Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Pancatantra included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Pañcatantra

A. General information. An ancient book of distinction written by the scholar Viṣṇuśarmā in the form of stories for the use of children to give them an idea of the different aspects of life.


There is a statement in the preface itself regarding the composition of this book: "Three sons were born to an emperor named Amaraśakti. All the three were dull-witted. The emperor was very sorry for them but found no way to improve them. Greatly disappointed the King called the royal council and told them about his sons. Then one of the members of the council, a man named Sumati, stood up and said "Oh best of Kings, let us not try to teach your children the śāstras one by one. It will not only be unpleasant study but would also take a long time to complete. If we can mix all the śāstras cleverly and make it palatable like sweetmeats the children would take it easily. There is a suitable man also for this work in our state. He is Viṣṇuśarmā, a kind-hearted scholar who is not only well-versed in all the sāstras but also an adept in the art of the up-bringing of children. I am sure he would make your children wise and learned." When the emperor heard this he sent for Viṣṇuśarmā and told him everything. After understanding well the nature of his would-be disciples and the ambition of their father, Viṣṇuśarmā took charge of his wards and within six months he taught the sons of the emperor the science of government. The stories which he used to teach them the science of administration were all compiled into a volume called Pañcatantra."

A general idea of the book.

The book contains five divisions each division illustrating one tantra (tact, diplomacy) by several stories. It contains prose and verse. The first tantra is called Mitrabheda. Stories under this head explain the philosophy of "Divide and rule" in politics. The main characters in these stories are two foxes named Karaṭaka and Damanaka. Stories under Mitrabheda relate to how these sly foxes enjoy themselves in breaking the intimacy between a lion and an ox using slander against each other. 'Mitralābha' is the theme of the next tantra. It is an advice that you should select your friends with care selecting them only after studying them in detail properly. The author has selected as characters in his stories for this purpose a tortoise a deer, a crow and a rat. The third tantra is called Kākolūkīya. This deals with the evils behind an intimacy between born enemies. The main characters in the stories relating to this are a crow and an owl. The fourth tantra is called Labdhapraṇāśa. It describes how a man loses what has come into his possession by his foolishness. A monkey and a crocodile are the characters in this story. The fifth tantra is Aparīkṣitakāraka. It deals with the bad side of not looking into all the possible aspects of what you hear. Several stories are there to illustrate this point.

Popularity of the book.

Though no correct records are there in history in support of the belief, it is believed that Amaraśakti was the ruler of Mahilāropya in Deccan and that Pañcatantra must have originated from there. But Pañcatantra received a global publicity and popularity and was translated from Sanskrit into many other languages. Directed by King Kosru Anuṣirva, a Persian poet named Buryoe translated it into the Persian language during the period 531-575 A.D. That translation is not available at present. In the year 570 A.D. it was translated into the Syrian language by a poet named Bud. A scholar named Abdulla Ibaal Mogaffa in the year 750 A. D. translated it into the Arabic language. It was from this Arabic translation that it was translated into many European languages. The Greek translation appeared in the year 1080 A.D., Hebrew in 1100 A.D., Latin in 1270 A.D., German in 1480 A.D., Italian in 1582 A.D. and French in 1678 A.D. Next to the Bible this is the book which has received the greatest publicity and popularity. The great linguist Hertel says that Pañcatantra has appeared in about 200 translations in fifty different languages.

Period of composition.

Because the translation into the Syrian language appeared in the year 570 A.D it must have been composed earlier than that date. Again, since it takes at least two centuries for a work to get popular enough to be translated into a foreign language, the composition must have been done early in the fourth century A.D. Some believe that the work was done in Kashmir. While others assert that it was written in Magadha. The original title of the book is believed to be 'Karataka and Damanaka' by a few.

Two editions.

Two different editions of the book are now found. One edition popular in Kashmir is known as Tantrākhyāyikā. The other is in the form found in Kathāsaritsāgara and Bṛhatkathāmañjarī. The original Sanskrit work is very rarely found. There are several editions of this in Dakṣiṇa Bhārata. Changes in the stories according to the change of times are also noted. (History of Classical Sanskrit Literature).

B. Contents (Stories).


There was once a very good merchant in the land of Mahilāropya called Vardhamāna. He was once travelling in a bullock-cart. One of the bullocks drawing the cart was named Sañjīvaka. The leg of Sañjīvaka broke on the way striking against a stone. Leaving the bullock to the charge of four of his attendants Vardhamāna continued his journey. When night came the attendants were frightened by the surrounding forests and so, leaving the bullock to its fate the attendants left the place. The bullock got well and it roamed about in the forests bellowing loudly. The King of the forests, Piṅgalaka the lion, was frightened by the bellowing of the bullock.

The lion remained in the forest without stirring out from its cave. The minister of the lion was a fox. That fox had two sons named Karaṭaka and Damanaka. Damanaka wanted to know what made the lion worried and told his brother about it. Karaṭaka advised him not to interfere unnecessarily with the affairs of others and told his brother Damanaka a story to stress his point.

A group of sawers were sawing wood near a temple for its construction. At lunch time one of the sawers placed a wedge on a half-sawn timber and went for his midday meal. One of the monkeys sitting on the branch of a tree near the temple jumped on to the halfsawn timber and pulled out the wedge. His tail had fallen without his knowing into the space between the sawn planks and when the monkey later jumped out from the timber his tail was wedged between the planks and the tail got crushed. If you poke your nose into the affairs of others without any purpose such dangers are sure to happen.

