Princess Shashibala And The Four Princes

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King Vikramaditya pulled down the corpse from the peepal tree and putting it on his shoulder, set forth for his capital.

“Vikram!” said Betal, “Why are you keeping silent? Now I tell you a story. Listen carefully and answer my questions truthfully.” Then Betal started to narrate the following story:

“Shashibala the daughter of King of Awanti Kingdom was very beautiful and intelligent. Many princes from the neighbouring countries were eager to marry her.

Once, when the King of Awanti was holding his court, the prince of Chola kingdom presented himself and told him that he wished to marry Shashibala. The King was happy to hear the proposal, but wanted to know the special abilities the prince possessed.

The Chola prince replied, “Your Majesty, I am an expert archer. I can shoot the bull’s eye even when I am blindfolded.”

“That is great!” said the Awanti King, but regretted that he would not be able to take an immediate decision in the matter. So he said to the Chola prince, “Let me consult the princess, as well.” Then the King ordered one of his ministers to make suitable arrangements for the stay of the prince in the palace.

The next day, the prince of Vaishali, presented himself in the audience of the Awanti King and proposed his marriage with Shashibala. He said, “I can weave wonder clothes. These beautiful clothes fetch large quantity of gold coins numbering into lakhs. Some of those I keep for my personal expenses, whilst the rest are distributed among the poor and needy.”

The King requested the second prince also to stay in the palace as a guest. The prince then presented a fine piece of silk cloth to the King. The King was dazzled to look at the cloth which was really of supreme quality.

On the third day, another prince came to the court of the King of Awanti. He claimed himself to be a great scholar and an authority on the Vedas and Upnishadas. He too proposed his marriage with Shashibala.

Then on the fourth day, there came the prince of Chadi kingdom and sought permission from the King to marry Shashibala. He claimed himself to be an expert in understanding the language of animals and birds.

He was also extended the same royal courtesy and requested to stay in the palace guest house.

Now it was a very peculiar situation. Four princes were eager to marry princess Shashibala. The parents of Shashibala were also in a fix. To choose the right prince for their daughter was a difficult proposition for them.

One day, the King called all those four princes in the royal garden to decide upon the issue. Princess Shashibala was also present there. He asked her daughter to choose one of the four princes as her husband.

Here, Betal ended his tale and asked King Vikramaditya, “Now tell me, Vikram, whom did princess Shashibala choose as her husband. If you don’t answer, I will smash your head into pieces.”

Then, King Vikramaditya replied, “A man’s identity is generally established through his profession. A princess is expected to marry a person of warrior caste. So, Shashibala would have definitely married the Chola prince, as the other remaining three princes were a Shudra, a Vaishya and a Brahmin.”

“You are absolutely right in your judgement”, said Betal. “But since you have broken your silence despite my warnings, I am bound to desert you.”

Saying so, Betal flew away from the shoulder of King Vikramaditya and went straight to his abode, the peepal tree.

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