Chapter Seven

The King of Madra, Salya welcomed his august visitor with every appearance of cordiality even while his brain was busy with speculation. It was not often that Bheeshma, the Kuru Senapati and patriarch stirred outside the boundaries of his prosperous Kingdom. And generally, Bheeshma’s visits to other Kingdoms were not without his own agenda. Aryavarta still talked about how Bheeshma had once abducted the three princesses of Kasi from their own Swayamvara to be forcibly married to his younger brother, the boy King Vichitravirya who had died less than a year later, leaving behind two young widows and an orphaned Kingdom. Rumours said that Bheeshma had arranged to have killed the eldest of the three, who had refused to marry Vichitravirya.

Salya while lending no credence to rumour, did not completely discount them either. At the time, Madra was a small Kingdom, but prosperous, its people contented, and the Kingdom was in good terms with all its neighbours. Salya was a young King, and ambitious, as all young men are wont to be, but he was neither foolish nor inexperienced. He had been involved in the day to day running of the Kingdom ever since he completed his studies, and he had also travelled the length and breadth of his Kingdom to make himself aware of the problems being faced by his people. Bheeshma’s visit gave him no pleasure, although he welcomed the patriarch with every appearance of joy.

The Palace of Madra was not large when compared to the palace of Hastinapura, but it was built on more flowing lines. It gave the beholder an impression of grace and elegance. Bheeshma was conscious of a feeling of being out of place in this beautiful building which seemed full of light as opposed to his own palace, full of dim corridors and airless rooms. He took his seat inside a large chamber which was colourful and airy. The furniture was as good as the ones that adorned his room in Hastinapura, and somehow that annoyed him.

Salya asked him about his health and they exchanged pleasantries about the weather, about the condition of roads, and about his journey. But Bheeshma was getting tired of small talk, and he said,

“I came here with a purpose, King Salya.”

Salya looked warily at his guest. The King was a man of medium height and looked small before the imposing figure that Bheeshma cut. He had irregular features, a beak-like nose, eyes that were set too widely apart, and a square stubborn jaw and thick lips. But his eyes were keen and shrewd and so brilliant that most men who met Salya could not remember much more than that the King was overpowering in personality.

“I had not imagined you had come for the climate, Senapati Bheeshma,” he replied.

Bheeshma gave him a sharp look. “I came to request the hand of your sister for my nephew,” said he. “An alliance with the Kurus could only add to your Kingdom’s reputation,”

“But not to my sister’s happiness,” replied Salya, looking as relaxed as ever.

Bheeshma flushed. “What do you mean, King Salya?”

“Which nephew?” asked Salya pensively and not seeming to notice Bheeshma’s question.

“Vidura, the Pradhanamantrin of Hastinapura.”

The languidity left Salya’s form so suddenly that Bheeshma thought for a moment he was facing a different man.

“I think you seek to insult me!” Salya said, anger throbbing beneath his words.

“My nephew is the Pradhanamantrin of Hastinapura and-”

“And he is not your nephew, but the son of a Sudra maid sired by a Sage!” snapped Salya. “By demanding my sister for him, you seek to insult me and every Kshatriya in Aryavarta! Do you really think your prowess in arms entitle you to anything you set your mind on? Think well, Bheeshma. You are not in Kuru now. And if this is the way of the Kurus, then no King in Aryavarta shall ever form an alliance with you! That is something I shall personally ensure!”

Bheeshma paled, but the justice of the Madra King’s anger and the sense in his words must have penetrated to his head, for he made no angry retort. Bheeshma was no longer hot headed, but that did not mean he would swallow insults.

“I am sorry you feel thus, and I know you are justified in your wrath. I apologize, though it was not my intention to insult you.”

Salya bowed stiffly.

“However,” said Bheeshma, “I have an alternate proposal. Give your sister as wife to my nephew, Pandu, the King of Hastinapura!”

Salya relaxed again. “King Pandu,” he purred. “Oh, we have heard so much about your nephew the King. My spies have brought such interesting tales.”

Bheeshma’s frame tensed. “What tales?”

“Of whorehouses visited, of furniture smashed, of whores who lost their tongues and of rooms that had been rebuilt out of the coffers of the King.” Salya shook his head. “Would you marry your sister to such a one?”

Bheeshma’s eyes flashed in anger. “Have a care, King Salya! It is of the Kuru King that you speak!”

“Let me make myself plain,” drawled Salya. “The King of Kuru might throw tantrums in whorehouses for all he wants, but I shall not ally my sister to a man who has no control over his passions.”

Bheeshma drew a deep breath and said stiffly. “That was all in the past. The King no longer visits whorehouses, nor does he lose control over himself.”

“Oh, that is right. I forgot. The King is married now. Proffer my congratulations, and that of my sister too to the Royal couple.”

“Your sister shall be given equal status with Gandhari, wife of my other nephew Dhritarashtra.”

“It is not enough,” said Salya, “for my sister to be granted equal status with the wife of a blind man. She is fit enough to be the Maharani of a King, and I will not have her relegated to the place of a second wife.”

Bheeshma’s eyes were shrewd as he assessed the other man. “What is your price?” he asked abruptly.

“You think my sister is for sale?” asked Salya affronted.

“You have given me some plain speaking,” said Bheeshma, leaning forward. “Now let me speak plainly, King Salya. Not only your sister, but you and every blade of grass in this Kingdom is for sale, for the right price. So, name what price you require so my nephew Pandu may marry your sister. And also,” Bheeshma paused significantly. “the price for you to never interfere in her life or that of her children again.”

Salya sat back, still relaxed. “I wonder if the Kurus can afford that price.”

“Name it!” said Bheeshma. “Do not waste my time.”

Salya nodded. “All right,” he said. “I’ll name my price. And if even one gold coin is short, Madri shall stay in Madra.”

“You shall find not one coin short,” said Bheeshma.


6 thoughts on “Chapter Seven

  1. My God! Yet another unconventional exchange of words between two men of power. And the power play here continues at full throttle. The portrayal of Salya is one that is unheard of, and unseen. He plays yet another significant strategy in this game of power where he names a price on his sister’s head. This is a whole theory of conspiracy moulded so beautifully! Eagerly awaiting the next part!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I’m happy you find this good. In the epic, when Bhishma asks Salya for Madri’s hand in marriage, he tells Bhishma there is a traditional custom in his land and that has to be fulfilled, and Bhishma says I understand and gives him a lot of gold and jewels! I just showed that in a different way.


  2. Meeting between two powerful characters is very well portrayed. Loved this chappy. 😊 And loving the games you are showing through the characters….

    Liked by 1 person

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