Site Map
Panchatantra Fables
Section › 13   Set    Search  Previous Next

Reservations   Contents    

Book 1. The Loss of Friends

The Weaver Who Loved a Princess

In the Molasses Belt is a city called Sugarcane City. In it lived two friends, a weaver and a carpenter. Since they were past masters in their respective crafts, they had earned enough money by their labours so that they kept no account of receipt and expenditure. They wore soft, gaily coloured, expensive garments, adorned themselves with flowers and betel-leaves, and diffused odours of camphor, aloes, and musk. They worked nine hours a day, after which they adorned their persons and met for recreation in such places as public squares or temples. They made the rounds of the spots where society gathered - theatres, conversaziones, birthday parties, banquets, [90} and the like - then went home at twilight. And so the time passed.

One day there was a great festival, an occasion when the entire population, wearing the finest ornaments that each could afford, began sauntering through the temples of the gods and other public places. The weaver and the carpenter, like the rest, put on their best things, and in squares and courtyards inspected the faces of people dressed to kill. And they caught a glimpse of a princess seated at the window of a stucco palace. The vicinity of her heart was made lovely by a firm bosom with the curve of early youth. Below the slender waist was the graceful swell of the hips. Her hair was black as a raincloud, soft, glossy, with a billowy curl. A golden earring danced below an ear that seemed a hammock where Love might swing. Her face had the charm of a new-blown, tender water-lily. Like a dream she took captive the eyes of all, as she sat surrounded by girl friends.

And the weaver, ravished by lavish loveliness, since the love-god with five fierce arrows pierced his heart, concealed his feelings by a supreme effort of resolution, and tottered home, seeing nothing but the princess in the whole horizon. With long-drawn, burning sighs he tumbled on the bed (though it had not been made up), and there he lay. He perceived, he thought of nothing but her, just as he had seen her, and there he lay, reciting poetry: [91}

Virtues with beauty dwell:

So poets sing,

This contradiction not


That she, so cruel-sweet,

Far, far apart,

Tortures my body still,

Still in my heart.

Or does this explain it?

One heart my darling took;

One pines as if to die;

One throbs with feeling pure:

How many hearts have I?

And yet

If all the world from virtue draws

A blessing and a gain,

Why should all virtue in my maid,

My fawn-eyed maiden, pain?

Each guards his home, they say;

Yet in my heart you stay,

Burning your home alway,

Sweet, heartless one!

That these - her bosom's youthful pride,

Her curling hair, her sinuous side,

Her blood-red lip, her waist so small -

Should hurt me, is not strange at all:

But that her cheeks so clear, so bright,

Should torture me, is far from right.

Her bosom, like an elephant's brow,

Swells, saffron-scented. How, ah, how [92}

May I thereon my bosom lay,

When weary love is tired of play,

So, fettered in her arms, to keep

A vigil waking half, half sleep?

If fate has willed

That I should die,

Are there no means

Save that soft eye?

You see my love, though far apart,

Before you ever, O my heart!

Should vision cease to satisfy,

Oh, teach your magic to my eye:

For even her presence will distress,

If bought by too great loneliness,

Since none - the merciful are blest -

Of selfishness may stand confessed.

She stole his lustre from the moon -

The moon is dull and cold;

The lily's sheen is in her eyes -

No charge of theft will hold;

The elephant's majesty she seized -

Nothing knows he of her art;

From me the slender maiden took,

Ah, strange! a feeling heart.

In middle air I see my love,

On earth below, in heaven above;

In life's last hour, on her I call:

She is, like Vishnu, all-in-all.

All mental states, the Buddha said,

Are transient; he was wrong:

My meditations on my love

Are infinitely long. [93}

In such lamentation, his thoughts tossing to and fro, the night dragged drearily away. On the next day at the customary hour, the carpenter, wearing an elegant costume, came as usual to the weaver's house. There he found the weaver with arms and legs sprawled over the unmade bed, heard his long-drawn, burning sighs, and noticed his pallid cheeks and trickling tears.

Finding him in this condition, he said: "My friend, my friend, why are you in such a state today?"

But the poor weaver, though questioned repeatedly, was too embarrassed to say a word. At last the carpenter grew weary and dropped into poetry:

No friend is he whose anger

Compels a timid languor,

Nor he whom all must anxiously attend;

But when you trust another

As if he were your mother,

He is no mere acquaintance, but a friend.

Then, after examining the weaver's heart and other members with a hand skilled in detecting symptoms, he said: "Comrade, if my diagnosis is correct, your condition is not the result of fever, but of love."

Now when his friend voluntarily introduced the subject, the weaver sat up in bed and recited a stanza of poetry:

You find repose in sore disaster

By telling things to clear-eyed master,

To virtuous servant, gentle friend,

Or wife who loves you to the end. [94}

Then he related his whole experience from the moment he laid eyes on the princess. And the carpenter, after some reflection, said: "The king belongs to the warrior caste, while you are a business man. Have you no reverence for the holy law?"

But the weaver replied: "The holy law allows a warrior three wives. The girl may be the daughter of a woman of my caste. That may explain my love for her. What says the king in the play?

Surely, she may become a warrior's bride;

Else, why these longings in an honest mind?

The motions of a blameless heart decide

Of right and wrong, when reason leaves us blind."

Thereupon the carpenter, perceiving his determined purpose, said: "Comrade, what is to be done next?" And the weaver answered: "I don't know. I told you because you are my friend." And to this he would not add a word.

At last the carpenter said: "Rise, bathe, eat. Say farewell to despondency. I will invent something such that you will enjoy with her the delights of love without loss of time."

Then the weaver, hope reviving at his friend's promise, rose and returned to seemly living. And the next day the carpenter came bringing a brand-new mechanical bird, like Garuda, the bird of Vishnu. It was made of wood, was gaily painted in many colours, and had an ingenious arrangement of plugs.

"Comrade," he said to the weaver, "when you [95} mount the bird and insert a plug, it goes wherever you wish. And the contrivance alights at the spot where you pull out the plug. It is yours. This very night, when people are asleep, adorn your person, disguise yourself as Vishnu - my wit and skill are at your service - mount this Garuda bird, alight on the maidens' balcony of the palace, and make whatever arrangements you like with the princess. I have ascertained that the princess sleeps alone on the palace balcony."

