One morning when King Krishna Deva Raya’s court was assembled, two men entered carrying a golden statue of a swan. All the courtiers were awestruck by the beauty of the statue. The various diamonds and precious stones studded into the statue glittered in the day light. The richness of the statue was in stark contrast to the poor appearance of the two men.
“Who are you and what do you want in our court?,” asked the King.
“Maharaj, my name is Ramu and this is my best friend Shamu. We have been best friends and neighbors since childhood. He grows vegetables and I am a rice farmer. In last month’s unexpected rains, most of his harvest was destroyed and his fields became waterlogged.”
The other man continued the story,”Like a good friend should do, Ramu helped me in time of my need. He offered me a section of his land where I could plant some fast growing vegetables. Yesterday while I was tilling the land, I found this golden swan.”
“Shamu immediately came to me with it. He insists that since it was found in my land, it belongs to me,” said Ramu “I think that is the right thing to do,” Shamu said.
“But he was the one who discovered the statue and I had already given the land to him. So I think it belongs to him. But he will not accept it.” complained Ramu.
“Very interesting,” Krishna Deva Raya was amused.
“Who can settle this dispute among these friends? Who does the swan belong to? It looks like neither will accept it” asked Krishna Deva Raya to his courtiers.
It was indeed a strange situation. Usually the disputes that came to the king’s court involved people fighting over possessions. This was exact opposite. Each friend wanted to gift the swan to the other. Then Chatur Pandit spoke:
“Dear King, this swan has been obtained from the earth of this kingdom. It is a sign from the Gods. I request you to grant me permission to take this swan home and inspect it. Then I can consult the religious texts and conduct the necessary rituals that such a find demands for the well being of the king and the kingdom.”
As soon as Chatur Pandit said this everyone realized that this was his cunning plan to steal some of the diamonds and gems from the statue. After his “inspection” is over, the swan would lose most of its valuable stones.
The kings’ treasurer spoke next: “Your Majesty, I think the swan belongs to the royal treasury. We should take possession of it.”
Krishna Deva Raya shook his head in disagreement to these suggestions. Then he turned to his wise and witty minister Tenali Raman.
“Tenali, let me hear you suggestion”
“Your Highness, I think we should auction this swan. The proceeds should then be used to build a beautiful garden in the main street of the kingdom. It should have a fresh water fountain and shady trees. Travelers from around the world should be able to rest there. We should have pillar in the garden on which the wonderful story of these selfless and generous friends is engraved. Thus their exemplary friendship will become famous and be remembered for generations to come.”
Both the friends were very pleased to hear this suggestion. The King and the courtiers praised Tenali Raman’s focus on the greater common good.
The Golden Swan – Tenali Raman Stories