Vihara, a part of 2nd century India, needs a new heir apparent, and the entire family wants a piece of it!
Queen Priyashree sat statuesque, her expressionless visage belying the violent storm raging in her mind. This could not be happening for a second time. After her first born…Ketu was all she had left.
“I’m sorry, but this is utter nonsense” fumed Rushimuni Rushabha, the state advisor and astrologer, poring over Crown Prince Ketanraj’s horoscope. “The charts say nothing about a calamity of this nature! How could it be possible?”
The Queen did not move. She was looking out of the window behind the revered sage, transported to a long lost memory.
The boys had just finished studying under Guru Shrestha for the day. She stole into their study room and beckoned them out into the Garden of the Font, the central garden. They chased each other, enjoying the light dusk breeze and the fading light. Five year old Punyaraj, her first born, was good at chasing. Three year old Ketanraj stumbled and was easily caught. Priyashree clapped in glee. Both boys fell on the marigold bushes, their laughter echoing in the square. She turned to see King Shreemanta standing near one the columns of the arcade, a small smile playing on his lips. Their life was perfect, and they knew it. A beautiful happy family, two heir-apparents, a stable country…they were lucky.
“…but you should have realized this long, long back!” exclaimed the Rushimuni in exasperation, “I cannot believe you let him continue to marry, even when you saw what fate befell his wives!”
The Queen’s eyes focused once again. There was a deep sorrow in those deep-set eyes. It felt to her as if they had exhausted all their good luck in that one evening, so long ago.
Now they had no heirs. The older son had become reclusive, with his wife Arthini becoming more prominent. The younger one was being called as “The one with back luck” by their people. Two of her grandchildren were motherless yet again, and her son bereaved for the thirty-third time. The King could not continue on the throne much longer, he was old. There were rebellions in the border states, and invasions by their neighboring kingdom, Pratihara. Vihara couldn’t stand this onslaught much longer without a strong leader.
“What should I do, Rushimuni?” she asked, her placid tone tremulous.
“I think it is time to declare an heir-apparent” he looked her in the eyes. “The times have changed, O Queen. An heir is no longer just a boy. Choose someone who can rule this mighty kingdom well.”
The Queen shut her eyes in disbelief. How could a mother choose between her sons? Between a son who wouldn’t accept the people, and a son whom the people won’t accept? Between her talented granddaughters and her lone spoilt grandson?
“I will take some time, Rushimuni” she exhaled.
“I expect you to” he nodded.