This story is one from the Panchatantra which appears in the chapter “Loss of friends” or “Mitra Bheda” as it was called in Sanskrit. There is a lot for our politicians in particular to learn from this story which is why maybe Vishnu Sharman who taught three princes worldly wisdom told this story.
Once there was a merchant by name Vardhman, who was in the habit of taking his wares to the nearby city for selling the same. He used to take a route through the forest. On one of his usual trips, one of the bulls of his cart by name Sanjeevaka injured his fore leg very badly and could walk no further. The heartless merchant unyoked the bull and converted his cart into a one bullock cart and proceeded on his way, leaving poor Sanjeevaka to fend for himself in the treacherous forest.
Sanjeevaka was very sad but he had enough fresh fodder around, something which was not available in the city or even villages and so he ate and drank to his content and was free of the burden of work and his leg healed by itself in a few days. He was now a free bird and he started enjoying the forest life in fact!
Now, there was a lion by name Pingalaka who was living in a den near the place where Sanjeevaka was living. Pingalaka had two jackals by names Karataka and Damanaka who were once his ministers. He had dismissed them as they had tried to cheat him earlier. But they were desperate to get back their posts as they could get free meat every day when the Pingalaka hunted.
One day, Pingalaka went to the lake nearby to drink water. Just as he bent down to take a sip, he heard a loud noise ” Hrrrmph!”. It startled him. He was at a loss to find out what the noise was. Filled with fear and keeping his tail between his legs he ran back to his den. Unfortunately for him, Damanaka was around and saw the “King of the jungle” running like a coward. “Come on Karataka”, he said to his brother, “See the King , running like a coward? Come let us find out what frightened him!” he said with a mean grin. Karataka, was on the other hand not much interested in being nosey and advised Damanaka against it. But Damanaka persisted and went to Pingalaka and asked him about the incident.
Pingalaka was hugely embarrassed. Here was a jackal who saw him run away, Chee Chee! He did not know what to say and finally told him what happened. He felt ashamed of himself. Damanaka was smiling to himself. Now that he knew what happened, he could strike a deal favourable for himself!!
He thought for a while and addressed Pingalaka, “Oh Lord of the jungle, I am at your service ever. I shall find out who made the terrifying noise and bring him to you as your servant!” Saying thus , he went in the direction from where the noise came.
He wandered for sometime and shortly he saw Sanjeevaka and knew that it was Sanjeevaka’s noise that the Lion had heard. He chuckled to himself. “After all, it is a bull”, he thought, “Our King is afraid of a mere bull!!!”. So thinking he approached Sanjeevaka and enquired all about him and how he happened to be roaming about in the forest. When Sanjeevaka told him his story, Damanaka said in a whispering voice ” Good that you have not been seen by our King Pingalaka! If his eyes light on you, consider yourself as dead!”. The bull was frightened and asked Damanaka what should be done.
Damanaka said, “Do not worry. I shall take you to our King tomorrow. I shall speak to him today and see that you are not hurt in any manner. Bye bye” and went his way. He straightaway went to Pingalaka, who was anxiously waiting to know what happened. Damanaka saw the king and said” My Lord, the noise you heard yesterday was made by a huge bull. He is so strong and looks very dangerous. For your sake, I risked my life and went and met him. It seems he is the vehicle of Lord Shiva! But do you think I would have let you down? Huh, I told him that you are the King of the jungle and the vehicle of Goddess Durga. He has agreed to be your servant and will come and see you tomorrow.”
Pingalaka was relieved and was quite happy that Damanaka had helped him. The next day, Sanjeevaka came to see Pingalaka. Pingalaka received him with caution and Sanjeevaka was equally cautious about the lion. But the mutual respect and fear slowly turned into good friendship and they both started spending lot of time together much to the ire of the jackals. Pingalaka was much inspired by Sanjeevaka’s goodness and he almost became very saintly. He just hunted small animals enough for himself and only when he was really hungry.
Karataka and Damanaka were thoroughly disappointed by this turn of events. They were hoping to get back their ministerial posts and have free meal every day but contrary to their expectation, the events happening were totally opposite. Both of them were quite worried about their future. They knew that as long as Sanjeevaka was around, things would never change. Earlier, they had hoped that Pingalaka would spend much of his time with Sanjeevaka and they could manage the affairs of the kingdom, including the sharing of the meat hunted by Pingalaka. But here was Pingalaka, who had even stopped hunting!
Karataka said, “Damanaka, I think we have to do something about this. We cannot let this go on much longer.” Then, he whispered something into Damanaka’s ears and Damanaka went to the place where Sanjeevaka was living. Karataka, in the meanwhile, went to see the lion. He noticed that Pingalaka was in a good mood and started his talk. “O Lord, King of the Jungle, I, the humble Karataka has come to greet you. I am deeply pained to see your health deteriorating. You have become so thin, while your friend Sanjeevaka is growing stronger day by day”. Pinagalaka was quick to tell Karataka not to raise the topic of his friendship with Sanjeevaka. “He is an extremely honest and faithful bull”, he said.
Karataka immediately said “Oh my Lord, I am not speaking anything ill on him. I am just warning you that your friend seems to be becoming stronger feeding on the lush grass growing in your territory and I …. feel that he wants to vanquish you and become the King. Please do not get angry O King. It was just in good intention I told you…. Please be careful O Lord, especially when you see the bull bending his head showing his horns…. because that means a bull is going to attack…” Saying thus, he slunk away. The seed of suspicion was sown and that was enough . Pingalaka’s mind was poisoned and his thoughts kept coming back on the possible attack by Sanjeevaka.
By this time Damanaka had gone and met Sanjeevaka and said, “Sanjeevaka, though you have chosen to not be friends with us, I have come to tell you something for your own good.” He paused while Sanjeevaka looked puzzled and then continued, “The King has become terribly weak these days and not able to hunt as he used to earlier… I think he is thinking of killing you, my dear friend, as you are the easiest target,so be very careful!” Sanjeevaka was thoroughly shocked while Damanaka continued, “When you go to meet Pingalaka next, please be wary and always be ready to strike. Show your horns so that Pingalaka does not dare to attack you”. Damanaka also left the scene having done his role. Sanjeevaka was thoroughly confused and now started to doubt Pingalaka.
The next day when he went to see Pingalaka, he remembered Damanaka’s words. Pingalaka was sitting on a cliff, his mind full of doubts about Sanjeevaka’s intention. He was staring angrily at Sanjeevaka from the cliff when Sanjeevaka also, full of misgivings in his mind, bent his head a little, showing his horns. Pingalaka did not waste a moment. From the cliff, he pounced on Sanjeevaka and caught his neck and in a few moments Sanjeevaka was dead. Alas, it was a hasty decision, but that was what Karataka and Damanaka had wanted to happen.
It is said that in later days Pingalaka repented for his action, but it was too late…