Tenali Raman came to Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagara empire. At that time, Vijayanagara was ruled by Krishna Deva Raya.
Raman asked his wife to wait for him in a temple. “I’ll go to the palace and meet the king. He is a generous man. He may give me some gifts,” said Raman.
When Raman reached the palace, he was stopped at the entrance. “You cannot enter the palace without permission,” said the guard.
“I’ve come from a far-off place. Please allow me to enter the palace,” said Raman. “I’m hoping that the generous king will give me gifts,” he added.
“You may get gifts from the king. But what do I get?” asked the guard giving Raman a meaningful look.
“Whatever the king gives me, I’ll share it with you,” Raman promised.
“Half of it. Whatever gifts the king will give you, you must give me half of it,” said the guard. Raman agreed and walked into the palace.
In the palace, the king was holding a durbar in a hall. Raman was stopped at the entrance to the hall by another guard. Raman promised to give the second guard half of the gifts he would receive from the king.
When Raman walked in, the king was not in a good mood. Raman was very excited to be in the presence of the king; he rushed forward. The king was annoyed because no one could approach him without being called.
“Give him fifty lashes,” ordered the king.
Raman folded his hands in salutation to the king and said, “I’m grateful to you for your generous gift. Please allow me to share the gifts with two of my friends.”
The king wanted to know who his friends were.
“The guard at the entrance to this hall and the other one at the main entrance to the palace,” said Raman.
The guards were summoned. The king was quite annoyed with his guards. “Now that I know you two are sharing the ‘gift’, I’ll increase it to one hundred lashes,” said the king.
The guards were taken away to be given fifty lashes each.
“You wait here until your friends return,” said the king to Raman.
When the guards returned after receiving their shares of the ‘gift.,’ the king turned to Raman.
“You have tempted my honest guards with bribes. I give severe punishment to bribe givers,” said the king sternly.
The king turned to the two guards. “Take him to the riverside and cut off his head with a single stroke from your swords,” the king ordered.
The guards were happy to have their revenge. They led Raman to the riverfront.
Story: Subba Rao | Illustration: Goutam P Sen