On those who serve…

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.

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…

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