Chatur Pandit spent one year learning the art of disguise secretly of a great yogi who was visiting Vijayanagar. At the end of the training, the yogi declared that Chatur Pandit has learnt enough to be able to do disguises that fit his physical stature. It would take several more years of arduous training and testing before he could become a master of disguise like the yogi. But Chatur Pandit was impatient. He wanted to declare himself the master of disguise and that is precisely what he did as soon as King Krishna Deva Raya had assembled that morning.
“Beloved King, “bowed Chatur Pandit, “this humble servant of your royal highness is now a master of disguise. I have completed hard training and testing. I can transform myself to almost anything I wish to. The transformation will be utterly realistic” Chatur continued lying confidently about his abilities as he was sure that nobody will go in search of the wandering yogi to find out the truth.
Tenali Ram was amused by all this arrogant rambling. He knew that Chatur Pandit had hardly finished the first year of training. “Let us see a demonstration,” said the King.
“I don’t think that would be prudent, Your Majesty” intervened Tenali Ram, “As much as we can use the skills of Chatur Pandit when required, I think it is not fair to the art of disguise to make a public demonstration out of it. Afterall, the very purpose of the art of disguise is to mislead the viewer.”
“You are just jealous of my expertise,” shouted Chatur Pandit thinking that Tenali Ram was stealing the moment of glory away from him. “I would very much like to give a demonstration of my skills. In fact, I will display before the court one of the toughest transformation. I shall become a lion in this court tomorrow.” “Wonderful”, said the King excited.
“However I have a request,” said Chatur Pandit eyeing Tenali Ram, “ I become so involved in the transformation that I must be excused for any of behavior during the demonstration.” He had a cunning plan. But Tenali Ram was one step ahead of him and understood what dirty trick Chatur Pandit was up to.
The court was packed next day. The news had spread the previous night in the town that Chatur Pandit will be appearing as a lion in court. People were curious to see the disguise. Tenali Ram arrived promptly and took his seat. After a few minutes, a loud roar resounded in the court hall. Many of the spectators were caught off-guard and shuddered. Soon another louder roar. And then a majestic lion strode on to the court through the back entrance. Most people were scared. The disguise was perfect. The mane was shining in the morning light. The claws glistened. The sharp teeth were visible. With sharply focused eyes, the lion scanned the crowd.
It was difficult to believe that this was Chatur Pandit in disguise. Many people braced themselves just in case the lion jumped to attack. But the lion promptly moved towards the king and prostrated offering his respects. Seeing this the courtiers were relieved. It was indeed Chatur Pandit in disguise. Why would a real wild lion offer respects to the King? Now the lion began to pace up and down the court room, sometimes slowly, sometimes swiftly. Once in a while, it paused, sniffed the air, then continued again.
Then suddenly, without any provocation, it sprinted towards Tenali Raman and pounced on him with an open mouth and bare claws in full attack mode.But Tenali Raman was ready. He immediately moved out of the way. The lion missed him but its left paw managed to make a deep cut on Tenali Ram’s shoulder. The lion then disappeared from the court. Court physicians rushed to Tenali Ram. They gave him first aid. The injury was not serious.
While they were bandaging Tenali, Chatur Pandit entered the court having taken off the disguise. The courtiers and the King stood up to applaud his performance. “Thank you Everybody,” said Chatur, “I am glad you got to experience the performance of the master of disguise.”
“But I must apologize,” he continued with a wicked smile,” to my dear friend, Tenali Ram, who was harmed in the act. I am unaware of my actions when I am disguised. My body and soul are elsewhere. I was not here. It is like a trance. Only the lion was here. That is the dedication I apply to this art.” With this blatant lie, he justified his attack on Tenali.
Tenali Ram had known that Chatur Pandit would attack him. He did not mind being injured, but he knew that letting Chatur Pandit get away with this was dangerous. In future, he could inflict harm on anyone and claim innocence in the name of being in the trance.
“I am happy that I could be part of the proceedings,” said Tenali Ram. “But I think all of us present in this court would very much like an encore. Since you are the master of disguise who is capable of transforming yourself into anything, tomorrow we would like to see you transform into that common household animal we all love: the cow” “Can you do that Chatur Pandit?”, asked the King
“The cow is one of the easiest disguises, Your Majesty”, declared Chatur Pandit, “Tomorrow morning in the palace grounds, I shall demonstrate my cow disguise.”
Next day, there was an even bigger crowd assembled at the palace ground to see Chatur Pandit as cow.
Very soon a beautiful cow entered the arena. With decorated horns and a sweet cow bell, it was a beautiful creature. The King was impressed by Chatur Pandit’s ability. He was ready to applaud when Tenali Ram stood up and spoke: “As Chatur Pandit told us yesterday, he is not here now. There is only the cow. Such is the greatness of his performance. Now all of us agree that this is indeed a magnificent cow. But we are just human beings. The real seal of approval for this disguise must come from the animal kingdom itself. So now I order the guards to release the royal bull into the arena. If the royal bull believes that this is a real cow, then Chatur Pandit is indeed the master of disguise.”
Chatur Pandit heard Tenali’s words from inside the cow suit. There was no trance. He almost had a heart attack hearing that the royal bull will be set on him now! He knew that would be a calamity from which he cannot physically recover.
“Please do not release the bull. Please,” he shouted tearing open the cow mask, “the bull will kill me.” “Don’t worry, Chatur,” said Tenali smiling, “there is no bull. But I am surprised that you heard very clearly whatever I said though you were in a disguise. How come you are very much here today but were not responsible for your actions yesterday?”
Chatur hung his head in shame.
King Krishna Deva Raya understood that Chatur had cheated him and the court with all the talk about trance and mastery of disguise. King saw that all Chatur wanted to was to use his little expertise and knowledge to harm Tenali Ram. Chatur was banished from the court for two months and ordered never to practice the art of disguise ever again.