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Tag: birds

Crows and Owls

This is a story from the Panchatantra about the Crows and Owls.

Long long ago in the forests of Central India there was a huge banyan tree in a place called Mahilaropya, on which a whole colony of crows lived. Their king’s name was Meghavarna. The crows had only one grievance that a pack of owls that lived in a cave on a mountain nearby had made it their habit to come in the nights and attack any crow that was sighted outside the tree. The king of the owls was Arimardana and he with his cunning army derived sadistic pleasure in simply attacking the crows which were sighted out of the tree every night.

Meghavarna was sad at losing his flock slowly like this. As a wise saying goes, anyone who neglects an enemy or disease perishes and knowing this, Meghavarna called a meeting of his senior counsel of six crows one day and asked them what should be done. “This menace is growing day by day” said he. “Tell me O wise ministers of mine, what should I do?”

The first minister suggested that compromise with the enemy was the best policy. It would allow them time to build up their resources and thereafter attack the enemy. “Bend to the enemy when he is strong; attack him when he is vulnerable. Don’t wage a war if it doesn’t bring Power, or wealth or friendship,” said he.

The second minister completely disagreed with the first and suggested that trickery would be the wisest thing to do.“Never accept peace with an enemy who is not just, for, he will break his word and stab you in the back” said he. He went on to quote the story of How Bheema killed Keechaka through trickery in the Mahabharata. He went on to say that enemies like the owls who were blinded by anger would refuse to see peace.

Meghavarna looked at his third minister who said, “My Lord, both compromise and trickery will not work out with the owls, our enemies as they are strong and wicked. The best way I feel is to go away from here on exile and wait for a long time and strike back.” He went on, “Neither peace nor bravado can subdue a strong enemy, where these two do not work flight is the best alternative.”

The fourth minister opposed all these ideas and said they should all stay in their own place and mobilize support and then attack the enemy.“A king who flees is like a cobra without fangs. A crocodile in water can haul an elephant.” He quoted this advice and said that when a crocodile goes to the land it loses all its strength and can be even chased by a dog whereas if it stayed in water it could pull in even an elephant. “So it is best to stay where we are and mobilize support instead of going on exile”.

The fifth minister agreed fully with the fourth minister and said that this was the best strategy.

Meghavarna looked at his sixth minister Sthirajeevi by name and Sthirajeevi said, “You have to practice duplicity my Lord!” Meghavarna looked puzzled as Sthirajeevi continued, “The best thing would be to gather information about our enemies, somehow befriend them and divide their clan and gradually finish them off!”

“But who will do this?” asked a startled Meghavarna. “I Will” said Sthirajeevi, and as he suddenly caught sight of a lone owl on a distant tree, whispered, “Now, in front of everyone, abuse me and peck me as if pecking me to death. The friend sitting on a tree far away will tell his king that we have fallen out with each other and I will remain here till they come in the night. I will earn their sympathy and find out about them. All of you exile to the Rishyamuka Hills and I shall meet you there later on. Come on, pounce on me, quick”

Meghavarna pounced at Sthirajeevi hurling abuses at him and started pecking him hard. All the other crows thought it was a real fight and they also started to attack Sthirajeevi when Meghavarna said aloud, “Enough my friends, Let him learn a lesson, I shall come in the morning and finish him” and they all flew away.

It was already late evening and the owls had started to come out when the lone owl went and reported what he saw, to Arimardana. Arimardana was delighted that there was a divide amongst the crows and he gave a blood curling hoot “Whoooooooa”   and flew with his ministers hoping to attack all the crows. But to their utter surprise there were no crows on the banyan tree. All they could hear was a moaning “Caw.. Caw…” from somewhere on the ground. They looked around and found Sthirajeevi. “Attack him,” cried one of the ministers of Arimardana. He was Rakthaksha, the most shrewd and cunning minister of Arimardana.

“I want to convey something to your king before you kill me,” moaned Sthirajeevi in a feeble voice. “Take me to your king.”

Arimardana came in front. “I am the king,” said he. “Who are you?”

“I am Sthirajeevi, Meghavarna’s minister. I am reduced to this state as I fought for your sake with my king.” Arimardana looked at Sthirajeevi puzzled as he continued, “I advised my king to surrender to you as I know that you owls are very powerful. But my king not only ignored my advice but attacked me left and right, leaving me here to die. Please give succour and I shall show you where the crows are once I recover.”

“Finish him my lord, with no second thought,” said Rakthaksha, “There can be nothing more foolish than pampering your enemy. Kill him in one stroke.” Arimardana looked at his second minister, Deepaksha. “I don’t agree with what Rakthaksha said. If anybody seeks a truce, he should be honoured.” said Deepaksha.

