The Upright King by Anonymous

Story type: Literature

There was a great Mahárájá whose name was Harchand Rájá, and he had an only son called Mánikchand. He was very rich and had a great deal of money, and he also had a very large garden full of lovely flowers and fruits which he prized greatly. Every morning before he bathed he used to give some poor fakír two pounds and a half of gold. Now Harchand Mahárájá used to pray a great deal to God, and God was very fond of him, so he said one day, “To see if Harchand Mahárájá really loves me, I will make him very poor for twelve years.” And at night God came down in the shape of a great boar, and ate up everything that was in Harchand Mahárájá’s garden. The boar then ran away into the jungle. Next morning the gardener got up and looked out into the garden, and what was his astonishment when he saw it was all spoilt. Nothing was left in it; it was not a garden any more. He went quickly to the Mahárájá and said, “Oh, master! oh, Mahárájá! your garden is quite spoilt. Last night a boar came and ate up everything in it.” “Nonsense,” said the Mahárájá, who would not believe him. “It is quite true,” said the gardener; “you can come and see for yourself.” So the Rájá got up at once and put on his clothes, and went into the garden, and found it all empty. He went back to the house very melancholy. Then as usual he gave a fakír his two pounds and a half of gold. After breakfast he went out hunting. The boar which had run away into the wood changed himself into a very old fakír, who shook from old age. As Harchand Mahárájá passed, the old fakír held out his hand, saying, “Please give me a few pice, I am so poor and hungry.” The Mahárájá said, “Come to my palace and I will give you two pounds and a half of gold.” “Oh, no,” said the fakír, “surely you would never give me so much as that.” “Yes, I will,” said the Mahárájá. “Every morning before I bathe I give a fakír two pounds and a half of gold.” “Nonsense,” said the fakír, “you don’t give away your money in that way.” “Really, I do,” said the Mahárájá, “and I promise to give you two pounds and a half of gold.” So the fakír followed Harchand Mahárájá home, and when they reached the palace, the Mahárájá told his treasurer to give the old fakír two pounds and a half of gold. The treasurer went into the treasury, but all the Mahárájá’s gold and silver and jewels had become charcoal! The treasurer came out again to the Mahárájá saying, “Oh, Mahárájá, all your gold and silver and jewels are turned into charcoal!” “Oh, nonsense,” said the Mahárájá. “Come and see, Mahárájá,” said the treasurer, who was in a great fright. The Mahárájá went into his treasury, and was quite sad at the sight of the charcoal. “Alas!” he said, “God has made me very poor, but still I must give this fakír his money.” So he went to the fakír and said, “All my gold and silver and jewels are turned into charcoal; but I will sell my wife, and my boy, and myself, and then I will give you the money I promised you.” And he went and fetched his wife and son, and left his palace, his houses, servants, and possessions.

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He then went to a merchant, who bought from him his Mahárání, who was called Hírálí, that is, the diamond lady, for she was very beautiful, and her face shone like a diamond. Her hands were very small, and so were her feet. The merchant gave the Mahárájá a pound of gold for the Mahárání. Next, Harchand Mahárájá went to a cowherd and sold him his son Mánikchand. The cowherd gave him for the boy half a pound of gold. Then he went to a dom, that is, a man of a very low caste, who kept a tank into which it was his business to throw the bodies of those who died. If it was a dead man or woman, the dom took one rupee, if it was a dead child he was only paid eight annas. To this dom Harchand sold himself for a pound of gold, and he gave the two pounds and a half of gold to the fakír, who then went home. The dom said, “Will you stay by the tank for a few days while I go home and do my other work, which is weaving baskets? If any one brings you a dead body you must throw it into the water. If it is the body of a man or woman, take one rupee in payment; if it is a dead child, take eight annas; and if the bearers have got no money, take a bit of cloth. Don’t forget.” And the dom went away, leaving Harchand sitting by the tank.

