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

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The Cunning Stork and the Wise Crab

This is a story from the Panchatantra.

In olden days, there lived a stork in a large pond in a village. The stork was very happy as he had plenty of fish to hunt about and also other varieties like frogs and crabs.

As the years went by, the stork became very weak and old and was no longer as agile as he used to be and the young fishes were very fast that he could not hunt like before and even had to starve on some days. The stork was worried and he racked his brains until he found a cunning plan to provide himself ample food. So, the next day, he went near the bank of the pond and simply stood on one leg putting on a very sad expression. He did not even attempt to catch the fish which went near him to tease him. The fish and other creatures were surprised and slowly the oldest frog went near the stork bravely and asked him why he was so sad and forlorn.The stork pretended not to hear and after continuous pestering by the frog said with a deep sigh,” Hmmmm, I do not have words to tell about the grief which is going to befall all of us. In the next month, the king has ordered this pond to be closed with mud and made into a field and the king is going to deepen a pond which is already there in the other corner of this village. I am so sad at the fate that will meet you fellows. Hmmmm….”

The word quickly spread to all the fish and frogs and crabs that their fate was going to be sealed in a few days. All the innocent creatures believed the stork and the next day, the frog went again to the stork and said “Brother Stork, how can we save ourselves from death?” The stork pretended to think for a long time. He hummed and hawed and finally said “I know the way to the other pond I told you about. If you want I can carry you in my beak in batches and leave you in the other pond. But I need rest in between as I am very old. I can carry you fellows every alternate day if it is Ok for you. ” The frog and fishes and crabs were relieved. How nice of the stork to help them like this in time of crisis. They readily agreed for this and every other day the stork would carry four or five fishes in his beak and leave the pond. When he came back for another batch he would say how the fish were so… happy in the new pond. What actually was happening was that the stork was carrying the fish to a rock and eating them up happily. This went on for some time and one day the big wise crab felt that it was his turn and so the stork also felt that  he wanted to eat crab meat for a change. He decided that he would eat the crab alone that day as he was big and fat and therefore told the crab to clutch to his neck with his claws. The crab did so and when they were half way through, the crab asked the stork on the whereabouts of the new pond. To his surprise the Stork laughed aloud and said ” New Pond?? What rubbish? No Pond, only dinner for me. See the rock down there. That is my dining table Ha ha Ha ha haa!!” The crab was shocked . What he saw on the rock were the bones of all the fishes the stork had carried all those days. The crab could see his fate and quickly he thought and what did he do? He tightened his clutch on the stork’s neck till the stork fell down dead. The crab traced his way back slowly to the pond and told the fishes and frogs of his adventure. They felt sorry for their friend fishes who were dead but nevertheless happy that they could live without a worry in the same pond.

They all lived happily ever after.

Tit for Tat

In a small town in Northern India, there was this Mithaiwala- a seller of sweetmeats. His name was Sonu bhai but he was called Lalchibhai by the people of the town as he was a very very greedy person.. His sweets were extremely tasty and made with good ingredients but Lalchibhai was more and more greedy for money. He started charging higher and higher for his sweets. The height of his greed was that he started charging even for enquiries if one did not buy anything. His shop was the only one in town and so the people were really annoyed at his attitude.

One day a simple looking but smart fellow by name Sanka from the neighbouring town came to this town to visit his uncle. In the evening, while returning to his town, he wanted to get some sweets. He asked his uncle, who told him of Lalchibhai’s greed and told him it is better not to buy anything at all than to go to Lalchibhai’s shop. This made Sanka all the more determined to teach Lalchibhai a lesson. So he went to the shop . Before he could open his mouth Lalchi announced “Ahem.. I think you are new here. Even if you enquire the price and not buy you have to pay. So do not waste my time OK??” Sanka was a bit shocked at this attitude but quietly he began to smell the aroma muttering to himself, “Wah Wah!! What nice scent of Gulab!! The aroma of honey is lifting me up Wah Wah”. He went near each plate of sweets, smelling the aroma and commenting nice words. Lalchi was hopeful that after all the smelling the customer would buy kilos of his sweets, but hey what was this? Sanka was preparing to leave!!

