The Panchatantra, Book II
Category: Children
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The Panchatantra, Book II, is part of the large series of fables set together inside a larger story. The tales are mostly told using verse and are all centered around animals. Book II is structured differently and is centered on four main characters. Although the tales are about animals and fictional, they teach lessons and touch on more significant issues like teamwork and friendship. Despite the author being unknown, the value of these powerful fables has endured.

The Panchatantra

Vishnu Sharma

The Panchatantra, Book II

Book II

The Winning of Friends

Here then begins Book II, called “The Winning of Friends.” The first verse runs:

The mouse and turtle, deer and crow,
Had first-rate sense and learning; so,
Though money failed and means were few,
They quickly put their purpose through.

“How was that?” asked the princes. And Vishnusharman told the following story.

In the southern country is a city called Maidens’ Delight. Not far away was a very lofty banyan tree with mighty trunk and branches, which gave refuge to all creatures. As the verse puts it:

Blest be the tree whose every part
Brings joy to many a creature’s heart —
Its green roof shelters birds in rows,
While deer beneath its shadow doze;
Its flowers are sipped by tranquil bees,
And insects throng its cavities,
While monkeys in familiar mirth
Embrace its trunk. That tree has worth;
But others merely cumber earth.

In the tree lived a crow named Swift. One morning he started toward the city in search of food. But he saw a hunter who lived in the neighborhood and who was already near the tree, approaching to trap birds. He was hideous in person, flat of hand and foot, bare to the calf of the leg, dreadfully ugly of complexion, had bloodshot eyes, was accompanied by dogs, wore his hair in a knot, carried snare and club in his hand — why spin it out? He seemed a second god of destruction, noose in hand; the incarnation of evil; the heart of unrighteousness; the teacher of every sin; the bosom friend of death.

When Swift saw him, he was disturbed in spirit and reflected: “What does he mean to do, the sinner? To hurt me? Or has he some other purpose?” And he clung to the hunter’s heels, being filled with curiosity.

Now the hunter picked a spot, spread a snare, scattered grain, and hid not far away. But the birds who lived there were held in check by Swift’s counsel, regarded the rice-grains as deadly poison, and did not peep.

At this juncture a dove-king named Gay-Neck, with hundreds of dove retainers, was wandering in search of food, and spied the rice-grains from afar. In spite of dissuasion from Swift, he greedily sought to eat them and alighted in the great snare. The moment he did so, he and his retainers were caught in the meshes. Nor should he be blamed. It happened through hostile fate. As the saying goes:

How did Ravan fail to feel
That 'tis wrong, a wife to steal?
How did Rama fail to see
Golden deer could never be?
How Yudhishthir fail to know
Gambling brings a train of woe?
Clutching evil dims the sense,
Darkening intelligence.

And again:

When once the mind is gripped by fate,
The judgment even of the great,
In mortal meshes fettered, wends
To unintended, crooked ends.

So the hunter gleefully lifted his club and ran forward. Then Gay-Neck and his retainers, seeing him advancing, were distressed by their disastrous position in the snare. But the king, with much presence of mind, said to the doves: “Have no fear, my friends. For

Provided judgment does not fail,
Whatever the distress,
Men reach the farther shore of woe,
And rest in happiness.

We must all agree in purpose, must fly up in unison, and carry the snare away. This is not possible without united action. For death befalls those of disunited purpose. As the saying goes:

Bharunda birds will teach you why
The disunited surely die:
For, single-bellied, double-necked,
They took a diet incorrect.”

“How was that?” asked the doves. And Gay-Neck told the story of THE BHARUNDA BIRDS.

The Bharunda Birds

By a certain lake in the world lived birds called “bharunda birds.” They had one belly and two necks apiece.

While one of these birds was sauntering about, his first neck found some nectar. Then the second said: “Give me half.” And when the first refused, the second neck angrily picked up poison somewhere and ate it. As they had one belly, they died.

“And that is why I say:

Bharunda birds will teach you why, . . . .

and the rest of it. Thus union is strength.”

When the doves heard this, being eager to live, they united their efforts to carry the snare away, flew just an arrow-shot into the air, formed a canopy in the sky, and proceeded without fear.

When the hunter saw the snare carried away by birds, he looked up in amazement, thinking: “This is unprecedented.” And he recited a stanza:

So long as they agree, they may
Carry the fatal snare away;
But they will quickly disagree,
And then those birds belong to me.

