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Vaitaal Stories-2

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5-A Thief Who Laughed and Wept

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Vikram and Vaitaal Stories-2 - Story 5 (Keral Version)
"Captain Sir Richard R Burton's Vikram and the Vampire: classic Hindu tales of adventure, magic and romance" / edited by his wife Isabel Burton. [etext Conversion Project, Nalanda Digital Library, NIT Calicut, Kerala State, India]

5-A Thief Who Laughed and Wept

Vaitaal said - "Your Majesty, There is a country named Malaya on the western coast of Bhaarat and in which there a city named Chandrodaya whose king's name was Ranadheer. This king, in his youth, was a Sarv-raashi - means he ate, drank and listened to music, looked at dancers much more than studied, prayed, or sat with wise men. But after the age of 30, he became a good king. One of his many officers was Gunashankar who was very honest and just. He was very kind and helpful and never used to speak any rough or harsh language. All the people of that country loved that magistrate.

But in spite of his efforts he could not stop thefts occurring in his kingdom. At last the people who suffered most came to him and said - "We cannot live in this city any more, we are very troubled." Gunashankar assured them that he will surely take care of the thieves and they should not worry at all. He immediately increased people on vigilance and issued orders to slay any person found stealing anything without asking any question.

Many people were on the guard the whole night but the thefts didn't decrease. The merchants came again to the magistrate and said - "You increased the people on watch, changed the guards, but still the thieves have not been caught." He took them to the King himself and made them to request to him. The King said - "Today I will set a new plan and by the grace of God, you will never have to be worried any more."

In the night, the King changed his guise like a thief and without saying anything to his people in the palace he went out to the streets alone. After an hour, as he was passing b a merchant's house he met, appeared to be a homeless dog lying beside the wall. As he approached him, a human figure leaped over him and asked him, "Who are you?" The king replied, "I am a thief, who are you?" "Oh, I am also a thief, let us join." Both started working on a theft. The gang seemed to swarm the street. They were carrying out all the four modes of breeching the house - (1) picking out the burning sticks, (2) cutting through unbaked ones, (3) throwing water on the mud wall, (4) boring through one of wood.

When the thief had filled the bag with valuables, he told the King to go there where his mates were waiting for him. The King had made up his mind to hunt out their den. On the way the thief taught his new companion to blow whistle, to make signs peculiar to the gang and told him that he would smack the lit that night. Thus saying to the King, he rapped twice at the city gate. The gate immediately opened and they went to a rock about two Kos away from the gate. Before entering the dark forest, the robber whistled twice. After a few minutes the signal was answered by a hooting of the owl and the robber answered it by a shriek of jackal.

At this about half a dozen people rose from the grass. One of them came forward to the newcomers to receive the signal. It was given and the guard sank in the bowels of the earth. Both went in. Ranadheer was carefully noticing everything, even the things that lay on the road. When he entered the forest, he scratched all the tree trunks which were within his reach. They came to a straight rock on which there were marks of vermilion pasted hands. The robber removed some grass from the ground and lifted a trap door.

They descended in that hole with their bag of valuables. All kinds of things were scattered there. There were all kinds of weapons also. It was full of thieves, they were washing their hands etc, changing their clothes and getting prepared for the enjoyment. As expected, the King had found his own people there. They all sat down and started eating and drinking.

At the same time, a maid came there and she recognized the King, she exclaimed - "O King, How come that you are here with these wicked men. Better you go from here as soon as possible otherwise they will kill you as soon as they are awake." "But I don't know the way to go out." The woman showed him the way, and he went out the same way as he came, by climbing the ladder, opening up the trap door... When he was going away from that place he again marked the trap door location and came back to his palace.

He had hardly changed his guise to his royal guise that he heard another group of people complaining about their losses. He dismissed them saying that either he would die himself, or destroy them before anything new happens. He warned his secret service to be ready, and as his own people returned from the den, he ordered to kill them. He now waited for the night when they would come back to their den. Then he himself led them to that rock.

