The Panchatantra – Story 44


There was in a certain well a frog King called Gangadatta. He was insulted by his relatives and managed slowly to climb out of the well by means of the rope of the machine for raising water. He then thought to himself ‘How can I revenge myself of these relatives? It has been said, “Only that man is blessed enough to be born again who takes vengeance upon him who has wronged him in times of adversity and him who rejoiced at his misfortunes”.’ While he was thinking thus, he saw a black serpent called Priyadarsana enter his hole. Seeing him, he thought, ‘ By taking this serpent into the well I shall destroy all my relatives root and branch. It has been said, “Destroy an enemy by using his enemy against him, send against a powerful man one even more powerful than he. In this way, no injury or grief will come to us. A wise man should for his own sake destroy his bitter and troublesome enemy by sending against him his bitter enemy even as a thorn is used to take out another thorn”.’ 

Having resolved thus, he went to the mouth of the hole and called out to the serpent, ‘Come out, O Priyadarsana.’ Hearing the call, the snake thought, ‘This person who is calling me is certainly not of my race as he is not talking in the language of snakes. None except snakes will have any friendship with me in this world. So let me remain in this fortress hole and see first who this caller is. It has been said, “One should not mix with another without knowing his race, character, abode and strength. Who knows if it is not some angry snake- charmer or medicine man who wants to catch and confine me ? Or, it may be some man anxious to poison his enemy and thinking of cutting me to pieces or mixing them in his food.’ Thinking thus, he cried out, ‘Who are you? 

The frog replied, ‘I am Gangadatta, the King of frogs, and have come to you for forming a friendship with you.’ On hearing this, the serpent said, ‘It is incredible. How can there be friendship between grass and the fire which burns it? He who is destined to be killed by another will never go near him even in a dream. So, what is the use of your babbling thus?’ Gangadatta said, ‘What yon say is true. You are indeed our natural enemy. But I have come to you after having met with defeat and insult at the hands of my enemies. It has been said, “When everything one has is about to be lost and when one’s life is in danger, the life and wealth should be protected even by calling in the enemy”.’ The serpent said, ‘Tell me, who are your enemies?’ The frog replied, *My relaties.’ The serpent said, ‘Where do you live, in a well or a pond, or a tank or a lake?.’ The frog replied, ‘In a well riveted with stones.’ The serpent said, ‘I am an animal without feet and creep on my belly. So I cannot come down this well. Even if I manage to do this, there is no place there for me to stay and kill your relatives. So go thy way. It has been said, “Only that should be eaten which is fit to be eaten and which, if eaten, can be digested. He who desires his welfare should eat only that which can be eaten without danger”.

Gangadatta said, ‘Oh, don’t worry. Come along. I shall show you an easy way of entering the well. There is a beautiful hole near the water level. Remaining there, you can easily kill my relatives.’ Hearing this, the serpent thought, ‘I am now pretty old. Once in a way I succeed in catching a mouse. This enemy of his family is showing me how to lead a life of ease and comfort. So, going along with him, I shall eat up the frogs. Well has it been said, “He who is helpless and whose life is nearing its end should unhesitatingly choose a course which would ensure for him a comfortable livelihood attended with every happiness”. Thinking like this, he said to the frog, ‘Oh, Gangadatta, if that be so, walk in front, and I shall follow.’ Gangadatta said, ‘Oh priyadarsana, I shall show you an easy way to the well and also a good spot to abide there. But you ought to leave my own family and servants alone. You are to eat only those frogs whom I point out to you.’ 

The serpent said, ‘Now that you have become my friend, I treat you and yours veritably like myself I shall eat only such relatives as you show me.’ So saying, he came out of his hole, embraced the frog, and started with him for the well. The frog led the serpent into the well by means of the rope of the water machine and securely established him in the cozy hole on the edge of the water. Then he showed him his relatives. The serpent ate up the relatives gradually. When they were all eaten up, he said to Gangadatta, ‘Friend, all your enemies have been killed and eaten. So kindly give me something to eat as you led me to this place.’ The frog replied, ‘Friend, you have finished your friendly act and rid me of my enemies. So, now, kindly climb up the rope of the water machine and leave this place.’ 

