A fool went to a lake to drink water; he saw the reflection of a bird called svarṇa-cūḍa and thought that there was gold fallen in the waters. He jumped into the lake to fetch the gold. He, however, did not procure anything. His father saw him taking a dip in the water again and again, shooed away the bird and explained to him that it was not real gold. People like him are comical, cause humour, but are in pain within themselves.
Once, a merchant was bringing home a lot of traded goods. His camel grew tired on the way and fell asleep. He asked his servants to guard the sleeping camel and said – “I will get another camel; in the meanwhile make sure that the gunny bags do not get wet in rain”. It started raining, as expected. In order to protect the bags, they opened all the bags and wrapped the produce in clothes. Precious clothes got drenched in rain. While the real intent of the merchant owner was that the clothes shouldn’t get spoiled, his servants misunderstood it. He had meant that if the bags got went, it would drench the clothes within too. When asked why they did so, the servants merely said – “We are not at fault here! We did just as you said”.
Another fool, when he was traveling to a certain place, happened to buy eight dosas. He eat them all one by one. By the time he finished eating the seventh, he felt full and thought – Oops! I should have eaten this (seventh) dosa first. I simply wasted money on six other dosas! He sat crying thinking so!
A few men once killed a buffalo and feasted on it. The owner of the buffalo complained to the king – “these men killed my buffalo below the banyan tree by the lake and feasted upon it there.” The king called the men and questioned them. An old fool among them said – “There is neither a lake in our city nor a banyan tree on its shore. How can we kill his buffalo and eat it in such a non-existent place? He is lying!” The owner of the buffalo said – “There is a lake to the east of your city, isn’t it? A big banyan tree, indeed lies, on its shore. Didn’t you eat my buffalo on the Ashtami?” The Old fool said – “there is no eastern direction in our city and no aṣṭamī too!” The king laughed at his men and said – “You are indeed a very honest man! You never utter a lie! Therefore, tell me the truth – did you all eat the buffalo or not?” The old man said – “I was born three years after my father died. I learnt speech from him; therefore, I utter no lies! We did eat the buffalo, but what its owner says is false!” The king and his mean had a hearty laugh. The king made them all pay a fine and got a new buffalo to the owner.
Once, a woman told her stupid husband – “I need to go to my parents’ place for the festival. If you don’t get me a water lily, I am neither your wife nor are you my husband!” That night, he went to the royal pond and tried to steal waterlilies. The security guards caught him and took him to the king. He creamed like a cakravāka bird in the royal court. The king figured out his background, heard his story and let him away.
Once, a doctor promised a person that he will cure his hunchback. He took ten units of money and announced that he would pay ten times the money, if he was not successful. He applied oil on his back and massaged over and over again. It wouldn’t straighten. He then paid a hundred units of money. Can anyone cure a person who is born with a hunchback?
This is how fools become the object of ridicule – he said.
Naravāhanadatta fell asleep listening to this tale despite being concerned about Śaktiyaśā.
7. The following morning, when Vatsarāja learnt that Naravāhanadatta was engulfed with worry, he sent his retinue of ministers along with Vasantaka in a bid to cheer him up. When Gomukha saw Vasantaka, he said at once, “Tell us a story sir!” and accordingly the latter narrated a tale.
The Story of Yaśodhara and Lakṣmīdhara
There was a brāhmaṇa named Śrīdhara in Mālavadeśa. He had twin sons named Yaśodhara and Lakṣmīdhara. They set out on a journey to a foreign land to pursue higher studies. On the way, they came across a pond. They partook of their meals there and then at night, out of fear of animals they climbed a tree and perched themselves. A few people then emerged from the pond. They cleared the banks of the pond, laid divine beds there, and adorned the place by keeping flowers, fruits, and milk. Having set up the place thus, they waited. Soon, from the waters of the same pond emerged a good-looking individual holding a sword. At that point, the servants went back into the water. He engaged in amorous sports with one of his wives and then peacefully fell asleep. Another wife sat by his side, wide awake, engaged in massaging his feet. She looked at Yaśodhara and called him in a seductive tone. He said, “You are married and I am not your husband, so what you ask of me amounts to pāpa!” She said, “I am a woman who has seen hundreds like you! Everyone has gifted me with precious rings; see if you wish!” Saying so, she showed him a bundle tied to the edge of her sari. He did not consent. He said, “You are like my mother!” She immediately woke up her husband and complained through tears that Yaśodhara had molested her. Just as he was about to draw his sword and chop off the fellow’s head, his wife who was asleep beside him woke up and told him all about her co-wife’s evil qualities. Can anyone ever firmly clasp lightning? It’s the same story with a slut. Soon after, that divine being punished his evil wife and went to svarga along with his noble wife. The twin boys proceeded on their journey, went to a yakṣa and learnt various vidyās without any troubles before returning to their hometown.
