so that after their bodies have been burnt, as is the custom with
the Hindus, their ashes may be thrown into the sacred stream.
7. Can you name two other places of pilgrimage, one held sacred by
Christians and one by Hindus?
8. Will you explain exactly why the two places you have thought of
are considered holy?
The news of the Brahman's loss spread very quickly through Sravasti;
and as is so often the case, every one who told the story made it a
little different, so that it became very difficult to know what the
truth really was. There was great distress in the town, because the
people thought the Brahman would go away, and they did not want him to
do that. They were proud of having a man they thought so holy, living
amongst them, and ashamed that he should have been robbed whilst he was
with them. When they heard that he meant to starve himself to death,
they were dreadfully shocked, and determined to do all they possibly
could to prevent it. One after another of the chief men of Sravasti
came to see him, and entreated him not to be in such a hurry to be
sure that his treasure would never be found. They said they would
all do everything they possibly could to get it back for him. Some of
them thought it was very wrong of him to make such a fuss about it,
and blamed him for being a miser. They told him it was foolish to
care so much for what he could not take with him when he died, and
one specially wise old man gave him a long lecture on the wickedness
of taking away the life which had been given to him by God to prepare
for that in the other world. "Put the idea of starving yourself out
of your head," he said, "and whilst we are seeking your treasure,
go on as you did before you lost it. Next time you have any money
and jewels, turn them to good account instead of hoarding them up."
9. Do you think the Brahman was of any real use to the people of
10. In what qualities do you think the Brahman was wanting when he
made up his mind to starve himself to death?
In spite of all that any one could say to him, the Brahman was quite
determined that he would not live any longer. He set off to the place
of pilgrimage he had chosen, taking no notice of any one he met,
but just marching steadily on. At first a number of people followed
him, but by degrees they left off doing so, and soon he was quite
alone. Presently however he could not help noticing a man approaching
from the direction in which he was going. Very tall, very handsome,
very dignified, this man was one whom no one could fail to admire,
even if he had been only an ordinary person. But he was the king of
the whole country, whose name was Prasnajit; and a little distance
behind him were a number of his attendants, waiting to obey his
orders. Everybody, even the Brahman, loved the king, because he took
such a very great interest in his people and was always trying to do
them good. He had heard all about the loss of the money, and was very
much vexed that such a thing should have happened in his land. He had
also heard that the Brahman meant to kill himself, and this distressed
him more than anything else, because he thought it a very wicked and
terrible thing to do.
The king stood so exactly in the path of the Brahman that it was
impossible to pass him by without taking any notice of him, and
the unhappy man stood still, hanging down his head and looking very
miserable. Without waiting for a moment, Prasnajit said to the Brahman:
"Do not grieve any more. I will find your treasure for you, and give
it back to you; or if I fail to do so I will pay you as much as it was
worth out of my own purse: for I cannot bear to think of your killing
yourself. Now tell me very carefully where you hid your gold and
jewels, and everything about the place, to help me to make sure of it."
The Brahman was greatly delighted to hear this, because he knew full
well that the king would keep his word, and that, even if his own
treasure was never found, he would have plenty of money given to him
by the king. He at once told Prasnajit exactly where he had put his
store, and offered to take him there. The king agreed to go with him
at once, and he and the Brahman went straight away to the big hole
in the forest, the attendants following them a little way behind.
11. If you had been the king, how would you have set about finding
12. Was it a good or a bad thing for the Brahman to have secured the
help of the king?
After the king had seen the big empty hole, and noticed exactly where
it was, and the nearest way to it from the town, he returned to his
palace, first telling the Brahman to go back to the house he lived
in, and wait there till he received a message from him. He promised
to see that he wanted for nothing, and sent one of his attendants
to a rich merchant of Sravasti, who had already done a good deal
for the Brahman, to order him to supply the holy man with all he
needed. Very glad that after all he was not going to die, the Brahman
obeyed willingly, and for the next few days he was taken care of by
the merchant, who supplied him with plenty of food.
