A history of enmity…

Read the previous part here

MeghaVarna thought for a while, and then said “Oh revered Sthirajeevin, I understand what you have said. But I have a question – how did this enmity arise in the first place? Why are crows and owls such bitter enemies, that they are ready to kill each other?”

Sthirajeevin sat back, sipped some water, and wiped his beak. He then took a deep breath, and said…


The story of the enmity between the crows and the owls

A long time ago, there used to be an annual convention of all the birds. They used to come together, to discuss matters of life, philosophy, art and in general the daily issues that their clans used to face.

The story starts at one such convention.

It was the opening day of the Convention of the Birds of the Jungle and Capital Cities, or COBOJACC. Representatives of all the bird clans – swans, parrots, pigeons, cranes, cuckoos, owls, doves and chatakas were sipping water around a lake, and having an engaging discussion.

“Our king Garuda is a big devotee of Sri Vishnu. He is so engrossed in his devotion that he does not care about us anymore. What is the use of such a king, who cannot even protect us from evil hunters and other animals?

यदि न स्यान् नरपतिः सम्यङ् नेताः ततः प्रजाः ।
अकर्णधारा जलधौ विप्लवेतेह नौर् इव ॥ ७२ ॥

yadi na syān narapatiḥ samyaṅ netāḥ tataḥ prajāḥ |
akarṇadhārā jaladhau viplaveteha naur iva || 72 ||

If the king is not a good leader, his subjects suffer, much like the ship that sails in the ocean without a captain.

षड् इमान् पुरुषो जह्याद् भिन्नां नावम् इवार्णवे ।
अप्रवक्तारम् आचार्यम् अनधीयानम् ऋत्विजम् ॥ ७३ ॥

ṣaḍ imān puruṣo jahyād bhinnāṃ nāvam ivārṇave |
apravaktāram ācāryam anadhīyānam ṛtvijam || 73 ||

अरक्षितारं राजानं भार्यां चापिर्य-वादिनीम् ।
ग्राम-कामं च गोपालं वन-कामं च नापितम् ॥ ७४ ॥ (युग्मम्)

arakṣitāraṃ rājānaṃ bhāryāṃ cāpirya-vādinīm |
grāma-kāmaṃ ca gopālaṃ vana-kāmaṃ ca nāpitam || 74 || (yugmam)

Six kinds of people should be let go off, much like a boat with a hole, that sails in the ocean – a teacher who does not teach well, a priest who does not know the rites, a king who cannot protect his subjects, a person who speaks rudely, a cowherd who refuses to step out of the village and a barber who refuses to step out of the forest.

“Such people are of no practical use to society. And so, let us deliberate on the next course of action. It is time to choose a new king of the birds!”

It didn’t take much time to reach a decision. The owl looks the wisest among us, and also looks majestic. He is best suited to become our new king, they said. The decision was unanimous.

And so the preparations for the huge consecration ceremony began. Birds flew in from all regions, bringing in waters from the sacred rivers, one-hundred and eight types of herbs from the Himalayas, a beautiful throne set in the middle of the largest fig tree of the forest…the ceremony would be the grandest that had ever been seen.

Representatives from the seven islands and the seven oceans were to grace the ceremony. A large tiger-skin was sourced and spread on the floor, pots of gold were filled to the brim with sweet water, rows of lamps lit the venue, and musicians took their place along the main pathways, to entertain the guests.

The ceremonial lamp was lit, and young koyals sang the invocation song. A Krikālika bird was chosen as the priest who would annoint the new king. Everyone looked on with bated breath as the owl arrived, and sat on the throne.

Krikālika had just begun the coronation ceremony, when a crow, who was flying around aimlessly, arrived at the scene…

The crow saw the grand ceremony in process, and wondered “Aha! What is going on here? Why are all these birds gathered here today? Is there some grand festival that I do not know of?”

The birds saw the crow and whispered among themselves “It is a crow! The cleverest among all us birds! It is said…”

नराणां नापितो धूर्तः पक्षिणां चैव वायसः ।
दंष्ट्रिणां च शृगालस् तु श्वेभिक्षुस् तपस्विनाम् ॥ ७५ ॥

narāṇāṃ nāpito dhūrtaḥ pakṣiṇāṃ caiva vāyasaḥ |
daṃṣṭriṇāṃ ca śṛgālas tu śvebhikṣus tapasvinām || 75 ||

Among men, a barber is the most cunning, among birds, it is the crow, among wild animals, it is the jackal, and among saints, it is the ones in white.

“And so, he should also be consulted. It is said…”

बहुधा बहुभिः सार्धं चिन्तिताः सुनिरूपिताः ।
कथञ्चिन् न विलीयन्ते विद्वद्भिश् चिन्तिता नयाः ॥ ७६ ॥

bahudhā bahubhiḥ sārdhaṃ cintitāḥ sunirūpitāḥ |
kathañcin na vilīyante vidvadbhiś cintitā nayāḥ || 76 ||

Strategies that are thought of by the wise, after repeated discussions with others, and applied in real-life situations, never lead to failure.

In the meanwhile, the crow approached the congregation and said “Hello everyone! What is the occasion today? Why have so many of you gathered, and why the grand celebrations? Is there a festival today?”

“Oh, what can we do. We do not have a king that can take care of us. And so we have all decided that this owl become our king, and hence the preparations for the coronation ceremony”, replied one of the birds. “You are lucky, you have arrived at the right time to witness the ceremony!”

Hearing this, the crow burst out laughing. He fell to the ground holding his tummy and laughing uncontrollably. When he finally managed to stand, he chuckled and said “This is so funny! Of all the peacocks, swans, cuckoos, parrots, pigeons, ducks and cranes of this world – you chose an ugly owl?” He laughed louder. “This owl will be blind during the day, when you are all awake, and the only one awake at night, when you are all asleep! Yes, he could be a good chowkidar (house-guard),but a king? Not in a million years!”

The birds were stunned. They didn’t know how to answer the crow. And then….

to be continued…