The sage Bhavabhuti — the Eastern teller of these tales — after making his initiatory and propitiatory song to Ganesha, Lord of Incepts, informs the reader that this book is a string of fine pearls to be hung round the neck of human intelligence; a fragrant flower to be borne on the turband of mental wisdom; a jewel of pure gold, which becomes the brow of all supreme minds; and a handful of powdered rubies, whose tonic effects will appear palpably upon the mental digestion of every patient. Finally, that by aid of the lessons inculcated in the following pages, man will pass happily through this world into the state of absorption, where fables will be no longer required.
He then teaches us how Vikramaditya the Brave became King of Ujjayani. Some nineteen centuries ago, the renowned city of Ujjayani witnessed the birth of a prince to whom was given the gigantic name Vikramaditya. Even the Sanskrit-speaking people, who are not usually pressed for time, shortened it to “Vikram”, and a little further West it would infallibly have been docked down to “Vik”.
Vikram was the second son of an old king Gandharba-Sena, concerning whom little favourable has reached posterity, except that he became an ass, married four queens, and had by them six sons, each of whom was more learned and powerful than the other. It so happened that in course of time the father died. Thereupon his eldest heir, who was known as Shank, succeeded to the carpet of Rajaship, and was instantly murdered by Vikram, his “scorpion.”
By this act of vigour and manly decision, which all younger- brother princes should devoutly imitate, Vikram having obtained the title of Bir, or the Brave, made himself Raja. He began to rule well, and the gods so favoured him that day by day his dominions increased. At length he became lord of all India, and having firmly established his government, he instituted an era—an uncommon feat for a mere monarch, especially when hereditary.
The steps, says the historian, which he took to arrive at that pinnacle of grandeur, were these: The old King calling his two grandsons Bhartari-hari and Vikramaditya, gave them good counsel respecting their future learning. They were told to master everything, a certain way not to succeed in anything. They were diligently to learn grammar, the Scriptures, and all the religious sciences. They were to become familiar with military tactics, international law, and music, the riding of horses and elephants— especially the latter—the driving of chariots, and the use of the broadsword, the bow, and the mogdars or Indian clubs.
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