The Groom

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King Vikramaditya reached the peepal tree and pulled down the corpse hanging in there. Putting the corpse on his shoulder, he started to walk towards the crematory.

On the way, Betal spoke to King Vikramaditya, “Vikram, listen to the story, I am going to tell you.” Saying so, Betal began to tell the story as follows:

“Once upon a time, a Brahmin by the name of Keshav lived in the town of Dharmasthala, which was situated on the banks of the river Yamuna. The Brahmin was very learned.
He had read almost all the religious scriptures. Thousands of his disciples used to chant his name along with the name of God.

Brahmin Keshav had a small family, consisting of his wife, son and his daughter Madhumalti.
Madhumalti’s beauty was so captivating that even fairies envied her. But, as the years passed by, she became a cause of worry for their parents. They began looking for a suitable match for her.

One day, when Keshav was performing ‘pooja’ in one of his client’s house, he met a Brahmin young man named Madho.

Madho was a student of the Vedas and Shastras and had topped in the Gurukul.

Keshav very much liked talented Madho and expressed his desire to get his daughter Madhumalti married to him. He even paid a visit to Madho’s house and met Madho’s parents.

Madho’s father and mother, were very glad to hear about their son's marriage with Keshav's daughter.

“It’s our privilege to have Madhumalti as our daughter-in-law,” said Madho’s father. “We were long looking for an educated and respected family.”

Keshav returned home in the evening with a packet of sweets and said to his wife, “Dear, we’ve been relieved of one of our pious duties in our life and that is of giving our daughter in marriage. I’ve fixed her engagement today with a young handsome Brahmin boy, Madho. He belongs to an educated and well-to-do family.”

“What!” his wife exclaimed in surprise. “You should have consulted me before finalizing a match for Madhumalti. I’ve also finalized her marriage with a handsome young man named Vaman. Vaman’s parents are very happy.”

Keshav was taken aback to hear the words of his wife. However, he had hardly recovered from this rude shock when, in the meantime, his son entered the house. He seemed to be in great excitement and said panting, “Father, you will be glad to know that I have, at last, found a suitable match for my sister. The boy’s name is Madhusudan and he is a highly accomplished man.”

Now it was again the turn of his parents to get shocked over this new development. A funny situation had, by then, arisen in the family. There were three boys-Madho, Vaman and Madhusudan-all ready to marry Madhumalti. The family discussed this complex issue at length and it was  finally decided that it should be wholly left to Madhumalti as to who she would select as her husband.

On the auspicious day, all the three would-be grooms arrived at Keshav’s house to compete for Madhumalti’s hand. It was also a difficult task for Madhumalti to select one boy as her husband.
However, all of a sudden, something very inauspicious happened. A black cobra appeared there in the room and bit Madhumalti. Every effort to save her life failed. Madhumalti died. The cobra also disappeared from the room. Everybody was struck with grief. The three suitors were especially aggrieved and decided to collect the ashes of Madhumalti after her cremation. Madho performed Madhumalti’s last rites. He gathered her ashes and bones in an earthen pot and went to another town.

Vaman also gathered Madhumalti’s ashes in a copper pot and went to live on the banks of the river Yamuna.

Madhusudan too followed suit and after collecting bones and ashes of Madhumalti went on roaming from one village to another.

One night, while roaming from one village to another, Madhusudan came across a Tantrik’s house. There he expressed his wish to stay in the house for a few nights. It was gladly accepted by the Tantrik's family members.

It was nearly midnight when the Tantrik and his wife began to quarrel over some trifle matter. The Tantrik, in a fit of rage, lifted his son and flung him into the fire. His son was burnt alive. The Tantrik’s wife began to wail and cry. This highly disturbed Madhusudan, who was sleeping in the outside room of the house. He came out and said to the Tantrik, “You seem to be a thoroughly wicked person. You burnt the child in fire. It was my mistake that I stayed with you. You’ll never be forgiven for your heinous act.”

The Tantrik felt highly embarrassed to hear this. He took out a book of charms; recited some mantras and sprinkled the charmed water on the ashes and bones of his son. Soon his son rose up.

Madhusudan was wonderstruck to see this act. One night, he stole the book of charms and reached the cremation ground where Madhumalti’s last rites had been performed.

He searched for Madho and Vaman also and invited them to help resurrect Madhumalti by reciting mantras.

Then Vaman and Madho arranged the bones of Madhumalti and Madhusudan recited the mantras from the Tantrik’s book. Soon Madhumalti rose up alive from her bones and ashes.

As all the suitors madly loved Madhumalti and wanted to marry her, there began a heated discussion among them in this regard and each one of them put up his claim forward’’.

“Now Vikram! Tell me, to whom Madhumalti married? If despite knowing, you don’t answer, I will smash your head into pieces.”

Vikramaditya pondered over Betal’s question and said, “Madhumalti married Vaman.”
“Tell me the reason,” said Betal.

“There is a meaning to every relationship,” continued King Vikramaditya. “Madhusudan gave a new life to Madhumalti, so he was like her father. Madho had performed her last rites, so he was like a son to her. It was Vaman who had preserved her ashes to the last. So he was fit to act as her husband. Thus, Madhumalti had every right to marry Vaman.”

“Absolutely correct,” said Betal. “You are really an able king. But I had warned you not to open your mouth, which you did. So, here I go back to my abode in the peepal tree.”

King Vikramaditya ran after Betal, who had already flown away.

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