The Panchatantra – Story 5


In a secluded part of the country, away from the haunts of men, there was a monastery. A monk called Devasarma lived there in solitude worshiping an idol of Siva(God in the form of the Destroyer, the third member of the Hindu Trinity. The first member of the Trinity is Brahma, the Creator, and Second is Vishnu, the Preserver). Many pious people used to give numerous fine clothes as presents to his monastery. Deep down in the heart of Devasarma there was the call of gold though he had taken the vow of renunciation and become a monk. One day, he took all the fine clothes stealthily to a distant town in disguise and got a lot of gold by selling them. This gold he put into a cloth bag which he got specially stitched. Then he put the bag under his arm and returned to his monastery. Thereafter he would never trust anybody. Night and day he kept the bag under his arm and would never leave it even for a moment. Well have the wise men said :— 

“Hard is wealth in earning. Hard it is in keeping, Sorrow marks its ending. As well as its spending, In sorrow is its root. To sorrow leads its fruit”.

Ashadhabhuti was a wicked and unscrupulous cheat ever intent on robbing other people’s wealth. One day, he saw the bag of gold hidden under Devasarma’s arm and thought ‘How can I get this bag of gold? The monastery is built of solid granite all round. So a burgling hole is out of the question. The windows are too high for entry. So, the only course for me is to go to him in the guise of a disciple and by sweet words gain his confidence. Once he begins to trust me, he will be in my hands, and the gold will be mine. 

It has been said in the moral tracts in which this monk is an adept “No one free from all desire seeks a place of power ; no one free from the sexual urge cares for adornments ; none but a clever man speaks pleasing words; no outspoken man ever cheats.” My clear course is therefore to lull him into false confidence by extreme outspokenness and then to cheat him despite his moral tracts.’ Having resolved thus, Ashadhabhuti went to Devasarma and saying ‘I bow to the immortal Siva’ prostrated humbly before the monk. Then he said with humility ‘Venerable Sir, worthless is this ocean of existence. Youth rushes away with the speed of a mountain torrent. Life is as ephemeral as the fire made by kindling grass. Pleasures are as fleeting and unsatisfying as the shades afforded by the rainless clouds of autumn. Wife, sons, relatives, and servants are like dreamfolk devoid of all reality. I have realised ail this fully. What is the way by which I may cross this ocean of existence and attain salvation ?’.

Hearing this, Devasarma said to him with respect ‘My son, yours is a noble soul since you have even in your early years got detached from the snare of material existence. Well has it been said:- ‘Regard him only as restrained who restrains his senses from early youth; for when years advance and the sense organs fail everybody has restraint thrust upon him. The good perceive in their minds the advance of old age and restrain themselves in time so that the old age in body comes to them only later. The wicked never perceive in their minds the advance of old age and are caught by old age and failing senses when trying vainly to persevere in their animal pleasures. You ask me for some advice to cross this ocean of material existence. Hear my words:- Whether a man is of high caste or low caste, a casteman or outcaste, let him only grow the sacrificial plaited hair and repeat the invocation to Siva, he will become the equal of the high caste Brahmin adorned with sacred ashes. Uttering the sacred six syllables, OM NAMA SIVAYA (bow to the immortal Siva/ the sacred invocation to Siva), let him personally put a flower on the idol of Siva, and he will for ever be free from rebirth.’ On hearing this, Ashadhabhuti caught hold of Devasarma’s feet and said with deep humility ‘Venerable Sir, bless me by teaching me this sacred prayer with its  proper method of repetition.’ Devasarma replied “My son, I shall do so. Only, you should never come inside the monastery at night time. Detachment from all worldly  ties is required of monks and is properly praised in them. Solitude at nights is essential for such detachment. So for both our sakes, you should observe this rule.

