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The War of Crows and Owls

(Story found in:  Franklin Edgerton's reconstruction Durgasimha's Kannada translation Purnabhadra's recension Hitopadesha by Narayana )

There was a huge Banyan tree near a city called Mahilaropyam. Its unnumerable branches were home to a large number of crows. Meghavarana was the king of these crows.
 
There was a cave nearby, which was home of a large number of owls. Arimaradana was the king of these owls.
 
The owls, as they regarded the crows as enemies, would fly around the Banyan tree every night. And if they caught hold of any crows, they would attack them and kill them. The crows could not see as clearly as the owls during the night, and could not save themselves. As time went by, many crows were killed.
 
Meghavarana, the king of crows had a council of five ministers: Ujjeevi, Sanjeevi, Anujjevi, Prajeevi and Chiranjeevi. He addressed them, "O Ministers, our enemy takes advantage by attacking at night and succeeds in killing many of us as we cannot fight them in dark. We cannot attck them at daytime since we don't know their stronghold. The enemy is dangerous and we need to decide what to do. Please advise me with your views."
 
Ujjeevi suggested, "O Majesty, I advise you to make peace with the enemy as the enemy is strong and untiring"
 
Sanjeevi said, "O King, the enemy is not only strong but also cruel and follows no ethics of war. Peace with such party cannot last. Let us fight in a way that we can gain advantage."
 
Anujeevi advised, "The enemy is stronger than us, so it will not be wise to fight them. They are cruel and have not ethics, so we cannot make peace with them. I suggest we retreat to a safer place."
 
Prajeevi said, "I advice entrenchment. We will be safe only in our own home. If we desert our post, we will never be able to return."
 
Chiranjeevi said, "Let us seek the advice of allies and defeat the enemy with their assistance."
 
The king of crows was not satisfied with the suggestions and sought the advice of Sthirajeevi, an old minister of the king's father, "You have heard the suggestions by my ministers. Please suggest me the right course of action that we should adopt."
 
Sthirajeevi replied, "Your Majesty, all ministers have suggested in accordance to nitishashtra, and their recommendations are indeed good. But they do not serve the situation that we are in. For an enemy who is much stronger than us, we should a path of intrigue. You will need to send spies to find their weak-points to outwit the enemy"
 
The king of crows agreed as Sthirajeevi explained the plan, "Like I advise you to employ spies, the enemies also must have spies. Let us pretend that I am a traitor, and start cursing me with cruel words. Beat me till I bleed and throw me down. This will mislead the spies to believe I am their enemy's enemy. After this, fly with everybody to the safe Rshyamukam Mountain and keep deeply entrenched till I join you"
 
Sthirajeevi continued, "Meanwhile, I will gain confidence with our enemies to learn about their weaknesses and return to join you when we can strike them to gain victory. Please do not worry about me, I can take care of myself."
 
The king did as the wise crow had planned and immediately started a fake quarrel. Sthirajeevi used abusive language which angered the other crows. Meghavarana pounced upon Sthirajeevi, smeared him with blood and threw him down the Banyan tree.
 
After this, he asked all crows to follow him, and flew straight to Rshyamukam Mountain, whereupon he waited for Sthirajeevi to return - as was planned.
 
The owl-spies immediately informed the king of the owls of the fight and Arimaradana decided to attack the terrified crows with all might after dark. But when they reached the Banyan tree, the crows had already left. They started investigating which direction the crows had flown to catch them.
 
At this moment, Sthirajeevi began to caw feebly to attract the attention of the king of owls. Arimaradana heard the sound and was surprised to see Sthirajeevi. Sthirajeevi started praising Arimaradana as much as he cursed Meghavarana. He further said, "I know where they will entrench themselves. As soon as I regain some strength to fly again, I shall take you there!"
 
Arimaradana had five ministers: Raktaksha, Kriuraksha, Deeptaksha, Vakranasa, and Prakarakarna. While Raktaksha, Kriuraksha did not trust Sthirajeevi and wanted to kill him, the others suggested that he could prove beneficial to locate the enemies. So, Arimaradana decided to take Sthirajeevi to their cave and offered a suitable place to rest.
 
But Sthirajeevi had other plans. He quickly requested Arimaradana to allow him to make a nest at entrance of the cave. He did not want the other owls to get offended since he belonged to the enemy clan. Arimaradana permitted and asked other to take good care of him. Thereby, Sthirajeevi was fed with the choicest of foods and regained strength.
 
However, Raktaksha was learned in nitishastra and warned his king of his suspicions, but they fell into deaf ears and Arimaradana was impressed on the flattery Sthirajeevi showered all the time. Finally Raktaksha and few of his followers left the cave.
 
All this time, Sthirajeevi had gathered a lot of twigs at the entrance of the cave on the pretending to build a nest. He was happy that Raktaksha had departed, and waited till noon to silently fly away to Rshyamukam Mountain.
 
He reported to Meghavarana, "Your Majesty, my task is finished, but I do not have the time to explain everything to you. I have collected twigs and branches at the entrance of the cave that serves as the owl's stronghold. They will easily catch fire killing all the owls inside. Please follow me with your followers with burning wood in your beak"
 
So, they immediately followed Sthirajeevi to the owl's cave and dropped the pieces of burning wood they were carrying on the entrance of the cave. The twigs gathered outside caught fire and the owls perished inside due to fire and smoke. Sthirajeevi had indeed been constructing a funeral pyre for the owls.
 
Now, the crows fearlessly returned to their Banyan tree, and with the help of Sthirajeevi, Meghavarana ruled justly thereafter.
 
The wise indeed say:
Never trust your enemy, and don't allow a foe into your home.
 
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