Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Trial at Avichara-Pura

It happened one time in the village of Avichara-pura that a band of thieves broke into the house of a rich man and stole his money and jewelry. The victim reported the burglary, and police officers went out at once in search of the thieves. They found them nearby and brought them into court. The judge then listened to the complaint of the man whose property had been stolen. Turning to the thieves, he asked them: “Do you have anything to say in your defense?”

“Yes,” the thieves replied. “We weren’t really to blame for the burglary at all. It was the man who built the house who was responsible. He made the walls badly. They were thin and rotten and broke through at the slightest push. If it hadn’t been for the weak walls, we never would have been tempted to break into the house and steal.”

The judge frowned and pondered over this reply, “That is reasonable,” he said at last, “very reasonable.” And he ordered that the mason who had constructed the house should be brought before him. When the mason arrived, he was accused of responsibility for the theft at the rich man’s house.

“You see what your bad work has come to,” the judge said sadly. “It has ended in crime.”

“Oh, but the fault wasn’t mine,” the mason said. “It was the laborer who mixed the mortar who was responsible. He was careless, and the mortar he gave me to work with was so badly mixed that it wouldn’t hold the stones together.”

Hearing this, the judge shook his head solemnly and sent for the laborer who had mixed the mortar. When he came and heard of the crime he was charged with, he said: “Oh, but it wasn’t my fault. It is true that the mortar wasn’t good. But the culprit is the potter who sold me a cracked pot, which wouldn’t hold enough water to mix the mortar properly.”

The judge frowned at this news. And he sent for the potter. “You see what your bad pot has brought you to,” the judge said sternly. “Because of your poor work a crime has been committed. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

“Indeed I do,” the potter said. “A beautiful woman was the cause of it all. You see, just as I was working on that pot, she passed by, and I couldn’t tale my eyes from her. It was while I was looking at her that the pot developed a flaw.”

Now the judge’s temper was rising. “Bring the woman in!” he ordered.

The police went out and found the woman and brought her into court.

“So!” the judge said sternly. “At last it has been revealed that you are the one responsible for the burglary! Just when the potter was working on the pot, you went by and distracted him. He made a bad pot, which didn’t hold enough water to make a decent mortar, so that the walls of the house were weak and tempted these men here to enter and go off with the money and jewels. Do you have any defense?”

The woman answered: “I wouldn’t have been near the potter’s place at all if the goldsmith had sent my earrings as he had promised to do. I had to go after then myself, and I had to pass the potter’s house. The guilt belongs to the goldsmith.”

Then the judge angrily ordered the goldsmith brought in and accused him of the crime. The goldsmith couldn’t think of a single word to say in his own defense. The judge roared at him to speak, but the goldsmith was speechless. At last the judge ordered the man to be hanged.

But the people of the village protested. They said: “After all. We do need a goldsmith in our village. Can’t you suspend the sentence?”

“A crime has been committed,” the judge said sternly, “ and someone must hang for it!”

“Well, you are right,” the villagers said. “Justice is justice, and someone must hang. But since the goldsmith can’t be spared, let us hang the first stranger who comes through Avichara-pura.”

“That is a wise solution,” the judge said thoughtfully. And he decreed then and there that the first stranger to arrive in the village should be strung up without any further talk. The case was closed, and the court adjourned.

When word of the trial went from one place to another, people stopped coming to Avichara-pura altogether. And after that, whenever some silly act was carried out in the name of justice, people said: “Its just like the trial at Avichara-pura..”
Suggested by
Linda Conte
Croton-on-Hudson, NY USA

[found in The Tiger’s Whisker and other tales from Asia and the Pacific by Harold Courlander, Henry Holt & Company, New York Copyright 1959, 1987.]


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