That night, Gomukha narrated the following story to Naravāhanadatta in a bid to get him to sleep.
The Story of the Monkey and the Crocodiles
There lived a monkey by name Valīmukha on the shores of a sea. When it was eating a fruit perched on a fig tree, one of the fruits fell into the sea. A crocodile happened to eat that fruit and loved the taste. It began requesting the monkey for more fruits and ate figs to its heart’s content. In the process, they became friends. The crocodile began spending most of the day away from its home below the fig tree. However, the crocodile's wife didn’t like this habit of his. To disentangle him from the monkey’s friendship, she feigned a sickness and told her husband that the only cure for her disease was to eat the heart of a monkey. In a bid to save his wife, he was ready to cheat his friend. The crocodile invited his friend the monkey to his house for a meal. On the way, without realizing what he was saying, the crocodile said, “My wife is afflicted by a malady; if she eats a monkey-heart, it will be cured.”
The monkey at once realised that it’s in grave danger and said, ‘If this is the situation why didn’t you tell me before? I’ve left my heart on the tree where I live!’ The crocodile offered a ride back saying, ‘Let’s go and bring it then!’ Once they came near the tree, the monkey leapt on to the tree and said, ‘You fool! Can the heart be outside the body? I tricked you by saying that and now I’m out of your clutches; I won’t come now, go away. Haven’t you heard the story of the foolish donkey? — There lived a lion in the forest. It was injured by some king who had come to the forest on a hunting trip and somehow surviving the assault, it had reached its den. There was no food available for the lion and its dependents. It asked the fox, ‘If I can somehow eat the ears and the heart of a donkey, my injuries would heal. Can you get one for me?’ The fox went to a washerman’s donkey and said, ‘Why are you simply toiling here, bearing great weights day in and day out without food? Come with me; I’ll take you to the forest which is abundant with food; female donkeys too live there; you can be happy with them.’ saying so it brought the donkey to the forest; the lion, which was weak, could only land a soft blow on it attacking from the rear, the donkey fled. The fox protested, ‘If you can’t even kill a donkey which was there on a platter how would you kill animals like deer?’ the lion replied, ‘Get the donkey once again; this time I’ll prepare myself for the task properly and kill it. The fox again approached the donkey and asked, ‘Why did you run away?’ The donkey replied, ‘Someone attacked me!’ the fox laughed and said, ‘You are deluded! There is nothing to attack you there; I’ve been living there happily! Come with me and live without hassles!’ Thus it convinced the donkey and took it again to the forest. This time the lion killed the donkey and delegated the fox to guard it while it went to take bath. By the time it returned, the fox had already eaten the ears and the heart of the donkey. When the lion asked about it, the fox said, ‘My lord! It seems like the donkey didn’t have ears and heart; if it had those, would it come here the second time?’ The lion thought that indeed this might be the case and ate the remaining parts to its contentment. The rest went to the fox. Do you think I’m foolish like that donkey?” the monkey asked. The crocodile returned home disappointed. Thus its friendship with the monkey was cut short, to its wife’s delight. The monkey lived happily. Thus we shouldn’t have faith in evil people
The story of the wealthy man and the vīṇā player
Once a vīṇā player entertained a wealthy man with his vīṇā rendition. The wealthy man called his cashier and said, ‘Give this maestro two thousand!’ When the vīṇā player asked him he didn’t give him money; he went back to the wealthy man and informed him, he said, ‘What did you give me, what should I give you in return? You played the vīṇā and pleased my ears; likewise I talked about giving money and pleased your ears!’ Hearing this, even though disappointed, the vīṇā player went away smiling.
Stories of fools (Continued)
i. Long ago lived a teacher who had two disciples who were very jealous of each other. One of them used to anoint with oil and massage and bathe the teacher’s right leg, while the other took similar care of the left leg. One day, the disciple who served the right leg had to visit his village. So the teacher told his other disciple ‘You must take over the duties of ablutions for my right leg today!’. The disciple agreed devoutly, but then broke the teacher’s right leg with a heavy rock to spite his rival who was away. When the disciple who cared for the teacher’s right leg returned, he was horrified and swore vengeance. He declared: ‘Does my rival think I am so meek that I won’t return the favour to the leg which he cares for?’ and promptly smashed the poor teacher’s left leg. Hence it follows that the master who is served by fools is bound to suffer torture at their hands.
ii. Once upon a time lived a snake that had two heads - one at each end of its body. The one at the tail end didn’t have eyes. Each head thought itself superior and always wanted to outdo the other. One day the rear-head got stuck and coiled hard and prevented the body from moving forward. The snake concluded that it was better to rely on the eyeless rear-head that day onwards. It then began to move around, governed by the rear-head. Soon thereafter, unable to see, the stupid snake fell into a pit of fire and was burnt to death. Thus it follows that heeding to counsel of people with base qualities inevitably leads to one’s downfall.
