King Bhoja of the Paramwara Dynasty was a proud man. He had ruled his kingdom well and the people were prosperous and happy.
However recently the people of the kingdom complained about a man-eater who had started attacking the people at the outskirts of the kingdom. It seemed like the animals of the forests were slowly venturing into the kingdom which resulted in loss of life and property.
Immediately the king along with a small group entered into the forest and got about systematically decimating the wild animals in the place. Once the king and his men were reasonably certain that the wild animals would not cause any more threat to the people, the king started his journey back to the capital.
However just outside the outskirts of the forests, the royal group saw a beautifully furnished garden. Even looking at the garden, made the tired men hungry. The king ordered his men to go ask the owner about buying some of the fruits when they heard a shout from above. The king looked up and smiled as he saw a man standing on top of the tall platform and chasing away birds which were trying to venture inside the garden. Just looking at the man made the king smile. The man seemed....happy...almost as if he had no worries in the world.
The king was about to open his mouth when the man shouted from the top. 'I am Saravana! I am the owner of the garden! All of you seem to be tired! Help yourself with some fruits sir!'
The king's face broke into a surprised laugh as he nodded his head. He signaled his men to go inside the garden.
The group entered the garden when something changed. The king and his men were unable to explain it but they definitely felt it. The world suddenly seemed like a serene place where absolutely nothing went wrong. A heady feeling came to the king as they feasted on the lovely and juicy fruits in the garden.
They had demolished many fruits when suddenly they heard the footsteps of a man running towards them. 'You thieves! You selfish thieves! You look so rich and you steal from a poor....' The man shouted as he came right in front of them. The man faltered for a second as he saw the man that he had been yelling at was the king of the land. But then the man again started yelling. 'You claim to be the king and you steal from your own subjects...'
As far as Raja Bhoja was concerned, he was more than shocked. Because the man yelling at him was Saravana, the same man who had asked them to take the fruits. The king and his men looked bewildered at each other because Saravana was now almost yelling himself hoarse and calling the king everything from a liar to a thief.
'You asked me to take the fruits!' The king said feeling extremely embarrassed, as Saravana stopped shouting.
Saravana looked shocked and bewildered. 'Me? You think I asked you take these fruits? Just like that? I am taking care of this garden with the intention of selling the fruits, for money! You think I would just give them away, for free? Do you think I am a fool?'
A part of the king was disgusted with the man, but still a lingering doubt remaining in his mind.
He pulled out his gold ring and handed it over to the man. 'These are for the fruits that me and my men took!' He said dismissively as he looked around the garden, thinking....
Saravana's eyes literally bulged out from his sockets as he stared at the gold ring. He swallowed once or twice and then nodded his head.
'How long have you had this garden?' The king asked, as he was certain that he had the man's undivided attention.
'It belonged to my father, sir! Now I am taking care of it!' The man mumbled still looking at the ring.
Suddenly one of Raja Bhoja's ministers came forward. 'How on earth, do you have so many varieties of fruits growing in the garden at the same time?'
Saravana shrugged. 'I do not know sir! This field has been a very lucky one for us! None of the crops planted in the field have ever gone bad and we have always had a bumper harvest....No matter what the weather...'
Raja Bhoja looked around wondering....He suddenly turned to Saravana. 'Would you consider selling the garden to me?'
Saravana looked wary when Raja Bhoja continued hurriedly. 'You will of course be paid! I am willing to pay twice the amount that you want!'
Saravana looked like he could not believe what he was hearing. He looked at the gold ring in his hand and stern face of the king and realized that the king meant what he was saying and slowly nodded his head. 'I am more than willing to sell my garden to you, your majesty!'
Raja Bhoja smiled as he looked at the man. 'I want to see that platform that you were standing on to chase away the birds!' the king said to Saravana.
Deciding that today was going to be one of the most inexplicable days of his life, Saravana mutely led the king to the platform.
