Hitopadesha: The Minister’s Advice

Last week, the Swan King, Hiranyagarbha, welcomed Meghavarna, the crow, with open arms. But his minister Sarvajna was skeptical of this sudden offer of friendship and distrusted the crow. When the parrot returned from Hiranyagarbha’s court and described the beauty of KarpuraDwipa, Chitravarna wanted to march with his army instantly, at that moment! But his minister, too, did not want a war. Will the Peacock King act on the minister’s advice?

The Minister’s Advice

Hiranyagarbha sighed at the minister’s advice. “I do agree with you there, but I can’t really refuse to meet Meghavarna, the crow, can I? He has flown a long way to bring me a message. I must greet him and tell him to rest. Not doing so would be a bigger insult and cause more trouble.” The King knew he couldn’t dodge his responsibilities.

The minister replied, “In any case, Your Majesty, our spies are out to gather information, and the fort is also ready. I suggest that we ask the parrot to head home. He has already given us his message, and there’s nothing for him here.

Still, it would be best if you took some precautions. Remember how Chanakya hired a spy to kill King Nanda? We don’t want to take any chances here. Let’s make sure we have some wise advisors and brave warriors with us in case these two try any tricks.

So, the King invited his ministers and guards to the meeting with the Parrot and the Crow.

The parrot made himself comfortable and announced grandly, “Well, King, my master, the most royal Chakravarti, Chitravarna, orders you to come to his court and bow to him in submission. Accept him as your superior if you value your life and your kingdom. Or else you’ll have to move on from here.”

Stung by the parrot’s words, King Hiranyagarbha roared! “Is there no one here who will grab this parrot by his neck and fling him into the distance?”

Meghavarna sprung up. “Your Highness, give me the word, and I will get rid of this vile parrot once and for all.”

Ooooh, it was a good thing that the wise advisors were at the meeting. Otherwise, who knows what would have happened?

Sarvajna rushed to stop the King from acting rashly. “Sir! Sir! Pease let’s all take a moment to slow down and keep calm.” He glared at the crow.

“Your Majesty! Your Majesty! There can be no meeting without wise old men. Nor are those who keep quiet when Dharma or justice is challenged, wise old men. Dharma cannot survive without truth. Truth doesn’t exist where there is deceit. Let us be clear, for the rules of Dharma tell us how a messenger must be treated.

No matter who they are, messengers cannot be attacked and killed. Because we all know that whatever they say, messengers don’t share their own thoughts or ideas but their king’s! These folks are forced to say what the king tells them even if an army surrounds them!

That’s not all! Why on earth should we get upset about what a messenger says? It’s not as if they are someone important, is it? These people know they are safe from attack and can say random things. Why be offended by that?”

The minister’s advice brought the King to his senses, and calmed down immediately. The parrot left the King’s court safely. The minister ordered the officers to give him gifts of gold, which he took with him to Karpuradwipa.

When the parrot reached his home in the Vindhya mountain, he went straight to his King and paid his respects.

Chitravarna paced up and down as he bombarded him with questions. “So, did you meet the swan and give him my orders? What happened there? What kind of a place is the island, Karpuradwipa?”

The parrot replied, “Your Highness, we should prepare for war. The swan king will not back down and accept you as his superior, not without a fight. As for Karpuradwipa, it is impossible to find the words to describe its beauty except to say that it is like heaven on earth.”

The parrot’s words increased Chitravarna’s desire to bring Karpuradwipa under his reign. He gathered all his ministers and generals to plan and get ready for the war. “We must now decide how we are going to organize ourselves – who is going to do what? As a king, I can’t sit back and let things happen on their own, thinking, “Oh, everything is fine and dandy!” That will be the end of me and my kingdom. My job is to lead the forces right into the middle of the action. So, what are your thoughts on how we prepare ourselves?”

His chief minister, an old vulture named Dooradharshi, spoke grimly.

“Your majesty, we can’t just up and go to war whenever we feel like it. Before we decide to fight, we must make sure conditions are favourable to us. And that victory will certainly be ours! We should have no doubt that our supporters and warriors are firmly on our side and hate the enemy. And, there must be something to gain from war, whether it is more land, gold, or a friend.”

“Yes, but minister, why don’t you check the state of our army and see how many soldiers we have?” Chitravarna brushed away the minister’s advice. “And if the astrologer can give us the right time to attack, we can start.”

The Vulture continued to be guarded. “It is not a good idea to jump into a war right away. It is foolish to fight without knowing how strong the enemy’s army is. And if that happens, then you’re bound to die at the tip of the enemy’s sword.”

Ouch, it sounds like he was calling the King a fool for trying to get on with it! Naturally, Chitravarna was annoyed by the Vulture’s comments.

“Okay, do you think you could stop spoiling my mood even before we get started? I want advice that’ll help me win!” He certainly didn’t like his minister’s advice!

“Of course, I can tell you how to win the war,” the Vulture retorted. “But that will happen only if you act as I say. If you ignore the rules of warfare, you can’t blame anyone else for your failure. A person must take the proper medicine to cure the illness. It’s not enough if they know what treatment will fix them.

But you have ordered me, and I will share my knowledge.

The general must ride with the army, ready to fight whenever they march through dangerous places, like riverbanks, mountains, and the wilderness.

The general and his experienced warriors must ride on the outside while you, the King, must ride in the centre with women, the treasurer, and less experienced soldiers. Surrounding these, arrange your military in this order: horses, chariots, elephants, and footmen. The generals and the King must boost the army’s confidence throughout.

Ride uneven land on an elephant, for it is sure-footed, and cross flat lands on horses and rivers by boats. Keep your footmen around you all the time.

Be watchful when you pass through mountains because your enemy can hide behind rocks or jump down from a height. You, the King, must always be on the lookout, even if your guards surround you. And before you go into unknown parts, send someone to scout the land. Carry money with you to pay for the army’s expenses and reward the brave warriors. It will be another reason for them to fight with passion. Men don’t work for other men the way they work for money.

Be united and watch each other’s back. If you think someone will not tolerate the pressure, keep them in the middle so they don’t hurt themselves or others.

Your foot soldiers lead the attack, use horses and chariots to fight on the flatland and use boats and elephants along rivers. Use your archers in the woods and the swordsmen in open areas.

It is not enough to fight the enemy soldiers. The army needs food, water, weapons, and fuel. Find and destroy their stocks. Elephants can cause much destruction with their legs, trunk, and body. Horsemen are faster and can take out more of the enemy’s soldiers. Your foot soldiers must block the enemy from reaching you in the middle,” He paused.

Click here for the previous episode of the Hitopadesha:

Hitopadesha: The Blue Jackal

Hitopadesha: The Minister’s Advice

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