Monday, March 26, 2012

The Loss of Friends [Mitrabheda] - Stories of Panchatantra


The Lion and the Bull

Once upon a time there was a merchant named Vardhaman. As a businessman he travelled quiet a lot. In those days, the bullock cart , horseback and chariot were the most preferred way of travelling from one place to another.

As Vardhaman was traveling through a jungle on the banks of river Jamuna, one of his bullocks – Sanjeevaka collapsed. Vardhaman was a very busy man. He called some of his servants and asked them to take care of the bullock.

'Take care of bullock!' If he gets well, bring him along with you to the next village. Otherwise...' Vardhaman paused looking at the sick face of the bullock and did not complete his sentence. He somehow felt that the bullock would not live for long...

The servants nodded and stayed behind in the forest with the bullock. However as night came, the servants were scared and nervous. The jungle was a scary place and at night it seemed dangerous. The servants were scared stiff. They looked at the bullock angrily. The bullock was lying tired and ill. The servants did not want to spend another night in the jungle. So they left the bullock in the middle of the jungle and left for the next town.

They met Vardhaman in the next village. 'What happened...?' Vardhaman asked looking at his servants.

'Sir...' One of the servants said hesitatingly, '...Sir, the bullock....' He looked at the others. All the servants had decided to lie to Vardhaman. 'The bullock is dead sir...' The servant said as the other servants also nodded their heads.

Vardhaman nodded his head. He could not find out that his servants were lying to him. It was after all an old bullock. 'Ok...Take rest now...We have work to do in the morning....' The servants nodded and happily went to sleep in their quarters.

However the bullock Sanjeevaka was far from dead. The bullock was just tired from all the traveling. When Vardhaman's servants left behind Sanjeevaka, they had done something very good for the bullock. The bullock took sufficient rest and there was plenty of food in the forest. Taking rest and eating lots of food, Sanjeevaka got back his strength. Sanjeevaka was happy and soon became very strong.

The jungle was ruled by Pingalaka, a bold and strong lion. However the lion had not seen too many bullocks in his life. Once when he was drinking the waters of the river of Jamuna, Pingalaka heard the loud, happy snort of Sanjeevaka. Though Pingalaka was a brave lion, he was afraid when he heard this sound, as he had never heard it in his whole life. Pingalaka ran away from the river and went deep inside the forest away from the noise. Pingalaka knew that he was supposed to be the king of the forest and that he should not have been afraid. He was sitting embarrassed inside the den hoping that no one had seen him run away. However two jackals – Karataka and Damanaka had seen Pingalaka run away in fright.

Karataka and Damanaka were the sons of the ministers of Pingalaka. However Pingalaka had dismissed the fathers of Karataka and Damanaka because they were untrustworthy.

Looking at all this, Karataka wanted to just drop the whole thing and move on. He did not want to interfere in things which did not concern him. However Damanaka wanted to become the king's minster. He knew that if he became the minister, he would have lots of power. Damanaka also knew that if he was the king's minister, he would get lots of food.

Finally Karataka agreed and Damanaka went to the king.

'Sir!' Damanaka said bending low before the king, 'I know....I know that something is bothering you....If you tell me, what it is I will help you sir!'

Pingalaka wondered whether he should tell the jackal everything or not...Damanaka was after all the son of a dismissed minister. He need not like the king at all...However finally Pingalaka decided that he had nothing to lose. He would always be careful of Damanaka. And besides Damanaka may have a good idea...

So Pingalaka told the jackal about the snort he had heard. Damanaka nodded his head and spoke, 'Your majesty! I do not think you should be afraid of any noise, without knowing what it is. However...' Damanaka said looking at the king, 'If it is ok with you sir, I will go and investigate the noise...'

Pingalaka fell silent. He was now feeling distinctly uneasy for trusting the jackal. However he decided that if the noise was something dangerous, it would be better to send the jackal first.

'Ok, Damanaka,' The king said nodding to the jackal, 'Go and find out what the noise is...'

Damaka nodded and slowly approached the place where Sanjeevaka was happily dancing and snorting. When he saw the bull, Damanaka almost burst out laughing. Pingalaka the great king had been afraid of the bull. This is great news. Once I go and tell the king that it is only a bull, the king is going to make me into a minster....Damanaka smiled...Things were going beautifully...

Damanaka went to Pingalaka and respectfully bowed to him, 'Sir, that sound was made by a bull sir!'

Pingalaka looked at Damanaka very dis-trustingly and a little embarrassed also, 'A bull?' He asked Damanaka with disdain.

Damanaka bowed again, 'Yes sir! And sir, if it pleases you I will bring the bull to be your servant sir!

Pingalaka was thinking of everything Damanaka was saying. Damanaka knew that he was scared..of a bull..Pingalaka winced. A bull...which could make such a snorting would indeed be a very powerful creature...It would be great to have such a being as my friend....Damanaka would be able to serve me once more...

'Damanaka!' Pingalaka growled, 'If you indeed make this bull my servant, I will make you as my minister....'

Damanaka bowed and walked away not saying anything, feeling happy.

He went to Sanjeevaka. 'Bull, what are you doing here?' He pretended to be angry and asked the bull.

