An Alternate Riddle

The following is an imagined comedy, so please don’t take it literally or seriously as if I am degrading women. Even though I like to tease women sometimes, I have great respect for them. Read my article on women on my blog.

But now it is my turn to prove that Yamuna was wrong based on the very sastra.


A Missed Chance

I think the poor King missed one golden opportunity to claim a right for him as a husband. When I first heard the answer to the original riddle, I couldn’t understand and took pity on the King. Then I thought about what I would have done if I were in Achi’s place.

The origin for my imagined comedy begins with the promise given by the Queen. I still cannot believe a woman could give such a PROMISE to her husband that is practically impossible for her to follow (that she would she would never open her mouth to argue with him or disobey him on any matter, and would remain obedient for the rest of her life). At that time I reasoned out and prepared my refutation for Yamuna’s answer. But I wondered why Achi missed them?

That night in my dream, Achi came and told what actually happened.


The Other Story

After Yamuna won the debate he got half of the Kingdom and went away to rule it happily. But the King was very sad as Achi missed a golden opportunity to safeguard the interest of all the husbands in his Kingdom. After the Queen gave her promise, the King immediately called Achi and said, “Gurudev, I don’t know how, but you should win. If you win, I will make an ordinance based on the promise of the Queen and implement it in our whole Kingdom. This is the golden opportunity for we husbands to have some rights inside the home.” Achi also assured that he would win.

So the King could not believe it when Achi, the reputed scholar, couldn’t defeat a boy. The King had missed a golden opportunity to safeguard the minimum rights of husbands. He secretly inquired about it as he came to know that Achi’s wife had met the Queen secretly in her chamber the night before. A few Brahmins who were not happy with Achi’s reputation and proximity with the King came and told him the truth. They, giving all other evidence from the shashtras proved how Yamuna was wrong. But they could not understand how Achi failed to note those points from scriptures and sastras.

So the King sent for Achi with much anger and frustration. When he came, the King asked Achi to tell the truth under an oath on his knowledge, guru and Veda. This shocked Achi. Because what actually happened was this:


The King’s Wager

Yamuna came in grand procession and both the King and Queen were watching from the top floor of their palace. The King, trusting the scholarship of Achi, wanted to use that debate to establish his authority over the Queen as a husband. So as a joke, he said that if Yamuna wins he would fulfill anything that the Queen asks in favor of Yamuna. The King knew that his wife and Yamuna’s mother were childhood friends. But he put one condition that the Queen also should give him a promise if Yamuna was defeated. Surprised by this, the Queen agreed.

The King said “ladies first”, and the Queen demanded half of the Kingdom for Yamuna. The King agreed and gave the promise because he was sure that a small boy like Yamuna could not rule it properly and it would continue to remain part of his Kingdom. Then the Queen asked the King to demand what he wishes from her. The King demanded that she should never argue and fight with him on every issue, but she should remain obedient to him for the rest of her life.

The Queen agreed although she knew for sure that Achi could easily defeat Yamuna. But she said to herself, “Though he is a King, he never understood the heart and mind of a woman. And I know how make Yamuna to win.” [In the original historical record, the Queen voluntarily gave the promise, but in my comedy, based on the information given by Achi in my dream, the King, after failing in all previous attempts to have his right as a husband, used that occasion].


The Queen’s Strategy

As the debated was arranged for the next day, the Queen sent to bring Achi’s wife secretly to her palace. She showed her lots of costly jewels of gold and other precious things and said, “I don’t know what you will do, but you should warn your husband not to win in the debate. Despite my warning, if he wins, I will kill him somehow. Then you will not only become a widow but will lose all these gifts from me. Above all our birthright as women is at stake. So not only for the life of your husband or for the sake of this gift, but for the sake of your own right and common good all wives, you should stop your husband from winning.”

That evening, Achi’s wife told Achi everything and said, “What is the use of you winning in the debate? Not only would I become a widow and miss all the gifts from the Queen, but I will also lose my birthright as a woman. Keep your scholarship and authority outside the house and do what I say. Otherwise I will poison your food and kill you. Think twice before you decide to win. The Queen will arrange someone to kill you and I will lose all the gifts. But remember one thing, ORDINANCE OR NO ORDINANCE, no wife will give up her right and no law can succeed in this area. Even the King as a husband can only reign but it is always women who rules (ஆண்கள் ஆட்சி செய்யலாம், ஆனால் பெண்கள்தான் ஆளுகை செய்வார்கள்.)2.”

