The Panchatantra – Lubdhapranasam

[This is the beginning of Part-4 of Panchatantra, also called ‘Lubdhapranasam’ or ‘The Loss of gains’.]

“What is gained is often lost by folly. The monkey tricked the crocodile into giving up what he had got”, said Vishnu Sarman, “Tell us that story” said the princes. Then he narrated it. 

On the banks of a deep lagoon near the seashore, there was a mighty jambu tree(The rose-apple tree) with loads of luscious fruits. The monkey Raktamukha(Red-face) lived on its branches. A crocodile called Karalamukha(Terrible-face) lived in the lagoon. One day, he swam ashore and basked in the sun on the fine sandbank near the jambu tree. Raktamukha said to him, “You are my guest. So eat the nectar-like jambu fruits I give you. It is said that he who arrives at the end of the Vaisvadeva sacrifice(The offering to all the deities made by presenting oblations to fire before meals – As soon as this is finished, the meals begin. So the meaning is ‘he who arrives at meantime’) and is fed as a guest wins for us heaven whether he is a friend or foe, learned or unlearned. Manu(The great Hindu law-giver) has said that he who comes at the end of the Vaisvadeva sacrifice should never be asked his Vedic school or clan or his branch of learning or his family but honoured as a guest and fed sumptuously. He who honours a guest come at the end of a Vaisvadeva sacrifice tired by the fatigues of a long journey attains the highest salvation. If you turn away guests, or treat them in such a way they they never return, the gods and the fathers will turn away from you.” So saying, he gave him the jambu fruits. The crocodile ate the fruits, had a long friendly chat with the monkey and then returned to his own abode. 

Thereafter, the crocodile and the monkey used to meet daily under the shade of the jambu tree and pass their time merrily in discussions regarding various sciences. One day, the crocodile had a large quantity of fruits left after he had eaten his fill. He took them home and gave them to his wife. She relished them immensely and asked him, ‘Darling, how did you get these nectar-like fruits?’ He said. ‘Beloved, I have got a dear monkey friend called Raktamukha. He gives me these fruits daily out of love for me.’ She said, ‘By living on these nectar-like fruits always, his heart must have become full of nectar and most delicious to eat. If you at all care for me, your beloved wife, you must bring me his heart. Eating that(Persons tasting of nectar will be free from old age and death), I shall be free from old age and death and shall be able to enjoy every kind of pleasure with you. 

He replied, ‘Love, don’t say so. He has become like a brother unto me. Besides, I am not able to kill him. So, cast off this useless desire. It has been said that the best relationship is that of friendship generated by conversation, and that birth from a common mother’s womb is only second to that, friends being considered even superior to brothers of the whole blood.’ His wife said, ‘You have never gone against my wishes till now. So it is certain that the monkey who gives you these fruits is not a male but a female and that you are in love with her. That is why you spend your whole day there. I have understood everything now. You do not talk sweet words to me now nor do you yearn for me. Your behaviour towards me has become cold. At night when you ought to be as hot as the flames of fire, you are cold and indifferent.

‘You are not fervent when you embrace or kiss me. O rogue, is it not clear from all this that you have enshrined in your heart some woman other than myself?’ The crocodile fell at his wife’s feet and said in piteous tones in order to appease her terrible anger, ‘What other person, oh beautiful one, will try to pacify your anger except me wholly overcome by a passionate love for you? I am your servant and implore you by falling at your feet not to be angry.’ She said with tears streaming down her cheeks, ‘That woman is always in your mind and is regarded by you as charming on account of her feigned affection for you. O rogue, you are having a thousand desires in common with her, and I have no place at all in your heart. So, cease this mockery of falling down prostrate at my feet. Besides, if she were not your keep, why are you not willing to kill her when I ask you to do so ? Does not all this prove that you are head over ears in love with that monkey woman ? Why waste words?

Know it for certain that unless I am given that monkey’s heart to eat, I shall starve myself to death.’ The crocodile, on hearing the resolve of his wife, became full of anxiety. He said to himself, ‘Well have the wise men said “Vajra gum(A most powerful gum), a fool, a woman, a crab, a fish, a drunkard, and indigo never leave a man till they have accomplished what they desire. Their grip is one and unceasing. “Now, what shall I do ? How is it possible for me to kill that monkey?’ 