When the carpenter had gone, the weaver spent the rest of the day in a hundred fond imaginings. He took a bath, used incense, powders, ointments, betel, scents for the breath, flowers, and so forth. He put on gay garlands and garments, rich in fragrance. He adorned himself with a diadem and other jewellery. And when the night came clear, he followed the carpenter's instructions.

Meanwhile, the princess lay in her bed alone on the palace balcony bathed in moonbeams. She gazed at the moon, her mind idly dallying with the thought of love. All at once she spied the weaver, disguised as Vishnu and mounted on his heavenly bird. At sight of him she started from her bed, adored his feet, and humbly said: "O Lord, to what end am I honoured by this visit? Pray command me. What am I to do?" To the princess' words the weaver, in dignified and sweetly modulated accents, made stately answer: "Yourself, dear maiden, are the occasion of this visit to earth."

"But I am merely a mortal girl," said she. [96} And he continued: "Nay, you have been my bride, now fallen to earth by reason of a curse. It is I who have so long protected you from contact with a man. I will now wed you by the ceremony used in heaven." And she assented, for she thought: "It is a thing beyond my fondest aspirations." And he married her by the ceremony used in heaven.

So day followed day in the enjoyment of love's delights, each day witnessing a growth in passion. Before dawn the weaver would mount his mechanical Garuda, would bid her farewell with the words: "I depart for Vishnu's heaven," and would always reach his house undetected.

One day the guards at the women's quarters observed indications that the princess was meeting a man, and in fear of their very lives made a report to their master. "O King," they said, "be gracious and confirm our personal security. There is a disclosure to be made." And when the king assented, the guards reported: "O King, we have used anxious care to forbid the entrance of men. Yet indications are observed that Princess Lovely has meetings with a man. Not unto us does it fall to take measures. The king, the king alone is prime mover."

Upon this information the king pondered with troubled spirit:

You are worried when you hear that she is born;

Picking husbands makes you anxious and forlorn;

When she marries, will her husband be a churl?

It is tough to be the father of a girl. [97}


At her birth she steals away her mother's heart;

Loving friends, when she is older, fall apart;

Even married, she is apt to bring a stain:

Having daughters is a business full of pain.


When a poem or daughter comes out,

The author is troubled with doubt,

With a doubt that his questions betray;

Will she reach the right hands?

Will she please as she stands?

And what will the critics say?

Having thus considered the matter from every point of view, he sought the queen and said: "My dear queen, pray give careful attention to what these chamberlains have to say. Who is this offender whom the death-god seeks today?"

Now when they had related the facts, the queen hastened in great perturbation to the maiden's apartments and found her daughter with lips sore from kissing and with telltale traces on her limbs. And she cried: "You wicked girl! You are a disgrace to the family! How could you throw your character away? Who is the man that comes to you? The death-god has looked upon him. Dreadful as things are, at least tell the truth." Then the princess, with shamefaced, drooping glances, recounted the whole story of the weaver disguised as Vishnu.

Thereupon the queen, with laughing countenance and thrilling in every limb, hastened to the king and [98} said: "O King, you are indeed fortunate. It is blessèd Vishnu who comes each night in person to our daughter's side. He has married her by the ceremony used in heaven. This very night you and I are to hide in the window niche and have sight of him. But with mortals he does not exchange words."

On hearing this, the king was glad at heart, and somehow lived through the day, which seemed a hundred years. When night came, the king and queen stood hidden in the window niche and waited, their gaze fixed on the sky. Presently the king descried one descending from heaven, mounted on Garuda, grasping the conch-shell, discus, mace, marked with the familiar symbols. And feeling as if drenched by a shower of nectar, he said to the queen: "There is none other on earth so blest as you and I, whose child blessèd Vishnu seeks with love. All the desires nearest our hearts are granted. Now, through the power of our son-in-law, I shall reduce the whole world to subjection."

At this juncture envoys arrived to collect the yearly tribute for King Valour, monarch of the south, lord of nine million, nine hundred thousand villages. But the king, proud of his new relationship with Vishnu, did not show them the customary honour, so that they grew indignant and said: "Come, King! Pay-day is past. Why have you failed to offer the taxes due? It must be that you have recently come into possession of some unanticipated* supernatural power from some [99} source or other, that you irritate King Valour, who is a flame, a whirlwind, a venomous serpent, a death-god." Upon this the king showed them his bare bottom. And they returned to their own country, exaggerated the matter a hundred thousand fold, and stirred the wrath of their master.

Then the southern monarch, with his troops and retainers, at the head of an army with all four service branches, marched against the king. And he angrily cried:

This king may climb the heavenly mount,

May plunge beneath the sea;

And yet - I promise - it the wretch

Shall soon be slain by me.

So Valour reached the country by marches never interrupted, and ravaged it. And the inhabitants who survived the slaughter besieged the palace gate of the king of Sugarcane City, and taunted him. But what he heard did not cause %the king the slightest anxiety.

On the following day the forces of King Valour arrived and invested Sugarcane City, whereupon hosts of counsellors and chaplains interceded with the king: "O King," they said, "a powerful enemy has arrived and invested the city. How can the king show himself so unconcerned?'"

And the king replied: "You gentlemen may be quite comfortable. I have devised a means of killing this foe. What I am about to do to his army, you, too, will learn tomorrow morning."

After this address, he bade them provide adequate defense for the walls and gates. [100} Then he summoned Lovely and with respectful coaxing said: "Dear child, relying on your husband's power, we have begun hostilities with the enemy. This very night pray speak to blessèd Vishnu when he comes, so that in the morning he may kill this enemy of ours."

So Lovely delivered to him at night her father's message, complete in every particular. On hearing it, the weaver laughed and said: "Dear love, how little a business is this, a mere war with men! Why, in days gone by I have with the greatest ease slain mighty demons by the thousand, and they were armed with magic; there was Hiranyakashipu, and Kansa, and Madhu, and Kaitabha, to name but a few. Go, then, and say to the king: 'Dismiss anxiety. In the morning Vishnu will slay the host of your enemies with his discus.'"

