The secret of a well-thought-of conspiracy is not even known to the Gods. It is due to his well-hatched plan that the weaver enjoyed the company of the princess, in the form of Vishnu.
Karataka was curious. “How did that happen?”
The story of the weaver who impersonated Vishnu
In a city not very far away, lived two friends. One was a weaver and the other, a chariot-maker. They had been friends since childhood, and always stuck around together.
A festival was once organised by the biggest temple in the city. Scores of dancers, performers and visitors thronged the venue. These two friends also went to see the festival. As they roamed around the festival grounds, they happened to see the princess who had also come to visit the temple and see the festival. She was extremely beautiful, and looked elegant and graceful, seated on an elephant, surrounded by her entourage of bodyguards.
The weaver laid his eyes on the princess, and was awestruck. He felt the ground slipping from beneath his feet, and fell down in a swoon.
His friend rushed to his side, and tried to wake him up, without much success. Taking the help of a few others, the chariot-maker carried his friend home and laid him on a cot, near the window. He fetched the neighbourhood doctor, who was also visiting the fair; the doctor administered a medicine and then sprinkled water on the weaver’s face – and finally, the weaver opened his eyes.
The concerned chariot-maker said – “Are you alright? You fainted all of a sudden! What happened to you?”
The weaver spoke “My dear friend, hear me out, I cannot take it anymore. If you are truly a good friend of mine, then collect some wood to cremate me; I cannot stay in this world anymore. Also, forgive me if I ever acted badly towards you; if I did, it was only due to my love and affection for you. “
The chariot-maker was moved to tears. “My friend, you are my closest. Tell me the cause of your grief. I will try my best to make you happy. It is said…”
औषधार्थ-सुमन्त्राणां बुद्धेश् चैव महात्मनाम् ।
असाध्यं नास्ति लोकेऽत्र यद् ब्रह्माण्डस्य मध्यगम् ॥ २१९ ॥
auṣadhārtha-sumantrāṇāṃ buddheś caiva mahātmanām |
asādhyaṃ nāsti loke’tra yad brahmāṇḍasya madhyagam || 219 ||
There is nothing impossible in this world, nothing that cannot be achieved through medicine, mantras, and the intelligence of great men.
“If, by any of these means, I can help you, I will.”
“Not just these three, even if you try a thousand other ways, you cannot help me! So, it is better that I die”, lamented the weaver.
His friend persisted. “Even if you think it is impossible, tell me what it is. If, after hearing what you have to say, I too think that I cannot be of help, I will die along with you. My friend, I cannot live in this world without you. So tell me, and let us make a decision.”
The weaver finally relented. “If you have to know, here it is. I happened to see that beautiful princess at the festival earlier today, and ever since I saw her, I am unable to bear this pain in my heart and my body. I cannot bear this separation from her. I want to love her, and I want to be with her, for as long as I can, and as long as I exist in this world. I lust for her body, I crave for her so much that I cannot bear this anymore. “
Hearing this, the chariot-maker smiled. “Is this what is bothering you? Don’t worry, you are very lucky my friend. You can meet her as early as today, and you can spend all the time you want with her. “
The weaver looked surprised. “Why are you giving me false hopes? She is a princess! Her palace is guarded by soldiers, and except for air, nothing can even think of entering where she sleeps!”
His friend smiled wider…”Give me two hours. I will slow you the power of my intelligence…” He went out to his workshop, and within a hour, built a contraption shaped like the Garuda (the vehicle of Lord Vishnu). This contraption could be operated by two wooden controls that liked to well-placed hinges, and also had two arms, a conch, discuss, lotus, the Koustubha gem and a crown as accessories. Coming back into the room, he got the weaver dressed as Lord Vishnu, sat him on the contraption and showed him how to operate the controls.
“My friend! wait till midnight, so that it is dark and the streets are deserted. Then go to the palace – there is a secret entrance that I know of – climb those stairs to the seventh floor. The princess’s room is there, and she sleeps alone. She is very innocent, and will believe you to be Lord Vishnu. Convince her with sweet words and you can enjoy her whole night long!”
The story may seem incredulous to some at this point. Well, it is. When jackals can scheme and lions can speak, this may not be as incredible as it sounds! The point of the Panchatantra is to describe all aspects of human nature in a manner that is enjoyable and digestible. Much like a medicine pill, which is sugar coated on the outside so that we can have the bitter medicine contained in it.
