A collection of Indian tales of wit, wisdom, humour, bravery, devotion and lots more...

Tag: forest

Seven Jars Of Gold

Once upon a time, there lived a barber in a city in central India. He was working at the king’s palace. He was a happy go lucky fellow and so even though he did not earn much he was always happy and cheerful. The king liked him for his cheerful attitude as he liked to see cheerful faces in the morning.

The barber’s house was quite far away in a village and he had to pass through a forest every day while going for work and coming home. He used to pass by a huge banyan tree in the jungle every day.

One day, when he was passing by the tree, he heard a booming voice. “Halt”, said the voice. The barber, though not frightened, was startled a bit by the voice.”Who are you?” he asked, looking around, as he could find no human being nearby.

“I am a Yaksha living in this tree”, the voice said. “I see you going past this tree everyday and I think you work in the city. Where do you work and how much do you earn?”

“I work in the palace and I earn just enough to make ends meet”, said the barber. “Why do you ask?”

“Well”, said the voice, “I am the guardian of seven jars of gold in the hollow of this tree. I like you and I want to gift them to you. You can take them to your house and if ever you do not need them, you can bring them back to me.”

The barber could not believe his luck. “I shall take them”, said he and eagerly peeped into the hollow of the tree trunk. To his utter surprise, he found that there were indeed seven closed jars. Without opening them, he took them back home and told his wife about his luck. The wife was indeed happy and eagerly opened the jars. To their surprise the barber and his wife found six jars full of shining gold coins, but the seventh jar however was only half full. They were disappointed at this discovery.

“I shall ask the Yaksha tomorrow. Maybe the balance of gold coins is in the hollow of the trunk itself!” said the barber to his wife. Already his mind was full of curiosity as to why the seventh jar was only half full. He could not stop thinking about the jars and his luck and could not sleep at all.

Early in the morning he left to meet the Yaksha. As he neared the tree he heard the Yaksha call out,”Hello friend, what is it that brings you here so early? It is not your usual time yet” “Er…well,l want to ask you something… One jar out of the seven is only half full. Why is that?”

The Yaksha replied,”It is like that only. You can fill up the jar with your earnings. And if ever you do not need the jars bring them back as they are, okay?” The barber nodded his head though he was puzzled and went home.he told his wife what the Yaksha told him.The husband and wife picked up a few coins from the seventh jar and the level reduced and they hurriedly put back the coins in the jar. The wife said,” Do not worry my dear! From now on we shall save whatever we earn and put it in this jar and fill it up fast.”

The barber went for work with a confused mind. He didn’t talk much, to the surprise of the king.He was also not smiling as usual. The king had never seen him this way but anyhow thought that he must be having some domestic problem and therefore did not ask him anything. The barber took his day’s wages and went home. His wage was a gold coin.

As soon as he went home, he dropped the coin in the half full jar. He told his wife,”For the next few days, we shall eat with whatever provisions are available, for, I want to fill the seventh jar.” “Okay”, said the wife. “The provisions at home will last for three days. But there are no vegetables for tomorrow.” “Never mind”, said the barber. Pluck the greens from the garden and cook them.” The wife agreed as she also wanted to see the seventh jar full.

Over the next two weeks the barber’s earnings went straight into the jar. The jar however seemed to be absorbing all that was put into it. The level of gold coins did not rise by even a millimeter. The barber and his wife were puzzled and worried. Why the jar was not getting full was the only topic they discussed amongst themselves late in the nights. The barber decided to do extra work and went to the market in the evenings to help another barber and thereby earned extra money. The wife took up a job as domestic help and earned some money.

However they spent a miniscule portion of what they earned towards their needs and put the major portion in the seventh jar. The coins in the jar however remained at the same level as it was on the first day. Due to their extra occupation, the couple hardly talked to each other these days. The barber had lost his cheer and wore a very worried look. He hardly joked or laughed when he heard anything funny.

