The sparrows and the elephant

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The sparrow joined the woodpecker; the bee joined the frog; and they all got together and killed the elephant.”

“And how did that happen?” asked her husband.

His wife replied…

चटककुञ्जर कथा

The story of the sparrow and the elephant

In a forest not so far away from here, lived a sparrow couple in a Tāmala tree. In the course of time, the female sparrow laid eggs, and they both waited eagerly for their babies to be born.

The very next day, a ‘musth’ elephant that was wandering around in the forest, came to rest under the tree. Restless due to the heat, the elephant pulled at the branch where the sparrow couple had their nest, and broke it with his trunk. The nest fell down, the eggs broke, and the couple barely escaped with their lives.

Heartbroken at their loss, the sparrows wept for days. They refused to eat or drink, and spent their time grieving over the broken eggs. Seeing them this way, a close friend of theirs, a woodpecker named Kāśtakutta (the one who breaks wood) came by and spoke to the female sparrow “My dear, what is the use of crying so much? It is said…

नष्टं मृतम् अतिक्रान्तं नानुशोचन्ति पण्डिताः ।
पण्डितानां च मूर्खाणां विशेषो ऽयं यतः स्मृतः ॥ ३६३ ॥

naṣṭaṃ mṛtam atikrāntaṃ nānuśocanti paṇḍitāḥ |
paṇḍitānāṃ ca mūrkhāṇāṃ viśeṣo ‘yaṃ yataḥ smṛtaḥ || 363 ||

The wise do not worry about that which is lost, that which is dead or that which is past. They do not even think about it. This is the main difference between fools and the wise.

“A foolish person worries about the past, and this serves no purpose. All he does is add more grief and double his suffering.”

The female sparrow replied “Kāśtakutta, what you say is true. But we cannot get over the fact that the wicked elephant destroyed our eggs in arrogance. If you truly care about us, then think of a plan by which that elephant can be killed. Only that can bring us closure.

Kāśtakutta replied “You are right. A person who stands by you in difficult times, is a true friend. In good times, everyone is friendly with you. So now, don’t worry. I am here for you. I will use my intelligence to take down that wicked elephant.”

Kāśtakutta went to meet his friend, Veenarava (the one who sounds like the Veena) the bee, and narrated the incident to her. Hearing the story of the sparrow’s loss, Veenarava said “My dear friend, you don’t have to request me for such small a task. You are my friend, and they are your friends – which makes them dear to you, and so to me as well.”

Veenarava continued – “We will need the help of another friend of mine – Meghanaada (The one who sounds like Thunder), the frog. Let us go meet him as well. It is said…”

हितैः साधु-समाचारैः शास्त्रज्ञैर् मति-शालिभिः ।
कथञ्चिन् न विकल्पन्ते विद्वद्भिश् चिन्तिता नयाः ॥ ३७० ॥

hitaiḥ sādhu-samācāraiḥ śāstrajñair mati-śālibhiḥ |
kathañcin na vikalpante vidvadbhiś cintitā nayāḥ || 370 ||

The plans made with the help of well-wishers, virtuous men,learned men, intelligent men, and men of wisdom never can go wrong.

And so Kāśtakutta and Veenarava went to meet Meghanaada, and narrated the sad story of the sparrows to him. Hearing their story, Meghanaada thundered “What does that elephant think of himself? We will all teach him a lesson. Here is my plan, listen carefully.”

Meghanaada continued “Veenarava, the elephant usually has his lunch in the afternoon, and then lazes a bit. You should reach there when he is lazy, and hum a sweet song in his ears – like the sound of a veena. He will listen to your music, and close his eyes in delight. Kāśtakutta, you should then fly in and quickly peck both his eyes, so that he goes blind. Once done, the elephant will suffer a lot, and feel very thirsty. As he wanders around, unable to see, I will stand at the edge of a huge hole and make a croaking sound, along with other frogs who will help me in this task. Hearing us, the elephant will think that he is near a lake, come towards us, and fall into the hole and die.”

Kāśtakutta and Veenarava heard every word that Meghanaada said, and agreed to the plan. They set out the next day, to take revenge.

Everything went as planned. The elephant closed his eyes enthralled by the music of Veenarava; Kāśtakutta pecked out his eyes; the noon sun made him thirsty; he wandered away in search of water; he followed the croaking noise of the frog; fell inside the huge hole in the ground and died.

“And that is why I say that if you really want to fight the ocean, then call the other birds and your close friends as well – let them join you in battle, like the sparrow joined the woodpecker; the bee joined the frog; and they all got together and killed the elephant”, said the female Tittibha.

Her husband agreed. “My dear, you are right. I will go meet my friends, and together, we will dry up the ocean.”

to be continued

2 thoughts on “The sparrows and the elephant”

  1. Pingback: The bird and the ocean – part 3 – Shihan Rohit Ghai

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