Hithopadesha- The Foolish Crane Starts A War

The foolish crane

In the third episode in the waging war section of the Hitopadesha. The foolish crane puffs up his chest as he narrates his skirmishes with he other birds. As he listens to the clueless bird, the king and his minister realize that they have been drawn into a war, all because of the arrogance of the crane!

The Foolish Crane Starts A War

The foolish crane smoothed his feathers proudly. “Your majesty, I found it quite annoying that those silly peacocks insulted you like that. But I am no slouch either. “Naaa, my Swan King is not the powerless ruler you think. Why! He is powerful enough to rule all three worlds, not just this earth.”

The silly birds just wouldn’t understand when to back off! They got angrier and angrier and pounced on me, calling out names and dragging me to their King! When we got there, they shoved me into the royal room and denounced me. “Your Highness! Listen to this ridiculous bird. He dares to come to your kingdom and then talks badly about you.”

The King, Chitravarna, looked at me up and down. Then he asked, “Who are you? Where did you come from?”

The birds who’d hauled me there spoke up. “He works in the court of king Hiranyagarbha  of Karpuradwipa.”

A huge vulture made his way towards me. “Who is the prime minister there?” he asked me.

“Our Prime minister is a Brahminy Duck called Sarvagya. He is a wise and savvy minister. He knows in all the shastras of how to rule a country.”

As all this talking was going on, a parrot chimed, “Your Highness! Karpuradwipa and the islands surrounding it all belong to Jambudwipa. Jambudwipa comes under your rule. So you are their King as well.”

The King looked pleased to hear this. “That is true,” he nodded.

I wasn’t going to let them declare him our King. “Ha,” I said. “If talking is all it takes to make someone a king, then our lord, Hiranyagarbha, has the greater claim to being called the king of Jambudwipa!” I fired back.

“Master,” the parrot butted in again. “What is the best way to settle this matter?”

“In battle!” I challenged.

Indeed! A war it shall be! Go tell your King to get ready for war!” the peacock ordered me.

Who was he to tell me what to do?

“Send your own messenger!” I snapped. There was a loud chitter chatter about who would make an ideal messenger when the vulture said, “Send someone wily, a messenger who will understand the enemy’s weaknesses.”

You!” the King turned to the parrot. “You go with this crane and tell his master to prepare for war!”

The parrot smoothed his feathers. “I am honoured you chose me, your majesty. But, please, do I have to go with the crane? I have my doubts about him. He is evil, I’m sure and I don’t want to accompany him. When the wicked do bad acts, it is the good people who must suffer. Even being in their company is bad for the rest of us. We have a lot to learn from what happened to the goose and quail, all because they were in the company of the crow.

“What was that? What happened to the goose and the quail? What did the crow do?” the King asked the parrot.

The parrot then narrated the story of the Goose and the Crow.

The Goose and the Crow

The sun beat down harshly on road to Ujjaini as there was very little tree cover. It was no surprise the peepal tree with its wide canopy and far reaching shade was a welcome resting place for the travellers on their way to Ujjaini. This tree was home to a crow and a goose. One day a traveller, tired from the heat and all the walking curled up and slept under the tree. As time passed, he was no longer in the shade and the sunrays fell directly on his face. Seeing this, the goose felt sorry for the man. So the bird spread out its wings and blocked the sun. The traveller felt comforted by the shade and went  back to sleep.

The crow eyed all this with a sneer on its face. The goose’s kindness and the man’s comfort rubbed the it the wrong way. Now, there is no rule that says you have to be kind, but we do tell people not to be unkind. The crow could have ignored them. But no, he didn’t, he couldn’t! Instead, he flew right above the man’s face and shat over his mouth. And Vamoosed! The man sat up in shock and what did he see right above him? The goose, of course! In an instant, he grabbed his bow and arrow and shot at the kind bird. The goose died all because he lived near the crow. But that’s not all. Take the case of the quail!

A flock of birds flew to the seaside on a pilgrimage to see lord Garuda. A quail tagged along with the crow in this group. The crow spied a cowherd carrying a pot of curd on his head. Every now and then, the bird flew low and pecked at the curd. A little while later, the cowherd put the pot down on the ground to rest. He noticed that the curd was no longer up to the brim. He looked around and what did he see? The quail and the crow. The crow was quick to notice the danger and bolted from there. But the quail, not understanding the danger, was a bit too slow. The cowherd caught the bird and killed it in anger.

That’s why I say we must not live with evil minded people nor keep company with them on our journeys. I will go by myself,” the parrot spoke to his King.

“I was offended, your majesty!” the crane told the swan king. “He was calling me evil! So I protested. “Listen, Parrot. Why do you call me evil? I show you the same respect I show the King!”

The green bird shook his head. “No matter what you say, no matter how sweet your words, I will not trust you. When you find flowers blooming in the wrong season, it makes you wonder what is happening because you know that something is amiss. And don’t pretend you don’t know why I am suspicious of you. You are so cunning that you have provoked two kings to go to war with your words. I am not a fool to believe you when you pretend to be innocent.”

“After the parrots sharp speech, the king peacock sent me on my way here. The parrot should be here soon to give you his King’s message. So now, you can decide what to do.” The foolish crane looked at the swan king proudly.

The minister sighed. “Goodness! Save us from the actions of fools! He has created a problem for us, hasn’t he? The wise advice us to do everything we can to avoid causing trouble. But of course, fools like this crane go out of their way to create trouble.”

Hiranyagarbha shrugged. “What’s happened has happened. We can’t go back in time to change anything. So let’s see how to handle this problem now.”

Click here for the previous episode of the Hitopadesha:

The Donkey in the Tiger Skin


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