King Wikrama and the Grotto Girl - Wickrama Raja Saha Guhawe Un Lamissi
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Legends of Ceylon
In the town of Gampola, a great many years ago, there lived a young King. He was barely fifteen when his father, the old King, died.
King Wikrama was an athlete, fond of sport, and with a great love of adventure, which took him very often many miles away from his Palace.
One day when his love of adventure had taken him an unusually long distance from Gampola, he came upon the hut of an old hermit. The hermit had built his hut in the most beautiful spot you could imagine.
Palms hid it from view till you were quite near by, and then you suddenly came upon a cadjan hut, whose mud walls were smothered over by close clinging creepers, in full and varied blossom.
The wise old hermit and the young King were soon fast friends, and spent many pleasant hours in each other's company. From the rich store-house of his memory the wise man gave King Wikrama precious lessons dearly bought with sad experience; lessons which helped the young King to govern his kingdom wisely and well.
One fine day King Wikrama confided to his friend the hermit his great wish to build a beautiful city and to improve and enlarge his domain.
Now the old hermit was a clever magician, though the King did not know it, and when he had heard of the King's ambition he filled a tiny wallet with magic pebbles, and led his friend to a spot not far from his hut, where a stream lay hidden under the branches of a creeping bamboo.
Here he selected from his wallet two round magic pebbles and threw them into the stream. As the stones reached the water a hare rushed past them, followed by a jackal in quick pursuit.
In keen interest the King watched the chase and to his surprise noticed that it, was the hare that was pursuing the jackal, not the jackal the hare.
The pursued had become the pursuer.
The old hermit, who had been watching the chase with as great an interest as the King, exclaimed, when he saw how the pursuit went, that that was no doubt the very spot on which King Wikrama should build his temple, and round about it his new city.
The magic stones thrown by the hermit into the stream had turned into a hare and jackal. The hare represented the King and the jackal his future enemies. The pursued turning to give chase to the pursuer, foretold how King Wikrama would eventually overcome his enemies.
King Wikrama was delighted, and lost no time in building a large temple, a palace, and round about them the beautiful city, now known as Kandy.
In due time he left Gampola and lived in his splendid new city. Where the little stream had lain bidden, now there stretched a lovely lake. But King Wikrama was a very lonely young King.
One day his nobles and ministers came to him in a body and begged of him to give them a Queen.
They advised him to go to India in search of a Princess; and he would have done so, but that one day while hunting he wandered into a dense jungle and knew not where he was.
Suddenly he came upon a cool grotto almost completely hidden by tall ferns and formed of huge grey rocks.
A dark-eyed Sinhalese maiden was within the grotto, picking the leaves of a herb which grew there.
The King thought she had quite the prettiest face he had ever seen.
He asked her the way out of the jungle, and she explained it so clearly and prettily that the King, charmed with his little grotto friend, tarried with her yet a while.
She told him that they were on the outskirts of a large forest, not far from Kandy; that she was only a woodcutter's daughter, and that she lived with her parents in a tiny hut not far from the grotto.
Her parents earned their living by taking wood and herbs for sale into the town.
While they talked, the King's huntsmen, who had been in search of him, approached with shouts and beating of tom-toms.
It frightened the little maiden and she ran away, but not before King Wikrama had made her accept his belt, all studded with rubies and emeralds, as a keepsake.
The Kandians soon became very sad; their loved King Wikrama had not left his palace for weeks. He neither hunted nor rode, nor seemed to take any interest in his people. He was, accustomed to visit the sick in his land; but now they feared he was sick himself.
A clever old Vederala had been sent for, and the people hoped he would be able to cure their King.
The Vederala was no other than King Wikrama's old friend the hermit. And when he had seen the King he ordered that a Pinkama, or procession, should parade all the streets of Kandy, and beyond Kandy into the villages and forests, wherever there was a street, or road, or forest way along which it could pass.
With blowing of horns and beating of tom-toms they were to shout and proclaim to one and all that they were in search of the maid whom the King had chosen for their Queen, and that she was to be found in the person of a little forest maiden who wore a jewelled belt as girdle.
Sixteen elephants were to form part of the procession, and on the largest and oldest of these there was placed a handsome howdah containing cushioned seats strapped to his back.
This was for the Grotto Girl and her father and her mother in which to ride.
They were not very long in finding their Queen-elect, and how surprised the little forest maiden became when she heard that the friend she had met in the grotto was King Wikrama, and that he had not forgotten her, but had sent for her to share, his throne with him.
It was a glad, shy little maid that the King came to meet when the procession reached the Palace gates.
The old tusker knelt before the King while the little Grotto Girl was helped off the elephant's back by King Wikrama himself.
A splendid wedding was celebrated that day in the city of Kandy.
Of course the young bride, dressed now like a Queen, was the little Grotto Girl, and the groom was happy King Wikrama. There were a great many happy people at the wedding, but few as happy as the wood-cutter, his wife, and King Wikrama's dear friend the old hermit.
Such feasting and rejoicing the world had not seen before, and the people of Kandy never forgot that day. Those who were born afterwards, heard about it from their parents; they in turn told their cbildren about it; till it came down to me from a very old uncle who lived in Kandy, and now l have given it to you.
||Aline van Dort |
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