The Panchatantra – Story 4

THE KING’S SWEEP

In the city of Vardhamana(Modern Burdwan) there was a big merchant and banker called Dantila. He was the mayor of the town and managed all its affairs. He also administered the King’s privy-purse. He pleased both the King and the citizens and was universally popular. It has been said ‘He who is beloved of the King is hated by the subjects, and he who is beloved of the subjects is hated by the King. The opposition between the interests of Kings and their subjects being great, and both subjects and Kings being equally exacting, the men who do the work of both and please both equally are rare.’ Dantila was one of those rare men. 

Once Dantila had to celebrate the marriage of his daughter. He invited all the citizens and courtiers, received them suitably, gave them a sumptuous dinner, and sent them away with presents of costly clothes. After the marriage was over, the King and his queens were invited to visit the house and bless the newly-married couple. They readily agreed to do so. On the appointed day, several palace officials and servants went to the mayor’s house in advance. Among them was the King’s household sweep called Gorabha. This man did not follow the ceremonial rules observed on such occasions. He went and occupied the seat intended for the palace priest and would not leave it though requested. He was therefore summarily necked out of the house under the orders of Dantila. The King and queens arrived later, were received and entertained suitably, and were escorted back to the palace by Dantila at nightfall. 

Gorabha was enraged at the insult to him and could not get any sleep that night. He thought to himself ‘How am I to avenge this insult ? Can I make Dantila incur the King’s displeasure and thus bring him to disgrace? Or, are all these plans of revenge in vain, and will they merely make me thinner and thinner by useless thinking and pining? Will I be able to do him no injury at all? The wise men have said “He is a shameless man who is unable to avenge a wrong and yet gets angry at it. He is as despicable as a mustard seed which jumps up in anger when being fried, but is utterly unable to break the frying pan it is angry with.” Still, though I am a humble sweep and he is a mighty merchant and banker and the lord mayor and the King’s privy-purse to boot, I shall show him that I am not so easily to be insulted.’ 

He is a shameless man who is unable to avenge a wrong and yet gets angry at it. He is as despicable as a mustard seed which jumps up in anger when being fried, but is utterly unable to break the frying pan it is angry with.

Gorabha in Mitrabheda, Panchatantra

It was Gorabha’s duty to sweep the royal bedchamber early in the morning before the King got up from bed. The morning after the insult, when the King was lying awake in bed, preliminary to getting up, Gorabha, while sweeping the bed-room, muttered loudly to himself ‘How bold this Dantila is that he dares to embrace the first queen of our King I ’ Hearing this, the King speedily rose and calling the sweep to his side asked him ‘Gorabha, is what you muttered now true ? Is it a fact that Dantila actually embraced my first queen ?’ The sweep replied ‘Sire, owing to keeping awake late at night playing with dice, I was overpowered by sleep even while sweeping here and so do not know what I myself said just now.’ 

The King said to himself ‘This sweep and Dantila are the only stranger males having free access to the queens’ apartments. So this man might have seen Dantila secretly embrace the first queen. I too observed last evening the excessive deference Dantila was paying to this queen above the other queens and a slight graciousness on her part towards him. I attributed it to common courtesy, but this sweep’s story naturally places it in a different light. It is well known that what a man wishes for, sees or does during his waking hours, he speaks of or does in a dream by reason of its being constantly on his mind, That which is uppermost in the minds of people can be known by their raving about it in sleep and when under the effects of drink though it is closely guarded at other times. 

Again, there is nothing incredible about a woman’s loving a man other than her husband. Women speak with one person while throwing glances at another and thinking of a third. Who can say whom- they really love ? Fire is not satisfied with the fuel it gets, the ocean is not satisfied with the rivers that fall into it, the god of death with the number of creatures that fall victims to him, and women with the number of men admiring them. Besides, I have many queens and have not of late paid as much attention to this one as I should have. It is therefore quite possible that yearning for love and admiration she allowed Dantila to embrace her. Oh, what an unfortunate man I am !’ Thinking and grieving like this, he became terribly displeased with Dantila and forbade the sentries to allow him access any more into the palace. 

