Tag: Panchatantra

The Panchatantra – Story 55


Alpalobhin, Mithalobhin, Athilobhin and Athyanthalobhin(The names mean respectively ‘A little greedy’, ‘the moderately greedy’, ‘the very greedy,’ and ‘the excessively greedy) were four very poor Brahmin youths who were fast friends of one another. They were feeling the pang of poverty bitterly. One day, when they were all assembled together, Athyanthalobhin said ‘Friends, most shameful is it to be poor ! Better far to live in a forest overrun with thorns and haunted by tigers, elephants and other wild beasts, and to wear garments made of the barks of trees, and to sleep on the grass, than to live in poverty in the midst of one’s relatives. Poor men are scorned by the very masters whom they serve faithfully, and even their otherwise virtuous relatives cut them unhesitatingly. Their virtues do not shine, their sons leave them at the earliest opportunity, and even their noble and virtuous wives do not serve them assiduously, their whole time being engaged in household work and supplemental occupations intended to eke out a few coppers. 

Friends resort not to them as they get at their houses no delicious things to eat or drink. In this world, even if a man is naturally brave, handsome, cheerful, and eloquent and has an inborn aptitude for the use of weapons and the study of the sciences, he does not obtain fame or respect without the possession of at least some wealth. It is wonderful what difference wealth makes to such a man. With wealth, he is able to develop the above qualities and become famous and respected all over the world; without it, the faculties are not developed and die by attrition. So, let us go far and wide in search of wealth.’ All the others agreed. Soon all of them left their native city and relatives and friends and started on the quest for wealth. Well has it been said, ‘When a man is desperately poor and is filled with anxiety for the day’s meal, he will forsake truth, abandon relations and friends, and go to a foreign country leaving his own mother and mother-land.’ 

The four reached after a few days the country of Avanti(The modern Malwa with its capital at Ujjain). Bathing in the sacred Sipri river(The modern Betwa), they worshipped in the famous temple. of Mahakala(Siva, God as the Eternity of Time) on its ‘banks. When going out of the temple, they met a famous ascetic and magician called Bhairavananda(The name means ‘A devotee of Siva’), They saluted him and followed him into his monastery close by. He asked them, ‘Who are you? Where have you come from ? Where are you going now? What is your errand ?’. They replied, ‘We are wandering in quest of wealth and are resolved either to get wealth or die in the attempt. They say that by magic a man may easily find bidden treasures and suddenly become wealthy(Hidden treasures are numerous in India, and the belief that they can be discovered by magic wicks supplied by ascetics and magicians is even now prevalent among the masses just as in certain western countries the masses in places believe in the so-called science of water divination). 

Our attempt is, if possible, to get hold of such magicians. Many seemingly unattainable things and coveted objects are obtained by adventurous persons who dare everything and are equal to any emergency. One man falls down from the sky into the gutters, another clambers out of hell and becomes the master of the wide ocean. It is not Fate which is responsible for these rises and falls but only manly exertion or its absence. All desired objects are got only by hard exertion and not by mere fate. What is called luck is nothing but human exertion with the super-imposition of accident. Adventurers have no fear of men in power. Nor do they care a straw for their own lives. The generous recklessness of these is indeed sublime. Without hard and tiresome labour no happiness can be obtained in this world. 

Even the lord Narayana could embrace Lakshmi(Lakshmi is the consort of Vishnu and was one of the by-products when the gods and demons churned the ocean for the nectar of immortality. Vishnu, who was directing the churning, embraced her with his arms tired with churning) only after tiresome churning of the ocean with his hands. The moment a man ceases to work, his wealth begins to decrease. If a King has no valour, he cannot conquer his enemy’s kingdom or even preserve his. The sun conquers lots of clouds and shines bright because no obstacles are regarded as insuperable by him. So too, a man will conquer all difficulties and shine if he determines not to be outdone by anybody. Now, kindly tell us some ‘way of obtaining wealth quickly. It does not matter whether the wealth is in some underground chamber guarded by deadly cobras, or is to be got by propitiating demonesses, or by going to the burning grounds and selling the meat of human corpses to demons anxious to eat them, or by securing the magic wicks which get extinguished and fall wherever there is treasure to be had. We will dare anything, and we can see that you are certainly possessed of superhuman powers. So you alone can help us, and you must help us. It has been said that the great alone can accomplish great objects. Who but the sea can bear the terrible submarine fire(A most deadly mythological fire supposed to exist in the mid ocean)?’. 

Bhairavananda was pleased with their words and made for them four very powerful magic wicks. He said to them, ‘Go to the Himalayan regions. After reaching there, wherever a wick burns itself out and falls to the ground there if you dig you will find a hidden treasure without the least doubt. Do not transgress the laws of God, and return home when you have had enough to stave off your poverty.’ The four thanked the ascetic and proceeded to the Himalayan regions. When they had crossed the foothills, the wick of Alpalobhin was burnt out and fell to the ground. He dug there and discovered a hoard of copper coins(All coins including copper ones, were infinitely more valuable in ancient days than now). He was delighted and said, ‘Let us take as many as we can carry and return home.’ The others said, ‘Oh, fool, what can be accomplished with this worthless copper? It will not mitigate our poverty much. So, get up and let us push on.’ Alpalobhin said, ‘You may all go. I shall not come any further and am quite content with this copper.’ He took three thousand of these copper coins and returned home. 