But after the disappearance of their new companion, those robbers got alert, but they could not run in the daytime as they feared to be caught, and they could not run in the night as they would be caught next morning. Their leader suggested them to fight instead of running away. So they became alert with their weapons. King was also proceeding carelessly towards the cave. As the thieves were carefully alert, they attacked king's soldiers suddenly and drove them back in confusion.

King also ran away. Seeing them running away, the chief of the thieves shouted - "You are a Kshatriya and you are running away?" Hearing this king stopped and both started fighting together. Once he tried to hit the thief's leg, but he saved himself. But then he slipped his foot and he fell down and the king brought him tied in his palace. He was condemned for crucifixion. Melting gold was to be poured down in his throat till his body had burst out. He was given all kinds of comfort till his death.

Next day he was taken around the city riding on a camel. By chance this procession passed by a palace of a rich man of the city who had a daughter named Shobhanee. She was very beautiful. She was never allowed to go out of the high walls of the garden, because her nurse had given the warning to her parents at the time of her death, that Shobhanee would be Satee-widow before becoming a wife.

But her fate was like that. It can strike anyone hiding even under seven layers. Nothing could stop her. As the procession was going from that palace, a fire broke out in the apartment of the women and all women ran away towards the street. All heard the voices - "This is the thief who has been robbing the city and noe he he is condemned to crucifixion."

The robber was very handsome, brave, and courage. As Shobhanee came out, she saw him from very near. He made her quiver like a flash of lightning, mesmerized her with his beauty and bravery, she ran away to her father saying "Please, Father, save him this moment." "But my child, he is a thief. He is caught after a long search." How can the King would release him on my request?" "You must get him released, otherwise I will not live."

He went to the king and offered him 400,000 Rupees to release him but the king bluntly refused him saying  "He has been robbing so many people for quite some time, how can I release him?" He came back to his daughter and said to her - "I have done my best but the king is not ready, so we die."

In the meantime, the procession had reached the cross. The executioners have begun their work - nailing him on the cross. The thief could tolerate the agony of his pain, but when he had heard what the rich man's daughter has done, he wept bitterly. But surprising after a moment he laughed heartily. All were startled at his laugh. No one could see any reason for it. When he died, Shobhanee who was married to him in the spirit, said - "There are 35 million hairs on one's body. Who ascends the pyre of her husband remains in the Heaven for the same number of years. No other duty is more virtuous than this for a woman at the time of her husband's death." 

Thus beautiful Shobhanee resolved to burn herself with he thief. She threw her finger into the flame of the torch till it became cinder and she solemnly bathed in the nearest stream. The pyre was prepared, the thief's body was kept on the pyre. She then gave away all her ornaments to her friends, tied cotton thread around her both wrists, tied some rice and cowrie-shells in the end of her body cloth These she gave to the bystanders while walking seven times around the pyre. She then ascended the pyre, put the thief's head in her lap and ordered to ignite the fire to the pyre. She was seen unmoved. Seeing his daughter burning herself like this her father also beheaded himself."

Vaitaal got silent after telling this. Dharmdhwaj asked his father - "Father, Why did he laugh?"

Vikram replied thoughtlessly - "At the girl's foolishness."

Vaitaal cried - "I am once more indebted to Majesty for releasing me from this unpleasant position. But before going I will explain to your royal son and the heir that why the thief wept first and then laughed. He wept, because she could not save him even after giving up everything for his sake; and he laughed because the Heavens gave him such a treasure that he could not use it, could not protect it. Before returning to my tree, in virtue of your unintelligent reply, I may remark that men laugh and cry, or cry and laugh about anything in this world from their neighbor's death to their own personal matter. For example I laugh at everything because it animates the brain, stimulates the lungs. Now Good Bye King Vikram." And Vaitaal escaped from his grip. As Vikram got him again, he heard a voice again behind him.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on January 15, 2002
Modified on 06/05/13