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The dwarf's stratagem and the weaver

The intriguing Bhimasena Jataka lets on how to get away with fooling all the people, all the time.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2013 22:23 IST

The intriguing Bhimasena Jataka lets on how to get away with fooling all the people, all the time.

To quote from the re-telling by Robert Chalmers, "Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a brahmin in a market-town in the North country, and when he was grown up he studied under a teacher of world-wide fame at Takkasila. There he completed his education in book-knowledge. And he became known as the sage Little Bowman. Leaving Takkasila, he came to the Andhra country in search of practical experience. Now, it happened that in this birth the Bodhisatta was somewhat of a crooked little dwarf, and he thought to himself, 'If I make my appearance before any king, he's sure to ask what a dwarf like me is good for; why should I not use a tall broad fellow as my stalking-horse and earn my living in the shadow of his more imposing personality?'"

So the Bodhisattva approached a mountainous weaver called Bhimasena and mourned that nobody wanted a midget, even if he was a brilliant archer. He suggested that the man-mountain should pretend to be an archer himself and pass off the dwarf (his secret field officer) as his page when he sought employment with the king.

The faux archer was hired on the spot along with his page. But soon, work appeared: a tiger was on the prowl and required dispatch.

The weaver rushed home to the dwarf, who advised: "Muster a strong band of countryfolk to march to the spot with a thousand or two thousand bows; when you know that the tiger is up, you bolt into the thicket and lie flat on your face. The countryfolk will beat the tiger to death; and as soon as he is quite dead, you bite off a creeper with your teeth, and draw near, trailing the creeper. At the sight of the dead tiger, you will burst out with: 'Who has killed the tiger? I meant to lead it by a creeper, like an ox, to the king, and with this intent had just stepped into the thicket to get a creeper.' Then the countryfolk will be very frightened and bribe you heavily not to report them to the king; you will be credited with slaying the tiger; and the king too will give you lots of money."

And that is what happened. And has gone on happening?

Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture.