Rajgriha and Janapad were two flourishing cities in ancient India. Both of these cities were under the reign of King of Magadha. Ramesh and Deepak were two rich merchants. Ramesh lived at Rajgriha and Deepak at Janapad. They were good friends. Ramesh had a son named Suresh and Deepak had a daughter named Roopwati.
The two merchants decided to fix the marriage of Suresh and Roopwati. An auspicious day was fixed for the marriage. A grand marriage ceremony took place at Janapad, the bride’s city.
After the marriage, Roopwati came to her in-law’s house. She was given a warm reception. She was treated very kindly by her husband’s family members. She was not allowed to do any household work, lest her hands would become rough. Everybody treated her with love and affection.
However, things changed after some months. Her mother-in-law’s attitude towards her changed. She made her do all the household work. She started complaining that roopwati had not been able to give an heir to the family. Roopwati grew sad.
One day, she sat weeping in her room. She had a kind maid who had come with her from her father’s house. She saw him weeping and asked her what the matter was. Roopwati could not control her feelings and told her everything. The maid advised her to pretend to be carrying a baby. “Your mother-in-law will start loving you as before if you tell her that you are carrying a baby”.
Roopwati followed her advice and told a lie to her mother-in-law. The mother-in-law grew happy and started taking care of her. As time went by, the maid advised Roopwati to go to her father’s house. “Tell your mother-in-law that you wish to deliver your baby at your father’s house”. The maid told her. As it was a custom to deliver a baby one’s parental house, the mother-in-law permitted her to go.
She was accompanied by her maid. In the evening, they camped in a garden. Some gypsies were also camping in the same garden. In the morning, when Roopwati woke up, she found a newborn baby boy under a banyan tree. Nobody was there with the baby. She picked up the baby. The maid told her to accept the baby as god’s gift to her. Roopwati agreed with her maid and accepted the baby.
The maid sent a messenger to Rajgriha saying that Roopwati had given birth to a son on way to her parent’s house.
Roopwati’s mother-in-law called back. There was great rejoicing at her husband’s house. Roopwati and the baby were given warm welcome. As Roopwati had found the baby under a banyan tree, she named him Nigrodha Kumar. (Banyan is also called Nigrodha). This secret was known only to Roopwati and her maid.
As Nigrodha Kumar grew up, he made two friends-Ritesh and Ajay. Ritesh was son of a wealthy merchant and Ajay was son of a poor weaver. Both these boys were also born on the same day as Nigrodha Kumar. The three became great friends. They went to the same gurukul to study. They were quite intelligent and completed their education in a very short span of time. They had now grown into young handsome lads.
After completing their studies, they decided to go on a countrywide tour. While travelling, they reached a village near Varanasi. They were very tired. They lay down to sleep in a garden.
Next morning, Ajay woke up early. He heard a bird speaking in human voice. She was saying, “I have laid three eggs today. One is pure white in color, the other is pale yellow and the third is cream in color. These eggs are magic eggs. If anybody eats the white eggs, he will become a king. The one, who eats the pale yellow eggs, will become the prime minister and if anybody eats the off-white egg, he will become a treasurer”. Ajay thought of picking the eggs and eating them along with his friends. He gave the white egg to Nigrodha Kumar, the yellow one to Ritesh and ate the cream one himself. Then, he told his friends what he had heard and done. Ritesh grew angry, as Ajay had not given him the white egg. But, he controlled his anger for the moment and did not say anything to him.
The three friends then entered the city of Varanasi. There, they came to know that the king of Varanasi had died childless. As there was no heir to the throne, the people were planning to choose a new king.
An elephant with a garland was to be set free in the kingdom. The person, whom the elephant would garland, will become the king. The three friends stood on the street to watch the proceedings. A fully decorated elephant was walking slowly on the street. It had a flower garland in his trunk. Suddenly, the elephant came and stood near Nigrodha Kumar and garland him. People cheered him and accepted him their king. The words of the bird had come true. As the post of the prime minister also lay vacant, Ritesh became the prime minister of the kingdom.
However, he was still angry with Ajay for not giving him the white egg. He waited for an opportunity to take revenge upon him.
After attaining the throne of Varanasi, Nigrodha Kumar wanted to call his parents to Varanasi. He asked Ajay to go and bring them to Varanasi. However, Nigrodh’s parents did not want to leave their hometown. Ritesh’s and Ajay’s parents also refused to come. This made Ajay very unhappy. He returned to Varanasi, but did not want to straight to Nigrodha Kumar.
Therefore, he decided to go to Ritesh’s house first. When he reached Ritesh’s house, the guards refused to let him enter the house. He told the guards that he was Ritesh’s friend Ajay. The guards went inside to ask Ritesh’s permission to let Ajay enter the house. When Ritesh heard that Ajay had come to see him, his anger came back. He was still burning with a desire to punish Ajay for not giving him the white egg. So he told the guards, “I do not have any friend named Ajay. Beat him up and throw him out of my gates”. The guards did as they were told.
Ajay went to Nigrodh’s house. Nigrodha welcomed him and personally came out to receive him. He took him to his private room and made him as comfortable as possible. Ajay then told him that their parents had refused to come to Varanasi, as they did not want to leave their hometown. He also told him how Ritesh had treated him.
Nigrodha grew very angry when he heard about Ritesh’s treatment towards Ajay. He immediately called him to the palace and said, “Ritesh, how could you forget our childhood friend Ajay? It was due to Ajay that I have become a king and you have become a prime minister. He could have eaten the white egg to become a king himself. But he did not because he is not selfish and ungrateful like you. One should never behave in a selfish and ungrateful manner. It pays to be a selfless and grateful person. You have been a very selfish and ungrateful person. You shall have to pay it with your life”. He then ordered his guards to kill him.
Ajay, however, requested Nigrodha Kumar to spare his life. “He is our friend. He should not be killed, please pardon him,” Ajay pleaded with Nigrodha.
Nigrodha agreed and said, “If you wish so, Ajay, I will not kill him. But I do not want a selfish and ungrateful man to be the prime minister. He cannot live in my kingdom. Therefore, I banish him from my kingdom. And I appoint you to the prime minister’s Post”.
However, Ajay said that he was not fit to be a prime minister, as he did not have qualities to become a prime minister. “A prime minister should have great qualities of head and heart”. He said. Nigrodha then offered him the post of treasurer and he accepted the offer and lived happily at Varanasi.