Of good servants…

Read the previous part here…

Just as the sun, despite being lustrous, cannot shine without its rays, similarly, a king, even though he may be full of majesty, cannot be appreciated without capable servants.


The first page of the Panchatantra

राजा तुष्टो हि भृत्यानाम् अर्थ-मात्रं प्रयच्छति ।
ते तु संमान-मात्रेण प्राणैर् अप्य् उपकुर्वते ॥ ९१ ॥

rājā tuṣṭo hi bhṛtyānām artha-mātraṃ prayacchati |
te tu saṃmāna-mātreṇa prāṇair apy upakurvate || 91 ||

When the king is pleased, he offers money to his servants. But servants, when treated with respect, show their gratitude by even offering their own lives.

एवं ज्ञात्वा नरेन्द्रेण भृत्याः कार्या विचक्षणाः ।
कुलीनाः शौर्य-संयुक्ताः शक्ता भक्ताः क्रमागताः ॥ ९२ ॥

evaṃ jñātvā narendreṇa bhṛtyāḥ kāryā vicakṣaṇāḥ |
kulīnāḥ śaurya-saṃyuktāḥ śaktā bhaktāḥ kramāgatāḥ || 92 ||

Knowing this, the king should employ servants who are talented, who come from a good family, who are brave and efficient,  who are devoted and who are from the family which has served for generations.


We interrupt the story here, to briefly reflect on what has been transpiring. Damanaka, after getting an audience with the king, has been speaking about the merits of having good and capable servants, and has been carefully building up to the great reveal, that he is indeed ‘that servant’ who possesses all the qualities necessary to be part of the king’s inner circle.

The ślokas in the past two posts have mentioned the word ‘servant’ extensively. While Damanaka is trying to present a humble image of himself, he does not mean ‘servant’ in the derogatory way that it is used nowadays. The Sanskrit equivalent is सेवक: (sevakah) – which has a much more refined meaning – the one who serves, or is of service, where service is a noble deed. I would prefer to read these parts of Damanaka’s conversation with that meaning in mind.

Also, as I had mentioned before, these ślokas can be read in a wider context – of management/staff relations, friendships and even relationships. A lot of Damanaka’s musings are about recognising the true value of people, and not taking anyone for granted. This is again something that digs deeper, and one can read the Panchatantra in so many ways, each one bringing out a different meaning in a different context.

Let us now go back to Damanaka – he has nearly convinced Pingalaka, but he intends to drive home the point. And so he continues…


यः कृत्वा सुकृतं राज्ञो दुष्करं हितम् उत्तमम् ।
लज्जया वक्ति नो किञ्चित् तेन राजा सहायवान् ॥ ९३ ॥

yaḥ kṛtvā sukṛtaṃ rājño duṣkaraṃ hitam uttamam |
lajjayā vakti no kiñcit tena rājā sahāyavān || 93 ||

A useful servant is one who, even after performing the most difficult tasks which benefit the king immensely, does not mention them due to shyness and modesty.

यस्मिन् कृत्यं समावेश्य निर्विशङ्केन चेतसा ।
आस्यते सेवकः स स्यात् कलत्रम् इव चापरम् ॥ ९४ ॥

yasmin kṛtyaṃ samāveśya nirviśaṅkena cetasā |
āsyate sevakaḥ sa syāt kalatram iva cāparam || 94 ||

A good servant is one to who the king can entrust any task and be assured and relaxed that it will be taken care of in a proper manner.

यो ऽनाहूतः समभ्येति द्वारि तिष्ठति सर्वदा ।
पृष्ठः सत्यं मितं ब्रूते स भृत्यो ऽर्हो महीभुजाम् ॥ ९५ ॥

yo ‘nāhūtaḥ samabhyeti dvāri tiṣṭhati sarvadā |
pṛṣṭhaḥ satyaṃ mitaṃ brūte sa bhṛtyo ‘rho mahībhujām || 95 ||

He who comes even without being called for, he who is always available at a moment’s notice, he who when asked his opinion sticks to the point and says the truth, he alone is fit to serve the king.

