THE STORY OF THE MERCHANT DANTILA
In a hidden corner of the sprawling wilderness lay the vibrant city of Vardhamana, a bustling hub of commerce and culture. At the heart of this thriving metropolis, there lived a man of remarkable influence and prosperity, Dantila by name. He wielded authority over the entire city, an administration that left both the common folks and even the king in high spirits. Indeed, such wisdom and competence were a rare find, for, as the saying goes:
“The man who seeks the good of the king, Is hated by the common people, And the man who seeks the welfare of the people, Is hated by the king.”
In the realm of conflicting interests, where the love of both king and subjects seemed an elusive dream, Dantila’s presence was nothing short of a miracle.
As time flowed like a river, Dantila’s daughter entered into wedlock, and he extended a grand invitation to the public and the king’s courtiers alike. Lavishing them with sumptuous feasts and generous gifts, he honored them in a manner befitting a gracious host. To top it off, the king, accompanied by his queen and the entire court, graced Dantila’s abode with their presence, receiving the utmost respect.
Yet, amidst this jubilation, an uninvited guest by the name of Gorambha, a lowly palace sweeper, dared to trespass. In a comical twist of events, Gorambha seated himself on a chair meant for someone else, only to find Dantila’s wrath descending upon him. In one swift motion, Dantila had him by the neck and ejected him from the premises.
The servant’s pride was wounded, and he spent a sleepless night plotting his revenge. Tormented by thoughts of how to tarnish Dantila’s reputation in the eyes of the king, he pondered, “How can I, a mere commoner, harm such a powerful figure?”
Several days passed, and one morning, in the dim light of dawn, as the king roused from his slumber, Gorambha, while sweeping the palace floor, couldn’t resist a mischievous grin. He exclaimed, “Good heavens! Dantila has grown so audacious that he now dares to embrace the queen!”
Startled, the king leaped out of his bed, his voice trembling, “Gorambha! Is this true? Has Dantila truly embraced the queen?”
Gorambha, quick on his feet, replied with feigned innocence, “Master, I spent the entire night in a gambling stupor, sleep eluded me completely. My words may be nonsensical. I truly do not recall what I have said.”
The king’s jealousy flared, and he thought to himself, “Could it be that the servant Gorambha has witnessed such an act? Just as he concocted this story, perhaps his previous accusation against Dantila was equally preposterous.”
Contemplating further, he realized the unpredictability of human nature, particularly when it came to affairs of the heart. He muttered, “When a woman is involved, her smiles may go to one, her teasing words to another, all while secretly harboring affection for yet another. Love from such a woman is as unreliable as the aim of an archer with uncertain bows. The man who believes himself loved is but a pawn in her game.”
Troubled by these thoughts, the king’s favor for Dantila waned, leading to a sudden change in his attitude. Dantila, bewildered by this abrupt shift, pondered, “In all my dreams, I have wronged no one, not even the king or his kin. Why then is the king harboring animosity towards me?”
Time flowed on, and one day, as Dantila attempted to enter the palace, the guards blocked his path. Seizing the opportunity, Gorambha, still fulfilling his duties as a palace sweeper, gleefully commented, “Ho! Guards! That man is the king’s beloved. He holds the power to imprison or release at his whim. He cast me out once. Beware, you may meet the same fate.”
Dantila, upon hearing these words, found himself puzzled and agitated. He lamented, “It seems that Gorambha is the source of my troubles. Now I understand the old adage: ‘The king’s servant, thought of lowly birth, foolish or mean, commands respect wherever he goes.'”
This realization weighed heavily on Dantila’s heart as he returned home, a cloud of dejection enveloping him. After careful reflection, he extended an invitation to Gorambha, gifting him a fine set of garments and speaking kindly, “Dear friend, my actions were not born of anger but of propriety. The seat you occupied that day was reserved for a Brahmin, who felt slighted. For that reason, I had to remove you. Please accept my apology.”
Gorambha, elated by the new attire, replied with joy, “Sir, your apology is accepted. Your remorse and this generous gift have shown your honor. You shall witness the king’s favor once more, and I shall prove my cleverness in this endeavor.”
With gratitude, Gorambha departed for his home, his heart brimming with contentment. The following morning, within the palace’s hushed chambers, as he went about his sweeping duties, Gorambha saw the king half-awake and seized the opportune moment. He casually remarked, “The king indeed displays a lack of discretion, consuming cucumbers within the lavatory!”
The king, taken aback by this shocking revelation, erupted, “Gorambha! What nonsense have you uttered! Only your status as my servant prevents me from punishing you for such slanderous claims. Have you ever witnessed such behavior from me?”