The king was noticing the behavior of the barber. Initially he had ignored it but as days went by it was difficult for him to ignore the barber as the barber’s sullen face was affecting the king too. He did not feel good to see a constantly worried face with lot of mental burden every day in the morning.

One day the king decided that enough was enough. He asked the barber what the matter was. Though initially reluctant, the barber blurted out the cause of his worry. The king was quiet for some time. He was a wise man and could empathize with others and so felt sorry for the barber. “Do you want to be happy once again?”, he asked the barber. “Yes. Your majesty”, said the barber, his eyes filled with tears. “Will you do as I say?”said the king. “Yes Sire” said the barber willing to do anything for getting relieved from this mental torture. “Well then”said the king.”Go and. give back the jars of gold from wherever you got them from”

The barber knew that that was the right solution and he had also contemplated this. He had realized that the jars were the primary reason for his change in attitude and lifestyles and lack of cheer from his life. Almost instantly, he agreed to do what the king said and went home straight. “Bring the jars”, he told his wife, “let us give them back to the Yaksha.” The wife also had realized their folly and willingly brought the jars out.

The barber took the jars and hurried to the banyan tree. He placed them in the hollow and addressed the Yaksha in a cold voice, “Here! Take your gold coins back! I was a fool to have accepted them. They have robbed me of my happiness and have given me only sorrow”

The Yaksha replied, “You were a fool to have added all your earnings in the jar! And you cannot have them now as I already told you that I want the jars as I gave them to you.” The barber angrily turned to go back when he heard the Yaksha’s booming voice again.

“But you have to thank me , friend, for now you are wise to know that it is always better to enjoy what you have rather than going after what you do not have”. The barber went back, finally relieved and wiser and remained so for the rest of his life.

Blind Luck

This is a folk tale from the North of India.

Long long ago, there lived an old man near the city of Varanasi. His wife had died young and he had two sons. The elder one, Sonu, was blind at birth and the younger one Monu was a happy go lucky fellow hardly caring to educate himself or do any work.  Sonu, though blind had been bestowed with a rare power and that was to understand the language of the birds and animals. He would listen to their language and come to know of the happenings around him.

The old man had some wealth and so they were living peacefully. However, the man fell ill after some time and was lying in his death bed.

He called both his sons near him and said to Monu, “Monu, please do not leave the side of your elder brother ever. Even if you have to beg and eat, please take your brother with you and share the food. Please promise me this…” Monu kept his palm on his father’s palm and promised and the old man fell dead. After the rituals for the man had been performed, both the brothers sustained on the little wealth that had been saved by their father. After some time, the wealth was over and Monu started selling the assets one by one and finally sold the house also and spent the money.

Finally, they had to resort to begging. As his father had told him, he did not leave his blind brother and took him along wherever he went. The people of the city pitied the brothers in the beginning but slowly started to think that Monu being a healthy fellow could go for a job but had resorted to begging and they refused to give them food. Monu started feeling that his brother was a burden as he could not find food for himself and kept on thinking on why he should stick to the promise made by him to his father. So, one day, he decided that he would leave his blind brother in the forest. He told his brother that they were going for a walk and took him deep inside the forest and told him to stay there till he brought him fruits. He also bound one hand of his brother to a tree saying that since it was a new place, it would be difficult to locate him when he came back with fruits, if he went astray.

Sonu, being a simpleton, believed in what his brother said and waited under the tree, his one hand bound to the trunk of the tree. He kept on expecting his brother to come and he was feeling very hungry. Time passed but there was no sign of Monu. Slowly, it dawned on Sonu that his brother had betrayed him. He could sense that it was nearing evening. He could hear the shrill calls of the birds returning to their nests and could also hear the far off growls of the wild animals.

As he thought of his fate in the dark unknown forest, he was terrified. Further, he could not even run away because his hand was bound to the tree. After a few moments, he remembered that he had a small knife in his cummerbund. With the free hand, he pulled out the knife and cut off the ropes. Suddenly, he could hear the growls of the animals nearer and in sheer desperation, climbed up the tree to a safe height and sat on a branch.

