Monkey Subuddhi’s Revenge
In Panchatantra (an ancient Sanskrit book of animal stories) there is a tale of King Chandra whose sons were fond of monkeys. They kept one hundred of them and lovingly fed each one out of their hands. But incongruously their reason for keeping them was selfish, very cruel.
One day the leader of the monkeys named Subuddhi, who was very intelligent, imagined circumstances in the near future when all the hundred monkeys might be slaughtered. Worried for their lives, he tried to persuade them to flee to the forest; but they were so fond of fancy foods and other conveniences that they turned a deaf ear to his advice. Frustrated, Subuddhi left his companions, fancy food and city to begin new living alone in the forest.
Less than a month later the unthinkable happened. A pet ram of a prince who had acquired the habit of sneaking into the kitchen and eating his favorite foods was caught one day red handed. The cook who found him eating in the kitchen went into a wild rage. He took a burning twig from the stove and ran after the ram. When he hit him on his back the thick wool on his body got lit. The ram panicked and raced toward a barn full of hay. On entering he began to roll on the ground to put the fire out, but the hay caught fire and it spread to the king’s stables where highly prized horses were kept. By the time fire could be quenched, most of the horses had suffered severe burns. The royal vet recommended that monkey fat should be applied to the burnt skin of horses. This being the time honored remedy in those days no one questioned it and all the pet monkeys were slaughtered for their body fat.
Subuddhi heard the tragic news and felt sad and very angry. He had heard that the brave always avenged the wrongs done to them. So he burned with the desire to settle the score with the king. But it was not an easy task by any means.
While roaming in the forest, one day, he came to a large pond full of fresh water. He wanted to go in and drink some but noticing curious patterns of footprints on the water’s edge deterred him. Why were there footprints going inside the lake and none coming out? He wondered. From what he saw, Subuddhi quite correctly deduced that some demon in the lake was eating up the animals that entered the lake. So he found a long lotus reed and began to suck water without entering the water. Soon a huge demon emerged and said’ “You are a very clever monkey. I admire your wisdom and grant you a boon. You may ask for anything you wish.”
Monkey Subuddhi’s mind was still full of the idea of revenge. Deep thinking flashed a brilliant scheme into his mind and he said, “Sir, I have never seen a more beautiful and precious necklace than the one you are wearing. Please give it to me.“ The demon gladly gave the necklace to the monkey and he started walking proudly toward town with the ornament prominently displayed on his chest. Strangers stopped, looked and admired the brilliant pearls. Soon the word spread through town like wildfire.
Subuddhi’s destination however was the King’s court, for he knew that “civilized” men tend to be greedy, and among them rich more so than the poor. All courtiers, and then the King noticed the exquisite garland and asked the monkey where he got it. Without answering, the monkey passed the jewelry around for everyone to evaluate its worth. When he had everyone spellbound he said to the King, “Sir, this most valuable treasure can be had for the asking from a lake some distance away. I invite you together with your courtiers and relatives to come with me and obtain one necklace each. I guarantee it.”
Everyone was salivating and all of them trooped with the monkey to the pond. He told them that since everyone must enter the water together they should line up along the shore and go in when he signaled. When all were positioned as desired, he took the king aside and gave the signal. Everyone entered the water and the monkey and the King watched on the shore. When they failed to come out the king was anxious.
The monkey quietly climbed the nearby tree and shouted, “Sir, I am sorry. My revenge is taken. You killed all my relatives for fat from their bodies. To let a big wrong like that go unchallenged is cowardice. I had to pay you back in the same coin. The demon of the lake has already eaten your relatives.”
February 12, 2005