The rest pushed on, The next day Mithalobhin’s wick burned out and fell to the ground. He dug there and discovered a hoard of silver coins. He was overjoyed and shouted out, ‘Here, let us take as many of these as we can carry and return home. There is no need to go any further.’ The other two said, ‘First we got copper coins, and now silver ones ; surely, the place were the next wick falls will contain a hoard of gold coins. We will never stave off our poverty permanently with these silver coins. So, let us push on still further.’ Mithalobhin said, ‘I am quite content with this silver and shall not come any further,’ He then took five thousand silver coins and returned home, joyously groaning under the weight. 

The other two pushed on. A day later, Athilobhin’s wick burned out and fell to the ground. He dug there and discovered a hoard of gold coins. Delighted beyond measure, he cried out to his companion, ‘Let us take as many of these as we can carry and return home. There no need to go any further, for there is nothing greater than gold ‘ Athyanthalobhin replied, ‘You fool, your ignorance is amazing. First copper, then silver, then gold. Surely, the next hoard will be of diamonds, rubies and other precious stones. A single one of them is enough to ward off poverty for a lifetime. With a heavy load of them we shall be able to buy up kingdoms and shall be richer than all others in the world. Your heavy load of gold will not be worth a single one of those diamonds and rubies we shall discover presently. Why commit the folly of taking this worthless gold and returning? So, get up and let us push on’.

Athilobhin said ‘Friend, I am quite content with this gold. We started our expedition in order to stave off our poverty permanently and not to buy up kingdoms or to become richer than all others in the world. You call this gold, which we never so much as handled before, worthless. To me it is valuable enough. It will make me a rich man for life, and keep poverty from my doors for ever. I do not desire anything more. Too much greed is no good.’ ‘Pooh !’ said his friend, ‘the greater the greed, the greater the earnings, I shall prove that to you. So, leave this trash and come along.’ ‘No I do not want to come any further and am quite content with this gold. However, I shall wait for you here, and both of us can return together,’ said Athilobhin.

So Athyanthalobhin alone pushed on. The hills became more rugged and gloomy. For three days he walked without the wick showing the least sign of burning itself out or falling. Then ha entered a secluded valley which had no sign of water anywhere. It was the middle of the hot season, and the rays of the sun literally burnt into him. His thirst became intolerable, and he saw no signs of water anywhere. Not a living thing, neither bird nor beast nor man, was seen by him. But he walked on undismayed, impaled by his greed for diamonds. The regular path gave way to a confused maze of footpaths swarming with brambles and thorns. Still, impelled by his greed, he wandered on and on without a thought of returning to Athilobhin and helping himself to the gold.

The more the difficulties, he assured himself, the greater, rarer, and more precious would the diamonds and other stones be. After much wandering, he saw a man in a trough in the valley shut in by hills on all sides. The man had a quickly-revolving wheel on his head and it was churning his blood and covering his whole face and body and the adjoining space with blood. Going to him, Athyanthalobhin asked, ‘Who are you, sir ? Why are you standing here turning this wheel on your head ? Is it some sacrifice to some demon that you are offering in order to get hidden hoards of precious stones ? Is there any water any where here ?’ As soon as he had uttered these words, the wheel sprang from the head of that man and planted itself on the head of Athyanthalobhin. The latter asked in astonished bewilderment, ‘Friend, what is this? Oh, what a diabolical pain it inflicts !’ The other replied, ‘That wretched wheel sprang on my head also as it did on yours just now, and I was suffering all this time this diabolical pain.’ Athyanthalobhin asked, ‘Then, tell me when it will coma down. It is causing me untold pain by its incessant revolutions and the resultant churning and scattering of the blood of my head.’ The man replied, ‘When some man like you comes with a magic wick prepared by a famous magician and talks with you, the wheel will leave you and settle on his head.’ Athyanthalobhin asked, ‘How long have you stood here with this wheel on your head?’. 

The other asked, ‘Who is the King now ?’. ‘Veena Vatsaraja (Udayana the King of the Vatsas, celebrated for his skill in playing the veena and his romantic marriages)’ said Athyanthalobhin. Then the other said, I cannot say exactly how long I had this wheel on my head. But it was when Rama(Rama ruled the country hundreds of thousands of years before Veena Vatsaraja according to Hindu mythology) was king that I, unable to bear the pangs of poverty, came here with a magic wick like yours. I too was far more avaricious then I should have been and pushed on in front of my comrades not satisfied with what could have kept me in the greatest luxury all my life. I saw a man here with this wheel on his head revolving furiously and churning and sprinkling his blood in all directions. I asked him why he was standing here in this horrid fashion and whether there was any water in the vicinity. At once, the wheel left his head and settled on mine. So I remained with this terrible pain for ages untold, for few living things ever come to this place. Now, by God’s grace, you have come hare with your magic wick and, by talking to me, relieved me of this.’ 