Hearing that, Damanaka said, "Brother, are we serving the lion, our master, just for our food? If we want only our food what difference is there between ourselves and the dog? Have you not seen the uproar the dogs make when they see food. A dog has no modesty, humility or self-confidence. Some men are also like that. But some others are not like that. Look at the elephant. It never makes an exhibition of its happiness when it gets its food. Its majestic stand, look and gestures are worth noticing. The best of men are also like this. Everybody should keep this in mind. He who earns his livelihood without depending on others but does it by his own wits and efforts is the most revered of men. But food is not enough, we must earn fame also. So even though we are children we must try to remove the worry that hangs over our lord, the lion." The brother was not moved by this philosophy of Damanaka and so he said again, "Anywhere and in any venture success is difficult to achieve and failure is very easy. It is difficult to rise up but it is easy to fall down. It is a very hard labour to roll a stone up a mountain but to push it down from the top is very easy. He is blessed who can read correctly the thoughts of other people. I have, looking at the face of our King, understood that something big is worrying him."

Karaṭaka said, "Admitting what you say to be correct how are we to know the thing that worries the King? It is a dangerous task." Damanaka said "Regarding the achievement of success, there are three kinds of people namely the Uttama (best), the madhyama (mediocre) and the adhama (worst). The adhama type will never start a venture fearing failure. The madhyama type would start his endeavour but would turn back at the sight of obstacles. But the Uttama type would never turn back without achieving success. They are the adorable type of men in this world. The Uttama would act according to the circumstances of the situation. If he wants to talk to another and obtain a favour from him he would not go to him at random without looking into the time, place and opportunity to do so. Even Bṛhaspati has his moods. In fact, there is nothing impossible in this world. Disappointment and failures are due to want of experience and lack of endeavour. The great ocean with its huge rolling waves gives one a fright at first sight. But if he starts bathing in it for a long time he finds it not so unapproachable or ghastly."

When Karaṭaka heard these moral preachings of his brother he allowed him to do what he wanted to do. Damanaka went to the cave of the lion. Far from the cave itself Damanaka started walking humbly with his head bent down. The lion saw Damanaka walking thus to him and was immensely pleased. The King of the beasts asked him thus "Damanaka, it is a long time since I saw you and your brother. Why is it that you both, sons of my minister, do not come and see me as often as your father?"

Damanaka replied very humbly "Oh mighty King, of what use can we insignificant creatures be to you? Yet, if one thinks over it, even little things can also be of use at times to great people." Damanaka then recited to the King a poem which in substance was thus: "Even grass over which we trample while walking, is of use as fodder to the cattle. Some are used for cleaning the teeth and still some, dry and brittle, to tickle the ear when it itches badly. Great men retain their greatness even when they fall. A burning torch would send its flame only upwards even when you keep it upside down. Similarly all things will shine only in their proper places. An ornamental waistbelt would not shine round a neck nor would bangles shine on one’s ears. Anyhow let me ask your highness one question. Is it true that when your highness went to drink water something happened to make your highness worry ?"

Piṅgalaka the lion said: "What you say is correct. When I went today to drink water in the river I heard the horrifying bellow of a fierce animal and was frightened. I am thinking of leaving this forest and going to some other one."

Damanaka said "Oh Lord, be not frightened. Appearances are often deceptive and cannot be believed. I shall tell you the story of a fox who mistook an ordinary drum for an animal with good flesh. Once a fox saw a drum lying in a battlefield. It was making a sound when the wind blew over it. The fox mistook it for an animal with plenty of flesh and blood. Rejoicing at the prospect of having a hearty meal the fox mustered courage and went near it. It tore the leather open. Only then could it understand its blunder."

The King liked the story very much. So he sent Damanaka to enquire where the bellow came from. Damanaka found out Sañjīvaka, the ox and told him everything and added that he had been sent by the King to fetch him to his presence. Sañjīvaka was at first afraid to go but the consoling words of Damanaka gave him courage and it went to the lion. The lion and the ox became great friends and gradually the intimacy developed to such an extent that the King of the beasts started becoming indifferent to the welfare of the other beasts in the forest. The subjects of the King Piṅgalaka were in trouble.

Feeling sorry for his own actions Damanaka went to his brother and said, "All this happened because of our own fault. I shall tell you a story about a self-made calamity. Once an ascetic named Devaśarmā was afraid of robbers. So he stitched into his robes all the money he possessed. Somehow a robber named Āṣāḍhabhūti came to know of it and he made friends with the ascetic and acted as his servant pretending to be very faithful. Devaśarmā got confidence in him and one day he went to bathe handing over all his guarded wealth into the hands of Āṣāḍhabhūti. On his way back from the river after his bath Devaśarmā saw two goats fighting against each other. Blood was flowing from the heads of both the goats and still the fight continued. A fox came there to drink the fresh blood flowing from their heads and he went and started licking the blood that had dropped between the two fighting goats. The goats came again and hit against each other with force and the fox that was standing between the two and licking the blood greedily was crushed to death. When he returned after witnessing the fight the ascetic found that his servant had gone away with his cash."

Karaṭaka liked the story very much. They then discussed ways and means of getting out of this calamity. Damanaka said that any object can be achieved by cleverness and told his brother a story to illustrate his point. He said "Once a crow made his abode on a tree with his wife and children. After some time his wife began to lay eggs but all of them disappeared one by one. They made enquiries and found that the culprit was a big cobra living beneath the same tree. They were no match to the cobra and so they sought the advice of their friend, a fox.

