The Panchatantra – Story 24


There was once a merchant called Sagaradatta in the great city of Ujjain. One day, his son bought a book for a hundred rupees. The book had only one line of a quatrain in it, and that was ‘What Fate ordains for man will always come to pass’. After perusing the book Sagaradatta asked his son, ‘How much did you pay for this?’ He replied, ‘A hundred rupees.’ At this, his father said ‘Fie, you fool, you pay a hundred rupees for a book which has only a fourth part of a quatrain in it. How are you going to earn any money with this idiotic intelligence ? So, leave my house at once’ and forth with drove him out. 

Greatly pained at his father’s treatment, the son’ went to the distant town of Kausambi and began to reside there. In a few days, some of the citizens of that town questioned him ‘Whence have you some? What is your name?’ He merely replied, ‘What Fate ordains for man will always come to pass.’ Whoever questioned him and whatever question was put, this was his invariable reply . So, he was nicknamed Mr. What-Fate-Ordains all over Kausambi. 

One day, the young and beautiful princess Chandramati, the only child of the King of Kausambi, went round the town with her principal lady-in-waiting. In the course of her progression, she happened to see in the main park the handsome and accomplished prince of Kasi who was on a visit to her father, She fell in love with him then and there and said to her lady-in-waiting, ‘My dear, you must somehow arrange for my meeting him this night. He has won my heart at the very first meeting. I must tell him about it and marry him forth-with according to the Gandharva rites which are allowed in our caste.’ At this, the lady-in-waiting went to the prince, took him’ aside, and said, ‘I have been sent to you by the princess Chandramati. She says to you, “At your very sight I have fallen head over ears in love with you, and am already suffering the extreme pangs of love. If you do not come and meet me this night, I shall die with grief’.

The prince replied, ‘If I were to come there tonight, how am I to enter her apartments ?’ The lady-in-waiting said, ‘We shall keep a stout rope on the wall of her palace. You can clamber up to her apartments with its aid.’ The prince replied, ‘If you will see to that, I shall come this night.’ Having fixed this up, the lady-in-waiting went to the princess and told her everything. 

The prince returned to his residence and thought over the matter deeply. He said to himself, ‘This thing should not be done by me. I am the guest of her father. It has been said, “He who seduces his preceptor’s daughters or his friend’s wife or daughter or a priest’s wife incurs the deadly sin of killing a Brahmin.” Again, it is said in the scriptures, “No man should do an act which will bring him into disrepute or will lead him to ruin or will spoil his career.” The act I am asked to do will assuredly bring me into disgrace, will spoil my career, and may also land me in ruin. Besides, I shall incur deadly sin by thus secretly consorting with my friend’s daughter. I shall therefore abandon this mad and unworthy project. The princess will surely get over this momentary infatuation in course of time.’ So he did not keep the appointment. 

Mr. What-Fate-Ordains was taking a walk in the town that night. Seeing the rope by the side of the palace wall, he clambered up to the princess’s apartments by its means. The princess, who was eagerly awaiting the prince, mistook him for the prince in the dense darkness. Rapturously embracing him, she said to him in ecstasy, ‘I gave my heart to you as soon as I saw you. I shall never think of marrying another even in mind. Why are you silent ?’ He replied, ‘ What Fate ordains for man will always come to pass.’ The princess was stupefied by this reply as she knew thereby that she had embraced and promised to marry Mr, What-Fate-Ordains and not the prince of her heart. When she had recovered from her confusion, she quickly made the fellow climb down by the rope. She then pulled the rope up so that there might be no more misadventures. 

The votary of fate, thus ejected from the palace, went to a dilapidated temple and slept there. A constable who had an assignation with a prostitute that night in that ruined temple went there and found this man sleeping. In order to have the place for himself and to keep the secret from this stranger,, the constable woke him up and asked, ‘Who are you?’ The other replied, ‘What Fate ordains for man will always come to pass.’ The constable made out by this who the sleeper was, and said to him, * This temple is dilapidated. Why should you sleep here ? You can go and sleep on my bed in my house hardly a hundred yards from here. As I shall be on night duty, I shall not be inconvenienced in the least,’ With this, he directed the other to his house. 

Mr. What-Fate-Ordains entered the room of the constable’s daughter by mistake, and approached her bed. The constable’s daughter, Vinayavati, was a beautiful girl who had long ago attained her age but had not been given away in marriage as the young man she loved and wanted to marry was objected to by her father on account of his poverty. Taking advantage of her father’s absence, she had made an appointment that night with her young man in her own house with a view to marry him according to Gandharva rites and force her father to accept this marriage. The young man was going to her house according to the appointment when from a distance he saw the constable and the votary of Fate talking together and later on the votary of Fate being sent to his house by the constable. 