Thinking thus, he went to the monkey. The monkey, seeing him come late and dejected, said, ‘Friend, why is it that you come only at this very late hour? Why do you not talk merrily and quote your usual pithy sayings? Why are you plunged in gloom ?’ The crocodile said, ‘Friend, my wife, your sister-in-law, spoke very harshly to me thus: “Oh ungrateful wretch, are you not ashamed to show your face before me ? You have been daily receiving gifts of fruits from that monkey and yet have not done him any obligation in return till now. Yon have not even so much as asked him to our house. There is no atonement for this sin of ingratitude on your part. The murderer of a Brahmin, the person who drinks liquor, the thief, and the man who has broken his vow, have all expiatory ceremonies prescribed for them by the virtuous for washing away their sins. But no such expiatory ceremony has been prescribed for the sin of ingratitude. So bring the monkey, my brother-in-law, to our house to-day without fail so that we may return our obligation in part. If you do not do so, I shall commit suicide and meet you in the next world only.”

Being talked to by her in this strain, I have come to you. Owing to these disputes, I could not come earlier. Now come along with me to my house. Your sister-in-law will be eagerly waiting for you at my door after having decorated the house with ornamental gateways and drawn auspicious chalk-paintings in front and put on her best dress and ornaments and pearls.’ The monkey said, ‘My sister-in-law has spoken well. A wise man should avoid being like a weaver always greedily drawing threads (advantages) towards himself. To give, to take, to confide secrets, to ask for them, to eat and cause to eat, are the six ways of showing affection. But I am a forest dweller and your house is in the waters. How then can I enter your house? So you better bring my sister-in-law also here so that I may prostrate to her and take her blessings.’ The crocodile said, ‘Friend, at the bottom of this lagoon, there is a beautiful sandbank where my house is situated. So get upon my back and come with me without fear.’ The monkey was delighted at this prospect of new adventure and said, ‘If that is so, do not tarry. Hurry up. Here, I am already on your back.’ With this the monkey got upon the crocodile’s back, and the crocodile pushed off into the lagoon. 

As soon as be got into the deep water, the monkey was frightened and said to the crocodile, ‘ Brother, proceed slowly. My body is wetted by the waves.’ Hearing that, the crocodile thought, ‘He has now come to the unfathomable waters and is securely within my power. He will not be able to go even an inch from my back. So I shall tell him now the real object of taking him to my house so that he may pray to his favourite deity (Every Hindu has his own favourite deity – It is considered by all Hindus to be a sin not to allow a man to pray to his favourite deity, before putting him to death) before meeting with death.’ Thinking thus, he told the monkey, ‘Friend, having duped you into trusting in me, I have brought you here for putting you to death as per my wife’s desire. So pray to your favourite deity, for death is imminent.’ The monkey asked, ‘Brother, what evil have I done to you or to her that you should think of putting me to death ?’ The crocodile said, ‘Oh, she is possessed with an incurable longing to taste your heart which has according to her become full of nectar by tasting these jambu fruits full of nectar-like juice. She thinks that by eating it she will be rid of old age and death and would not leave me in peace till I promised to give her your heart to eat. That is why I am taking you there.’ 

A brilliant idea struck the monkey, and he said, ‘Friend, why did you not tell me about this before you left the shore? I have kept my heart, as I always do, in the middle of the jambu tree well concealed. That is why I go up and down the tree so often in order to keep it under constant observation. I shall be only too glad to offer it to my sister-in-law. What is the use of your taking me to her without the all-important heart ?’ The foolish crocodile said with joy, “If that is so, I shall take you back at once to that jambu tree so that you may give me your heart after getting which alone my wicked wife has vowed to break her fast.’ Saying so, he returned with the monkey and left him at the foot of the jambu tree. The monkey made several vows on the way to all his gods for safely reaching the tree. As soon as he was put at the foot of the tree, he jumped up the tree with a jump longer than ever he had jumped before in his life. Getting to a very high branch of the tree, he heaved a deep sigh and said to himself, ‘My god, I have regained my life. Well have the wise men said, “Never trust the unworthy and never trust too much even the trustworthy. The danger arising from such foolish confidence cuts at the root of all confidence. “I have now got a new birth and a new lease of life as it were.’