With much fear after recounting these incidents Achi said, “Oh King, knowing the nature of a wife, I allowed Yamuna to win, because you too know the famous song: Wife too will kill; friend will save one’s life; a brother will get respect only when he give gifts to his sister, whether one gives or not mother remain the same.”

கொலையும் செய்வால் பத்தினி

உயிர் காப்பான் தோழன்

சீர்கொண்டுவந்தால் சகோதரன்

கொண்டு வந்தாலும், வராவிட்டாலும் தாய்.


The Real Winner

By that time the Queen heard that the King suspected something and called Achi for the inquiry. Out of the sight of the King, the Queen made a sign to Achi using the ornament around her neck, suggesting that she will cut his head. Afraid of losing his life, Achi blamed his wife without telling about the gift and threat by the Queen.

Then the King with much frustration said: “Gurudev what you have done? If you had won, I thought of making the promise given by the Queen an ordinance that would come into effect immediately after you defeated Yamuna. I also thought of also giving my whole Kingdom to you to rule and would serve as your regent to live happily as a husband with a wife who would never fight or argue with me anymore. What is the use of remaining a King with all authority and power without being able to control my own wife? It is better to live as your regent and servant and have an obedient wife than to remain as a King with a wife who will argue over everything. What kind of noble service that I could have done to my own people and set an example for every other country in the world to follow. But fearing a woman and only to save your life how can you desert all husbands? Yamuna after that victory became famous only among the Sri Vaishnavas, as they give much importance to Sri—the wife of Vishnu. But if you had won all of humanity would have glorified you as the Savior for all men and my name would have been epitomized as the champion of husband’s right. But you missed a golden opportunity! So you no more deserve to live under my patronage and I expel you from my Kingdom.”

Since Achi was expelled from the Kingdom, he used it as an excuse and left his home to became a sannyasi and lived at Sri Rangam to serve the Sampradaya. Yamuna, when came to know the truth later in his life, also left his wife as a prayaschitta for his mistake and became a sannyasi. So it became a tradition in Sri Vaishnava that only a married man can become a sannyasi as they can console the husbands and set a model if needed to follow their footsteps. Following the same tradition, Ramanuja later left his wife and became a sannyasi as she refused to accept a Shudra as the guest when Ramanuja invited him and showed dishonor both to her husband and guest. [this is historical] By this act of taking sannyasa after marriage, they too took revenge on their wives to leave them back in their homes to struggle alone with their daughter-in-laws missing the support of their husbands.

Thus because of one man’s sin (Achi) all husbands continue to suffer. But they showed a way for them to escape by becoming sannyasi. And all the wives lived happily enjoying their birthright and the husbands were left with their misery. And a new proverb came after that: sannyasis are the pride of the bachelors and the envy of husbands.


Achi’s Responses

When I asked Achi in my dream what his responses would have been based on the sastras and scriptures to defeat Yamuna, he gave the following, but requested me give reference from recent scholarship as those books were not written in his time. Here they are:

Your mother is barren. As per the sastra the best husband is the one who approaches his wife only once in his life, and that too with an intention to have one son to continue the lineage. The rest of his life he should live with his wife as a brahmachari1. As my father was such an ideal husband there was no chance for me to have other siblings. Above all we don’t know whether the crow gave only one egg in its entire life. It might give only one egg each time, but the saying ‘kakam vandati’ cannot be proved with any evidence. After 1000 years science will be able to trace crows with a microchip and confirm whether they give only one egg in its entire life or one egg each time, but at the present it is not possible. Similarly, even before giving the flower every banana tree will produce so many other baby plants around it. Although one peanut gives several flowers, it multiplies only in its roots. So both these illustrations are unacceptable.

Likewise though a woman is physically barren as she cannot bear a child, once she adopts a child with proper ritual based on the tenant of Sastras, she cannot be called a barren woman. It is like calling a person criminal after she is acquitted by the law of the land from the criminal charges (here I am not referring the future Prime Minister of India, Modi). In the future, woman will have test tube babies and surrogate mothers – can we call them as barren? So no mother could be called barren.

Yamuna had no response and the King sat at the edge of this throne.


King is not dharmavan and na sarvabhoman. Actually the virtue or vice of the people depends upon the way the King rules his Kingdom. According to Mahabharata actually,

There exists no four yuga but the way the King rules, he can bring even Satya yuga in kali yuga and the King will inherit one-fourth of the virtue of the people (12).

The one-fourth of the entire virtue earned by subjects well-protected by the King in this world goes to the King….(13).

And if the King practices virtue he resembles the god even and if he practices vice he goes to hell….(17).

The King is the creator or maker of the Krita Yuga, as also of the Treta and Dwapara and the King becomes the cause as well of the fourth Yuga….(29).