Afraid that the appointment had become known to the constable and that the latter was laying a trap for him, the young man speedily returned to his own house without keeping the appointment. Seeing the votary of Fate approach her bed, Vinayavati mistook him for her young man in the pitch darkness, and so took him to her bed and had a Gandharva marriage with him. After the first raptures were over, she asked him with throbbing heart and eyes dilated with love ‘ Beloved, why are you silent on this memorable night ?’ He replied, ‘ What Fate ordains for man will always come to pass.’ Hearing this she was dumbfounded and thought to herself, ‘ This is the fruit of such rash and precipitate actions.’ Weeping profusely, she drove the unwanted man out.

Driven out from the constable’s house, Mr. What Fate-Ordains walked along the streets. He saw a big merchant called Varakirti from another city go along the streets on an elephant with many other elephants and music in procession to his intended bride’s house for celebrating his marriage. Mr. What-Fate-Ordains joined the procession and marched along with it to the bride’s house. The auspicious hour fixed for the marriage had approached, and the bride was already seated on the sacred platform in the pavilion ready for the ceremony. 

She was very beautiful and was decked in the most charming dress and ornaments imaginable. Just when Varakirti had got down from his elephant and was approaching the pavilion, the animal got out of control, killed its driver and ran amuck in the pavilion. The bridegroom and all his followers, and indeed almost everybody in the pavilion ran away in panic flight leaving the would-be bride unprotected. Seeing the terror-stricken eyes of the girl, Mr. What-Fate-Ordains went to the spot, sat by her side, took her hand in his, and said to her, ‘ Have no fear. I shall protect you.’ The girl clung to him from fear, and loved him then and there for his courage and his concern for her safety. The elephant was nonplussed by his brave stand and stood uncertain as to what to do. He then succeeded in driving the elephant out of the pavilion by some loud words of command usually used by elephant-drivers. 

Soon, the other mahouts were able to catch the unruly elephant and take it away from further mischief. Varakirti returned with his friends to the pavilion and was surprised to see his intended bride with her hand in another man’s(An essential ceremony in the Hindu marriage is the bridegroom’s taking the bride’s hand in his. So the marriage is called Panigrahana ‘Taking the hand’). So he asked the girl’s father indignantly, ‘Why have you given away the girl promised to me to another?’ The other replied, ‘I too ran away along with you owing to fear of the elephant. So I do not know anything about this.’ Then turning to his daughter, he said, ‘ My child, you have acted improperly. Tell me why you are sitting with your hand in this man’s when you were intended to be married to another’.

She replied – This man saved my life. While life lasts, I shall never marry another.’ At this reply, there was a very hot quarrel all through the night between Varakirti and his followers on one side and the girl’s relatives on the other. News of this big quarrel spread all through the town. Hearing that Mr. What-Fate*Ordains was involved in it, both the princess Chandramati and the constable’s daughter went to the spot out of curiosity. As the quarrel had developed into a big one and as Varakirti was a prominent banker of another kingdom, the King himself went to the spot to enquire into the matter. He asked Mr. What-Fate-Ordains ‘How did all this happen? Tell me the whole truth without fear.’ 

That worthy looked at the princess Chandramati, the constable’s daughter and the merchant’s daughter significantly, and said, ‘ What Fate ordains for man will always come to pass.’ Again, he looked at the princess as if expecting her to concur. She, thinking of her episode, said, ‘God Almighty himself can never this prevent.’ The votary of Fate then looked at the constable’s daughter. She said, * Therefore I neither rejoice nor grieve for what was.’ The merchant’s daughter, thinking of her own episode in the light of these observations, said, ‘ What is meant for me can never from me be sent.’ The King and all the onlookers were puzzled by the words of all the four. The King promised a full pardon to Mr. What-Fate-Ordains and the three maidens and asked them all to relate the whole truth. 

When they had related all their stories, the King said to Mr. What-Fate-Ordains ‘ You seem to be a favorite of Fate, and withal a brave and resourceful man. I have no son. So, marry my daughter and succeed to my kingdom. I shall give you a thousand villages and proclaim you as yuvaraj(Heir-apparent and viceroy during life) as soon as the marriage is over. I give you permission also to marry the constable’s daughter and the merchant’s daughter as you cannot but marry them under the circumstances.’ The lucky youth- married the three with great pomp and lived in perfect happiness with them and with his father and other relatives who became reconciled with him after this convincing proof of his ability. Taking the book which had been the cause of his original exile from home and subsequent happiness, he wrote out the three missing lines. His father one day took it again out of curiosity and read : — 

‘What Fate ordains for man will always come to pass, 

God Almighty himself cannot this prevent. 

Therefore I neither rejoice nor grieve for what was. 

What is meant for me can never from me be sent.’ 

‘Very true words’ said he to himself, ‘I wonder how much of all this happiness was brought about by Fate working through me.’ 

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