Athyanthalobhin asked, ‘Friend, how can one get food and drink if he were to stand like this perpetually ? Will he not die in a few days and be rid of this misery?’ ‘Not so’ said the other. ‘To prevent the plunder of his most precious treasures, the god of wealth has devised this horror in order to strike terror into the hearts of all magicians and their greedy disciples. Few therefore dare to come this way. If anybody comes here with wick in hand to discover treasures, he will see the man with the wheel and cannot help talking to him. He would never have seen such a horrible sight before, and would be impelled by curiosity to find out why he is doing this. 

Sheer joy at meeting a fellow human being after so long will also induce him to speak to him. If these two motives are not enough, there is always the selfish one of ascertaining whether there is any water in the vicinity to allay the parching thirst. The moment he talks to him, he takes on the wheel and bears it on his head till another comes with wick in hand and talks to him. While the wheel is on his head churning the blood, he feels not hunger nor thirst, nor does he grow old or die. But he will suffer all the while this excruciating pain. Now, give me leave to go. Let me go home.’ ‘What home have you after these hundreds of thousands of years? The race of your wife and children must have perished ages ago. Whither will you ago?’ asked Athyanthalobhin. ‘Ah, I never thought of that,’ said the other. ‘Still, the world is wide, and life is sweet. What matter if ages change and one’s people are all dead? One can always begin anew. So, good-bye’ and he went. 

Athilobhin waited for Athyanthalobhin near his hoard of gold for a long time. Not seeing any signs of his return, he took five thousand gold coins and set out in search of him and at last found him in the desolate valley with the fast-moving wheel on his head churning blood and himself uttering pitiable moans of the most bloodcurdling type. Tears streamed down his face at seeing the fate of his friend, and he asked, ‘Friend, what is this ?’ Athyanthalobhin replied, ‘This is Fate’s decree’. ‘How did this happen?’ asked Athilobhin. Then his friend related the whole story. 

After hearing everything, Athilobhin said ‘Friend, all this came from your excessive greed and from your not listening to my advice just as weaver Mantharaka came to grief by not listening to the barbers sound advice. “What is that story?” asked Athyanthalobhin, and Athilobhin narrated the story of “The Weaver Mandaraka“. Athilobhin continued, “Gold was not enough for you, and you hankered after rubies, diamonds and what not. Now you have got this wheel churning your blood and spraying in the air drops brighter than the brightest ruby while from your eyes come tears more dazzling than the diamonds you desired. My friend, it is not enough in this world to be learned and to know that diamonds are more valuable and desirable than gold. There must be also the saving commonsense which can visualize the difficulties and foresee the consequences. Else, even a learned man of noble family will come to grief. Commonsense is better than learning. Persons devoid of commonsense perish as did the learned men who resuscitated the lion’. ‘What is that story ?’ asked Athyanthalobhin. Then Athilobhin related the story of “The Lion made Alive Again“.

‘Well, one story will not prove a truth any more than a single lotus will make a lotus lake’ said his friend alter hearing it. ‘There are many more such stories’ said Athilobhin and related the story of “The Learned Fools“. ‘Well’ said Athyanthalobhin after hearing that story, ‘There seems to be some point in what you say. But, if you ask my opinion neither learning nor commonsense determines whether a man prospers or comes to grief. The utterly helpless and the unprotected are often protected by God and survive, while the powerful and the well-protected are often struck down by Providence without a warning. Even one abandoned in a forest and left to die survives if God is pleased with him while one taken the greatest care of dies even in his home if such is God’s will. Thus, in the story of “Thousand-wit, Hundred-wit and Single-Wit“, the far less able Single-Wit survived while the other two mightier intellects perished. What do you say to that? Does it not prove my point, that God and Fate alone determine man’s lot here below and that neither greed nor lack of commonsense has anything to do with it ?’ ‘ Not so,’ said Athilobhin after hearing the story, ‘Single-Wit was saved because he had the saving grace of commonsense which the other two had not Besides, the story of “The Monkey’s Revenge” will show the evils of greed,’ and he related that story. After he had heard it, Athyanthalobhin said, ‘ I agree with you. All men in the grip of this demon of greed either come to grief thereby or become ridiculous. The pity is that they never realize this till too late.’ ‘Friend, I warned you in time’ said Athilobhin, ‘and yet you were obstinate like the Ass which sang,’ and he related the story of “Ass As Singer“. 

