Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

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BOOK ONE: The Acquisition of a Friend

Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 600 words.

Even though Chitra-greeva has told the pigeons a story warning them to be cautious (don't be like the traveller, who was eaten by the tiger!), the pigeons are foolish and eat the rice scattered by the hunter. But that is not the end of their story, as you will see!

back to FABLE 1: The Pigeon & The Mouse, The Crow, The Tortoise, and The Deer
(a story told by the teacher, Vishnu-Sarma, to the young princes in the frametale)

"And hence also, (Chitra-greeva said) it is at no time proper to undertake anything without examination."

One of the pigeons, who was of a haughty spirit, having heard what had been said, exclaimed, "Ha! what is this? Is it not said:

"In times of necessity, the words of the wise are worthy to be observed; by whose determination we may freely engage in all things, even in eating.

"All things upon the face of the earth, our meat and our drink, bear cause of suspicion; then how is forbearance to be exercised, and life to be supported?

So, having heard these words, the whole flock flew down upon the grain.

From covetousness proceedeth ill-nature, and of ill-nature is born stubbornness, from stubbornness is created a delusion of reason, and that delusion is the cause of sin.

The birth of a golden deer is impossible; nevertheless Ram longed for the chase. In times of misfortune, men's understandings are sullied.

At length they were all, in consequence of their covetousness, confined by the threads of the net; and they presented began to lay the blame upon him, by whose advice they had descended. So it is said:

A man should not strive to precede his fellows; for, should the work succeed, the booty is equal, and if it fail, the leader is punished.

Chitra-greeva hearing their reproaches, said, "It is not his fault. Let this be done immediately: Let us all, with one accord, take up the net and fly away with it; according to these lines:

"Combination is best for men, either with their own tribe or with strangers; for even a grain of rice groweth not when divided from its husk.

"A combination even of small things serveth an occasion. An intoxicated elephant may be bound with a few straws, when formed into a rope."

Having considered this, the pigeons, with one accord, took up the net, and flew away with it. Presently the fowler, seeing the robbers of his net at a great distance, pursued them; and, as he ran, these were his thoughts:

"These travellers of the air have combined to rob me of my net; but when they shall fall down, they will come into my power."

But soon finding they had passed the confines of his sight, the poor fowler turned back from the pursuits.

The pigeons now demanded what was to be done; and Chitra-greeva replied: "Our friend Hiranyaka (Wealthy), the noble mouse, lives upon the banks of the Gandakee (a river which empties into the Ganges near Patna). He may be able to gnaw our snare asunder with his teeth."

Having considered this proposal, they all flew to the residence of Hiranyaka, who, from his constant dread of the crows, had made himself a hole with a hundred outlets, wherein he remained secured, according to this verse:

There was an old mouse, well read in the Neeti-Sastras, who, before the approach of danger, kept himself within a hole with a hundred doors.

He was startled with fear at the descent of the pigeons, and stood silent; upon which Chitra-greeva called out, "Friend Hiranyaka! what, wilt thou not speak to us?"

And Hiranyaka, upon recollecting his voice, slipped out of his hole, and exclaimed, "O how happy I am, that my dear friend Chitra-greeva is arrived!

"There is not in life a man more happy than he who hath a fiend to converse with, a friend to live with, and a friend to embrace."

But when he saw that they were confined in a net he stood amazed for a moment, and demanded what it meant.

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what happened when the pigeons ignored Chitra-greeva's advice and ate the rice?
  • how did the pigeons escape from the hunter?
  • why did the pigeons go to visit the mouse Hiranyaka?

Source: Fables and Proverbs from the Sanskrit, Being the Hitopadesa. Charles Wilkins (1787), with an introduction to the second edition by Henry Morley (1886). Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing (www.kessinger.net). There is no online edition of this text. IMPORTANT NOTE: The text has been substantially abridged. Where you see one or two proverbs in the text here, there are frequently four or five or more proverbs in the original edition.

Modern Languages MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:48 PM