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Of Crows And Owls

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Of Crows And Owls

This third part of the Panchatantra begins with a verse:
This is the story of how the crows burnt the home of a trusting pack of owls.
Once upon a time all the crows in a town called Mahilaropya made a huge banyan treeOf Crows And Owls their home. The tree had hundreds of branches. Their king, known as Meghavarna, set up strong fortifications to ensure security for his brood. Similarly, the owls of the town made a nearby cave their colony. They also had a king, called Arimardana, who ruled with the help of a strong and cunning army.
The owl king kept a close eye on the banyan tree and on account of previous enmity killed every night any crow he sighted outside the tree. Slowly, the owl king managed to kill all crows that could be seen outside the tree. That is why wise men had always said that whoever neglects disease or the enemy perishes in their hands.

Alarmed at the loss of his flock, Meghavarna assembled his ministers and asked them Of Crows And Owlsto prepare a plan to fight the owls. He placed before them six strategies and asked them to name the best of the six. The first minister suggested compromise as a tactic because one had first to survive to gather strength and later destroy the enemy. The elders have said,
“Bend to the enemy when he is strong
Attack him when he is vulnerable.
Don’t wage a war if it doesn’t bring
Power, or wealth or friendship.”
The second minister ruled out compromise and offered trickery as a formula. He cited the example of how Bheema in the Mahabharata had killed Keechaka in the disguise of a woman. He also quoted elders saying,
The minister referred to the learned as saying that it is easy to defeat an enemy who is a tyrant, a miser, an idler, a liar, a coward and a fool. Words of peace will only inflame an enemy blinded by anger.
The third minister said, “O lord, our enemy is not only strong but also wicked. Neither compromise nor trickery will work with him. Exile is the best way. We shall wait and strike when the enemy becomes weak.”
The fourth minister opposed all these tactics and suggested the king of crows should stay in his own fort, mobilize support from friends and then attack the enemy. He quoted the learned as saying,
Therefore, the minister said, “An ally is what wind is to fire. The king must stay where he is and gather allies for support.”


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