translated and illustrated by Vaibhav Kodikal (Mumbai, India)
This illustrated story is one of the most wonderful things we ever received at Candlelight Stories. It was sent to us back in 1997 by a young man named Vaibhav Kodikal from Mumbai, India. This was one of his first illustration projects, finished while he was still in school. The Times of India did an article about how he made this story and published it on Candlelight Stories. He was and remains one of our very favorite artists. We hope he is doing very well indeed today.
The Panchatantra – The Brahmin’s Tale is from the oldest extant collection of fables in Sanskrit literature. Dating from the 4th century AD, it is based on still earlier collections of folk tales. The Panchatantra is sometimes attributed to an Indian sage, Bidpai (flourished about 300 A.D.). The tales, primarily about animals, are organized into five books on such topics as winning friends, losing property and waging war. They were originally intended to instruct a young prince in the conduct that would ensure his worldly success.
The Tale Begins
Long, long ago there was a poor Brahmin named Krishnan. He could not find enough work to do. Sometimes, he and his family had to go without food.
At last Krishnan decided to leave his village in search of work. Early next morning, before his wife and children woke up, he left the house. He did not know where to go or what to do. He just walked away.
He walked the whole day until he came to a thick jungle. He was tired, thirsty and hungry. While looking around for water to drink, he found a well.
He went to the well and looked in. There he saw a jaguar, a monkey, a snake and a man. They had all fallen into the well.
“O, noble Brahmin,” the jaguar called out to him, “Please help me out, so that I can go back to my family.”
“But you are a jaguar,” said Krishnan. “I am afraid of you. How can I pull you out of this well? How do I know you will not kill me?”
“Don’t be afraid of me, my dear man,” replied the jaguar. “I promise I will not do you any harm. Please take pity on me and save my life.”
“I suppose I might as well save him,” thought Krishnan. “It is always good to be kind to others.” Krishnan reached into the well and pulled out the jaguar.
The jaguar thanked him and said, “Let me introduce myself. I’m Shersingh. Do you see those mountains over there? I live there in a cave. I shall be most delighted if you could visit me someday. Perhaps I could repay my debt to you.”
Krishnan then heard the monkey calling out to him from the well. “Holy Sir, won’t you pull me out too?” The Brahmin at once pulled the monkey out. The monkey thanked the Brahmin. “If you are ever in need of food, just drop in at my place. It is just over there, below that big mountain. By the way, Bali is the name.”
Now the snake called out to him. “Please help me too.” “Help you!” exclaimed Krishnan. “You are a snake. What if you bite me?” “I shall never bite you,” said the snake. “You need not be afraid of me at all. Please save me.” So Krishnan pulled the snake out of the well.
“I am very grateful, my dear Sir,” said the snake. “Remember, if you are ever in any difficulty, just call out my name – Naagesh, and wherever you are, I shall find you.”
The jaguar, the monkey and the snake took leave of the Brahmin. But before they left, they spoke to him about the man in the well. “Please do not help him,” said Shersingh. “If you do,” said Naagesh, “you will be in trouble yourself.”
As soon as they left, the man in the well began to call out. He begged Krishnan to save him too. Krishnan felt sorry for the man and pulled him out of the well.
“Thank you for your kindness,” said the man. “I am Seth Ghanshyamdas. I am a goldsmith. I live in the city near here. If you ever need my help, don’t hesitate to visit my humble house.” The goldsmith then left for home.
After some time, the Brahmin continued his journey. But luck was against him. He could find no work. In the end he thought it would be best if he killed himself. He made up his mind to jump into the river and drown. But then he remembered Shersingh the jaguar, Bali the monkey, Naagesh the snake, and Seth the goldsmith. He thought it was time to seek their help.
He first went to Bali, the monkey. The monkey was overjoyed to see him. He gave him a warm welcome and offered him some really delicious fruits. “You are always welcome here, dear Krishnan,” said Bali when the Brahmin told him how grateful he was.
Now Krishnan wanted to see how Shersingh, the jaguar would treat him. Bali showed him the way to the jaguar’s cave. As soon as Shersingh saw Krishnan coming, he ran out to welcome him. He had not forgotten the Brahmin who saved his life.
