There was once a jungle that was ruled by a lion called Gabbar. He had a cat, a jackal and a crow at his service, along with other animals.
As a routine they were wandering about the jungle one day, when the lion saw a camel at a distance. This camel had separated from its caravan and was feeding itself on the green grass of the jungle. The lion took fancy to the animal that he had not seen before, “Let us go and ask this extraordinary animal, where he comes from.”
The crow, who flies to far-off places was aware and replied, “Master, it is called camel and this animal lives in villages. The flesh of this animal tastes very good. So, why not kill him and have him for dinner.”
The lion disagreed, “He does not belong to the jungle, so he is our guest. I will not kill him. Please go and assure him that no harm will be done, and bring him to me”.
As per lion’s instruction, they went to the camel to assure him that he would be safe. After persuasion they won his confidence, and brought him to the lion.
The camel stood before the lion and bowed. He also narrated how he got separated from his caravan and how he had reached the jungle.
Upon hearing this, the lion said, “Oh Camel, if you return to the village you will be made a beast to carry burden again. Stay in the jungle under my kingdom instead. You can feast on the abundant green grass of the jungle without any fear.”
The camel accepted the offer, and they began to live together in peace. Later one day, the lion got severely wounded in a fight with a mad elephant. Such were his injuries that he could not even take a few steps, let alone go out for hunting.
Due to lack of food, the lion became weaker. The animals who served him were also starving since they were dependent on the lion for their food.
When the lion could not bear the hunger anymore, he called them and said, “Go and find any animal that I can prey upon even in my weak condition. This way I will provide food for you, and also for myself.”
All the animals wandered about the jungle without any success to find such an animal but they couldn’t. On their way back, the jackal had a plan.
He said to the crow, “There is no point wandering about the jungle when the food is right in front of us. The camel can provide us with the food for all of us.”
The crow replied, “Indeed, what you say is correct. But the master has assured the camel of his safety under his rule. He will refuse to kill him.”
The jackal said, “Leave that to me. I will influence the master in a manner that he will agree to feast on the camel. You wait till I return after a discussion with the lion”.
The jackal met the lion and said, “Master, we have been looking all around the jungle but could not find an animal for you. All of us have not had food for so long. We have become weak and can hardly walk properly. Under the circumstance, if you agree to kill the camel, his flesh can provide food for all of us”.
The lion disagreed, “Shame on you! How can I kill the camel when he has my assurance that his life will be safe under my kingdom. It is a sin to think likewise.”
But the jackal continued, “Master, it would indeed be a sin to kill him after you have given him the assurance of his safety. But if he offers himself as your food, it would then not be a sin to kill him and you could accept his offer.”
The jackal continued, “What good are we, if we cannot be of use to our master in this time of need. Please kill one of us, for yourself, and for our other friends, to save, from the dying hunger.”
The lion was fed up and failed to justify the jackal and said, “Please do what you think would be the best for all of us.”
After this, the jackal returned, to other animals, and said, “Our master is sick and weak. If something happens to him, there would be no one to protect us. We have failed, in getting any animal, even after, wandering the length and breadth of the jungle. The only way now, to repay our debts to our master would be to offer ourselves to him. This way the rest of us would also be saved from dying of hunger.”
As planned, all of them stood before the lion and bowed. They informed the lion that they did not succeed in finding any animal for their food.
The crow said, “Master, we could not find an appropriate animal for your food. So, I offer myself. Please eat me to save yourself from hunger.”
The jackal interrupted, “You are too small to provide flesh for the master. Even if he agrees to your offer, it will not be enough for his survival. Indeed, you have proven your devotion by offering yourself. And that frees you from the debts of the master.”
He turned to the lion and said, “Please accept my offer instead.”
The jackal stood humbly before the lion, “Master, please eat me to save yourself from hunger. If you accept my sacrifice, I will be honoured with a place in heaven”.
Upon hearing this, the lion shook his head in refusal. This way, the other animals started offering themselves, but the lion kept refusing to accept their offer.
The camel who was observing all this thought, “All of them spoke so beautifully about offering themselves, but the master refused to kill any of them. I too shall seek to impress the master in a similar fashion.”
The camel said to other animals, “You all have offered yourself to the master. But the master cannot eat you because all of you are carnivores (flesh eaters) and belong to the same category as the lion himself. So now, stand by, for I shall offer myself”.
After this, the camel came forward and bowed before the lion.
He said, “Master, you need not kill any of these animals. Please eat me instead. I offer myself in return of your debts. I shall find my way to the heaven, if you will please accept my offer”.
No sooner the Camel made the offer, the other animals cheered. Having already been influenced by the jackal, the lion jumped at him. He was killed, and eaten by all the animals together.
Moral of the story: The wise indeed say: Always be on guard when you are in the company of wicked people. Don’t get carried away by their sweet words.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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