THE CAMEL TRAPPED
There was a big merchant called Sagaradatta. He once started from his native city on a trading expedition with a hundred camels laden with bales of costly clothes. One of these camels called Vikata was overloaded. All his limbs were tired out by the crushing burden, and he fell down motionless. Then the merchant distributed his bales among the other camels, and, saying ‘The forest here is fearful. It is impossible for me to stop here,’ started again on his journey, leaving Vikata to his fate, A long time after the merchant had gone, the camel was able to wander about slowly and eat the green grass of the forest and to drink the spring water. In some days he became strong again.
In that forest there was a lion called Madodkata. He had three attendants, a leopard, a crow, and a jackal- When wandering about with these followers, he saw the strange, unknown, and ludicrous figure of this camel abandoned by the merchant and said, ‘What a curious animal this is – I Find out whether he is a denizen of the forest or of the villages.’ The crow who knew about the camel said, ‘This is a domestic animal known in the world as the camel, and will make a delicious meal for you.’ The lion said, ‘I shall never kill one who comes to my house in confidence. It is sail, “He who kills even an enemy who goes to his house confiding in him and seeking Abhayam(Promise of safety) will be guilty of a sin equal to killing a Brahmin.” So give him abhayam and bring him to me so that I may ask him the object of his coming here.’
The three attendants gave a promise of safety to the camel and took him to the lion. After the camel had prostrated, the lion asked him how he came to be in the forest. The camel told his story. Then the lion said, ‘Oh, Vigata, don’t go back to your town to carry any more heavy loads. Remain in the forest with me and eat the emerald grass.’ The camel did as advised, wandered about the forest without fear or danger, and became the fourth attendant of the lion. Some Time afterwards, the lion sustained serious injuries in a fight with an elephant who had gored him with his mighty tusks. He was consequently confined to his cave. When five days had passed thus, the lion and his three carnivorous attendants were all dying with hunger for lack of food owing to the lion’s not being able to go out and kill animals. The camel alone was as fat as ever by eating his usual grass.
Seeing his followers suffering thus, the lion said to them, ‘Owing to these accursed wounds and the consequent illness I am not able to bring food for you as before. So, exert yourselves and get some animal for you to eat.’ They replied, ‘What do we care for the nourishment of our miserable bodies when your Majesty is in such a precarious state ?’ The lion said. These words show your devotion, love and loyalty towards me. All right, then, bring me an animal as tribute during this period of incapacity so that we may all partake of it.’ When the followers did not make any reply, he again said to them, ‘Away with this false shame ! Go and find out some animal and tell me. Even though I am in this state I shall come and kill it and provide food for you.’
So the four followers began to wander about in search of animals. They however saw not a single one. The jackal and the crow then held secret converse together. The jackal said, ‘Oh friend crow, what is the use of all this aimless wandering when this trusted follower of our master, this fat camel Vikata, can be slaughtered by us and can, with his flesh, enable us to pursue life’s weary journey for some days ?’ The crow replied, ‘Friend, what you say is true, but this camel has been promised safety by our master and so cannot be killed by us.’ The jackal said, ‘Well said, I shall so represent the matter to our master that he will give permission for the camel’s slaughter.’ Then the jackal told all the others three loudly, ‘Friends, remain here “till I go to our master and obtain his orders as to what we are to do in the present circumstances.’
With this, (he started at once for the lion’s den. Going to the lion, the jackal said, ‘Sire, we have wandered all over the forest and are now dying with .hunger and unable to proceed one foot further from fatigue. Your majesty also direly needs wholesome meat in jour sickness. If your Majesty so orders, the requisite wholesome meat can be got to-day itself by killing Vikata.’ The lion, hearing these cruel words, became very angry and said, ‘Fie, fie you wretch ! If you repeat this sinful proposal I shall certainly kill you on the spot. I have guaranteed Vikata against all harm and fear. Tell me then, how I can myself kill him. Have not the wise men said that the gift of Abhayam, of immunity from all harm, is the best of ail gifts and is nobler far than the gift of a cow, or of lands, or of food?’ Hearing this, the jackal said, ‘If after guaranteeing to him immunity from all harm, you yourself should kill him, you will no doubt commit in; but, if he himself were of his own accord to fall at your Majesty’s feet and offer his life, then there will be no sin in killing him. If one offers himself for killing, there is surely no harm in killing him, If your Majesty does not agree to this also, then you must eat one of us, your other three attendants, because you are 4aow in dire need of wholesome meat. If owing to hunger your Majesty were to die, what will be the use of your friends?