So she went to the king and proudly told him all. Whereat he was overjoyed and commanded the doorkeeper to have proclamation made with beat of drum throughout the city, in these words: "Whatever any shall lay hands on during tomorrow's battle in the camp of Valour slain, whether coined money or grain or gold or elephant or horse or weapon or other object, that shall remain his personal possession." This proclamation delighted the citizens, so that they gossiped together, saying: "This king of ours is a lofty soul, unalarmed even in the presence of the hostile host. He is certain to kill his rival in the morning." [101}

Meanwhile the weaver, forgetting love's allurements, took counsel with his brooding mind: "What am I to do now? Suppose I mount the machine and fly away, then I shall never meet my pearl, my wife, again. King Valour will drag her from the palace after killing my poor father-in-law. Yet if I accept battle, I shall meet death, who puts an end to every heart's desire. But death is mine if I lose her. Why spin it out? Death, sure death, in either case. It is better, then, to die game. Besides, it is just possible that the enemy, if they see me accepting battle and mounted on Garuda, will think me the genuine Vishnu and will flee. For the proverb says:

Let resolution guide the great,

However desperate his state,

However grim his hostile fate:

By resolution lifted high,

With shrewd decision as ally,

He grimly sees grim trouble fly."

When the weaver had thus resolved on battle, the genuine Garuda made respectful representations to the genuine Vishnu in heaven. "O Lord," he said, "in a city on earth called Sugarcane is a weaver who, disguising himself as my Lord, has wedded a princess. As a result, a more powerful monarch of the south has marched to extirpate the king of Sugarcane City. Now the weaver today takes his resolution to befriend his father-in-law. This, then, is what I must refer to your decision. If he meets death in battle, then [102} scandal will arise in the mortal world to the effect that blessèd Vishnu has been killed by the king of the south. Thereafter sacrificial offerings will fail, and other religious ceremonies. Then atheists will destroy the temples of the Lord, while pilgrims of the triple staff, devotees of blessèd Vishnu, will abstain from pious journeyings. Such being the condition of affairs, decision rests with my Lord."

Then blessèd Vishnu, after exhaustive meditation, spoke to Garuda: "O King of the winged, your reasoning is just. This weaver has a spark of divinity in him. Therefore he must be the slayer of yonder king. And to bring this about, you and I must befriend him. My spirit shall enter his body, you are to inspire his bird, and my discus, his discus."

"So be it," said Garuda, assenting.

Hereupon the weaver, inspired by Vishnu, gave instructions to Lovely: "Dear love, when I set out for battle, let all things be made ready that bring a benediction." He then performed auspicious ceremonies, assumed ornaments seemly for battle, and permitted worshipful offerings of yellow pigment, black mustard, flowers, and the like. But when the friend of day-blooming water-lilies, the blessèd, thousand-beamed sun arose, adorning the bridal brow of the eastern sky, then to the victorious roll of the war-drums, the king issued from the city and drew near the field of battle, then both armies formed in exact array, then the infantry came to blows. At this [103} moment the weaver, mounted on Garuda, and scattering largess of gold and precious gems, flew from the palace roof toward heaven's vault, while the townspeople, thrilling with wonder, gazed and adored, then beyond the city he hovered above his army, and drew from Vishnu's conch a proud, grand burst of martial sound.

At the blare of the conch, elephants, horses, chariots, foot-soldiers, were dismayed and many garments were fouled. Some with shrill screams fled afar. Some rolled on the ground, all purposive movement paralyzed. Some stood stock still, with terrified gaze fixed unwavering on heaven.

At this point all the gods were drawn to the spot by curiosity to see the fight, and Indra said to Brahma: "Brahma, is this some imp or demon who must needs be slain? For blessèd Vishnu, mounted on Garuda, has gone forth to battle in person." At these words Brahma pondered:

"Lord Vishnu's discus drinks in flood

The hostile demons' gushing blood,

And strikes no mortal flat:

The jungle lion who can draw

The tusker's life with awful paw,

Disdains to crush a gnat.

What means this marvel?" Thus Brahma himself was astonished. That is why I told you:

Not even Brahma sees the end

Of well-devised deceit:

The weaver, taking Vishnu's form,

Embraced the princess sweet. [104}

While the very gods were thus pondering with tense interest, the weaver hurled his discus at Valour. This discus, after cutting the king in twain, returned to his hand. At the sight, all the kings without exception leaped from their vehicles, and with hands, feet, and head drooping in limp obeisance, they implored him who bore the form of Vishnu: "O Lord,

An army, leaderless, is slain.

Be mindful of this and spare our lives. Command us. What are we to do?"

So spoke the whole throng of kings, until he made answer who bore the form of Vishnu: "Your persons are secure henceforth. Whatever commands you receive from the local king, King Stout-Mail, you must on all occasions unhesitatingly perform." And all the kings humbly received his instructions, saying: "Let it be as our Lord commands."

Thereupon the weaver bestowed on Stout-Mail all his rival's wealth, whether men or elephants or chariots or horses or stores of merchandise or other riches, while he himself, having attained the special majesty of those victorious, enjoyed all known delights with the princess.

"And that is why I say:

The gods befriend a man who climbs

Determination's height, . . .

and the rest of it." [105}

Having listened to this, Cheek said: "If you, too, are thus climbing determination's height, then proceed to the accomplishment of your desire. Blest be your journeyings."

Thereupon Victor sought the presence of the lion, who said, when Victor had bowed and seated himself: "Why has so long a time passed since you were last visible?"

And Victor answered: "O King, urgent business awaits my master today. Hence I am come, the bearer of tidings unwelcome but wholesome. This is not, indeed, the desire of dependents, who yet bring such tidings when they fear the neglect of immediate and necessary action. As the proverb says:

When those appointed to advise

Speak wholesome truth, they cause surprise

By this remarkable excess

Of passionate devotedness.

And again:

A man is quickly found, O King,

To say the sycophantic thing;

But one prepared to hear or speak

Unwelcome truth, is far to seek."