The third minister Kruraksha also agreed with Deepaksha. “Anybody seeking asylum, even if an enemy should be given succour.”

Arimardana looked at his two other ministers, Vakranasa and Prakarakarna.

Both of them said in unison, “It is indeed wise to grant asylum to this enemy of ours as he will help us in finishing their clan. We agree with Kruraksha and Deepaksha.

“So be it” said Arimardana, “take him to our fortress”, and he flew leading the group. Rakthaksha was fuming with anger at his king’s foolishness and Sthirajeevi was very happy that his plan was working well, but he pretended to be writhing in pain due to the injuries ‘inflicted’ by his flock. He also flew behind the owls. When they reached the mountain where the cave was, Arimardana said to Sthirajeevi, “ Respected Sir, Please honour me by accepting this as your home. Please stay with us inside the cave and make yourself comfortable.” Sthirajeevi replied, “O King! Thank you for your grace. I shall stay outside the cave as I am a humble servant of yours from today and I shall discharge my duties faithfully.” Seeing this fake act of Sthirajeevi, Rakthaksha was seething with anger.

True to his words, Sthirajeevi stayed outside the cave, moaning and groaning as if in great pain. Arimardana believed that Sthirajeevi was recovering very slowly and arranged to feed him with whatever they hunted at night. Sthirajeevi happily ate the food while Rakthaksha was more and more incensed day by day at this drama being enacted by Sthirajeevi.

Finally Rakthaksha could take it no more and one day, he with some of his faithful friends, told the king Arimardana that he was not willing to stay at a place where his advice was not heeded. He told him the story of the Talking Cave wherein one survives if he anticipates and averts danger. He also told the king that encouraging Sthirajeevi, would lead to the end of the owl clan and quoted the saying, “Vinaasha kale vipareetha buddhi” which meant that as one’s destruction time comes, one thinks unintelligently or the thinking becomes warped. Saying thus, Rakthaksha and his friends flew away without looking back.

Sthirajeevi was extremely happy as the one impediment in his plan had also been removed without much effort. After a few days, Sthirajeevi started bringing twigs of all sizes and putting it near the narrow entrance of the cave. To the puzzled look of the owls he gave a reply that he was building a nest for himself. The collection of twigs grew by the day and the owls were so foolish not to even notice or think that a crow would need so many twigs for a small nest.

When there were enough twigs to make a fire, Sthirajeevi, at dawn one day, flew to the Rishyamuka hills where his friends were and told them, “Come on friends, each of you pick a burning twig and fly fast with me” Accordingly, each of them picked a burning twig from the brick kilns which were being fired in the country side and flew fast with Sthirajeevi.

The owls had just returned from their night hunt and were in deep slumber. Sthirajeevi flew near the cave and dropped the burning twig on the mound of twigs collected by him. “All of you do the same,” he ordered. All the crows dropped the burning twigs as Sthirajeevi said and the mound of twigs caught fire rapidly and before the owls could realise it, they were done to death by the choking smoke.

Sthirajeevi and his friends with King Meghavarna, returned to their old Banyan tree where Meghavarna praised Sthirajeevi for being persistent in his efforts of decimating the enemy, even in the face of difficulties. He quoted the scriptures which said “It is dangerous to leave a fire unextinguished, a debt unredeemed, an enemy uncrushed and a disease untreated.”

Sthirajeevi blessed Meghavarna to rule for a long time with all virtue and gain the blessings of God. And then, the crows started living peacefully.

The story of the vulture and the cunning cat

This is a story from the Hitopadesha.

Long long ago in the forests of central India , there was a huge banyan tree. The tree was house to hundreds of birds who had built nests on the innumerable branches. All the birds left the tree during the day to look for food and came back by nightfall.

During a particular time of the year, lots of chicks had hatched on the tree and the parent birds were compelled to leave them and go to look for food.

One day, late in the evening, a very old  vulture by name Grudhra , battered by age and could barely fly , came to the tree. His eyesight had also become very bad due to his age . He was walking very slowly and was almost about to hit the tree when some of the birds saw him. He was a huge figure and they were frightened by him but soon realised that he was almost blind and had blunt claws and beak and so could not harm anyone.