Well, Harchand Mahárájá sat for some days by the tank, and when any one brought him dead bodies he threw them into it. For a dead man or woman he took one rupee, for a dead child eight annas, and if the bearers had no money to give him, he took some cloth. Some time had passed, and Mánikchand, the Mahárájá’s son, died; so Hírálí Rání went to the cowherd to ask him for her dead child. The cowherd gave him to her, and she took him to the tank. Harchand Mahárájá was sitting by the tank, and when Hírálí Mahárání saw him she said, “I know that man is my husband, so he will not take any money for throwing his child into the water.” So she went up to him and said, “Will you throw this child into the tank for me?” “Yes, I will,” said Harchand Mahárájá; “only first give me eight annas.” “You surely won’t take any money for throwing your own son into the tank?” said the Mahárání. “You must pay me,” said Harchand Mahárájá, “for I must obey the dom’s orders. If you have no money, give me a piece of cloth.” So the Mahárání tore off a great piece of her sárí and gave it him, and the Mahárájá took his son and threw him into the tank. As he threw him in he cried out to the king of the fishes, who was an alligator, “Take great care of this body.” The king of fishes said, “I will.” Then the Mahárání went back to the merchant.

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And the Mahárájá caught a fish, and cooked it, and laid it by the tank, saying, “I will go and bathe and then I will eat it.” So he took off his clothes and went into the tank to bathe, and when he had bathed he put on fresh clothes, and as he took hold of his fish to eat it, it slipped back alive into the water, although it had been dead and cooked. The Mahárájá sat down by the tank again, very sad. He said, “For twelve years I have found it hard to get anything to eat; how long will God keep me without food?” God was very pleased with Harchand for being so patient, for he had never complained.

Some days later God came down to earth in the shape of a man, and with him he took an angel to be his Wazír. The Wazír said to God, “Come this way and let us see who it is sitting by the tank.” “No,” said God, “I am too tired, I can go no further.” “Do come,” said the Wazír; “I want so much to go.” God said, “Well, let us go.” Then they walked on till they came to the place where Harchand Mahárájá was sitting, and God said to him, “Would you like to have your wife, and your son, and your kingdom back again?” “Yes, I should,” said the Mahárájá; “but how can I get them?” “Tell me truly,” said God, “would you like to have your kingdom back again?” “Indeed I should,” said the Mahárájá. Then Mánikchand’s body, which had never sunk to the bottom of the tank like the other bodies, but had always floated on the water, rose up out of the water, and Mánikchand was alive once more. The father and son embraced each other. “Now,” said God, “let us go to the dom.” Harchand Mahárájá agreed, and they went to the dom and asked him how much he would take for Harchand Mahárájá. The dom said, “I gave one pound of gold for him, and I will take two pounds.” So they paid down the two pounds of gold. Then they went to the merchant and said to him, “How much will you take for Hírálí Rání?” The merchant said, “I gave a pound of gold for her; I will take four pounds.” So they paid down the four pounds of gold, took Hírálí Rání, and went to the cowherd. “How much will you take for Mánikchand?” said they to him. “I gave half a pound of gold for him,” answered the cowherd; “I will take one pound.” So they paid down the pound of gold, and Harchand Mahárájá went home to his palace, taking with him Hírálí Rání and Mánikchand, after thanking the strange man for his goodness to them. When they reached the palace, the garden was in splendid beauty; the charcoal was turned back into gold, and silver, and jewels; the servants were in waiting as usual, and they went into the palace and lived happily for evermore.

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Told by Dunkní.





1. The Boar is an avatár of Vishṇu.

2. A ḍom (the d is lingual) is a Hindú of a very low caste.

3. Possibly this king is the same as the king Harichand in the last story but one in the collection, p. 224, and he may also be the Hari�chandra of the following letter from Mr. C. H. Tawney:–