Hereupon Rusty, believing his words worthy of trust, respectfully asked him: "What do you wish to imply?"

And Victor answered: "O King, Lively has crept into your confidence with treasonable purpose. On several occasions he has confidentially whispered in my hearing: 'I have examined the strong points and the weak in your master's power - in his prestige, [106} his advisers, and his material resources. I plan to kill him and to seize the royal power myself without difficulty.' This very day this Lively person intends to carry out his design. That is why I am here to warn the master whose service is mine by inheritance."

To Rusty this report was more terrible than the fall of a thunderbolt. He sank into a panic-stricken stupor and said not a word. Then Victor, comprehending his state of mind, continued: "This is the great sadness in the discharge of a counsellor's duty. There is wisdom in the saying:

When a counsellor or king

Rises higher than he should,

Fortune strives in vain to make

Still her double footing good;

Being woman, feels the strain;

Soon abandons one of twain.

For, indeed,

With broken sliver, loosened tooth,

Or counsellor who fails in truth,

Pull roots and all; so only, grief

Will find its permanent relief.

And again:

No king should ever delegate

To one sole man the powers of state:

For folly seizes him, then pride,

Whereat he grows dissatisfied

With service; thus impatient grown,

He longs to rule the realm alone;

And such impatient longings bring

Him into plots to kill his king. [107}

Even now, this Lively manages all business as he will, without restraint of any kind. Hence the well-known saying finds application:

A counsellor who tramples through

His business, though his heart be true,

May not unheeded go his way,

Since future days the present pay.

But such is the nature of kings. As the poet sings:

Some gentle actions born of love

To thoughts of active hatred move;

Some deeds of traitorous offense

Win guerdon of benevolence;

The kingly mind can no man tame,

As never being twice the same:

Such service makes the spirit faint,

A hard conundrum for a saint."

On hearing this, Rusty said: "After all, he is my servant. Why should he experience a change of heart toward me?"

But Victor answered: "Servant or not, there is nothing conclusive in that. For the proverb says:

The man who loves not royalty,

Just serving while he can

Find nothing better worth his pains,

Is not a loyal man."

"My dear fellow," said the lion, "even so, I cannot find it in my heart to turn against him. For

However false and fickle grown,

Once dear is always dear:

Who does not love his body, though

Decrepit, blemished, queer? [108}

And again:

His actions may be hard to bear,

His speech be harsh to hear;

The heart still clings delighted to

A person truly dear."

"For that very reason," retorted Victor, "there is a serious flaw in the business of getting on in the world. Observe how this person, upon whom the master has concentrated his consideration to the exclusion of the whole company of animals, now desires to become himself the master. As the verse puts it:

The man of birth or man unknown,

If kingly eyes on him alone

Are fixed, aspires to seize the throne.

Therefore, dear though he be, he should be abandoned, being a traitor, like one who has never been dear. There is much wisdom in the saying:

Pursue your aim, abandoning

The fools inclined to sin,

The comrades, brothers, friends, or sons,

Or honourable kin:

You know the song the women sing,

We hear it far and near -

What good are golden earrings, if

They lacerate your ear?

"And if you fancy that he will bring benefit because he is bulky of body, you make a perverse mistake. For

How use a proud bull-elephant

That will not serve the king?

A man is better, fat or lean,

Who does the helpful thing. [109}

"Again, any pity that our lord and king might feel toward him, is quite out of place. For

Whoever leaves the righteous path

For some unrighteous course,

Will meet calamity in time

And suffer much remorse.

Whoever will not take from friends

Most excellent advice,

Will gladden foes, and falling soon,

Will pay his folly's price.

And again:

On wicked trick intently bent,

The wilful still lack ear to hear

(So blind their mind) of nice and vice

The cause in saws appearing clear.


Where one will speak and one will heed

What in the end is well,

Although unpleasant at the time,

There riches love to dwell.

And again:

No king's retainer should devise

A fraud, for spies are kingly eyes:

Then bear with harsh as kind, O King;

The truth is seldom flattering.

Tried servants never should be left,

And strangers taken;

A kingdom's health by no disease

Is sooner shaken." [110}

"My good fellow," said the lion, "pray do not say such things. For

Never publicly defame

Any once commended name:

Broken promises are shame.

"Now I formerly gave him a safe-conduct, since he appeared as a suppliant. How then can he prove ungrateful?"

But Victor rejoined:

"No rogue asks reason for his wrath;

Nor saint, to tread in kindness* path:

By nature's power, the sweet or sour

In sugar dwells or nim-tree's flower.

And again:

Caress a rascal as you will,

He was and is a rascal still:

All salve- and sweating-treatments fail

To take the kink from doggy's tail.

And once again:

Slight kindness shown to lofty souls

A strange enlargement seeks:

The moonbeams gleam with whiter light

On Himalaya's peaks.

While, on the other hand:

The kindness shown to vicious souls

Strange diminution seeks:

The gleam of moonbeams is absorbed

On Sooty Mountain's peaks.

A hundred benefits are lost,

If lavished on the mean;

A hundred epigrams^ with their

True relevance unseen; [111}

A hundred counsels, when a life

Obeys no rigid rule;

A hundred cogent arguments

Are lost upon a fool.

Lost is every gift that goes

Where it does not fit;

Lost is service lavished on

Sluggish mind and wit;

Lost upon ingratitude

Is the kindest plan;

Lost is courtesy on one

Not a gentleman,

Or put it this way:

Perfume offered to a corpse,

Lotus-planting dry,

Weeping in the wood, prolonged

Rain on alkali,

Taking kinks from doggy's tail,

Drawl in deafened ear,

Decking faces of the blind,

Sense for fools to hear.

Or this way:

Milk a bull, and think him some

Heavy-uddered cow;

Blind to lovely maidens, clasp

Eunuchs anyhow;

Seek in shining scraps of quartz

Lapis lazuli:

Do not serve an addlepate,

Bidding sense goodbye.

"Ergo, the master must by no means fail to heed my sound advice. And one thing more: [112}

What tiger, monkey, snake advised,

I did not do; and so

That dreadfully ungrateful man

Has brought me very low."