‘True, too true’ said Athyanthalobhin’. I realize it my-self now. He who has no sense himself should at least have sense enough to act on the advice of a friend. Else he comes to grief. Alas, too often he lacks this sense also like me and solely occupies himself with the speculative, the impossible, and that which has not yet fructuated, abandoning that which is at hand. This too much calculation and greed can be seen in the story of “The Castles In the Air“. ‘That Brahmin too counted on the unhatched and the uncertain and lost what little he had’ said Athilobhin after hearing the story, ‘Yes’ replied his friend. ‘But, whereas he lost only rice flour and a mud pot and was strewn only with harmless rice flour I have lost heaps of gold and am strewn with drops of blood. The more I think of it, the more I am convinced that Fate regulates man’s fortunes here below more than his virtues or vices. “Friend, I am panic-stricken at seeing this terrible wheel churning your head which is constantly dripping blood, and causing the horrible agony on your face, and want to flee from here even as the demon wanted to do on seeing the face of the monkey, twisted with pain in the story of “The Demon Outwitted“. “What is that story ? asked Athyanthalobhin, and Athilobhin narrated it. Then he continued. Fate being favourable, a blind man, a hunchback, and a three breasted princess all got cured of their defects by acts intended to bring about their deaths’ said Athyanthalobhin. 

Athilobhin wanted to hear that story and Athyanthalobhin related the story of “The Three-Breasted Princess“. After hearing that, Athilobhin said, ‘It is true that Fate sometimes brings about happiness even where it is not deserved. But man should not choose the path of greed lest he should invite an unkindly Fate to descend on his devoted head and to bring him to grief like you, I am heartily sorry for you, but I must be returning to my home now. So please give me leave to return.’ ‘Friend’ said Athyanthalobhin, ‘Friends and wealth are said to stand one in good stead in adversity. Then how is it that you say that you will leave me in this miserable plight ? It is said, “That cruel man who deserts his friend on seeing him in misery is an ungrateful wretch and undoubtedly goes to hell for this sin”.’ ‘That is true only in cases where the friend’s misery is capable of alleviation by him’ said Athilobhin. ‘Here, your misery cannot be ended by mortal man. Neither I nor any other man has got the power to liberate you. So, my staying by your side will be of no use whatever and will only give me intense pain by seeing your agony. Besides, the more I see your face showing signs of agony caused by the turning of the wheel, the more I am inclined to flee from here quickly lest some calamity should befall me also. Kindly therefore give me leave to go.’ ‘All right, go home and live in peace. Tell my people also about my hard fate’ said Athyanthalobhin. Athilobhin returned home safely with his gold. ‘Too Much Greed Leads To The Wheel’ whispered he to himself as he cleared the mountain regions and reached the habitations of man. 

The Panchatantra – Story 54


Devasarma was a poor Brahmin. After long years of childlessness, his wife gave birth to the much-longed- for male child. Both husband and wife went into raptures over the baby. Well has it been said, ‘A son, even though destined to be wicked, ill-behaved, ugly, foolish and vicious, delights the hearts of his parents. People say that sandal paste is cool, but the touch of the baby’s limbs is cooler for, men will, for the sake of a son, overlook the claims of a brother, father and protector.’ 

There was in that house a mongoose brought up by the family in days of childlessness. It used to roam freely in the house. The Brahmin and his wife, who had loved it before, began to fear some harm or other from it to the newborn child. This fear had. no other basis except the excess of their love for their son. On the tenth day after the delivery, the Brahmin’s wife went to the river to take her ceremonial bath of purification. Before going, she called her husband and said, ‘Dearest, I am going to take my bath. Please watch our baby carefully,’ When she had gone some minutes, a maid came from the queen and said to the Brahmin, ‘ If you come, you will get plenty of grain and eatables besides a round sum in cash’. The Brahmin’s avarice was roused and he went immediately, leaving the mongoose in charge of the house and the baby. 

Shortly after he left, a big serpent came from it’s hole in the wall and rushed towards the child. Moved by its traditional enmity, the mongoose attacked the snake, and, after a terrible fight, killed it and cut it to pieces Soon afterwards, it saw the Brahmin returning. Rejoicing in its deed of valour, it ran to meet him with its blood-sprinkled face and teeth stained with blood. The Brahmin seeing the blood on the animal’s face and not pausing to consider further, thought, ‘This wretch has killed and eaten my darling son Enraged beyond measure, he gave a terrific blow to the mongoose with his stick and killed it. Entering the house, he found the child sleeping soundly and the huge serpent lying in pieces. He said to himself ‘Oh, what a senseless act have I done ! Woe unto me! I have killed the savior of my child’ and rolled on the ground in grief beating his breast and head.

His wife came shortly afterwards and asked him, ‘What is all this?’. He related the whole story. She said, ‘Prompted by greed, you disregarded my direction never to leave the child. The fruit of that is the pitiful death of this faithful beast which saved our child. Well have the wise men said, “One should not be too greedy though a little greed will not be out of place. A man overtaken by excessive greed got a dreadful wheel on his head churning his blood !’. The Brahmin asked ‘What is that story?’. His wife then related the story of “Too Much Greed leads To The Wheel“. Afterwards, she took the poor dead mongoose in her arms and wept hot tears of grief. 

