The time for King Vikrama to pronounce his judgment had now arrived. Everyone in the court, savants and hangers-on alike, turned expectantly toward their sovereign and made ready to imbibe the nectar of his comments, just as sunflowers swivel toward the sun to best soak up its rays. The king turned over in his mind all that he had heard: the lineages, the unique powers, the accounts of heroism and nobility. Again and again, however, his mind returned to Saturn and to Saturn’s extreme cruelty. Finally a peculiar sort of melancholy sprouted in the king’s heart, a temporarily impenetrable gloom, and suddenly these words escaped his lips: “Better not to have a son at all than to have one with such a hateful gaze as Saturn’s. Since Lord Saturn tormented his own father, who will he not torment? Tell me, 0 wise ones.”
It so happened – fate ordained it – that at that moment Saturn was passing overhead, flying through the skies in his aerial car. Overhearing the king’s remark he expeditiously landed his craft and entered the assembly hall. As that tall, emaciated, lame planet, the embodiment of all that is inexorable in life, strode into the palace, the king and everyone present rose at once to their feet. Their voices dried in their mouths by amazement and fear at that terrible sight, they pitched forward at once onto the ground, prostrating rigidly like staves.
There are moments in life which occur just after an inappropriate comment slips from your tongue. You wish, in such moments, to simply recall those last few words – but since, once spoken, speech can never be recalled, that one ill-advised moment may overshadow everything else you ever do for the rest of your life. This was such a moment for King Vikrama. As his heart fell from his mouth to his toes, and was replaced there by the taste of ashes, he put on a brave face and prostrated to Saturn’s feet with the utmost reverence. Seating that incarnation of inevitability on his very throne, King Vikrama offered that planet every sort of respect and worshipped him intently, aware as he did so that his fate was already sealed.
When the king was finished, the dark-countenanced Saturn spoke to him in a voice that rang with the calm cold of reality: “0 Vikramaditya! You have insulted me in front of the entire assembly without even knowing the extent of my capabilities. Are you aware that Indra and all the other devas quiver in front of me? You know that whomever I get angry with I totally destroy, but what you have not yet comprehended is that I do not allow even a trace of that miscreant to remain; no, not even his name. While flying through the air just now, I sensed you expressing your disgust for me. As it is, I am about to enter the constellation Virgo, which occupies the twelfth house of your horoscope. This means that for seven and a half years you will have no choice but to learn precisely who I am. At the moment, your reason has deviated from its proper course, but soon you will know what my powers really are. I shall remove all these airs of yours, mark my words.
“You do not yet know my prowess. The Moon resides in one constellation of the zodiac for a mere two and a quarter days; the Sun, Mercury and Venus for one month each; Mars for one-and-one-half months; Jupiter for twelve months; and Rahu and Ketu for eighteen months. But I remain for a full thirty months in each sign, and I have delivered prolonged misery even to the great gods themselves. Hear my words with full concentration, 0 King! When I waylaid Shri Ramachandra, the incarnation of God Himself, He was sent to exile in the forest, and when I accosted Ravana Shri Ramachandra and Lakshmana collected an army, invaded Lanka, killed Ravana, and destroyed his entire family. So now, King Vikrama, you had best prepare for misfortune!”
On completing his tirade Saturn rose straightaway, just as Vikramaditya fell to the ground. Grabbing hold of Saturn’s two dark feet in dismay the king cried loudly, “0 Lord Saturn! Forgive me for this offense, I beg of you! Have mercy on this poor miserable wretch!” Saturn said, “If I show compassion to you, you will never obtain personal knowledge of my abilities. At least once you must experience my play, otherwise your insolence will not leave you.”
Having said this, Saturn reentered his vehicle and sped away through space to his own realm. Burning with immense regret for his grave error in insulting Lord Saturn, King Vikramaditya left his court posthaste, bound for the royal temple, where he worshipped God in his agony.
Then he said to himself, “I have insulted Saturn, that mightily cruel planet, and I will now definitely harvest the fruit of this action. The workings of my own karmas that have brought me to this pass. Did the Moon know, when he stole Jupiter’s wife, that it would lead him to suffer Daksha’s curse? Did Daksha realize that cursing the Moon would cost him his head?
“But even those who are aware of their actions are not freed from their consequences. Why, the Blessed Vishnu Himself had to return to beg the universe from Bali after He cheated that self-same o Bali of the amrita that the asuras had earned at the Churning. What has happened must be endured; what is destined does not change. What is the use in regretting it?” Thinking in this way he had his dinner and lay down to fitfully sleep. On arising the next morning he returned to his court, where he engaged himself in ruling in his habitual manner. Outwardly he seemed normal; within, he fretted day and night over what sort of torment Lord Saturn might have in store for him. A month passed thus.