"How was that?" asked Rusty. And Victor told the story of

The Ungrateful Man

In a certain town lived a Brahman whose name was Sacrifice. Every day his wife, chafing under their poverty, would say to him: "Come, Brahman! Lazybones! Stony-Heart! Don't you see your babies starving, while you hang about, mooning? Go somewhere, no matter where, find some way, any way, to get food, and come back in a hurry."

At last the Brahman, weary of this refrain, undertook a long journey, and in a few days entered a great forest. While wandering hungry in this forest, he began to hunt for water. And in a certain spot he came upon a well, overgrown with grass. When he looked in, he discovered a tiger, a monkey, a snake, and a man at the bottom. They also saw him.

Then the tiger thought: "Here comes a man," and he cried: "O noble soul, there is great virtue in saving life. Think of that, and pull me out, so that I may live in the company of beloved friends, wife, sons, and relatives."

"Why," said the Brahman, "the very sound of your name brings a shiver to every living thing. I cannot deny that I fear you." But the tiger resumed: [113}

"To Brahman-slayer, impotent,

To drunkard, him on treason bent,

To sinner through prevarication,

The holy grant an expiation:

While for ingratitude alone

No expiation will atone."

And he continued: "I bind myself by a triple oath that no danger threatens you from me. Have pity and pull me out." Then the Brahman thought it through to this conclusion: "If disaster befalls in the saving of life, it is a disaster that spells salvation." So he pulled the tiger out.

Next the monkey said: "Holy sir, pull me out too." And the Brahman pulled him out too. Then the snake said: "Brahman, pull me out too." But the Brahman answered: "One shudders at the mere sound of your name, how much more at touching you!"

"But," said the snake, "we are not free agents. We bite only under orders. I bind myself by a triple oath that you need have no fear of me."

After listening to this, the Brahman pulled him out too. Then the animals said: "The man down there is a shrine of every sin. Beware. Do not pull him out. Do not trust him."

Furthermore, the tiger said: "Do you see this mountain with many peaks? My cave is in a wooded ravine on the north slope. You must do me the favour of paying me a visit there someday, so that I may make return for your kindness. I should not like to [114} drag the debt into the next life." With these words he started for his cave.

Then the monkey said: "My home is quite near the cave, beside the waterfall. Please pay me a visit there." With this he departed.

Then the snake said: "In any emergency, remember me." And he went his way.

Then the man in the well shouted time and again: "Brahman! Pull me out too!"

At last the Brahman's pity was awakened, and he pulled him out, thinking: "He is a man, like me."

And the man said: "I am a goldsmith, and live in Baroch. If you have any gold to be worked into shape, you must bring it to me."

With this he started for home.

Then the Brahman continued his wanderings but found nothing whatever. As he started for home, he recalled the monkey's invitation. So he paid a visit, found the monkey at home, and received fruits sweet as nectar, which put new life into him. Furthermore, the monkey said: "If you ever have use for fruit, pray come here at any time."

"You have done a friend's full duty," said the Brahman. "But please introduce me to the tiger." So the monkey led the way and introduced him to the tiger.

Now the tiger recognized him and, by way of returning his kindness, bestowed on him a necklace and other ornaments of wrought gold, saying: "A certain prince whose horse ran away with him came here alone, and when he was within range of a spring, I [115} killed him. All this I took from his person and stored carefully for you. Pray accept it and go where you will."

So the Brahman took it, then recalled the goldsmith and visited him, thinking: "He will do me the favour of getting it sold."

Now the goldsmith welcomed him with respectful hospitality, offering water for the feet, an honourable gift, a seat, hard food and soft, drink, and other things, then said: "Command me, sir. What may I do for you?"

And the Brahman said: "I have brought you gold. Please sell it."

"Show me the gold," said the goldsmith, and the other did so.

Now the goldsmith thought when he saw it: "I worked this gold for the prince." And having made sure of the fact, he said: "Please stay right here, while I show it to somebody." With this he went to court and showed it to the king.

On seeing it, the king asked: "Where did you get this?" And the goldsmith replied: "In my house is a Brahman. He brought it."

Thereupon the king reflected: "Without question, that villain killed my son. I will show him what that costs." And he issued orders to the police: "Have this Brahman scum fettered, and impale him tomorrow morning."

When the Brahman was fettered, he remembered the snake, who appeared at once and said: "What can I do to serve you?"

"Free me from these fetters," said the Brahman.

And the snake replied: "I will bite the [116} king's dear queen. Then, in spite of the charms employed by any great conjurer and the antidotes of other physicians, I will keep her poisoned. Only by the touch of your hand will the poison be neutralized. Then you will go free."

Having made this promise, the snake bit the queen, whereupon shouts of despair arose in the palace, and the entire city was filled with dismay. Then they summoned dealers in antidotes, conjurers, scientists, druggists, and foreigners, all of whom treated the case with such resources as they had, but none could neutralize the poison. Finally, a proclamation was made with beat of drum, upon hearing which the Brahman said: "I will cure her." The moment he spoke, they freed him from his fetters, took him to the king, and introduced him. And the king said: "Cure her, sir." So he went to the queen and cured her by the mere touch of his hand. When the king saw her restored to life, he paid the Brahman honour and reverence, then respectfully asked him: "Reveal the truth, sir. How did you come by this gold?" And the Brahman began at the beginning and related the whole adventure accurately. As soon as the king comprehended the facts, he arrested the goldsmith, while he gave the Brahman a thousand villages and appointed him privy counsellor. But the Brahman summoned his family, was surrounded by friends and relatives, took delight in eating and other natural functions, acquired massive merit by the [117} performance of numerous sacrifices, concentrated authority by heedful attention to all phases of royal duty, and lived happily.

"And that is why I say:

What tiger, monkey, snake advised, . . .

and the rest of it." And Victor continued:

"Friend or kinsman, teacher, king,

Must be kept from trespassing:

If they cling to evil still,

They will bend you to their will.

"O King, he is obviously a traitor. However,

Tirelessly benevolent,

Save a friend on evil bent:

This is sainthood's perfect song;

Every substitute is wrong.