Fire is not satisfied with the fuel it gets, the ocean is not satisfied with the rivers that fall into it, the god of death with the number of creatures that fall victims to him, and women with the number of men admiring them.

King in Mitrabheda, Panchatantra

Dantila went to the palace that morning as usual and was astonished to see the sentries obstructing his entry. ‘How dare you prevent my entry ?’ he asked. ‘Sir, don’t be offended with us; such are the King’s orders,’ said they. ‘The King’s orders ? Why, the King is my best friend and would never have issued such orders,’ said the astounded merchant. ‘Well, Sir, the King must have been very displeased with you. In any event, these are our orders, and we must obey them’ was the reply. Dantila was very much puzzled at this sudden and inexplicable displeasure of the King. He thought to himself ‘What can be the reason for all this? I see none’. 

But the wise men have said “Who has not become proud by acquiring wealth, which sensualist has not come to trouble some time or other, who has not been disappointed by woman, which man has been really loved by a King, which man has succeeded in escaping death, which suppliant has been respected, and which man caught in the nets of the wicked has come out safe ? Who has ever seen or heard of cleanliness in a crow, truth in a gambler, forbearance in a serpent, satisfied love in a woman, courage in an impotent man, philosophy in a drunkard, and friendship in a King ?’’ Still, I have never done the least injury even in my dreams to the King or his relatives. Then, how is it that the King is displeased with me?

Seeing Dantila standing thus unable to secure admission into the palace, the sweep Gorabha said to the sentries laughingly ‘Friends, this is the famous Dantila who taking foul advantage of the King’s favour towards him till recently was showering favours and meting out punishments himself. As he ejected me the other day and necked me out, so you had better neck him out to-day. Hearing this, Dantila thought to himself ‘Surely, this fellow Gorabha is at the bottom of all this mischief. Well have the wise men said “Even a low-born fool devoid of honour is universally respected the moment he begins to serve the King. A virtuous person does not get even a fraction of the honour which a mean wretch who serves the King gets’’.’ 

Grieving thus, he quickly returned home deeply humiliated at the insult. Further reflection convinced him of the necessity of placating the wretched sweep so that he might undo the mischief he had done. So in the night he sent for Gorabha, gave him a pair of fine clothes, and said ‘Friend, I didn’t insult you from pride. Because you went and occupied the palace priest’s seat and would not leave it you suffered the insult of being turned out.’ ‘The sweep reached the seventh heaven of joy on being •given such fine clothes and said ‘I have pardoned that insult. You will soon see the fruit of this princely gift to me in the restoration of the King’s favour.’ Saying this, he left the merchant in high glee. It has been aptly said that the action of a mean wretch and that of the beam of a balance are very similar. A very little is enough to make the beam of the balance go up or go down. Similarly, a very little is enough to elate or irritate a mean wretch. 

The next morning, Gorabha, while sweeping the royal bed chamber when the King was lying awake in bed, muttered to himself loudly ‘Our King is sadly lacking in wisdom and decency as he is eating cucumbers daily when easing himself.’ Hearing this, the King called him to his side and said ‘Gorabha, what a lie you are uttering! Simply because you are my domestic servant I am refraining from killing you on the spot. Wretch, did you ever see me eating cucumbers while easing myself ?’ The sweep replied ‘Sire, owing to keeping awake late at night playing with dice, I was overpowered by sleep even while sweeping here and so do not know what I myself said just now. So please forgive me for what I uttered in my sleep’. The King said to himself ‘I have never once in my life eaten cucumbers when easing myself, so this raving idiot has uttered an absurdly false thing about me in his sleep’. There is no doubt that what he said yesterday about Dantila must also be equally false. So it was most improper on my part to have behaved towards Dantila thus. The poor man has been unnecessarily insulted by me. Such noble persons never act in the way this wretched sweep alleged in his sleep. Owing to my act in forbidding Dantila entry into the palace, my affairs and the affairs of the citizens are suffering.’ Thinking thus, he sent for Dantila, presented him with costly clothes and ornaments, and restored him to his former office and authority. 

Liked our post? Share it with everybody!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.