EMPEROR HARSHA sat on in his Darbar in Kanauj, discussing affairs of state with his ministers and nobleman. But there was a preoccupied look in his eyes. They seemed to lack the usual lusture.
“Is the Emperor not well today?” the Chief Minister asked solicitously.
“No…..No, “Harsha replied, “Something………” he did not complete the sentence, but the sad look in his eyes deepened.
The discussion continued-and suddenly there was commotion at the entrance of the hall. An elderly woman, sobbing and shrieking moved in, hugging a child to her breasts.
The child was dead……
Everyone stared, as the sobbing women fell at the Emperor’sfeet, “Sir, Sir… see what has happened to my darling……”
The Emperor’s sad eyes became still sadder with grief. He looked at the dead body of the child. Everyone looked. It was clear that the tender child had been strangled to death.
“Sir,” the women sobbed,” is there no justice for poor people in your kingdom…..Do you permit such crimes to go unpunished….?” Overcome with grief she began to cry uncontrollably.
“Be calm, lady,” the Chief Minister said,” and tell us how this happened……”
The Emperor sat motionless-but his jaws tightened, as if in an effort to overcome some overpowering emotions.
“Sir,” the women sobbed, “I……I was sitting near the entrance of the palace gate early morning with my child, listening to the music of the royal musicians…when suddenly a horseman sped through the gate. As fate would have it, my child had just strayed into the door way and the horse’s hind legs struck him with full force. The horseman was in such speed that he did not even realise what had happened…..”
As the women’s story trailed into sobs the whole Darbar was plunged into dead silence.
Harsha was the embodiment of justice…and a heinous crime had been committed has at his very gate.
With great efforts the Emperor said in a gruff voice…..”You will get justice, women!” Then he beckoned to a guard and said, ”Tell the Chief Justice his presence is required……..
Everyone sat still…
The Chief Justice came into the hall and was given a seat of honour.
Silently the Emperor made a sign to the Chief Justice, and the Chief Minister explained the case.
The Judge was grave. Then in a soft but clear voice he gave his verdict…”Sir, the law lays down capital punishment for such crime….”
For a fleeting second there was a strange look in the eyes of Emperor. Then it was gone and his face became serene.
In a clam voice he said to the grief stricken women “Justice will be done. The culprit will get punishment, you have heard and the culprit is….I”!
“What”, the entire Darbar exclaimed everyone sprang up and stared.
“Yes…” the Emperor said sadly: “I was that horseman- I knew the horse had struck something….but at least for that moment my horse was out of control and I could not see what it was……?”
Now the women too stopped weeping…and stared. “You Sir?” she exclaimed. “And you are going to punish yourself?”
No, lady…the king in me simply going to give justice and punish the criminal in me……” Then he turned to the Chief Justice and said, “Reversed judge, please order your Verdict to be carried out…….”
The Chief Justice stared. And then the women’s voice rang out, “Stop it” she exclaimed, “It is true that my mother’s heart is bleeding but Sir, you are a young sovereign and you too have a mother. I don’t want justice which will make another mother’s heart bleed. I have received justice, but I do not want the verdict to be carried out………”
Everyone looked at the Chief Justice. A long silent moment passed, Then gravely the judge said, “Sir, a mother’s loving but just heart has given its verdict…it is higher than any verdict of any judge……”
Everyone sighed a relief.
The mighty Emperor fell at the feet of the humble women.