The Panchatantra – Story 23


There is a city called Mahilarupya in the southern country. There is a great shrine of Siva there, and near that there is a monastery. In a cell in that monastery lived a hermit called Choodakarna (In some editions he is called Tamraehooda). He used to go about with his alms bowl begging in the city. That city was inhabited by rich men and so this hermit used to get various delicious things, like sweetmeats made of sugar and molasses, fine fruits like pomegranates and mangoes. He would return to his cell laden with such dainties. After eating his fill, he would put away the considerable balance carefully stored in his alms bowl for his servants to eat when they came in the morning, and used to hang the alms bowl on a peg on the wall and go to sleep at night. I used to go in the night with my followers and jump up and get into the alms bowl and take the dainties, and we used to live on them. The monk was very angry and used to keep the bowl on pegs higher up the wall. But still I had no difficulty in reaching the alms bowl and then to the rich food I was eating every night. The monk used to rattle his stick on the floor and the wall all through the night whenever he heard the noise of us rats creeping into the cell. But we skillfully eluded his stick and carried on our operations successfully. 

But one day. a friend of the monk, a horribly fat man called Brihaspati, with a big belly and bottom came to visit Choodakarna. Choodakarna received him cordially as he was his old friend and classmate, and both ate together from the dainties got that day, which were even more delicious and abundant than usual. After taking their meal, Choodakarna put the remaining delicacies in the alms bowl which he hung up on a high peg on the wall. Then he asked Brihaspati, ” Tell me where had you been all these days and what have you seen in all the regions you passed through.” 

The other began : ” You remember that on the full Moon day in the month of Karthik long ago you and I were bathing at Pushkar(A sacred lake in Rajastan,8 miles from Ajmere, On its shores there a temple of Brahma). I was then parted from you in that great crowd and we lost sight of each other for a while. After wards I visited Haridwar, Prayag, Banares and other sacred places. I saw many wonderful things and had many interesting experiences ” While Brihaspati was narrating his story,, Choodakarna was constantly striking the alms bowl with his stick in order to scare me away, as I was busy inside the alms bowl taking the viands. Brihaspati was terribly put out at Choodakarna’s act, He said: “What, my friend, having asked me to tell you about my wanderings and experiences, you are so rude as to rattle your stick to show how bored you are?” 

Choodakarna replied : ” Friend, don’t be angry. I am not bored. There is a mouse here which comes with its followers and jumps up and reaches my alms bowl and eats away the remaining delicacies which I store there and I cannot prevent him whatever I do. I am constantly striking the alms bowl with my split bamboo stick in order to frighten and mitigate the loss of delicacies. That is the reason for my rattling with my stick.” 
Brihaspati asked ; ” Is this the only mouse here, or are there other mice ?” Choodakarna replied : ” There are other mice. But I do not trouble about them. It is this ringleader who is bold enough to defy me. The others will run away if he were not here. They are no problem. This mouse is always getting up and stealing the delicacies. He is a veritable sorcerer.” 

” There must be some reason for its boldness and defiance,” said Brihaspati. “It is not for nothing that Mother Sandili wanted to exchange husked sesamum for unhusked sesamum,” “What is that story?” asked Choodakarna. Then Brihaspati narrated the story of “Mother Chandili’s Bargain.” After narrating the story, Brihaspati asked Choodakarna for a spade and begun to dig my hole with it. I was flabbergasted, for I had hidden a good quantity of gold and lot of provisions in my hole, and feared for their loss. But I dare not interfere lest I should be killed on the spot. The two fellows took away my gold and provisions and divided the gold half and half and sat down quite pleased with themselves. Fearing that if I remained there any longer, with my home gone and property stolen, I might be caught and lose my life also, I left that place for another place along with my followers. 

My followers complained to me that they were terribly hungry, that they wanted something to eat and that it was worthwhile to take the risk in going and trying to take the delicacies from the alms bowl of Choodakarna. So we went. When Choodakarna heard the noise of our entry, be began to strike the alms bowl with the split bamboo stick.” Brihaspati asked him : ” Why are you rattling your stick ?” 
“The wretched mouse is here again,” said Choodakarna. ” Don’t be afraid of that any more,” said Brihaspati. “His home gone, his property gone, the fellow is as good as dead and can do nothing.” I was enraged on hearing this and jumped up in the direction of the alms bowl. But, owing to my not having had any delicacy for some time, I was unable to reach the alms bowl and fell helplessly to the ground. On hearing the thud of my fall, Brihaspati gave me a terrific blow with his bamboo stick. As in the story of ” The Votary of Fate“‘ I escaped the deadly blow. “What is that story?” asked Mantharaka. Hiranyaka told him that story. Then he continued : Brishaspati said to Choodakarna, ” See, my friend, see. His property gone, the fellow’s power is gone. Sleep undisturbed.” 

I was dejected at the remarks which were true for every person’s power goes when his home and property go. I lost all hope of getting good food as before from that house. My followers became discontented saying “What is the good of following this fellow who cannot give us our food and, indeed, cannot get his own.” No wonder, they say that a man with wealth is handsome, of noble family, learned, eloquent and gracious. When a man’s wealth goes not only do people cease to respect him and follow him, but his capacity visibly diminishes and his understanding becomes less and his undertakings fail and he is like a dried up brook. Even his wife and sons and relatives cease to respect him and may desert him though they may come back to him when he is rich again. Empty is a man’s heart when he has no friends, and no food. He has the same name, the same mind, the same voice and the same faculties. But once his wealth goes, he is not the same man.

What a curious thing is this? I resolved to leave that place and go to a distant country, as I could not live any longer there with honour and self-respect. The life of a pauper is wretched. His mind becomes debilitated. He is the victim of false suspicious. He loses his dignity. Indeed, he is nothing better than a living corpse. Therefore, I left that old home of mine and went to a forest where I found Chitragriva caught in a net. After I had freed him, as you have already heard, Lagupathanaka favoured me with his friendship and asked me to go over here. So I came along with him to visit you, O Mantharaka.” 

”Don’t be depressed,” said Mantharaka, “Fate will not prevail against you ultimately even as it did not against Somilaka the weaver who fought against it.” “What is that story?” asked Laghupathanaka, and Mantharaka told him the story of “The Weaver Who Fought Against Fate

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