The Verdict

The Verdict

The time for King Vikrama to pronounce his judgment had
now arrived. Everyone in the court, savants and hangers-on alike,
turned expectantly toward their sovereign and made ready to imbibe
the nectar of his comments, just as sunflowers swivel toward the sun to
best soak up its rays. The king turned over in his mind all that he had
heard: the lineages, the unique powers, the accounts of heroism and
nobility. Again and again, however, his mind returned to Saturn and to
Saturn’s extreme cruelty. Finally a peculiar sort of melancholy sprouted
in the king’s heart, a temporarily impenetrable gloom, and suddenly
these words escaped his lips: “Better not to have a son at all than to have
one with such a hateful gaze as Saturn’s. Since Lord Saturn tormented
his own father, who will he not torment? Tell me, 0 wise ones.”

It so happened – fate ordained it – that at that moment
Saturn was passing overhead, flying through the skies in his aerial car.
Overhearing the king’s remark he expeditiously landed his craft and
entered the assembly hall. As that tall, emaciated, lame planet, the
embodiment of all that is inexorable in life, strode into the palace, the
king and everyone present rose at once to their feet. Their voices dried
in their mouths by amazement and fear at that terrible sight, they
pitched forward at once onto the ground, prostrating rigidly like staves.

There are moments in life which occur just after an
inappropriate comment slips from your tongue. You wish, in such
moments, to simply recall those last few words – but since, once
spoken, speech can never be recalled, that one ill-advised moment may
overshadow everything else you ever do for the rest of your life. This
was such a moment for King Vikrama. As his heart fell from his
mouth to his toes, and was replaced there by the taste of ashes, he put
on a brave face and prostrated to Saturn’s feet with the utmost
reverence. Seating that incarnation of inevitability on his very throne,
King Vikrama offered that planet every sort of respect and worshipped
him intently, aware as he did so that his fate was already sealed.

When the king was finished, the dark-countenanced Saturn
spoke to him in a voice that rang with the calm cold of reality: “0
Vikramaditya! You have insulted me in front of the entire assembly
without even knowing the extent of my capabilities. Are you aware
that Indra and all the other devas quiver in front of me? You know
that whomever I get angry with I totally destroy, but what you have
not yet comprehended is that I do not allow even a trace of that
miscreant to remain; no, not even his name. While flying through the
air just now, I sensed you expressing your disgust for me. As it is, I am
about to enter the constellation Virgo, which occupies the twelfth
house of your horoscope. This means that for seven and a half years
you will have no choice but to learn precisely who I am. At the
moment, your reason has deviated from its proper course, but soon
you will know what my powers really are. I shall remove all these airs
of yours, mark my words.

“You do not yet know my prowess. The Moon resides in one
constellation of the zodiac for a mere two and a quarter days; the Sun,
Mercury and Venus for one month each; Mars for one-and-one-half
months; Jupiter for twelve months; and Rahu and Ketu for eighteen
months. But I remain for a full thirty months in each sign, and I have
delivered prolonged misery even to the great gods themselves. Hear
my words with full concentration, 0 King! When I waylaid Shri
Ramachandra, the incarnation of God Himself, He was sent to exile
in the forest, and when I accosted Ravana Shri Ramachandra and
Lakshmana collected an army, invaded Lanka, killed Ravana, and
destroyed his entire family. So now, King Vikrama, you had best
prepare for misfortune!”

On completing his tirade Saturn rose straightaway, just as
Vikramaditya fell to the ground. Grabbing hold of Saturn’s two dark
feet in dismay the king cried loudly, “0 Lord Saturn! Forgive me for
this offense, I beg of you! Have mercy on this poor miserable wretch!”
Saturn said, “If I show compassion to you, you will never obtain
personal knowledge of my abilities. At least once you must experience
my play, otherwise your insolence will not leave you.”

Having said this, Saturn reentered his vehicle and sped away
through space to his own realm. Burning with immense regret for his
grave error in insulting Lord Saturn, King Vikramaditya left his court
posthaste, bound for the royal temple, where he worshipped God in
his agony.

Then he said to himself, “I have insulted Saturn, that
mightily cruel planet, and I will now definitely harvest the fruit of this
action. The workings of my own karmas that have brought me to this
pass. Did the Moon know, when he stole Jupiter’s wife, that it would
lead him to suffer Daksha’s curse? Did Daksha realize that cursing the
Moon would cost him his head?

“But even those who are aware of their actions are not freed
from their consequences. Why, the Blessed Vishnu Himself had to
return to beg the universe from Bali after He cheated that self-same
o Bali of the amrita that the asuras had earned at the Churning. What
has happened must be endured; what is destined does not change.
What is the use in regretting it?” Thinking in this way he had his
dinner and lay down to fitfully sleep. On arising the next morning he
returned to his court, where he engaged himself in ruling in his
habitual manner. Outwardly he seemed normal; within, he fretted day
and night over what sort of torment Lord Saturn might have in store
for him. A month passed thus.

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