The Panchatantra – Story 33


There was once a King called Sivi(Or, King Shibi) to whom all the ‘Kings of India did homage. Sivi was the embodiment of mercy and was the prince among givers. No man in distress or misery appealed to him in vain. His fame for charity spread to heaven. Indra, the King of the celestials, thought : ‘There is no giver of charity equal to Sivi. What is his real idea in giving such unbounded gifts ? Is he merely playing for fame, or has he got a passion for succoring the helpless ? What is the extent of his resources? Will they stop with the treasures in his treasury or will he even go further ?’ In order to find out an answer to these questions, he called Yama and thought out a plan with him. 

One morning, Sivi, after finishing his ablutions, had come and taken his seat in the hall of Justice, Indra took the form of a dove and flew across the palace gardens to the hall of justice closely pursued by Yama, who had assumed the shape of a falcon. The dove dropped at the feet of Sivi exhausted and trembling and with eyes scared with fear. Its state was such as to excite the pity of the most pitiless man. It said to Sivi in a voice trembling with fear, ‘O King, I seek thy protection. Save me from the falcon.’ Scarcely had it said this than the falcon reached the spot, prostrated before Sivi and said in a loud voice, ‘ O King, release the dove. Give hungry me the food which ought to be mine ‘ The pigeon said. ‘Sire, it is your duty to protect me as I have sought your asylum. Good men are always ready to sacrifice even their own lives for protecting those who have sought their asylum.’ The falcon said, ‘O King, you are reputed to grant every unfortunate or aggrieved person his request. So you ought to give up this pigeon which is my legitimate food, I am dying of hunger.’ 

The King, being naturally of a very kind disposition and yet resolved not to deviate from the path of justice, was bewildered, and his mind was unsettled like a man in a swing. He said to the falcon at last, ‘Good men will never give up those who seek their asylum. I shall see that as much meat as you want is given to you from the palace kitchen. So, leave the pigeon.’ The falcon said, ‘We falcons never eat meat killed by others. We eat only living meat warm with the newly dripping blood. If you are prepared to give me your flesh equal to the weight of this pigeon, I shall accept it instead.’ All right, I shall give my flesh’ said Sivi. Hearing this reply, the assembled Kings and citizens raised a huge wail. 

They said, ‘Sire, don’t be rash. This is a demon in the shape of a falcon come to bring about your destruction.’ Sivi heeded not this warning. True to his plighted word he had the balance in the treasury brought. The pigeon was put in one of the pans. He cut chunks of flesh from his thighs and other fleshy parts and put them in the other pan. But they did not weigh anything like the dove. He cut from more and more limbs and put more and more pieces of flesh, but still the weight was not equal to that of the dove’s. Then he bowed to the all- righteous God and himself got into the pan. Immediately the drums and bugles of heaven resounded at this unheard-of act of sacrifice. There was a profuse rain of flowers from the sky, and their marvelous scent spread all over the world. Unseen voices said from all the ten directions(North, North-East, East, South-East. South, South-West, West, North-West, above (the heavens), and below (the earth)) ‘Well done, well-done.’ Then Indra and Yama appeared in their own forms and said to the King. ‘Well-done, O King. We have realized your burning love for animals. You alone have known the real truth. Your body will again be whole and unhurt as before. May your inexhaustible wealth be always spent in acts of virtue for benefiting all created beings,’ and they disappeared. 

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