The fox said, "I shall suggest a way to get out of the danger. Have you not heard the story of an old stork who got his food by his cleverness? The stork went to the banks of a pond feeling hungry. There were plenty of fishes in the pond. The stork stood still on the banks pretending to be sad. A crab seeing the sad-looking stork came and enquired the cause of his grief. The stork said 'You well know that we storks live on flesh. and fish. I now understand that a fisherman has planned to catch all the fish in this pond. This is the cause of my worry." The fishes who overheard this conversation between the crab and the stork came before the stork frightened and requested him to save them from the fisherman somehow. The stork said 'I am not strong to fight the fisherman. But I can do what little help I can give you. I shall every day remove you one by one from this pond to another one without the knowledge of the fisherman."

The poor fishes agreed to the proposal and the stork carried away one fish everyday from the pond and ate it at a place hidden from the view of the others. This went on for one or two months without break and somehow the crab got suspicious and he requested the stork to take him also to the other pond. The stork carrying the crab reached its usual place and the crab was horrified at the sight of the bones of the fishes eaten before by the stork. The crab knew its death was sure even if it did not fight with the stork and so started a fight and in the end killed the stork by crushing the neck of the stork."

The crows crew hilariously when they heard the story of the fox. The fox then told them a plan. "When any of those who come to bathe in a pond nearby removes the necklace and places it on the shore you are to pick it up and hang it on a branch of the tree." The crows did like that and pedestrians going that way saw the necklace hanging from the branch and took it after killing the cobra in the hole beneath the tree."

On hearing the story told by Damanaka the idea of putting the lion against the ox gained strength in Karaṭaka’s mind. To confirm the idea in his brother’s mind Damanaka told another story. Damanaka said. "Once there was a lion named Madotkaṭa. He lived in a forest harassing all the beasts that lived there.

All the subjects of King Madotkaṭa joined together, went to him and represented to him that they would go to his cave one by one every day to be killed and eaten by him. The lion agreed to that and the beasts one by one went to his cave each day. One day it was the turn of a clever hare. The hare walked slowly and reached the lion’s den late. The King was very cross at this and asked him to explain why he was late. The hare said "Oh lord, on my way another lion accosted me and I had to take a round-about route to get away from that lion." The lion got angry and asked the hare to take him to the other lion who dared to come to that forest and question his authority. The hare took the lion to a well and asked his lord to peep in. When Madotkaṭa did so he saw his own reflection in the still waters of the well and mistook it for another lion. It jumped into the well and was killed."

Karaṭaka had implicit confidence in Damanaka after hearing all these stories and he sent his brother to the King to create a rupture between the lion and the ox. Damanaka went to the King Piṅgalaka and apologised for the mistake he had committed. Then the King enquired what the mistake was. Damanaka said that the ox Sañjīvaka was not such a simpleton as he took him to be. He was ambitious and wanted to snatch away the kingdom from Piṅgalaka. It was unwise to keep one single minister always. "After all what can an ox do? He can plough the fields. I have come to inform you all these out of my regard for you." Damanaka said.

Even after hearing all these, Piṅgalaka did not have the heart to abandon the ox. Piṅgalaka asked what a poor bullock could do against a lion. Damanaka then said that one would come into grief if one believed too much in any body. "Have you not heard the story of the louse which believed the bug?" Damanaka asked. Then he narrated a story. "Mandavisarpiṇī was a louse which was living happily on the silken bed of a King. A bug went there and made friends with the louse. The poor louse believed the bug to be harmless and allowed it to stay that night with him. The bug said that it was very greedy to suck the blood of the King. At night the bug bit the King. The King woke up and ordered his servants to search for the thing that bit him. When lights were brought the clever bug slipped away. The royal servants conducting the search found out the louse and killed it."

The lion liked the tale very much and yet was reluctant to dismiss the ox. The lion wanted proof that the ox was at fault. So Damanaka went straight to the ox in his house and said "We are all small people. What does the master do for our welfare? If small people seek the friendship of big people the small ones will always suffer." The ox endorsed the view and told a story to illustrate the truth. "A lion named Madotkaṭa had a tiger, a fox and a crow as his ministers. When the ministers were once walking in the forest they saw a camel. They had never seen a camel before and so they were wonderstruck by the animal. They went and talked with it and gathered that the curious animal was a camel which had been carrying loads for a merchant. It had now escaped from the merchant because of the heavy work it had to do. The camel wanted to remain in hiding. The ministers took the new animal to the lion. The lion liked the camel very much and soon they became good and intimate friends. The intimacy increased and soon the King lost all interest in his other subjects. At this stage the ministers found out a plan. They advised the King to kill and eat the camel but the King refused to do so. Then the crow went before the King and requested the lion to kill and eat it. But the crow was so small a food for the lion and so it refused to kill the crow. Then the fox made a similar offer but the lion refused to kill the fox also. Then came the tiger with the offer and the lion refused to kill the tiger also. Seeing all this the camel also made a similar offer and the moment his consent was out from his mouth the fox and the tiger together killed the poor camel and ate it. So one should be careful in believing others. In my case I am sure some wicked persons must have advised him against me and that is the reason why the lion is angry with me. But I will always work true to my conscience. There is no harm in fighting either for selfprotection or for destroying one’s enemies. So if it is necessary I will fight the lion."