With feigned contrition, Gorambha responded, “Master, I was engrossed in gambling throughout the night and slept not a wink. This morning, my mind is clouded, and I can scarcely recall my utterances. If I have spoken out of turn, please forgive my hazy state.”
The king, after hearing this, deliberated in solitude, “Never have I partaken in cucumber feasts within a lavatory, not in all my life. If this fellow spouts such absurdities about me, surely his previous accusation against Dantila was equally baseless. I was unjust in mistreating Dantila, and without him, both palace and city governance have faltered.”
Realizing his error, the king extended a heartfelt invitation to Dantila, bestowing upon him precious jewels and clothing and reinstating him to his former esteemed position.
Dantila, upon regaining the king’s favor, pondered, “Indeed, it holds true that:
‘Has anyone heard of A crow that is clean, A gambler who is honest, A snake that forgives, A passionate woman who is calm, An impotent man who is brave, A drunkard with discrimination, Or the friendship of a king.'”
He continued to reflect, “I have harmed no one, not even in my dreams, neither the king nor his kin. Why did the king harbor such unwarranted hostility toward me?”
Some time passed, and on a fateful day, when Dantila sought to enter the palace, the guards blocked his path once again. It was Gorambha who took delight in the spectacle and taunted, “Ho! Guards! That man is the king’s favorite. He can imprison or release as he pleases. He once cast me aside. Beware, or you may suffer a similar fate.”
Dantila, vexed by this repetition, could not comprehend the situation. He lamented, “It seems that Gorambha is the root of my troubles. Now I understand the ancient wisdom: ‘The king’s servant, though of lowly birth, foolish, or mean, commands respect wherever he goes.'”
Discussing their predicament, Karataka and Damanaka decided to approach the situation with tact and caution.
Karataka asserted, “Even if the king ignores your counsel, it is your duty to guide him. A minister’s responsibility extends to offering advice, whether or not the king heeds it. If a proud king or a distressed elephant strays from the right path, it is the fault of the minister or the mahout. You brought Sanjivaka, the herbivore, into the master’s company, and now we reap the consequences.”
Damanaka concurred, acknowledging his blunder. “You speak the truth, brother Karataka. This is indeed my mistake, not the master’s. They say:
‘The jackal between the fighting rams And the Sanyasi who trusted Ashadhbhuti, Were themselves to blame.'”
Undeterred, Damanaka took it upon himself to remedy the situation. He decided to mend the broken bonds and sought an audience with Sanjivaka. In a private conversation, he confessed, “My dear Sanjivaka, please understand that I brought you into Pingalaka’s life, and I now entrust you with the responsibility to resolve this matter.”
Sanjivaka, showing his utmost respect, bowed before Pingalaka and stood before him with reverence. Pingalaka welcomed him warmly, inquiring about his well-being and how he found himself in the wild jungle.
Sanjivaka narrated his tale, sharing the events that led him to the forest. After listening to Sanjivaka’s story, Pingalaka responded kindly, “Sanjivaka, you need not fear here. Roam freely in this jungle, protected by my claws and strength. However, always stay close to me, for this wilderness harbors dangers even for formidable creatures like us.”
With Pingalaka’s assurance, Sanjivaka felt secure and began to share his wisdom through moral tales, enlightening the once-boisterous lion and transforming him into a more balanced and thoughtful leader. Daily discussions ensued between them, far away from the prying eyes of other animals, including Karataka and Damanaka.
The other creatures in the jungle, deprived of their leader’s guidance, began to suffer from hunger, just as the adage goes:
“As birds forsake an old and withered tree, No longer bearing fruit and fly elsewhere, So servants forsake a king, From whom they no longer benefit.”
As Karataka and Damanaka watched their king’s transformation, they worried about their own plight. They recognized that the time had come to address the situation.
Karataka approached Damanaka, and together, they strategize a way to bring about a change. They agreed that it was their duty to offer counsel, even if the king chose to disregard it. As the saying goes:
“A minister’s duty is to advise a king, Whether the king accepts or rejects the offering. For the fault of a proud king or a distressed elephant, Lies with the minister or mahout.”
Damanaka realized his responsibility in the matter and acknowledged his mistake. “You are absolutely right, dear Karataka,” he said. “It is my fault, not the master’s. As they say:
‘The jackal between the fighting rams And the Sanyasi who trusted Ashadhbhuti, Were themselves to blame.'”
Determined to rectify their situation, Karataka and Damanaka devised a plan to restore balance in the jungle and bring Pingalaka back to his former self.
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