The Enchanted Brahman’s Son
March 5, 2011 in Panchatantra
In the city of Radschagriha, there lived a Brahman by the name of Deva sarman. His childless wife wept bitterly whenever she saw the neighbors’ children. One day the Brahman said to her, “Dear one, stop your grieving. Behold, I was offering a sacrifice for the birth of a son when an invisible being said to me in the clearest words, ‘Brahman, you shall be granted this son, and he shall surpass all men in beauty and virtue, and good fortune shall be his.’”
After hearing this, the Brahman’s wife was overjoyed, and she said, “Such promises must come true.” In the course of time she became pregnant and gave birth to a snake. When her attendants saw it, they all cried out, “Throw it away!” However, she paid no attention to them, but instead picked it up, had it bathed, and — filled with a mother’s love toward her son — laid it in a large, clean container, fed it milk, fresh butter, and the like, so that within a few days it had reached its full growth.
Once when the Brahman’s wife witnessed the wedding feast of a neighbor’s son, her eyes clouded over with tears, and she said to her husband, “You treat me with contempt, because you are not making any effort at all to arrange a wedding for my dear child!”
When he heard this, the Brahman said, “Honored one! To achieve that I would have to go to the depths of hell and beseech Pasuki, the King of Snakes, for who else, you fool, would give his daughter in marriage to a snake?”
Having said this, he looked at his wife with her exceedingly sad face, and — for the sake of her love and in order to pacify her — he took some travel provisions and departed for a foreign land. After traveling about for several months he came to a place by the name of Kukutanagara. There, as evening fell, he was received by an acquaintance, a member of his caste. He was given a bath, food, and every necessity, and he spent the night there.
The next morning he took leave and was preparing to set forth once again, when his host said, “What brought you to this place, and where are you going now.”
The Brahman answered, “I have come to seek an appropriate bride for my son.”
After hearing this, the host said, “If that is the case, then I have a very appropriate daughter. I have only respect for you. Take her for your son!”
Acting upon these words, the Brahman took the girl, together with her servants, and returned to his home city. However, when the inhabitants of this region saw the girl, who was beautiful, gifted, and charming beyond comparison, they opened their eyes wide with love for her, and said to her attendants, “How could you deliver such a jewel of a girl to a snake?”
After hearing this, all of her companions were horrified, and they said, “She must be rescued from the murderer set up by this old Brahman.”
Hearing this, the maiden said, “Spare me from such deception, for behold: Kings speak but once. The virtuous speak but once. A girl is promised in marriage but once. These three things happen but once. And further: Not even wise men and gods can change the decrees of fate. And moreover, my father shall not be reproached for his daughter’s falseness.”
Having said that, and with the permission of her attendants, she married the snake. She showed him proper respect, and served him milk and similar things.
One night the snake left his large basket, which was kept in the bedroom, and climbed into his wife’s bed. She cried out, “Who is this creature, shaped like a man?”
Thinking it was a strange man, she jumped up.
Shaking all over, she tore open the door and wanted to rush away, when the snake said, “Dear one! Stay here! I am your husband!”
To convince her of this, he once again entered the body that he had left in the basket, then left it again. He was wearing a magnificent diadem, rings, bands, and bracelets on his upper and lower arms. His wife fell at his feet. Then together they partook of the joys of love.
His father, the Brahman, had arisen earlier than his son, and saw everything. He took the snake skin, which was lying in the basket, and burned it in the fire, saying, “He shall not enter it again.” Later that morning, filled with joy, he presented his son to his family. Vitalized by unending love, he became an ideal son.