Hearing this Damanaka said "To go to war without knowing the strength of the enemy is wrong. Once upon a time a water-fowl quarrelled with the ocean. The water-fowl was living happily on the shores of an ocean with his mate. They ate the worms that lived on the shores. The she-fowl got pregnant and when it was time to lay her eggs she asked her mate to show her a safe place to lay the eggs. The male mate asked her to lay the eggs on the shore itself. But the she-fowl said that the waves would carry away the eggs and so it was not wise to do so. The male fowl assured her that the ocean was not bold enough to do anything against his interests. But the she-fowl still hesitated.

Then the male fowl said "I am the nearest relative responsible for your protection and welfare. If one does not heed the words of a relative one will fall into danger. I shall tell you the story of a tortoise which came to grief by not obeying the instructions of its friends. In olden times there lived on the banks of a pond a tortoise who had two swan-friends in the lake named Saṅkaṭa and Vikaṭa. Once the lake became empty of water and the swans decided to go to another lake with water. They never wanted to part with their friend the tortoise and so decided to take the tortoise also along with them. But the tortoise could not fly and so they found a plan to carry the tortoise to the other lake. They brought a stick and the tortoise was asked to hang at the middle of the stick clutching the stick tightly with its teeth. The swans then took the stick by its two ends each holding one end in its beak. The swans gave strict instructions that the tortoise should not open its mouth and then rose up into the air and flew towards the other lake. On the way some children saw the funny sight in the air and so hooted and howled. The tortoise got angry and abused the children. The moment it opened its mouth it lost hold on the stick and fell down to the ground This happened because the tortoise did not heed the words of its friends." The water fowl continued 'It is cowardice and foolishness to remain sad expecting dangers in future. Just hear this story' he said 'Once in a pond there were three fishes named Anāgata, Utpannamati and Yadbhaviṣya. Hearing that fishermen were coming to fish in that pond Anāgata warned them and suggested going to another pond to escape from the fishermen. But Utpannamati and Yadbhaviṣya did not care. They said that some plan could be found out when the danger came. But Anāgata felt diffident and so he went away to another pond. Soon the fishermen came and spread their nets. Utpannamati lay still pretending to be dead. The fishermen took it and deposited it on the shore and started to fish again. The moment the fishermen turned their heads Utpannamati slipped into a mud pit nearby and remained there till the departure of the fishermen. But poor Yadbhaviṣya could not think of any plan and so was caught and carried away by the fishermen. So just like Utpannamati I will also come across some plan when the danger comes and so you do lay your eggs on the shore of the ocean itself."

Hearing the assuring words of her husband the shefowl laid her eggs on the shore. But very soon waves came and carried them away. She complained to her husband. The water fowl called a conference of all the birds living there and explained to them his mishap and all of them went on a deputation to Garuḍa, the best of the birds and requested him to find out a remedy. Garuḍa represented the matter to Mahāviṣṇu who in turn called Varuṇa to his side and ordered him to give back the eggs to the fowl.

After telling this story Damanaka went to the lion and told him many misleading lies about the ox. Gradually the lion and the ox became enemies. Damanaka then triumphantly went and informed his brother Karaṭaka of his achievement. But Karaṭaka said "Brother, you have done a very unjust thing. There are four methods to achieve your object namely, Sāma, Dāna, Bheda and Daṇḍa. Of these Bheda is to be used only last of all. I shall tell you a story:

Once a chetty (Merchant) had two sons named Dharmabuddhi and Duṣṭabuddhi. Once they were both travelling through a forest when Dharmabuddhi got a treasure from a hole at the base of a big tree. Duṣṭabuddhi advised his brother not to take the treasure to the city as it was dangerous to do so and made him bury it at a place beneath the same tree. That night itself Duṣṭabuddhi went and dug out the treasure and got it buried in his own room. After some days both of them went together to see the treasure and found the place empty of the treasure. They accused each other of stealing the treasure. Both of them complained to the King. The King asked them whether they had any witnesses and they replied that only the tree was there as a witness. The King decided that both of them should go beneath the same tree and dip their hands in burning oil to prove their innocence. Duṣṭabuddhi went to his father and requested him that he should hide in the hollow of that tree and say that it was Dharmabuddhi who had stolen the treasure. Hearing this the father said "Child, when you think of a trick you must also think of the danger involved in it. Once there lived a stork with his wife on a tree. A serpent living in the same tree began to eat the young ones of the stork and the stork complained to his friend fox about it. The clever fox suggested to him a plan. There was a mongoose living near the tree. The stork was to drop fishes in front of the hole of the mongoose and continue dropping fishes in a line leading to the abode of the serpent. The mongoose would thus be led to the hole of the serpent. The stork did so and when the mongoose reached the hole of the serpent it saw it and killed it. I cannot do such cruel things." But when Duṣṭabuddhi insisted, the father half-heartedly agreed to it and went and sat in the hollow of the tree. Next day the servants of the King came to the foot of the tree with burning oil. They asked the tree to tell the truth regarding the theft. Then there came a voice from the tree denouncing Dharmabuddhi as the culprit. Dharmabuddhi then said there was no truth in the bodiless voice and requested them to fumigate the tree from beneath. The royal servants did so and then the father came out and confessed everything. The servants of the King nailed Duṣṭabuddhi on a spike and killed him.