When he was thinking thus, the crocodile said, ‘ Friend, give me your heart so that I may take it to your sister-in-law for breaking her fast.’ The monkey laughed and said revilingly ‘Fie, you fool, you abuser of confidence, will anyone have two hearts ? So, get away from here and never set your foot again in the shadow of the jambu tree. Well has it been said, “He who has once behaved vilely towards his friend and again tries to make friends with him whom he has wronged will meet with certain death even as a mare dies as soon as it gives birth to its young(That is an ancient Hindu belief)”.Hearing this, the crocodile was filled with chagrin and shame and said to himself, ‘Alas I Owing to my accursed stupidity, I revealed to him my real motive in taking him to my house. I shall speak to him in such a manner as to make him again trust in me and come with me.’ 

So he said, ‘Friend, I simply joked with you and wanted to test you. Am I fool enough to really believe that anybody could detach his heart and keep it in the hollow of a tree ? I merely wanted to see the joke through. My wife has no use whatever for your heart. Nor will she dream of killing such a friend of her husband. So, come to my house as an honoured guest. Your sister-in-law is eagerly waiting to receive you.’ The monkey said. ‘Get away, you wretch. I will not come -any more with you. Of yore, Gangadatta said, “A hungry man will commit any sin, a weak man will be without mercy; go, friend, and tell Priyadarsana that Gangadatta will never return to that well”.’ The crocodile asked, ‘What is that story?’ Then the monkey related the story of ‘Blind Revenge‘. 

After relating it, the monkey said, ‘ Oh wicked devil of the deep, like Gangadatta I too will never return to the place after knowing that certain death is awaiting me.’ The crocodile said, ‘Friend, do not say so. Free me from the sin of ingratitude for ever by coming to my house and accepting my hospitality. Otherwise, I shall starve myself to death, and my blood will be upon your head.’ The monkey said, ‘Fool, do you take me to be another Lambakarna that, having once escaped from certain death, I would idiotically plunge into death again ? He went and saw the immense power and courage of the lion, and managed to escape. But, being, devoid of heart and ears, the fool again entered the very same portals of death.’ 

The crocodile asked, ‘Friend, who was this Lambakarna? How did he see death and escape and again court it? Tell me’ the story. Then the monkey related the story of ‘The Ass Without Heart And Ears‘ and said, ‘So, you fool, you cheated me but frustrated your own diabolical design by foolishly uttering the truth like the potter Yudhishtira. That fool who speaks the truth in the middle of his fraudulent designs and against his own interests is a veritable blockhead and will come to grief like another Yudhishtira.’ The crocodile asked, ‘What is that story ?’ Then the monkey related the story of “Potter As Warrior” and said, “O fool to attempt such treachery on your friend for the sake of your wife! You expected love and gratitude from her. But she would have behaved only like the Brahmin’s wife, in the story, who, for the sake of a miserable cripple, plotted to kill her husband who had left his relatives for her sake and even given half his life to her. “What is that story asked the crocodile. The monkey than narrated the story of “The Ungrateful wife” and said, ‘Oh fool, parrots are confined in cages because they have a garrulous tongue while the more discreet cranes go free. Now go away,, otherwise I shall be forced to neck you out.’ 

The crocodile said, ‘You have misunderstood me and misconstrued my joke. I assure you that I am ever devoted to you and will never play you false’. The monkey said, ‘Villain, I may be taken in at times, but I am not such a fool as the carpenter who though he saw his wife commit, adultery in his very presence foolishly believed her explanation and carried her and her paramour on his shoulders and went about from house to house with them in joy’. The crocodile wanted to hear that story also. Then the monkey related the story of ‘A Fool’s Rejoicing‘ and said, ‘After catching you in the very act’ of committing sin, how do you expect me to come with you again to your house? Perhaps you are not to be blamed for your deluding me into confidence and trying to kill me treacherously thereafter, for it is the innate nature of hideous, wicked monsters like you to behave thus. Even association with the pure and the innocent will not cure you. An evil -disposed and wicked person, though well advised by the good, will not become upright or pure any more than charcoal will become white by rubbing. Having refused to take the sun, the cloud, the air and the mountain for her husband, the mouse-maiden wedded a ridiculous mouse of her own race. It is difficult to tree oneself from the instincts of the race.’ 