The Panchatantra – Apareekshita Karyam

The Panchatantra – Apareekshita Karyam

[This is the beginning of Part-5 of Panchatantra, also called ‘Apareekshita Karyam’ or ‘ill-considered action’.]


“Let no one do an ill-considered action in haste and repent of it at leisure, said Vishnusarman. The story of the Barber and the Monks is a lesson for all. ‘What is that story?’ asked the princes. Then he narrated it. Manibhadra was a big merchant of the city of Pataliputra (Modern Patna). He spent enormous sums on charities and religious ceremonies and on his household. He used to carry on a gigantic trade with Kalingapatam, Kayal, Korkai (Ancient ports on the east coast of India. Kalingapatam is in Ganjam district and is still a port. The others are in Tinnevelly district and are now abandoned owing to silting), and other ports of the south in big ships going across the Bay of Bengal.

Once, when all his ships were on the waters, there was a terrific cyclone in the Bay. Not a single ship of his escaped. Manibhadra was ruined. From a millionaire he became a pauper. All the rich men who had till then courted his favour suddenly cut him and would not even deign to speak to him or invite him to caste dinners. Endless were the insults he and his wife had to endure. His noble soul was filled with sorrow and anguish at all this. What made his poverty specially unbearable to him was that he and his wife had become accustomed to a most luxurious life and could not adjust themselves to the changed conditions. His sufferings at least he could somehow endure. But he could not bear to see his beloved suffer the hardships and indignities of extreme penury. She had been accustomed to wear costly silks, give daily charities, and have baskets of flowers every day in all seasons. Deprived of the means for these, she was feeling as miserable and heartbroken as a caged elephant. Her pathetic attempts to conceal her sorrow in vain endeavours to cheer her husband up only revealed the truth even more poignantly. 

One night, when Manibhadra was lying alone on his bare cot and his wife was attending to some household work, he thought thus, ‘shameful is this poverty. An amiable disposition, a spotless character, forbearance, kindness, a sweet temper, a noble birth, none of these will shine in a poor man. Honour and pride, knowledge beauty and intelligence, all will perish with the advance of poverty. The daily anxiety of how to earn the where- withal to maintain the family for that day freezes the talents of the most talented even as the frostladen winds of Spring wither the beauty of the Sirisha(A most beautiful flower but extremely delicate add susceptible every change of weather and especially to chilly weather) flower. The brilliant talents are frittered away and wasted in this constant preoccupation with the prosaic acquisition of the rice, salt, oil, ghee, and firewood necessary for the sustenance of the family. The house of a pauper, however capable of potential joy, appears ugly, depressed and desolate like the sky bereft of its stars, like a lake devoid of water, and like a dreadful burning ground. 

Poor men may live in thousands near a rich man’s house but are never known to the outside public while the rich man is famous. They are just like bubbles on the face of the waters, never noticed because they have no substance, and are always appearing and disappearing The multitude leaves a noble-born, intelligent and kind master as soon as he becomes poor and attaches itself to a rich man though he may be devoid of noble birth or virtue or even an amiable disposition. Wealth is the one thing it cares for. Good actions done in the previous birth or in this are apparently of no use whatever in determining the fate of a man. Even learned men of noble birth have to dance attendance on a man who is a mere money-bag and have to depend on his favour. The wealthy may do with impunity what will be accounted to- be a crime in the poor. The ocean may roar as it pleases, and not a soul will think of accusing it of meanness or lowness as its waters are limitless. Of what worth is this useless life tome? I shall therefore go to some distant jungle tomorrow and commit suicide by hanging. This will save my beloved from the anguish of seeing my dead body. She will think that I have merely gone to some foreign country to earn some money and so will also be spared the horrors and indignities of a widow’s life. As- i am with her now she refuses to go to her relatives and lead a life of comparative ease. Once I am out of the way she will perforce have to go to her relatives and will have more of the necessaries of life.’ Having come to this resolution, he went to sleep. 

He had a curious dream that night. A naked Jain monk appeared before him and said, ‘Manibhadra, cast off all thoughts of suicide. The actions in the previous births never go without fruit though they may sometimes appear to do so. In your previous birth, you, in your purity of heart, gave a hundred thousand gold coins as a gift to a naked Jain monk who begged you for it in order to distribute it to the poor. I am that monk. After the gift I was so much attracted by the gold that I did not distribute it to the poor but kept it with me and thought of nothing else but it and spent all my time contemplating on it instead of on God and Dharma as before. They say truly that a man becomes that on which he contemplates with all his mind. So I became a man of gold in reality though to all outward appearance I was a man of God. I now see the folly of my ways and have lost altogether my fascination for gold ; still, the man of gold will not lea,/e me and has to be done to death and the gold returned to you. So, tomorrow I shall come to your houses early in the morning in the shape of a naked Jain monk, in other words, just as I am now. 

