was opened. Maharaja and Rajguru checked the answers with those given by Rajkumar. Maharaja was highly delighted and so were others. Rajguru announced that the answers were correct. People shouted jayjaykar for Rajkumar Arisudhana.

Next day, as the Sun rose high in the sky, Rajkumar Arisudhana was crowned as the rightful successor to the throne of Batsala. There was illumination throughout Arunagiri. Rajkumar got Anusuya appointed as a Mantri in the Durbar, much to the delight of Pushpalata, who enjoyed the function through the eyes of her son. In the midst of public, Maharaja Abhayadhiraj spotted an old man, who was watching the proceedings calmly. It was yogi Joginda. Maharaja, without caring for the royal protocol, went personally up to him and embraced him. He brought him to the ceremonial dais where he was welcomed with garlands. Maharaja introduced him to Rajkumar Arisudhana. Rajkumar touched his feet. Joginda was all praise for the prince. He blessed him and prayed for his long life. Maharaja gifted him a pearl necklace.

]There was one question which still bothered Rajkumar Arisudhana. Did he not commit a sin by not revealing his identity to Guru Vasudeva? He had thought to put this question to Rajguru, but since yogi Joginda was present in the Rajmahal, he deemed it proper to put the question to him. Next day, after narrating the whole story of Guru Vasudeva and Narsimha to yogi Joginda, Rajkumar put the question to him. Joginda replied, "No. You have not committed any sin. You were asked to remain in the garb of an ordinary person and not to reveal your identity, while seeking the answers. You have merely complied with that condition. Moreover you did not hide your identity to cause any harm to anybody or to escape a punishment." Rajkumar Arisudhana was relieved to hear Joginda's reply and so were all others.

Five years later, Maharaja Abhayadhiraj and Maharani Vasundhara decided to relinquish the throne in favour of their son. So Rajkumar Arisudhana became the king of Batsala at the young age of twenty-five. At the age of thirty, he extended his rule to other regions which included Rudraloka, Chandri, and Saraspur. He treated all his subjects with love and care and provided them a justly rule. People were also proud of him.

And Maharaja Arisudhana came to be known for his wisdom and justice throughout Bharatvarsha. Anusuya, who was appointed his Mahamantri, proved his credentials by his wise counselling and guidance to the king all through his life.

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