अनादिष्टो ऽपि भूपस्य दृष्ट्वा हानिकरं च यः ।
यतते तस्य नाशाय स भृत्यो ऽर्हो महीभुजाम् ॥ ९६ ॥

He who, without being told, tries to prevent any harm that may occur to his king, he alone is fit to serve the king.

न गर्वं कुरुते माने नापमाने च तप्यते ।
स्वाकारं रक्षयेद् यस् तु स भृत्यो ऽर्हो महीभुजाम् ॥ ९८ ॥

na garvaṃ kurute māne nāpamāne ca tapyate |
svākāraṃ rakṣayed yas tu sa bhṛtyo ‘rho mahībhujām || 98 ||

The servant who does not feel excess pride when praised, or sadness when rebuked, he who keeps his feelings to himself, is alone fit to serve the king.

“Also, if you disregard me thinking ‘he is just a fox’, it would not be proper. Efficiency is not in appearance. It is said…”

कौशेयं कृमिजं सुवर्णम् उपलाद् दुर्वापि गोरोमतः पङ्कात् तामरसं शशाङ्क उदधेर् इन्दीवरं गोमयात् ।
काष्ठाद् अग्निर् अहेः फणाद् अपि मणिर् गो-पित्ततो रोचना प्राकाश्यं स्व-गुणोदयेन गुणिनो गच्छन्ति किं जन्मना ॥ १०३ ॥

kauśeyaṃ kṛmijaṃ suvarṇam upalād durvāpi goromataḥ paṅkāt tāmarasaṃ śaśāṅka udadher indīvaraṃ gomayāt |
kāṣṭhād agnir aheḥ phaṇād api maṇir go-pittato rocanā prākāśyaṃ sva-guṇodayena guṇino gacchanti kiṃ janmanā || 103 ||

Silk is obtained from a worm; gold from stone; ‘doorva’ from cow’s hair; lotus from mire; moon from the ocean; blue lotus from cow dung; fire from the wood; gem from the snake’s hood; yellow pigment (gorochana) from the bile of the cow…likewise, good men become known because of their virtues; what does birth matter?

मूषिका गृह-जातापि हन्तव्या स्वाप-कारिणी ।
भक्ष्य-प्रदानैर् जारो हितकृत् प्राप्यते जनैः ॥ १०४ ॥

mūṣikā gṛha-jātāpi hantavyā svāpa-kāriṇī |
bhakṣya-pradānair jāro hitakṛt prāpyate janaiḥ || 104 ||

A mouse, even if born in one’s own house, should be killed if it becomes harmful to oneself. A cat, even if brought from elsewhere, is taken care of and kept as a pet because it is useful.

एरण्ड-भिण्डार्क-नलैः प्रभूतैर् अपि सञ्चितैः ।
दारु-कृत्यं यथा नास्ति तथैवाज्ञैः प्रयोजनम् ॥ १०५ ॥

eraṇḍa-bhiṇḍārka-nalaiḥ prabhūtair api sañcitaiḥ |
dāru-kṛtyaṃ yathā nāsti tathaivājñaiḥ prayojanam || 105 ||

Just as reeds collected in abundance cannot be made use of as wood, so is it with ignorant people – having a lot of them around you is of no benefit.

किं भक्तेनासमर्थेन किं शक्तेर्नापकारिणा ।
भक्तं शक्तं च मां राजन् नावज्ञातुं त्वम् अर्हसि ॥ १०६ ॥

kiṃ bhaktenāsamarthena kiṃ śakternāpakāriṇā |
bhaktaṃ śaktaṃ ca māṃ rājan nāvajñātuṃ tvam arhasi || 106 ||

What is the use of a person who is devoted but incapable? What is the use of a person who is strong but harmful? I am devoted and strong too. You should not ignore me, O king.”

And with these words, Damanaka rested his case.

Pingalaka looked thoughtful…after a few minutes of silence, he said…

to be continued