Raja Bhoja came near the platform when it almost hit him...The feeling of bliss and rightness...which was felt all over the garden was so....powerful near the platform that Raja Bhoja felt nothing for a few seconds. He had images of his kingdom as one of the most powerful and prosperous kingdoms in the entire country and he saw himself sitting proudly in the royal court. Raja Bhoja shook his head to clear the image.
Saravana's eyes also had the same happy look that he had had when he was standing on the top. 'Sir! The price that you have paid me for the garden, is more than what I need....! Kindly give me what is necessary and no more....!'
Raja Bhoja lifted his eyebrows studying Saravana. 'The price that I paid for is correct! Please approach my ministers! They will make sure you are paid appropriately...'
Saravana nodded as he and the king went back to the ministers. The king studied Saravana as he walked away from the platform. The further away from the platform the man got, Saravana looked like someone who had just woken up to a strong dose of reality.
The king paid the man the promised sum and Saravana departed. The king then turned to his men. 'I want you to excavate this place...Not the entire place, just the place under which the platform is constructed...' The king smiled to himself. 'I think you would be very surprised at what you find there!'
If the minister found the behaviour of the king odd, he made no mention of it. He just nodded his head and set about excavating the place with the few people he had.
The king set about back to the capital with the other members from the group.
Afternoon passed with the king impatiently waiting for any news from the minister.
Evening, the king was in for a shock when he saw the minister himself rush towards the capital on his chariot. The king saw the minister hurriedly stop the chariot outside the palace and come inside, ignoring all the guards.
The king went down to meet the minister when the minister started speaking without preamble. 'Sir, you would not believe what we have found....'
The king led the breathless minister towards a throne and made him sit down as the man continued speaking. 'There was a throne sir! There was a throne buried underground that platform' The man said gasping. Raja Bhoja looked surprised. He had expected a lot of things under the platform...but a throne....
'It is not just any throne sir! It is one of the largest thrones I have ever seen...We have been digging from the morning, since you left and we were able to excavate only half of the throne, till the time I left!' The minister said taking a deep breath. 'It is made of pure gold...The steps, there are 32 steps in all, the seat...all of it was made of pure gold, your majesty! And the precious stones which were used to deck the thrones....' The minister shook his head, his eyes wide. 'I have never even heard of precious stones being that big!'
Raja Bhoja looked surprised as the minister continued. 'Each of the 32 steps have a beautiful female statue. I have never seen a statue so clear and with so much expression...It almost looked like it was a real woman who was just affixed to the throne!' The minister said his hands trembling with excitement. However he was not yet done with his narration of the throne. 'The craftsmanship is really what made me nervous, your majesty! I have read in the Scriptures of thrones being made that way! But till date I have never seen anything like it....I do not think that throne was made on....earth!' The minister finished quietly.
Raja Bhoja looked deep in thought as the minister fell silent. He had read in the Scriptures about the people in the olden days where the people from the earth visiting the Gods in the heavens...But all that was part of myth...legends....What was it that he had just now found...Was it really a throne made in the heavens...If so for whom was it made...Who was the person who was sitting on the throne...
Raja Bhoja looked at the minister. 'Please make preparations for the throne to be brought to the capital as soon as possible...I think it is necessary for performing some rituals as well. I think a throne this ancient and which is even capable of influencing the mind of the people around it cannot be an ordinary thing....' The king nodded more to himself than to the minister. 'Bring the throne to the capital! We may be able to find out more about it here....'
And soon the day arrived.
The priests had performed the puja. It is said that the throne could not even be moved before the rituals were performed. Only after performing the worship of the throne, were the people able to move the throne.
The throne then slowly made its way to the capital...
Raja Bhoja looked at the throne when a deep sense of fear filled him. The throne was beautiful but it still made the king uneasy. It was an emotion he was unable to explain. He felt it every time he saw the statues on the steps...It looked like the statues had eyes with which they actually saw him.