Well has it been said “A King is ruined by evil counsel, an ascetic by attachment to worldly objects, a son by over-fondling, a Brahmin by neglecting the study of the scriptures, a  family by a wicked son, character by serving a villain a friendship by disappearance of real love, prosperity by injustice, love by long separation due to residence in  different countries, woman by wine, cultivation by lack of  supervision, and wealth by neglect and extravagance.” So,  after initiation into the prayer you should sleep in the  grass hut outside the gate.’ Ashadhabhuti replied  ‘Venerable Sir, I shall implicitly obey your order.  Incidentally, I shall, by doing this, secure other benefits, also’  (Here Ashadhabhuti means that he will be near the gold he aim at while Devasarma is made to believe that Ashadhabhuti means spiritual benefits by detachment). That night, before retiring to bed, Devasarma  initiated Ashadhabhuti into the prayer and formally  enrolled him as a disciple. Ashadhabhuti pleased the  monk very much by daily massaging his arms and legs  and by bringing the requisite leaves flowers, etc. for  worship. Even so, Devasarma showed not the least  tendency to take the bag of gold from under his arm and entrust it to Ashadhabhuti. As time passed, Ashadhabhuti thought ‘When will this man ever come to trust in me?  Probably never. So, shall I stab him with a knife  in open daylight? Or, shall I administer poison to him? Or, shall I beat him to death as we do cattle?’  While Ashadhabhuti was thinking thus, the son of one of Devasarma’s lay disciplies came to the monk from some village with an invitation and said ‘Venerable Sir, deign to come to my house tomorrow as it is Pavitram  investment ceremony (A ceremony at which the members of a sect meet together and put on rings of darbha grass).’ 

So, next morning, Devasarma started with Ashadhabhuti for the village. When they had proceeded some  way, they saw a river in front of them. Devasarma took  off his uppercloth, etc., removed the bag of gold from his  arm and hid it in the bundle of clothes. Then he bathed  and performed his prayers. Feeling an urgent need to  ease himself, he said to his disciple ‘Ashadhabhuti, I shall return in a minute after easing myself. Please guard  carefully this bundle of clothes and especially the bag of gold which belongs to Siva,’ and went. Ashadhabhuti  waited till Devasarma was out of sight and then grabbed the bag of gold and took to headlong flight.

The Battle of Rams Drawing by Rebecca Magar | Saatchi Art

Devasarma thought of the many good qualities of  his disciple and sat to ease himself with absolutely on  misgiving or mistrust. He saw a herd of rams graze close  by. Two rams began to fight. With great fury they  rushed at each other, their foreheads crashing with loud  reports, and blood dripping on the ground profusely.  Again they would move back only to meet once more in  deadly conflict. A jackal, seized by a violent desire to  lick the blood which had fallen on the ground, stood in  between the two rams when they had moved back for preparing for another crash, and began licking the blood.  Devasarma saw this and said to himself ‘This jackal is an  idiot. He will surely be caught and crushed to death in the next crash between the rams.’ As predicted by him,  the rams again rushed at each other. The foolish jackal, held fast by its inordinate love of the blood it was drinking, did not move away and was crushed to death. 

Seeing this, Devasarma said ‘The jackal….. by the fight  of rams.’ Then grieving a little for the fate of the foolish  jackal, he slowly went towards the spot where he had left  his disciple. Ashadhabhuti was not to be seen. In great  hurry, Devasarma washed himself and rushed to the spot.  The bundle of clothes was there, but not his bag of gold.  Then, saying, Ah me, I have been robbed,’ he swooned  and fell on the bare ground. In a few minutes, he  recovered consciousness, rose and began to sob and shriek  aloud ‘Oh, Ashadhabhuti, where have you gone after cheating me? Do reply to me.’ Lamenting like this several  times and in different ways, he followed Ashadhabhuti’s footsteps in the hope of seeing him. And ‘looted by  Ashadhabhuti’ he muttered to himself on the way.  

He reached a neighbouring town by sunset and saw  a weaver and his wife on their way to a liquor shop  Devasarma told the weaver ‘My good man, I have come  to you as a guest at sunset. I do not know anybody here.  So accept me as a guest and perform the duties of a.  host. A householder who welcomes a guest at sunset and  does hospitality to him attains to godhood. Earth, water,  grass mat, sincere welcome and sweet words for a guest  are never wanting a good man’s house(The earth is for scrubbing the bare feet become dirty with walking, the water is for washing them, the grass- mat is for sitting, the sincere welcome is to show heartiness, and the sweet words are inquiries after health). Besides, a  welcome to a guest pleases Agni(The God of fire), the offer of a seat pleases Indra(The Chief of the Devas or Immortals), the washing of feet pleases Govinda(Vishnu, the second member of the Hindu Trinity, God in the form of the Preserver) and the gift of food pleases Brahma(The first member of the Hindu Trinity, God in the form of the Creator).