Some of the bolder birds came down and asked him ” Who are you Sir and may we ask what you are doing here??” The vulture said “My name is Grudhra and  I am an orphan. I have become very weak due to age  that I have to struggle to get food every day. I have not had food for days and have come wandering in search of food.” The birds felt pity on him and offered him a deal. They told him, “Sir, we have our chicks on the tree and we have to go out the whole day for food  and there is no one to look after them. So if you stay in the hollow at the bottom of the tree and look after our chicks from danger while we are out, we shall bring you food everyday”. Grudhra was happy and he agreed to the deal.

Accordingly, from the next day, the vulture used to come out of the hollow and stand under the tree the whole day and the small animals like fox and cats who were on the prowl to hunt the chicks were intimidated by the imposing figure of the vulture and kept away. In the evenings the birds used to bring food for the vulture. This arrangement went on well for quite some days and both the vulture and the birds were happy.

One day a cunning cat by name Bidaala slowly came near the tree. He had seen so many chicks and was very eager to devour  some of them. But suddenly he noticed Grudhra and was taken aback. He thought the vulture would pounce on him and he would be minced meat in moments. But to his surprise, Grudhra slowly turned around and in a deep voice asked “Who is there???” The clever Bidaala understood that the vulture was blind but he could not underestimate the power of a vulture. So he said in a meek voice ,  “I am a mendicant cat by name Bidaala and I am on a yatra to see the holy places in this part of the country. Sorry if I have disturbed you Sir”. Grudhra could not see the cat clearly and the voice of the cat was so meek that he believed what he said.

“Oh! Welcome. I am Grudhra , an old vulture and guardian of these birds” said the vulture. “You may be my guest in the hollow of the tree where I reside for as many days as you please Sir.” he continued. The cat said ,”Oh! call me Bidaala. I am much younger to you Sir and it is my good fortune to serve elderly souls like you”. Grudhra was very pleased as he had got a companion to talk during day time.

Slowly Bidaala won the confidence of Grudhra. He stayed in the hollow being careful enough to come out of the hollow only when the last of the birds had left and go back in before the birds came back in the evening.

One day he tried his fortune and deftly caught a chick by its neck from one of the lower branches, so quickly that it could not make noise. Swiftly he ran into the bushes and devoured the chick. All the other chicks made lot of noise but Grudhra could not see any animal nearby and soon the noise died down. This started happening once in three days and later became more frequent. The parent birds noticed the missing ones but were at a loss to find out who was behind it. Bidaala was careful to leave the bones in the bushes.

One day a crane who had also lost one of her chicks happened to see the bunch of bones in the bushes. Coincidentally, the vulture was not able to eat much food in the evenings as he was feeling little sick. The crane told the birds of the heap of bones and they came to a conclusion that it was Grudhra who had devoured their little ones and therefore was not eating well in the evenings.

Poor Grudhra! The birds had unanimously decided to attack Grudhra and they swooped on him, swarmed around him pecking him with their beaks and claws making lot of noise .Grudhra tried to protest as  Bidaala watched in horror from the hollow.  Finally, Grudhra, not able to bear the attack sank and fell down senseless. He could not speak and life was ebbing away.

Then , the birds flew up the tree their anger still simmering. Just then, Bidaala slinked out of the hollow and started running towards the bushes where he used to devour the chicks. The birds , only then noticed Bidaala and understood that it was Bidaala, not Grudhra who was the real culprit.

Alas! it was too late. They had killed a member of their own clan who was innocent and was so old.

P.S. This happens with us human beings too. So choose your friends carefully and  do not act in a haste.

Never Give Advice Unless It is Sought

Once upon a time in a forest there lived a group of monkeys. The group was a very unruly one and made lot of noise wherever they went.

As we know, monkeys like to imitate whatever we do. These monkeys had observed in the village a person starting a bonfire and the group of people sitting and warming themselves in the cold night. The monkeys wanted to imitate the person that evening and they broke logs and twigs and arranged them near a tree as they had seen the person arrange.

Now, they did not know how the fire was lit, though one monkey had seen the man putting a glowing object in between the logs and the fire had caught on.

Just then the monkey noticed a few fireflies fluttering glowing in the dusk and caught one of them and tried hard to push it in between the logs and blew it “Phoooooo!” The firefly flew away. The monkey kept on repeating the action and each time the fly would flit away. The monkeys got really angry.

Just then a little birdie perched on the tree cried out “Hey monkeys, those are fireflies, those will not set fire to the logs” The monkeys ignored the birdie. The birdie did not catch the message. She kept on saying the same thing. The rowdiest monkey of all got so irritated that he just leapt and caught the birdie and screwed her neck off.

The poor birdie did not know that the result of giving advice which is not sought could be fatal!!

Moral: Never give advice to anyone unless it is sought.

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