The Panchatantra – Story 32


There was a Brahmin called Haridatta. He had a  worthless field which yielded scanty crops hardly sufficient  for the maintenance of himself, his wife and son. One  day, while watching this field with its scanty crop, he  dozed under a tree. When he opened his eyes, he was  astonished to see a terrible snake coming out of an ant-hill  in the field, spreading its hood. “Ah,” said he, “this  must be the guardian serpent of my field to which I have  not paid honour and, therefore, I am suffering the pangs  of poverty. I shall worship it, and it will give me wealth  in return(The Hindus believe that serpents have got treasures and will  make gifts to those who worship them)”. He went home hurriedly, brought some  milk in a small mud pot, and placed it in the mouth of  the hole, crying out, “O divine serpent, be gracious unto  me suffering from dire poverty”. The serpent drank the  milk with relish and was highly pleased, The next  morning when Haridatta went to the spot, he found a  gold coin left in the mud pot and took it to be a gift  from the serpent in return for the milk. 

Everyday  thereafter, Haridatta gave the serpent a pail of milk and  worshiped it, and used invariably to find a gold coin  in the cup next morning. One day, he had to go on a journey to a nearby town, and so asked his son to take  the milk to the ant-hill and worship the snake. The son  did so and was surprised to find a gold coin in the cup.  He said to himself : “Surely, this ant-hill is full of gold  coins which this serpent guards. This miserable serpent  is giving me only one gold coin.” So, when offering milk  to the serpent the next day, the boy suddenly struck the  snake on the head with a stout cudgel in order to kill it  and dig up the ant-hill and take away all the gold coins.  The blow missed the serpent, which, in terrible anger, stung the boy, who died almost immediately. 

The father, on his return, learnt the news, and with sorrow cremated  the boy. Feeling his poverty again, especially after  incurring the funeral expenses, he took a cup of milk once  more to the ant-hill, put it there, and worshiped the snake  with a desire to get the gold coin in return, as usual.  He cried out, “It was not your fault, O serpent, that you  stung my son. He brought it on himself by trying to  kill you, and you acted only in self-defense.” The  snake replied: “O Brahmin, the bond of love between us  is snapped by my killing your son, whatever the justification. You can never really love me hereafter. Your  son’s corpse will be an impassable barrier between us.  We can never be friends again. So, go away in peace,  and I am also leaving this ant-hill with its bitter  memories.” 

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