The weaver heard this and told his wife ‘Darling, take this guest home, wash his feet, give him food and bedding, and remain there looking after his comforts. I shall bring you plenty of meat and liquor.’ Then he went his way. His wife, who was an adulteress, took charge of Devasarma, and, with a face wreathed in smiles due to thinking of her paramour Devadatta and this unexpected opportunity of meeting him, started for home. Well has it been said:-“Rainy days, dark nights, streets rendered impassable by pitch darkness, husband’s absence abroad, all these are welcomed by lascivious and immoral women as furthering their amours. Such women care not a straw for luxurious beds at home and enjoyable conjugal relations with obedient and loving husbands but always hanker only after stolen amours. The conjugal relations with her husband burn the marrow of a harlot, and his  passion her bones. His endearing terms are like poison  to her. Miserable is the life of a couple devoid of mutual  love, A woman enamored of a man other than her  husband accepts gladly outcasting, imprisonment, and even danger of death.”

Having reached home, the weaver’s wife gave a broken cot without a bed to Devasarma and said to him ‘Venerable sir, I shall come back at once after conversing with a female friend of mine who has just come to town  from her village. Please watch this house carefully till I return.’ Then she put on her best clothes and adornments  and went to meet Devadatta. But on the way she met  her husband coming opposite to her, his limbs powerless  through intoxication, his feet tripping at every step, his hair  disheveled, and with a pot of toddy in his hands. Seeing him, she ran speedily back home, cast off her best clothes and adornments, and resumed her former clothes. The weaver saw her running back with the fine clothes and adornments though he pretended not to have seen her. He had also heard stories about her immorality before. He was filled with uncontrollable anger. 

Entering  his house, he called his wife and said ‘Oh, wretch, oh,  harlot, where were you going?’ She replied ‘Since I left  you I did not go anywhere. Why do you talk such  drunken nonsense? Well has it been said that drink brings  about confusion of mind, falling on the ground, talking  unbecoming language, and indeed all other signs of a  patient suffering from delirious fever. He who has anything  to do with drink, his arms shake, he drops his clothes,  his face becomes devoid of grace, and he sings several,  impromptu tunes. Even the sun. when he reaches west  his rays begin to tremble, he drops from the sky, his  light disappears, and he becomes red, all simply because  liquor and west are denoted by the same word “Varuni” and the sun by going west has thereby come into distant  contact with liquor.’ 

Hearing this insolent reply, and noting her sudden  change of dress, the weaver said ‘Harlot, I have been  hearing for some time tales of your misdeeds. To-day I  have also verified for myself the truth of these stories. I  shall punish you duly for this.’ He then rose, brought  stout stick, cudgeled her all over the body, tied her with  stout cords to a pillar, and went to sleep owing to the effects of his drink. 

Soon afterwards, his wife’s friend, a barber woman  who was also a bawd, came to the house after ascertaining that he had gone to sleep. She said to the weaver’s  wife ‘Friend, Devadatta is still waiting for you at the  place of assignation. Go there quickly.’ The other  replied ‘See my state. How can I go ? Go and tell my  love that in my present state I am unable to go and  enjoy with him.’ The barber woman said ‘Friend, do  not say so. This is not befitting a votary of love like you. Difficulties should not keep you from your lover. I consider that the births of those who try their utmost  to taste sweet fruits despite the great difficulties in the  way are as meritorious as those of camels which get at sweet fruits despite the many thorns. When the  attainment of Heaven is doubtful, when the world’s  censure is so varied and often falls on guileless innocents  leaving the cunning guilty like us free, we with the bloom  of youth in us and lovers at our beck and call are thrice  blessed. Even if a votary of love is unfortunate enough  to get only an ugly lover, she enjoys her stolen amours with him, though attended with great risk, and does not enjoy conjugal relations with her own unloved husband  although he may be handsome.’ The weaver’s wife  replied ‘That is so. But how can I go, bound as I am  with strong cords and with this ruffian of a husband near  by ?’ The barber woman said ‘My dear, your drunken  spouse will wake up only when stirred up by the rays of  the sun. So I shall untie you and you can go and enjoy  with Devadatta. In order to provide against the off  chance of his waking up before you return, you can tie  me in your place. Even if the drunken fool were to  wake up, he cannot distinguish in the night between me  and you. Now, go and come back quick.’ Then she  did as she proposed, and the weaver’s wife went to Devadatta. 

