19.HOW KING RASALU WAS BORN
Once there lived a great King, whose name was Sâlbâhan, and he had two Queens. Now the elder, Queen Achhrâ, had a fair young son called Prince Pûran. But the younger, named Lonâ, though she wept and prayed at many a shrine, never had a child. So, being a bad, deceitful woman, envy and rage took hold of her heart, and she so poisoned King Sâlbâhan’s mind against his son, young Pûran. Just as the Prince was growing to manhood, his father became madly jealous of him, and in a fit of anger ordered his hands and feet to be cut off. Not content even with this cruelty, King Sâlbâhan had the poor young man thrown into a deep well. Nevertheless, Pûran did not die, as no doubt the enraged father hoped and expected. The innocent Prince lived on, miraculously, at the bottom of the well, until, years after, the great and holy monk Goraknâth came to the place, and finding Prince Pûran still alive, not only released him from his dreadful prison, but, by the power of magic, restored his hands and feet. Then Pûran, in gratitude for this great help, became a monk. He followed Goraknâth as a disciple, and was called Pûran Bhagat.
But as time went by, his heart yearned to see his mother’s face, so Goraknâth gave him permission to visit his native town. Pûran Bhagat journeyed there and decided to stay in a large walled garden, where he had often played as a child. He found it neglected and barren. His heart became sad when he saw the broken watercourses and the withered trees. Then he sprinkled the dry ground with water from his drinking vessel, and prayed that all might become green again. Even as he prayed, the trees shot forth leaves, the grass grew, the flowers bloomed, and all was as it had once been.
The news of this marvellous thing spread fast through the city, and everyone went out to see the holy man who had performed the wonder. Even the King Sâlbâhan and his two Queens heard of it in the palace, and they too went to the garden to see it with their own eyes. But Pûran Bhagat’s mother, Queen Achhrâ, had wept so long for her son, that the tears had blinded her eyes, and so she went, not to see, but to ask the miracle-working monk to restore her sight. Therefore, not knowing from whom she asked the favour, she fell on the ground before Pûran Bhagat, begging him to cure her. Almost before she asked, it was done, and she saw as before.
Then deceitful Queen Lonâ, who all these years had been longing vainly for a son, when she saw what mighty power the unknown monk possessed, fell on the ground also, and begged for a son to gladden the heart of King Sâlbâhan.
Then Pûran Bhagat spoke, and his voice was stern, —’King Sâlbâhan already has a son. Where is he? What have you done with him? Speak the truth, Queen Lonâ, if you want to find favour with God!’
Then the woman’s great longing for a son overcame her pride, and though her husband stood by, she humbled herself before the monk and told the truth,—how she had deceived the father and destroyed the son.
Then Pûran Bhagat rose to his feet, stretched out his hands towards her, and a smile was on his face, as he said softly, ‘Even so, Queen Lonâ! Even so! Behold! I am Prince Pûran, whom you tried to destroy! I have a message for you. Your fault is forgiven, but not forgotten; you shall indeed have a son, who shall be brave and good, yet will he cause you to weep tears as bitter as those my mother wept for me. So! take this grain of rice; eat it, and you shall have a son that will be no son to you, for even as I was torn from my mother’s eyes, so will he be torn from yours. Go in peace. Your fault is forgiven, but not forgotten!’
Queen Lonâ returned to the palace, and when the time for the birth of the promised son drew near, she asked three monks who came begging to her gate, what the child’s fate would be, and the youngest of them answered and said, ‘Oh Queen, the child will be a boy, and he will live to be a great man. But for twelve years you must not look upon his face, for if either you or his father see it before the twelve years are past, you will surely die! This is what you must do,—as soon as the child is born you must send him away to a cellar underneath the ground, and never let him see the light of day for twelve years. After they are over, he may come out, bathe in the river, put on new clothes, and visit you. His name shall be King Rasalu, and he shall be known far and wide.’
So, when a fair young Prince was in due time born into the world, his parents hid him away in an underground palace, with nurses, and servants, and everything else a King’s son might desire. And with him they sent a young horse, born the same day, and a sword, a spear, and a shield, for the day when King Rasalu should go forth into the world.
So there the child lived, playing with his horse, and talking to his parrot, while the nurses taught him everything a King’s son needed to know.