As the sun set, many animals converged under the tree on which he was sitting. Amongst them were a lion, a cheetah and a bear. Though Sonu could not see them, being able to understand the language of the animals and birds, it was interesting for him to hear their conversation. Soon it was pitch dark.

“Hey cheetah!” said the lion, “Tell us some new secret you know!”

“Hmmm…… Well, do you know that this very tree under which we are standing is a magical tree?”

Sonu now pricked up his ears as the conversation continued.

The cheetah continued, “Do any one of you know that the pulp from the bark of this tree, if put into the eyes, can cure a blind man?” “Oh, is it?” asked the lion. Sonu, astonished at what he had heard just then, scratched the bark of the branch on which he was sitting with the knife he had and found that a pulpy substance oozed out. He applied the substance in his eyes and lo and behold! He could see even in the pitch dark of the night. He looked down to see a cheetah, a bear, a lion and various other animals and was amazed at his newfound sense.

The bear now spoke, “Hey, I know a secret too!” “What?” asked the others. “Did you know that the princess of this kingdom is always ill? And nobody knows why. But I know…” The animals looked amused as the bear continued. “There is a small black cat curled up underneath the princess’s bed and not even the princess or her maids or security guards know about it. The cat carries the evil spell of a witch. If the cat is removed from underneath her bed, the princess will be okay immediately. But the poor king not knowing this is asking doctors from all over the country to treat her…Ha ha ha…., now Lion, you tell us the secret you know”. Sonu listened with awe.

The Lion gave a growl and started his secret. “Hey buddies, do you know, there is a village by name Soonapur at the end of this forest and true to its name, the village has become very scarcely populated due to a strange happening there” Sonu and the animals listened with great interest. The lion continued, lowering his voice. Sonu had to strain to listen to what the lion was saying. “All the children in Soonapur die as soon as they are born and all the elders in the city are suffering from a strange illness for the past two months. Their spinal cords have become twisted all of a sudden and they are becoming hunchbacks. None of them know why this is happening and they are at a loss to know what to do to stop this happening.” The lion stopped and all the animals stared at him, expecting him to continue. The Lion continued, “There is an old Peepul tree near an abandoned temple in the village and there lives a black cobra in a hole in the tree. If anyone feeds milk to the cobra in a black pot early exactly at mid day, it will drink it and leave the tree. Then the spell of the village will be lifted”

Sonu had listened with total concentration and was extremely excited. Soon the voices were lowered and the animals slept under the tree. At day break, the animals got up and went their ways. Sonu enjoyed the brightness of the light which he was seeing for the first time in his life. He savoured the beauty of the forest, its trees, waterholes and all and slowly walked in some direction. Luckily he spotted the village Soonapur soon. He was surprised that what the lion had said was true. He enquired with the people about the tragedy and was pained to hear their story. He consoled them and promised that he would put an end to their tragedy by that evening. He got a black pot from one of the villagers and some milk and went in search of the abandoned temple. He found the tree and the hole before midday and placed the pot with milk in front and prayed with folded hands. After a while, a black cobra slid down from the hole and drank the milk and glided into the thick vegetation swiftly.

The next minute the people of Soonapur felt a tingle in their spines and were surprised to find their backs becoming straight. Sonu was returning from the temple, when all the people rushed out and showered him with lot of money and gifts. Sonu told them to wait until he went on another mission and promised that he would be back soon.

He walked on and on and by the night, reached the capital city. Though it was very late, he reached the palace and asked for an audience with the king. The gatekeepers refused but seeing his insistence, they went and reported the matter to the king. The king called and asked Sonu about his mission and Sonu claimed that he could cure the illness of the Princess. The King was furious as he thought Sonu was a joker and said, “Look here, I have tried the services of the best doctors in this country and it has been of no avail. If you have come here to play any kind of joke, beware! This sword of mine is very sharp and can chop your head in a second”. Sonu was least flustered by the king’s words. “Your Highness, said he, I am confident that your daughter will be up by tomorrow noon, and when I cure her, will you give what I want?

