SOOTHSAYER WHEN on his deathbed wrote out the horoscope of his second son, whose name was Gangazara, and bequeathed it to him as his only property, leaving the whole of his estate to his eldest son. The second son thought over the horoscope, and said to himself:
"Alas! am I born to this only in the world? The sayings of my father never failed. I have seen them prove true to the last word while he was living; and how has he fixed my horoscope! 'FROM MY BIRTH POVERTY!' Nor is that my only fate. 'FOR TEN YEARS, IMPRISONMENT'--a fate harder than poverty; and what comes next? 'DEATH ON THE SEA-SHORE'; which means that I must die away from home, far from friends and relatives on a sea-coast. Now comes the most curious part of the horoscope, that I am to 'HAVE SOME HAPPINESS AFTERWARDS!' What this happiness is, is an enigma to me."
Thus thought he, and after all the funeral obsequies of his father were over, took leave of his elder brother, and started for Benares. He went by the middle of the Deccan, avoiding both the coasts, and went on journeying and journeying for weeks and months, till at last he reached the Vindhya mountains. While passing that desert he had to journey for a couple of days through a sandy plain, with no signs of life or vegetation. The little store of provision with which he was provided for a couple of days, at last was exhausted. The chombu, which he carried always full, filling it with the sweet water from the flowing rivulet or plenteous tank, he had exhausted in the heat of the desert. There was not a morsel in his hand to eat; nor a drop of water to drink. Turn his eyes wherever he might he found a vast desert, out of which he saw no means of escape. Still he thought within himself, "Surely my father's prophecy never proved untrue. I must survive this calamity to find my death on some sea-coast." So thought he, and this thought gave him strength of mind to walk fast and try to find a drop of water somewhere to slake his dry throat.
At last he succeeded; heaven threw in his way a ruined well. He thought he could collect some water if he let down his chombu with the string that he always carried noosed to the neck of it. Accordingly he let it down; it went some way and stopped, and the following words came from the well: "Oh, relieve me! I am the king of tigers, dying here of hunger. For the last three days I have had nothing. Fortune has sent you here. If you assist me now you will find a sure help in me throughout your life. Do not think that I am a beast of prey. When you have become my deliverer I will never touch you. Pray, kindly lift me up." Gangazara thought: "Shall I take him out or not? If I take him out he may make me the first morsel of his hungry mouth. No; that he will not do. For my father's prophecy never came untrue. I must die on a sea coast, and not by a tiger." Thus thinking, he asked the tiger-king to hold tight to the vessel, which he accordingly did, and he lifted him up slowly. The tiger reached the top of the well and felt himself on safe ground. True to his word, he did no harm to Gangazara. On the other hand, he walked round his patron three times, and standing before him, humbly spoke the following words: "My life-giver, my benefactor! I shall never forget this day, when I regained my life through your kind hands. In return for this kind assistance I pledge my oath to stand by you in all calamities. Whenever you are in any difficulty just think of me. I am there with you ready to oblige you by all the means that I can. To tell you briefly how I came in here: Three days ago I was roaming in yonder forest, when I saw a goldsmith passing through it. I chased him. He, finding it impossible to escape my claws, jumped into this well, and is living to this moment in the very bottom of it. I also jumped in, but found myself on the first ledge of the well; he is on the last and fourth ledge. In the second lives a serpent half-famished with hunger. On the third lies a rat, also half-famished, and when you again begin to draw water these may request you first to release them. In the same way the goldsmith also may ask you. I beg you, as your bosom friend, never assist that wretched man, though he is your relation as a human being. Goldsmiths are never to be trusted. You can place more faith in me, a tiger, though I feast sometimes upon men, in a serpent, whose sting makes your blood cold the very next moment, or in a rat, which does a thousand pieces of mischief in your house. But never trust a goldsmith. Do not release him; and if you do, you shall surely repent of it one day or other." Thus advising, the hungry tiger went away without waiting for an answer.
Gangazara thought several times of the eloquent way in which the tiger spoke, and admired his fluency of speech. But still his thirst was not quenched. So he let down his vessel again, which was now caught hold of by the serpent, who addressed him thus: "Oh, my protector! Lift me up. I am the king of serpents, and the son of Adisesha, who is now pining away in agony for my disappearance. Release me now. I shall ever remain your servant, remember your assistance, and help you throughout life in all possible ways. Oblige me: I am dying." Gangazara, calling again to mind the "DEATH ON THE SEA-SHORE" of the prophecy lifted him up. He, like the tiger-king, walked round him thrice, and prostrating himself before him spoke thus: "Oh, my life-giver, my father, for so I must call you, as you have given me another birth. I was three days ago basking myself in the morning sun, when I saw a rat running before me. I chased him. He fell into this well. I followed him, but instead of falling on the third storey where he is now lying, I fell into the second. I am going away now to see my father. Whenever you are in any difficulty just think of me. I will be there by your side to assist you by all possible means." So saying, the Nagaraja glided away in zigzag movements, and was out of sight in a moment.
