26.HOW RAJA RASALU PLAYED PACHISI WITH KING SARKAP

Now, when evening came, Raja Rasalu went to play pachisi with King Sarkap, and as he passed some potters’ kilns he saw a cat wandering about restlessly  so he asked what bothered her that she never stood still, and she replied, ‘My kittens are in an unbaked pot in the kiln over there. It has just been set alight, and my children will be baked alive. Therefore I cannot rest!’

Her words moved the heart of Raja Rasalu, and, going to the potter, he asked him to sell the kiln as it was. But the potter replied that he could not settle a fair price till the pots were burnt, as he could not tell how many would come out whole. Nevertheless, after some bargaining, he agreed at last to sell the kiln, and Rasalu, having searched through all the pots, returned the kittens to their mother, and she, in gratitude for his mercy, gave him one of them, saying, ‘Put it in your pocket, for it will help you when you are in difficulties.’

So Raja Rasalu put the kitten in his pocket, and went to play pachisi with the King.

Now, before they sat down to play, Raja Sarkap fixed his stakes. On the first game, his kingdom; on the second, the wealth of the whole world; and on the third, his own head. So, likewise, Raja Rasalu fixed his stakes. On the first game, his armour; on the second, his horse; and on the third, his own head.

Then they began to play and Rasalu made the first move. Now he, forgetful of the dead man’s warning, played with the dice given to him by Raja Sarkap.Then, in addition, Sarkap let loose his famous rat, Dhol Raja, and it ran about the board, upsetting the pachisi pieces, so that Rasalu lost the first game, and gave up his shining armour.

So the second game began, and once more Dhol Raja, the rat, upset the pieces; and Rasalu, losing the game, gave up his faithful horse. Then Bhaunr Irâqi, who was standing nearby cried to his master, ‘Dear Prince! Trust me now. I’ll carry you far from these tricks.  Or if you insist on staying, before you play the next game, place your hand in your pocket!’

Hearing this, Raja Sarkap frowned, and told his slaves to remove Bhaunr Irâqi, since he gave his master advice in the game. Now when the slaves came to lead the faithful horse away, Rasalu could not refrain from tears, thinking over the long years during which Bhaunr Irâqi had been his companion. But the horse cried out again, ‘Do not weep dear Prince, just do as I said’.

These words reminded Rasalu and when, just at this moment, the kitten in his pocket began to struggle, he remembered the warning which the corpse had given him about the dice made from dead men’s bones. Then he called boldly to Raja Sarkap, ‘Leave my horse and armour here for the present. Time enough to take them away when you have won my head!’

Now, Raja Sarkap, seeing Rasalu’s confidence, began to be afraid, and ordered all the women of his palace to come out in their most beautiful garments and stand before Rasalu, so as to distract his attention from the game. But he never even looked at them and taking the dice from his pocket, said to Sarkap, ‘We have played with your dice all this time now we will play with mine.’

Then the kitten went and sat at the window through which the rat Dhol
Raja used to come, and the game began.

After a while, Sarkap, seeing Raja Rasalu was winning, called to his rat, but when Dhol Raja saw the kitten he was afraid, and would not go farther. So Rasalu won, and took back his arms. Next he played for his horse, and once more Raja Sarkap called for his rat but Dhol Raja, seeing the kitten keeping watch, was afraid. So Rasalu won the second stake, and took back Bhaunr Irâqi.

Then Sarkap brought all his skill to bear on the third and last game

So they began to play, while the women stood round in a circle, and the kitten watched Dhol Raja from the window. Then Sarkap lost, first his kingdom, then the wealth of the whole world, and lastly his head.

Just then, a servant came in to announce the birth of a daughter to Raja Sarkap, and he, overcome by misfortunes, said, ‘Kill her at once! For she has been born in an evil moment, and has brought her father bad luck!’

But Rasalu rose up in his shining armour, tenderhearted and strong, saying, ‘Not so, Oh king! She has done no evil. Promise me this child as my wife and if you will vow never again to play pachisi for another’s head, I will spare yours now!’

Then Sarkap vowed a solemn vow never to play for another’s head. After that he took a fresh mango branch, and the new-born babe, and placing them on a golden dish, gave them to the Prince.

Now, as Rasalu left the palace, carrying with him the new-born babe and the mango branch, he met a band of prisoners, and they called out to him begging him to free them

  And Raja Rasalu told King Sarkap to set them free.

Then he went to the Murti Hills, and placed the new-born babe,
Kokilan, in an underground palace, and planted the mango branch at the
door, saying, ‘In eighteen years the mango tree will blossom. Then I will
return and marry Kokilan.’

And after eighteen years, the mango tree began to flower, and Raja Rasalu married the Princess Kokilan, whom he won from Sarkap when he played pachisi with the King.