He had a number of ministers and men of learning in his royal court, the durbar.
Among the many ministers in his court was Rangadeva. Rangadeva was an old man. He had first served in the court of the Vasavadutta’s father. When his father died and Vasavadutta ascended the throne, the loyal Rangadeva guided the inexperienced, young king in his initial years.
The young king trusted Rangadeva immensely. He saw Rangadeva as a guiding father-figure. He took no important decision without consulting Rangadeva.
But there were other courtiers who were jealous of Rangadeva and his closeness to the king. They felt threatened by him. If they could eliminate him, their own positions in the royal court would rise. Chandrasena was one such courtier. He had been in the royal court for many years. The king had appointed him as the minister of water works. He was a wily and cunning man. He was also notoriously corrupt.
“If only I could drive a wedge between the king and Rangadeva, I will be the second ruler in the kingdom” he told himself, “who knows one day I may even be king”. A few months later, Rangadeva went to a neighbouring kingdom to visit one of his relatives who was sick. He returned a week later and assumed his usual responsibilities. This was the opportunity, Chandrasena had been waiting for.
One day, in the evening, when the king was resting in the royal gardens. Chandrasena approached him. Chandrasena told the king that Rangadeva had actually gone to the neighbouring kingdom to plot against him. The king was furious. At first, he could not believe what he said. Chandrasena told the king that Rangadeva went and sought help from the neighbouring kingdom to kill him.
The king, being a suspicious person, began to believe Chandrasena’s wicked rumours. One day, it so happened that a relative of Rangadeva visited him. The relative too lived in the neighbouring kingdom. The information reached the king. The king was startled. “Surely, this must be a spy carrying a message.”, he told himself. He was angry that such a trusted member of the royal court would so betray him.
The kings became paranoid. He felt that he may be attacked any minute. He appeared distressed and fretful. The wicked Chandrasena could see the change in the king’s behaviour. He knew that his plan was working. The next day, the king arrested Rangadeva and threw him into prison. The next day, the king ordered the minister to be executed. The date of Rangadeva’s execution was fixed. It would be in a month’s time.
In the kingdom of Shastrapur, the means of execution was extremely cruel. The condemned prisoner would be thrown to a pack of hungry dogs which had not been fed for a week. As soon as the prisoner was thrown into the pit, the famished beasts would pounce on him and tear him to shreds. Rangadeva knew his fate. He asked the prison official permission to visit the pit where the dogs were kept. He took a plateful of food which he was offered in jail. He gave the food to the dogs. He did this for a week.
The fateful day finally arrived. All arrangements were made for the execution. The king had come along with the other courtiers. Chandrasena was there too. He could barely conceal his happiness. The moment came. At the king’s order, two soldiers threw Rangadeva into the pit.
Everyone watching held their breath. They waited to hear the screams of the man as he was being mauled by the animals. But what they saw as totally different. The dogs, though hungry, jumped around Rangadeva. They were playful like small puppies. They licked him and wagged their tails around him. The king was angry.
Rangadeva, who was silent all along, looked at the king. He said, “You Majesty, these dogs have known me for less than a week. Yet they have trust in me. I have worked for your and for your father for over thirty years. Yet you have not trusted me”.
The king realised his mistake. He was ashamed of his action. He remembered how Rangadeva had guided him all his life. He had condemned the king only based on hearsay. He ran to the minister and fell at his feet. He apologised for his thoughtless decision. A gracious Rangadeva forgave him. Rangadeva was reinstated to the royal court and given the position of prime minister. Vasavadutta came to know that the whole matter was a rumour floated by Chandrasena. The furious king banished him from the kingdom for the rest of his life.
Children, this story teaches us not to take decisions without proper information and checking. It also tells us that we can change any adverse situation to our favour by clever thinking.