The fabulous four…

Read the previous part here…

The hunter arrived at the scene as Mantharaka was speaking. He strung an arrow on his bow, pulled the bowstring all the way to his ear, and….

He strung an arrow on his bow, pulled the bowstring all the way to his ear, and got ready to kill the deer.

Seeing him, Hiranyaka quickly bit off the rope that bound Chitraanga, who bolted from the scene, zigzagging his way across the woods. LaghuPatanaka flapped his wings and flew up to a high branch on a tree nearby, hoping that the hunter was not as good an archer as Arjuna. Hiranyaka had already identified a hole nearby, and quickly scampered over and hid himself.

The hunter was disappointed and he muttered under his breath. But then, his eyes fell on Mantharaka, who was trying to inconspicuously walk away from the scene. He thought to himself “Fate has taken away the deer, but given me a tortoise. I hear that tortoise meat is tasty, and my family has not had anything exotic for a long time. So let me treat them today!”

And so the hunter caught Mantharaka without much difficulty, bound him with some dry grass and hung him on one end of his bow. He strung the bow across his shoulder and started on his way home.

Hiranyaka saw Mantharaka being carried away and lamented “What a twist of fate! How much more will we have to suffer like this…”

एकस्य दुःखस्य न यावद् अन्तं गच्छाम्य् अहं पारम् इवार्णवस्य ।
तावद् द्वितीयं समुपस्थितं मे छिद्रेष्व् अनर्था बहुली-भवन्ति ॥ १८३ ॥

ekasya duḥkhasya na yāvad antaṃ gacchāmy ahaṃ pāram ivārṇavasya |
tāvad dvitīyaṃ samupasthitaṃ me chidreṣv anarthā bahulī-bhavanti || 183 ||

Tackling one problem was like reaching the shores of an endless ocean, and now the second problem arises, It is rightly said that when a person is already in trouble, his misfortunes keep increasing.

तावद् अस्खलितं यावत् सुखं याति समे पथि ।
स्खलिते च समुत्पन्ने विषमे च पदे पदे ॥ १८४ ॥

tāvad askhalitaṃ yāvat sukhaṃ yāti same pathi |
skhalite ca samutpanne viṣame ca pade pade || 184 ||

Till a man doesn’t fall, he walks on as if on a smooth path. If he slips even once, he keeps slipping at every step, and the same path now becomes difficult to cross.

“And why poor Mantharaka?” he cried.

यन् नम्रं सरलं चापि यच् चापत्सु न सीदति ।
धनुर् मित्रं कलत्रं च दुर्लभं शुद्ध-वंशजम् ॥ १८५ ॥

yan namraṃ saralaṃ cāpi yac cāpatsu na sīdati |
dhanur mitraṃ kalatraṃ ca durlabhaṃ śuddha-vaṃśajam || 185 ||

Politeness, of good origin and one that doesn’t forsake in times of trouble – a bow, a wife and a friend of these qualities is hard to find.

(A bow that allows the archer to string it, by bending, yet not breaking, is “polite”. Made of good bamboo – of good origin, and one that does not break when being used – doesn’t forsake in times of trouble)

न मातरि न दारेषु न सोदर्ये न चात्मजे ।
विश्रम्भस् तादृशः पुंसां यादृङ् मित्रे निरन्तरे ॥ १८६ ॥

na mātari na dāreṣu na sodarye na cātmaje |
viśrambhas tādṛśaḥ puṃsāṃ yādṛṅ mitre nirantare || 186 ||

One does not trust his mother, his wife, his brother or even his son as much as he trusts a dear friend.

“Fate had ordained that I lose my wealth, and in those troubled times, Mantharaka had comforted me, and given me hope. Why has he also been snatched away now? There are good friends, but they cannot come close to Mantharaka. It is said…”

असम्पत्तौ परो लाभो गुह्यस्य कथनं तथा ।
आपद्-विमोक्षणं चैव मित्रस्यैतत् फल-त्रयम् ॥ १८७ ॥

asampattau paro lābho guhyasya kathanaṃ tathā |
āpad-vimokṣaṇaṃ caiva mitrasyaitat phala-trayam || 187 ||

Having someone to help when you do not have money, having someone to confide all your secrets in , and having someone to help you to overcome all difficulties – these are the fruits of friendship.

“I will not have a friend like him, after he is gone. Why does fate always do this to me? I lost my wealth, I lost my tribe, I had to leave my fortress, and now this. Is it that everyone who is alive has to suffer this way? It is said…”

कायः संनिहितापायः सम्पदः पदम् आपदाम् ।
समागमाः सापगमाः सर्वम् उत्पादि भङ्गुरम् ॥ १८८ ॥

kāyaḥ saṃnihitāpāyaḥ sampadaḥ padam āpadām |
samāgamāḥ sāpagamāḥ sarvam utpādi bhaṅguram || 188 ||

Every being stands very close to destruction. Wealth is always momentary. The sweetness of union is accompanied by the pain of separation. This is true for all beings.

“And also…”

क्षते प्रहारा निपतन्त्य् अभीक्ष्णं धन-क्षये वर्धति जाठराग्निः ।
आपत्सु वैराणि समुद्भवन्ति च्छिद्रेष्व् अनर्था बहुली-भवन्ति ॥ १८९ ॥

kṣate prahārā nipatanty abhīkṣṇaṃ dhana-kṣaye vardhati jāṭharāgniḥ |
āpatsu vairāṇi samudbhavanti cchidreṣv anarthā bahulī-bhavanti || 189 ||

When wounded, we tend to get hurt in the same place again and again. We feel the most hunger when we have no money, our enemies increase when we are already in trouble – in short, when a person is already in trouble, his misfortunes keep increasing.

