Indian Folk Tales: Samudra Gupta, The Scholar King
A long time ago, there was a Brahmin named Samudra Gupta who lived near the present day Ujjain. From a very young age, he had a thirst for knowledge. He wanted to learn more. He went to all the great colleges that were situated ......
A long time ago, there was a Brahmin named Samudra Gupta who lived near the present day Ujjain. From a very young age, he had a thirst for knowledge. He wanted to learn more. He went to all the great colleges that were situated in Benares, Nalanda and Kanchi. He acquired a lot of knowledge but he was still not satisfied.
One day, a sage told Samudra Gupta that the only other being that had more knowledge than him was a Brahma Rakshas who lived on the tallest banyan tree in Dandaka forest. Samudra Gupta went to the Dandaka forest to find this Brahma Rakshas. After wandering about for many days, finally Samudra Gupta found the tallest banyan tree and also saw the Brahma Rakshas sitting on top of it. Samudra Gupta went near the tree and paid his respects to the Brahma Rakshas. Then he said, “O learned sir, I have spent my entire life in learning. But a sage has told me that you possess more knowledge than me. So, I have come here to learn all that I can from you. Please take me as your disciple and teach me all that you know.”
The Brahma Rakshas gave a terrible laugh. He said, “Whatever knowledge you have is nothing compared to what I know. If I were to teach you everything I know, it would take twelve years of continuous teaching, day and night. I am ready to share my knowledge with you, but my condition is that you must neither eat nor sleep during this period of twelve years.”
Samudra Gupta replied, “I am ready to accept your condition, sir. But if I do not eat or sleep for twelve years, I will die.” The Brahma Rakshas said, “I can grant you a boon that will make you feel neither hunger nor sleepiness for twelve years. But when this period of twelve years finishes, the boon will also get over and you will at once feel the hunger and sleepiness of all twelve years. It could kill you.”
Samudra Gupta said that he would take that chance and began his learning. The Brahma Rakshas would write a lesson on a leaf of the Banyan tree and drop it down to Samudra Gupta who sat at the foot of the tree. Once Samudra Gupta understood the lesson, he nodded and the Brahma Rakshas proceeded to the next lesson. Like this, twelve years passed. At the end of twelve years, Samudra Gupta had learnt everything that the Brahma Rakshas knew. He bundled up all the lessons of twelve years and prepared to leave. But the Brahma Rakshas warned him that as soon as he crossed the nearby river, the hunger and sleep of twelve years would come to him.
True enough, as soon as Samudra Gupta crossed the river and reached the other shore, the flesh of his body disappeared and he fell down as a bundle of bones. A girl who was taking bath in the river saw this. She was a rich merchant’s daughter. She took him to her home and sent for a renowned doctor. The doctor advised her to continuously massage Samudra Gupta with cooked rice for a month. This treatment worked and Samudra Gupta became better. Soon he regained consciousness. Samudra Gupta expressed his gratitude to the girl who saved his life and started to leave. But the girl took Samudra Gupta to the king’s court. She said to the king, “Your Majesty, this great scholar has survived only because of me. I want to marry him.” The king heard the whole story from both Samudra Gupta and the girl. He was highly impressed with Samudra Gupta. He got Samudra Gupta married to the girl and also to his own daughter, the princess. And since he did not have an heir to the throne, he gave his entire kingdom to Samudra Gupta.
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