An assembly of fools…

Read the previous part here

The minister who advised that I should be killed was the only person actually concerned about the welfare of this clan. He alone has the true knowledge of politics.

“If they had followed his advice, no harm would have befallen them.”

When they reached the entrance of the fort, AriMardana instructed the guards who stood outside. “This is Sthirajeevin and he is a well-wisher. Arrange a suitable accommodation for him inside, and delegate a servant to take care of his needs.”

Sthirajeevin heard this and thought to himself. “Well, I have managed to reach the fort, and so I now have to think of how to kill them all. But this is something that I cannot do from the inside, since there would be eyes on me all the time. Especially Raktāksha and his coterie, who are still very suspicious of me. And so it would be better if I stayed at the gate itself…”

“My lord”, said Sthirajeevin as AriMardana turned to address him. “You have a large heart, and I am truly grateful. But I also know the science of politics. Even though I have begun to admire you, and harbour no ill-feelings towards you, the fact remains that I am a crow, who is a traditional enemy of the owls.

It is thus better that I stay at the gate, and purify by body daily, with the dust of your lotus-like feet, and become worthy of serving you.”

AriMardana looked pleased. “So be it!” he said, and walked into the fort.

And so Sthirajeevin, the wise minister of the crows, started to live at the doorstep of his enemy. Following AriMardana’s orders, two servants served Sthirajeevin good food, with abundant meat, and helped him ‘recoup’ to become healthy and strong again. Well, Sthirajeevin didn’t disappoint them. In a few days, he became as strong as a peacock.

In the meanwhile, Raktāksha, who had kept Sthirajeevin under observation, was surprised as the way he was being cared for. “This is just not done”, he thought to himself. “It is one thing bringing an enemy so close to your fort, but taking care of him this way is only inviting trouble.”

The king held court the next day, Raktāksha stood up and said “Your ministers and fools, and so are you. It is said…”

पूर्वं तावद् अहं मूर्खो द्वितीयः पशु-बन्धकः ।
ततो राजा च मन्त्री च सर्वं वै मूर्ख-मण्डलम् ॥ २१६ ॥

pūrvaṃ tāvad ahaṃ mūrkho dvitīyaḥ paśu-bandhakaḥ |
tato rājā ca mantrī ca sarvaṃ vai mūrkha-maṇḍalam || 216 ||

Firstly, I am a fool. The second fool is the one with the snare. The king and his ministers are also fools, and so it seems that this is truly an assembly of fools!

The ministers asked him “Why do you say so?”

Raktāksha replied…


The story of the bird with the golden droppings

In a range of mountains not so far away from here, was a huge tree. A bird named Sindhuka lived on that tree. it’s droppings used to turn into gold.

One day, a hunter, who was wandering in the nearby forest, came across this bird, and saw the droppings turn into gold in front of his own eyes. “Unbelievable!” he thought to himself. “In all my eighty years of hunting, I have never come across such a sight! A bird whose droppings turn into gold!”

And so he tied his snare to the tree, and waited in the bushes. Sindhuka, not suspecting anything untoward, flew down and got caught in the snare. The hunter darted out of the bushes, put Sindhuka in a cage, and started to make his way home.

On the way, he again thought to himself “This bird is strange, and will surely put me in danger. What if someone sees it and finds out it’s speciality and reports it to the king? I would not be left alive then. And so it’s better if I go and present this bird to the king myself.”

The king’s eyes lit up. The hunter stood in front of him with the bird, and had just described what the bird could do. “This bird is rare!” he exclaimed, as he gestured to his servants. “Take this bird away, and take good care of it. in fact, let it stay in my royal chambers!”

Hearing this, his minister stopped the servants, and said “My king! Why do you trust the words of a lowly hunter and keep this bird in a cage? Have you ever heard of bird droppings turning into gold?” He laughed aloud. “This man is a cheat, and this bird is no different than the others. Release the bird from the cage.”

And so Sindhuka was released, and he flew up to the colorful parapet on the entrance of the assembly hall. As he sat there, his droppings fell to the floor and turned into gold. Before turning around and flying away, Sindhuka said – पूर्वं तावद् अहं मूर्खो द्वितीयः पशु-बन्धकः । ततो राजा च मन्त्री च सर्वं वै मूर्ख-मण्डलम् ॥

“That is why I say – Firstly, I am a fool. The second fool is the one with the snare. The king and his ministers are also fools, and so it seems that this is truly an assembly of fools!“, concluded Raktāksha.

When fate is against you, what can you do? The ministers and the king once again ignored this warning of Raktāksha, and Sthirajeevin continued to be well-fed and taken care of. Seeing this as a point of no return, Raktāksha called his followers and said…

to be continued…