You will recognize me by my face and smile, the absence of a begging bowl, and my failure to repeat the usual formula for alms. You should without hesitation give me a blow on the head with a cudgel. At that blow I shall become a man of gold weighing two maunds(A maund is about 8 pounds. In ancient India gold coins of even five grains’ weight were known), the weight of your hundred thousand gold coins. You will become once more rich and can live happily with your beloved wife with the added knowledge of men and things that your poverty has brought you’ As for me, having left behind this man of gold, I shall again become the man God I was before I got this gold and shall return to Devaloka(The world of the immortals to which good souls go for a time before being reborn) and pursue my meditations undisturbed.’ Then the monk disappeared. 

Manibhadra woke up with a start and thought about this strange dream, ‘I do not know whether this dream will come true or not’ said he to himself, ‘Most probably it will turn out to be worthless as I was thinking solely of wealth before going to sleep. It is said that the dream of one who is sick, afflicted by sorrow, torn by anxiety, possessed by love or under the effects of intoxication will never be realized. In any case, let me see what happens. So he rose before dawn, bathed, said his prayers, and sat on the veranda facing the courtyard. Close at hand was a stout cudgel of genuine teak wood. Early in the morning, a barber called at Manibhadra’s house by previous appointment in order to do manicuring for his wife. He did the manicuring on the same veranda. When be had just finished it, a naked Jain monk entered the house, smiled at Manibhadra, and stood still without uttering the usual formula for alms. 

Manibhadra recognized in him at once as the monk he had seen in his dream. Seizing the cudgel with lightning rapidity, be delivered a stunning blow at the head of the monk before his astounded wife or the barber could interfere. The monk fell down on the ground dead and became a statue made of the purest gold to the amazement of the merchant’s wife and the barber. Manibhadra shed tears of joy and carried the statue of gold safely inside with the aid of his wife. He then cut a portion of the little finger of the gold image and giving it to the barber said, ‘Friend, take this and make merry. In return for this gift you are not to tell anybody about the strange happenings you have just witnessed here.’ The barber promised eternal secrecy and left. 

On the way home, the barber thought to himself, ‘It has been proved before my very eyes that a naked monk will become a statue of gold if beaten on the head with a teak cudgel and killed. What a fool I was not to have known this before! I shave all kinds of people for more than six hours per day and earn but six or seven, miserable silver coins hardly sufficient to procure for myself and my family the bare necessaries of life when all the time there were hundreds of these naked monks, wandering about and I could in ten minutes? quick work have made a hundred thousand gold coins like this Manibhadra. There is no doubt that we barbers are far behind these Vaisyas in the art of money-making. I have always wondered how people become millionaires all of a sudden and have imagined all kinds of superior abilities and business acumen. All that is necessary is a stout teak cudgel, a naked monk and a lightning blow. The rogues keep the secret pretty close to themselves so that only their caste might grow rich. By my unexpected good luck I have discovered the secret, and shall make good use of it. I shall invite all the naked monks from a remote part of the town to my house tomorrow morning, kill them all with deadly blows on their heads with teak cudgels and earn untold gold. I shall thus have plenty of money for all kinds of wild pleasures for which my soul has always craved. When all this gold is exhausted I can always replenish it as naked monks will never be wanting in this country’. 

Resolving thus, the barber got ready a number of stout and flawless teak cudgels and stored them in a box in the central hall of his house. Then he passed the rest of the day iu great impatience, eagerly waiting for the next morning to dawn. With the break of dawn he bathed, said his prayers, and went to a Jain temple in a distant corner of the town.

Circumambulating the figure of Mahavira(Mahavira was the founder of Jainism and lived in Behar in the 6th century B C. He is the twenty-fourth and last thirthankara of the Jains He took to asceticism in his 28th year forsaking his wife Yasoda. He was called Mahavira or the great hero from his victories over his animal passions, Jina or the Conqueror for the same reason, and Kevalin or the repository of true knowledge. He was born at Vaisali and died at Pawa and was a contemporary of Buddha. Jains got their name from his appellation Jina, and have from his time till the present day exercised a tremendous influence over Indian life though few in numbers for the last many centuries) three times he prostrated on the ground and said aloud, ‘Victory to the Jains who have the highest knowledge leading to salvation and whose minds are devoid of the least inclination towards women. That tongue alone is worthy to be called a tongue which praises Jina, that mind alone is worthy to be called a mind which is attached to Jina, and those hands alone are worthy to be called hands which worship Jina. His love-stricken wife Yasoda once addressed Jina thus, “Which woman are you thinking of under the pretext of meditation ? Open your eyes for a moment and look at this unfortunate person stricken with the arrows of Cupid but forsaken by you. You alone should “protect me, and yet you have no pity on me. You pretend to be merciful, but in reality there is no one more pitiless than you.” The master remained unmoved and silent. Wisdom dawned on Yasoda and she chided him no more. May the wise Jina who subdued the angry Yasoda protect us!’ 