Does the weaver manage to convince the princess, and sleep with her? Let’s find out!
The weaver acted accordingly. he set out at midnight, reached the outer gates of the palace, and climbed up the stairs through the secret entrance that he found behind the eastern wall. He reached the chambers of the princess, and softly called out to her. “My princess! Are you awake? I am here, having left Lakshmi and travelled a great distance to meet you. I am in love with you, come and embrace me tightly…”
The princess saw him – seated on the Garuda, with four arms, weapons and the Koustubha gem around his neck. “This is truly Lord Vishnu!”, she thought to herself, surprised. She got up and stood in front of the weaver, hand joined and her head bowed. ” My Lord! I am a human, and impure. You are the Lord of the three worlds, and the purest of the pure…How can we become one?”
Th weaver had anticipated this question of hers, and replied “My dear, you were Radha in your previous birth, and were one with me, in my form as Krishna. Now that you have been reborn, I also came here to be with you.”
The princess replied ” My Lord, if this is so then please ask the permission of my father. He will surely offer me to you.”
“Oh, my innocent princess, I cannot be seen by ordinary mortal, speaking with them is out of the question. Offer yourself to me now, let us have a Gandharva marriage. Else, I will curse your father and the entire family will burn to death!”
Saying this, he got down from the Garuda, held the princess’s hand with his and led her towards the bed. She was trembling with shyness and fear, but soon gave herself to the weaver. he enjoyed her the whole night, and then returned hom in the wee hours of the morning, unnoticed by anyone.
And in this manner, the weaver spent many nights in her company.
One day, one of the princess’s maids noticed the bite marks on her lips and neck, and wondered how this could have happened, especially since the palace was well-guarded. She immediately reported this to the king, who was equally surprised. He asked the queen to speak to the princess, and check what was going on.
The queen went over to her daughter’s chambers, and checked the princess. She was astonished when she saw the bite marks on her body, and could not contain herself. ” You sinner! You have ruined the name of our family! Tell me the truth now, who is this person who comes to meet you?”
The princess hung her head in shame and embarrassment. “Mother! It is none other than Lord Narayana…he comes to be with me every night. If you don’t believe me, then you can see for yourself, since he will come to me tonight as well…”
Hearing this, the queen’s happiness knew no bounds, She rushed to the king and said ” My Lord! We are so fortunate! Lord Narayana himself visits our daughter every night. He had a Gandharva marriage with her. We can see him when he comes tonight, but from afar, since he does not speak with humans.”
The king was elated. He could not wait for a darshan of the Lord. The day passed very slowly, and when it finally was night, he and the queen sat themselves near the window, waiting for a glimpse. At around midnight, they were rewarded. Yes, it was Lod Narayana himself! The majestic Garuda, the conch the discuss, the gem…it was a heavenly sight.
The king swooned with delight. “Dearest!” he said, “there is no one on this earth as blessed as the both of us, for our child is loved by none other than the great Lord Vishnu himself! All our wishes have been fulfilled. Now, I can take over the whole world; no one can stand in front me of and my son-in-law!”
Having decided this, the king didn’t waste any time. The very next day, he launched a blistering attack on all his neighbouring countries at once. Angered at his insolence, his neighbours united and launched a counter-attack.
The king sent his daughter a message from the battlefield, and this message was conveyed by the queen herself. She read it out – ” My dear daughter, when we have a daughter like you and a son-in-law like the Lord Narayana, is it right that all the kings of the neighbouring countries got together to attack us? And so, please request your husband tonight, that he should destroy all of them.”
That night, when the weaver came to meet her, the princess said ” My Lord! Having a son-in-law like you, it is not right that my father gets defeated in battle by his enemies. So please destroy all of them.”
The weaver replied – “My dear! These enemies of your father do not amount to anything, in front of me. My Sudharshana Chakra will cut them to pieces!”
In a few days, the king’s armies crumbled under the combined might of his enemies -they drove him back and entered the kingdom as well. The king and his guards were now locked in the fort, and unable to step out. Unaware of his true identity, the king kept sending camphor, incense, flowers and delicacies to his son-in-law everyday, hoping to be saved. One day, he sent another message to be delivered through his daughter, who conveyed it to the weaver – ” My Lord! The fortress will surely be attacked tomorrow morning. Food, fuel and everything else is nearly over. The soldiers are heavily injured, most of them are dead. So please, help us!”
Having heard this, the weaver started to think…
to be continued…