An apple does a merry-go-round…

Read the previous part here

And so the Brahmin went to the king Bhartharī and narrated the course of events. “My king, I have no use for this fruit. I would rather present it to you, so that you can continue your illustrious rule, and in return, I would gladly accept whatever you give me that will allow me to lead the rest of my days on this earth, in peace and happiness.”

Illustration by the renowned Karatholuvu Chandrasekaran Shivashankaran

The king, pleased at his offering, gave the Brahmin a thousand gold coins. He then took the fruit to his best-loved queen and said “Here, my dear. Have this, so that you can become immortal, and always remain youthful!”

The queen graciously accepted the apple, and the king returned to his court. The queen walked into her chambers – her chief of guard followed her inside.

“My love, this is for you”, she crooned as he gave him the apple. “Eat this, and remain young, and forever virile, just for me.”

The chief of guard kissed her and said thank you, and set out towards his house. On the way, he stopped at the neighborhood brothel, and met his girlfriend – a beautiful courtesan. “My love, this is for you. Whoever eats this will become immortal”, he said. “And I love you so much that I want you to have it.”

The courtesan reflected on what he had said, when he left. “Such a fruit will be invaluable to the right buyer. And who else but the king can afford such a payment?”

The courtesan then sought audience with the king, and on meeting him, extolled the good qualities of the apple, and asked for a suitable reward. The king gave her a lot of gold coins, and then looked down at the fruit that had travelled and changed many hands before reaching him…again.

“All the wealth in this world is merely delusion. There is no affection in this world, and everything is Maya. It is better to practice the way of bhakti, and remember the divine, rather than be part of this delusional world”, he thought to himself.

He then walked into the harem where his beloved queen was resting. “What did you do with the fruit that I gave you?” he asked.

Pat came the reply. “Of course I ate it”.

The king opened his hand, and showed her the apple. She was aghast, and at a loss for words. He left her in that state, and walked out.

In a few days, the king, having eaten the fruit, decided to become a yogi, and in the middle of the night, unknown to anyone, left the palace and the kingdom and was never seen again. King Vikram’s throne lay empty once more.

When this news reached Indra, the king of the devas, he sent a deva to guard Dhārānagar.

Meanwhile, rumors of Bhartharī’s abdication spread like wildfire, and soon reached King Vikram’s ears too. He was enjoying his journeys, but he knew that duty beckoned. And so King Vikram decided to return to the capital, and take back control of his kingdom.

It was midnight, as King Vikram crossed the border into Dhārānagar. As soon as he did, a voice cried out and said…

to be continued…