The Panchatantra – Story 13c

THE SPARROW’S ALLIES AND THE ELEPHANT

In a forest there was a sparrow couple living in a nest on a branch of a big tree. The female bird had just laid her eggs. The next day an elephant went that way and took refuge in the shade of that tree from the burning heat of the midday sun. In sheer wantonness he caught hold of the branch where the sparrow’s nest was and severed it from the tree. All the sparrow’s eggs were thrown down and shattered to pieces. By sheer luck, the parent sparrows escaped being killed. The mother sparrow bewailed the loss of her eggs most bitterly. Hearing her wails, a neighbouring woodpecker, her intimate friend, came. Ascertaining the cause of her grief, he said to her, ‘Friend, what is the use of this weeping? Wise men do not grieve for the dead or for what is past and irrevocable. This is the difference between wise men and fools. The fool who weeps for the dead gets only a double pain, the pain caused by the death and the pain caused by the weeping. Further, we should not weep for our dead relatives as our tears would reach them and afflict them in the next world. We should merely think out ways of avenging their deaths to the best of our ability.’ 

The mother sparrow said, ‘You are right. But this wicked elephant has caused the death of my offspring out of sheer wantonness in the excess of his pride. If you are really my friend, think out some way of killing this monster of an elephant. By his death I shall get some relief from the grief I feel at the loss of my dear ones He who takes revenge on those who do him injury and those who laugh at his calamities is considered to have got a spiritual re-birth.’ The woodpecker replied. ‘You have uttered the truth. It has been said, “He alone is – a real friend who helps us in adversity. All will be friends in times of prosperity. He who stands by us in adversity is a well-wishers, he who feeds us is a father unto us, he who trusts us is a friend, and she who makes us happy is a wife.” You will soon see proofs of my great friendship for you and also of my wisdom. There is my good friend, Vinarava(One whose music is like that of a Vina), the bee. I shall bring her along. She will know how to kill this wicked elephant”.

Then he went to the bee with the female sparrow and told her, ‘Friend, this female sparrow is my neighbour and friend. She is grieving for the loss of her eggs which were broken by a wicked elephant. You must find out some way of killing this wicked elephant and thus oblige me.’ The bee replied, ‘Friend, I need hardly tell you and this lady how deeply I feel this calamity. I have got an intimate friend called Meghaduta the frog. Let us call him and then act as we think best. It has been said, ‘An act done after consulting our well-wishers, virtuous people, politicians, wise men, and learned persons will never miscarry”.’ Then the three went to Meghaduta and told him everything He said, ‘When great persons like us are put out, what problem will this contemptible fool of an elephant be? 

Oh, friend bee, you go and hover about the elephant’s eyes singing and attempting repeatedly to sting. Fearing that you will sting his eyes he will shut them. Then the wood-pecker will rapidly pick out one eye with his iron beak. Roaring with the pain, and panic-stricken, the elephant will run shutting the other eye also. The wood-pecker will follow and pick out the other eye too. The elephant will be madly rushing about for some pond to rest in and wash his blood-smeared face. I shall then station myself at the edge of a deep abyss and croak. The blind fool, hearing this sound, will think that there would be a pond close to the place and would rush in the direction of my voice and tumble over and be crushed to death.’ The bee, the wood-pecker and the frog did as planned. The unfortunate elephant closed his eyes in order to save them from being stung, and the determined wood-pecker picked out both his eyes. The maddened elephant rushed about for a pond to rest in and wash his face. The frog stationed himself at the edge of a deep abyss and croaked. The elephant took the familiar sound to mean the existence of a pond in that direction, blindly rushed thither, fell over the precipice, and was crushed to death. 

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