The Panchatantra – Story 9

THE UNGRATEFUL MAN

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Yegnadatta was an idle and poverty-stricken ‘Brahmin with numerous children. His wife, seeing that “there was no food to give their children for one whole day, told him in anger ‘Oh, idler, oh heartless man! Why will you not see that our children are dying of hunger ? Why are you sitting idle regardless of their welfare? Be a man, go far, earn something, and come back again.* The Brahmin was filled with grief at these words and set out at once. After going a long distance he entered a big forest. There he felt thirsty and went in search of water. He saw a deep, water-less well surrounded, by grass in a lonely part of the forest. When he looked into the well he saw inside it a tiger, a monkey, a Serpent, and a man, They also saw him. 

The tiger said to him, ‘Oh, noble soul, the greatest merit is accrued by saving the lives of one’s fellow-creatures. Thinking of this, pull me up so that I may again be with my dear wife children, relatives, and friends. The Brahmin said, ‘The mere mention of your name strikes terror into all creatures. I therefore fear you terribly. How then can you expect me to haul you up? The tiger said again. ‘Wise men have prescribed expiatory ceremonies by which the sins of murdering a Brahmin, drinking wine, breaking one’s vow and becoming wicked may be wiped off, but there is no expiatory .ceremony prescribed for the sin of ingratitude. Oh, Brahmin, I curse myself with the threefold curse(The form of the curse is ‘Let my body, mind and soul be destroyed if etc…) if I prove ungrateful. You need not fear anything from me. So pull me up, taking pity on me.’ 

The Brahmin thought to himself, ‘If a man comes to grief in saving a fellow-creature’s life, it is a meritorious end and will secure heaven.’ Thinking like this, he made a strong rope from forest creepers and with its aid pulled up the tiger from the well. The monkey also said, ‘ Oh, noble soul, pull me also up.’ The Brahmin hauled him up also. The serpent said, ‘Oh, Brahmin, pull me also up.’ Hearing this,. the Brahmin said, ‘All creatures tremble at the very mention of your name. Then, what will be the case if one touches you?’ The serpent said ‘We are not free agents in the matter of biting. We never bite without orders from the gods. I curse myself with the threefold curse in case I bite you. You need not fear anything from me.’ Hearing this, the Brahmin hauled up the snake also. 

Then all the three animals hauled up by him said to him ‘The man in the well is the abode of all sins. So you should not haul him up. He is not a man to be trusted.’ The tiger then said, ‘You see yonder many peaked mountain. In the big hollow on the northern side of that mountain is my den. You must come there once and oblige me. I shall then do to you some good in return- Then this debt will not pursue me in the next birth.’ So saying, he went towards his den. Then the monkey said, ‘In front of the tiger’s den there is a waterfall. I live on a banyan tree near it. So you must come one day to my abode also.’ So saying, he also went away. The serpent said, ‘Whenever danger threatens you, think of me,’ and went his way. 

After all these had gone, the man in the well cried out, again and again, ‘Oh Brahmin, haul me up also.’ The Brahmin hauled him up from natural compassion and also from a race feeling for this fellow-man. The man after being hauled up said, ‘I am a goldsmith and live in Bharukachcha(Broach, a very famous and rich sea-port in ancient times. It exported the muslins, the gems, the spices, and other rarities of India to Egypt, Rome, Babylon, etc. and used to get a lot of gold in return. So It was famous for goldsmiths). If you want to have any gold ornaments made, come to me.’ After this, he went his way. 

The Brahmin wandered on for many days more but was unable to earn anything. So he returned home sad and disappointed. On the way back, he remembered what the monkey had told him. He went to the monkey and saw him. The monkey gave him fruits tasting like nectar. He ate them and was greatly relieved. The monkey said, ‘If you want fruits, come to me every day” The Brahmin replied, ‘You have returned my debt in full. So show me the tiger.’ The monkey did so. The tiger brought a necklace and other ornaments, gave them to the Brahmin and said, ‘A horse bolted away with some prince. The prince was thrown off and killed outright near me. I took all these gold ornaments which were on his body and have been carefully keeping them for you. So take these and go wherever you like.’ 

The Brahmin took the jewels and remembered the goldsmith. ‘That man will be of service to me and sell this gold,’ said he to himself and went to him. The goldsmith received him, with respect, gave him water to wash his feet, seated him and gave him a grand meal with a number of delicacies. After meals he said,’ ‘Command me. Can I do anything for you?’ The Brahmin said, ‘I have brought some gold, i want you to sell it for me.’ The goldsmith said, ‘Let me see the gold.’ The Brahmin showed the jewels to him. The prince to whom they had originally belonged had been the prince of Bharukachcha. 

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This very goldsmith had made those ornaments. He recognized them the moment he saw them and thought. ‘These are the very jewels I made for the prince, and he was always wearing them. His body, in an advanced state of decomposition, was found recently in a lonely part of the forest after thorough search. All the jewels were gone. It was clearly a case of murder. The King has offered a large reward for tracing out the murder. Surely, this Brahmin must have committed this murder, I shall go at once to the King and inform him and get the reward ‘ Thinking thus, he told the Brahmin ‘please wait here a few minutes while I go and show the jewels to some likely buyers’. So saying, he went to the place and showed the jewels to the King. 

Seeing them, the King said, ‘Where did you get these from?’ He replied, ‘A Brahmin brought these to me. He is waiting in my house.’ The King said, ‘Surely, my son was murdered by that wicked wretch, I shall show him what the consequence of his misdeed is.’ Under his orders, the police brought the Brahmin bound hand and foot. The King, even without hearing him, condemned him to be executed. The Brahmin was led to the place of execution that very night and kept confined in the cell there pending day-break. 

The condemned Brahmin thought of the serpent. At once he appeared before him and asked ‘What can I do for you?’ The Brahmin said, ‘Release me from these fetters and prison.’ The serpent replied, ‘I shall bite the queen. Then all the great physicians, sorcerers, snake- charmers, and others will be sent for to rid her of the poison but none of these will be able to do the least good. But if you merely touch the queen with your hand the poison will disappear. Then they will release you.’ Swearing thus, he bit the queen. Loud wails were heard from the palace, and the whole town became plunged in sorrow. All the sorcerers, snake-charmers, physicians and magicians were sent for. Though all tried their best there was not the least good done to the queen who had lost consciousness and did not open her eyes. Then the sorrow-stricken King had a tom-tom made in desperation in the town calling for any others who would like to try and offering a huge reward for any who could effect a cure. 

Hearing the tom-tom, the Brahmin said, ‘I shall rid her of the poison.’ At once he was released and led to the King. He told the King that he could cure the queen. ‘Pray, cure her’ said the King. The’ Brahmin went ta the queen and touched her with his hand. At once she opened her eyes and become rid of the deadly poison. Seeing his beloved return to life, the King honored the Brahmin, gave him several costly gifts and asked him, ‘Tell me the truth, sir. How did you get the jewels?’ The Brahmin related how he had got them and narrated his whole story exactly as it had occurred. Hearing all this, the King punished the ungrateful goldsmith and made the Brahmin a minister, giving him many villages as a gift.

The delighted Brahmin returned home in haste. His wife and children were in rags and had been keeping body and soul together by the alms got from the neighbors. He embraced them and said, ‘Our miseries are over. We shall never lack food and clothes again, and took them to Bharukachcha after liberally rewarding the generous persons who had given charity to them in the time of their greatest need. He administered the affairs of the kingdom with the greatest diligence, and was specially popular with the poor, the afflicted and the suffering for whom he had always an understanding and sympathetic heart. He fed the poor daily at his house and lived happily ever after with his wife and children. 

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