Once upon a time, Amarasakti ruled the city-state of Mahilaropyam in the south of India. He had three witless sons who became a matter of endless worry for him. Realizing that his sons had no interest in learning, the king summoned his ministers and said:
“You know I am not happy with my sons. According to men of learning an unborn son and a stillborn son are better than a son who is a dimwit. What good is a barren cow? A son who is stupid will bring dishonour to his father. How can I make them fit to be my successors? I turn to you for advice.”
One of the ministers suggested the name of Vishnu Sharman, a great scholar enjoying the respect of hundreds of his disciples. “He is the most competent person to tutor your children. Entrust them to his care and very soon you will see the change.”
The king summoned Vishnu Sharman and pleaded with him “Oh, venerable scholar, take pity on me and please train my sons into great scholars and I will make you the lord of hundred villages.”
Vishnu Sharman said “Oh, king, listen to my pledge. Hundred villages do not tempt me to vend learning. Count six months from today. If I do not make your children great scholars, you can ask me to change my name.”
The king immediately called his sons and handed them to the care of the learned man. Sharman took them to his monastery where he started teaching them the five strategies (Panchatantra). Keeping his word, he finished the task the king entrusted him in six months. Since then, Panchatantra became popular all over the world as children’s guide in solving problems of life.
Now begins the Loss of Friends (first of the five strategies) series. These are stories that figure in a dialogue between two jackals named Karataka and Damanaka.
Long, long ago, a merchant named Vardhaman lived in a town in the south of India. As he was resting on his bed one day it struck him that money was the axis of the world and that the more he had of it the more he would be powerful. Even enemies seek the friendship of a rich man, he told himself. The old become young if they have riches and the young become old if they do not have wealth. Business is one of the six ways that help man amass wealth. This was his logic.
Mobilizing all his wares, Vardhaman set out on an auspicious day for Madhura in search of markets for his goods. He began his travel in a gaily-decorated cart drawn by two bullocks. On the way, tired of the long haul, one of the bullocks named Sanjeevaka collapsed in the middle of a jungle near river Jamuna. But the merchant continued his journey asking some of his servants to take care of the animal. But the servants abandoned the bullock soon after their master had left. Joining him later, they told him that the bullock was dead.
In fact, Sanjeevaka was not dead. Feeding on the abundant fresh and tender grass in the forest, he regained strength and began to merrily explore the jungle, dancing and singing in joy. In the same forest lived Pingalaka, the lion. Sanjeevaka, content with his new life in the jungle would waltz and sing uproariously with joy. One day, Pingalaka and other animals were drinking water in the Jamuna when the lion heard the frightening bellow of the bullock. In panic, the lion withdrew into the forest and sat deeply lost in thought and surrounded by other animals.
Sensing the predicament of their king, two jackals, Karataka and Damanaka, sons of two dismissed ministers, were clueless as to what had happened to their king.
“What could have happened to the lord of the forest,” asked Damanaka.
“Sounds interesting. Why don’t you tell me what happened to the monkey,” pleaded Damanaka.
“Now, listen,” said Damanaka and began narrating the story of the monkey.
First Strategy – The Loss of Friends – Panchatantra Tales by Vishnu Sharma
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