After having told the story Karaṭaka tried to dissuade his brother from his deceitful intentions. Karaṭaka said:—"Piṅgala and Sañjīvaka are kind-hearted and simple people. There need be no treachery with them. Treachery is allowed against wicked people. I shall tell you the story of a merchant:—

This merchant had as his entire wealth a thousand pounds of iron and one day he went on a pilgrimage after entrusting his entire wealth to a friend and neighbour of his on the understanding that the latter should return it on his return after the pilgrimage. After ten months the merchant returned but the friend did not give back the iron. He regretted that all the iron was eaten by rats in which his house abounded. The merchant knew that his neighbour was speaking falsehood but kept silent over the matter. After a few days the merchant somehow enticed the only son of his neighbour to his house and locked the young boy in a room. The friend went in search of his son to the merchant’s house and asked him whether he had seen his son anywhere. The merchant replied that he saw the boy being carried away by a kite. The friend could not believe the story and suspecting some foul play on the part of the merchant went to the king and reported the matter to him. The king sent for the merchant and asked him about the missing boy. The merchant gave the king the same reply he gave his friend. The king was surprised and asked the merchant whether it was believable that a boy aged eighteen would be carried away by a kite. The merchant very coolly replied that such things could happen in a country where rats could eat a thousand pounds of iron. The king asked the merchant to explain and he then told him everything that had happened. The king ordered the friend to return the iron and the merchant got back his wealth. Karaṭaka after telling this story added that deceit in return for deceit was no sin. Damanaka stuck on to his plan and made the lion and ox fight each other. The poor ox was killed and the lion became his old self again.

Suhṛllābha. (Gaining friends).

Once there lived on a tree a crow named Laghupatanaka. The crow saw a hunter coming and spreading a net beneath the tree. A flock of doves coming that way was caught in the net. But the doves flew up in a body and the net was carried from the ground freed of the pegs that held it. The crow followed them and when they were safely landed at another place Citragrīva the leader of the doves, told the crow thus "I shall now show you the benefit of gaining friends." Citragrīva and his doves flew again with the net and landed before the hole of a rat named Hiraṇyaka. The rat was a friend of Citragrīva. On hearing the voice of Citragrīva outside, Hiraṇyaka came out and felt sorry for the plight of the doves. The rat pointed out that nobody could oppose fate and proved it with illustrations. He added:—"Though elephants and cobras are mightier and fiercer than men, it is because of fate that they are being controlled by smaller people than they themselves. Hiraṇyaka cut to pieces the threads of the net and set the doves free. Next day the doves flew away to their places. Seeing the generosity shown by the rat, the crow wanted to be friendly with the rat. The crow mentioned this to the rat. But the rat refused to be friendly thinking that it was a ruse to get him killed for his food. But the crow promised to be grateful for ever to the rat for saving the doves which belonged to the community of birds to which the crow also belonged. But the rat retorted that gratitude was a quality which was absent in any living being and generally harm was the reward for any favour done. The crow was greatly grieved to hear the words of Hiraṇyaka and told him that he (crow) would commit suicide if the rat did not take him as his friend. At last the rat took pity on the crow and they became friends. Time passed on and then there broke out a famine in the land. The crow decided to shift his abode and told the rat about it. He said he was going to a lake on the banks of which lived a friend of his, a tortoise. The tortoise, he added, would fetch for him from the lake plenty of fish to eat. The rat was also affected by the famine and so he also decided to accompany the crow. The crow took the rat in its beak and they both reached the lake where lived the tortoise named Manthara. The crow introduced Hiraṇyaka to the tortoise and the tortoise asked him the reason why he left his previous abode.

The rat said:—"There was a bhikṣu (one who lives on alms) named Cūḍākarṇa living in a house in my place. He used to eat only what was required to maintain life in him. He would cook his own food and keep the remains everyday in his kitchen. I used to eat that food and live. Then one day another Sannyāsin named Bṛhatsphik (Vīṇākarṇa) came to this house. Every night Vīṇākarṇa used to read the Purāṇas to Cūdākarṇa. Cūḍākarṇa would sit and make a sound on the bow kept nearby to drive me away. The first time he did so Vīṇākarṇa who was reading resented the interrupting sound and asked Cūḍākarṇa why he made it. He then explained that it was intended to drive away the rat coming to steal the food. I was forced to starve and I became lean and weak. Even rivers would go dry if there are no rains. Only those with wealth would have friends. Begging is a nuisance to others. Everywhere it is important to acquire good and faithful friends. When a good man is in danger only good men rush to help him. When an elephant falls into a pit it is always another elephant which comes to its rescue. Therefore I desire to make friends with you."

All the three, the crow, the rat and the tortoise lived together happily. Then one day a deer named Citrāṅgada escaping from a hunter came frightened to their midst and started living with them. One day the deer which went in search of food did not return even after dusk and so the crow went in search of the deer and found it trapped in a hunter’s net. The crow informed the rat about it and the rat immediately came and started gnawing at the strings of the net. In the meantime the tortoise desirous of knowing the plight of Citrāṅgada crawled to the place of accident. The rat had already torn to pieces the net and the crow and the rat said that it was unwise of Manthara to have come so far crawling as there was danger from the hunter coming to the place soon. Before the deer could endorse the views of his friends the hunter came to the scene. The deer, the crow and the rat escaped. The hunter saw the crawling tortoise and caught it. Binding it with a string the hunter placed it on the ground. In the meantime the friends of Manthara who had escaped hit upon a plan to resuce the tortoise. The deer lay down pretending to be dead at a place far away from the place but within the sight of the hunter. The crow sat perched on its body as if pecking at its flesh. The hunter saw it and went to take the dead body of the deer. The moment the hunter turned away from the tortoise the rat went and cut the string binding the tortoise and set it free. Before the hunter reached the deer it ran away. So all were saved. This is the benefit of having good friends.