[Kunti asks Krishna to tell Yudhisthira] —M.N.[Manmatha Nath] Dutt, Mahabharata, Delhi, Parimala Publications, 7 vols.. UDYOGA PARVA. Vol. III. 1988 P. 182


On this subject Tiruvalluvar says:

வான்நோக்கி வாழும் உலகெல்லாம் மன்னவன்

கோல்நோக்கி வாழும் குடி.—குறள், 542, p. 112

–As the whole world looks to the sky for rainfall

All subjects look to the King for just rule.

The world depends on rain for life. Like wise, the citizens depend on the King for justice.


அந்தணர் நூற்கும் அறத்திற்கும் ஆதியாய்

நின்றது மன்னவன் கோல்.–குறள். 543, p. 112


For virtue and the wise men’s texts

The King’s scepter is the basis.

The King’s just rule provides the basis for holy scriptures and right conduct.


குடிபுறங் காத்துஓம்பிக் குற்றம் கடிதல்

வடுஅன்று வேந்தன்தொழில்.–குறள். 549. P. 113

Guarding subjects and curbing crimes

Are not faults but King’s duties.

The duties of a King are protecting his subjects from enemies and punishing the wrong-doers.


ஆபயன் குன்றும் அறுதொழிலோர் நூல்மறப்பர்

காவலன் காவான் எனின்.–குறள் 560—pa. 115

When a ruler guards not justly, cows yield less

Clouds won’t give seasonal rains.

When a King fails to render justice, even seasons will change and rains will fail.

–Thirukkural, Tr. By M. Rajaram, Rupa & Co. , New Delhi, 2009


So citizens will do evil and incur sin because of the bad rule of the King, but the King will not inherit sin because of the adharma of the people. Even if there is a sastra like that it is neutralized by the common precept of raja-dharma in which the King alone is responsible for the good behavior of his people.3 So if he rules righteously, no citizen will be adharmis. This is further endorsed by the saying, ‘yata raja tata praja’ (people will be like the ruler =அரசன் எவ்வழி, குடிகள் அவ்வழி) The best example for this is Ayodhya where Dasarada ruled righteously and all the people lived as dharmavan.

Yamuna had no answer to this.


Regarding the authority and power of a King each Kingdom is a separate entity and so the King’s authority is applicable only within his Kingdom. The word Chakaravarthin is a laudatory one. For example, each King, even small rulers under our King are called as ‘Tribhuvana Chakravarthi’ viz., one who rules the three worlds—earth, heaven, and the underworld. But no King ever literarily ruled the three worlds. Maybe as a concession we can say that though a King has absolute power over all in his Kingdom, the Queen as his wife alone cannot accept it totally. But this too she will exercise within her palace not publicly—as many or all women do in our country.

Yamuna had no answer. Then the King stood up from his throne with lots of excitement.


The Queen is not chaste. In the principle called ‘Kanyadhanam’, the woman is given in marriage before she attains puberty. Therefore, there is no chance to claim that she lost her chastity as she was enjoyed by the Gandarvas and other devadas before her husband.4 Even if it is considered so, then she was not responsible for it as she never gave consent to it. A woman’s chastity is to be considered her faithfulness to her husband after her marriage and not before that. Kunti is the best example. Though she begot Karna through the Sun, she was still considered a virgin when she was given in marriage to Pandu. Even our sastras allow a woman to have children through another man requested by her husband when he cannot help her become pregnant.5 The five Pandavas are the best example for this.6 So even a woman who begets children at the request of her husband through another man is not considered as committing adultery. Even Drithirashtra, Pandu and Vidura are born through the surrogate father Vyasa at the request of his mother Satyvavati for her two daughter-in-laws after they become widows without children. In fact Vyasa himself was not born to Santanu as Satyvawati begot him through another rishi before her marriage with Santanu.

Yamuna had no answer.

The King came running and fell at the feet of Achi for not only saving him but helping all the husbands in his Kingdom to have their minimum rights in the home.



