The Panchatantra – Story 15

THE CUNNING JACKAL

In a forest there lived a lion, Vajradamshtra with three counsellors, a jackal called chaturaka and a wolf and a camel. One day he fought a wild tusker which gored him badly before he could kill it. The lion lay in his cave for several days suffering from pain and hunger and unable to go and hunt. He told his counsellors, the wolf, the jackal and the camel, “Kill some creature and bring it to me. I am dying of starvation.” They were unable to kill anything. Then the jackal, Chaturaka, said to himself : “If this camel were to be killed, then all of us can live on his carcass for a few days. My master is not willing to kill him because he is his friend and counsellor. So I must devise a trick by which the camel will agree to be killed. He went and told the camel, “Friend, our master lacks food and is starving. If the master dies, we will also die So, I have a suggestion to make to you which will be for your benefit as well as the master’s. Listen to it carefully.” 

“I am all ears,” said the camel. “I shall unhesitatingly do as you say. Besides, one earns merit being of use to his master.” The jackal said, “My dear fellow, give your body to him at a hundred per cent interest so that when you are dead you may get a new life with two hundred percent vigour. The master also will prolong his life by your generous act.” The camel agreed and only stipulated that the god of death should guarantee the bargain.

The jackal went and told the lion that they three had searched in vain for a creature to use as food. The lion was deeply dejected. The jackal then said : “But there is one glad tiding. Our friend, the camel, is willing to give his body to you, if you call upon the god of death to witness and promise that you will render his body back with a hundred per cent interest.” The lion accepted the offer and thanked the camel for his generous act. He called the god of death to witness, as requested, and then killed the camel. The wolf and the jackal tore the body of the camel and made it ready for eating. But the jackal wanted the entire carcass of the camel for himself. He devised a plan. The lion’s body was smeared with blood, and so he said to the lion, “Master, you must go to the river and bathe and come. I shall be here with the wolf and guard the camel’s carcass. The lion went to the river to bathe. 

When the lion was away, the jackal said to the wolf, “Friend Wolf, you are starving. You can eat a little bit of the camel before our master returns. 1 will explain it to our master. The hungry wolf had one big bite at the camel’s heart. The jackal then cried out, “Stop, stop, our master is coming.” The lion returned and the camel had its heart missing. He roared angrily : ”Who feasted on this camel before me., forcing me to eat the leavings ? I shall kill him before proceeding to eat the meat.” The wolf gazed at the jackal’s face as much as to say, “Explain to him as you said.” But the jackal laughed and said: “Come, come brother wolf. You ate the camel’s heart. Why are you looking at me?” The wolf fled for his life on hearing these words, fearing the wrath of the lion. 

The lion chased him for a long distance and then turned back thinking, “Why should I kill him for this petty fault ?” When he was returning, he heard a tremendous jingling of bells tied to camels’ necks. A caravan was passing that way, and the bells were tied to the camels in the caravan. The lion asked the jackal; “My good friend, what this horrible noise ?” The jackal went into the forest and returned and said, “Run, master, run. You are in great danger.” “From whom ?” asked the lion. “The god of death, whom you called to witness before you killed the camel, is coming to demand from you two hundred per cent of the camel, as you promised, on pain of death.” When the lion heard this, he ran for dear life leaving the dead camel. Then the jackal ate the camel bit by bit for many a long day in perfect peace and security. 

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