iii. Once lived a fool who was visiting the house of his in-laws for the very first time. One morning, his mother-in-law had washed a bowlful of rice grains clean and had laid them out to dry. Tempted by the spotless white hued raw rice, the hair-brained man greedily took a fistful and crammed it into his mouth. Right at that moment, his mother-in-law walked in! Caught in a dilemma the nitwit realized that he could neither swallow it nor spit it out. For if he were to spit it out, he’d surely suffer the embarrassment of his life. When the lady saw that her son-in-law’s cheeks appeared swollen, she grew worried. When she asked him what had happened, the idiot wouldn’t even answer. The scared lady then called her husband and showed him their son-in-law’s predicament. Seeing him not answer their concerned inquiries, they panicked, thinking that he was ailing from some inexplicable disease and rushed him to a physician. The stubborn fool did not drop the pretence even in front of the physician, who reached the conclusion that the patient’s cheeks were swollen due a tumour which had to be extracted. The physician brought out his surgical instruments and eventually carved out from the man’s mouth, what turned out to be nothing but some raw rice. Thus, the actions of foolish people lead to situations from which they can rarely recover.
iv. One day, a few stupid boys got together and decided that they were going to milk a donkey, just like they would, a cow. They soon found a donkey and managed to tie up its legs and clamored over each to decide who would milk it and who would hold the vessel underneath. However, despite their repeated efforts, they could extract no milk! Thus, it follows that the greatest of efforts, undertaken however in pursuit of that which doesn’t exist, is bound to bear no fruit.
v. Once, a brāhmaṇa summoned his dimwitted son and said ‘We need to go to the village tomorrow!’. The next day, the stupid boy woke up before sunrise and went to some nearby village and wandered around and came back in the evening. The stupefied brāhmaṇa asked his son, ‘Where were you? What did you do?’. Pat came the reply ‘Nothing!’. Thus fools not only suffer difficulties themselves, but also render useless the endeavors of others.
Listening to these stories, Naravāhanadatta went to sleep.
8. Next night, Gomukha narrated another story:-
Long ago, in a distant town lived a brāhmaṇa named Devaśarmā. He had a wife called Devadatta. One morning, when she had gone to the stream nearby for her bath, Devaśarmā was at home watching over their child. Soon, a maid servant came from the palace and told him that his presence was required at the palace urgently. Devaśarmā left the child in the care of his pet mongoose and rushed to the palace. A little while later, as the mongoose stood guard diligently, it spotted a snake slowly slither towards the child. The mongoose lost no time in attacking the reptile ferociously. A bloody battle ensued and the mongoose eventually bit the snake to its death. As Devaśarmā returned, the mongoose saw him from afar and ran to him. Looking at its bloodied mouth, the brāhmaṇa rashly concluded that his pet mongoose had killed his child. He impulsively picked up a heavy rock nearby and brought it down upon the unfortunate animal, killing it instantly.
He came inside and found that the child was alive. He felt really sad. His wife too scolded him for having killed the mongoose, without a forethought, which had actually saved the child. Therefore, the wise should never act in haste. If he does so, he will not be peaceful here and hereafter.
A certain man was suffering from vāta-roga (nausea). A doctor prescribed basti (a kind of medicine) to him and said – “Keep this ready by grinding it. I will come!” Even before the doctor came, the sick person dissolved it in water and drank it. By the time the doctor reached his house, he was in great pain. The doctor said – “This basti medicine needs to be given from the hind part and is not meant to be drunk! Why didn’t you wait until I came?” He scolded the man, made him vomit out the medicine and somehow saved his life.
Thus, the wise one should be careful in making good decisions – he must understand the procedure for an activity before executing it.
If a person acts in haste without knowing the reality, similar will be the result.
A boy was traveling with his father. They reached the middle of the forest. As his father and the other travellers rested, the boy ventured alone into the forest, got attacked by a pack of bears, got scratched all over the body but thankfully, returned safe. When the father asked what had transpired, he said – “There was somebody who had his body completely covered by hair and was eating a fruit. He pounced upon me and injured me all over”. As the boy had not seen a bear, he described it in this manner. The father went in search of the culprits and came across sages who had long and untied hair and long beard and moustache. He thought that it must have the sages who had harmed his son. He was about to beat them up, when somebody who had seen the boy getting attacked by bears stopped him from doing so.
Thus, one should be smart and intelligent.
To be contiuned...
The current article is a translation of Prof. A R Krishnasastri’s Kannada classic Kathāmṛta along with additional segments added from the original Kathā-sarit-sāgara (of Soma-deva). Bṛhat-kathā-mañjarī (of Kṣemendra) and Bṛhat-kathā-śloka-saṃgraha (of Budha-svāmin) have also been referred to. The translation has been rendered by Raghavendra GS, Arjun Bharadwaj, Srishan Thirumalai, and Hari Ravikumar.