Once upon a time, there lived in Uttarakhand a farmer by the name of Lakshman Singh. Every year, he had to struggle to produce a profitable harvest. However, he happened to have a really good harvest one year. Even after paying the taxes, he had enough money left to get by for the year ahead. Looking at the profits they had made, Lakshman Singh’s wife advised him to store their wealth in a safe place to keep it beyond the reach of thieves.

In those times, it was a common practice to amass one’s surplus wealth in large pots and then bury it under a marked, easily recognizable tree. In keeping with this age-old custom, Lakshman Singh too put his wealth in a pot and went about in search of a tree under which his hard-earned money would be safe.

After wandering aimlessly for an hour or so, Lakshman Singh recalled the Ashoka tree that stood behind his farm. Because not many people frequented that place, he decided to bury his fortune under that Ashoka tree.

Then one day, the roof of Lakshman Singh’s hut came down and he needed money for its repair. Off he went to fetch some money from the buried pot. However, to his surprise, not a single penny was to be found in it. Aghast, he went home crying and narrated the story to his wife. Listening to her husband, she suggested filing a complaint with the King and asking for his help in catching the thief.

Lakshman Singh and his wife went to the palace the same day. The King, Hari Singh, was renowned for his benevolence. He was particularly known to be sympathetic to the causes of farmers and the poor.

The King was deeply saddened to listen to Lakshman Singh’s story. He employed his best minister, Veerbuddhi, to solve the case. Veerbuddhi was an intelligent minister. He had an enviable record in solving many a criminal case in the kingdom. When this peculiar case was assigned to him, he paid a visit to Lakshman Singh’s village to make a list of suspects. Once his inquiry was done, Veerbuddhi summoned the three suspects who had seen Lakshman Singh bury his wealth. Once present, it was time to interrogate those suspects.

He asked them several questions such as where they were over the past few days and what they had been doing all this while. Guru, the first suspect, answered that he had gone over to his wife’s hometown to visit his in-laws. Shukra, the second suspect, answered that he had organized a ritual at his home and had, therefore, been quite busy. Buddh, the last suspect, said that he was undergoing treatment for some skin problems.

The King and all his ministers and courtiers wondered how Veerbuddhi would find the culprit when all the suspects had valid alibis. After thinking it over for a few minutes, Veerbuddhi declared Buddh the culprit and asked him where he had stashed away the stolen money. Listening to the verdict, Buddh fell at Lakshman Singh’s feet and desperately begged him for forgiveness. Everyone was baffled as to how Veerbuddhi had managed to track down the culprit. It was now time for Veerbuddhi to explain this mystery.

According to Buddh, he was getting treatment for his skin issues. This meant that he would have had to use the Ashoka tree leaves and flowers owing to their medicinal values. Buddh had seen Lakshman Singh bury his wealth. Once the latter left, Buddh not only took the leaves and flowers of the Ashoka tree, but also the pot of wealth hidden underneath.

Listening to Veerbuddhi’s explanation, Hari Singh applauded his quick-witted minister and awarded him generously. Buddh, on the other hand, was in for some heavy punishment for his theft and deceit.

…now that you’re here

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Ananya Susarla, Folk Tale writer at Ameya

Ananya loves to both read and reinterpret folk tales from different parts of the country. Shoot her an email at ananyasusarla2915@gmail.com if you would like to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from TheStoryCircus.