The poor son of the Soothsayer, who was now almost dying of thirst, let down his vessel for a third time. The rat caught hold of it, and without discussing he lifted up the poor animal at once. But it would not go away without showing its gratitude: "Oh, life of my life! My benefactor! I am the king of rats. Whenever you are in any calamity just think of me. I will come to you, and assist you. My keen ears overheard all that the tiger-king told you about the goldsmith, who is in the fourth storey. It is nothing but a sad truth that goldsmiths ought never to be trusted. Therefore, never assist him as you have done to us all. And if you do, you will suffer for it. I am hungry; let me go for the present." Thus taking leave of his benefactor, the rat, too, ran away.
Gangazara for a while thought upon the repeated advice given by the three animals about releasing the goldsmith: "What wrong would there be in my assisting him? Why should I not release him also?" So thinking to himself, Gangazara let down the vessel again. The goldsmith caught hold of it, and demanded help. The Soothsayer's son had no time to lose; he was himself dying of thirst.
Therefore he lifted the goldsmith up, who now began his story. "Stop for a while," said Gangazara, and after quenching his thirst by letting down his vessel for the fifth time, still fearing that some one might remain in the well and demand his assistance, he listened to the goldsmith, who began as follows: "My dear friend, my protector, what a deal of nonsense these brutes have been talking to you about me; I am glad you have not followed their advice. I am just now dying of hunger. Permit me to go away. My name is Manikkasari. I live in the East main street of Ujjaini, which is twenty kas to the south of this place, and so lies on your way when you return from Benares. Do not forget to come to me and receive my kind remembrances of your assistance, on your way back to your country." So saying, the goldsmith took his leave, and Gangazara also pursued his way north after the above adventures.
He reached Benares, and lived there for more than ten years, and quite forgot the tiger, serpent, rat, and goldsmith. After ten years of religious life, thoughts of home and of his brother rushed into his mind. "I have secured enough merit now by my religious observances. Let me return home." Thus thought Gangazara within himself, and very soon he was on his way back to his country. Remembering the prophecy of his father he returned by the same way by which he went to Benares ten years before. While thus retracing his steps he reached the ruined well where he had released the three brute kings and the gold smith. At once the old recollections rushed into his mind, and he thought of the tiger to test his fidelity. Only a moment passed, and the tiger-king came running before him carrying a large crown in his mouth, the glitter of the diamonds of which for a time outshone even the bright rays of the sun. He dropped the crown at his life-giver's feet, and, putting aside all his pride, humbled himself like a pet cat to the strokes of his protector, and began in the following words: "My life-giver! How is it that you have forgotten me, your poor servant, for such a long time? I am glad to find that I still occupy a corner in your mind. I can never forget the day when I owed my life to your lotus hands. I have several jewels with me of little value. This crown, being the best of all, I have brought here as a single ornament of great value, which you can carry with you and dispose of in your own country." Gangazara looked at the crown, examined it over and over, counted and recounted the gems, and thought within himself that he would become the richest of men by separating the diamonds and gold, and selling them in his own country. He took leave of the tiger-king, and after his disappearance thought of the kings of serpents and rats, who came in their turn with their presents, and after the usual greetings and exchange of words took their leave. Gangazara was extremely delighted at the faithfulness with which the brute beasts behaved, and went on his way to the south. While going along he spoke to himself thus: "These beasts have been very faithful in their assistance. Much more, therefore, must Manikkasari be faithful. I do not want anything from him now. If I take this crown with me as it is, it occupies much space in my bundle. It may also excite the curiosity of some robbers on the way. I will go now to Ujjaini on my way. Manikkasari requested me to see him without failure on my return journey. I shall do so, and request him to have the crown melted, the diamonds and gold separated. He must do that kindness at least for me. I shall then roll up these diamonds and gold ball in my rags, and wend my way homewards." Thus thinking and thinking, he reached Ujjaini. At once he inquired for the house of his goldsmith friend, and found him without difficulty. Manikkasari was extremely delighted to find on his threshold him who ten years before, notwithstanding the advice repeatedly given him by the sage-looking tiger, serpent, and rat, had relieved him from the pit of death. Gangazara at once showed him the crown that he received from the tiger- king, told him how he got it, and requested his kind assistance to separate the gold and diamonds. Manikkasari agreed to do so, and meanwhile asked his friend to rest himself for a while to have his bath and meals; and Gangazara, who was very observant of his religious ceremonies, went direct to the river to bathe.
How came the crown in the jaws of the tiger? The king of Ujjaini had a week before gone with all his hunters on a hunting expedition. All of a sudden the tiger-king started from the wood, seized the king, and vanished.
When the king's attendants informed the prince about the death of his father he wept and wailed, and gave notice that he would give half of his kingdom to any one who should bring him news about the murderer of his father. The goldsmith knew full well that it was a tiger that killed the king, and not any hunter's hands, since he had heard from Gangazara how he obtained the crown. Still, he resolved to denounce Gangazara as the king's murderer, so, hiding the crown under his garments, he flew to the palace. He went before the prince and informed him that the assassin was caught, and placed the crown before him.