Chitraanga and LaghuPatanaka also came back to the scene. They were crying. Hiranyaka comforted them and said “Listen, let us not despair now. What happened has happened. We still have time. Let us think of a plan to rescue Mantharaka from the evil hunter.”

“It is said…”

व्यसनं प्राप्य यो मोहात् केवलं परिदेवयेत् ।
क्रन्दनं वर्धयत्य् एव तस्यान्तं नाधिगच्छति ॥ १९१ ॥

vyasanaṃ prāpya yo mohāt kevalaṃ paridevayet |
krandanaṃ vardhayaty eva tasyāntaṃ nādhigacchati || 191 ||

When faced with problems, if one keep crying or lamenting, his tears can only increase, by the problem does not get resolved.

केवलं व्यसनस्योक्तं भेषजं नय-पण्डितैः ।
तस्योच्छेद-समारम्भो विषाद-परिवर्जनं ॥ १९२ ॥

kevalaṃ vyasanasyoktaṃ bheṣajaṃ naya-paṇḍitaiḥ |
tasyoccheda-samārambho viṣāda-parivarjanaṃ || 192 ||

The wise say that the best way to resolve any problem is to stop worrying about it, and trying to find a solution for it instead.

And also…

अतीत-लाभस्य सुरक्षणार्थं भविष्य-लाभस्य च सङ्गमार्थम् ।
आपत्-प्रपन्नस्य च मोक्षणार्थं यन् मन्त्र्यतेऽसौ परमो हि मन्त्रः ॥ १९३ ॥

atīta-lābhasya surakṣaṇārthaṃ bhaviṣya-lābhasya ca saṅgamārtham |
āpat-prapannasya ca mokṣaṇārthaṃ yan mantryate’sau paramo hi mantraḥ || 193 ||

The advice given to protect the gains that one has already made, to make further gains in the future, and to get rid of present difficulties, is considered the best advice.

The other two felt better hearing Hiranyaka’s words, and quickly regained their composure. LaghuPatanaka said “I have an idea. I saw a small pond on the way that the hunter has taken home. Let Chitraanga run ahead, reach there fast, and lie on it’s banks pretending to be dead. I will fly there, and sit on his head and keep pecking him. Don’t worry, Chitraanga, I will not hurt you. But when the hunter reaches there, he will see me pecking you and think that you are dead.” He paused, and then continued “The hunter will then place his bow (with the bundle of grass that holds Mantharaka) on the ground and run towards Chitraanga to shoo me away and take the ‘dead’ deer home. Hiranyaka, ” said LaghuPatanaka as he turned to address him, “you will travel on my back as usual, and hide in the bushes. As soon as the hunter places the bow on the ground, you would have to cut the rope that binds Mantharaka, so that he can slip into the lake.”

“And we”, said concluded LaghuPatanaka as he reached the climax of his grand plan “Chitraanga, the moment Mantharaka is freed, I will fly away, and you will do what you do best – run…thats it! What do you think of my plan?”

Chitraanga said “This is a very good plan! I am sure that it will work. It is said…”

सिद्धिं वा यदि वासिद्धिं चित्तोत्साहो निवेदयेत् ।
प्रथमं सर्व-जन्तूनां प्राज्ञो वेत्ति न चेतरः ॥ १९४ ॥

siddhiṃ vā yadi vāsiddhiṃ cittotsāho nivedayet |
prathamaṃ sarva-jantūnāṃ prājño vetti na cetaraḥ || 194 ||

The enthusiasm felt inside you when you begin a project is a good indicator of it’s eventual success or failure, but only the wise can interpret this feeling of theirs.

“Let us go ahead!”

And so they put their plan into action. The hunter saw Chitraanga lying on the banks of the river, and the crow pecking on it, and he felt very happy. He thought “The deer escaped, but he must have been wounded. He reached here, but died on the banks of this river. I already have the tortoise, let me also take the deer home. We will have a feast for many days!” And so he lay the bow on the ground, and walked towards the deer.

This was the moment Hiranyaka was waiting for – he darted through the bushes, reached the scene and bit through the bundle of grass, Mantharaka crawled out of it, and slipped into the pond. Chitraanga saw Mantharaka free and sprung up so fast that the hunter was taken aback – before he could realise it, the deer was gone, and so was LaghuPatanaka.

The hunter was disappointed. He walked back slowly to pick up his bow, feeling foolish at being outwitted by four animals. As he walked towards his house, he thought of how he had been greedy, and lost both the tortoise and the deer…it was a long walk home.

And so LaghuPatanaka, Mantharaka, Hiranyaka and Chitraanga escaped the wicked hunter. They reached the banks of the river, their home, and embraced each other affectionately. It was like a new birth for all of them. They spent the rest of their days on the same river banks, discussing philosophy and the scriptures, feeling happy and content.

A wise man should always strive to make friends. And yes, one should never cheat a friend. It is said-

यो मित्राणि करोत्य् अत्र न कौटिल्येन वर्तते ।
तैः समं न पराभूतिं सम्प्राप्नोति कथञ्चन ॥ १९६ ॥

yo mitrāṇi karoty atra na kauṭilyena vartate |
taiḥ samaṃ na parābhūtiṃ samprāpnoti kathañcana || 196 ||

A man who has good friends, and stays true to them, can overcome any situation in life, however bad it may be.


We reach the end of “Mitra-Samprāpti”, the second book of the Panchatantra. Absorb the story today, we will discuss about what we learnt, in tomorrow’s post!