“Hello, Hello… Hey you Stop!” yelled Lalchi. Sanka turned and looked around and asked very innocently, “Arre Saab you called me??” “Yes YOU. What do you think you are doing hmmm? Where is the money ha? Are you trying to cheat me?” yelled Lalchi.

“Money?? What money? I did not buy anything nor did I enquire with you any price. So what money are you talking about?” said Sanka.

Sanka looked around coolly and took out a bag of coins from his pocket. Lalchi was happy. Here was going to be a windfall. Ha. But to his dismay, Sanka took the bag and shook it. Jingle Jingle Jingle…..Tinkle tinkle. Jingle tinkle…”Enough” he asked. Lalchi said “Give me the bag You!!”
Sanka coolly put the bag back into his pocket and said “If smelling the sweet is equal to eating, then listening to the jingle of coins is equal to receiving them. Bubbye. See you!” and walked away.

That insult was enough for Lalchi to become a wiser fellow.

The hermit and the miser

This is a story I heard on radio this morning. Thought it was nice enough to share. My own additions are there to the story!

Once upon a time, in a village in Central India, there was a very wealthy land owner named Dhanlal, who was extremely miserly. He was so.. so miserly that he used to eat just one item a day like rice on one day, dal on another day, vegetables on one day and so on as it would be very ‘costly’ to eat all dishes on the same day. The whole day time he spent in counting the money he hoarded. His family members were a distressed lot as they also were subjected to the torture of one dish a day.

One day as Dhanlal was counting the coins, there was a sadhu going on his way singing bhajans , stopping in front of each house in the village. In olden days the practice of feeding sadhus or needy people was common and the sadhus used to enlighten the public with their spiritual talks and stories in return.

The sadhu stood in front of Dhanlal’s house and sang a song on earning merit by helping the needy. The song was about how the quality of charity was essential to get Moksha or salvation. Dhanlal was hearing the song all the while counting his coins but did not move an inch. But somehow, the song kept ringing in his ears and he knew he had to do some charity to get salvation.

He spent two or three days in calculating how much he would lose if he spent a certain quantity of rice in alms everyday to a few needy people. Then he decided that he would give one fistful – just one fistful of rice to one person everyday. He would not lose much at the same time he would qualify for salvation.

He started his “charity”. He was particular that the same fellow should not get the rice everyday lest he become “rich”. One fistful a day went on for a month or so. The sadhu who had sung the song was camping near the banyan tree on the river bank on the other end of the village. Dhanlal wanted to go and meet him.
So he went and met the sadhu and told him how he was influenced by his song and how he had started being very charitable by donating a FISTFUL OF RICE EVERY DAY.

The sadhu did not utter a word. He signalled to Dhanlal to wait and went and sat under the banyan tree. He did something like gnawing at the roots of the tree with his nails and Dhanlal did not understand what he was doing. Dhanlal waited and waited and waited for three hours. He got very impatient. He wanted to check the status of his salvation efforts and go back and count his coins and here was this sadhu doing some useless thing making him wait.

Dhanlal called out “Swamiji, Can you please talk to me for a moment and then do what you are doing?” The sadhu said “Beta wait for sometime. I shall come as soon as I cut the roots of this tree with my nails. It wont be long”

Dhanlal was amused. He did not imagine that the sadhu was so silly. He laughed out aloud and said , “Swamiji do you know how many hundred years it will take to cut such heavy roots with your nails?? Ha ha ha ….” The sadhu coolly replied “Only that many number of years it will take as it will take for your salvation with half heartedly donating one fistful of rice a day!”

Dhanlal immediately realised his folly and fell at the feet of the sadhu who had with his simple action made him realise his mistake. Dhanlal turned a new leaf much to the happiness of his family members and the villagers and it is said that he became to be called “Daanlaal” from “Dhanlal”!!!

Help the needy in times of need and be happy like Daanlaal.

Tenali Rama and the Brinjals

We all know the about the intelligent Tenali Ramakrishna who adorned the court of Raja Krishnadeveraya. This story is about how Tenali escaped the punishment for eating the brinjals grown in  Raja Krishnadevaraya’s private garden.

The Emperor  Raja Krishnadevaraya had been gifted with a few saplings of an exotic brinjal variety by one of his vassals. The brinjals were so tasty and fleshy that the emperor decided that the saplings should be planted in a private garden and the brinjals should be used exclusively for himself.

