Just when I had finished penning down my articles on Samudragupta, I happened to come across a legend about him. It can be called ‘folklore’ but not actual history. However, in my opinion, folklores play an important role in protecting and preserving historical treasures; in fact, folklores are the branches that emerge out of the trunk of original history.
Once, Emperor Samudragupta, along with his family, had gone for a sea bath. Obviously, he was accompanied by his entourage. While Samudragupta was bathing, he spotted a crab in the cup of his hands. Samudragupta, at once, flung it away. However, the crab happened to fall on the neck of one of his attendants and bit his neck. Samudragupta was completely unaware of what had happened. After bathing in the sea, everyone returned to their temporary accommodation for some rest. The servants began serving tasty and delicious food to the royal family. When the servant, who was bitten by the crab, bent before Samudragupta while serving the food, Samudragupta noticed the bite and enquired about it. The servant lied to him, saying that the neck wound was caused due to a tree branch. However, the royal jester of Samudragupta revealed the truth to him. Later, after having his meal, Samudragupta summoned that servant to his chamber, arranged for his complete treatment by his own royal doctor, and even rewarded him with gold coins equal to the servant’s weight. The royal jester was astonished by this gesture. Everyone began praising the king. On the following day, while sailing in a boat in a huge lake, a crocodile attacked Samudragupta’s boat and broke the palm of his chief naval officer. Samudragupta hurriedly turned the boat back. Needless to say, the naval officer was also provided with medical treatment; but soon after his recovery, Samudragupta sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment.
The royal jester and the Amatya (counsellor) were shocked at this. The jesters in the royal court of that period were well-read, learned, well-informed and intellectuals. Samudragupta’s jester met him in person and questioned his unusual behaviour; to which, Samudragupta answered, “O jester, as a king, my primary duty is to ensure the welfare of my subjects. In doing so, if I happen to, even inadvertently, cause any hurt or harm to them, it is a great crime. Therefore, it is absolutely essential on my part to compensate them for their loss. However, the officer who was responsible for organising the king’s boat ride, ought to have made proper enquiries of whether the boat ride entailed any dangers or risks. Given the fact that there were enormous crocodiles in the lake, it was his duty to check whether it was unadvisable to go for a boat ride, if it was absolutely necessary then whether there was a need for different kinds of boats. By not doing so, he committed a mistake which could have turned out to be very costly; and therefore, it is a crime. Moreover, taking into account his service, I have ensured that he gets proper medical treatment. However, if he is not punished for his offence, it will be a big mistake on my part, because a government official who cannot take good care of his king, then what care will he take of the common people? This official is definitely incompetent to handle the huge fleet of merchant ships and, so, I have relieved him from his post. But, to ensure that his suspension does not become the cause of his family’s plight, and to take on the responsibility of the sustenance and well-being of his family, is certainly my duty”.
This story clearly depicts how a king should be, how a royal jester should be and how a government official should not be. A versatile and multifaceted personality that he was, Samudragupta, to me, appeared in a more majestic and divine form through this story. Today, it has become a habit for politicians and people who wield power to project a significant event as insignificant and ignore or neglect it and, on the other hand, create chaos and disorder by giving undue importance to a trivial event and blowing it out of proportion for their own political gains. Such people are always ready to take credit, but avoid taking any responsibility.
Many a times, just in order to secure a vote bank, things that are wrong are held as being right. Faults and shortcomings are glorified. Injustice is misrepresented with the facade of justice. As a result, democracy becomes increasingly weaker by the day. Only that head of a state, who is ever mindful of his own responsibilities and conducts himself accordingly, can actually bring about the well-being and welfare of any community; everyone else can only give hope of happiness.
During Samudragupta’s period, the peace and happiness that prevailed were real and not like a flower named ‘hope’ merely visible on the horizon.
Courtesy: Dainik Pratyaksha
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