Ignoring his fear, Raja Bhoja decided that the throne had to be installed in his capital in the main court hall. Not only was the throne breathtakingly beautiful, Raja Bhoja decided that if the throne was in the centre of the kingdom probably all the places in the kingdom would become even more prosperous by the powers of the ancient throne....
Taking a deep breath and brushing aside his fear, Raja Bhoja set foot on the first step....
Everyone in the court was stunned when they heard clapping noises coming from the throne. Raja Bhoja was shocked as he saw the noises were coming from the steps of the throne. Even before he could explain the clapping noise, the palace was filled with melodious laughter.
Raja Bhoja went towards the side of the throne and gasped as he saw the beautiful face of one of the statues glow. It was the first statue on the first step. The face of the statue still looked golden but the lips of the statue were moving with laughter.
'Who are you?' The words were out of the king's mouth before he could stop himself. 'Why do you laugh?'
'Answer my question first, my king!' The statue spoke. 'What are you trying to do?'
'I am trying to sit on the throne!' The king said feeling very silly explaining himself to a statue.
'Do you know to whom this throne belongs to?' The statue asked almost with anger.
When the king did not reply the statue continued. 'This throne belongs to King Vikramaditya! One of the greatest kings in the world! Nothing.....' The statue smiled faintly. 'Nothing you have done, matches even half the glory of that king....Then why are you attempting to sit on his throne of which you are not worthy?' The statue asked almost sneeringly.
King Vikramaditya? Raja Bhoja's head almost reeled. Raja Bhoja was supposed to be a descendent of king Vikramaditya, but then so much had been said about Vikramaditya that his stories had almost reached the realms of the legend. Nobody even knew what was real or myth anymore about the king. Raja Bhoja knew that there was a story of King Vikramaditya receiving a throne from Lord Indra, but he knew nothing more of it. He had dismissed the story as a legend, nothing more...And today he was going to listen to the story of his ancestor from a statue installed on his ancestor's throne.
Raja Bhoja smiled...'Who is King Vikramaditya? Please tell me!'
And so the statue told the story. It is said that the 32 statues narrated 32 stories extolling the greatness of King Vikaramaditya. After the end of every story, King Bhoja acknowledged that King Vikramaditya was greater than him in that particular field.
Finally after hearing the 32 stories, it is said that Raja Bhoja gave up all desires to even sit on the throne. In fact he wanted to renounce his kingdom and perform penance for making up, because Raja Bhoja thought that he had not been a good king as King Vikramaditya.
It was at this time that 32 shimmering lights emerged from the throne. Raja Bhoja looked aghast as he saw the transparent faces of 32 women who had told him the stories. 'Who are you?' The king asked flabbergasted.
'We are apsaras and the sakhis (friends) of Goddess Parvathi!' One of the them said. 'At one time, when we were in Kailash...we tried...we tried...!' The woman said looking shamefaced. '….we wanted Lord Shiva to see how beautiful we were and hoped he would fall in love with us!'
'Goddess Parvathi came to know of this and cursed us. She cursed us that because we wanted to be admired we would all become statues in the throne of King Vikramaditya, which was presented to him by Lord Indra. So that people would see us there and admire our beauty!'
The lady took a deep breath as she continued. 'After cursing us, Goddess Parvathi took pity on us and relented and said that the curse would be lifted if a king from king Vikaramaditya's dynasty heard all our stories patiently....' The lady smiled as she looked happy beyond anything. 'And today my king, you have set us free! You have listened to all our stories! For that we would always be grateful! And know this well, you are as great a man as your ancestor! You have the same magnanimity and the humility that your ancestor has and for that ask any boon of your choice....'
'My ancestor – King Vikramaditya was a great man! I wish that his stories always be immortal on earth!' Raja Bhoja said with a quiet smile.
The 32 ladies smiled and nodded their heads as they vanished from there.
Raja Bhoja looked at the throne and then at his people. This time he felt no fear. He climbed on the throne with confidence and nothing stopped him.....