The Panchatantra – Story 13a


The tortoise Kambugriva was living in a pond. He had two geese friends named Sankata and Vikata and was passing his time merrily with them. Then a big drought came and the wafer of the pond began to dry up rapidly. The geese said to each other, ‘This pond has almost dried up. We must go to another pond. Let us go to our old friend Kambugriva and consult with him.’ They accordingly told the tortoise about their resolution. 

He said, ‘I am a water animal. What is the use of your consulting me ? I shall soon die of lack of water and the grief of separation from you. If you have real friendship for me, you ought to find out a way for saving me also from death. For you, the absence of water means only scarcity of food ; for me, it means death, and death is a far greater calamity than scarcity of food.’ The geese replied, ‘We are unable to take a water animal like you along with us as you cannot fly. So what can we do ? Oh friend, fate is very hard on us.’ The tortoise replied “Even in times of calamity one should never give up courage as courage may show some way out. Even when a ship is wrecked on the wide ocean a traveler does not give up all hope but desperately thinks out some way of escape. It has been said by the great lawgiver Manu that a wise man always tries his best to save a friend or relative in times of calamity. So let us all think of some way out, for surely there must be one”. 

The three began to think vigorously. After some time the tortoise said, *I have found a way out. Bring a stick and place it horizontally. I shall cling to its middle firmly with my teeth and lips. You can each take one end and fly with me through the air keeping pace with each other. As soon as you sight a pond full of water you can alight with me, and all of us can live happily there.’ The geese replied, ‘This device is full of danger. If you utter even a syllable during our flight you will be thrown off from the stick and will fall from a great height and will be split to pieces.’ The tortoise said, I shall take a rigid vow of silence from now till the journey through the sky is over and I am landed safe in another pond. So, don’t be afraid to put this plan into execution.’ 


The geese then brought the stick, the tortoise clung to its middle with his teeth and lips, and the birds caught either end and flew with it at an even pace through the’ air but close to the ground in order to minimize the risk of a fall to the tortoise. Soon they passed over an adjoining town. The townsmen from below said to one another, ‘What is this cart-like thing the birds are flying with ?’, and a large and noisy crowd assembled. The tortoise was put out at the insulting remarks regarding himself and said, ‘What are these foolish people babbling about ?’ As soon as he began to utter this, he tell from the stick and dropped to the ground. Some meat-eaters in the crowd saw him fall and killed him .at once with a sharp knife, and divided his meat among themselves. 

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