“Yes” said the king totally sure that the boy would be the prey to his sword the next day.

The next day, Sonu went to the chamber where the princess lay. The chamber was the highest room in the king’s fort and out of the window in the chamber; one could see the deep river gushing with fury miles and miles below. He asked all the security men and maids to leave and they all obeyed as it was the king’s order that Sonu should be given what he wanted, to cure the princess. Sonu went in and closed the doors. He opened the window and peered underneath the bed of the princess. The princess was in deep sleep. There was a tiny black cat curled up under the bed. In a moment, he picked it and flung it down into the river through the window.

After a while, the princess jumped up from bed. “Why was I sleeping so long? I am hungry” she said as Sonu opened the door to the curious onlookers which included the king. The princess ran up to the king and hugged him. “Papa, why did I sleep so long?” she asked in her sweet voice. The king saw that she was perfectly okay and was overwhelmed with joy. Even without Sonu asking for it, he offered the princess hand in wedding to him and overnight Sonu became a Prince, the son in law of the king.

He spent happy days and went back to Soonapur and met the people, who were very happy and showered him with gifts. As he was going back to the palace, he saw a beggar in tattered robes and the beggar was sobbing. Sonu recognised that it was Monu and went up to him and talked to him. Monu was extremely surprised at the blind luck which had befallen his brother. He was ashamed when Sonu was still affectionate to him even as he had ditched him in the jungle. He asked for forgiveness and Sonu, a good person he was forgave him readily and gave him money to start a new business and Monu turned a new leaf and they all lived happily ever after.

 

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 Curse On King Dasaratha

This is a story from the Valmiki Ramayana.

Dasaratha, who was the emperor of Kosala, died a painful death separated from his four sons- Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrugna. It is indeed ironic that a powerful emperor who had not one, but four valiant, handsome and righteous sons, did not have even one of them near him, while he passed away.

On the sixth night after Rama left Ayodhya, the devastated King Dasaratha could not have a wink of sleep. It was past midnight and the King lay wide awake, his heart full of grief at the injustice he had done to his beloved Rama. His mind was looking back at all the events in his life and he suddenly remembered this incident. He asked Kausalya to come nearer and started narrating the incident to her.Dasaratha said, “When a person does good things, he reaps good things and the same way, when he does bad things, he reaps its effect. By the time one realises this principle, it is too late to make amends. I am also a victim of this cycle and I want to relate to you an incident which happened when I was a young prince.” Dasaratha then shared his story with Kausalya.

When Dasaratha was a young prince, he was a master archer and had learnt a difficult technique in archery by name “Shabdavedi”. By mastering Shabdavedi, he could, by listening to the sound made by any animal, kill it with his arrow aimed from a distance. Dasaratha was very proud of his achievement and it helped him in his hunting.

One day during the rainy season, Dasaratha went to the banks of the Sarayu, to hunt. It was raining and it was exciting for him to hunt in the rain. As he stood near the Sarayu, he could hear the noise made by an elephant drinking water with its trunk. Since Dasaratha was well versed in Shabdavedi, he shot an arrow in the direction from which the sound came. After a moment, much to the dismay of Dasaratha, a human voice cried in pain and someone said, “Who has done me to death? Why should I be hunted like an animal? Who is this shameless man who has done this heinous crime?” A horrified Dasaratha rushed to the spot to see a young man lying along the banks of the river, with mud and blood smeared on his body. Beside him was a pot half filled with water.

