A black snake named Mandavishya lived in a forest on the Varuna hills. He was becoming old and worried that he would not be able to snare frogs any more and that would make him weak and bring his end closer. With a plan in his head, he went to a lake and resting on its edge pretended that he had lost all interest in worldly matters.
A frog in the lake came out and asked him, “Uncle, why are you not preying for food as used you to do in the past?”
The snake said, “Listen, my son, I am very unfortunate. How can I have any fervour for food? Last night when I was on my rounds looking for food I sighted a frog. When I tried to get at him, he jumped into the middle of a group of Brahmins reciting the Vedas. I could not track him. But soon I saw something like a frog near the Brahmins and at once jumped at him and bit him. It turned out to be the thumb of a Brahmin boy. The boy died immediately.”
“When his father found that I had killed his son, he cursed me, “You wicked snake, you have killed my innocent son. From now onwards you will serve as a vehicle for all frogs. Your life will be at their mercy.” I have now decided to serve my sentence. That is why I am here,” said the snake.
The frog ran into the lake and told every one about the snake and his offer to serve as a vehicle. Happy at the prospect, all the frogs went and met their king Jalapada and told him about the snake. “What a wonderful news,” thought the king and trooped out of the lake with his ministers and subjects. The king was the first to get on to the hood of the snake, followed by his ministers. In the order of seniority and prominence, the kings’ subjects also climbed the back of the snake. Those unfortunate frogs that could not find space on the vehicle followed the snake in a procession. To entertain them, Mandavishya showed several feats he could do.
Thrilled by the experience of riding a deadly snake, Jalapada, the king of the frogs, thought that the ride had no parallel. No ride, whether on an elephant or a horse or a chariot or a palanquin, can match this experience, he thought.
On the second day, Mandavishya slowed down the pace of his haul. Noticing the change of pace, Jalapada asked the snake why he was not moving as briskly as he used to. The snake told the king of frogs that he had no food that day and being weak he was not able to carry so much load.
Jalapada, taking pity on the snake, said, “You can have the younger frogs for your food.”
Thrilled at this offer, the snake said, “O king of frogs, my plight is due to the curse the Brahmin gave me. Your magnanimous concession has released me today from the curse. I am so happy.”
The snake thus began eating a few frogs every day and soon became strong and healthy. He was also worried that if he began eating the frogs at that rate there would not be any frogs left for him in the future.
Meanwhile, a big cobra chanced to come that way and seeing the snake carrying the frogs and struck by wonder asked the snake, “This is very unique though unnatural. How is it you have become a vehicle for frogs which are our natural food?”
“That’s a long story resembling the story of the Brahmin who pretended to have become blind after eating the good food his wife had made,” said Mandavishya.
The cobra asked the snake to relate that story.
Once upon a time, a Brahmin named Yagnadatta lived in a city. He had a wife who was not trustworthy. She had a lover to whom she would secretly send every day delicious food she made. One day, her husband found out what she was doing.
He asked her, “My dear, you are making every day some special dish or the other and taking it out of the house. Tell me, what is the truth.”
With great presence of mind, she told Yagnadatta, “Every day I am fasting and taking this food to offer to the Goddess.” To allay suspicion, she collected food and telling her husband that she was leaving for the temple, left home. The husband began following her secretly and when she went to the tank to bathe, he went to the temple of the Goddess and hid behind the idol.
After taking bath in the tank, the Brahmin’s wife came to the temple from the tank and began praying the Goddess, “O mother, tell me how can I render my husband blind?”
The Brahmin, hiding behind the idol, changed his voice and said, “O great devotee, you feed your husband daily with good and delicious food. Very soon he will become blind.”
From then onwards, the wife began feeding her husband with delicacies. Soon, the Brahmin complained to the wife that he was not able to see clearly. The wife thought that the Goddess had at last fulfilled her desire.
Encouraged by the Brahmin’s blindness, his wife’s lover began visiting her without any fear. One day, Yagnadatta saw him and his wife together. The lover ignored him thinking the Brahmin was blind. Yagnadatta then thrashed the lover so hard that he died. The Brahmin then cut the nose of his wife.
“That’s why,” Mandavishya told the cobra, “I am pretending to be friendly with the frogs.” Jalapada, the king of frogs overheard this conversation and asked Mandavishya if what he had heard was true. The snake at once realised his mistake and told the king of frogs that it was all fun. The king of frogs foolishly believed the words of the snake and the snake slowly swallowed all the frogs.
Sthirajeevi told Meghavarna that he followed the tactics of Mandavishya in misleading his enemies. Pleased, the king of crows said, “What you have said is correct. Great men do not give up what they have begun even in the face of obstacles. Cowards, afraid of failure, do not venture at all. There are some that begin a task and give it up when there is a problem. But courageous people do not give up whatever dangers they face.”
“You (Sthirajeevi) have crushed the enemies and brought security to my kingdom. The learned have said,
Sthirajeevi said, “My lord, virtue belongs to him who is charitable, learned, courageous and friendly. Virtue brings wealth. Wealth brings power. It is a king with these qualities who can rule and expand his kingdom. I have done my duty. I need rest. But I humbly seek to offer one word of advice. All this power should not go to your head. Follow the path of duty and rule your subjects for a hundred years. May God bless you.”
This is the end of the third strategy Vishnu Sarma disclosed to his royal wards.