When Dhamanaka, the jackal, found out that the lion king had been frightened by a loud noise when he went to drink from the Yamuna, he promised to learn all about this monster. His brother was worried it might be too big a beast for them to fight. But Dhamanka laughed it off. He told his brother, “If the lion finds that he has no use for us, he will ignore us—we will be just like the cat who served the lion. If we want him to keep us close to him, then he must think we are valuable. That’s our story today- the tale of the cat who served the lion.
The Story of the Cat Who Served the Lion
“You’ll find Mount Arbudhashikara somewhere in the northern part of the country. Mahavikrama, a ferocious lion, lived in a den at the top of this mountain. The lion had a domestic problem. Even lions have those! Guess what that was? There was a mouse in his cave!
Aha! The lion was bothered by a mouse.
What did the mouse do? He nibbled at Mahavikrama’s mane whenever the lion dozed off. Remember I said Mahavikrama was ferocious? So, of course, he roared every time he saw that the mouse had been at his mane, loud enough to scare all those nearby. Except it didn’t! The mouse scurried away down its hole and hid safely, and there was nothing the lion could do except roar again to vent his frustration. This went on for a while.
Until one day, the lion decided on a different plan of action. “I’ve had enough. Obviously, my roaring does not affect the mouse. He just waits for me to nod off, and back he comes! I’m too big to do anything about that hole. Okay. Plan A is useless. So, I must try Plan B. I need something small enough to deal with a tiny annoying problem like the mouse.”
Mahavikrama went to a village and got himself a CAT! The cat’s name was Dadhikarna. Dadhikarna was not exactly thrilled to be brought to the den. Would you blame him? Poor guy probably thought he was on the dinner menu. But Mahavikram spoke to him pleasantly, put him at ease, and even shared some of the meat from his kill. Needless to say, Dadhikarna was happy. It was a pleasant life to have someone else find him his dinner. But the mouse wasn’t exactly thrilled either. He knew there was a cat in the den. He could smell it even if he couldn’t see it. So the poor chap stayed put in his hole. The lion was delighted that his plan worked and slept without any worry. But you can starve only for so long, right? The mouse made its way to the den in desperation. Unfortunately, that was the last move he made. The cat caught the mouse and made a snack out of him.
And now, the cat’s troubles started. The lion stopped bothering about the cat and never fed him. There was nothing else for the cat to eat—nothing to hunt either. So now, it was the cat’s turn to starve and die.
That’s why I say that we mustn’t let our master think that he has no use for us. Otherwise, we will perish as well!”
“Hey, Dhamanaka, you are a smart one! You are!” Karataka smiled in approval.
The two jackals wandered into the forest, looking for Sanjeevaka, the bull. When they spotted the bull from afar, Dhamanaka whispered something to Karataka. Then he alone went to speak to Sanjeevaka.
“Hello, bull! I bring a message for you from the General there.” He pointed to Karataka sitting under a tree, looking dignified and important. “The General has been tasked with protecting the forest by our king Pingalaka. He orders you to come to him immediately or get away from here. If you don’t, no one can guarantee your safety, for I don’t know what the king might do to you!”
Sanjeevaka had no idea about the king of the forest or what happened in the jungle. He had lived in a small village with human beings, after all! So, when Dhamanaka spoke commandingly, he believed the jackal and hurried to the tree. Then he bowed low to Karataka.
That’s interesting, don’t you think? The jackals were relatively small compared to the bull but were cleverer. How else can we explain the colossal bull bowing low to Karataka without any question, eh? It’s a bit like how humans can trap the more powerful elephants, right?
Sanjeevaka’s voice trembled, “Master, what do you want me to do?”
Karataka looked down his nose at the bull. “If you want to live peacefully in this jungle, go bow down to our king, the lion.”
“B… b… but…,” Sanjeevaka stammered in fear. “Will you promise me on your honour that I will be safe?”
Karataka huffed. “Lord Krishna didn’t bother to respond to Sishupala, the king of Chedi; why? A lion roars to silence the mighty thunder, but ignores the yells of jackals, why? The gusts of the hurricane leave aside the tiny blades of grass but uproot the tall palm trees, why? Because the mighty fight only with equally powerful opponents.”
Ouch, that was an insult! Imagine telling the poor bull that he is so unimportant! If only Sanjeevaka knew that the lion was afraid of him! These jackals are crafty, don’t you think?
Anyway, the two jackals led the Sanjeevaka to the lion. But instead of taking him into the den, they made the bull wait at a distance. The anxious lion welcomed them both and asked, “SO, did you see the creature?”
“Oh yes, we did, your majesty!” Dhamanaka sounded serious. “You were right, it is a monster, a gigantic one. And,” he drew in his breath, “It wants to talk to you. I think you’ll have to meet with it, but you must take some precautions before you do so. Though I have to say…, don’t be afraid of the sound. To be honest, you must find out what causes the sound before deciding whether you should be scared. It’s like that story of the woman who found out what caused the bells to ring and won awards for solving a problem.”
The lion was baffled by this change of topic. “What bells and what award? I’ve never heard this story before!”
To be continued…
Click here to listen to the previous episode of the Hitopadesha: