Whom should the fair lady marry?

A beautiful maiden had three equally good-looking and worthy admirers to choose from, whom would she marry? Betaal, the celestial spirit, asked the legendary king Vikramaditya in the famous Sanskrit story book – Baital Pachisi.

The question seemed baffling but the answer given by the wise king at the end of the story was exceptionally wise. Read the story (in my words) and decide for yourself – If you were the fair girl, whom would you choose and why?

Once there was a beautiful and intelligent Brahmin maiden, who was sought by many young men of the time. But her father wanted to choose the best of all her admirers.

Three handsome Brahmin young men of Kanauj, who were great scholars arrived, and each one claimed that they were in love with the lady. Her father was perplexed as each one was great in every sense. The girl couldn’t choose because she did not want to hurt sentiments.

The three men’s ardent love for the girl did not lessen with time. They stayed on for months and months, showing their commitment towards the lady. But tragedy struck one day, the maiden fell ill and died. Her father and the devoted men were heart broken.

After the lady’s funeral, the first man, built a hut there, slept on a bed made of her ashes, and got his food by begging.

The second took her bones and went far to dip them in the sacred Ganges river.

And the third became a wandering monk and travelled around.

One day, the wandering monk, stopped at a Brahmin’s house to spend the night. The Brahmin thought he was a great ascetic and welcomed him. Dinner was served and the Brahmin’s wife and son joined them. But the son was quite mischievous and he began to trouble his mother by throwing tantrums. The mother got very angry and threw him into blazing fire. The boy turned into ashes.

The third man was shaken and began to scream. He thought the Brahmin’s family was that of vampires and demons. The merchant calmed him down, brought a book, murmured a magic spell and threw water on the ashes. The boy got up, alive as before. The third man was joyous. Here was the way to revive the maiden!

That night, he stole the magic book and returned to the cremation ground. The first man was already there and the second man had returned after immersing her bones. The third man told them about the magic book and asked the first man to bring the ashes of the girl.

The lady came back to life, prettier and more radiant than before. And the three men began to claim her recounting their respective, trials and tribulations.

The first man said – I kept her ashes. That is why she came to life. She is my dear wife.

The second man said – She came to life because of my journey to the sacred river. She is my wife.

The third man said – I brought her to life by my magic spell. She is my wife.

Here Betaal stopped and asked the good king – Whom should the fair lady marry?

(At this point, while reading the story, I considered the monk as the worthiest one because he found the way to revive the girl. But after understanding the king’s answer, I agreed with him.)

King Vikramaditya said – The third man painfully found the magic spell and brought her back to life, but he did what a father ought to do. He is not her husband. And the second man who went to dip her bones in the sacred river, he did only what a son ought to do. He is not her husband.

But the first man who slept with her ashes and lived a hard life in the cemetery did what a lover ought to do. The first man deserves to be her husband.

Betaal agreed but flew back to the tree to test the king’s constancy. And the loop of stories continued with questions and wise answers in the book.

But, If you were the fair girl, whom would you choose?

(Image courtesy Google)

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