Raja Rasalu: The King and His Two Queens

This story is part of the Raja Rasalu unit. Story source: Tales of the Punjab by Flora Annie Steel, with illustrations by J. Lockwood Kipling (1894).

The King and His Two Queens

ONCE there lived a great Raja whose name was Salbahan, and he had two Queens. Now the elder, by name Queen Achhra, had a fair young son called Prince Puran, but the younger, by name Lona, though she wept and prayed at many a shrine, had never a child to gladden her eyes.

So, being a bad, deceitful woman, envy and rage took possession of her heart, and she so poisoned Raja Salbahan's mind against his son, young Puran, that just as the Prince was growing to manhood, his father became madly jealous of him and, in a fit of anger, ordered his hands and feet to be cut off. Not content even with this cruelty, Raja Salbahan had the poor young man thrown into a deep well.

Nevertheless, Puran did not die, as no doubt the enraged father hoped and expected, for God preserved the innocent Prince, so that he lived on, miraculously, at the bottom of the well, until, years after, the great and holy Guru Goraknath came to the place and, finding Prince Puran still alive, not only released him from his dreadful prison, but, by the power of magic, restored his hands and feet. Then Puran, in gratitude for this great boon, became a faqir and, placing the sacred earrings in his ears, followed Goraknath as a disciple and was called Puran Bhagat.

But as time went by, his heart yearned to see his mother's face, so Guru Goraknath gave him leave to visit his native town, and Puran Bhagat journeyed thither and took up his abode in a large walled garden where he had often played as a child.

And lo! he found it neglected and barren, so that his heart became sad when he saw the broken watercourses and the withered trees. Then he sprinkled the dry ground with water from his drinking vessel and prayed that all might become green again. And lo! even as he prayed, the trees shot forth leaves, the grass grew, the flowers bloomed, and all was as it had once been.

The news of this marvellous thing spread fast through the city, and all the world went out to see the holy man who had performed the wonder. Even the Raja Salbahan and his two Queens heard of it in the palace, and they too went to the garden to see it with their own eyes.

But Puran Bhagat's mother, Queen Achhra, had wept so long for her darling, that the tears had blinded her eyes, and so she went, not to see, but to ask the wonder-working faqir  to restore her sight.

Therefore, little knowing from whom she asked the boon, she fell on the ground before Puran Bhagat, begging him to cure her, and lo! almost before she asked, it was done, and she saw plainly.

Then deceitful Queen Lona, who all these years had been longing vainly for a son, when she saw what mighty power the unknown faqir  possessed, fell on the ground also and begged for an heir to gladden the heart of Raja Salbahan.

Then Puran Bhagat spoke, and his voice was stern, "Raja Salbahan already has a son. Where is he? What have you done with him? Speak truth, Queen Lona, if you would find favour with God!"

Then the woman's great longing for a son conquered her pride and, though her husband stood by, she humbled herself before the faqir  and told the truth — how she had deceived the father and destroyed the son.

Then Puran Bhagat rose to his feet, stretched out his hands towards her, and a smile was on his face as he said softly, "Even so, Queen Lona! Even so! And behold! I  am Prince Puran, whom you destroyed and God delivered! I have a message for you. Your fault is forgiven, but not forgotten; you shall indeed bear a son, who shall be brave and good, yet will he cause you to weep tears as bitter as those my mother wept for me. So, take this grain of rice; eat it, and you shall bear a son that will be no son to you, for even as I was reft from my mother's eyes, so will he be reft from yours. Go in peace; your fault is forgiven, but not forgotten!"

(700 words)

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