As soon as Prasnajit was back in his palace, he pretended that he was
taken suddenly ill. His head ached badly, he said, and he could not
make out what was the matter with him. He ordered a proclamation to
be sent all round the town, telling all the doctors to come to the
palace to see him. All the doctors in the place at once hastened to
obey, each of them hoping that he would be the one to cure the king
and win a great reward. So many were they that the big reception
room was full of them, and they all glared at each other so angrily
that the attendants kept careful watch lest they should begin to
fight. One at a time they were taken to the king's private room,
but very much to their surprise and disappointment he seemed quite
well and in no need of help from them. Instead of talking about his
own illness, he asked each doctor who his patients were in the town,
and what medicines he was giving to them. Of course Prasnajit's
questions were carefully answered; but the king said nothing more,
just waving his hand to shew that the interview was at an end. Then
the attendants led the visitor out. At last however a doctor came,
who said something which led the king to keep him longer than he had
kept any of the others. This doctor was a very famous healer who had
saved the lives of many of Prasnajit's subjects. He told the king
that a merchant named Matri-Datta was very ill, suffering greatly,
but that he hoped to cure him by giving him the juice of a certain
plant called nagaballa. At the time this story was written, doctors
in India did not give their patients medicine, or write prescriptions
for them to take to chemists to be made up, because there were no
chemists in those days, such as there are in all the towns of Europe,
who keep the materials in stock for making medicines. A doctor just
said to his patient, "you must take the juice of this or that plant";
and the suffering person had to go into the fields or woods to find
the plant or else to send a servant to do so.
When the king heard that the doctor had ordered Matri-Datta to take the
juice of the nagaballa plant, he cried "No more doctors need come to
see me!" and after sending away the one who had told him what he wanted
to know, he gave orders that Matri-Datta should be sent for at once.
13. Can you guess why the king sent for the doctors?
14. Do you think Matri-Datta had anything to do with stealing the
Ill and suffering though he was, Matri-Datta did not dare disobey the
king: so he came at once. As soon as he appeared, Prasnajit asked him
how he was, and said he was sorry to have to make him leave his home
when he was ill, but the matter on which he wished to see him was
of very great importance. Then he suddenly added: "When your doctor
ordered you to take the juice of the nagaballa plant whom did you
send to find it?"
To this Matri-Datta replied trembling with fear: "My servant, O king,
sought it in the forest; and having found it, brought it to me."
"Go back and send that servant to me immediately," was the reply; and
the merchant hurried away, wondering very much why the king wanted to
see the man, and hoping that he himself would not get into disgrace
on account of anything he had done to make Prasnajit angry.
15. Have you any idea why the king wanted the servant sent to him?
16. From what the story tells you so far, do you think Prasnajit was
a good ruler of his kingdom?
When Matri-Datta told his servant that he was to go to the palace to
see the king, the man was dreadfully frightened, and begged his master
not to make him go. This made Matri-Datta pretty sure that he had done
something wrong and was afraid of being found out. "Go at once," he
said, "and whatever you do, speak the truth to the king. That will be
your only chance if you have offended him." Again and again the servant
entreated Matri-Datta not to insist, and when he found it was no good,
he asked him at least to come with him to the palace and plead for him
with Prasnajit. The merchant knew then for certain that something was
seriously wrong, and he consented to go to the palace with his servant,
partly out of curiosity and partly out of fear for himself. When the
two got to the palace, the attendants at once led the servant to the
presence of the king, but they would not let the master go with him.
Directly the servant entered the room and saw the king sitting on
his throne, he fell upon his face at the foot of the steps, crying,
"Mercy! mercy!" He was right to be afraid, for Prasnajit said to him
in a loud voice: "Where are the gold and the jewels you took from
the hole in the roots of a tree when you went to find the nagaballa
plant for your master?" The servant, who really had taken the money
and jewels, was so terrified when he found that the king knew the
truth, that he had not a word to say at first, but just remained
lying on the ground, trembling all over. Prasnajit too was silent,
and the attendants waiting for orders behind the throne looked on,
wondering what would happen now.
17. Have you guessed what the nagaballa plant had to do with finding
out who had stolen the money and jewels?
18. If you had been the king, what punishment would you have ordered
for the thief?
When the silence had lasted about ten minutes, the thief raised his
head from the ground and looked at the king, who still said not a
word. Something in his face however made the wicked servant hope that
he would not be punished by death in spite of the great wrong he had
done. The king looked very stern, it is true, but not enraged against
him. So the servant rose to his feet, and clasping his hands together
as he held them up to Prasnajit, said in a trembling voice: "I will
fetch the treasure, I will fetch the treasure." "Go then at once,"
said the king, "and bring it here": and as he said it, there was a
beautiful expression in his eyes, which made the thief more sorry
for what he had done than he would have been if Prasnajit had said,
"Off with his head!" or had ordered him to be beaten.
19. What do you think is the best way to make wicked people good?
20. What is the most powerful reason a man or woman or a child can
have for trying to be good?
As soon as the king said, "Go at once," the servant started to his
feet and hastened away, as eager now to restore what he had stolen
as he had been to hide it. He had put it in another hole in the very
depths of the forest; and it was a long time before he got back to
the palace with it, for it was very heavy. He had thought the king
would send some guards with him, to see that he did not run away,
and that they would have helped him to carry the sack full of gold
and jewels; but nobody followed him. It was hard work to drag the
heavy load all the way alone; but at last, quite late in the evening,
he was back at the palace gates. The soldiers standing there let him
pass without a word, and soon he was once more in the room in which
the king had received him. Prasnajit still sat on his throne, and
the attendants still waited behind him, when the thief, so tired he
could hardly stand, once more lay prostrate at the bottom of the steps
leading up to the throne, with the sack beside him. How his heart did
beat as he waited for what the king would say! It seemed a very long
time before Prasnajit spoke, though it was only two or three minutes;
and when he did, this is what he said, "Go back to your home now,
and be a thief no more."