Dasaratha at once realised the grave mistake he had committed. He had mistaken the sound of the pot being filled up with the river water to be that of an elephant drinking water. The young man looked at Dasaratha and said, “You are a prince! And yet, you have hunted me like an animal? I was going to carry water to my old parents who are both blind. They are totally dependent on me and now you have hunted me, who was their only support….” Shravan Kumar, the young man, was now speaking with great difficulty due to the pain he was suffering on account of the arrow which was embedded on his chest. He continued, “My parents will be helpless without me and they do not even know that I am dying.” Shravan stopped talking, writhing in pain. Dasaratha, overcome with emotion, fell at the feet of the young man pleading with him to be forgiven.

The man could not be pacified and after a while, told Dasaratha to take the pot full of water to his parents who were waiting with thirst at the ashrama which was some distance away from the river. He also said, “O Prince! Please tell my father what you have done and please ask for forgiveness as he may curse you in his anger. Please also remove this arrow from my chest so that I may die in peace.” A reluctant Dasaratha obeyed Shravan and removed the arrow from his chest after which Shravan died almost immediately. Then, with a heavy heart, he proceeded to the ashrama with the pot of water in his hands.

The old couple were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their son at the doorway of the ashrama. Hearing Dasaratha’s footsteps, they were impatient as their son had gone a long time back to fetch them water. So, mistaking Dasaratha for Shravan, they called out to him in endearing words to give them water without delay.

Dasaratha, mustering enough courage, broke the tragic news to them. The couple were shocked beyond words. After a long moment of silence, Shravan’s father spoke, “If you hadn’t admitted your guilt, my anger would have caused your head to explode. Lead us to our son.”

Dasaratha witnessed heart-rending scenes as the couple mourned their son and performed his last rites. Still unable to reconcile with what had happened, Shravan’s father turned to Dasaratha and cursed him, “I’m suffering the pain of separation from my son on account of your thoughtless action! I CURSE YOU THEREFORE TO SUFFER A DEATH SIMILAR TO MINE! YOU WILL DIE WHEN YOUR SON IS SEPERATED FROM YOU!!” Saying thus, the couple entered the fire which had been created for the last rites of their son.

As he ended the story, Dasaratha’s eyes were flowing with tears. Kausalya too wept as she was too stunned to react. Dasaratha lay,lamenting his fate, and his life ebbed out that tragic night. The Sun of the Ikshwaku clan had set.

This is the story of The Curse On Dasaratha.

Always be friendly with your neighbours

Long long ago in the forest of Swetharanya, there lived a two hawks. They had recently migrated to this forest from another forest as  humans had begun to inhabit that forest in which they lived earlier. Here, they had built their nest on a tall tree by the side of the river Swetha Pushkarini. There were a couple of eggs in their nest which were about to hatch any time.

The hawks were very happy in the new forest which was free of humans and in due course their eggs hatched into cute little chicks.

From the day they had come into Swetharanya, Shyeni, the female hawk was insisting that they should find out who their neighbours were and be friendly with them. The male hawk Shyena , on the other hand was not so particular and was also lazy and did not bother. However , due to the persistence of Shyeni, he finally went to seek his neighbours. In a burrow in another tree lived a Kingfisher by name Suchitraka. He was very happy when Shyena met him and they both became good friends.

Now, there was a lion by name Jatila in a cave near the river. Shyena met the lion and introduced himself and became good friends with him too. Finally he found that there was this tortoise by name Dadru living in a bush just below the tree where he had his nest. And so, because of the hawks’ efforts, Suchitraka, Jatila and Dadru became friends with Shyeni and Shyena.

They used to meet everyday and exchange courtesies. Life was going on smoothly until one day……

It was a new moon night and the forest was pitch dark. It posed no problem for the hawks and their friends as they could see well in the nights also. It was just after midnight, when Shyeni thought she heard some rustling near the tree. She peered out of the nest and was shocked to see two human figures groping their way through the dark. Shyeni and Shyena could fly away but what about their chicks? They were yet to grow wings fully and were very vulnerable. Shyeni was worried.

