It was the spring season. Every branch of the tree was in full blossom. It appeared as if the jovial May had scattered its smile on the budding flowers. The autumn, like a politician thrown out of power, vanished all of a sudden. The change in season rejoiced the hearts of the people of Rajgrih. The merrymood of the people was displayed in many a scene of rejoicings in the streets of the capital. It was the full man day of Chaitra month-a day when the people of Rajgrih felt pricked by a desire for an outing. A large number of people had already come out of the four walls of their houses and were now streaming towards the royal garden. The road and courtyards had emptied out by noon and the town wore a deserted look. The royal garden teemed with men and women wearing motley dresses.
The Emperor Prasenjit was resting under the cool bower of a grove of mango trees. His wandering eyes alighted on a pigmy-sized tree standing at a few yards’ distance. He inquired of the gardener about it, who replied, “Your majesty: it is a new species of mango known as Kalmi-mango. It has begun to bear fruit at a very early age.” The king expressed his curiosity to know in detail about it. The gardener bowed low in respect and explained the difference between a traditionally grown ordinary mango and a Kalmi-mango. This set the king thinking. “A change in an old tradition does not necessarily mean going backward, it may also mean a step forward,” pondered the king. “Had there change in traditions, man would have remained a primitive to this day. He would have continued to wear the bark of a tree instead of the cotton cloth which was evidently the result of a departure from old custom. One could have never seen palaces and man would have continued to dwell in a house built on the top of a tree. Every wave of the sea of life seems to be quivering with it. Is the royal tradition irrevocable?” asked the king of himself.
The last question gave rise to an inner conflict in his mind.
“How can a thing that has been created by men remain unchanged?” was the counter question that rang deep in his ears.
He had attained new light. He made up his mind to revolt against the tradition. He vowed that he would never attempt to depict the non-eternal as eternal.
The full moon slowly rose above the horizon. It appeared in a state of drunkenness after its wanton embrace with the earth. The moonlight saturated with gentle cool breeze made the eyes of the people heavy. They began to move towards their homes. The king too went to bed in the sleeping chamber of the garden.
As the sun rose, the roads of Rajgrih hummed with activity. As usual, the king arrived at the court at 8 A.M. and occupied the chair. He sent for the officer-in-charge of the royal kitchen and told him that all the princes would dine together that day. He was ordered to make necessary arrangements. His Majesty also summoned the chief official of the cattle cote and whispered a few words into his ears. The courtiers could not guess as to what the king had told him about. It was the lunch time. Having been free from the official business, the king got up from his seat. followed him. He was on his way towards the dining hall. He was accompanied by the princes. He entered the dining hall and inspected the arrangements. There were one hundred and one seats- hundred seats for the hundred princes and one seat for the king.
Near each seat lay a small dining table with a gold plates dish. The king feigned illness and slipped away from the place. He went upstairs and chose to sit in a balcony from which he could watch the movements of his sons. The princes remained in their seats. The servants came and served food to them. Having done their work, they also went back to the kitchen. The doors of the dining hall were closed for a moment. The princes had hardly begun to eat when all of a sudden the doors reopened letting in a group of hounds which pounced upon them. The princes grew panicky and ran helter skelter to save their lives. The dining hall emptied out soon with only one prince having been left behind. The king was watching every thing from his balcony. The prince who was still eating unmindful of the hounds inside the hall was Shrenik-the youngest and cleverest. The hounds were busy swallowing the meals from the gold plated dishes. Shrenik, who remained unruffled at the invasion of dogs, collected some of the dishes in no time and put them around him. As soon as the hounds finished meals from the other dishes and rushed towards him, he pushed the dishes he had collected before them. Thus he himself continued to eat and succeeded in keeping the dogs at a distance with his clever trick. He ate to his heart’s content and later presented himself to the king.
The incident became the talk of the town. “How did the hounds enter the dining hall,” was the question that was being debated by the courtiers. But the king put a different question to the princes. “Why did you all run away without eating your meals?”
The princes replied, “Your Majesty, if we had not run away, the hounds would have torn us to pieces.”
Now the king turned to Shrenik and asked, “Why did you not run away? Were you not afraid of being torn down by the hounds?”
“Your Majesty! dogs do not bite him who knows to share his food with other,” was the spontaneous reply made by Shrenik.
The king put his crown on his head and said, “He alone is worthy of being my successor who has learnt to share his power and prosperity with others.”