Very, very thankfully the man obeyed, scarcely able to believe that
he was free to go and that he was not to be terribly punished. Never
again in the rest of his life did he take what did not belong to him,
and he was never tired of telling his children and his friends of
the goodness of the king who had forgiven him.
21. Do you think it would have been better for the thief to have
22. What lesson did the thief learn from what had happened to him?
The Brahman, who had spent the time of waiting in prayers that his
treasure should be given back to him, and was still determined that,
if it were not, he would starve himself to death, was full of delight
when he heard that it had been found. He hastened to the palace and was
taken before the king, who said to him: "There is your treasure. Take
it away, and make a better use of it than before. If you lose it again,
I shall not try to recover it for you."
The Brahman, glad as he was to have his money and jewels restored, did
not like to be told by the king to make a better use of them. Besides
this he wanted to have the thief punished; and he began talking
about that, instead of thanking Prasnajit and promising to follow his
advice. The king looked at him much as he had looked at the thief and
said: "The matter is ended so far as I have anything to do with it:
go in peace."
The Brahman, who was accustomed to be honoured by every one from the
king on his throne to the beggars in the street, was astonished at
the way in which Prasnajit spoke to him. He would have said more,
but the king made a sign to his attendants, two of whom dragged the
sack to the entrance of the palace and left it there, so that there
was nothing for the Brahman to do but to take it away with him. Every
one who has read this wonderful story would, of courses like to know
what became of him after that, but nothing more is told about him.
23. Do you think that the Brahman learnt anything from his loss and
recovery of his treasure?
24. Was the Brahman more wicked than, the thief or the thief than
25. Do you think the Brahman continued to be a miser for the rest of
26. What were the chief characteristics of the king - that is to say,
what sort of man do you think he was?
27. Which of the people who are spoken of in this story do you like
and admire most, and which do you dislike most?
The Magic Shoes and Staff.
Far, far away in a town of India called Chinchini, where in days
long gone by the ancient gods in whom the people believed are said
sometimes to have appeared to those who called upon them for help,
there lived three brothers of noble birth, who had never known what
it was to want for food, or clothes, or a house to live in. Each
was married to a wife he loved, and for many years they were all
as happy as the day was long. Presently however a great misfortune
in which they all shared befell their native country. There was no
rain for many, many weeks; and this is a very serious thing in a hot
country like India, because, when it does not rain for a long time,
the ground becomes so parched and hard that nothing can grow in
it. The sun is very much stronger in India than it is in England;
and it sent forth its burning rays, drying up all the water in the
tanks and changing what had been, a beautiful country, covered with
green crops good for food, into a dreary desert, where neither men nor
animals could get anything to eat. The result of this was that there
was a terrible famine, in which hundreds of people and animals died,
little children being the first to suffer.
Now the three brothers, who had none of them any children, got
frightened at the state of things, and thought to themselves, "If we
do not escape from this dreadful land, we shall die." They said to
each other: "Let us flee away from here, and go somewhere where we
are sure of being able to get plenty to eat and drink. We will not
take our wives with us; they would only make things worse for us;
let us leave them to look after themselves."
1. What do you think of the behaviour of the three brothers? Was
there any excuse for their leaving their wives behind them?
2. Do you think the wives themselves can have been to blame in any
way in the matter?
So the three wives were deserted, and had to manage as best they
could without their husbands, who did not even trouble to wish them
goodbye. The wives were at first very sad and lonely, but presently a
great joy came to one of them which made the other two very happy as
well. This joy was the birth of a little boy, whose two aunts loved
him almost as much as his mother did. The story does not tell how
they all got food whilst the famine was going on, though it is very
evident that they were not starved, for the baby boy grew fast and
was a strong healthy little fellow.
One night all the three wives had the same dream, a very wonderful one,
in which the god Siva, who is very much honoured in India, appeared to
them. He told them that, looking down from Heaven, he had noticed how
tenderly they cared for the new-born baby, and that he wished them to
call him Putraka. Besides this he astonished them by adding that, as
a reward for the unselfish way in which they had behaved, they would
find one hundred thousand gold pieces under the little child's pillow
every morning, and that one day that little child would be a king.