“I have been looking up the story of ‘Hari�chandra.’ It is to be found in Muir, vol. I. He gives a summary of it from the Markaṇḍeya Puráṇa. It is also found in the ‘Chanda Kau�ikam,’ and in Mutu Coomara Swamy’s ‘Martyr of Truth.’ The following is Muir’s summary summarized. Hari�chandra was a king who lived in the Tretá age, and was renowned for his virtue, and for the universal prosperity, moral and physical, which prevailed during his reign. One day he heard a sound of female lamentation which proceeded from the Sciences who were becoming mastered by the austere Sage, Vi�vamitra, in a way they had never been before. He rushed to their assistance as a Kshatriya bound to succour the oppressed. By a haughty speech he provoked Vi�vamitra, and in consequence of his wrath the Sciences instantly perished. (In the ‘Chanda Kau�ikam,’ as far as I remember, we are told that the anger of Vi�vamitra interfered with the success of his austerity.) The king says he had only done his duty as a king, which involves the bestowal of gifts on Bráhmans and the succour of the weak. Vi�vamitra thereupon demands from the king as a gift the whole earth, everything but himself, his son, and his wife. The king gives it him. Then Vi�vamitra demands his sacrificial fee; the king goes to Benares, followed by the relentless Sage, the ruler of �iva, and is compelled to sell his wife. She is bought by a rich old Bráhman. The son cries and the Bráhman buys him too. But Hari�chandra has not enough, even now, to satisfy Vi�vamitra, so he sells himself to a Cháṇḍála, who is really Dharma, the god of righteousness. The Cháṇḍála (man of the lowest caste), carries off the king, bound, beaten, and confused. The Cháṇḍála sends him to steal clothes in a cemetery. There he lives twelve months. His wife comes to the cemetery to perform the obsequies of her son, who had died from the bite of a serpent. The two determine to burn themselves with the corpse of their son. When Hari�chandra, after placing his son on the funeral pyre, is meditating on the Supreme Spirit, the lord Hari Náráyaṇa Krishṇa, all the gods arrive headed by Dharma (righteousness) and accompanied by Vi�vamitra. Dharma entreats the king to desist from his rash enterprise, and Indra announces to him that he, his wife, and his son have gained heaven by their good works. Ambrosia and flowers are rained by the god from the sky, and the king’s son is restored to the bloom of youth. The king, adorned with celestial clothing and garments, and the queen, embrace their son. Hari�chandra, however, declares that he cannot go to heaven till he has received his master the Cháṇḍála’s permission, and paid him a ransom. Dharma, the god of righteousness, then says that he had miraculously assumed the form of a Cháṇḍála. The king requests that his subjects may accompany him to heaven, at least for one day. This request is granted by Indra; and after Vi�vamitra has inaugurated the king’s son, Rohita�va, as his successor, Hari�chandra, his friends and followers, all ascend to heaven.”

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Bél, a fruit; Ægle marmelos.

Bulbul, a kind of nightingale.

Chaprásí, a messenger wearing a badge ( chaprás ).

Cooly (Tamil kúli ), a labourer in the fields; also a porter.

Dál, a kind of pulse; Phaseolus aureus, according to Wilson; Paspalum frumentaceum, according to Forbes.

Dom (the d is lingual), a low-caste Hindú.

Fakír, a Muhammadan religious mendicant.

Ghee ( ghí ), butter boiled and then set to cool.

Kází, a Muhammadan Judge.

Kotwál, the chief police officer in a town.

Líchí, a fruit; Scytalia litchi, Roxb.

Mahárájá (properly Maháráj), literally great king.

Mahárání, literally great queen.

Mainá, a kind of starling.

Maund ( man ), a measure of weight, about 87 lb.

Mohur ( muhar ), a gold coin worth 16 rupees.

Nautch ( nátya ), a union of song, dance, and instrumental music.

Pálkí, a palanquin.

Pice ( paisa ), a small copper coin.

Pilau, a dish made of either chicken or mutton, and rice.

Rájá, a king.

Rakshas, a kind of demon that eats men and beasts.

Rání, a queen.

Rohú, a kind of big fish.

Rupee ( rúpíya ), a silver coin, now worth about twenty pence.

Ryot ( ràíyat ), a cultivator.

Sarai, a walled enclosure containing small houses for the use of travellers.

Sárí, a long piece of stuff which Hindú women wind round the body as a petticoat, passing one end over the head.

Sepoy ( sipáhí ), a soldier.

Wazír, prime minister.

Yogí, a Hindú religious mendicant.

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