Along time ago, in .a small kingdom in western India, there lived a ruler by the name Dharmraj. He was a good, wise and just king. His subjects greatly admired and respected him.
King Dharmraj was tall, well-built and handsome. He had thick, black hair, which Bholu, his personal barber, regularly trimmed. Bholu had been doing this work for many years and was very proud to be the royal barber. There was, however, one thing which Bholu had to be very careful about. Whenever he was summoned to cut the royal tresses, he had to make sure that he was alone with the king. No one else was permitted to enter the royal chamber during that time. This was because Bholu shared a small, dark secret with the king. On either side of King Dharmraj’s head, grew a small, grey horn!
This terrible secret was known only to the king and his barber. Bholu was really shocked when he first came to know of it. But he promised the king not to reveal it to anybody.
“Please don’t worry, Your Majesty,” said Bholu to the king. “Your secret is absolutely safe with me. No other person will ever come to know of it.”
King Dharmraj was relieved to hear this. For he was afraid of how his people would react if they learnt the truth. How they would laugh and make fun of him! They would no longer respect him and might even want a new ruler!
So even though King Dharmraj was reassured by Bholu’s promise, he warned him sternly, “If you don’t keep your word, Bholu, you will be punished and banished from this kingdom.”
The barber trembled with fear. He decided to be very careful and keep his lips sealed about the matter.
The years rolled by and Bholu kept his promise. Pleased with his loyalty, the king often gave him generous gifts.
With every passing year, it became more and more difficult for Bholu to keep the secret. He yearned to tell someone about the king’s strange horns. But his warning always prevented Bholu from doing so.
One day, Bholu was returning home from the royal palace. He had just trimmed the king’s hair and was thinking about the pair of horns.
Bholu’s house was on the other side of a small forest. He slowly made his way past the tall trees and hanging creepers. Feeling tired after a while, he sat down under a shady tree to rest.
Bholu could not stop thinking about the horns. Suddenly, he jumped up very excited.
“What a wonderful idea!” he exclaimed looking up at the tree under which he had been sitting.
“Surely, I can tell this tree about the king’s peculiar horns. I cannot bear to keep the secret any longer. The tree cannot talk, so no one else will learn the truth. The secret will be safe with the tree and I will finally be free of my burden.”
Having made up his mind, Bholu shouted loudly, “Oh, tree, today I will tell you a little secret. Our King Dharmraj has two horns on his head. Yes, he has two horns!”
Then the barber laughed and laughed, “Ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho!”
The horrible secret was finally out! Bholu was very relieved and happy.
Slowly he walked back home.
The next day a woodcutter came to the forest. He stopped at the same tree and thought, ‘The wood of this tree is very good and will make an excellent drum.’
With several deft strokes, he chopped down the tree. Then he sold the wood to a drum-maker who made a beautiful drum with it.
“This is the best drum I have ever made,” said the drum-maker, very pleased. “Tomorrow I will take it to the market-place and sell it. I am sure to get a good price for it.”
So the next morning the drum-maker went to the market-place. He stood in a corner and began beating his drum. A melodious sound came out of it.
The drum-maker was very happy to hear it. He shouted loudly, “Buy this drum! Who wants to buy this beautiful, wonderful drum?”
A small crowd slowly gathered around him. The people stood silently, listening to the musical sound.
“This is a very fine drum, indeed!” remarked an old man admiringly.
Pleased with the praise, the drum maker began to beat his drum even louder.
Suddenly a strange sound arose from it. The people listened carefully. They were shocked.
“Boom, room, boom!” went the drum. “Today I will tell you a little secret. Our King Dharmraj has two horns on his head. Yes, he has two horns! Ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho!”
The people stood there, stunned. They could not believe their ears. The drum-maker beat his drum again. The same sound arose from it. He was very surprised and embarrassed. How could a drum say all this?
Soon the crowd grew bigger and bigger. And how it laughed and jeered! “Our king has two horns! Our king has two horns!” the people chanted together.
When King Dharmraj heard about this, he was very upset and angry. His face turned a dark shade of red as he thundered, “Arrest that drum-maker and bring him here at once!”
The king’s soldiers soon arrested the drum-maker and brought him, trembling, to the palace.
“You impertinent rascal! How dare you insult me!” roared the furious king.
The frightened drum-maker fell on his knees. “0, great king!” he wept. “I just bought some wood from a woodcutter and made this drum. I have no idea how it is saying those terrible things. Please forgive me, Your Majesty.”
The king then summoned the woodcutter. “From where did you get the wood you sold to the drum-maker?” he asked.
“From a tree in the forest, Your Majesty,” replied the woodcutter, white with fear.
“How is it that the drum made from your wood speaks?” asked King Dharmraj.
“I really don’t know, Your Majesty,” said the woodcutter puzzled. “I have been chopping and selling wood for many years but a thing like this has never happened before.”
By now, the king was thoroughly confused. How could the wood speak? How did it know his secret? The king and his courtiers had no answers to these questions.
But King Dharmraj was determined to find out who had revealed his closely-guarded secret. He thought deeply. Besides him, the only other person who had known about his horns was his barber. But Bholu had been loyal to him and had kept quiet all these years.
No, Bholu could never betray him. Nevertheless he decided to question him.
“Get Bholu here at once!” he commanded his guards.
The barber was brought, shaking from head to toe, before the king who said, “Bholu, you were the only person who knew my secret. To whom did you tell it? Speak the truth or you shall be punished!”
“Your M-Majesty,” Bholu stammered with fear, “as you know, I had kept my lips sealed for many years. It was not easy for me and I longed to share the secret with somebody.”
Bholu stopped speaking and nervously looked at the ground.
“Go on. What happened next?” said King Dharmraj coldly.
Bholu continued slowly, “One day while returning home through the forest, I stopped to rest under a tree. I had just cut your hair and was thinking about your horns. How I longed to discuss them with somebody! After all, I am human too. Suddenly, I had an idea—I told the tree your secret, thinking that it would be safe. How was Ito know that its wood could speak?”
“Now I see,” said the wise king putting the pieces of the puzzle together. “That tree was magical. It could hear and speak. So when a drum was made from its wood and beaten, it spoke. It repeated whatever it heard last from you, that is, the secret about my horns.”
Having solved the mystery of the magical drum, the king looked at the barber. Bholu hung his head in shame. The woodcutter and the drum-maker, stood silently by, waiting to be punished.
King Dharmraj was not only wise, he was also fair and just. He decided to pardon the three men as they could not be blamed for the drum being magical.
So he turned to them and said, “You are forgiven and may leave now.”
The three men could not believe it. They were overjoyed. Bowing low they said, “Oh, king, you are indeed great! Thank you for your kindness.”