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GUILTY OF MURDER

Again Vikram went and took the Betaal from the tree, and put him on his shoulder once more, and set out; and as he was going along, the Betaal shoulder: “You are weary, King, so listen to this tale that is capable of dispelling weariness”

There was a city by name Varanasi, the abode of Siva. There lived a Brahman, named Devasvamin, honoured by the king. That rich Brahman had a son named Harisvamin and he had an exceedingly lovely wife, named Lavanyavati.

One night Harisvamin fell asleep, at that moment a Vidyadhara prince, by name Madanavega, roaming about at will, came that way through the air. He saw that Lavanyavati sleeping by the side of her husband, and her robe, that had slipped aside revealed her exquisitely moulded limbs. His heart was captivated by her beauty, and blinded by love, he immediately swooped down, and taking her up in his arms asleep, flew off with her through the air.

Immediately her husband, the young Harisvamin, woke up and not seeing his beloved, he rose up in a state of distraction.

He said to himself: “What can this mean? Where has she gone? I wonder if she is angry with me? Or has she hidden herself to find out my real feelings, and is making fun of me?”

Distracted by many surmises of this kind, he wandered hither and thither that night, looking for her on the roof, and in the turrets of the palace.

He even searched in the palace garden, and when he could not find her anywhere, being scorched with the fire of grief.

While Harisvamin was uttering these laments the night at last slowly passed away, not so his grief at his bereavement.

The next morning  He went from place to place, exclaiming with tears.

“Here she stood, here she bathed, here she adorned herself and here she amused herself.”

His friends and relations said to him: “She is not dead, so why do you kill yourself? If you remain alive, you will certainly recover her somewhere or other. So adopt a resolute tone, and go in search of your beloved; there is nothing in this world that a resolute man, who exerts himself, cannot obtain.”

When Harisvamin had been exhorted in these terms by his friends and relations, he managed at last, after some days, to recover his spirits by the aid of hope.

He said to himself: “I will give away all that I have to the Brahmans, and visit all the holy waters, and wash away all my sins. For if I wipe out my sin, I may perhaps, in the course of my wanderings, find that beloved of mine.”

After going through these reflections, suitable to the occasion, he got up and bathed, and performed all his customary avocations; and the next day he bestowed on the Brahmans at a solemn sacrifice various meats and drinks, and gave away to them all his wealth without stint.

He left his country, with his Brahman birth as his only fortune, and proceeded to go round to all the holy bathing places in order to recover his beloved. And as he was roaming about, there came upon him the terrible lion of the hot season, with the blazing sun for mouth, and with a mane composed of his fiery rays. And the winds blew with excessive heat, as if warmed by the breath of sighs furnaced forth by travellers grieved at being separated from their wives. And the tanks, with their supply of water diminished by the heat, and their drying white mud, appeared to be showing their broken hearts. And the trees by the roadside seemed to lament on account of the departure of the glory of spring, making their wailing heard in the shrill moaning of their bark with leaves, as it were lips, parched with heat.

Harisvamin, wearied out with the heat of the sun, with bereavement, hunger and thirst, and continual travelling, disfigured, emaciated and dirty, and pining for food, reached, in the course of his wanderings a certain village, and found in it the house of a Brahman called Padmanabha, who was engaged in a sacrifice. Seeing that many Brahmans were eating in his house, he stood leaning against the doorpost, silent and motionless. And the good wife of that Brahman named Padmanabha, seeing him in this position, felt pity for him, and reflected: “Alas, mighty is hunger! Whom will it not bring down? For here stands a man at the door who appears to be a householder, desiring food, with downcast countenance; evidently come from a long journey, and with all his senses impaired by hunger. So is not he a man to whom food ought to be given?”

Having gone through these reflections, the kind woman took up in her hands a vessel full of rice boiled in milk, with ghee and sugar, and brought it, and courteously presented it to him, and said: “Go and eat this somewhere on the bank of the lake, for this place is unfit to eat in, as it is filled with feasting Brahmans.”

He said, “I will do so,” and took the vessel of rice, and placed it at no great distance under a  tree on the edge of the lake; and he washed his hands and feet in the lake, and rinsed his mouth, and then came back in high spirits to eat the rice.

While he was thus engaged, a kite, holding a black cobra with its beak and claws, came from some place or other, and sat on that three.

It so happened that poisonous salvia issued from the mouth of that dead snake, which the bird had captured and was carrying along.

The saliva fell into the dish of rice which was placed underneath the tree, and Harisvamin, without observing it, came and ate up that rice. As soon as in his hunger he had devoured all that food, he began to suffer terrible agonies produced by the poison. He exclaimed: “When fate has turned against a man, everything in this world turns also; accordingly this rice dressed with milk, ghee and sugar has become poison to me.”

Harisvamin, tortured with the poison, tottered to the house of that Brahman, who was engaged in the sacrifice, and said to his wife: “The rice, which you gave me, has poisoned me, so fetch me quickly a charmer who can counteract the operation of poison; otherwise you will be guilty of the death of a Brahman.”

When Harisvamin had said this to the good woman, who was beside herself to think what it could all mean, his eyes closed, and he died.

Accordingly the Brahman, who was engaged in a sacrifice, drove out of his house his wife, though she was innocent and hospitable, being enraged with her for the supposed murder of her guest. The good woman, for her part, having incurred groundless blame from her charitable deed, and so become branded with infamy, went to a holy bathing place to perform penance.

There was a discussion before the superintendent of religion, as to which of the four parties, the kite, the snake, or the couple who gave the rice, was guilty of the murder of a Brahman; but the question was not decided. “Now you, King, must tell me which was guilty of the murder of a Brahman; and if you do not, you will incur the before mentioned curse.”

When the king heard this from the Betaal, he was forced by the curse to break silence, and he said: “No one of  them could be guilty of the crime; certainly not the serpent, for how could he be guilty of  nything, when he was the helpless prey of his enemy, who was devouring him? To come to the kite; what offence did he commit in bringing his natural food, which he had happened to find, and eating it, when he was hungry? How could either of the couple that gave the food be in fault, since they were both people exclusively devoted to righteousness, not likely to commit a crime? Therefore I think the guilt of slaying a Brahman would attach to any person who should be so foolish as, for want of sufficient reflection, to attribute it to either of them.”



 
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