Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

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BOOK TWO: The Separation of a Favorite

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 700 words.

Damanaka now lays the trap: first he prepares the lion to expect an attack from the bull Sang-jeevaka, and then he manipulates the bull Sang-jeevaka, while pretending to be his friend.

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)

"How shall we discover," said the lion, "when the bull is maliciously inclined?"

"Your Highness," replied Damanaka, "will know when you behold him coming, with those weapons the tips of his horns pointed towards you, looking as if alarmed."

Having said this, he went where Sang-jeevaka was; and being in sight of him, he advanced by slow degrees, and made himself appear as if agitated by something.

"Health and happiness attend thee!" said Sang-jeevaka, with great marks of politeness.

"Alas!" replied Damanaka, "where is there any happiness for those who are in a state of dependence? For,

"The fortunes of those who serve princes are in the power of others; their minds are never at ease; and they have no confidence even in their own lives!"

"Pray, friend," said the bull, "inform me what all this means!"

"Oh, my friend," replied he, what hall I say, but that I am very unfortunate." Having said this, he heaved a deep sigh, and sat down; then Sang-jeevaka desired him to relate, more fully, the cause of his uneasiness; and Damanaka with great show of secrecy said, "Although it be highly improper to abuse the confidence of one's sovereign, yet, as it was at our instance thou camest, it behoveth me, as I hope for welfare myself hereafter, to inform thee of what concerns thy own welfare. Attend then: His Highness is very much enraged against thee, and has declared in private, that he will have Sang-jeevaka killed; and that he will treat his attendants with his flesh."

The bull, upon hearing this, became very sorrowful; whilst the artful Damanaka cried, "It is vain to be melancholy; rather let something be pursued suitable to the occasion."

Sang-jeevaka was thoughtful for a moment and then calmly said,

"The man who, having discovered some unfavorable token, giveth way to his passions, will certainly fail in the pursuit of it. How shall one give satisfaction to him whose mind is displeased without a cause?

"Have I offended the king by taking grain; or are princes apt to become enemies without sufficient cause?"

Damanaka replied, "Thus it is! Hear me:

"Virtues amongst those who know what virtues are, are virtues; but when they meet with a subject destitute of good qualities itself, they become faults. Rivers flow with sweet waters; but having joined the ocean they become undrinkable."

"It is true," replied the bull, "that

"Serpents are found upon the sandalwood tree; in the waters the lotus flowers with alligators; and in the midst of full enjoyment those who dispute about the quality.

"Away then with uninterrupted happiness!

"If the deserts were made liquid, and the waters rendered solid; I ask if the former might not be passed in boats, and the latter be called dry land.

"He who serveth an unreasonable man, acteth as much in vain, as he who soundeth a trumpet in the ears of the deaf, or presenteth a mirror to the blind.

"The root is infested by serpents, the flowers by bees, the branches by monkeys, and the leaves by insects; in short, there is not a sandalwood tree which is not surrounded by the vilest impurities."

"Our master," observed Damanaka, "is one of those who carry honey in their speech, and poison in their hearts."

"How hard it is," exclaimed Sang-jeevaka, "that this poor feeder upon grass and grain, should be an object worthy to be ruined by a lion!" The bull having again considered a while, continued saying, "I know not by what fault of mine the Rajah has been injured, that he should be at variance with me! It is best therefore to be for ever jealous of a prince.

"If ever the mind of a king, which is like a bracelet of solid crystal, is injured by his minister, who is the artist that can repair it.

"A thunderbolt, and the power of kings, are both dreadful! But the former expendeth its fury at once, whilst the latter is constantly falling upon our heads."


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

  • what does Damanaka tell the lion will be the warning signs of the bull's attack?
  • what does Damanaka tell the bull about the lion's attitude?
  • how does the bull react to what Damanaka tells him about the lion?

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