Princess Suryaprabha, who was very beautiful and intelligent, wanted to marry a man who was even more intelligent and learned than her. She was not too concerned about wealth or looks. So she said to her father, ‘I have decided. Let any man ask me nine questions. If I am unable to answer even one of them, I will marry him.’
The king knew well how bright she was and was worried. ‘And what if you answer all the questions?’ he asked. ‘Then he will be rejected and will not get a second chance.’ The king had no choice but to agree to her condition and made the announcement in the kingdom. Many people arrived to try their luck. But the princess was too clever for them, and she answered each one’s questions in no time.
The king became more and more worried. He decided to talk to his most trusted friend, Ganapati Maharaj, who was a teacher, about this. Ganapati heard him out, then said he would send his brightest student Shashishekhar to question the princess.
The next day, a handsome young man appeared in court. He was dressed simply but his eyes shone bright with the light of knowledge. He announced that he had nine questions for the princess and, in no time, was sitting before her.
‘How many stars are there in the sky?’ was his first question.
Suryaprabha replied, ‘There are as many stars as there are hair on a goat.’
‘Which is the most beautiful child on earth?’
‘For every mother, her child is the most beautiful.’
‘What is the difference between truth and lies?’
‘It is the difference between our eyes and ears. Our eyes will always see the truth but our ears can hear both truth and lies.’
‘Which person has hands, yet is considered handless?’
‘A rich man who does not share his wealth.’
‘Who has eyes but is still blind?’
‘A man without compassion, who does not see the suffering that exists in this world.’
Then Shashishekhar showed her a picture of a crumbling palace and asked what it meant.
By now the princess was sure this was no ordinary man. But it did not take her long to give her answer.
‘A house without a proper foundation, be it a palace, will collapse.’
He showed another picture—of an old lady collecting firewood, while carrying a heavy load on her back.
The princess smiled and replied, ‘This picture depicts human greed. The woman has collected so much wood, yet she does not want to give up and go home.’
Now, the princess had answered seven questions accurately. There were only two left.
Shashishekhar then asked a very clever question: ‘Princess, which is the question you can’t answer?’
Suryaprabha was stumped. If she told him, Shashishekhar would ask that question as the last one,
and if she did not, she would lose anyway. She smiled and bowed her head. ‘I accept defeat.’
Thus it came to be that the two wisest people in the kingdom got married and lived happily.