The Panchatantra – Story 7

KILLED BY A SHADOW

A most powerful lion named Bhasuraka lived once in a huge forest. Reveling in his strength, he used daily to kill an enormous number of deer, hares and other animals from sheer wantonness. He could never see any animal cross his path without at once falling upon it and killing it. So, one day, the deer, wild goats, buffaloes, hares and other animals of the forest went together to the lion with sad faces and, humbly prostrating before him, said, ‘Sire, it is time that this irreligious, unnecessary and cruel killing of all beasts sighted by you is put a stop to.

You will require tor food only one beast per day. Then why kill so many? It has been well said, ” The sins that fools do in order to sustain one life will pursue them and cause them sorrow in a thousand births to come. No wise man should do any act which causes him ill-repute or makes people lose trust in him or leads him to hell. Fools commit all kinds of sins in order to preserve a body which is the abode of impurities, which is ungrateful, and which goes to pieces soon,” Knowing all this, you should never destroy us all wholesale like this. Make a bargain with us. 

From to-day we shall send you every day by lot an animal for your food, and he will come to you wherever you are, thus saving you even the trouble of going in search of food. By accepting this bargain, you will be able to get your necessary food without the least trouble, and we shall be saved from total destruction. So, act like a righteous king and agree to this. It has been well said, “That wise King who taxes his subjects according to his needs and their ability to pay will attain great prosperity like a person who attains great strength by taking in regulated doses a medicine that prolongs life. 

Even a barren piece of land will yield some fruit if cultivated properly just as two pieces of Sami(For sacrifices, the sacred fire is always lighted in India by rubbing two pieces of Sami wood) wood will emit fire if rubbed in the proper way. Conversely, even a fertile field will become a desert in the hands of one who knows not the art of cultivation. The protection of his subjects is praiseworthy in a King and leads him to heaven whereas their oppression leads to unrighteousness, sin and infamy. A King, like a cowherd, should take the milk of wealth from his subjects gradually and in moderate quantities leaving enough for feeding the calves and increasing the flock. Then alone will he be pursuing a righteous path. 

The King who kills his subjects like sheep gets satisfaction only once, when killing them, and can never derive lasting satisfaction like one who preserves them and derives wealth from them, often and often, in moderate quantities. A King who wishes, to derive good revenue from his subjects should tend and protect them with great trouble and give them necessary help and honour just as a gardener who wishes to get fruits from trees should tend them carefully by manuring, watering, and pruning them at great trouble and should also protect the fruits from being stolen by others. A good King,, though he takes revenue from his subjects like a lamp taking oil from its can, is never felt to do so by reason of his intrinsic good qualities even as the lamp attracting the oil by the wicks is not felt to do so since the taking is imperceptible and only just enough to keep the light properly burning. 

As a cow is fed and milked at the proper times, so are the subjects to be helped and taxed at the proper times. As a creeper which yields flowers and fruits is watered at proper times and the flowers and fruits are plucked at proper times, so too with the helping and taxing of subjects. As even the small seed of a fruit will grow into a big tree and yield tremendous quantities of fruits, if well tended and protected, so too will the subjects, if properly tended and protected, yield a good revenue to the King, The King has to get his gold, jewels, vehicles, food, clothing, and indeed everything else only with money got from his subjects. So the Kings who love their subjects and care for them prosper while those who hate and destroy their subjects are themselves ultimately destroyed”.’ Hearing all this, Bhasuraka said, ‘You have spoken the truth, and I agree to the arrangement. If, however you fail to send an animal on a single day I shall surely kill all of you at once.’ The assembled animals agreed to this, swore an oath to that effect, and departed. 

From that day on wards, all the animals wandered about in the forest without fear. Daily they sent to the lion by lot an animal of a different species. On whomsoever the lot fell he had to go to the lion punctually at noon whether he was old or young, unmarried or married and the father of a big family, free from grief or plunged in grief. So it happened that one day the lot fell on a hare. All the animals sent him to the lion at noon as usual. The hare was filled with sorrow at the prospect of being .eaten up by the lion. His pace became unusually slow, and he was plunged in thought as to some way of killing this cruel lion. The lion’s usual meal hour had passed, but the hare was still on his way thinking hard and going slow. 

He said to himself, ‘I must find out some way to kill this wicked lion. Is it not said that nothing is impossible for the wise, nothing beyond the reach of those of fixed resolution, nothing unattainable by a honeyed speaker, nothing beyond the hope of the persevering?’ Just then he saw a well near the footpath. He went and looked into it. He saw his own reflection in the crystal waters at the bottom. He thought for a moment and said to himself, ‘I have found an excellent device to kill the wretched lion. I shall play a trick on him, make him thoroughly enraged, and finally cause him to jump into this well and perish.’ After thinking out this plan, he went late in the afternoon to the lion. 

The lion, furious at not getting his meals in time and suffering from extreme hunger, was, licking the corners of his mouth. He said to himself ‘Tomorrow morning I shall kill all the animals.’ Just then, the hare came slowly and stood before him. Enraged at the lateness of his coming and the thinness of his body the lion said in a terrible voice trembling with anger, ‘ Oh wretch, you are such a thin creature, and you have come very late. So, for these twin faults, I shall kill and eat you now, and shall kill all the animals of the forest tomorrow morning.’ 

