The Faithful Servant
Once upon a time a warrior named Viravara came to king Supraka and asked him for a service. He demanded from the king five hundred golden coins a day by way of salary. King Sudraka, perceiving that his appearance indicated great courage, gave him the salary he desired.
Every day Viravara stood at his palace gate in the middle of the day, sword in hand; and then he went home and put into the hand of his wife a hundred coins of his salary for food, and with a hundred he bought clothes, unguents and betel, and put hundred in the temple, and he gave two hundred to poor Brahmans.
One day it was raining heavily. King thought let me check whether Viravara is at his place or not. So he shouted for him. When Viravara heard that, he answered: ‘I am here, Majesty.’
Then King Sudraka thought to himself: ‘Viravara is a man of intrepid courage and devotedly attached to me. So I must certainly promote him to an important post.’
One night the king suddenly heard a woman weeping in the distance, distracted in despair, uttering only the piteous sound of wailing. When the king heard that, pity arose is his mind, and he said to himself ‘There is no oppressed person in my kingdom, no poor or afflicted person, so who is this woman, that is thus weeping alone at night?’
Then he gave this order to Viravara, who was alone below, ‘There is some woman weeping in the distance, go and find out who she is and why she is weeping.’
King Sudraka, seeing him starting alone on such a night, and being penetrated with pity and curiosity, came down from the top of the palace, and taking his sword, set out close behind him, along and unobserved.
Viravara went on persistently in the direction of the weeping, and reached a tank outside the city, and saw there that woman in the middle of the water saying ‘How can I live without you my king?’
And Viravara, said with astonishment, ‘Who are you, and why do you weep like this?’
She answered him, ‘I am this Earth, and King Sudraka is now my righteous lord, but on the third day from this day his death will take place, so I am grieved.’
When Viravara heard this, he said ‘Goddess, any expedient to prevent the death of the king?’
When Earth heard this, she answered, ‘Yes’
Viravara said: ‘Then, tell it me at once.’
Earth said ‘Who is as brave as you, and as devoted to his master? If you offer up your child Sattvavara to his glorious goddess Chandi, famous for her exceeding readiness to manifest herself to her votaries, the king will not die. And if you do it at once, his safety will be ensured’
Viravara said ‘I will go and do it this.’
The king heard all these.
Viravara went quickly in the darkness to his own house, and King Sudraka, out of curiosity, followed him unobserved. There he woke up his wife Dharmavati, and told her how the goddess Earth had directed him to offer up his son for the sake of the king.
When she heard it, she said: ‘We must ensure the prosperity of the king.’
Viravara woke up his young son Sattvavara, who was asleep, and told him all that had occurred and said to him: ‘The king will live if you are offered up to the goddess Chandi.’
When Sattvavara heard it, he said ‘I would sacrifice of my life saves that of the king.’ When Sattvavara said this, Viravara answered; ‘You are my real son.’
The king, who had followed them, and heard all this conversation from outside, said to his self ‘They are all equal in courage.’
Viravara took his son Sattvavara on his shoulder, and they both went that very night to the temple of Chandi, and King Sudraka followed them unobserved.
Sattvavara was taken down by his father from his shoulder and placed in front of the idol, and the boy, who was full of courage, bowed before the goddess.
When the boy Sattvavara said this, Viravara drew his sword and cut off his son’s head.
Viravara’s wife Dharmavati said to him ‘We have ensured the prosperity of the king, so now I have something to say to you. What is the use of life to me? Since I have lost my son, give me leave to enter the fire with my child’s body.’
Viravara made a funeral pyre with the timber, and placed on it the body of his child, and lighted it, and the woman threw herself into the burning pyre.
Viravara had praised the goddess in these words; he cut off his head with a sudden stroke of his sword.
When the king saw this, he drew his sword from the sheath, and When the king Sudraka was preparing to cut off his head with his sword, at that moment a voice was heard from the air, ‘I am pleased with your courage let the Viravara be restored to life, together with his wife and his child’
Having uttered this, the voice ceased, and Viravara rose up alive and unwounded, with his son, and his wife.
After he had left his son, wife and daughter there, he returned that very night to the palace gate of the king, and stood there as before.
King Sudraka, for his part, who had beheld all unobserved, again went up to the roof of his palace. He cried out from the roof ‘Who is in attendance at the palace gate?’
Then Viravara said: ‘I myself am in waiting here, your Majesty. And in accordance with your orders I went in search of that woman, but she disappeared somewhere.’
The next morning Viravara came to present himself at the time of audience, and then the king related to the ministers all that Viravara had gone through during the night.
Betaal stopped the story and asked ‘Tell me Vikram who was the bravest of all these?’
The king said “King Sudraka was the greatest hero of them all. Viravara was a man of high birth, one in whose family it was a tradition that life, son and wife must be sacrificed to protect the sovereign. And his wife also was of same caste, worshipping her husband only, and her chief duty was to follow the path traced out for her by her husband. And Sattvavara was like them being their son. Assuredly, such as are the threads, such is the web produced from them. But Sudraka excelled them all, because he was ready to lay down his life for those servants.”