Mahabharata Santi Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva

Section CXVI

"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited the following history of olden times. That history is regarded as a high precedent amongst good and wise men. That history has connection with the present topic. I heard it in the hermitage of Rama, the son of Jamadagni, recited by many foremost of Rishis. In a certain large forest uninhabited by human beings, there lived an ascetic upon fruit and roots observing rigid vows, and with his senses under control. Observant also of stringent regulations and self-restraint, of tranquil and pure soul, always attentive to Vedic recitations, and of heart cleansed by fasts, he adopted a life of goodness towards all creatures. Possessed of great intelligence, as he sat on his seat, the goodness of his behaviour having been known to all the creatures that lived in that forest, they used to approach him with affection. Fierce lions and tigers, infuriated elephants of huge size, leopards, rhinoceroses, bears, and other animals of fierce aspect, subsisting upon blood, used to come to the Rishi and address him the usual questions of polite enquiry. Indeed, all of them behaved towards him like disciples and slaves and always did unto him what was agreeable. Coming to him they addressed the usual enquiries, and then went away to their respective quarters. One domestic animal, however, lived there permanently, never leaving the Muni at any time. He was devoted to the sage and exceedingly attached to him. Weak and emaciated with fasts, he subsisted upon fruit and roots and water, and was tranquil and Of inoffensive aspect. Lying at the feet of that high-souled Rishi as the latter sat, the dog, with a heart like that of a human being, became exceedingly attached to him in consequence of the affection with which he was treated. One day a leopard of great strength came there, subsisting upon blood. Of a cruel disposition and always filled with delight at the prospect of prey, the fierce animal looked like a second Yama. Licking the corners of his mouth With the tongue, and lashing his tail furiously, the leopard came there, hungry and thirsty, with wide open jaws, desirous of seizing the dog as his prey. Beholding that fierce beast coming, O king, the dog, in fear of his life, addressed the Muni in these words. Listen unto them, O monarch! 'O holy one, this leopard is a foe of the dogs. It wishes to slay me. O great sage, do thou act in such a way that all my fears from this animal may be dispelled through thy grace. O thou of mighty arms, without doubt thou art possessed of omniscience.' Acquainted with the thoughts of all creatures, the sage felt that the dog had ample cause for fear. Possessed of the six attributes and capable of reading the voices of all animals, the sage said the following words.'

"The sage said, 'Thou shalt have no fear of death from leopards any longer. Let thy natural form disappear and be thou a leopard, O son!' At these words, the dog was transformed into a leopard with skin bright as gold. With stripes on his body and with large teeth, thenceforth he began to live in that forest fearlessly. Meanwhile, the leopard, seeing before him an animal of his own species, immediately forsook all feelings of animosity towards it. Some time after, there came into the hermitage a fierce and hungry tiger with open mouth. Licking the corners of his mouth with the tongue, and eagerly desirous of drinking blood, that tiger began to approach towards the animal that had been transformed into a leopard. Beholding the hungry tiger of terrible teeth approach that forest, the (transformed) leopard sought the Rishi's protection for saving his life. The sage, who showed great affection for the leopard in consequence of the latter's living in the same place with him, forthwith transformed his leopard into a tiger powerful for all foes. The tiger seeing a beast of his own species did him no injury, O king. The dog, having in course of time been transformed into a powerful tiger subsisting upon flesh and blood, abstained from his former food which had consisted of fruit and roots. Indeed, from that time, O monarch, the transformed tiger lived, subsisting upon the other animals of the forest, like a true king of beasts.'