Who saves from vice is truly kind;

True wife is she who shares your mind;

True acts are free from every blame;

True joy, from avarice's shame;

True wisdom wins the praise of saints;

True friends involve in no restraints;

True glory knows no haughtiness;

True men are cheerful in distress.

And again:

Rest your sleeping head in fire;

Pillow it with snakes:

Do not smile at worthy friends

Who pursue mistakes. [118}

"Now my lord and king associates with Lively, making a vicious mistake that results in the neglect of the three things worth living for - virtue, money, and love. And in spite of my protestations, urged from various points of view, my lord and king goes his wilful way, unheeding. In the future, therefore, when the crash comes, do not blame your servant. You have heard the saying:

No thought of profit or of right

Can headstrong monarchs stay,

Who, like bull-elephants amuck,

Pursue their reckless way;

When, puffed with pride, they come to grief

In thickets of distress,

They blame their servants, and forget

Their proper naughtiness."

"Such being the case, my good fellow," said the lion, "should I warn him?"

"What! Warn him?" said Victor. What kind of policy would that be? For

He stings or strikes in hasty fear

When warning has been heard:

'It's wise to warn an enemy

By action, not by word."

"After all," said Rusty, "he is a grass-nibbler. I am a carnivore. How can he hurt me?"

"Precisely," said Victor. "He is a grass-nibbler. My lord and king is a carnivore. He is food. My lord and king devours food. In spite of all, if the fellow is not likely to work harm through his own power, he will egg on another to it. As the saying goes: [119}

The weak, malicious fool

Can use a keener tool:

It sharpens sword-blades, but

The whetstone cannot cut."

"How can that be?" said the lion.

And Victor answered: "Why, you have constantly engaged in battle with unnumbered bull-elephants, wild oxen, buffaloes, boars, tigers, and leopards, until your body is spotted with scars left by the thrust of claw and tusk. Now this Lively, living beside you, is always scattering his excrement far and wide. In it worms will breed. These worms, finding your body conveniently near, will creep into ready-made crevices, and will bore deep. And so you are as good as dead. As the proverb says:

With no stranger share your house;

Leap, the flea, killed Creep, the louse."

"How was that?" asked Rusty. And Victor told the story of

Leap and Creep

In the palace of a certain king stood an incomparable bed, blessèd with every cubiculary virtue. In a corner of its coverlet lived a female louse named Creep. Surrounded by a thriving family of sons and daughters, with the sons and daughters of sons and daughters, and with more remote descendants, she drank the king's blood as he slept. On this diet she grew plump and handsome.

While she was living there in this manner, a flea named Leap drifted in on the wind and dropped on [120} the bed. This flea felt supreme satisfaction on examining the bed - the wonderful delicacy of its coverlet, its double pillow, its exceptional softness like that of a broad, Gangetic sand-bank, its delicious perfume. Charmed by the sheer delight of touching it, he hopped this way and that until - fate willed it - so he chanced to meet Creep, who said to him: "Where do you come from? This is a dwelling fit for a king. Be gone, and lose no time about it.' "Madam," said he, "you should not say such things. For

The Brahman reverences fire,

Himself the lower castes' desire;

The wife reveres her husband dear;

But all the world must guests revere.

Now I am your guest. I have of late sampled the various blood of Brahmans, warriors, business men, and serfs, but found it acid, slimy, quite unwholesome. On the contrary, he who reposes on this bed must have a delightful vital fluid, just like nectar. It must be free from morbidity, since wind, bile, and phlegm are kept in harmony by constant and heedful use of potions prepared by physicians. It must be enriched by viands unctuous, tender, melting in the mouth; viands prepared from the flesh of the choicest creatures of land, water, and air, seasoned furthermore with sugar, pomegranate, ginger, and pepper. To me it seems an elixir of life. Therefore, with your kind permission, I plan to taste this sweet and fragrant substance, thus combining pleasure and profit." [121}

"No," said she. "For fiery-mouthed stingers like you, it is out of the question. Leave this bed. You know the proverb:

The fool who does not know

His own resource, his foe,

His duty, time, and place,

Who sets a reckless pace,

Will by the wayside fall,

Will reap no fruit at all."

Thereupon he fell at her feet, repeating his request. And she agreed, since courtesy was her hobby, and since, when the story of that prince of sharpers, Muladeva, was being repeated to the king while she lay on a corner of the coverlet, she had heard how Muladeva quoted this verse in answer to the question of a certain damsel:

Whoever, angry though he be,

Has spurned a suppliant enemy,

In Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, he

Has scorned the Holy Trinity.

Recalling this, she agreed, but added: "However, you must not come to dinner at a wrong place or time."

"What is the right place and what is the right time?" he asked. "Being a newcomer, I am not au courant" And she replied: "When the king's body is mastered by wine, fatigue, or sleep, then you may quietly bite him on the feet. This is the right place and the right time." To these conditions he gave his assent.

In spite of this arrangement, the famished [122} bungler, when the king had just dozed off in the early evening, bit him on the back. And the poor king, as if burned by a firebrand, as if stung by a scorpion, as if touched by a torch, bounded to his feet, scratched his back, and cried to a servant: "Rascal! Somebody bit me. You must hunt through this bed until you find the insect."

Now Leap heard the king's command and in terrified haste crept into a crevice in the bed. Then the king's servants entered, and following their master's orders, brought a lamp and made a minute inspection. As fate would have it, they came upon Creep as she crouched in the nap of the fabric, and killed her with her family.

"And that is why I say:

With no stranger share your house, . . .

and the rest of it. And another thing. My lord and king does wrong in neglecting the servants who are his by inheritance. For

Whoever leaves his friends,

Strange folk to cherish,

Like foolish Fierce-Howl, will

Untimely perish."

"How was that?" asked Rusty. And Victor told the story of

The Blue Jackal

There was once a jackal named Fierce-Howl, who lived in a cave near the suburbs of a city. One day he was hunting for food, his throat pinched with hunger, [123} and wandered into the city after nightfall. There the city dogs snapped at his limbs with their sharp-pointed teeth, and terrified his heart with their dreadful barking, so that he stumbled this way and that in his efforts to escape and happened into the house of a dyer. There he tumbled into a tremendous indigo vat, and all the dogs went home.

