Of snakes in stomachs and ant hills…

Read the previous part here

AriMardana now looked at PrākāraKarna and said “Tell me, oh wise one, what should we do in this situation?”

PrākāraKarna replied…

“My king, I think that he should not be killed. It is possible that if he is given shelter, a friendship can develop between crows and owls, and we can all start living in peace again. Sometimes, knowing each other’s secrets can in itself prove to be a base for friendship. Else it can lead to mutual destruction. It has been said…”

परस्परस्य मर्माणि ये न रक्षन्ति जन्तवः ।
त एव निधनं यान्ति वल्मीकोदर-सर्पवत् ॥ १९१ ॥

parasparasya marmāṇi ye na rakṣanti jantavaḥ |
ta eva nidhanaṃ yānti valmīkodara-sarpavat || 191 ||

Those who do not protect each other’s secrets, die like the snakes living in the stomach and the ant-hill.

AriMardana said “How did that happen?”

PrākāraKarna replied…


The story of the snakes in the stomach and the ant-hill

Once, in a city not so far away from here, lived a king named DevaShakti (one who has divine powers). He had a son named SvasthaKumar (the one who is healthy). SvasthaKumar suffered ill-health because of a snake that lived in his stomach. They tried many treatments, even got the best of doctors to examine him, but no avail.

And so the prince got very depressed, and one day, he left the city and went to another city, where no one knew him. He started to sleep in the compound of the temple in the middle of the city, and begged for a living.

The city was ruled by a king named Bali. He had two young daughters. They respected their father a lot. Every morning, they would wake, go to Balis chambers, and touch his feet, asking for his blessings.

One day, as usual, they entered his chambers, to seek his blessings. Bali was in a bad mood. The first daughter touched his feet and said “May you be victorious oh king! It is only due to you that I live a comfortable life!”

This second daughter touched his feet and said “Oh King! May you always get to experience the results of your actions!”

Bali became furious, and shouted “Ministers! take this rude girl and give her away in marriage to the first person you find. Let her enjoy the results of her actions today!”

The ministers complied, and took Bali’s second daughter, accompanied by a few maids, to the city temple where they found SvasthaKumar. As he was the first person they saw, they offered the girl’s hand in marriage to him. The princess, being dutiful, accepted this as her fate, and happily got married to SvasthaKumar. She then took him to a city very far away from there, to start a new life.

As they entered the new city, she asked SvasthaKumar to take rest on the banks of a river they came by on the outskirts. She then went away with her maids, to buy some food and other groceries. When she returned, she found SvasthaKumar sleeping soundly, with his head resting on an ant-hill, and a small snake coming out of his mouth and breathing the fresh air outside. She hid in the bushes, wanting to see that this snake would do.

In the meanwhile, another snake came out of the ant-hill, also to breathe in fresh air. They both saw each other, and immediately felt angry.

The snake of the ant-hill said “You wicked snake! How dare you torment this handsome prince?”

The snake of the stomach said “You are no less wicked. Why have you hidden two pots of gold in this ant-hill, and driven all the ants away so that they don’t tell anyone?”

And in this manner, they both disclosed each other’s secrets.

The snake of the ant-hill got even more angry. “How are you still alive? Doesn’t anyone know that the cure to the problems created by you is to drink some old rice water, mixed with a paste of black mustard seeds soaked overnight for two nights in a row?”

The snake from the stomach retorted “And how are you still alive? Does no one know that you will die if hot oil or boiling water is poured into this ant-hill?”

The princess, who was hiding behind the bushes, heard everything, and knew what she had to do. She poured some boiling water into the ant-hill, thus killing the snake who hid there, and dug out the two pots of gold. She also made the rice water mixed with the paste of black mustard seeds soaked overnight for two nights in a row, fed her husband this porridge, and killed the snake in his stomach.

SvasthaKumar was cured of his illnesses, and they both returned to his city and lived happily ever after.

“That is why I say”, concluded PrākāraKarna – Those who do not protect each other’s secrets, die like the snakes living in the stomach and the ant-hill.

AriMardana had heard all his ministers speak. He now made a decision. He called all of them together and said…

to be continued…