Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

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BOOK TWO: The Separation of a Favorite

Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 900 words.

Now that Damanaka has decided to get rid of Sang-jeevaka the bull, he has to persuade the lion Pingalaka that the bull is some kind of threat or danger. This is not going to be easy, since the lion now considers the bull to be his trusted advisor and minister. In order to warn the lion that appearances can be deceiving, Damanaka tells the story of how a partridge, seemingly a powerless bird, was able to bend the ocean to its will.

back to FABLE 1: The Bull, The Lion and The Two Jackals
(a story told by the teacher, Vishnu-Sarma, to the young princes in the frametale)

"If it be so," replied Karattaka, "go, and may thy ways be prosperous!"

Damanaka, accordingly, went into the presence of Pingalaka; and having respectfully bowed, he addressed him in these words: "Please your Highness, I am come upon an extraordinary piece of intelligence."

The lion then graciously asked him, what it was that he wished to represent; and Damanaka replied, "Please your Highness, this same Sang-jeevaka is not such a faithful servant to thee, but that he can speak disrespectfully of thy three powers in my presence; and I know he has even an inclination for the sovereignty."

Upon hearing these words, the lion was greatly alarmed, and remained in silent astonishment; whilst Damanaka continued thus: "Your Highness, in dismissing all your ministers, and appointing this bull to the superintendence of all affairs, has committed a great error. They say,

"It is best to tear up by the roots, a rotten tooth, a faithless servant, and a wicked minister.


"The sovereign who shall make fortune depend upon the minister, will, upon an emergent occasion, be at a loss, like a blind man without a guide."

The lion having considered for a moment, replied, "'Tis well; but provided it be as thou representest, still I have a great regard for Sang-jeevaka. Didst thou not thyself quiet my apprehensions, and present him to me? How then, now he is promoted, can he meditate evil?"

"Please your Highness," said Damanaka,

"The wicked, even whilst receiving favors, inclined to their natural dispositions, as a dog's tail, after every art of anointing and chafing, to its natural bend.

"A cur's tail may be warmed, and pressed, and bound round with ligatures, and, after a twelve years' labour bestowed upon it, still it will return to its natural form.

To all this the lion observed, "'Tis said,

"To seize and punish, before due investigation, may tend to our own destruction. It is like rashly forcing one's hand into the mouth of a serpent.

"Let me understand," said the lion, "what it is he may be able to do against us;" and Damanaka replied in the following lines:

"Not knowing the nature of man's connections how shall we discover what he is able to do? The sea was once got the better of by a simple partridge."

"How was that?" demanded the lion; and Damanaka related the following story:

FABLE 10: The Partridge and The Sea
(a story told by Damanaka the jackal to Pingalaka the lion in FABLE 1, which is a story told by Vishnu-Sarma to the young princes in the frametale)

Once upon a time, a female partridge, who resided upon the sea-shore, finding herself pregnant, said to her mate, "My dear, pray let a private place be sought convenient for me to be brought to bed in."

"Is not this where we are a proper place for that purpose?" demanded the partridge.

"No," replied the female, because it is frequently overflowed by the tide.

"What!" exclaimed the male, "am I so much less powerful than the sea, that I should suffer myself to be insulted, even in my own house?"

"My dear!" replied the female, laughing, "there is a great difference between thee and the sea; otherwise,

"He whose understanding can discern what is, and judge what should or should not be applied to prevent misfortune, never sinketh under difficulties."

After this, however, and in obedience to the commands of her mate, she laid her eggs in the same place; and the seas, to try the power of the partridge, came and carried them off in triumph; whereupon, the poor female, overwhelmed with affliction, said to her husband, "O master of my heart, what a misfortune has befallen us! The sea has stolen all my eggs!"

"My dear," replied the partridge, "do not be alarmed; but wait and see what I am capable of doing."

So, upon saying this, he assembled all the other birds, and having informed them of what had happened, one of them said, "We are not powerful enough to contend with the mighty ocean; but I recommend, that at a proper time we should go in a body, and represent the affair to the eagle, who will ease us of our troubles."

Having considered this proposal, they all repaired into the presence of the king of birds, and laid their grievance before him; who having heard it, considered for a moment what he should do; "I will," said he to himself, "state the case to the great and mighty lord, Narayana (Vishnu), the author of creation, preservation, and destruction, and he will wipe away our sorrows."

Accordingly, the eagle, attended by the rest of the birds, addressed their complaint to Narayana, saying, "O Lord! Even whilst thou art master, the sea hath dared to overwhelm us!"

The deity having considered their complaint, commanded the ocean to surrender the eggs; and the kind of waters placed the high degree upon his crown, and delivered up the eggs accordingly; and the birds having gained what they wanted, returned thanks, and retired to their abodes.

I repeat, therefore,

Not knowing the nature of man's connections how shall we discover what he is able to do? The sea was once got the better of by a simple partridge.

The enemy who commenceth hostilities, without having considered the transgression of the law, meeteth a defeat, like the sea from the partridge.

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

  • why did the partridge not want to lay her eggs by the sea?
  • how did the the male partridge react to her fears?
  • how did the partridge manage to compel the sea to give back the eggs?

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