Sandhivigraha (Peace and war).

We must make friends with people only after knowing them well There was once a big banyan tree in a forest which was inhabited by many crows. Their leader was a crow named Meghavarṇa About three kilometres away from this tree was another banyan tree on which lived a number of owls. Their leader was an owl named Amardana. The crows and the owls were great enemies.

One day Amardana king of the owls with a large army of a lakh of his subjects attacked the crows at night. The crows could not see at night and so all the crows excepting a few of the top ones were killed. Meghavarṇa, the king, and his ministers, Uddīpaka, Sandīpaka, Anudīpaka and Cirañjīvī and a few other subjects were the only ones who escaped from there somehow. They sat in council at a place and thought of the ways and means to wreak vengeance on the owls. Uddīpaka said that when the strength of the enemy was great it was advisable to move away to another place, or to seek the aid of mighty people or to surrender to the enemy. It was the nature of dogs to leave one’s place and go to another place, Sandīpaka said. Others also were of the same opinion. Cirañjīvī alone did not express any opinion and so the king asked him why he was sitting silent.

Cirañjīvī said:—"Oh King, we became enemies of the owls because of our bad tongue. I shall tell you the story of an ass which met with its death because of its bad words. Once a washerman had a donkey to carry his load of clothes to and fro. The poor washerman did not have sufficient earnings to feed the donkey well and so he let it loose to go and eat of its own accord to appease its hunger. The donkey started going to the fields of other people and eating their grains. People started hurting the donkey and so the washerman did a clever thing. He covered the donkey with the hide of a tiger and let it loose. People mistook it for a tiger and did not dare to go near and hurt it. Then one day a farmer keeping watch over the fields at night felt suspicious of the fake tiger and covering himself with a blanket and with a bow and arrow in his hand stealthily approached the donkey. The poor donkey mistook the farmer for a she-donkey and brayed and approached him with amorous movements of its body. The farmer knew from its voice that it was a donkey and so removed his disguise and stood before the donkey. The be-fooled donkey got angry and abused the farmer using very vulgar language. The farmer got angry and killed him with an arrow.

Cirañjīvī continued:—Once upon a time a few birds joined together and decided to elect their leader. The owl was the bird selected to lead them. An aged crow condemned it. The crow said; "Are you making this ugly bird which is blind all day your leader? If only you make a worthy creature your leader you will be respected. I shall tell you a story to illustrate my point." He then narrated the following story:

Once upon a time there came a period of twelve continuous years without any rain at all on the earth. Wells, ponds, lakes and rivers were all empty. A huge herd of elephants walking in the forests represented to its leader the grave situation and the leader sent messengers to all sides to find out watering places with water. One of the messengers came back and reported that he had found out a beautiful lake full of water and that on its banks lived a number of hares. The elephants immediately went to that place and started enjoying swimming and bathing in the waters of the lake. Many rabbits on the bank of the lake died when trodden upon by the elephants. The aggrieved rabbits sat in a council to consider the steps to be taken to stop this deadly nuisance of the elephants. One of the hares, Vijaya by name, promised to handle the matter by himself. He knew it would be unwise to go anywhere near the elephants. So Vijaya climbed on to the top of a hill near the lake and when he saw the elephants coming to the lake as usual hailed them from the top of the hillock. When the elephants turned their heads to the place from where the sound came they saw a hare speaking to them. The hare bawled out thus: "We are all servants of Candra, the moon-god. This lake has been given to us by him. Candra Bhagavān has deputed me to verify a report which has reached him that some elephants are making the water of the lake muddy. He will surely be cross with you if you again enter the lake. So it is better for you to go away from this place." The elephants were frightened and they all left the place. Cirañjīvī added that this happened to the elephants because of the lack of a wise and proper leader.

The aged Cirañjīvī continued: "It is unwise to place confidence in small people. I had an experience. Near my abode on a tree there lived a bird called Kapiñjala. We became friends. One day Kapiñjala did not come home as usual. Taking advantage of it a rabbit came to Kapiñjala’s abode and started living there. I did not like it and I told the rabbit about it. But the rabbit did not mind it. After four or five days Kapiñjala returned home and on finding a rabbit in his nest got angry and asked him to leave the place. The rabbit refused to go and an argument ensued. The rabbit said that lakes, rivers and trees were for all and did not belong to any particular individual. "He who is in possession of it is its owner," the rabbit argued. So they decided to take the case for arbitration and for that purpose approached a cat named Dadhikarṇa doing penance on the banks of the river Yamunā, I followed them curious to know the decision of the ascetic cat. They did not see me. Both of them on approaching him started presenting their case before the cat. The cat pretended to be deaf and asked both of them to come nearer and talk into his ears. They moved nearer and the cat caught hold of them both and ate them. Those poor beings lost their lives by placing too much confidence in the aged cat. That is why I say that we should not select a small being like an owl as our leader.

On hearing the story of the crow the birds withdrew from their first decision of selecting an owl as their leader. The owl was offended and felt insulted and roared that his community would one day wreak vengeance on the crows. A wound made by an arrow would heal in due course and a tree would grow even if its branches are cut but any wound on the pride of an individual is never healed.

Cirañjīvī continued:—"This is how the crows and owls became enemies. We have to fight the owls. It is impossible to serve mean people. I shall tell you a story of what would happen if one believes in mean people:—Once a brahmin decided to perform a Yāga to increase the prosperity of the land.