The serpent replied, ‘Oh, Gangadatta, your words are not proper. How can I go back to my former hole ? Some other snake must have occupied it long ago. So I shall continue to remain here. Give me every day one frog from your own people. Else, I shall swallow the whole lot now alone.’ Hearing this, Gangadatta, grown very sad, thought to himself, ‘What a folly have I committed in bringing this serpent here. If I refuse to comply with his demand now, he will eat us all up and extinguish my race. Well has it been said, “He who makes a superior enemy his friend verily drinks poison which will bring about his end.” So I shall give him every day one of my own people. It has been said “Wise men satisfy by means of a small gift an enemy who is able to take away everything just as the sea satisfies the submarine fire(There is a popular Hindu belief that there is an unquenchable submarine fire out in the vast deeps of the ocean). 

The weak man who refuses to part with a grain of flour when demanded by a powerful enemy will eventually have to part with a ton of it. A wise man is ready to sacrifice a half when the whole is threatened with destruction. His immediate wants may be met by the remaining half whereas nothing can be done if the whole is lost”.’ Resolving thus, he used to point out one of his people every day. The serpent used to eat him, and then, in Gangadatta’s absence, used to eat some others also. It has been said well, ‘Just as a man with dirty clothes will sit anywhere he pleases and does not care about his clothes being further soiled, so too a person who has fallen off from virtue will adopt any immoral course and will not care to protect his character from further soiling.’ One day, after eating other frogs, the serpent ate also Prithudatta, son of Gangadatta. Learning about this, Gangadatta continued to scream loudly and to say, ‘ Fie ! Fie!’, His wife then told him, ‘Why are you crying piteously, oh, you hard-hearted one, you who have brought about the ruin of your race? Your race destroyed! who will protect you, oh fool ? So, think out some means of going out of this slaughter house or of killing this cruel serpent.’ 

In course of time, all the frogs except Gangadatta were swallowed by the snake; Gangadatta alone remained. Then Priyadarsana told him, ‘Oh Gangadatta, I am hungry. All the frogs have been killed. So, give me some food or other as you have led me to this place.’ The frog replied, Oh friend, so long as I live you need not have any anxiety regarding yourself. If you allow me to go to some other pond or well, I shall somehow persuade the frogs there to migrate here, end you will again have plenty of food.’ The serpent replied, ‘You are like a brother to me and cannot therefore be eaten by me. If you do as you say now, you will become like a father unto me. So do as you propose.’ 

The frog then got up the rope of the water machine. Making several vows to various gods if he climbed up in safety, he finally managed to do this. He went to another well and joined the frogs there. Priyadarsana waited in the old well for some time awaiting the promised speedy return of Gangadatta. Not seeing him return for long, he told a lizard dwelling in another hole in the same well ‘Oh, friend render me a little service. Am I not your old acquaintance? Kindly go out and seek the well or pond where my friend, the frog Gangadatta, is and take him. this my message, “Come quickly back alone if other frogs will not come with you. I cannot live without you. I pledge myself not to do you any injury whatever. If I ever do any evil to you, may all my accumulated merits be transferred to you.’ The lizard soon found out Gangadatta and said, ‘Friend, Gangadatta, your friend Priyadarsana is eagerly awaiting your return. So, return, to him quick. He also pledged himself not to do you any injury on pain of all his accumulated merits being transferred to you.’ Hearing this, Gangadatta said, ‘A hungry man will commit any sin, a weak man will be without mercy. Go, friend and tell Priyadarsana that Gangadatta will never return to that well.’ So saying, he sent the lizard away and plunged merrily in the cool and secure waters of his new well. 

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