Presently the jackal - further life being predestined - managed to crawl out of the indigo vat and escaped into the forest. There all the thronging animals in his vicinity caught a glimpse of his body dyed with the juice of indigo, and crying out: "What is this creature enriched with that unprecedented colour?" they fled, their eyes dancing with terror, and spread the report: "Oh, oh! Here is an exotic creature that has dropped from somewhere. Nobody knows what his conduct might be, or his energy. We are going to vamoose. For the proverb says:

Where you do not know

Conduct, stock, and pluck,

It's not wise to trust,

If you wish for luck."

Now Fierce-Howl perceived their dismay, and called to them: "Come, come, you wild things! Why do you flee in terror at sight of me? For Indra, realizing that the forest creatures have no monarch, anointed me - my name is Fierce-Howl - as your king. Rest in safety within the cage formed by my resistless paws." [124}

On hearing this, the lions, tigers, leopards, monkeys, rabbits, gazelles, jackals, and other species of wild life bowed humbly, saying: "Master, prescribe to us our duties." Thereupon he appointed the lion prime minister and the tiger lord of the bedchamber, while the leopard was made custodian of the king's betel, the elephant doorkeeper, and the monkey the bearer of the royal parasol. But to all the jackals, his own kindred, he administered a cuffing, and drove them away. Thus he enjoyed the kingly glory, while lions and others killed food-animals and laid them before him. These he divided and distributed to all after the manner of kings.

While time passed in this fashion, he was sitting one day in his court when he heard the sound made by a pack of jackals howling nearby. At this his body thrilled, his eyes filled with tears of joy, he leaped to his feet, and began to howl in a piercing tone. When the lions and others heard this, they perceived that he was a jackal, and stood for a moment shamefaced and downcast, then they said: "Look! We have been deceived by this jackal. Let the fellow be killed." And when he heard this, he endeavoured to flee, but was torn to bits by a tiger and died.

"And that is why I say:

Whoever leaves his friends, . . .

and the rest of it."

Then Rusty asked: "How am I to recognize that [125} he is treacherous? And what is his fighting technique?"

And Victor answered: "Formerly he would come into the presence of my lord and king with limbs relaxed. If today he approaches timidly, in obvious readiness to thrust with his horns, then the king may understand that he has treachery in mind."

Hereupon Victor rose and visited Lively. To him, also, he showed himself sluggish, like one penetrated by discouragement.

Therefore Lively said: "My good fellow, are you in spirits?" To which he replied:

"How can a dependent be in spirits? For you know

They see their wealth in others' power

Who wait upon a king;

They even fear to lose their lives:

A doleful song they sing.


With birth begin the sorrows which

Forever after cling,

The never ending train of woes

In service of a king.

Five deaths-in-life sage Vyasa notes

With well-known epic swing:

The poor man, sick man, exile, fool,

And servant of a king.

His food repels; he dare not say

An independent thing;

Though sleepless, he is not awake

Who hangs upon a king. [126}

The common phrase 'a dog's life* has

A most persuasive ring:

But dogs can do the things they like;

A slave obeys his king.

He must be chaste, sleep hard, grow thin,

And eat a meagre dinner:

The servant lives as lives the saint,

Yet is not saint, but sinner.

He cannot do the things he would;

He serves another's mind;

He sells his body. How can such

A wretch contentment find?

According to the lesser distance,

A servant uses more persistence

In watching for his master's whim

And trembling at the sight of him:

And this because a fire, a king,

Are double name for single thing,

A burning thing that men can stand

Afar, but not too close at hand.

What flavour has a titbit, though

It be as good as good,

Soft, dainty, melting in the mouth,

If bought by servitude?

To sum it all up:

What is my place? My time? My friends?

Expenditure or dividends?

And what am I? And what my power?

So must one ponder hour by hour."

After listening to this, Lively said, perceiving that Victor had a hidden purpose in mind: "Tell me, my [127} good fellow, what you wish to imply."

And Victor answered: "Well, you are my friend. I cannot help telling you what is to your profit. Here goes. The master, Rusty, is filled with wrath against you. And he said today: 'I will kill Lively and provide a feast for all who eat meat.' Of course, I fell into deep dejection on hearing this. Now you must do what the crisis demands."

To Lively this report was like the fall of a thunderbolt, and he fell into deep dejection. Yet as Victor's words were always plausible, he grew more and more troubled, fell into a panic, and said: "Yes, the proverb is right:

Women oft are tricked by scamps;

Kings with rascals oft agree;

Toward the skinflints money drifts;

Rain on mountains falls and sea.

Ah, me! Ah, me! What is this that has befallen me?

You serve your king most heedfully.

Of course. Who could complain?

But enmity as your reward

Is unexpected pain.

And again:

If one is angry, giving cause,

Remove it, and the wrath will pause:

But how may man propitiate

A mind that harbours causeless hate?

Who does not fear the scoundrel's art,

The causeless hate, the flinty heart?

For ever ready venom drips

Resistless from his serpent-lips. [128}

The stupid king-swan pecks by night

At star-shine, in the water bright,

Believing it a lotus white;

Then, fearing stars when shines the sun,

Avoids the lotus. Everyone

Who dreads a trap, will blessings shun.

Alas! What wrong have I done our master Rusty?"

"Comrade," said Victor, "kings love to injure without reason, and they seek out the vulnerable spot in an adversary."

"True, too true," said Lively. "There is wisdom in the verse:

The serpent sandal-trees defiles;

In lotus-ponds lurk crocodiles;

The slanderer makes virtue vain:

No blessing lacks attendant pain.

No lotus decks the mountain height;

From scoundrels issues nothing right;

To saints no change of heart is known;

Rice never sprouts from barley sown.

Nobility's constraints

Are felt by gracious saints,

Who bear good deeds in mind

Forget the other kind.