Saying this, the barber went to the head monk, prostrated before him and was blessed with the customary blessing ‘May righteousness increase !’ He then said with humility, ‘Venerable sir, I pray of you to come to my house to-day with all the monks for a grand dinner.’ The bead monk replied ‘ Oh, lay brother, why are you talking like this though you are evidently a righteous man ? Why are, you inviting us to a grand dinner as if we are gluttonous Brahmins? We never accept any invitations to meals in advance. Whenever we feel hungry in the course of our wanderings or meditations we step into the house of some devout lay brother, accept his hospitality and eat just enough to sustain life. So, go home and don’t repeat such invitations.’ Hearing this, the barber said, ‘I now fully realize your strict rule of life. I have only one more submission to make. I have got in my house many priceless clothes which can be used as excellent binding for your books. I have also got fine quilts and a large sum of money for distribution among worthy monks who copy the sacred books of the Jains. I thought that the monks here would perhaps like to have these gifts. Of course, you may do as you like. But in case you do not want these things I must go to other monks.’ 

All the six monks who were in the temple said with one voice ‘We are quite willing to come to your house and receive these gifts since they are not personal but meant, as it were, for the promotion of learning and the eternal Dharma. So you need not go to other monks.’ Well has it been said, ‘It is a wonder of wonders that even he who is a bachelor and alone, who has abandoned his home, who has taken the vow of poverty an d begging, who has discarded the use of all clothes, be also is over- taken by greed. Even more wonderful are the quibbles by which he justifies his greed. When a man becomes old, his hair grows grey, his teeth fall off, his eyes become dim, his ears become deaf, but his greed alone is undiminished and continues to grow.’ 

The barber took the monks to the central hall of his house and locked all the doors. Then he opened a big box and took out of it a stout teak cudgel instead- of the expected quills, clothes and cash. With this cudgel he began to deliver stunning blows at the heads of the unfortunate monks. To his surprise and indignation, not one of them would receive the blows squarely on the head smilingly and expectantly like Manibhadra’s monk. Nor did any of them fall down dead at one blow. The panic-stricken men of religion raised piercing cries for help, ducked the all-important heads, warded off many blows with their hands and shoulders, and ran desperately round the room like chased rats in order to escape from the murderous blows. The doors were locked, and there was no way of escape. The barber’s blows rained faster and faster. 

Two of the monks fell down at last as the result of a series of blows. The barber cracked their skulls with blows of exceptional ferocity, and they died. He eagerly stooped over their bodies, expecting them to have become statues of gold, but they remained mere blood-stained corpses. He only became more furious than ever and hammered away at the rest in the desperate hope that they at least would turn into gold. The four helpless survivors fell at his feet and implored for their lives. ‘Save us, save us. What have we done to you, what property have we got, that you should be so cruel and merciless towards us? You have killed two of us already and inflicted severe wounds on the rest. Spare our lives at least,’ said they. ‘Not one of you has become gold. None of your monkey tricks. Die decently and become’ statues of gold’ roared the barber, increasing the number and vehemence of his blows. The heart-rending cries of the survivors were heard by some policemen passing along the street and they rushed to the spot. 

Breaking open the doors they entered the hall, rescued the bleeding monks and tied the barber. They took the barber, the corpses and the surviving monks to the judges and reported the circumstances. The Judges asked the barber, ‘Why did you do this diabolical deed?’ He replied, ‘How can I be blamed when I did only what the merchant Manibhadra did with impunity and with greater success yesterday?’ ‘What is it you say?’ asked the Judges. ‘I saw manibhadra beat to death a naked monk who became a statue of the purest gold as soon as he died,’ replied the barber. The Judges sent for Manibhadra and asked him, ‘Did you kill a naked monk yesterday?’ He then related the whole story of his dream and its sequel.

After hearing him, the Judges said to the police, ‘Take this stupid barber who has committed these two murders and spear him to death.’ When he had been led away, they said, ‘A man should never act upon what is imperfectly seen, known, heard or examined. Else, he will come to grief like this barber. Well has it been said, “Nothing should be done without careful scrutiny. Everything should be done only after a thorough examination Things done without proper scrutiny lead to bitter repentance as in the case of the Brahmin who killed the faithful mongoose'”.’ Manibhadra asked, ‘What is that story?’ Then the judges related the story of ‘The Faithful mongoose‘ and rose for the day. 

The Panchatantra – Story 52


A dog called Chitranga was living comfortably in a town. After some years, however, the town was stricken by a famine, and also with fear of invasion, and most people left the town in panic. The dog could not get anything to eat. So he want to another town in order to live a comfortable life. He was fortunate enough to see the door of a kitchen in a big house open. He entered and saw several nice dishes ready cooked. He had his fill and went out before any people in the house could see his act. 