Accordingly, the royal gardener who was a very capable fellow created a nice garden with the saplings and soon there were many of them bearing chubby brinjals. Of course the brinjals were used only for the king’s meal and no one even knew of the garden that existed.

One day, Tenali Rama happened to be entertaining the emperor and it was almost lunch time. The emperor wanted Tenali’s company for lunch and Tenali gladly agreed. That day the main item was made of the exotic brinjal. The dish was sooo….good that Tenali fell in love with the brinjals in that short while. He could not ask the emperor as it was not courtesy. He went  home savouring the taste of the brinjals and the rest of the day he was raving about the tasty brinjals to his wife.

Over the next few days, Tenali made discreet enquiries with the kitchen staff and came to know of the private garden. He also came to know that the Raja had ordered that all brinjals in that garden should be used for the Raja alone. Somehow, Tenali coaxed the gardener to give him only a few brinjals and also promised him that no one would know of the deal. The gardener unable to bear the nagging gave in . Tenali happily took the brinjals home and told his wife to make his favourite dish for dinner.

While having dinner, Tenali’s eight year old son asked him “Papa, the brinjals are very tasty. Where did you buy them??” Tenali started off “Er.. the King’s garden… Oh no!  I mean the shop near the garden…. no.. the Shop on the garden road… Now why do you bother? ha? Eat quietly and go to sleep.. Asking too much ….”
“Papa…” said the son, “I saw you taking them from the Gardener uncle near the palace…..” Tenali was shocked . “Hushhhhhh… no palace, no gardener no brinjal. Don’t you blabber any nonsense ! Go to bed huhh..!” he scolded his son.

In a few days the Raja called Tenali at about 9 pm. “Why is the king calling me at this hour?” wondered Tenali. The Raja was pacing in the balcony seething with anger. It was a stark contrast that the full moon was shining so coolly above the palace and the king was hot with anger. He had come to know of the brinjal incident. “Rama” said the king. “I thought you were close enough to me to ask me what you wanted. Why did you.. like a thief go and get brinjals from my gardener clandestinely huh??” Tenali was flabbergasted but as a first response he had to deny the fact and so he said in a very naïve voice”Maharaja, please forgive my asking but who told you I got brinjals from your gardener? Is there a separate garden for brinjals???”

“Rama… do not try to pretend, Your son has told our minister’s son who has in turn told the minister. I know that an eight year old will not lie. Now.. tell me the truth”

Tenali laughed aloud and said ” Oh…. my son… hahahaha, hahahaha….He is a fool . he talks all nonsense. in face I want to consult a good psychologist for his behaviour.. Maharaja, if you want, I shall produce him tomorrow in court and you just ask him anything and assess for yourself whether he speaks sense.” The Raja agreed half heartedly.

Tenali rushed home. His son was sleeping on a mat in the open balcony with cool full moon shining nicely In those days there were no mosquitoes nor security issues and people enjoyed nature’s bounty in all entirety. Rama drew the curtains in the room adjacent to the balcony. He took a large container of water and threw it on the boy. The boy who was in deep slumber got up shocked and Tenali said, “Come in it is raining heavily” and covering the boy’s head with a towel, he pulled the boy inside the room. He shut the door, wiped the boy and changed his clothes and put another mat and waited for him to go to sleep.

The next day , the boy was taken to the court and the Raja looked at him from head to toe and in a deep voice asked him, “So.. boy, yesterday was Punnami (full moon day) . Did you have dinner in moonlight??” The boy thought for a while and said “Ha Maharaja I had dinner in Moonlight  but it rained so heavily after I fell asleep on the balcony and I was totally drenched , that Papa had to change all my clothes”
The boy was very innocent and the Raja looked puzzled at Tenali and there was Tenali giving a look of “See, I told you!!”
The Raja asked the boy once again, “Did it rain?? Are you sure??” The boy shook his head hard in the affirmative “Yes Maharaja… Yes. Did you not know it rained????”

The king was convinced that the boy was in the habit of blabbering and so told him to go home. He also told Tenali that if he ever need brinjals he could ask the king rightfully.

Tenali went home a happier man!!

Hard earned money stays with you

Once upon a time in a village in India there was a farmer named Ramu who was a hard worker. He worked all day tending to his paddy fields and that year, due to timely monsoon, Ramu got an excellent harvest.