3. Do you think the three women wanted to be rewarded for loving
4. Is it a good thing to have a great deal of money?
The wonderful dream was fulfilled, and the mother and aunts called
the boy Putraka. Every morning they found the gold pieces under his
pillow, and they took care of the money for him, so that when he grew
up he was the very richest man in the whole country. He had a happy
childhood and boyhood, his only trouble being that he did not like
having never seen his father. His mother told him about the famine
before he was born, and how his father and uncles had gone away and
never come back. He often said, "When I am a man I will find my father
and bring him home again." He used his money to help others, and one
of the best things he did was to irrigate the land; that is to say,
he made canals into which water was made to flow in times when there
was plenty of rain, so that there was no danger of there being another
famine, such as that which had driven his father and uncles away. The
country in which he lived became very fruitful; everybody had enough
to eat and drink; and Putraka was very much loved, especially by
the poor and unhappy. When the king who ruled over the land died,
everybody wanted Putraka to take his place, and he was chosen at once.
5. Will you describe the kind of man you think Putraka was?
6. Do you know of any other country besides India in which everything
depends on irrigation?
One of the other wise things Putraka did, when he became king, was to
make great friends with his Brahman subjects. Brahmans are always very
fond of travelling, and Putraka thought, if he were good and generous
to them, they would talk about him wherever they went, and that perhaps
through them his father and uncles would hear about him. He felt sure
that, if they knew he was now a king ruling over their native land,
they would want to come back. He gave the Brahmans plenty of money,
and told them to try and find his father and uncles. If they did,
they were to say how anxious he was to see them, and promise them
everything they wanted, if only they would return.
7. Do you think it was wise of Putraka to be so anxious to get his
father and uncles back, when he knew how selfish they had been in
leaving his mother and aunts behind them?
8. Can you suggest anything else Putraka might have done in the matter?
Just what the young king hoped came to pass. Wherever the Brahmans
went they talked about the country they came from and the wonderful
young king who ruled over it. Putraka's father and uncles, who were
after all not so very far off, heard the stories about him, and
asked the Brahmans many questions. The answers made them very eager
to see Putraka, but they did not at first realize that he was closely
related to them. Only when they heard the name of his mother did they
guess the truth. Putraka's father knew, when he deserted his wife,
that God was going to give her a child soon; which made it even more
wicked of him to leave her. Now, however, he forgot all about that,
only thinking how he could make as much use as possible of the son
who had become a king. He wanted to go back at once alone, but the
uncles were not going to allow that. They meant to get all they could
out of Putraka too; and the three selfish men, who were now quite old,
set off together for the land they had left so long ago.
They arrived safely, and made their way to the palace, where they were
received, with great rejoicings. None of the wives, said a word of
reproach to, the husbands who had deserted them; and as for Putraka,
he was so overjoyed at having his father back, that he gave him a
beautiful house to live in and a great deal of money. He was very
good to his uncles too, and felt that he had now really nothing left
to wish for.
9. Do you think Putraka showed strength or weakness of character in
the way he received the travellers?
10. How do you think the king ought to have behaved to his father
The three wives very soon had good reason to wish their husbands had
stayed away. Instead of being grateful for all Putraka's generosity,
they were very unkind and exacting, never pleased with anything;
and whatever they had given them, they were always trying to get
more. In fact, they were silly as well as wicked; for they did not
realize that this was not the way to make the king love them or wish
to keep them with him. Presently they became jealous of Putraka,
and began to wish to get rid of him. His father hated to feel that
his son was king, whilst he was only one of that king's subjects;
and he made up his mind to kill him, hoping that if he could only get
rid of him he might rule over the country in his stead. He thought
and thought how best to manage this, and did not at first mean to
tell his brothers anything about it; but in the end he decided he
had better have them on his side. So he invited them to go with him
to a secret place to talk the matter over.
11. What qualities did Putraka's father show in this plot against
12. Was there any other way in which the king's father could have
gained a share in governing the land?
After many meetings the three wicked men decided that they would
pay some one to kill the king, first making the murderer they chose
swear that he would never tell who had ordered him to do the terrible
deed. It was not very difficult to find a man bad enough to take money
for such an evil purpose, and the next thing to do was to decide
where and when the deed was to be done. Putraka had been very well
brought up by his mother, and he often went to a beautiful temple near
his palace to pray alone. He would sometimes stop there a long time,
winning fresh wisdom and strength to do the work he was trusted with,
and praying not only for himself, but for his father, his mother,
his aunts and uncles, and for the people he loved so much.
The murderer was told to wait in this temple, and when the young king
was absorbed in prayer, to fall suddenly upon him and kill him. Then,
when Putraka was dead, he was to take his body and bury it far away
in the depths of the forest where it could never be found. At first it
seemed likely that this cruel plot would succeed. To make quite sure,
the murderer got two other men as wicked as himself to come and help