He wanted a goat for the same and some wicked young people knew that he was going to buy one. They worked out a plan to deceive the poor brahmin. They sat hiding at different places on the way the brahmin was returning with the goat. As he came near the first of the wicked young men accosted the brahmin and asked him where he was taking the dog. The brahmin was surprised that the young man mistook his goat for dog and went his way. When he walked some distance more the second of the group came to him and put the same question. This time the brahmin was a bit perplexed that two people should have put the same question which he thought was absurd. When a third man put this question again he became worried and when this same question was repeated two more times the brahmin got mad and left the goat on the road and went his way. The wicked youngsters took the goat cooked it and ate it.

After narrating several such stories and maxims Cirañjīvī said he would lead the owls into a trap and come back. Cirañjīvī then went to the owls and their friends on the top of Ṛṣyaśṛṅga.

Cirañjīvī shaved his head and smearing the blood of the dead crows on his body went and sat alone on a branch of their former abode, the banyan tree. When night came the owls came and surrounded the tree. Cirañjīvī made some pitiable groans and the owls took him before their king. The king questioned Cirañjīvī and he said thus:—

"I am Cirañjīvī the minister of Meghavarṇa. Once I praised your greatness before my king and he shaved my head and dismissed me from his service." The king of the owls asked his ministers what should be done with Cirañjīvī. The minister of the king of owls, Baka, immediately jumped from his seat and said:

"Once a fox went to steal the cow of a brahmin. On his way he met a Brahmarākṣasa and they became friends. The Brahmarākṣasa was going to kill and eat the brahmin. Both exchanged their ideas and when they reached the gate of the house of the brahmin the fox said he would go first and eat the goat. But the Brahmarākṣasa said he would enter first and eat the brahmin. The quarrel developed into a noisy one and hearing the sound outside the brahmin came out. The fox accused the Brahmarākṣasa of having come to eat the brahmin while the Brahmarākṣasa accused the fox of having come to eat the goat. The brahmin was glad that he escaped from a danger and pardoning them sent them both with presents. This is the benefit of a split among the enemies.

The king of the owls gave refuge to Cirañjīvī and the latter expressing gratitude for the favour done took a vow that he would wreak vengeance on the crows after getting himself born as an owl in his next birth. At once the king said "Oh Cirañjīvī, it is not wise to change one’s clan. Once a kite picked up a girl rat and flew up. On the way the young rat slipped from the beak of the kite and fell down into the open palm of a sage doing his sandhyāvandana. The sage by his yogic powers made it into a beautiful girl and presented her to his wife. The girl attained womanhood and the sage was anxious to get her married to a suitable person. He first approached the Sun and the Sun replied "You are in search of a powerful husband. Megha (cloud) is more powerful than myself since at any time it can cast a shadow over my brilliance. So go and ask Megha about this." The sage went to Megha and Megha said that wind which could carry him away at his will was more powerful than himself and so directed him to the wind. The sage approached the wind and it said that the mountain which could obstruct its path was more powerful and so the sage went to the mountain. The mountain said that the rat which could make holes in him was more powerful and so finally the sage went to the rat. The rat agreed to marry her but asked how it could keep her in the hole which was his abode. The sage said that it was easy and changed her into a rat. This is how a girl rat became a girl rat again. So do not change your clan, be a crow and live with me."

Cirañjīvī from that day onwards started living with the owls. During day time when the owls slept, the old crow would fly hither and thither and collect such easily combustible materials as hay, dry grass and cotton and stock them beneath the tree covered with dry leaves. Two months went by like this and one day when the owls were sleeping Cirañjīvī set fire to the stock of dry materials beneath the tree. The owls were all burnt to death. Meghavarṇa and his friends congratulated Cirañjīvī on his success. Cirañjīvī said: To obtain difficult positions great men pass through difficult situations. If one is prepared to suffer hardships any object can be achieved. Once a cobra began to starve for want of food. It went to the land of frogs and told the king of frogs thus: "Friend, I am in difficulties. I happened to bite a brahmin boy and that boy died. The boy’s father cursed me. I asked for forgiveness and then he said:—"You must carry your enemies, the frogs, on your back from one pond to another pond and live on the food they give you." The king of the frogs believed him and allowed his subjects to be carried away to another pond from the one in which they were then staying. The cobra ate all the frogs on the way and at last the king also was eaten. Thus to destroy the enemies one will have to carry them on one’s backs sometimes. The crows were happy their enemies the owls were destroyed and they lived more happily and peacefully than before.

Labdhanāśa.. (Losing what you got).

