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Dramatis Personae Window

Chapter 6: The Gilded Cage

picture by Jaclyn Allavie
He built three beautiful palaces.
Drawing by Jaclyn Allavie, Eleanor Roosevelt College (UCSD), Class of 2009, by permission

So the king resolved to keep Siddhartha happy in the palace. In fact, he built three beautiful palaces. The first had cozy halls made of fragrant wood to serve as the prince’s winter palace. The second was a shaded pavilion made of cool polished marble to serve as a summer palace. The third of was made with good bricks supporting a magnificent green tile roof for rainy days.

King Shuddhodana also had them surrounded by a wonderful garden full of flowers, with a lily pond. The garden was so big that the prince could ride his favorite horse and never leave its walls. The horse was named Kanthaka (Kaṇṭhaka), which meant “ascending ox,” because it was so strong. But little Siddhartha liked to call it “King of Horses.”

Time passed and the boy prince grew to be a young man. Despite his father’s efforts, he was nearly always pensive and morose. So the king summoned his sages and asked what to do to avoid having Siddhartha give up the throne and seek enlightenment, as the old sage had once predicted.

“Find him a beautiful wife,” they said. “A beautiful wife will keep him happy, and he will not think so much. This will also produce an heir.” They all agreed, for they knew that all young men loved beautiful women more than anything in the world, and could rarely think about anything else.

picture by Katy Smith
He assigned a courtier to watch the prince’s face
Drawing by Katy Smith, Eleanor Roosevelt College (UCSD), Class of 2010, by permission

So the king summoned the most beautiful maidens of his realm to assemble on an appointed day, and he ordered that each was to receive a gift from the prince’s own hand. Then he assigned a courtier to watch the prince’s face to see which of the lasses he most fancied.

When the day came, the maidens all lined up and filed by Prince Siddhartha to receive their gifts, but Siddhartha responded to none of them, and the maidens muttered among themselves and puzzled that he was not like other men.

picture by Brianna Hom
The supply of gifts had run out.
Drawing by Brianna Hom, Eleanor Roosevelt College (UCSD), by permission

When the last of them arrived, she smiled and said, “What are you giving me?” But the supply of gifts had run out, and the prince had no more gifts to give. Nervously, he smiled back and gave her a gold chain he was wearing, feeling that he had to give her something.

The official assigned to watch him was delighted, and reported back to the king that this was the chosen girl. Her name was Yashodhara (Yaśodharā). She was in fact the daughter of King Anjana of Devadaha, his mother’s native town. King Shuddhodana immediately sent to King Anjana to arrange the wedding. Accounts differ as to whether Siddhartha was actually any more enthusiastic about the Princess Yashodhara than about any of the others, but the die had now been cast, and there was no backing out.

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