With this in mind, he started to pursue. And when Gay-Neck perceived the savage pursuer and recognized his purpose, with judgment unconfused, he started to fly over regions rough with hills and trees.

And Swift in turn, astonished both by Gay-Neck’s prudent conduct and the hunter’s cruel purpose, repeatedly shifted his glance, looking now up, now down, forgot his concern for food, and followed the flock of doves with keenest interest. For he was thinking: “What will this noble soul do next? And what this villain?” At last the hunter, observing that the flock of doves was protected by the roughness of the paths, turned back in disappointment, saying:

“What shall not be, will never be;
What shall be, follows painlessly;
The thing your fingers grasp, will flit,
If fate has predetermined it.

And again:

If fate be hostile, even gains
Acquired no man can hold;
They go, and take his other wealth,
Like hoards of magic gold.

“For, to say nothing of getting birds to eat, I have actually lost the snare which was my means of supporting the family.”

Now when Gay-Neck saw that the hunter had turned back hopeless, he said to the doves: “See! We may travel quietly. The villainous hunter has turned back. This being so, our best plan is to fly to the city Maidens’ Delight. For in its northeastern quarter dwells a mouse named Gold, a dear friend of mine. He will cut our bonds in a hurry. He is quite competent to set us free from our trouble.”

So they all did as he said, for they were eager to find the mouse named Gold. And when they reached the hole which he had converted into a fortress, they alighted. Now previously

The mouse, in social ethics skilled,
Saw danger coming. Then
He built and was residing in
A hundred-gated den.

This being so, Gold was alarmed at the whir of birds’ wings, darted along one path in his fortress-den until just beyond reach of a cat’s paw, and remained on the qui vive, wondering what it meant. But Gay-Neck took his stand at a gate of the den, and said: “My dear Gold, pray hasten to me. See what a plight I am in.”

Thereupon Gold, still within his fortress, said: “My good sir, who are you? What is your errand? And of what nature is your misfortune? Please inform me.” And Gay-Neck answered: “Why, my name is Gay-Neck. I am king of the doves, and a friend of yours. Hasten to me.” At this the mouse felt a quiver in his body and a thrill in his soul. He hastened forth, saying:

If daily to his home
The friends who love him come,
And coming, bring delight
To eyes that kindle bright,
A man has found the whole
Of life within his soul.

Then, observing that Gay-Neck and his retainers were caught in a snare, he sadly said: “My good friend, what is this, and whence? Tell me.”

“My good friend,” answered Gay-Neck, “why do you ask me? For you know it well. As the proverb says:

Whence, what, by whom, how long, when, where,
And how deserved is good or ill,
Thence, that, by him, so long, then, there,
And so it comes. Fate has its will.

And again:

The peacock seems the world to view
From thousand eyes that mock the hue
Of some bright water-lily;
When fear of death beclouds his mind,
His conduct is of one born blind;
He sinks disheartened, silly.

A hundred leagues and twenty-five
The vulture spies his meat,
But — fate decreeing — fails to see
The snare before his feet.

And again:

Snake, bird, and elephant are caged;
The moon and sun go through eclipse;
The wise are poor: all this I see,
And think how dreadfully fate grips.

And once again:

The birds that in the sky securely soar,
Endure calamities;
While fish are plucked by men from ocean’s floor
In far, unsounded seas:
Why speak of virtue here or moral harm?
What stance could help or mar?
'Tis Time that stretches forth a fatal arm,
And seizes from afar.”

When Gay-neck had spoken thus, Gold began to cut his bonds, but Gay-Neck checked him, saying: “My good friend, this is wrong. Please do not cut my bonds first, but my followers’.” Now Gold grew angry at this and said: “Come now! You are mistaken. For servants follow the master.” “No, no, my good friend,” said Gay-Neck. “All these poor creatures left others to take service with me. Shall I fail to show them this petty honor? You know the proverb:

The king who offers honor to
His followers beyond their due,
Has servants glad who never quail,
Not even should his money fail.

And again:

Through trust, the root of happy power,
A creature wins to kingship’s flower;
While lions, born to kingship, must
As tyrants govern, lacking trust.

“Besides, after cutting my bonds, you might perhaps get a toothache. Or that villainous hunter might return. In that case, I should surely plunge to hell. As the proverb says:

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