Soon after she had left, the weaver woke up with his anger abated. He said in a drunken voice ‘Oh termagant, if you promise never more to leave the house on such errands from to-day and never more to speak to me insolently, I shall release you’. The barber woman did not reply from fear lest her voice should betray her. The weaver repeated his offer. Still, the barber woman replied not. Then the weaver fell into a rage and fetching a sharp knife, cut off her nose saying ‘Harlot, remain for ever deformed like this. I am not going to’ please you any more.’ Again, he went into a drunken sleep. Devasarma who had no sleep owing to his hunger and thirst and the loss of his gold, saw the whole episode from start to finish.

The weaver’s wife returned some time later after having enjoyed to her heart’s content with Devadatta . She asked the barber woman ‘Friend, is everything well with you ? Did my villainous husband wake up after I left?’ The other replied ‘Everything is well with me except my nose which is gone as a result of your villainous husband’s waking up. So, quickly release me and let me reach home before he wakes up again and cuts off my ears also ’ The weaver’s wife released the barber woman and took her place. Then she called out to her husband in scorn ‘Oh, big fool, how can you injure or mutilate such a chaste woman like me? Hear, oh guardians of the Uni- verse. You Sun, Moon, Fire, Air, Sky, Earth, Water* Heat, Death, Day, Night, and Both Twilights, and Eternal Dharma(The spirit of righteousness), all of you know every deed of all mortals. If I am a chaste woman, oh ye gods, restore my nose to its former state. If, on the other hand, I have even in my mind embraced a man other than my husband, turn me to ashes’.

A second after she cried out again to her husband ‘Oh, villain, behold ! Owing to the merit of my resplendent chastity my nose has been restored to its former state.’ The weaver hurriedly took a burning faggot in order to burn her to ashes in case her nose were not restored, and looked at her. To his utter astonishment he saw her nose in its former state though there was a big pool of blood on the ground to prove that he had really cut the nose. He at once untied her bonds, embraced her rapturously, addressed her in a hundred endearing terms, begged her pardon a thousand times and endeavoured his best to please her.

Devasarma saw all this with great surprise and said to himself: — ‘Women know ail the arts and tricks of the most artful devils Sambara, Namuchi, Bali, and Kumbhinasi. They laugh with him who laughs, weep with him who weeps, and, with suitable words of infinite sweetness, win over any opponent they like. Sukra and Brihaspati, the great authors of the Sastras(Treatises on arts, sciences, law, politics, and religion), never exceeded women in resource, cunning or intellect. So how is woman to be properly watched, she who can speak lies in such a way as to be taken for truths, and truths in such a way as to be taken for lies ? Lying, obstinacy, foolhardiness deceit, greed, uncleanliness, cruelty, these are innate qualities born with woman. None should be too much attached to women nor should anyone desire them to become too powerful.

Men who are too much attached to women are played with by them just as if they are crows with clipped wings. Honey flows from women’s mouths, but the deadliest of poison is in their hearts. That is why men suck their lips but press their breasts with hands and fists. A woman is the whirlpool of doubts, the home of immodesty, the abode of foolhardiness, the reservoir of evils, the soul of hypocrisy, the temple of insincerity. This reservoir of all deceit cannot be understood even by the greatest and noblest of men. There is no poison in the world like woman especially so as it is born of and resembles nectar(According to Hindu mythology the model woman, the Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, was born when the ocean was being churned for nectar) Who created her for the destruction of virtue ? That a woman is the reservoir of all evils will be clear even from analyzing a most beautiful specimen. The hardness will be found in her breasts, the vacillation in her gaze, the hypocrisy in her smiles, the crookedness in her curls, the slowness in her voice, the fullness in her hips, the timidity in her heart, the deception in her dealings with her husband. Such a bundle of evils like a woman should please only animals devoid of reason, and not man.