If Your Majesty were to die, all of us have no other go but to fall on your funeral pyre and accompany you. It has’ been well said that the head of a family should be well protected by all the members, for, if he is lost, the family is lost. If the nave of a wheel breaks, how can the spokes go on ?’. Hearing this, Madodkata said, ‘Do as yon like’. The jackal returned to the other three and said, ‘Our master is in a precarious state. His breath is about to depart for ever from his nostrils. If he dies, who will- protect us in this forest ? So, let us go and offer our own bodies to him so that he may not die from hunger. By thus serving our master, we shall go to the other world free from our debt of gratitude to him. It has been said: ” That servant who is alive and sees adversity overtake his master without trying to sacrifice his life for him will assuredly go to hell”.’
Then all the four went, and, after saluting the lion,, sat near him with eyes streaming with tears. Seeing them, Madodkata asked, ‘ Have you got or seen any animal for food ?’ The crow replied, ‘ Sire, we wandered all over the forest but did see or get a single animal for food. So, kindly eat me and preserve your precious life for to-day. Thereby, I shall get my master’s pleasure here below and heaven up above. It is said, ” He who sacrifices his life for his master out of devotion will certainly get immortality in heaven and be for ever free from old age and death(The denizens of Heaven are free from old age and death and arc gifted with perpetual youth)” Hearing this, the jackal said, ‘You are a tiny thing, oh crow. By eating you, our master can never save his life. Moreover, by eating you, he will incur sin. It has been said, ” A crow’s meat and the remnant of a dog’s meal well be both small in quantity and unhealthy to eat. Even if eaten, nobody will be satisfied with such tiny morsels.” You have oh crow, shown your devotion to our master. The fame of your goodness has spread in earth and heaven by this your act. So, get out of the way. I too must petition our master.’
The jackal bowed before the lion most respectfully and said, ‘Sire, save your precious life by eating me, and thus grant me immortality in heaven and immortal fame on earth. It has been well said ” The lives of servants being sustained by the wealth derived from the master, there is no sin committed by taking them in times of necessity”.’Hearing this, the leopard who too had been taken into the conspiracy by the cow and the jackal, said ‘Oh, jackal, you have said well. But you too are a tiny thing and besides are of the same caste as our master, being a clawed animal, and are as such unfit to be eaten(By the theory of extended caanibalism). It has been said ” Wise men should not eat forbidden things even if their lives are ebbing at their throats from hunger. Verily, the forbidden things cause the loss of both the worlds though the quantity taken be ever so little.” You have shown your nobility of soul. It has been said by the wise ” It is for this reason that Kings keep round them noble persons, for they do not change in the beginning or the middle or the end of their service but always remain devoted to the affairs of their master.” Now, move aside, let me also petition our master.’
The leopard bowed before the lion and said, Sire, save your precious life by eating me and grant me thus everlasting fame on earth and immortality in heaven. There is no need for you to hesitate, for it has been said Those servants who die for the sake of their masters and are obedient to them, get immortal abodes in heaven and undying fame on earth”.’ Hearing this, the camel thought, ‘ All these three have given expression to most beautiful sentiments, and yet not one has been killed by our master. So, I too shall petition him in my turn. These three will frustrate my offer also and prevent its acceptance. Resolving thus, he said, ‘ Oh, leopard, you have said well. But you too are a clawed animal. So, how can our master eat you ? It has been well said: ” He who even in mind thinks of doing evil to his fellow castemen will lose both the worlds and be reborn as a worm on a dunghill.” So, move aside and let me too petition our master.’
Then the camel in his turn stood in front of the lion and after humbly bowing to him said, ‘ Sire, these three are not fit to be eaten by your Majesty. So, eat me and save your precious life. By this act, I shall gain both the worlds. It has been said : ” Those servants who sacrifice their lives for their masters get that state of heavenly bliss which neither those who perform sacrifices nor those who practice Yoga(Union with god by concentrated meditation) attain”.’ As soon as Vikata had said this, the lion gave a signal, and the leopard and jackal ripped open the poor camel’s stomach and the crow picked out his eyes, and poor Vikata gave up the ghost. His corpse was eaten by the lion and his three followers who were all dying with hunger.