It was a dark rainy night. The King was riding through a narrow lane. He was in disguise. He was in the habit of dressing as a common man and seeing how his subjects lived.
He got thoroughly drenched by the rain. But he did not mind it. He was healthy enough to withstand the cold. He did not object to the darkness either. He was not afraid of facing danger. So he rode on leisurely but nevertheless cautiously.
Coming stealthily behind were some bandits. They had seen that the King was riding a very fine horse and they intended to steal it.
All of a sudden, the bandits surrounded the King. The King was taken by surprise, but he did not panic. Just as he was making his escape, however, his horse’s hoof got stuck in a crack in the road. The bandits, who were more than a dozen in number, were just about to pounce upon him when six young men arrived on the scene and came to his rescue. They attacked the bandits from the rear. The bandits, forced to face this surprise assault, were unable to harm the King.
Whenever the King traveled incognito, some of his ablest bodyguards followed at a distance. They bodyguards now arrived on the spot. The bandits were soon cornered. They tried to escape but failed. They were all captured by the royal guards.
The King was naturally much pleased with the young men who had come forward to save him, though they had no idea that they were doing a great service to their King. After thanking them, the King insisted that they accompany him to his palace.
The young men had come from distant villages. They had become friends because they were staying at the same inn.
By morning, the news of the incident had already spread. Everyone was delighted that the bandits had failed to harm their noble King. The members of the royal family, the ministers and courtiers and the public all praised the young men’s courage.
When the King appeared in the durbar, the six young men were brought before him. The King got down from his throne and embraced them. He expressed his desire to reward them for the help they had given him.
“Let each one ask me for the thing that would please him most. I promise to grant it instantly, unless it is beyond my power or capacity to grant it,” the King announced.
The oldest of the six friends was asked to state his desire first. He thought for a moment and then said, “O great King, I’ve only a hut for a house. For a long time I have wished to live in a comfortable house. Will you please fulfil my wish?”
The King immediately summoned the court architect and engineer and instructed them to build a grand mansion for the young man.
The next young man wanted to be promoted to the rank of a nobleman. The King bestowed some titles upon him and made him one of his peers.
The third young man said, “My Lord, the poor people from my village come to the town every week to sell vegetables. Because there is no good road between my village and the town, the villagers suffer, particularly during the rainy season. My prayer is, let a good road link my village with the town.”
The King made a gesture of approval and the minister in charge of roads and bridges made a hurried note of it.
When the fourth young man was asked to state his wish, he blushed and replied, “O great King, you are like my father; find me a beautiful bride, if you please!’
The King’s jester had a beautiful daughter. The King asked the jester to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to the young man. The jester happily agreed.
The fifth young man expressed a desire for money. A bag full of gold mohurs was handed to him immediately.
At last came the turn of the sixth young man. He said, “My King, I want you to be my guest once a year until one of us dies.”
Everyone was surprised at this strange prayer of the young man. Many thought him a fool. Even to the King, the request appeared rather odd. But he had promised to fulfil any request unless it was beyond his capacity. So he agreed to spend a day and a night every year at the young man’s house.
Now it was left to the various departments of the King’s government to make adequate arrangements for the King’s yearly visits to the young man’s house.
First of all, it was necessary to build a good road – a royal road – to his village, so that the King’s chariot could run there smoothly. Then the question was raised: How could the King live and sleep in the young man’s home which was hardly better than a cowshed? In no time a luxurious castle, worthy of hosting the King, was built for him.
But how would he, with his meager income, maintain the castle and play host to the King and his entourage? To solve this problem, arrangements were made for him to draw a handsome monthly allowance from the royal treasury.
According to a long established convention, the King could only be a nobleman’s guest. So, the young man was promoted to the rank of a nobleman with very special titles of honor bestowed upon him. He was now as dignified as any prince of royal blood.
There was yet one more factor to be considered. The lady who would be the King’s hostess should be familiar with the King’s habits and delicate tastes. To whom could they be more familiar than the King’s daughter? Soon, arrangements were afoot to wed the princess to the young man, for the young man was now rich, lordly and master of a castle.
Thus, asking but one boon, the young man got all that his five companions had obtained, and in fact much more, just as praying to avail of the Divine directly one gets the other wealths like devotion and purity all in its wake. One need not wait for these virtues to flourish first to make him eligible for hosting the Divine!
Our deep gratitude to Manoj Das