He sold all the grain in the market and got 300 gold coins. He brought home the coins in a bag and counted them again and again. He was so happy counting the coins when he heard somebody call out him at the entrance.

Ramu was worried that whoever was calling him would walk in and see the treasure and so hurriedly, he put all the coins into the bag except three coins which he took with him. He then stuffed the coin bag into a large empty pot and kept it on the shelf.  The caller was his friend Somu who was going to the market and wanted Ramu to come with him. Ramu was in a jolly mood and immediately agreed to with Somu.

He called out to his wife “Seetha, I am going to the market with Somu. Make my favourite brinjal curry for lunch!” Seetha nodded her head. Ramu and Somu were off to the market chatting away happily.

Meanwhile, Seetha looked around and to her dismay found no water in the house for cooking. In olden days, people used to bring water from rivers or ponds nearby for their household use as piped water was not available. She took the pot in which the coin bag was kept and started out to get water. Just outside the house, she met Raakka, the butcher taking a stroll leading a goat. She called out to him, “Raakka Anna, can you please get me a pot of water?” Raakka Anna as he was called, had no urgent work and so took the pot from Seetha and started walking towards the pond.

“Jingle clink, jingle clink, jingle clink” What was that? The pot seemed to be making a noise. Raakka went under a tree’s shade and peered into the huge pot through its narrow mouth. He could not see anything and so he put his hand in and what did he pull out? A bag of gold coins! Raakka was so thrilled at seeing so many gold coins and hurriedly stuffed them back into the bag and looked around. What if someone suddenly saw him? Raakka got an idea. He opened his goat’s mouth and stuffed the bag down its throat. Now the bag had gone into the goat’s stomach with the gold coins!

He left the pot under the tree and started leading the goat home. Just then Raakka’s son Chhappa came from the opposite direction and Raakka quickly handed over the goat to Chhappa and told him to take home the goat quickly. “I bought the goat for two gold coins remember!” he said. “Be careful”.

Chhappa was a young lad of twelve and he started going home, humming his favourite song. Meanwhile Ramu and Somu were coming to the market. When Ramu saw the goat he felt it was a fine goat and he should buy it and host a feast for his neighbours as he had had a good harvest that year. “How much is the goat young man?” asked Ramu. Chhappa remembered his father’s words and said “three gold coins Sir”. He wanted to show his father that he was also smart by selling a goat at a profit of one gold coin. “Here, take this” said Ramu shoving the coins into the boy’s hand and took the goat and went home.

“Seetha, is lunch ready?” called Ramu as he entered his hut. Seetha was looking very worried. The butcher had not brought water yet and where was the question of lunch? Ramu became panicky when he heard about the pot. He chided Seetha, tied the goat to a tree and ran to find Raakka. He could find neither Raakka nor the pot.

Sadly he came back home and told Seetha about the coins. Seetha told him    ” Why don’t we sacrifice this goat to the Gods? May be the Gods are angry that we did not thank them for the harvest”. Ramu thought that it might be true that the Gods were angry and therefore decided to do what Seetha said. When he cut the goat’s belly, what did he get? Yeah, his own gold coins! “Seetha, Seetha , see what I got!” he yelled at the top of his voice and rushed inside with the bag.

“From now onwards, I shall tie this bag to my waist”, thought Ramu. “That is where it will be safe”. Accordingly he tied the bag with a rope to his waist and went around with it. He was happy that nobody could steal the coins anymore. He went around like this for some time.

One day it was very hot and dusty and when Ramu was passing by the village stream, he felt like having a dip. He looked around and when he saw no one around, he thought it was safe to remove the bag and keep in on the banks of the stream. He started having a bath and it was so refreshing that he did not notice the shepherd Chokkan coming and picking up his bag of coins. Alas!! The bag was gone again.

Ramu felt very upset and headed for home sadly. Meanwhile Chokkan was walking very fast hiding the bag under his arm pit when he heard the sound of horses. “Oh, it’s the police” thought Chokkan and threw the bag into a nearby well which was open and did not have any parapet. In villages, in those days, such wells were very common. Chokkan thought to himself, “I will come tomorrow and recover the bag”. Thinking so, he went home.

