Long long ago there lived a king. His name was Hiranyakeshi. He was fond of wealth. He had amassed huge treasure in various forms. He had costliest diamonds in his safes. His every action was an exhibition of glittering affluence.
Once a maidservant of a palace was cleaning the bedroom of the king. The kings’ beautiful cot was made up of pure gold. The bedsteads were shining. They were bedecked with emeralds and rubies. The mattresses were stuffed with the soft wool of the sheeps from the Himalayan heights. The pillows, the bedsheets, blankets were all too costly and rare things. The maidservant was enchanted with the heavenly looks of the bed.
She cleaned the bedroom with full care. A thought arose in her mind. She saw here and there. Nobody was present around. Why not have an experience and charm of lying down over such richest bed for a minute or so, she thought.
So she lay down over the softest mattress of the richest bed. The very touch of the bed left a shiver of happiness cover her body. The touch was magic and within no time she went asleep.
Half an hour went on. It so happened that the king casually entered the bedroom. To his great surprise he saw that some strange lady was asleep quietly over his bed.
The king was shocked and he got irritated. He was red with rage. He roared, “who is that rude lady sleeping here? What nonsense is it?
By that time the queen arrived at the scene. She too flew into anger. The queen pulled the blanket and to her great surprise she found that it was the maidservant of the palace who had no qualms over this rude behaviour.
The maidservant was shocked and she steeped down trembling with fear.
The king’s anger knew no bounds. He shouted “ Nonsense. Beat her, throw her out.”
And so saying the king exclaimed, “How long has this foolish lady slept?”
The queen said, “Maybe half an hour so.”
“Then flog her 30 times with whip. One rough stroke for one minute of the misbehaviour.” The king then brought a sturdy whip and said “Have this punishment over your crude, rude behaviour”.
The king raised the whip and he started flogging.
The maidservant had the first stroke with cracking sound over her back. But lo and behold the maidservant instead of crying over the pain smiled quietly.
The king was enraged more. He put the second stroke with more strength. Over this she showed added smile.
Like that the smile went on increasing with each further stroke.
Surprise of the surprise the blunt lady burst into laughter over the 20th stroke.
The king was shocked over the strange behaviour of the maidservant. The beats had brought out streaks of blood from the whip-marks and the lady was laughing instead of wailing.
The whip fell down from the hands of the king. He said with great wonder, “oh lowly lady, what is it that makes you laugh instead of weep?”
The maidservant replied, “Sir my mind went on thinking, if for the short nod, I am being punished with 30 strokes, how many whips does a person deserve for occupying this golden bed permanently?
The king was wonder-struck over the explanation offered by the maidservant. He said with seriousness, “ where does the question of punishment arise? I am the king of this kingdom.”
“Sir, perfectly right. You are the king, a supporter, a caretaker, protector of the subjects. Have you ever seen how your subjects are pulling on in your kingdom. Thousands are ill-fed, ill-clad, no shelter, suffering, lying down over the mud.”
The words of the maidservant went ringing into the ears of the King. His mind went on introspecting. What the maidservant was uttering was the whole truth.