Once, Ramayyan Dalawa, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Travancore, wished to annex the Kingdom of Kayamkulam. With permission from his king Mathanda Varma, he disguised himself and reached Kayamkulam to reconnoitre.
As he talked to the people of the land he came to know that the king was given to a number of vices the chief among them was an excessive dependence on intoxicating beverages and an all pervading lethargy – enough to put any kingdom definitely on the path of decline. And yes, the army was in disarray as they had not fought a battle in years and many of the soldiers were now either prosperous tradesmen or wealthy farmers. To his astonishment, the dalawa found that in spite of a lazy and corrupt king and a non-existent army, the kingdom was exceedingly prosperous. On further enquiries he found out that the reason for this prosperity was the presence of a divine Sri Chakra (a mystical diagram often engraved in precious metals and worshipped) within the palace temple which, the people informed him, was worshipped with utmost bhakti. Ramyyan Dalawa immediately decided that this Chakra should belong to the Kingdom of Travancore and that he had to steal it at any cost.
A few days later a mad man appeared at the gates of the palace temple. The guards stood alert ready to stop him but he made no attempt to get in and just stood here and there lost in his own world or pacing up and down and ranting loudly. The man looked very neat and clean; almost finicky about the cleanliness of his person and often called out loudly to God to show him mercy. After a few days the guards learned to ignore him. Some of them were kind to the mad man since he actually did cause no harm; he just stood there shouting unintelligible things or muttering under his breath endlessly pacing up and down. They grew used to him.
So one day when he went inside the palace temple they did not stop him. He was just a harmless mad man.
The priests within the temple also soon got used to seeing this lunatic. He was actually of some help to them in their work. As soon as the temple doors opened in the morning and the priests cleared the wilted flowers offered in worship the previous day, this deranged man would fill all the flowers in a large basket and take them away. But he did say insane things.
He would stop with the basket of flowers at the temple gate and tell the guards, “You there! I’m taking away your precious Sri Chakra hidden beneath the wilted flowers in this basket. Prevent me if you can.”
On the first day, when the guards heard him, they stopped him and searched the basket thoroughly. They found nothing.
The mad man then went and stood below the balcony of the king’s bedroom and shouted,
“I’m taking away the Sri Chakra in this basket. Tell your guards to come and check.” The king who had not yet woken up did not hear this but his guards did.
They came running, their swords drawn, and checked the basket and found nothing. This continued to happen every day. Every time the guards both at the temple and at the palace would stop the mad man and check the basket of faded flowers and find nothing.
Soon, there came a time when the guards at the temple when warned by the insane man started telling him with a smile,
“Oh, that’s alright. You are welcome to take the Sri Chakra away.” They did not bother to check his basket.
The same thing happened below the king’s balcony.
It became a kind of joke with them all. As soon as they saw the crazy man with his basket they would chorus, “Yes, Sir, you may take the Sri Chakra away. We don’t mind giving it to you.” Then they would thump him on his back and send him on his way.
One day, when the priests at the temple were busy with some other work, the mad man entered the sanctum sanctorum and took the Sri Chakra. He placed it in the basket and then proceeded to gather all the wilted flowers of the previous day’s puja and put them in the basket too.
When he reached the temple gates he told the guards, “Look, I’m taking the Sri Chakra away. Check my basket.”
The guards laughed and replied, “Sir, you can take it away. Please consider it as a gift from the king himself,” they added for good measure.
The man walked away with the basket on his head and they laughed at him and shook their heads philosophically at the mysterious ways in which mental illness could manifest in a person. They knew he would go straight and stand below the king’s balcony. And that is what he did.
“I’m taking away the Sri Chakra,” he waved at the guards there. “Come and check my basket.”
But they too said, “Oh you may take it away, Sir. The Sri Chakra really deserves a new home.”
The man went out of the palace grounds and was never heard of again.
At the temple, the priests discovered that the Sri Chakra was missing and alerted the guards who in turn alerted the guards at the palace. There was great alarm and commotion and everyone searched for the mad man. They were sure he had taken it. But he had disappeared without a trace.
Before long, the Kingdom of Kayamkulam came under the rule of Travancore.
More interesting tales in the folk tales section of this blog.