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A Tale Of Two Kings

Prince Brahma-Datta ascended the throne after his father’s death. He had received his education at the famous university of Takshashila. He had mastered all branches of learning and arts. His visage was noble and conduct, righteous. He held no prejudices against anyone. When people came to him with their grievances; he listened to them patiently and gave judgments without partiality. He was loved by all his subjects.

Following his example, his ministers and other officers also administered law with Justice. And yet, the young king was not happy.

The king noticed that the lawsuits that came to his court gradually reduced in number. There came a time when the hustle and bustle in the courts of law ceased altogether. The courts were almost deserted.

“Why is this so? Why have People stopped coming to my court to seek justice? Is there any fault in me or my judgment? Because if such is the case. I must correct myself.’

The king then spoke to those who were close to him about his worries. They assured him that there was no fault in him or his judgment. The courts were deserted because people behaved righteously. Also, no false suits were being brought to the court.

“How can I be sure that this is the only explanation? Maybe my near and dear ones don’t want to talk about my faults,” thought the king. “Please tell me freely about my faults,” the king requested his ministers and other courtiers.

But none of the people around him had anything to say about his faults. They were all praise for him.

The king thought, ‘Perhaps these people are afraid of me. That is why they hesitate to talk about my shortcomings. Perhaps they do not want to hurt me. I should ask people outside the palace. They will speak more frankly.’

So the king left the palace and asked the people in the city of Benaras to apprise him of his faults. Again, he met with only praise and nothing else. He went to every corner of the city. Everywhere, people informed him that they found no fault in him or his conduct.

‘This cannot be the case,’ thought Brahma-Datta. ‘I am falling short in my efforts to glean the truth from them. I must try harder; I must undertake a wider search. Also, I must not speak to them as their king.’

King Brahma-Datta left the kingdom in the care of his ministers and left the city of Benaras to roam the kingdom in disguise. There were no ministers, no attendants, no entourage with him. He went in a single chariot and the only person who accompanied him was his charioteer.

King Brahma-Datta went from place to place and spoke to all kinds of people without telling them who he was. To his surprise, even in the remotest corners of the kingdom, he could not find anyone who faulted the king. When he steered the conversation to the virtues and vices of the king, people assured him that there was no vice, no evil in their king. “He’s righteousness personified,” they said. The king’s attitude and conduct had so impressed the people that lawlessness, greed, hate, deception, the desire for aggression were on the wane everywhere.

At last, after traversing the entire kingdom, right up to the frontiers, King Brahma-Datta decided to tum back to the capital by the high road. He was traveling in his chariot through mountainous terrain.

At one place, the chariot track was quite narrow with steep mountains on both sides. There was room for just one chariot to pass. 

Just then, King Brahma-Datta's chariot came face to face with another chariot speeding in the opposite direction. In that chariot sat Mallika, king of the neighboring state of Kosala. King Mallika was also a righteous king who ruled his kingdom efficiently and with justice. He, too, was roaming his kingdom by himself to find out if there were any faults in him or his administration.

When the two chariots. thus confronted each other, the charioteer of Mallika told Brahma-Datta's charioteer, “Get your chariot out of the way immediately.”

Brahma-Datta's chariot had come quite far on the narrow track. His charioteer told the other one to take his chariot out of the way,

The other one exclaimed, “Don’t you know who sits in this chariot? It’s the Lord of the kingdom of Kosala, the Great King Mallika. Make room for his chariot.”

“In this chariot sits the Lord of the kingdom of Benaras, the Great King Brahma-Datta himself. Make way for his chariot.”

Now the charioteers were in a fix. They could not decide who had the right of way. They decided to follow protocol to solve this problem. First, they enquired about the age of the kings so that the younger one could make way for the elder one. But’ it transpired that both the kings were of exactly the same age. Then they enquired about the extent of their kingdoms, which was found to be equal. On almost every count — power, wealth, army, the nobility of lineage, renown, both the kings were evenly matched. At last, the charioteers decided to compare the virtues of the kings.

The charioteer of the King of Kosala proclaimed the virtues of Mallika :
“Rough to the rough, King Mallika, 
the mild with mildness sways, 
Conquers the good by goodness, 
and the wicked with wickedness pays. 
Move out of the way, O Charioteer! 
Such is this monarch’s ways.”
But the charioteer of the King of Benaras said, “Is this all you have to say about your king? If these are his virtues, what are his vices ?”

“Well, if you think these are his faults, we'll call them by that name for the time being, but you haven't spoken about your king. Pray to tell us what virtues he has.”

“Listen, O Charioteer of the King of Kosala, these are King Brahma-Datta's virtues — 
He conquers anger by patience, 
the wicked with goodness sways, 
He vanquishes the stingy by gifts 
and lies with truth repays. 
Make way, O Charioteer! 
Such is this monarch’s ways.”
When the charioteer said this, King Mallika got down from the chariot and acknowledged the superior virtues of King Brahma-Datta. King Mallika and his charioteer removed the horses from their chariot and made way for Brahma-Datta. From then on, as long as the two kings reigned, there was friendship between the kingdoms of Kosala and Benaras.

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