When the men came near the clearing under the tree, they stopped. “Hmm.. it seems we have lost our way.. All because of you “, grunted one fellow who was giant like. “Don’t blame me for everything . It was You who wanted to come with me?” retorted the other who was of a smaller built. “Ok Ok” said the bigger man, “I am feeling hungry. Get me something to eat. I was a fool to come fishing with you in the river. We didn’t catch even one fish and you let the net get washed away by the current. Now, go and get some food to eat.. Fast!” he ordered.

By now Shyena was also awake and was wondering what to do if the chicks woke up and started making noise. The very next moment, what he dreaded happened. The chicks were disturbed by the sound of the men and started making screeching noises. The men were first frightened but then knew that it was the sound of young birds. “Aha.. ” said the bigger fellow, “I can see the nest on the top most branch. Now, you fool, go and collect some twigs and we shall make a fire and eat roasted chicks…” he ordered the smaller fellow. The smaller fellow got up mumbling something and ambled into the bushes peering in the dark for twigs and slowly brought some. “Faster, you fool, now rub some stones and make fire, fast.. and go and get some more twigs….” said the bigger fellow and the other one obeyed him.

Soon, a fire had started to blaze and the bigger fellow now tried to climb up the tall tree. Shyeni was panicking and told Shyena to go and call their friends. Shyena also, not knowing what to do went straight  to Suchitraka and called out to him . “Suchitraka, Suchitraka, my friend, Please come and help me!” he cried out, “My chicks are in danger!”. Suchitraka woke up with a start and flew out fast to see the blazing fire and the man trying to climb the tree. The tree had its branches high up and so the man was struggling to get a foothold and go up.

Suchitraka thought for a moment and like a flash of lightning dived into the nearby river, came out like an arrow from the quiver and went over the fire and flapped his wings hard. The water droplets fell on the fire and the fire made a fizzling sound. The man who was trying to climb the tree, turned around, but Suchitraka had vanished for another round of water spraying. He did this act again and again. The fire was now struggling to burn  due to the continuous spraying of water and  was almost extinguished and the enraged men saw the bird  and came running at Suchitraka waving a cloth.

Suchitraka was terribly tired of this exercise and flew into his burrow and dropped down due to exertion. The bigger man then said, “Don’t worry, I shall climb the tree and kill the chicks and we can go home and have a good breakfast” and continued his efforts to climb the tree.

Now Shyena was worried. What could he do next? In the meanwhile, Dadru, hearing the commotion had come out of the bushes. In a flash he understood what was going on. He pulled himself up and walked as fast as he could near the smaller man and the man almost tripped on Dadru in the dark. But he found that it was a tortoise and shouted to his comrade , “Hey , don’t take the trouble of getting the chicks. Here is a tortoise. It’s a long time since we had tortoise meat. Lets’s take him home. Come on”

The bigger man sneered at him and said “You Budhdhoo, how do you propose to take a tortoise home? Lead it like a doggie Huh? We do not have any weapons . Go , Go and get some creepers from over there and we shall make a rope to tie and carry him    . Go fast,  you dud!, else the tortoise will go away !” The smaller man retorted with a grunt and went to bring some creepers. Dadru consciously moved very very slowly and the men thought they could catch it. The man returned with many creepers and they started making a rope.

Shyena and Shyeni were very worried now. They could not afford to lose Dadru for the sake of their chicks. Shyeni said to Shyena , “Go , go quickly and call Jatila!!” Shyena flew fast and called Jatila from his den. Jatila sprang up and came running . The men had caught Dadru and were about to tie him up when from their back they hear a roar “Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…….”  Terrified, they turned around and to their  horror found a big huge lion staring at them menacingly as he  roared again. The roar was deafening and the next moment, the men forgot Dadru, the chicks and all and started running for their lives.

They ran out of the forest never to be seen again. And the hawks thanked the three friends for saving them and their friendship bonds were further strengthened.

Shyena looked at Shyeni thankfully as it was at her insistence that he became friendly with their neighbours.

Moral: Always maintain a good relationship with your neighbours.

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.

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