A death, and a question…

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Writhing in agony, he exclaimed…

“Oh, when fate is against you, even good things that happen to you turn bad in the end! This delicious kheer has now become poisonous for me!”

Lamenting this way, Harisvāmin started back towards the Brāhman’s house, stumbling in pain all along the way…

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Illustration by the renowned Karatholuvu Chandrasekaran Shivashankaran

इति जल्पन् विषार्तः स हरिस्वामी परिस्खलन् ।
गत्वा तां सत्त्रिणस् तस्य विप्रस्योवाच गेहिनीम् ॥ १२,२०.४८ ॥

त्वद्दत्ताद् विषम् अन्नान् मे जातं तद् विषमन्त्रिणम् ।
कंचिन् ममानय क्षिप्रं ब्रह्महत्यान्यथास्ति ते ॥ १२,२०.४९ ॥

इत्य् उक्त्वैव स तां साध्वीं किम् एतद् इति विह्वलाम् ।
हरिस्वामी परावृत्तनेत्रः प्राणैर् व्ययुज्यत ॥ १२,२०.५० ॥

ततः सा तेन निर्दोषाप्य् आतिथेय्य् अपि सत्त्रिणा ।
भार्या निष्कासिता गेहान् मिथ्यातिथिवधक्रुधा ॥ १२,२०.५१ ॥

साप्य् उत्पन्नमृषावद्या सुशुभाद् अपि कर्मणः ।
जातावमाना तपसे साध्वी तीर्थम् अशिश्रियत् ॥ १२,२०.५२ ॥

कस्य विप्रवधः सो ऽस्तु सर्पश्येनान्नदेश्व् इति ।
तद् अभूद् धर्मराजाग्रे वादो नासीत् तु निर्णयः ॥ १२,२०.५३ ॥

Harisvāmin somehow reached Padmanābha’s house. The wife was still at the doorstep, and Harisvāmin cried out to her…

“O good lady, the kheer that you gave me has poisoned me! I am suffering with pain, so please fetch a vaidya fast, else you will be guilty of the death of a Brāhman!”

Unfortunately, Padmanābha’s wife was unable to comprehend what he had said, and why he had said it.

By the time she could make sense of what had happened, Harisvāmin closed his eyes, and fell dead.

Padmanābha had witnessed this entire scene, and became enraged.

He shouted at his wife, and drove her out of the house, even though the poor woman had been very hospitable to all the guests assembled there. “You are to blame” he thundered, and asked her never to return.

The good woman, having incurred the blame of killing a person, even though he had engaged in charity, knew that the village would not accept her again, and so she went someplace far away and started a rigorous penance to atone for the sin.

For many months, there were discussions in the village, as to who was to blame for Harisvāmin’s demise – the kite, the snake, or Padmanābha’s wife. They were not able to reach a consensus on who the guilty party was.

तत् त्रिविक्रमसेन त्वं रजन् ब्रूहि ममाधुना ।
कस्य सा ब्रह्महत्येति पूर्वः शापः स ते ऽन्यथा ॥ १२,२०.५४ ॥

The Vetāla finished his story, and then addressed King Vikram and said…

“So tell me, o King, who was to blame for Harisvāmin’s death ? Was it the kite, or the snake, or Padmanābha’s wife?

Remember, if you know the answer, and don’t tell me the truth, your head will burst into a hundred pieces!

King Vikram replied…

to be continued…