"Yet, after all, the fault is mine, because I made advances to a false friend. As the story goes:

Harsh talk, untimely action,

False friends are worse than vain:

The swan in lilies sleeping,

Was by the arrow slain." [129}

"How was that?" asked Victor. And Lively told the story of

Passion and the Owl

Within a certain forest was a broad expanse of lake. There lived a king-swan named Passion, who spent his days in a great variety of pastimes. One day death, fatal death, visited him in the person of an owl. And the swan said: "This is a lonely wood. Where do you come from?"

The owl replied: "I came because I heard of your virtues. Furthermore,

In search of virtue roaming

The wide world through,

No virtues being greater,

I come to you.

That I must cling in friendship

To you, is sure:

The impure turns, attaining

The Ganges, pure.

And again:

The conch was bone that Vishnu's hand

Has purified:

For contact with the righteous lends

A noble pride."

After this address, the swan gave his assent, in the words: "My excellent friend, dwell with me as you like by this broad lake in this pleasant wood." So their time was spent in friendly diversions.

But one day the owl said: "I am going to my own home, which is called Lotus Grove. If you set any [130} value on me and feel any affection, you must not fail to pay a visit as my guest." With these words he went home.

Now as time passed, the swan reflected: "I have grown old, living in this spot, and I do not know a single other region. So now I will go to visit my dear friend, the owl. There I shall find a brand-new recreation ground and new kinds of food, both hard and soft."

After these reflections, he went to visit the owl. At first he could not find him in Lotus Grove, and *when, after a minute search, he discovered him, there was the poor creature crouching in an ugly hole, for he was blind in the daytime. But Passion called: "My dear fellow, come out! I am your dear friend the swan, come to pay you a visit."

And the owl replied: "I do not stir by day. You and I will meet when the sun has set." So the swan waited a long time, met the owl at night, and after giving the conventional information about his health, being wearied by his journey, he went to sleep on the spot.

Now it happened that a large commercial caravan had encamped at that very lake. At dawn the leader rose and had the signal of departure given by conch. This the owl answered with a loud, harsh hoot, then dived into a hole in the river-bank. But the swan did not stir. Now the evil omen so disturbed the leader's spirit that he gave orders to a certain archer who [131} could aim by sound. This archer strung his powerful bow, drew an arrow as far as his ear, and killed the swan, who was resting near the owl's nest.

"And that is why I say:

Harsh talk, untimely action, . . . .

and the rest of it."

And Lively continued: "Why, our master Rusty was all honey at first, but at the last his purpose turns to poison. Ah, yes!

He compliments you to your face;

His whispered slanders never stop:

Avoid a friend like that. He is

A poison-jug with cream on top.

"Yes, I have learned by experience the truth of the well-known verse:

He lifts his hands to see you standing there;

His eyes grow moist; he offers half his chair;

He hugs you warmly to his eager breast;

In kindly talk and question finds no rest;

His skill is wondrous in deceptive tricks;

Honey without, within the poison sticks:

What play is this, what strange dramatic turns,

That every villain, like an actor, learns?

At first rogues' friendship glitters bright

With service, flattery, delight;

Thence, in its middle journey, shoot

Gay flowers of speech that fail to fruit;

Its final goal is treason, shame,

Disgust, and slanders that defame:

Alas! Who made the curs´d thing?

Its one foul purpose is to sting. [132}

And again:

They bow abjectly; leap to greet

You with their speech seductive-sweet;

Pursue and hug you day by day;

Of deep devotion make display:

All praise your virtue. Never one

Finds time to do what should be done.

"Woe is me! How can I, a creature herbivorous, consort with this lion who devours raw flesh? There is wisdom in the saying:

Where wealth is very much the same,

And similar the family fame,

Marriage or friendship is secure;

But not between the rich and poor.

And there is a proverb:

The sun, already setting, shows

His final flaming power,

And still the honey-thirsty bee

Explores the lotus-flower,

Forgets that it will prove a trap

That shuts at set of sun:

Ambition, thirsting for reward,

Is blind to dangers run.

Abandoning the lotus-bloom

With all its sweet content,

The jasmine's natural perfume

And luxury of scent,

The water-bees seek toilsome food,

On ichor-sipping bent:

So men reject the easy good,

In rogues overconfident. [133}

The bees that, too adventurous,

A novel honey seek

In springtime ichor glistening on

The elephant-monarch's cheek,

When, tossed by wind from flapping ears,

They tumble to the ground,

Remember then what gentle sport

In lotus-cups is found.

Yet, after all, virtues involve corresponding defects. For

The fruit-tree's branch by very wealth

Of fruit is bended low;

The peacock's feathered pride compels

A sluggish gait and slow;

The blooded horse that wins his race,

Must like a cow be led:

The good in goodness often find

An enemy to dread.

Where Jumna's waves roll blue

With sands of sapphire hue,

Black serpents have their lair;

And who would hunt them there,

But that a jewel's bright star

From each hood gleams afar?

By virtue rising, all

By that same virtue fall.

The man of virtue commonly

Is hateful to the king,

While riches to the scamps and fools

Habitually cling:

The ancient chant 'By virtue great

Is man' has run to seed;

The world takes rare and little note

Of any plucky deed. [134}

Sad, shamefaced lions fail to rage,

Their spirit mastered by the cage;

And captive elephants' brows and pride

By drivers' goads are scarified;

Charms dull the cobras; hopeless woe

Lays scholars flat and soldiers low:

For Time, the mountebank, enjoys

A juggling bout with chosen toys.

The honey-greedy bee - poor fool! -

Deserts the flowering lotus-pool

Where danger is not found, to sip

The springtime ichor-rills that drip

From elephant foreheads; does not fear

The flapping of that monstrous ear:

So, by his nature, greedy man

Forgets the issue of his plan.

"Yes, by entering a vulgarian's sphere of power, I have certainly forfeited my life. As the proverb says:

All who live upon their wits,

Many learnèd, too, are mean,

Do the wrong as quick as right:

Illustration may be seen

In the well-known tale that features

Camel, crow, and other creatures."

"How was that?" asked Victor. And Lively told the story of "Ugly's trust abused" (next page).


Panchatantra books

Panchatantra in English by Arthur W. Ryders, To top    Section     Set    Next

Panchatantra in English by Arthur W. Ryder. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2011–2019, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil [Email]