In the country of Uttara there lived a Brâhmiṇ named Kusalanatha, who had a wife and six sons. All lived in a state of prosperity for some time, but the entrance of Saturn into the Brâhmiṇ’s horoscope turned everything upside down. The once prosperous Brâhmiṇ became poor, and was reduced to go to the neighbouring woods to gather bamboo rice with which to feed his hungry family.
One day while plucking the bamboo ears, he saw a bush close by in flames, in the midst of which was a serpent struggling for its life. The Brâhmiṇ at once ran to its rescue, and stretching towards it a long green stick the reptile crept on to it and escaped from the flames, and then spread its hood and with a hissing sound approached to sting its rescuer. The Brâhmiṇ began to weep and bewail his folly in having saved the ungrateful creature, at which the serpent asked him:—
“O Brâhmiṇ, why do you weep?”
Said the old man: “You now purpose to kill me; is this the reward for my having saved your life?”
“True, you have rescued me from a terrible death, but how am I to appease my hunger?” replied the serpent.
And quoth the Brâhmiṇ, “You speak of your hunger, but who is to feed my old wife and six hungry children at my house?”
The serpent, seeing the anxiety of the Brâhmiṇ, emitted a precious gem from its hood, and bade him take it home and give it to his wife for household expenses, after which to return to the wood to be devoured. The old man agreed, and, solemnly promising to return without fail, went home. Having given the gem to his family, and told them of his pact with the serpent, the Brâhmiṇ went back to the wood. The serpent had meanwhile reflected upon its own base ingratitude.
“Is it right,” said it to itself, “to kill him who saved me from the flames? No! I shall rather perish of hunger, if I cannot find a prey to-day, than slay my protector.”
So when the old Brâhmiṇ appeared, true to his word, the serpent presented him with another valuable gem, and after expressing a wish that he should live long and happily with his wife and children, went its own way, while the Brâhmiṇ returned joyously to his home.
“Even as the serpent purposed acting towards its benefactor,” continued the king, “so did I, in my rage, intend putting to death my faithful minister and the protector of my life, Bodhaditya; and to free myself from this grievous sin there is no penance I should not undergo.”
Then king Alakesa ordered a thousand Brâhmiṇs to be fed every day during his life, and many rich gifts to be distributed in temples as atonement for his great error. And from that day Bodhaditya and his three colleagues enjoyed still more of the royal favour. With those four faithful ministers king Alakesa lived a most happy life and had a most prosperous reign.
May there be prosperity to all!
Notes: The book holds 26 Indian folktales.
Author: Mrs. Howard Kingscote and
Pandit Natesa Sastri
Publisher: W. H. Allen & Co. 13 Waterloo Place, London & Calcutta