The bull looked at the jackal surprised and worried, 'I am just a poor bullock. I was abandoned by my master. I have regained my health now...'

Damanaka hid a smile and went on angrily, 'Do you know that you are in the kingdom of the great king – Pingalaka. This is his forest. You dare come here and take our grass and not even let us know about it...'

Sanjeevaka spoke in trembling tones, 'I am a city bullock. I do not know anything about the rules of the jungle...'

Damanaka cut him off, 'Ignorance is not an excuse!...The king is furious, he is going to eat you!'

Sanjeevaka shook his head and said trembling, 'Please wise jackal, Please tell the king about me...Tell him not to eat me...'

Damanaka looked at him coldly, 'I will talk to the king but I cannot promise you anything...' He said and turned away.

Damanaka then came to Pingalaka and spoke, 'Sir! You were right! He is no ordinary animal. He said he is the vehicle of Lord Shiva. But I also have told him that you are the vehicle of Goddess Parvati. I have told him that he has to speak to you for permission to graze in our lands...' Pingalaka looked admiringly at the intelligence of Damanaka. 'He has agreed, provided he has the assurance that you will not hurt him in any way sir...'

Pingalaka slowly nodded and agreed. His doubts about Damanaka vanishing. 'Go bring him here!'

Damanaka then went to Sanjeevaka. 'This king has promised to see you. But do not be very proud of being the king's new friend. If you do not respect me and work with me, I can make sure, you lose the favour of the king also....' Damanaka said with a silky threat.

Sanjeevaka nodded and finally agreed to see the king. Pingalaka met the healthy Sanjeevaka. They greeted each other and finally Sanjeevaka told him everything about himself. 'I was left behind. That is all your majesty. Now I am coming and asking for security from you.

Pingalaka smiled, 'You shall have it my friend! Even bigger animals feel insecure!

Pingalaka made Damanaka and Karataka his ministers.

The jackals felt that lion would spend most of the time with Sanjeevaka and let them manage the affairs of the state However this plan backfired. Pingalaka started relying on Sanjeevaka on the matters of the state. To add to this, Pingalaka was giving up hunting, following the teachings of Sanjeevaka.

This made Damanaka and Karataka very angry as they were eating the remains of what Pingalaka had killed. They often had to go hungry...The two jackals decided that they had create a fight between Pingalaka and Sanjeevaka.

Then Damanaka went to Pingalaka and talked to him, 'Sir! Your friendship with Sanjeevaka...'

Pingalaka looked at Damanaka angrily, 'What about it...' He said pushing his paws angrily.

'He is someone who eats grass and you are someone who eats other animals sir. He still continues to eat grass, but you sir have given up your food...for him...Can't you feel it sir?' Damanaka asked pretending to be angry. 'Can't you feel getting weak whereas Sanjeevaka stands there getting stronger and stronger...'

Listening to Damanaka's words made Pingalaka angry. 'He is a good friend and he has imparted a lot of knowledge to me...'

'Good friend...?' Damanaka said with a smirk, 'A good friend, who wants you weaker than him, so that he can kill you and manage the affairs of the state himself...' Damanaka said drily, 'As it is, he is the one who takes care of the affairs of the forest. He just wants to take over completely...'

'A LIE...!' Pingalaka roared and swung at Damanaka. Damanaka avoided the paw but looked at the king for some time. Smartly Damanaka did not say anything and just went away. He left the king to his own thoughts.

Damannaka then went to Sanjeevaka and sorrowfully nodded his head. 'Did I not tell you, to keep us also as your friends....'

Sanjeevaka looked at Damanaka in surprise. 'When did I stop being friends with you...You have always been....'

Damanaka laughed without any humour, 'You have taught the king about not killing other animals. It is not in his nature...He is a carnivore....He is hungry most of the time....' Damanaka looked at Sanjjevaka and whispered to him. 'He plans to kill you Sanjeevaka...so that he can get back his energy and become the powerful ruler again....'

Sanjeeka pushed Damanaka back, 'You lie!...Pingalaka is a good lion. He is intelligent...'

'...and he is a carnivore....' Damanaka said interrupting him. 'I don't want anything to happen to you, so please be ready when you meet Pingalaka the next time. I would advice you to run away. But I do not think you will listen, so please be careful...'

Sanjeevaka shook his head, but already a shadow of doubt was formed in his head.

Pingalaka also kept thinking about the jackal's words and decided to be careful around Sanjeevaka.

As Pingalaka went near Sanjeevaka, the next day, he saw that the bull was snorting and keeping his horns ready as if to attack him. Pingalaka was enraged. Why that backstabbing bullock...He is actually going to kill me....I made him my friend ...gave him the highest respect and listened to him and THIS is how he repays me...I will...'

Poor Sanjeevaka never even had a chance. The lion pounced on him and killed him even before he had a chance. Damanaka and Karataka saw this from the side happy that they had achieved what they had wanted by their cunning and made sure they were the minsters and got plenty of food.

Pingalaka unfortunately lost a good friend by rash acting...

This is the main story of the first part of the Panchatantra. The other stories are woven inside the main story as part of the dialogues between the main characters...

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