Vikram and the Vampire, by Richard Burton

The Vampire’s Tenth Story.168

Of the Marvellous Delicacy of Three Queens.

The Baital said, O king, in the Gaur country, Vardhman by name, there is a city, and one called Gunshekhar was the Raja of that land. His minister was one Abhaichand, a Jain, by whose teachings the king also came into the Jain faith.

The worship of Shiva and of Vishnu, gifts of cows, gifts of lands, gifts of rice balls, gaming and spirit-drinking, all these he prohibited. In the city no man could get leave to do them, and as for bones, into the Ganges no man was allowed to throw them, and in these matters the minister, having taken orders from the king, caused a proclamation to be made about the city, saying, “Whoever these acts shall do, the Raja having confiscated, will punish him and banish him from the city.”

Now one day the Diwan169 began to say to the Raja, “O great king, to the decisions of the Faith be pleased to give ear. Whosoever takes the life of another, his life also in the future birth is taken: this very sin causes him to be born again and again upon earth and to die And thus he ever continues to be born again and to die. Hence for one who has found entrance into this world to cultivate religion is right and proper. Be pleased to behold! By love, by wrath, by pain, by desire, and by fascination overpowered, the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahadeva (Shiva) in various ways upon the earth are ever becoming incarnate. Far better than they is the Cow, who is free from passion, enmity, drunkenness, anger, covetousness, and inordinate affection, who supports mankind, and whose progeny in many ways give ease and solace to the creatures of the world These deities and sages (munis) believe in the Cow.170

“For such reason to believe in the gods is not good. Upon this earth be pleased to believe in the Cow. It is our duty to protect the life of everyone, beginning from the elephant, through ants, beasts, and birds, up to man. In the world righteousness equal to that there is none. Those who, eating the flesh of other creatures, increase their own flesh, shall in the fulness of time assuredly obtain the fruition of Narak 171; hence for a man it is proper to attend to the conversation of life. They who understand not the pain of other creatures, and who continue to slay and to devour them, last but few days in the land, and return to mundane existence, maimed, limping, one-eyed, blind, dwarfed, hunchbacked, and imperfect in such wise. Just as they consume the bodies of beasts and of birds, even so they end by spoiling their own bodies. From drinking spirits also the great sin arises, hence the consuming of spirits and flesh is not advisable.”

The minister having in this manner explained to the king the sentiments of his own mind, so brought him over to the Jain faith, that whatever he said, so the king did. Thus in Brahmans, in Jogis, in Janganis, in Sevras, in Sannyasis,172 and in religious mendicants, no man believed, and according to this creed the rule was carried on.

Now one day, being in the power of Death, Raja Gunshekhar died. Then his son Dharmadhwaj sat upon the carpet (throne), and began to rule. Presently he caused the minister Abhaichand to be seized, had his head shaved all but seven locks of hair, ordered his face to be blackened, and mounting him on an ass, with drums beaten, had him led all about the city, and drove him from the kingdom. From that time he carried on his rule free from all anxiety.

It so happened that in the season of spring, the king Dharmadhwaj, taking his queens with him, went for a stroll in the garden, where there was a large tank with lotuses blooming within it. The Raja admiring its beauty, took off his clothes and went down to bathe.

After plucking a flower and coming to the bank, he was going to give it into the hands of one of his queens, when it slipped from his fingers, fell upon her foot, and broke it with the blow. Then the Raja being alarmed, at once came out of the tank, and began to apply remedies to her.

Hereupon night came on, and the moon shone brightly: the falling of its rays on the body of the second queen formed blisters And suddenly from a distance the sound of a wooden pestle came out of a householder’s dwelling, when the third queen fainted away with a severe pain in the head

Having spoken thus much the Baital said “O my king! of these three which is the most delicate?” The Raja answered, “She indeed is the most delicate who fainted in consequence of the headache.” The Baital hearing this speech, went and hung himself from the very same tree, and the Raja, having gone there and taken him down and fastened him in the bundle and placed him on his shoulder, carried him away.

168 This story is perhaps the least interesting in the collection. I have translated it literally, in order to give an idea of the original. The reader will remark in it the source of our own nursery tale about the princess who was so high born and delicately bred, that she could discover the three peas laid beneath a straw mattress and four feather beds. The Hindus, however, believe that Sybaritism can be carried so far; I remember my Pandit asserting the truth of the story.

169 A minister. The word, as is the case with many in this collection, is quite modern Moslem, and anachronistic.

170 The cow is called the mother of the gods, and is declared by Brahma, the first person of the triad, Vishnu and Shiva being the second and the third, to be a proper object of worship. “If a European speak to the Hindu about eating the flesh of cows,” says an old missionary, “they immediately raise their hands to their ears; yet milkmen, carmen, and farmers beat the cow as unmercifully as a carrier of coals beats his ass in England.“The Jains or Jainas (from ji, to conquer; as subduing the passions) are one of the atheistical sects with whom the Brahmans have of old carried on the fiercest religious controversies, ending in many a sanguinary fight. Their tenets are consequently exaggerated and ridiculed, as in the text. They believe that there is no such God as the common notions on the subject point out, and they hold that the highest act of virtue is to abstain from injuring sentient creatures. Man does not possess an immortal spirit: death is the same to Brahma and to a fly. Therefore there is no heaven or hell separate from present pleasure or pain. Hindu Epicureans! —“Epicuri de grege porci.”

171 Narak is one of the multitudinous places of Hindu punishment, said to adjoin the residence of Ajarna. The less cultivated Jains believe in a region of torment. The illuminati, however, have a sovereign contempt for the Creator, for a future state, and for all religious ceremonies. As Hindus, however, they believe in future births of mankind, somewhat influenced by present actions. The “next birth” in the mouth of a Hindu, we are told, is the same as “tomorrow” in the mouth of a Christian. The metempsychosis is on an extensive scale: according to some, a person who loses human birth must pass through eight millions of successive incarnations — fish, insects, worms, birds, and beasts — before he can reappear as a man.

172 Jogi, or Yogi, properly applies to followers of the Yoga or Patanjala school, who by ascetic practices acquire power over the elements. Vulgarly, it is a general term for mountebank vagrants, worshippers of Shiva. The Janganis adore the same deity, and carry about a Linga. The Sevras are Jain beggars, who regard their chiefs as superior to the gods of other sects. The Sannyasis are mendicant followers of Shiva; they never touch metals or fire, and. in religious parlance, they take up the staff They are opposed to the Viragis, worshippers of Vishnu, who contend as strongly against the worshippers of gods who receive bloody offerings. as a Christian could do against idolatry.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:34