Shersingh gave Krishnan a beautiful gold necklace and other precious jewelry. “Take this, my dear friend,” roared Shersingh, “a small token of my gratitude and respect. Take this and make a great new start.” Krishnan thanked Shersingh for the jewelry and parted.
His journey had at last brought him luck, he thought. He would be able to sell the ornaments for a good price. Then he could return home. How happy his wife would be. With the money he would get, they could live happily. But who could help him to sell the ornaments?
He then remembered Seth Ghanshyamdas, the goldsmith. Would he help? He went to him. The goldsmith was glad to see Krishnan. “What brings you here?” he asked.
I have come to ask for your help,” replied Krishnan. “Here are some ornaments. Please give me a good price for them.”
Seth Ghanshyamdas took the jewelry and examined it carefully.
“I shall certainly help you,” he said. “But let me show them to another goldsmith. Please wait here. Help yourself to some refreshments. I will be right back.”
The goldsmith called his wife and asked her to look after the Brahmin. He then went out with the ornaments. Seth at once rushed to the Palace of the King Wodeyar of Mysore.
“Salutations to His Majesty the King Wodeyar of Mysore,” he said. “A man brought these ornaments to me and asked me to sell them. But they are the ornaments I made for the Prince who is missing. So I told this man to wait in my house and ran here at once, Your Majesty, to show them to you.”
“Who is this man? Where is he?” thundered the King. “This scum of the earth must have murdered my little Prince and robbed his jewels!”
“He is a Brahmin named Krishnan, Your Majesty,” replied the goldsmith, “and he is there, in my house.”
The King called for his most dreaded soldiers and they came running at once.
“Arrest the Brahmin who is in the goldsmith’s house and throw him into the darkest dungeons of the kingdom!” roared the King.
The King’s guard stormed into the goldsmith’s house and seized Krishnan. The Brahmin could not understand what was going on.
“Why are you doing this?” he cried. “What have I done?” he asked the guards.
“You have dared to kill the young Prince and steal his jewels,” snapped one of the guards. “You will certainly be put to death for this great crime.”
Krishnan was bewildered. There was no way out and no one to help him.
Krishnan was thrown into a dark dungeon to await his execution. He then remembered the words of Naagesh, the snake he had pulled out of the well. So he called out to the snake. Suddenly, almost like magic, Naagesh, the snake slithered his way down a narrow window into the dingy cell.
“O, Lord!” hissed Naagesh, “how did you manage to get yourself arrested?”
“Please help me,” cried Krishnan. “I have been sentenced to death for a crime I did not commit.” Krishnan then told the snake what had happened.
“I have a plan,” hissed Naagesh, as his eyes began to grow fiery red. “I know how to get you out.”
“Tell me,” cried Krishnan.
“I shall creep into the Queen’s room and bite her,” said Naagesh. “She will faint. No matter what they do, she will remain asleep.”
“What then?” asked Krishnan.
“The poison will remain in her body until you place you hand on her forehead,” explained Naagesh.
He then left Krishnan and went to the palace. He crept into the Queen’s room and bit her. The Queen fainted.
The sad news that the Queen had been bitten by a snake spread all over the Kingdom.
Hakims and Vaidyas came from far and near, but their medicines had no effect. No one could revive the Queen.
Finally, the King declared that anyone who could cure the Queen would be handsomely rewarded. Many people went to the palace to cure the Queen but all of them failed.
“I can cure the Queen,” Krishnan told the guards.
At once they took him to the palace and the King took him to the Queen. She lay there almost lifeless and very pale. The snake’s poison had turned her blue.
Krishnan sat beside the Queen and placed his hand on her forehead. Soon, she opened her eyes and sat up. The poison had left her.
There was joy throughout the land. The King was overjoyed and shed tears of happiness. He embraced Krishnan and thanked him.
“Your Majesty,” said Krishnan, “I was sent to prison for a crime I did not commit.”
“What do you mean?” asked the King.
Krishnan told him the whole story. The King was fuming with rage when he heard what the goldsmith had done. He at once had the goldsmith arrested.
The King was sorry that Krishnan was falsely accused of murder and robbery. He then presented him with a large house and a thousand pieces of gold.
Krishnan sent for his family and they all lived happily ever after.
‘The Panchatantra’ is copyrighted by Vaibhav Kodikal all rights reserved.