Monday, June 30, 2014

Panchatantra: The Brahman's Goat

The Brahman (also spelled Brahmin) is a Hindu priest and, as such, is subject to special laws of purity. You can read more about the Brahman tradition in India at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Panchatantra unit. Story source: The Panchatantra of Vishnu Sharma, translated by Arthur W. Ryder (1925).




The Brahman's Goat

In a certain town lived a Brahman named Friendly who had undertaken the labour of maintaining the sacred fire. One day in the month of February, when a gentle breeze was blowing, when the sky was veiled in clouds and a drizzling rain was falling, he went to another village to beg a victim for the sacrifice, and said to a certain man: "O sacrificer, I wish to make an offering on the approaching day of the new moon. Pray give me a victim." And the man gave him a plump goat, as prescribed in Scripture. This he put through its paces, found it sound, placed it on his shoulder, and started in haste for his own city.

Now on the road he was met by three rogues whose throats were pinched with hunger. These, spying the plump creature on his shoulder, whispered together: "Come now! If we could eat that creature, we should have the laugh on this sleety weather. Let us fool him, get the goat, and ward off the cold."

So the first of them changed his dress, issued from a by-path to meet the Brahman, and thus addressed that man of pious life: "O pious Brahman, why are you doing a thing so unconventional and so ridiculous? You are carrying an unclean animal, a dog, on your shoulder. Are you ignorant of the verse:

The dog and the rooster,
The hangman, the ass,
The camel, defile you:
Don't touch them, but pass."

At that the Brahman was mastered by anger, and he said: "Are you blind, man, that you impute doghood to a goat?"

"O Brahman," said the rogue, "do not be angry. Go where you will."

But when he had travelled a little farther, the second rogue met him and said: "Alas, holy sir, alas! Even if this dead calf was a pet, still you should not put it on your shoulder. For the proverb says:

Touch not unwisely man or beast
That lifeless lie;
Else, gifts of milk and lunar fast
Must purify."

Then the Brahman spoke in anger: "Are you blind, man? You call a goat a calf."

And the rogue said: "Holy sir, do not be angry. I spoke in ignorance. Do as you will."

But when he had walked only a little farther through the forest, the third rogue, changing his dress, met him and said: "Sir, this is most improper. You are carrying a donkey on your shoulder. Yet the proverb tells you:

If you should touch a donkey - be it
In ignorance or not -
You needs must wash your clothes and bathe,
To cleanse the sinful spot.

"Pray drop this thing, before another sees you."

So the Brahman concluded that it was a goblin in quadruped form, threw it on the ground, and made for home, terrified.

Meanwhile, the three rogues met, caught the goat, and carried out their plan.



(500 words)




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