Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

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BOOK ONE: The Acquisition of a Friend

Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 1000 words.

A new friend joins the group, a deer named Chitranga. This deer has heard news that there is a prince who has decided to come to the place where they live in order to go fishing. This causes alarm, and Manthara decides he will have to hide in the water. Hiranyaka the mouse is worried about the whole situation, however, so he tells a story - of course! - in order to give them a chance to think about the danger that they face.

After a while, one day a certain deer, by name Chitranga, who had been alarmed by someone, came there panting with fear, and was joined by the rest; but as they expected that he was pursued by something which had been the cause of his apprehensions, Manthara went into the water, the mouse into a hole, and the crow flew to the top of a tree. Laghu-patanaka looked on all sides; and being satisfied respecting their fears, they all joined company again.

"Health! friend deer," said the tortoise, "thou art welcome. Mayst thou find provisions to thy heart's desire in this situation! May this forest never be rendered the property of a master!"

To this the deer Chitranga replied, "I was alarmed by a huntsman, and I am come to you for protection.

"It is declared by the wise men, that the crime of him who shall forsake one who, through want or danger, may come to him for protection, is the same as the murder of a Brahman.

"And I wish also to cultivate a friendship with you."

"Sir," said the mouse, "your friendship with us is accomplished without much trouble; for,

"Friends are said to be of four distinctions: one's own offspring, a connection, one descended from the same genealogical series, and one whom we may have preserved from misfortunes.

"So let us dwell together," added the mouse. The deer, upon hearing this, was rendered happy. He ate of what was his usual food, and having drank some water, he laid himself down in the shade of a tree which grew in the stream.

"Friend deer," said the tortoise Manthara, "by whom wert thou alarmed? What, are there huntsmen coming to this desolate forest?"

"There is some very important news," said the deer, "which I will communicate. In the country which is called Kalinga there is a prince whose name is Rukmangada ("Golden Elephant"). He is just returned form his conquests of the countries about him, and his anger being altogether appeased, he has taken up his residence upon the banks of the river Chandra-bhaga. Tomorrow early he has resolved to come to fish in the river Karphoora. This I overheard from the mouth of one of the sportsmen. Having investigated this affair, so much to be dreaded, let the necessary means be pursued for our safety."

The tortoise upon hearing these words fearfully exclaimed, "I will flee to the water for protection."

The crow and the deer said, "Be it so."

The mouse Hiranyaka considered for a moment, and said, "When Manthara shall be in the water, it will be good for him. It appeareth to me improper that he should be found crawling upon dry ground.

"They say:

"The strength of aquatic animals is the waters; of those who dwell in towns, a castle; of foot-soldiers, their own ground; of princes, an obedient army.

"But, friend Laghu-patanaka, I hope by this advice, he will not suffer the regret experienced by a certain merchant."

"How was this?" said they; and Hiranyaka recounted as follows:

FABLE 8: The Rajah's Son and The Merchant's Wife
(a story told by Hiranyaka the mouse to his friends in FABLE 1, which is a story told by Vishnu-Sarma to the young princes in the frametale)

In he country of Kanya-kubja, there was a Rajah, whose name was Veera-sena ("Brave-Troops"), by whom his royal son, by name Tungavala ("Fierce-Strength"), had been appointed Young Rajah over the city of Veera-pura. He was young and possessed of great riches.

Once upon a time, as he was walking about his own city, he took notice of a certain merchant's wife, who was in the very prime of youth, and so beautiful, that she was, as it were, the standard of conquest of Makaraketu. She also, whose name was Lavanyavatee, having observed him, her breast was rent in pieces by the destructive arrows of the god of love, and she gladly became of one mind with him. It is said,

Unto women no man is to be found disagreeable, no one agreeable. They may be compared to a heifer on the plain, that still longeth for fresh grass.

The young Rajah being returned to his palace, with a heart quite occupied with love, sent a female messenger to her, to whose words having attended, Lavanyavatee made such a reply as was calculated to deceive. Said she, "I am faithful to my husband, and I am not accustomed even to touch another man; for,

"The beauty of the Kokila-bird is his voice; the beauty of a wife is constancy to her husband; the beauty of the ill-favored is science; the beauty of the penitent is patience.

"She is a wife who is clever in the house; she is a wife who is fruitful in children; she is a wife who is the soul of her husband; she is a wife who is obedient to her husband.

"And according to this doctrine, I make it a rule to do whatever the lord of my life directs, without examination."

To this the messenger replied, "It is right;" and Lavanyavatee observed, that it was even so.

The messenger having heard the whole of what Lavanyavatee had to say, reported it to Tungavala, who observed that he would invite her with that dear husband of hers, and, in his presence, pay her great respect and attention.

To this the messenger replied, "That is impracticable. Let art be used; for it is said,

"That which cannot be effected by force may be achieved by cunning. An elephant was killed by a jackal, by going over a swampy place."

"How was this?" demanded the Rajah's son. And the messenger related the following story:


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

  • why did the prince Tungavala send a messenger to the lady Lavanyavatee?
  • why did the prince Tungavala want to invite Lavanyavatee and her husband to visit him?
  • what kind of approach did the messenger recommend to Tungavala instead?

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