Hitopadesha – Preparing for war

Preparing for war

In last week’s episode of the Hitopadesha, Dhirgamukha, the foolish crane, insulted Chitravarna, the king of Jambudwipa. Enraged, the Peacock king declared war on Hiranyagarbha, the Swan King of Karpuradwipa. Dhirgamukha did not understand how his words would cause trouble to so many people. On the other hand, the crane was proud of his loose words. But Hiranyagarbha and his Minister, Sarvajna, quickly realized this was a setup. The king and his Minister know they have been tricked and start preparing for war.

Preparing for War

The Minister Sarvajna replied, “Your Highness, I do have a plan. But let’s discuss it when we are alone. Too many here are curious to know how you’ll react. Even if they don’t find out the exact details, they’ll figure out quite a bit from our facial expressions, the way we widen or narrow our eyes, and even the tone of our voice. I’m sure our enemy’s spies are watching us or listening for news. We don’t want them to find out what tactics we will use.”

That was the signal for everyone to leave the swan’s court. When the Minister was alone with the king, he declared, “Your majesty, someone from our court is using the fool of a crane to cause trouble for you. I’m sure of it. The troublemaker wants you to be busy fighting on one side so he can create more mischief on the other. Think about it. Who benefits when a lot of people fall sick? The doctor, of course! In the same way, the smart ones can take advantage of the situation when fools cause trouble.”

“Listen, Sarvajna.” The king held up his hand. “This is not the time to dig into who is behind all this trouble. Right now, we must decide what to do next.”

“I agree, Your Majesty. Preparing for war has many steps. The first is to send a spy into the enemy camp—someone who can get us information about them. We must find out how strong their army is and what they plan to do. The spy must look at things with the eyes of a king, for he should notice what’s happening in your kingdom and others. Oh, we must send two of them. One to gather the secrets and the other to bring those to us. If the same person leaves the place suddenly, they’ll get suspicious. Let’s send the spies to crowded places like a temple or a holy place where many people come together. Our agents can talk to the people in those places and tell us what’s happening.”

Sarvajna snapped his fingers. “Aaah, I think I have the best person to send to the enemy camp—Dhirgamukha! The foolish crane can go back there to snoop around for us. We can force him to be honest and do his work properly if we arrest his family and keep them under guard in our tower. But we cannot let anyone catch even a breath of this. It should be done in absolute secrecy. If even one extra pair of ears hears this, you can bet the secret will be known all over. Only you and I must know all the plot.”

The king smiled at the thought. Then he nodded, “You are right! It looks like I have the  best spy for the job.”

“Success is yours, my lord,” Sarvajna clapped his hands.

A knock sounded loud, and they turned towards the door. 

A guard entered, bowed low, and said, “Your majesty, a parrot has arrived from Jambudwipa. He says he was sent by their king, Chitravarna, and wants to see you.”

Hiranyagarbha looked pointedly at the Minister. Sarvajna told the guard to send the parrot to the guest house and freshen up. “We will meet him there.”

When they were alone once more, King Hiranyagarbha paced the room. “There’s no way to avoid a war now,” he brooded.

Sarvajna nodded. “To be honest, Your Highness, war must always be the last choice, not the first. I will not push you into a war from the beginning because any minister who prompts a ruler to go to war or give up his kingdom is committing a crime. Yes, we must try to get the better of our enemy, but that doesn’t have to be in battle. You see, we don’t know who will win the battle. There is always a chance that we could lose. The best way to handle such arguments is to find a way to make peace, give gifts, or even cause confusion in the enemy’s court.

If you notice the people who talk as if they are so brave and have no fear of war, most of them have never fought a battle. Only those who’ve never had to stand and fight against their enemy act proud and pretend to be heroes. If you have ever served in a war, you know to be afraid of danger.

It’s easier to pick up huge rocks with a small lever. In the same way, it is clever to use tricks to solve significant conflicts.

Unfortunately, the crane has forced our hand, and it looks like we’ll have to go to war. So, our next step in preparing for war is to plan carefully. It may seem completely unconnected, but going to war is a little bit like farming. Think about it. When you farm, you don’t plant the seeds one day and harvest the next. It takes a lot of work and time to nurture and grow the crop before you can gather the grains. And, just like that, a king must plan his tactics, and the army should train regularly to be ready when the war starts.

Facing a war is unsettling for everyone. It is natural to be afraid when danger approaches. But the great know they must face it bravely once it is on their doorstep. And that is what we must do. A lot is happening around us. This is the time for us to be calm. If we are troubled or panic, we will either lose our courage or overreact. Freezing water can cut through mountains, making valleys along the way. That’s how we must try to break Chitravarna’s army because he is very powerful!

You don’t jump into a fight with a mighty enemy. In fact, we must try our best not to fight someone stronger than us. Who loses when a man brawls with an elephant? The man, obviously!

Now that we’ve decided there is no other way out, we must get ready. Only a fool goes to battle at a moment’s notice. Instead, we must wait to strike at the right opportunity. So what if we lose a little? A general should be able to survive a few blows, like the turtle that pulls its head into its shell. But when the chance arrives, he must rear up like the cobra and attack to cause the maximum damage. A flooded river can wash away everything in its path, be it a blade of grass or a mighty tree. A good general is powerful enough to destroy all enemies, big or small.

I say we should keep that parrot, the messenger from Chitravarna, on our island for a little while. In the meantime, we’ll get busy preparing for war. When we are ready, we can send our reply through him.” Sarvajna paused.

Hiranyagarbha nodded. “Yes, that will give us time indeed.”

To be continued…

Click here for the previous episode of the Hitopadesha:

The Foolish Crane Starts a War

Hitopadesha – Preparing for war

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