Meanwhile our hero Ramu,  was aimlessly walking very near the same well the next day, thinking how unfortunate he was. Suddenly a gust of wind blew from behind and blew off Ramu’s turban and Ramu yelling ran behind the turban and PLOP! fell into the well.

Luckily there was not much water and what was that in the side? Aah!! The same bag of his. He grabbed the bag and caught hold of the heavy banyan roots on the side of the well and was climbing up and who was at the top? Chokkan. Yes. Chokkan had come to collect his booty. Both Ramu and Chokkan were equally shocked to see each other and Chokkan hurriedly said, “Arre Ramu Anna, thank you so much for recovering my bag. You saved me a lot of trouble” He further went on building a false story of how he had lost his hard earned money. Ramu could not say anything at all but had to handover the bag to Chokkan.

Chokkan chuckled to himself at his having outwitted Ramu and ran away with the bag. But Chokkan got very cautious and thought that the coins will not be safe in the bag for long. He took a long bamboo staff which he used to herd the sheep and filled the coins into it. He filled the gaps with mud and sealed the ends.

Days passed by and Ramu was becoming more and more depressed that his gold coins could not be retrieved. Meanwhile, one day Chokkan was herding his sheep on the river banks and when he wanted to pull down a branch to pick some leaves for his sheep, he tried to use his bamboo staff and PLONK fell the staff in the river. “My staff my staff” cried Chokkan but the current in the river was too fast and Chokkan was a poor swimmer. So helplessly he watched as his staff vanished in a jiffy.

Now Ramu was having a bath at the downstream and suddenly he noticed a sturdy bamboo staff floating by. He caught it just in time and felt it was very heavy. “Seetha told me to get wood urgently. This Bamboo will last for two days as firewood” Ramu thought. He carried the staff home and when he cut the bamboo what was there YESSSS!  His money!!! Ramu was so overjoyed as he found the staff contained the same number of coins as his and then he decided that he should celebrate and feed the poor after keeping money for his needs. He did so and learnt the lesson that hard earned money always sticks to us and therefore money is to be spent in good manner, not hoarded.

This is a story I remember having read from Amar Chitra Katha long back.


The Story of Poosalar Nayanar

There are lots of stories in our culture about people who have lived to see God and his miracles. The following story is about one such person.

Poosalar, a poor , but educated man lived in Tiruninravur which is near modern day Chennai. He was an ardent devotee of Shiva and his most cherished desire was to build a temple for Lord Shiva. But he was a very poor man and he could not imagine building even a wall, leave alone a temple. But Poosalar’s desire only kept growing day by day. So he consulted the spiritual texts on the rules of building a temple.

There are certain rules to be followed in designing a temple and those rules are strictly followed. So, Poosalar studied all those rules and started to construct a temple in his mind. Today he would build one portion, tomorrow, another. The next day he would build the entrance and the next day the doors. He kept on building the structure in his mind like this daily, deciding the places for the deities and deciding on the sculptures to be placed.

This went on for a while and he even fixed a date for performing the “Kumbabhishekam” or inauguration of the temple. He would perform the Kumbabhishekam also in his mind.

In the meanwhile, a Pallava king named Rajasimha had built a grand temple for Lord Kailasanatha (Shiva) at Kancheepuram (near modern day Chennai). He had fixed a date for the grand inaugural of his temple and incidentally it was the same date as Poosalar had decided for his imaginary temple.

A few days before the consecration, Lord Shiva appeared in the dream of the Raja and expressed his inability to come for the consecration of the temple as he had to “attend Poosalar’s temple function at Tiruninravur” on that same day.

The king was aghast that there was another temple superior to his that the Lord himself wanted to go. The very next day Rajasimha  set out to Tiruninravur to see for himself how Poosalar’s temple was better than his. But when he reached there and enquired, he came to know that Poosalar was a poor scholar not even capable of buying ten bricks. But since Lord Shiva himself had appeared in his dream, he called Poosalar and enquired about his temple. Poosalar reluctantly told him of his imaginary temple. The king was taken aback by the sheer devotion of this poor fellow. He immediately  ordered a temple to be built at that very spot in the same design Poosalar had envisaged.

Poosalar was very grateful and thanked Lord Shiva. The temple is there still  at Tiruninravur and is named “Hridayaleeswarar” temple (Lord of the heart) aptly. The Lord’s name is Hridayaleeswarar.

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