But, when he went out, the dogs of the town, on seeing this stranger dog, attacked him and bit him savagely, inflicting several wounds on his body. They he said to himself; Better to live in one’s own land even in times of famine, respected by your kinsfolk, even though you get little to eat, instead of living in this foreign town hated by all the dogs.” So he returned to his native town. The other dogs asked him, “How did you fare in that strange country? What is it like?”. He replied ; “The food there was very good to eat, and of infinite variety. But the dogs in that foreign town are wanting in friendliness, and it is impossible for any self respecting dog of this town to live there.”

The Panchatantra – Story 51


In a forest, there was a Jackal called Mahachaturaka (The name means ‘very clever’). Once, when wandering in the forest, he came across the corpse of an elephant which had died by itself. He went round it in delight to find a rant in the skin through which the flesh could be got at, but found no such opening. The thick skin was everywhere intact, and it was beyond his power to tear it open and get at the flesh within. While he was thinking of some way of getting over this difficulty, he found to his consternation a lion arriving at the spot. The jackal prostrated low before the lion and said, ‘Sire, I am your humble servant and am watching this elephant for you. So, kindly condescend to eat it.’ 

The lion replied, ‘I never eat animals killed by others. So I am pleased to gift this elephant to you.’ Hearing this, the jackal was delighted and said, ‘So should real lords treat their servants. Well has it been said, “The really great do not lose their inborn good qualities even in the direst calamity. A conch put in burning fire becomes only whiter”.

When the lion had gone its way, highly pleased with these sentiments, a tiger came along. Seeing him, the jackal thought, ‘One wicked wretch I have already disposed of by prostrating before him. How am I to get rid of this tiger? Certainly he is very strong and courageous though not so much as a lion. Hence, the only way to deal with him is to set him and the more powerful lion by the ears. It has been said, “The remedy of sowing discord should be employed and will succeed in the case of one who is not likely to be won over either by peaceful words or by a little gift. A man may be keenly desirous of salvation, very upright in his conduct extremely amiable, well-behaved, pleasant, free from anger, and full of every virtue, but he will still be tied down to this word if a little discord exists in him and he is unaware of the unity of his individual soul with the universal soul or God. So too, though a pearl is dazzlingly bright, smooth, round and beautiful and appears unapproachable, it is tied in garlands when it is divided against itself by being bored through”.

Thinking thus, he said to the tiger in great haste and in a whisper, taking his face close to his, ‘Uncle how is it that you have walked into the jaws of death ? This elephant has been killed by the lion. Leaving me to watch him, he has gone to take his bath. When going, he told me, ‘If any tiger comes here, you are to come to me at once and tell me confidentially about it. This forest of mine should be rid of tigers. Once, a tiger had the impudence to eat part of an elephant killed by me and to leave the polluted remains for me. J am therefore furious with tigers”.’ Hearing this, the tiger was terribly afraid and said to the jackal, ‘Oh, nephew, save my life. Pray do hot go and tell the lion about my coming. Further, even if the lion, comes here very late, kindly never tell him anything about my coming here or even about my living in this jungle.’ Saying this, the tiger took to a precipitate flight.

Hardly had the tiger gone when a leopard hove in sight. Seeing him, the jackal thought, ‘This leopard has got powerful teeth* I shall make him tear open the elephant’s skin for’. With this intent, he said to the leopard, ‘Hullo, nephew, how is it that I have not seen you for a long time ? Why do you appear so hungry? Come, be my guest and have a good feed. He who comes at meal time is a guest. This elephant has been killed by the lion, I have been asked to watch the carcass. But there are no signs of the lion’s return yet. So before he comes, have your fill of this elephant’s flesh and run away”. 

The Leopard said, ‘Uncle, I am, no doubt, hungry But I have no use for this flesh. If I touch it, the lion will kill me. What is the use of a meal however pleasant, if the taking of it means certain death? Well has it been said that one should eat only that which can be eaten and that which if eaten will be digested and that the after consequences of the eating should be as pleasant as the eating itself. If one continues to live, he may get hundreds of such delightful things as this elephant’s flesh whereas the taking of this single meal means the end of life itself. So I am off.’ The jackal said, ‘Fie, you coward. Eat without fear. I shall watch for the lion’s coming and warn you as soon as he is sighted from afar.’ The leopard, thus reassured, proceeded to tear the skin of the elephant in order to eat the flesh. As soon as the skin had been torn open by the leopard, the jackal cried, ‘Oh, nephew, run away, run away the lion is coming.’ At this, the leopard took to headlong flight. 

Just when the jackal had begun to eat the elephant’s flesh through the opening made by the leopard, another jackal came rushing at in fury in order to share the flesh. Seeing it, the jackal in possession said to himself. ‘One should gain over the best by prostrating oneself before him, a brave enemy by setting up another against him, a mean person by a small gift, and an equal by one’s own valour.’ So thinking, he rushed at the intruding jackal, defeated him, tore him to pieces and killed him. Then he peacefully ate the elephant’s flesh for a long time.