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Raja Harichand’s Punishment
by [?]

There was once a great Rájá, Rájá Harichand, who every morning before he bathed and breakfasted used to give away one hundred pounds weight of gold to the fakírs, his poor ryots, and other poor people. This he did in the name of God, “For,” he said, “God loves me and gives me everything that I have; so daily I will give him this gold.”

Now God heard what a good man Rájá Harichand was, and how much the Rájá loved him, and he thought he would go and see for himself if all that was said of the Rájá were true. He therefore went as a fakír to Rájá Harichand’s palace and stood at his gate. The Rájá had already given away his hundred pounds’ weight of gold, and gone into his palace and bathed and breakfasted; so when his servants came to tell him that another fakír stood at his gate, the Rájá said, “Bid him come to-morrow, for I have bathed, and have eaten my breakfast, and therefore cannot attend to him now.” The servants returned to the fakír, and told him, “The Rájá says you must come to-morrow, for he cannot see you now, as he has bathed and breakfasted.” God went away, and the next day he again came, after all the fakírs and poor people had received their gold and the Rájá had gone into his palace. So the Rájá told his servants, “Bid the fakír come to-morrow. He has again come too late for me to see him now.”

On the third day God was once more too late, for the Rájá had gone into his palace. The Rájá was vexed with him for being a third time too late, and said to his servants, “What sort of a fakír is this that he always comes too late? Go and ask him what he wants.” So the servants went to the fakír and said, “Rájá Harichand says, ‘What do you want from him?'” “I want no rupees,” answered God, “nor anything else; but I want him to give me his wife.” The servants told this to the Rájá, and it made him very angry. He went to his wife, the Rání Báhan, and said to her, “There is a fakír at the gate who asks me to give you to him! As if I should ever do such a thing! Fancy my giving him my wife!”

The Rání was very wise and clever, for she had a book, which she read continually, called the kop shástra; and this book told her everything. So she knew that the fakír at the gate was no fakír, but God himself. (In old days about two people in a thousand, though not more, could read this book; now-a-days hardly any one can read it, for it is far too difficult.) So the Rání said to the Rájá, “Go to this fakír, and say to him, ‘You shall have my wife.’ You need not really give me to him; only give me to him in your thoughts.” “I will do no such thing,” said the Rájá in a rage; and in spite of all her entreaties, he would not say to the fakír, “I will give you my wife.” He ordered his servants to beat the fakír, and send him away; and so they did.

God returned to his place, and called to him two angels. “Take the form of men,” he said to them, “and go to Rájá Harichand. Say to him, ‘God has sent us to you. He says, Which will you have–a twelve years’ famine throughout your land during which no rain will fall? or a great rain for twelve hours?'”

The angels came to the Rájá and said as God had bidden them. The Rájá thought for a long while which he should choose. “If a great rain pours down for twelve hours,” he said to himself, “my whole country will be washed away. But I have a great quantity of gold. I have enough to send to other countries and buy food for myself and my ryots during the twelve years’ famine.” So he said to the angels, “I will choose the famine.” Then the angels came into his palace; and the moment they entered it, all the Rájá’s servants that were in the palace, and all his cows, horses, elephants, and other animals became stone. So did every single thing in the palace, excepting his gold and silver, and these turned to charcoal. The Rájá and Rání did not become stone.