Friends Indeed Are Friends In Need!
February 5, 2012 4 Comments
We pick up the story again when Somdutt had successfully completed his tour of several cities in the north and returning homewards, he had reached the outskirts of Ujjain.
At this point he could not help remembering the strange incident in the forest. Curious to check on the words of his friends, Somdutt invited the tiger, the Raja of the Forest. In a moment, there was commotion in the thicket nearby and a huge tiger appeared greeting him:
’Do not fear, friend. You saved my son’s life. How can I thank you enough? You called me – is there anything I can do for you? It would give me great pleasure to do whatever.’
Somdutt explained there was no real purpose for calling the tiger. He just wonederd if the tiger would make an apperance like the son had promised. The tiger assured him he would continue to appear every time he was invited. Before going away, the tiger gave Somdutt as a gift a silk bag full of gold ornaments and gems.
On reaching Ujjain, Somdutt decided to pay a visit to house of the man who had invited him home. The man joyfully welcomed him as a good host and further persuaded him to stay over for a day, happily agreed to by Somdutt. Arrangements were made to take the guest around the city of Ujjain to show its splendor. And when he was away, the man sneakily opened the silk bag and peered at its contents, his eyes almost popping out.
When Somdutt returned in the evening, still dazed by the wondrous sights Ujjain had offered, he was accosted by a squad of soldiers from the palace. He was expressly dragged to the Raja’s court and accused of assaulting and robbing the Yuvraja (Prince) of his ornaments while on a hunt in the forest a month ago. His protestation of innocence was of no avail and was thrown into an underground dungeon to die by a furious Raja. His host was nowhere to be seen in the entire sequence of events of the evening. Bemoaning his ill-luck, Somdutt regretfully recalled the tiger’s words of warning about the man.
No light or sound reached his cell in the dungeon. Nor any food served. With each passing day he grew weaker inching closer to death. Lying coiled in a corner, one day, he suddenly remembered the words of the rat he had let out of the well. Holding onto a slender hope, he managed to sit in the darkness and invite the Raja of Rats. In a moment there was a scraping sound and a large rat appeared from a hole in the rear wall:
‘I’m grateful to you, friend, for saving my son’s life. But I’m shocked seeing you like this, starved and weak. Let me arrange for some food for you right away.’
The Raja of Rats got his folks immediately to bore an elaborate system of tunnels through to the cell and bring food for him. Only when Somdutt had the food and regained some strength did the rat leave, but not before making arrangements for a regular supply of food for him thereafter.
The problem of food was taken care of. The tunnels brought in badly needed fresh air too and with it faint light and sounds of the outside world. What else could he do? Well, he could do with some help from the snake, he thought. So he sat down in near-darkness and invited the Raja of Snakes. In a moment he heard a soft hiss coming from one of those tunnels and a menacing cobra materialized before him:
‘Have no fears, friend. I can never repay my debts to you for saving my dear son’s life. Tell me what I can do for you. I’ll be delighted to.’
Hearing Somdutt’s sad story the snake became pensive for few moments. The cobra then outlined a plan and set out to work on it.
The following morning was not like any other in the Raja’s living quarters. The Yuvraja would not wake up from his sleep. The Raja-Vaidhya (the royal physician) was summoned immediately. He figured out the Yuvraja was unconscious from a Cobra’s bite. Try as he might he was unable to revive him with his herbs. The word quickly went out to all corners of Ujjain on the Yuvraja’s sickness. The Raja promised fabulous rewards for anyone who would cure the Yuvraja. Many vaidhya’s and sadhus lined up at the palace to offer their treatment. The entire palace sank deeper in despair as the Yuvraja did not respond to any treatment.
It was at this moment a prison guard came running excitedly to the palace – he had heard a faint voice coming up somehow from the ground near the dungeon claiming he could cure the Yuvraja if only he was allowed to. Clutching at every straw, the Raja ordered for a complete check on all the inmates of the prison including the dungeon.
It wasn’t long before the guards produced Somdutt before the Raja where he repeated his claim. A stern Raja warned him:‘If you were making a false claim, you’ll be beheaded before the sun sets on this very day.’
Unruffled, Somdutt briskly ordered everyone out and went about with his treatment in earnest. He took some herbs from the Vaidhya’s kit, chanted some mantras, applied at the site of the snake-bite and chanted more mantras, all as advised by the cobra. At the end of an hour the Yuvraja stirred in his bed and opened his eyes.
The ecstatic Raja hugged Somdutt in a spontaneous gesture and unconditionally pardoned him. Subsequent investigations revealed the robber who waylaid the Yuvraja in the forest was later killed by the tiger and that’s how the Yuvraja’s ornaments came into the tiger’s possession.
Somdutt remained in the palace as an honored guest of the Raja for a few days and set off homewards with bountiful rewards heaped on him by the grateful Raja.