  1. I tried my best to give the reference for this. But I cannot find it out in my files. But long before I read it somewhere. I still remember it but now I cannot find the reference. But it should not be a problem when it comes to Hinduism. Because when you cannot find any reference for any kind of thoughts (even imagined one) you can attribute it to some text. For example Doniger says that when she misplaced the source of a quotation, she attributed to a Purana:

‘…. Many a naïve Indologist (myself (p.233) included) has wasted days searching in the extant editions of the Skanda Purana for stories said to be there, but not there now. I got my own back once, however, by resorting to this ploy myself when, having misplaced the source of a quotation that I distinctly remembered copying out of some now irretrievable Puranic text, I finally decided to use it anyway and to attribute to the Skanda Purana.— Wendy Doniger, On Hinduism, New Delhi, Aleph Book Company, 2013, pp. 233-34

Back in 2002-2004 here at Mathigiri one sannyasi lived nearby. He was not much educated a simple farmer who left his wife and children and became a sannyasi. Sometime we will talk with me. And he will say so many things about Hinduism to me which I cannot find out. But often he will punctuate his statements with the word, ‘as sastras say’. But he cannot even name one traditional sastra. So I too can do the same here about this point on ideal husband. But I know for sure that I read it somewhere long before. It is important to note that other than to have children is undesirable: An intercourse for the sake of pleasure even with one’s wife has been considered as undesirable. (Manu, III.45)….— Benjamin Khan, The Concept of Dharma in Valmiki Ramayana, Delhi, Munshi Ram Manoharlal, 1965, p. 212

  1. I am thankful to Dr. Hoefer for this point.
  2. About this George L. Hart says,

…in the southern culture that the King was considered the primary focus of the sacred for matters of import to the entire society. Thus in the south, if the King’s powers failed it was thought that drought and natural calamity would result. It is entirely natural, then, that the King should be likened to cosmic phenomena, such as the sun and the rains, whose performance was dependent upon his conduct. In the north, on the other hand, the proper order of natural phenomena was long thought to be dependent upon the correct performance of sacrifices and other rites by the Brahmins, not upon the conduct of the Kings. Thus in the Vedas and Brahmanas, there are many images comparing cosmic phenomena to the sacrifice, but none that I have been above to find comparing them to the King.—George L. Hart, ‘The relation between Tamil and classical Sanskrit literature’, in Passages: relationship between Tamil and Sanskrit, eds. Kannan M. and Jennifer Clare, Institute Francais de Pondichery, Tamil Chair, Department of South and Southeast Asian studies, University of California at Berkeley, 2009, pp.19-57, p. 37

  1. There are only a few references of doubtful character to the existence of child- marriage in the Vedic time….— Rajbali Pandey, Hindu Samskaras: Socio-Religious Study of the Hindu Sacraments, Rajbali Pandey, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, (Second Revised Edition, 1969), Reprint, 1987, p.184

In still later periods the dread of postpuberty marriage became so terrible that the Smrtis brought down the marriageable age still lower. They divide the marriageable girls into five classes: (1) Nagnikaa or naked, (2) Gaurii, eight years old, (3) Rohinii, 9 years old, (4) Kanyaa, 10 years old and (5) Rajasvalaa, above ten years….—ibid. p.188

….Marriage, in course of time, came to be regarded as a gift by the father to her husband. A gift is given once and should not be replaced; moreover, a thing already enjoyed should not be given in gift; its disregard is sinful. Unfortunately (p.189) the mythical gods, Gaandharva and Agni who were believed to help the physical development of a girl [R.V.x.85.40], came to be held as the enjoyers of her person. So the religious father of a girl became anxious to give her away in marriage before she was enjoyed by these gods. A Nagnikaa was preferred for this very reason.—ibid. pp.189-90

  1. During his life in the forest with his two wives one day Pandu by mistake killed a male deer when it was mating with the female. Actually they were a rishi and his wife sporting taking the form of deer. So the rishi when he was wounded cursed Pandu that he can never have sexual pleasure from his wives anymore. And if he tries he too will die. That is the reason for Pandu’s inability to help his wives (Kunti and Madiri) to get children through him. But later one time, out of passion he had sex with Madiri and as per the curse died. Madiri with remorse also committed sati with him leaving her two sons (Nahulan and Sahadevan) under the care of Kunti with rest of her three children, as she was the cause for his death.
  2. In this disastrous Levirate, two wives give birth to three sons (two of whom have, for {four?} great-grandparents, a female fish, two Brahmins and five Kshatriyas, while the third has a Kshatriya, a female fish, two Brahmins and (p.538) four slaves. Are you still with me?)….— Wendy Doniger, On Hinduism, New Delhi, Aleph Book Company, 2013, pp.538-39

…all her children are legitimate; they are called the Draupadeyas, ‘Children of Draupadi’, by a matronymic, which may be nothing more than a way of getting around the awkward fact that, though she is said to have one son from each husband, people often lose track of which Pandava fathered which son. So, too, the multiple-fathered sons of Kunti are often called Kaunteyas, ‘Children of Kunti’, although they are also called Pandavas, since they have a single legitimate, if not natural, father, Panud.—ibid. p. 542