THE HARES AND THE ELEPHANTS|
'In a certain place, there lived an elephant king and with him, his retinue. The king's name was Chaturadanta.
" 'Once there was no rain for a good many years and the lakes and ponds all dried up. The elephants went to their king and said to him, "Your Majesty! Parched by thirst, some of our little ones have already died whilst the rest of them are on the verge of death. We must find some place where we can drink as much water as we want to."
'After deep reflection, their leader replied, "I know a place where there is a big lake which is always full because it is fed by an underground water supply. We'll go there."
" 'And so the elephants marched five days and five nights, and early the following morning, reached the lake.
" 'Now, in the soft earth, around the lake, there were innumerable holes, the homes of the hares. When the elephants plunged jubilantly into the water, these holes were destroyed and many hares were trampled underneath. Quite a few died, whilst there were others who were seriously injured.
" 'When the elephants had left the lake, the surviving hares assembled, crying pitifully, "Oh, dear, dear, dear! Because water is not to be had anywhere else, the elephants are bound to come here everyday and tramp on us. We must think what to do."
" 'Then one of them said, "What else can we do but leave this place?"
" 'But the other hares replied, "What, friend! Give our ancestral home so suddenly! It's impossible! No, we must frighten the elephants so much that they never think of coming back. We are only hares but still are capable of it."
" 'Then one of them said, "I know a way to frighten them off but we will need a very clever diplomat who is good at pretending. My plan is this: This fellow approaches the elephant king and says that he has been sent by Chandrama. He tells him that Chandrama forbids the elephants to come to the lake, because it's the home of the hares, his people. Now, if the elephant king is taken in by this story, he will go away."
"Well," said another hare, "we have, amongst us, Lambakarana who is very clever and an excellent talker. We can send him, for they say: 'A messenger should be someone who has wits, good looks and an unselfish nature, an excellent conversationalist, with a thorough knowledge of the shastras, someone who understands the minds of other people.' "
" 'Then the other hares said, "You are right! We will try out your plan. There seems to be no other way of saving our lives."
" 'And so, Lambakarana was sent to the elephant king. After he had walked some way from the lake, he came across a hillock which lay in the path of the elephants, but was too high for them to reach. He sat down on it. When the elephant king passed by with his herd, the hare cried out to him, threateningly, "Hey, you! Wicked elephant! Don't you dare approach this lake! It belongs to Chandrama. Go back!"
" 'The elephant king was taken by surprise and said hare, "Who are you?"
"My name is Lambakarana," replied the hare, "and I am Chandrama's messenger. He has sent me to you!"
'Hare!" said the elephant king. "Tell me his message immediately and we will obey him!"
"The message is this," said Lambakarana. "If you want to stay alive, don't ever return to this lake again. For yesterday you visited the lake and trampled on innumerable hares, who are under my protection."
"I see' " replied the elephant king. "Well, where is Lord Chandrama now?"
"He has come down to the lake himself to console the surviving hares," said Lambakarana.
"Then lead me to him," said the elephant king, "so that I can beg his forgiveness and then go away."
"All right then," said Lambakarana, "come along with me.
" 'By now, it was evening. The hare took the elephant king to the bank of the lake and showed him the reflection of the moon in the water.
"Our Master is sitting in deep meditation," he said "Bow to him silently and leave, for if you disturb him while he is meditating, he will be furious with you!"
'Accordingly, the elephant bowed from a distance and went away trembling. And from that day onward the hares lived happily ever after.
" 'And so, 'continued the crow, 'that's why I said: "The mere utterance of a great man's name helps you get out of difficulties. The hares mentioned the name of Chandrama and lived happily ever after." 'And another thing, if you want to stay alive, don't elect a sly and vicious king. As they say: "The hare and the partridge were destroyed because they chose a sly and vicious arbitrator.'
'How was that?' asked the birds?
And the crow told the story of 'The Hare And The Partridge'.