Once a monkey named Balīmukha separated himself from his group and came to a fig tree on the banks of a river. When he jumped from branch to branch on the tree a great many ripe figs fell into the river. Seeing this a crocodile named Śiṃśumāra came to the foot of the tree and started eating the fruits. This went on for a few days and then the crocodile and the monkey became good friends. One day the crocodile sat chatting with the monkey and eating fruits and did not go home. The wife of the crocodile got worried on not seeing her husband back at home and sent a maid of hers to go and enquire what happened to her husband. The maid came and reported that the crocodile was spending his time with a she-monkey. The wife of the crocodile was very sad and angry to hear this and she sent word through her maid that she was seriously ill and if he wanted to see her alive he must return to her immediately. The crocodile returned home immediately and he called a doctor to examine her. The doctor who had been previously bribed by the crocodile’s wife said that she should be given the heart of a monkey if she were to be saved from her present ailment. The crocodile was in a fix. He weighed in his mind the lives of his wife and friend and then decided to take the life of his friend to save the life of his wife. The crocodile went to its place near the fig tree as usual and the monkey made enquiries about his family. Then Śiṃśumāra said that his wife wanted to see the monkey-friend and had asked him to take him home that day. The monkey believed the story and started for the house of Śiṃśumāra on its back. When they reached half way in the river Śiṃśumāra told Balīmukha thus: "My wife is seriously ill. The doctor has prescribed the heart of a monkey as the only medicine for it." The monkey went pale-white with fright but instantly he hit upon a plan. Balīmukha said "Śiṃśumāra, what a fool you are. Why did you not tell me this at least at the time of our departure? I kept my heart on the tree before starting, for I never knew you were in need of it. Let us go back and take it." The poor crocodile believed the story and went back with the monkey to the fig tree. As soon as they reached the shore the monkey jumped from the back of the crocodile and ran to the tree. The crocodile asked the monkey to bring his heart soon but the monkey laughed from the top of the fig tree and said thus:—"Dull-witted crocodile, I am not an ass like you. Have you not heard the story of the foolish ass?" The monkey then narrated the story of the ass thus:—"Once a lion calling his minister, the fox, to his side said that he wanted to eat the flesh of an ass as a remedy for the stomach trouble he was having by drinking too much of elephant’s blood. The minister started in search of an ass and found one in the house of a washerman. The fox said that he was surprised that the ass was doing such heavy work daily with a washerman when a happy life in the palace of the lion was easily available. The ass was tempted and it went to the den of the lion. When it reached there it got frightened and taking the opportunity of the absence of the lion for his evening worship left the place in a hurry. The lion sent the fox again to fetch the ass. The fox came and laughed at the timidity of the ass. He said that the lion was of a loving nature and last time when it approached the ass to embrace him out of affection he ran away like a fool. The lion knew that the asses were as a class good musicians and the lion himself a great lover of music was anxious to hear the ass sing. The poor ass believed the story and went to the lion along with the fox When the ass reached the lion’s den the lion was waiting for him and the ass in all simplicity bowed before the lion. The lion with one stroke killed the poor beast and leaving the carcass to the care of the fox went for his Sandhyāvandana. When the lion returned the fox had already eaten the heart of the ass. The King of the beasts not finding the heart in its place questioned the fox and the fox replied that the asses do not possess either a heart or neck:

When the monkey concluded his story by adding that never again would he be trapped like this, Śiṃśumāra, the crocodile, went its way. Labdhanāśa is the act of losing what came into your possession once.


This is a tale which explains the danger behind doing things adventurously without properly studying the pros and cons of an issue.

Once upon a time there lived in Gauḍadeśa a brahmin named Devaśarmā. His wife Yajñasenā became pregnant. The father started saying that the son to be born would be a very fortunate boy. One day the wife of the brahmin told him thus:—"It is not good to build castles in the air. Once a brahmacārī walked home carrying the fried grain he got as his dakṣiṇā in a pot on his head. He started thinking thus—"I will sell this fried grain and with the money will buy a lamb. The lamb will grow and give birth to two kids. I will then sell the goat and the kids and buy a cow. The cow will give birth to calves in a short time. I will buy some land to raise paddy. After selling the paddy I will renovate my old house and then I will marry. She will deliver a beautiful son. I will name the child Somaśarmā. At times leaving the child alone my wife will go to milk the cow and then I will hit her like this." So saying the brahmacārī hit with his stick the mud pot on his head containing the fried grain. The pot broke and the whole thing inside fell on the road.

Devaśarmā on hearing the story of Yajñasenā became pensive. After five or six days Yajñasenā delivered a son. Days went by and one morning Yajñasenā went for her bath in the river nearby entrusting the child to the care of her husband. Some moments later a messenger came from the palace asking him to go over there. The brahmin was in a fix. There was nobody around to whose care he could leave the child. He had a mongoose. The brahmin asked the mongoose to look after the child and went to the palace. Some time later a big cobra came creeping towards the child. The mongoose jumped at it and killed it. The mongoose was smeared with blood after that. The brahmin returned hurriedly from the palace only to see the blood-smeared mongoose waiting at the doorstep. Thinking that the mongoose must have killed his son the brahmin thrashed the poor mongoose to death. But on entering the room the brahmin found out his mistake, for there near the child was the dead body of a deadly cobra. The brahmin regretted his foolish act of doing a deed before knowing things well, when Yajñasenā came back after her bath and was greatly disturbed by the foolish deed of her husband. She said:—"Once there was in a place a very poor brahmin boy. He was an orphan with nobody to help him and he suffered from hunger daily. One night the boy had a dream. He was told that at midday next day three beggars would come to his place and if he slew them they would turn themselves into treasure jars and that the boy could become rich by using the wealth so received. Next day the brahmin boy was having his head shaved when as predicted in the dream three beggars entered his house. The brahmin boy ran away from the barber and taking a stick thrashed the three to death. All the three turned into treasure jars. The barber was astonished. The brahmin boy gave the barber a sovereign taken from the jar as his wages. The barber thought that beggars would turn themselves into treasure jars if they were thrashed to death. So he waited daily in his house for beggars to enter his house. One day after a long waiting three beggars entered his house and the barber with a hard stick which he had kept ready started thrashing the beggars. The beggars shrieked and shouted and ran away abusing the barber. Servants of the King came on hearing this and took the barber away and by the command of the King killed him nailing him on to a spike. Yajñasenā concluded by saying that even death would be the result if one does anything without properly understanding things.

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