Black magic of Vikramaditya’s elder brother lies at the core of ancient king’s legend

If History has Taught Us Anything
Book Excerpt 

Gandharvasen, the king of Ambavati, had four wives belonging to the four classical varnas (castes)—Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. The Brahmin wife bore him one son named Birhanjeet. He became such an astute scholar of astronomy that he could predict even births and deaths with reasonable accuracy. The Kshatriya queen bore three sons named Sankh, Vikram and Bhartari. Their bravery earned them the title of ‘Kalpavriksha’; the undying tree. The Vaishya queen’s son Chandra was a rich merchant famous for his generosity and kindness. Lastly, Dhanvantra, born of the Shudra queen, was a great medical practitioner. Sankh, Vikram’s elder brother, was eventually crowned the king. However, the priests predicted that he would be assassinated and ultimately Vikram would rule. In view of his brother’s ascetic tendencies and his own perceived invincibility, Sankh jeered at the prediction of the priests. One day he was apprised by intelligence agents that Vikram, who had become a yogi, was meditating and praying in the jungles on the outskirts of his kingdom. He went there in hiding and watched Vikram from a distance. His brother’s calmness and his own anxiety enraged him and maddened by rage, he urinated on the icon that Vikram was worshipping. The outraged Brahmins reprimanded him but their admonitions fell on deaf ears. Murmurs flew that the king’s downfall was near, because he had drowned in arrogance.

Sankh conspired to use black magic to put down his brother, whom he presumed to be his enemy. Seven spell-binding lines were drawn with charmed coal at the entrance of a room. Anyone who stepped over them was supposed to go insane. Secondly, a magicked cucumber and knife were procured. Their sorcerous power would slit the throat of the man who cut the cucumber. He was to invite Vikram into this trap. The Kshatriyas condemned Sankh’s plan because it entailed killing someone treacherously and not in fair combat. Luckily, Vikram himself had reasonable knowledge of such crafts and he sensed the enchantment. Skipping the lines at the entrance, he severed Sankh’s head instead of slicing the cucumber. When he stepped out of that room with blood smeared on his forehead, it became known that Ambavati had a new king.

Although Vikram had not intended to kill his brother, it is the latter’s insecurities that paved the way for such a showdown, which only one of them could have survived.

Hunting was a prevalent sport for the royals. They were usually accompanied by a train of soldiers, hounds, falcons, bird catchers and other facilitators. On one such expedition a deer chase drew Vikram deep into the jungles. As the frenzied hunt speeded up, the entourage was lost and the king found himself amidst a green sea of trees that quickly turned black as the sun went down. He climbed a tree to figure out a way. In the distance he saw a dance of reassuring lights, illuminating a nearby town. In a fit of spontaneous inspiration, he resolved to integrate that enthralling place into his kingdom.

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Lutbaran, a minister of that realm, was an accomplished sorcerer. Disguised as a crow, he was flying past at that very moment. Agitated by the king’s intentions, he defecated on him. The next morning, a directive was issued to capture all the crows of the jungle. The bird catchers made the most of this strange order and within no time, all the crows were entrapped. If the audacious one that had befouled the king did not confess, he would take all of their lives. Vikram had sensed some wizardry, and the crows of course knew that the culprit was the sorcerer Lutbaran, minister of the king Bahubal. When they disclosed this to Vikram, he freed two of the crows to persuade Lutbaran to surrender, while the others were held as collateral. On hearing of their plight, Lutbaran immediately presented himself. Vikram received him with humility and all the birds were freed.

The minister informed the king that it was Bahubal’s kingdom that had caught King Vikram’s attention. He revealed to the king that before becoming an independent monarch, Vikram’s father Gandharvasen had served as an officer of Bahubal. Therefore, ideally, Vikram should seek formal recognition of independence from his father’s benefactor, King Bahubal, and secure his blessings. The wise Brahmin’s advice easily prevailed upon the king because he was very scrupulous in matters of propriety. Finally, on an auspicious day and time, Vikram proceeded to meet King Bahubal. On hearing of his arrival, Bahubal made the most ostentatious arrangements for the comfortable stay of his royal guest. Vikram was overwhelmed by his host’s humility and munificence.

After a few days, he told Lutbaran that he wanted to return home. The minister informed him that as per convention, he would require the host’s permission, and given Bahubal’s unprecedented largesse he could ask for anything as a parting gift. The minister, who was impressed by the king’s bravery and righteousness, advised him to ask for the most unique thing in Bahubal’s possession—the magical throne supported by the mystical statues of thirty-two nymphs. Accordingly, Vikram asked for the throne and Bahubal presented it to him without flinching for even a moment. He was finally permitted to depart, carrying blessings of just rule.

The reports of these events pleased Vikram’s allies and robbed his enemies of peace. Apparently, he proved to be a deserving owner to the throne. His justice and generosity touched all, oppressors were punished, and peace and prosperity reigned. After some years, he launched the Vikram Samvat and wore the Ajeet Maal (the necklace of invincibility) which personified his resolve to be a just and generous protector of his subjects.

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