The Cunning Mediator

Moral: Beware of a rascal who pretends to be holy.

A sparrow was living in the hollow of a big tree that I had made my home. His name was Kapinjala. We became good friends and used to spend our time discussing characters in our literature and the unusual things we saw in our travels. One day, my friend left the tree with other sparrows in search of food and did not return even after nightfall. I began to worry. “What happened to him? Did any hunter take him away? He never leaves my company even for a while.”

Days passed without any trace of my friend Kapinjala. One fine morning, a hare named Sighragha, came and silently occupied the hollow that my friend made his home. It did not worry me because there was no word about Kapinjala and I had lost all hopes of his return. But one day, he returned looking healthier than he was when he had left and found that the hare had taken his place.


Kapinjala told the hare, “O hare, what you have done is improper. You have displaced me. Leave the place immediately.”

Sighragha hit back saying, “What are you talking? This is my place. Haven’t you heard the elders saying that nobody has rights over a public well, a temple, a pond and a tree? Whoever enjoys land for more than ten years also becomes its owner. That needs no evidence or documents of proof. This place is not yours any more.”

The sparrow told him, “Oh, you are quoting legal scriptures! Let us go to an expert in law and ethics. We will abide by his ruling.”

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The hare agreed to this proposal and both of them went in search of an expert. Curious to see what would happen, I also followed them. Meanwhile, word about their quarrel had reached a wicked and wild cat. Knowing the route that the hare and the sparrow would take, the cat set up a camp on the way. He spread a mat of grass on the ground and went into a posture of meditation. Facing the sun and raising his hands in worship, the cat began reciting scriptures,


“This world has no essence. Life is passing. All liaisons with lovers are like a dream. Your ties with the family are illusory. There is no alternative to following the right path. The learned have said,”

“This wretched body will soon perish
Material wealth is not permanent
Death is knocking at your door
Free thyself from earthly chains
He who abandons the right path
Is the same as the living dead.”

“I will end this long discourse and tell you in a nutshell what the right path is. Doing good to others is virtue. Tormenting others is vice. This is the essence of our philosophy. I am in the service of God and have given up all desires. I will not do you any harm. After hearing your account, I will decide who among you is the rightful owner of the place in the tree. But I am now very old and cannot hear you properly. So, please come close to me and narrate your story.”

When the poor and innocent sparrow and hare came within the reach of the cat, he pounced on them and grabbed the sparrow in his teeth and slashed the body of the hare with his jaws and killed them.

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The visiting crow then told the birds, “That is why I tell you if you rest your faith in this wicked and blind owl, you will meet the same end as the hare and the sparrow.” The birds then dispersed, deciding to discuss the matter again carefully before electing the owl as the king.

Meanwhile, the owl was sitting restlessly on the throne waiting for his coronation.

He asked his wife Krikalika, “What is all this delay in crowning me.”

The wife told him, “My lord, it is this crow which has sabotaged the coronation. All the birds have dispersed. Only this crow is lingering here. Come, let us go. I will take you home.”

Furious, the owl shouted at the crow, “You wicked crow, what harm have I done to you? You have wrecked the coronation. This is enough reason that from today there shall be enmity between owls and crows. One can heal wounds inflicted on the body but not the heart.”

Dejected, the owl went home with his wife.

The crow began reflecting, “Oh, what a foolish thing have I done? Unnecessarily, I have made enemies. I should not have advised the birds not to elect the owl as the king. Elders have aptly said,

“Words out of tune with times
Words that bring grief in the end
Words that bring pain to others
Are, any day, as good as poison.”

Regretting what he had said and done, the visiting crow also went home. This is how enmity began between the owls and the crows.

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After listening to the story, Meghavarna asked Sthirajeevi, “What should we do in such a situation? Sthirajeevi, the wise crow, told him, “There is a strategy better than the six I had already told you. With its help, I will myself go and conquer the owl king. The learned have said that men with great common sense and a little bit of cunning can subdue stronger enemies like the tricksters who cheated the gullible Brahmin of his lamb.”

On Meghavarna’s request, Sthirajeevi began telling him the Brahmin’s story.

The Cunning Mediator – Panchatantra Tales by Vishnu Sharma

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