Then the hare prostrated humbly before the lion and said, ‘Sire, there is no fault on my part or on the part of any other animal.Hear the real reason for my late coming and the insufficiency of food for you.’ The lion said, ‘Out with it quick before you are crushed between my teeth.’ The hare said, ‘ Sire the lot fell on the hares to-day. Realizing how tiny they are, and how imperative it was on their part to send your majesty sufficient food, they deputed five hares including me to come to you at noon. On our way here, a big lion came out of a deep hole in the earth and asked us, “Where are you going? Think of your favorite gods, for your end is near,’’ I replied, “We are going, as per our contract, to the great lion Bhasuraka for his noon meal to-day.” Then he said to me, ” What nonsense ! This forest is mine, and the contract of the animals ought to have been with me and not with this usurper and thief Bhasuraka. Go and bring this Bhasuraka at once here. We two shall fight it out. Whichever of us two wins in the fight will become the sole ruler of this forest and will be entitled to all the animals in it.” As ordered by him, I have come to your majesty and reported the facts. 

That is the reason for my late coming. That lion has retained the other four hares as hostages for my return. That is the reason for the insufficiency of food to-day for your majesty. Sire, these are the facts.’ Hearing this, Bhasuraka said, “Friend, if that is so, show me at once this rival lion. Venting on him the anger I have towards the animals, I shall once more regain my calmness. It has been said, “The three fruits of war are the preservation and acquisition of territory, the securing of allies, and the gaining of gold by loot and tribute. When none of these three things can be gained, one should not declare war. A wise man should not also embark on a war when the resulting gain will be inconsiderable or when defeat is certain.” Here I have to fight this insolent intruder to regain supreme control over my kingdom. And victory is certain. So, war is the proper course.’ The hare said, ‘Sire, this is true. Kings fight when the loss of their lands is threatened. But this rival lion lives in a fortress. He may enter his fortress and defy us. 

An enemy in a fortress is difficult to be conquered. It has been said “A thousand elephants and a hundred thousand horses cannot accomplish in war what a single fort will accomplish. Even a single archer is a match for a hundred when he is in a tort. It is because of this that great professors of politics praise a fort very highly. Formerly, Indra had a fort built by Viswakarma(The builder for the Gods) on the advice of his preceptor Brihaspati(The high-priest of the celestials) and through fear of Hiranyakasipu (A great demon who harassed the gods and was ultimately killed by Vishnu in his avatar of Narasimha or Man-Lion) He also gave a boon to the effect that a king who had a fort will be victorious. Therefore, there are thousands of forts on earth. A King without forts is conquered as easily as a cobra without fangs or an elephant not in its ruts”.’ Bhasuraka said, ‘ My good fellow, show this usurping thief of a lion though he may be in his fort and I shall kill him. It has been well said that even a very powerful man must destroy an enemy or root out a disease as soon as they appear, or they will grow strong by lapse of time and destroy him. So, no one caring for his own safety should avoid fighting them as soon as he knows of them. Men, blinded by pride or habitually careless or indifferent neglect an enemy or a disease at the beginning when they are easy to be conquered and finally are overwhelmed by them. He who goes to battle relying on himself and after a correct estimation of his own strength will, though single, destroy all his enemies even as Bhargava(Parasurama, the seventh incarnation of Vishnu. He destroyed hordes of warriors twenty-one times) destroyed the Kshatriyas).’ 

The hare said, ‘ That is so, but it is not proper that you should go against him without knowing his strength. He who without correctly estimating his own strength and comparing it with that of his enemy and satisfying himself that it is enough to meet it faces the enemy with eagerness meets with a speedy destruction as a moth does in fire. Even a powerful person who goes forward to kill another of superior strength will have to return shorn of his pride like an elephant which has its tusks broken in a fight with a more powerful tusker.’ 

The lion said, ‘What is the use of all this silly twaddle? Come, show me this usurping lion though he may be in his fort and I shall surely kill him.’ The hare said, ‘ If so, follow me, my lord,’ and went in front showing the way. The hare went to the well he had seen at noon. Peeping into it, he said to Bhasuraka, ‘Who will be able to face your majesty? As soon as you were sighted at a great distance, this usurping lion has turned tail and taken refuge in this his fort. Come here, and I shall show him to you.’ Bhasuraka said, ‘Show me this villain and his fort.’ 

The hare pointed to the lion his own reflection in the crystal water of the well and said, ‘There, behold the villain, the disturber of this forest’s peace, the creature whom all animals want to see killed forthwith.’ The lion, being a big fool, mistook the reflection to be the rival lion spoken of by the hare. Greatly enraged by the animal’s size and defiant look, he roared with all his might. The roar was returned two-fold from the well by the echo. Thinking that this rival lion was returning his challenge even more defiantly, the foolish Bhasuraka, forgetting himself in his anger and anxious only to come to grips with his enemy, jumped at the reflection and was drowned in the deep water. The hare was mightily pleased and lived happily in the forest ever after, being highly popular with all the other animals owing to his having got rid of the common enemy. 

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