The crocodile wanted to hear the story, and the monkey related the story of ‘A Mouse Will Wed a Mouse‘ and said, ‘O henpecked fool, o slave of your wife, such persons like you sacrifice their own interests, their wealth and their friends to every whim of their wives. But I should not perhaps blame you. Such is the nature of many males. The great Nanda and the wise Vararuchi were no less slaves of their wives than your own ugly and wicked self as is proved by an amusing story.’ The crocodile wanted, to hear that story also, and the monkey related the story of ‘Love’s Necessities‘ and said, ‘O fool, while they merely did harmless things at the behest of their wives you wanted to betray and kill your dear friend. But your tongue betrayed you. Fool, parrots are confined in cages because they have a garrulous tongue while the stupid cranes go free because of their silence. You know the story of “The ass In tiger skin” which brayed and got killed. 

“What is that story?” asked the crocodile. Then the monkey narrated it. ‘When he had finished story, some water animal came and told the crocodile, ‘O Karalamukha, your wife who was fasting and waiting for you impatiently took to heart your dallying here even longer than usual and committed suicide owing to disappointment and jealousy.’ On hearing this, the crocodile exclaimed, ‘Ah miserable me, what a terrible calamity has overtaken me! My home is a home no more. A good man’s home is not his house but his wife. A house from which his wife is absent is more desolate than a desert. Even a tree-bottom is sweet home if his wife is there. A palace without his wife there will be a wilderness.’ Turning to the monkey, he said, ‘Friend, forgive me for the cruel wrong I have done you. I shall now go and die on my beloved’s funeral pyre. Good-bye.’ 

The monkey replied, ‘I knew from the very outset that you were a slave of your wife and under her thumb always. Now you have given further proof of that. Fool, why do you grieve when you ought to be delighted ? The death of such wicked wives ought to be celebrated as a festival. That wife who is always wicked and quarrelsome should be considered by the wise as horrible old age in the form of a wife. Such women should be abandoned by all desiring their peace of mind. They are not brought round by punishment or gift or praise. They will kill their own sons born from their wombs. Only a fool will expect to find affection in these cruel creatures, mildness in these hardhearted ones, and sweetness in these soured hags. So, cast off all idea of suicide for the sake of the loss of such a woman. Rejoice rather that you are rid of her by her own fault.’ The crocodile said,, ‘Friend, what you say has a great deal of truth in it. But what shall I do now ? I have lost my wife, and my home has become desolate. I have also lost your affection. I have suffered a double calamity like the farmer’s wife. “What is that story?” asked the monkey. Then the crocodile narrated the story of “The Farmer’s Wife“.

When he had finished it, another water animal came and told the crocodile, “Your home, left desolate after the death of your wife, has been invaded and occupied by a powerful crocodile, your rival.’ Hearing this, Karalamukha became still more sad and thought, ‘Fate is indeed very hard on me. My friend is alienated, my wife is dead, and my home is in the hands of my enemy. What more will happen I cannot say. Verily, misfortunes do not come single. How shall I drive out this invader of my home ? Shall I deal with him by good words, or by gifts, or shall I stir up his enemy against him, or shall I fight him myself ? It is best to consult this wise monkey, for, that scheme which is discussed with and approved by the wise will never fail.’ Thinking thus, he, asked the monkey for his advice. 

The monkey said, ‘You do not deserve any help from me since you have done me harm ‘ The crocodile replied, ‘What is the special merit in doing good to those who have done good to you ? Virtue lies in doing good to one who has done harm to you. Ah me, what am I to do now? I have lost my wife and house” and shed tears. The monkey said, “You fool, this is the time for action, not for tears. Ungrateful as you are, I pity you for the sake of our old friendship which you betrayed. Don’t be dejected at this crisis. Assume courage, and go and fight with that rival crocodile. One should gain over the best by prostration, the powerful by setting up another against him, the mean by a small gift, and one’s own equal by a straight fight. Hear the story of the jackal and be convinced.’ He then related the story of “The Jackal’s Four Foes“. He went on: “Never leave your home for a foreign place simply because of enemy occupation, calamity, scarcity of food, etc. Remember the story of “The Dog who went Abroad“. What is that story?” asked the crocodile. The’ monkey then narrated that story and said, “Now go back to your home, fight the enemy with determination and kill him and live happily. The crocodile thanked him profusely, plunged into the depths with sudden resolution, fought with the rival crocodile ferociously, killed him, and lived in peace and happiness ever after. 

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