Women smile and shed tears for securing their objects, they cause people to trust them but never trust in return. So a man full of manly virtues and of noble family should avoid woman like the demon-touched earthen jars in a burning place. The lions with bushy manes and terrible faces, the elephants shining in the splendour of their strength, men renowned for wisdom and for their bravery in war, all become puppets in the hands of the female of the species. So long as a man is not caught in her net, a woman will court him as assiduously as a fisherman does the fish in the waters, but once he swallows the bait and is secure in the net, he is put aside and never courted any more. Like the gunja(A most beautiful red seed with a black mark at the top- It is used by goldsmiths for weighing gold and is supposed to be a deadly poison)’ seed the inside of woman brims with poison but her out- side steals our hearts. Who created this eternal mystery?’ Thinking in this strain, the monk passed the weary night.

Meanwhile the barber women reached her own home with the severed nose in hand and thought ‘What shall I do now ? How can I cover up this gaping pit which was once my nose?’ Soon it was dawn, and her husband, who had been at the palace for the night, came and wanted urgently to go into the town to shave some of his clients. Standing at the door, he said ‘My dear, bring quickly my shaving kit. I must go and shave some townsfolk.’ His wife, who was always a ready-witted woman and had her wits doubly sharpened by the loss of her nose, stood inside the house and threw simply one razor towards him. The barber was furious that when he had demanded for the whole kit she should have given only One razor and that too by throwing it towards him. So he threw back the razor at her. At once, the woman threw her arms up in the air, screamed aloud, and rushed out of the house shouting ‘Help! Help!, a virtuous woman, have had my nose cut by this villain of my husband. Save me! Save me!’.

Hearing her cries, the police rushed to the place’ beat the barber severely, bound him securely, took him, his wife and her severed nose to the judges, and said ‘My lords, this barber has causelessly mutilated his wife, this jewel among women. Do unto him what is proper.’ The judges asked the barber ‘Why have you done this barbarous act to your own wife ? Did she commit adultery or plot against your life or commit any act of theft ? What was her fault?’ The barber, who did not know the truth and could not explain anything, stood dumb with astonishment and inborn stupidity and said nothing. The judges then perused the relevant observations in the legal text books regarding the demeanour of a silent accused and said ‘One law giver says “A criminal who is conscious of his own guilt has an altered tone, a pale face and a wandering vision, and loses all the luster of his face.’. Another authority says “He comes to the court of justice with faltering steps, his face is pale, beads of perspiration stand on his forehead, and he speaks in words broken by sobs. He is trembling all over, his gaze is on the ground- By these signs wise judges ought to know the guilt.’ Again, it is said “He who has a cheerful face and is serene, gives straightforward answers, is angry at being unjustly put up, has the ring of honest indignation in his voice, and is proud and undaunted in his gait, is an innocent man.” By these tests this man is seen to be guilty. As he has mutilated an innocent woman, let him be done to death by spearing. Take him away.’ 

Then the barber was led to the place of execution. Devasarma, who had heard the news and seen the poor man being led to the place of execution, rushed to the judges and said ‘My lords, this innocent rustic of a barber is about to be unjustly done to death. This is the veritable truth. Hear my words:— The jackal… by the fight of rams, I……, by Ashadhabhuti, and the barber woman by meddling in others’ affairs, all of us three have brought our calamities on ourselves.’ The judges asked him ‘Venerable sir, how so?’ Then Devasarma related all the three stories in detail and  said ‘The jackal came to grief owing to its love of blood and foolish miscalculation of the nature of rams; I came to grief owing to my love of gold and foolish miscalculation of the nature of Ashadhabhuti, and the barber woman came to grief owing to her love of intrigue and foolish miscalculation of the nature of the drunken weaver.’ 

The judges heard the stories with wonder and joy, and ordered the barber to be at once released. Then they said ‘A Brahmin, a child, a woman, a hermit, and a man afflicted by a dreadful disease should never be executed but only be mutilated though the offence committed be very grave. So say the lawgivers. This barber woman cannot therefore be executed. She has had her nose cut by her own deed. So the King’s punishment is that her ears also should be cut off.’ After this had been done, Devasarma, bis grief over the loss of his gold having been conquered by the sight of the fate of the jackal and the barber woman, returned to his^ monastery with a contented heart. Prostrating before the idol of Siva, he said with tears in his eyes ‘Oh Lord, by your grace, I am the least of the three sufferers. For his love of blood, the jackal lost his life; for her love of intrigue, the barber woman lost her nose and ears; for my no less heinous love of gold, you in your mercy have let me off with the simple loss of my gold. I bow to to you, immortal Siva. Never again shall I seek a calamity for myself by loving gold,’

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